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Sunday, September 18, 2016

Porch Sitting 101

Kate rests on fabric originally $198/yard
Kate and I recently passed a Porch 101 course (see directions below) and it took lots of practice throughout the summer to get it done correctly.

It started with Kate testing the durability of the linen fabric I purchased a few weeks ago. If she lets me, I'm going to have new cushions made for two vintage Haywood Wakefield bamboo chairs that I have been storing in the basement for the past 30 years!  The seating arrangement will be next to a daybed that I purchased recently from World Market.

This will look better, I promise, when the new fabric is applied to the 1950's cushions
And, this will be all be installed in....our new summer cottage! Well, not a cottage exactly, more like a tiny house. Well, not actually a tiny house either. Ok, it is a "park" trailer. Try to focus on the keyword-PARK, not  trailer......Except, that does describe it perfectly. It is a "trailer" that is sort of temporarily parked in a permanent location. It has 640 square feet of living space. After one adds decks, railings, landscaping, and a golf cart, what you have is..... a "home" in a "park." Sigh. I'll show you later.

Nina is on the market :(

Nina tries not to take it personally that she is being sold to the highest bidder
 We just had to admit that we're not rolling stones, or even rolling pebbles. Heck, I have a long history of not moving at all! Same house, same town,  for 29 years. Same favorite vacation destination for more than 50 years (Kennebunkport, Me) and I have to confess, I really am not the adventureous gal you think I am. No, it's true. I'd rather read about the national parks than visit them. I'd rather sit on our newly screened in back porch (see porch course below) than drive a mile down the way to the lake.

back porch

One and only one evening by the bay
Therefore, the Brooks household is going to a summer getaway instead driving a recreational vehicle/motorhome around and we'll see if that fits us better!

This is not to say that it hasn't been an active summer  around here.  In June and July,  I did some library consulting work for the Huron Public Library and enjoyed dipping back into library lingo for awhile.

Dior explores the pet store goodies

I spent a fun week in California with family and got to meet, Dior, mom's new companion,
before heading back to Ohio with Mom for a short stay. In fact, one really cool thing we did was attend a LP record event. That doesn't sound quite right. What we did was go to a studio and sit with a group of 100 people to listen to both sides of the Beatle's Revolver 1966 album. Yep. On a turntable. So cool.

My mom, reading a book on dog training!

My decluttering project took a huge leap forward when I signed up for a booth in addition to a showcase at the Medina Antique Mall in August.

If you see anything you need,  just let me know....

This is not to indicate, in any way, that there aren't still a few things in the basement and attic, and two garages.....After all, I pride myself in writing an honest blog!

Eight ladder back chairs I saved while dumpster diving in 1977
A few weeks ago, Kate had another stay at Medvet when the kidney pills she is on caused a liver infection to surface. This was one day shy of her stay last September for the first of two kidney stone operations in the past 12 months.  Not to worry, tho, even as I am writing this post, Kate is growling and barking at two butterflies in the garden from the comfortable surrounding of the porch.

Kate eyes a butterfly

Jack is doing fine, too, although slowing down due to a bum knee. He is 11 and we discovered he can no longer hear us. I don't mind, Ron somehow doesn't hear me either! Jack, too, enjoys a good porch sit.

Jack is patient and shares with others
Ron passes the front porch course
Ron, never much of a porch sitter, has practiced each morning with a cup of coffee and iPad near at hand! I'm so proud of him.

In mid August,  I headed out to California again. My nephew, Kacey, a Marine in Okinawa, Japan was very ill and I  was summoned to look after my niece, Kelsey, while my brother, David, and his wife headed overseas.

Kelsey and I both love L.A.
With no prior experience as a soccer mom, or any mom at all, for that matter, I valiantly drove my 9th grader to and from school and to and from basketball practice each day. And I provided wholesome meals from around the world.... McDonalds, Starbucks, Maxx's Pizza House, a Cuban restaurant, Rubio's (Mexican restaurant), and Pick Up Sticks (a Chinese restaurant) to name a few of our dinner stops. Breakfast consisted of a quick cup of coffee and her lunch was usually leftovers from the prior evening's repast.

LCpl  Kacey Walker Carlson

I'm happy to report that Kacey and family are now stateside and Ron (who joined me in Ca) and I are both back in Ohio.  Recovery from acute meningitis is a long and difficult path and I have no doubt that my nephew will pursue recovery in Marine fashion.

With only 51 days until Election Day, Paulie and I will soon hit the bricks again for door-to-door canvassing, starting with registering to vote forms, and culminating with driving voters to the polls on November 8.  Here are my campaign promises: I promise not to use Paulie as a human shield from a rottweiler lunging at us from a screen door this time. I promise not to get a speeding ticket on Election Night when driving to the voting sites. I promise not to interrupt drug dealers to tell them all about the importance of showing up to vote and I promise not to go into apartment buildings with posted no solicitation signs. I also promise not to discuss the issues with my family (except for Kate, Jack, AllieCat, Lucy, and, of course,  Emma).

Cat naps are the best!
 I hope you can spend some time on a porch this fall. Kate and I highly recommend it! If possible, bring along a book you have been meaning to start, or finish. Your favorite beverage should be within reach, too. If you have a hammock, feel free to take a little nap. Do not, under any circumstances, do any work of any kind. Failure to observe this dictum will result in flunking our Porch 101 course.

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!