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Monday, June 20, 2016

Summer Solstice

Summer in Sandusky is filled with changeable weather. It was in the 60's on my birthday a few days ago. Today it is in the 90's!

 I am more inclined to embrace the temperature in the 60's and Ron is delighted when it turns hot and humid. Today is a favorite day, the longest day of the year-it is celebrated in Sweden and a few years ago, we made sure to be there for the 24 hour celebration.

First, you gather flowers to make crowns to wear, and then you watch a group of Swedes raise the Maypole.

Then, you dance around the pole and head to higher ground to picnic and watch the sun for 24 hours.
Of course, instead of the 90 degree weather we are experiencing today, it is more like 50 degrees-all Swedes dress like it is 90 anyway, though.

To celebrate my Swedish heritage today, I made a fabric banner for our back yard.

It took me all day to cut and sew the banner. Don't tell my Swedish friends and relatives, but, I'm celebrating that the days are going to be getting  shorter starting tomorrow! Yep, I look forward to the day with the least sunlight in the year and starting tomorrow, we are heading in that direction!!!

This year, we planted basil and catnip in our raised beds. Hooray for the kitties!

I love, love, love, lavender and make sachets for Christmas presents.

Ron and I have been weeding like crazy for days. In fact, on June 4, I weeded out LOTS of poison ivy. DUH.  Lucky me. First I thought it was just massive mean mosquitos that got me. But, later, I realized this was  waaay more than that! So, for now, I am taking a break from "gardening"- gosh, darn.

Instead, I've been enjoying the front porch and taking it easy. Oh, I did, upon request, make up a batch of my famous chocolate chip cookies. I wasn't sure they would turn out on such a hot day, but, they did! By the way, the plate is Staffordshire Calico. It is from a  set I purchased when I was 18 and I love it just as much now as I did then.

Kate has joined me on the porch-she, unlike me, loves the heat and seeks out all sunbeams!

The only garden I am tending for awhile is the fairy garden that Janet gave me for my birthday!

And I'm happy to listen to wind chimes that Paulette gave me. I've even opened my bedroom windows at night, (and cranked up the a/c) in order to enjoy them all night long.

Happy Summer Solstice to all of you!

Monday, May 30, 2016

Going, going, gone!

Ron loaded the truck two days before the show. 

With the truck loaded, I recently headed out to my first antique show as a dealer instead of a buyer! Deciding (or scouting and buying) what to sell, pricing, loading, transporting, setting up, chatting with buyers, tearing down, packing, transporting, and storing....these are the routine steps of dealers in antiques. As a buyer, you just select a show to attend, wander around the booths, ponder purchases, drive home, and place prized antique somewhere special in the house. Big difference.

Written in 2011, I read and throughly enjoyed the book, Killer Stuff and Tons of Money: An insider's look at the world of flea markets, antiques, and collecting,  by Maureen Stanton. The author follows and documents time spent with master antiques dealer, Curt Avery. If you are at all curious about the world of pickers and such, I highly recommend this fascinating book.

I was very lucky to meet and be mentored by a dealer specializing in primitive furniture for 30 years. Sharon has a booth at the Medina Antique Mall and a showcase next to mine.  It was she that suggested I set up a booth at an inaugural antique show in Brecksville, Ohio to be held on Saturday, May 28. Up for a challenge, I started down that unfamiliar path on April 1st.  BFF Paulette and husband Ron can attest that I have been consumed with the process for the past fifty eight days!

One half of my booth-the other half held the wicker chaise lounge and my stool.

Looking at the 10X12 "booth" you can clearly see I didn't have much rhyme or reason to the items I brought  to sell. I just selected treasures I thought I could part with happily.  I think I was the only dealer  that was selling items from a personal collection. I was in full "Joy" mode (see earlier posts) and, of course, that was the reason for my turning from a buyer into a dealer. I felt like an imposter. 

In order to begin downsizing our "collections," Ron and I walked around each floor of our  house, including the  basement and attic, and put stickers on furniture and items that didn't bring us "joy" any longer. Anything that was newer than 1940 was posted on the Erie County online garage sale. In some cases, this required hiring movers to get the items down and out to the buyers, resulting in a net profit of $0.00.  I next moved on to sorting and pitching papers and  gathering up items that could go to a local thrift shop (proceeds donated to the P.E.O.Sisterhood, Chapter BE, to fund scholarships for women). We made a few trips to GoodWill and two trips to the landfill. 

Next, having culled my vast collection of linens and quilts, I carefully set about washing and ironing vintage linens to sell.  I followed the care instructions from the  book, The Linen Closet: how to care for your fine linens and lace, by Michele Clise.

 Having never  hand washed, line dried, or ironed before,  I found I actually enjoyed the process, especially the ironing. Thinking I would make a day of it, I took my "wash" to the campground. There I made a  paste of lemon juice and salt to treat any stains, washed and rinsed the linens and line dried them in the sun on a line I rigged up to the RV and a nearby tree. Just as I finished getting everything on the impromptu clothesline, along came a farmer tilling the adjacent field. The subsequent dust storm soon undid all of my efforts!

Is this a tractor with seeder?
Resorting to modern techniques, I stuffed everything back in the washer at home and line dried the linens in my own yard where only birds could pose a problem.

Linens on the line in our side yard.

Linens for sale at  $1 each.
Along the way, Ron and Paulette tried to talk me out of going to the show, seeing that I was consumed by the event and concerned that I would be disappointed with the results and likely to actually lose money! 

It is a sad fact that I have a math phobia that exhibits itself whenever I am in the position of counting back change. In grade school, I was paying more attention to my seat mates than I was to basic math skills and I never picked up the knack for identifying coins, subtracting in my head, or even adding with ease. Adding a tip to a restaurant bill without a calculator? Forget it. I know the steps, and can recite them to you, but, when it comes to actually doing the calculations in front of an audience-no way.  Undeterred, I ordered a free Paypal Square for accepting credit cards-it even calculates the sales tax and adds it up for you! I priced everything by 1, 5,10, or 20 and decided I would "include" the tax in the price. 

 I agreed not to go overboard by renting a trailer, and promised only to take what would fit in the bed and cab of Ron's truck. (Earlier, I had marked out a 10X12 space in our garage and determined how much would fit and where to place items to be presented to best effect, but I had no idea how much of it would fit in the truck).  Turns out most of it did. 

This dealer also brought in an old gasoline pump.

I left the house at 6 am, dodging a thunderstorm,  and arrived at the Brecksville Community Center at 7:30. I thought I must resemble the Beverly Hillbillies and I even had a rocking chair visible for passing motorists on the turnpike!  Most of the vendors had already finished setting up their wares by the time I arrived. Did I mention it was already over 80 degrees with humidity to match? However, these dealers were undaunted and quickly hauled in massive pieces of furniture! My biggest item was a wicker chaise lounge! It was also my highest priced item at $150.

Beautiful antiques in each booth
Many of the antiques at this show were priced over $600. I nearly swooned as I stepped into the arena of carefully curated pieces. Honestly, if money were no object, I would have bought almost everything there. However, since both money and downsizing were the objects, I concentrated on setting up my "booth" and keeping my eyes focused away from the beautiful pieces that surrounded me at the other booths. Sharon introduced me to each dealer and everyone welcomed me to my first show, wished me luck, and complimented my efforts at my booth set up. We had about an hour before the doors opened  and I did buy three gifts--a  linen tablecloth for me-as if  I really needed more...) a small wood writing box for Ron, and a tiny Limoges pill box for Paulette. 

Gifts purchased at dealer prices before the show opened.

These purchases set back my net profits by $105 ( I just added it up on a calculator) and I also spent $20 on porter service to unload the truck,  $85 for the show entry fee, and $15 for gas and tolls. Do the math with me-I needed to have $215 in sales before I could get out of the red.   

The next five hours flew by-I had a blast talking to each customer that wandered into my booth. I challenged them to name a price they were comfortable with for any item they wanted, and most gave me exact change after we agreed on the price,  and wrote checks, or used the credit card square! Whew. No worries after all. I made $593 in sales.  Total profit-$378 plus less items in the house. More Joy!

Sharon informed me later that some dealers had no sales and some cleared $250. She said I was the talk of the show among the vendors because my booth was busy.  It wasn't really fair, though, as I was selling most items well below fair market value, and taking huge losses on my inventory. For instance, I had purchased the wicker chaise lounge for $250 a few years ago at an antique show and sold it for $150 to a sweet 97 year old lady that bought it as a gift for a friend with a great porch in Chagrin Falls.  I'm not making my living from buying and then selling valuable antiques as the rest of the dealers were doing-many with shops and/or spaces within antique malls. Most customers inquired where my shop was located and I explained this was my first actual physical sales place but that I did have a small showcase within the Medina Antique Mall. I told them that for more than 30 plus years I had been  a public library director, not as an antique dealer. 

There was one vintage item that I didn't sell and I was pretty happy to bring it home with me-in fact, it really is a priceless piece. It brings me Joy as I reflect on memories from my first days as an intern in grad school, and my first year working at Sandusky Library.

Card catalog-Rods missing.

Yep, it is a card catalog. I spent hours typing cards, with regulation spacing, complete with See Also cards, Subject Cards, Title cards, and Author cards for each book purchased. That makes me an antique, too,  as  I'll be 62 in a few days.

I need to take a break from this unnatural downsizing task and plan to spend the summer relaxing on our front and back porches, on Paulie's front porch, and under our awnings at the campsite in Bellevue. It is best to pace oneself, don't you think?

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Lulu's Antiques

You just haven't lived until you hear the sound of a telephone from the 1930s! We have one that hangs on the wall of our kitchen and one upstairs in our library. I love to answer these phones, but, I don't often take the time to use the rotary dial for outgoing calls. I remember visiting my great grandparents in Iowa and listening in on their party extensions on a phone that was made of wood and had two short rings and one long one when it was a call for them.

I absolutely LOVE this "Hoosier style" kitchen cabinet that I bought at an auction. It is a 1920's baker's dream.
All of my baking stuff fits in it. My baking is defined as Toll House Cookies, and they are famous. Even though it is really the only thing I bake, I am happy to have this cabinet as the centerpiece of the kitchen.

This, among many more items, are things that I am selling via my new enterprise, Lulu's Antiques. The problem is that I have a hard time letting things go! Every time I make a sale, I feel a little bit sad. And then a little bit pleased that I was able to move on.

I recently enjoyed watching the new movie with Sally Fields, Hi, My name is Norma.  She is a sweet soul who is a depicted as a hoarder, but, I think that is a bit of a harsh assessment. In my house, like the character, Norma, there isn't much in our house  that actually has a family history, it just has history. Period.

Can you see Kate nestled in on her dog bed? On top of which is Marilyn's bed? With no warning, Kate became as sick as a dog last week.  What a saying-sick as a dog!!! I scooped her up and headed toward Columbus, during a freak snow storm on a Saturday in April. The snow was so blinding that I actually didn't think the two of us would make it and as I drove, I made peace with the fact that we would both meet our demise in my brand new VW Golf SportWagen somewhere along the berm of Route 4. MedVet, the specialty clinic in Columbus confirmed that after only six months, Kate had another kidney stone that needed to be surgically removed.

Snowed in, and with Kate safely in the hand of experts. I headed for the nearest hotel, and encountered a movie theater (playing the Sally Field movie) next door. Since I didn't have so much as a toothbrush with me, I decided to detour into the theater. My last actual movie theater attendance was in 2009 to see the Michael Jackson documentary, This is It!. Wow! This theater has barcaloungers for every seat and delivered whole meals! What!!!!

Back in Sandusky, days later with a recovering Kate, I headed back to the gym and......met my goal of getting up, unassisted, from a beanbag! Sorry,no photo, but both Ron and Paulette will swear they saw me do it. In spite of arthritic knee caps, I achieved my goal! Perhaps you remember my goal mentioned last August.  Lots of sessions of core and quad exercises did the trick!!! I am thrilled.

I am happier than I was a year ago, stronger, calmer, more in my element, and, adjusted to retirement.  Renewed with old friendships, blessed with new relationships, supported and encouraged and joined by Ron (newly retired) I am off on new adventures with a heart that is happier than when I first retired. It has been quite a journey and one that I never anticipated would be both this challenging and this rewarding. Lulu and Kate are both doing fine and eager to share with you our adventures.

Now, finally, it is time to explore favorite places, such as the Kennebunkbeach, Maine inn of my high school years, and discover new places. I wish all of you the best in the summer of 2016.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Sparking Joy, Part Two

I know just how Mrs. Bird feels about her overcrowded house! Maybe some of that straw is left over from years ago, and, like me, she just keeps adding more stuff without first cleaning her house. Or maybe she feels nostalgic about the first straw nest, when her home was new, and she just can't let it go. No one was home, or I would have told her all about the KonMarie method of Sparking Joy and how well it is working out for me.

 In fact, a new milestone has been reached! Ron and I spent the afternoon at the Medina Antique Mall and didn't buy a thing!! We used to go several times a year and always came away with several treasures. In fact, some of our furniture and most of our dog collection of prints, bookends, etc, was purchased there.

You know how you are kind of embarrassed when the pizza guy recognizes your order when you call for a delivery? Well, some of the vendors and most of the staff recognize us because of our frequent visits over the years.

On this visit, the tables turned. We investigated renting a showcase and becoming vendors instead of buyers! There is something more tangible about selling in person compared to online. I opened my Etsy store , Knitwithlulu,  several months ago  to sell craft supplies online -my SABLE (stash abounds beyond life expectancy) that is.  I sell buttons, needles, yarn, patterns, and some vintage items.  Over the years, I have sold  items via Ebay. Last summer I sold a few things on the Erie County online garage sale. (You pick a place such as the Kroger's parking lot to meet your buyer and it all feels a bit shady like a drug deal). But, a booth or showcase at an antique mall? That is on a whole new level!And, now, without further ado, I continue the episode of Sparking Joy......

I helped Paulie blaze through her clothes and she rediscovered her walk in closet! Bob was next and he, too, cleared out quite a bit of unwanted clothing. Next, Paulie and I cleared out all clothes stored in my attic and I can now fit winter and summer clothes in one small closet and one dresser on the second floor. Ron got into the act and kept only a few overcoats, two sport coats and one tuxedo! Well, he only had one tuxedo to begin with, but, still. All of this was donated to the local thrift store. Next up: books. Paulette weeded out at least half of her knitting book collection and I weeded out TWO books thus far at my house. Meanwhile, you could say I'm skipping ahead by diving into sentimental items as I decide what to antiques to sell.

 Paulie and I did attend a recent antique sale and two estate sales. Paulette didn't buy anything at either estate sale, but she did buy what she stated was her "last ever piece of furniture" at the antique sale. Well, really she stole it!

 I brought home a Victorian bowling game ( I can't explain it, I just thought it was so unusual.....)

This antique game fits on our dining room table. Can't you just imagine someone setting the pins, loading a marble in the pea shooter apparatus and aiming it toward the pins to see how many get knocked down? Now that beats out a video game any time, don't you think? Our cats, by the way, have discovered how to get their paws on the marbles, and, so, this is really a cat game now.

Our attic runs the length of the house and has a solid wood floor and high ceilings. It is where items rest, Christmas decorations are stored, and where I sometimes go to sit in the winter when I get too hot (it isn't heated, of course). Nor is it air conditioned. Hence, I have a narrow window of time in which to engage in Joy factor mode.  At recent count, there are 6 chairs, 3 cedar chests, 7 leather end tables, 4 wood coffee tables, 1 armoire, 1 dresser, 1 high post bed frame, 3 sewing tables, and many storage containers of antique linens up there. There are suitcases, Important Papers, scrapbooks, tablecloths, camping items, and much, much more.

There is a dumbwaiter, intact, which sits above a long open column that goes all the way to the basement.

The rafters are 10 feet high and there are lots of windows all the way around. We do have a resident bat that lives up there. I've never seen him, actually, but, I am sure that he lives there...if you know what I mean.... I'll be up there for a few hours today as it is 43 degrees and therefore a perfectly cool day for me to continue Sparking Joy!

Since Paulie's hand has been out of commission for the past month, I got to unpack and decorate her home for Easter. It was so fun to get out her collections and place them throughout her home!

Happy Spring! Happy Everything!

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Sparking Joy

I am writing this post from 32,000 feet over Nebraska, availing myself of Southwest Airlines wifi. 
I gladly paid the $8.00 connection fee for use on the 4 hour flight from L.A. to Baltimore as I had forgotten to bring ANY reading material on board!!!!! OMG!! I had already read the airline mag on the way out to California and I was starting to panic. Glass of Chardonnay in one hand and my iPhone in the other, it seemed like the perfect time to catch up with a little writing. Lest you think I am a sophisticated traveler, let me correct that notion right now! First I struggled with the new Southwest  LAX  stand where you  print your own boarding pass AND print and attach your baggage tags  AND send your suitcases down the ramp. With two bags to check and two carry on pieces, I couldn't make my way to the ramp without going back for each piece. The couple behind me came to my aid. While I was grateful for the help, I wondered if they saw me like someone's grandmother that needed some extra help ( in case you think I am overreacting, on my flight out,  the  man seated next to me shouted to a companion several rows ahead, "I'm in the seat next to the old lady!"  I actually swatted him and said," Hey!  Watch it!! That hurts!!!"  Such is life of travel for a 61 year old I guess,  and it was kind of a reality check. 

 Now, where was I....oh yes, as I headed into the security area , I  unfastened the wrong end of my Trollbeads bracelet and sent 17 beads bouncing like marbles all over the floor. 

 Several kind souls helped me gather them up and off I headed to my gate. My boarding number was B21 because I forgot to check in yesterday. I was still surprised to find my favorite seat was taken by the time I headed down the aisle: the last seat in the last row by the window. My selection is based on  my own personal theory  that one is less likely to catch someone's cold when there is no one behind you sneezing. I knew this wasn't going to work this time anyway when I overheard one of my seat mates asked if his Sudafed had kicked in yet. SIGH.

This is what it looked like as I left Ohio 10 days ago. Snow, cold, and major de-icing before take off. My mom had called the previous afternoon and asked me to come out for a few days while she recovered from some sort of stomach distress. When I got there she was improving, but as my friend Judy wisely said, "sometimes a mother just needs her daughter".

So, since she was feeling pretty perky I asked Mom if I could use her for my test case for the books I was reading, Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo and her followup book: Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up. While I had owned the first book for more than a year, and read it twice, I had not as yet put any of the advice into practice. 

The author presents a new angle on decluttering. Instead of deciding what to get rid of, you decide what to keep, that is, you decide what brings you joy. Further, you thank the items for their service to you as you send the discarded items on their way.

 I suggested we try out the method, step by step, following the instructions to the letter.

2. Books
3. Papers
4. Komono(miscellaneous)
5. Sentimental items

My mom was game and we started on a three day intensive journey of finding joy!
According to the author, you must first gather up EVERY piece of clothing you own and put it in a pile on the floor.

Once you are sure you haven't left anything in some other location, and, starting with all of the shirts first, you hold each article and ask  if it sparks joy in your heart when you see and touch it. Really. Now, I know this sounds crazy but if you haven't tried this, just read on. Mom got in the spirit of it immediately and could with lightening speed tell me if the piece sparked joy. If not the article was placed aside and thanked for its previous joy and on we went through all of the jackets, sweaters, pants, shoes, socks until there wasn't a stitch of clothing we hadn't held. Ten large bags were set aside for donations and we began the specific folding process. Sort of like sushi, items were rolled and placed in drawers.

  There wasn't much was left to hang in the closet. 

My brother got into the mix and added some shelves that I asked him to build.

Then a curious thing happened- he went home and started on his closet!!! Kelsey (his daughter and my favorite niece) saw him carrying out bag after bag and asked him what he was doing. "Sparking joy, he replied!!!"

The next day we tackled books. It was fascinating to me to observe my mom making firm decisions on which books met the joy criteria. A college textbook from 1947 of my dad's-Yes!! A favorite novel of his- No!! an art book of French Impressionism-Yes!! A book on travel on the Rhine-No!!  As I watched what sparked joy for her I learned things about my mom that surprised me and I learned about the books in her collection and what the connection was as to why they were there in the first place, why they got to stay, and why some could go. 

After a break at the Wilson Creek Winery with my sister-in-law, Karrie, (who, by the way, was thrilled about the joy factor going on in the closet she shared with my brother) we were ready to take on stage 3: Papers. 

Mom and I share the dilemma of not being able to part with very many papers. Newspaper clippings, brochures, recipe cards, manuals, invoices, statements, old report cards, and lots and lots of photos. 
The photos consisted of tin types of relatives that mixed in with my dad's flight crew photos from WII, that were mixed in with photos from my youth, and photos of grandchildren mixed in with recent bills and greeting cards and....   well, you get the idea! According to author Marie Kondo, the goal is to end up with no papers!! Actually,  you do get to keep one magazine file box called Pending Papers (items that need immediate attention only) She also recommends purchasing a 3 ring binder with clear plastic sleeves to hold  a few papers that are not pending, but, are to be kept close at hand,  such as a print out for a new diet or a list of favorite restaurants. Greeting cards are not to be kept unless they spark sentimental joy. Our family has kept greeting cards from relatives from the early 1900's to recent Valentine's Day cards and it seemed unlikely that many of these would be discarded.

This reminds me of the first card birthday card I gave to Ron. We had meet a few weeks prior to his 40th birthday and I handed him a card that I had carefully selected for him. He opened the card, read it, thanked me, and immediately tossed it in the kitchen wastepaper basket! I almost fainted in shock and seriously wondered what on earth was wrong with him!

Mom and I actually completed step 3 and pitched 5 huge garbage bags of papers. However, in the process, we filled one huge plastic tub with the photos and some greeting cards and letters-to be reviewed in the final step, Tidying up Sentimental Items. It was time for a break and time for me to hit the road.  But first, time to give  Carlson family pups, Lily and Jasper,  a few biscuits!

Mom and I also had some time to attend the monthly book discussion club meeting of her Garden Club. It was so fun to hear each member give a brief sales pitch of favorite recent reads and then  members borrowed whichever books appealed to them. I presented a brief pitch for the Kondo books, but didn't give them up-since Mom's efforts went so well, I'm heading home to start step one with BFF, Paulette, and, then on to my own tidying up efforts. In our cases, I don't think three days will begin to cover the territory, as we are both incorrigible collectors of many, many, many things. I promise to give you an edited update in some future post. Plane is about to land now and the wifi will be turned off shortly. My thumbs are tired of texting this post and I'm eager to head home to Ron and the pet family!

P.S. As it is now the night of the Academy Awards, I think it is only fitting that I end this post, taking a minute to accept the Award for Best Blogpost of February 2016.  First, I would like to thank my mother, for not only giving me birth, but allowing me to use her as a test case for my decluttering project. Of course, I'd like to thank my brother, David, for taking such good care of Mom when she was ill, and for calling me to come to California whenever he needs help. I'd like to thank my niece, Kelsey, for showing me that the future is bright and that playing two basket ball games back to back followed by a softball game can be done. I'd like to thank my sister in law, Karrie, for generously lending her husband and daughter to all causes for my Mom. Praise goes to my BFF, Paulie, an excellent partner in crime, and to my husband, Ron, for always making me laugh. Last, but not least, I'd like to thank my loyal readers, who say nice things about my blog, even if they are just being polite. I love you all. Wait.....I have more people to thank, but the music is now Blaring me off the stage!!!!