Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Day 277/365 Puzzle

Every Friday and/or Saturday morning, we start out for a round of estate sales and yard sales. The eternal question is "do we take the van or the car?" Translation: Do we want to take out a loan to fill the tank (as of today $120.75 for one tankful) or do we want to gamble on being able to fit whatever we buy into the four door sedan?

Last weekend we took the car (currently costing $62.10 to fill). It is an impressive little vehicle.

The trunk holds all the safety flares, tire inflators, jumper cables, took kits and emergency equipment this mother requires her daughter to carry *PLUS* a cooler bag, 2 -40 lb bags of cat litter (still early spring here, with possibility of glare ice), a 1930's bedside lamp, large retro lamp shade, a vintage brass night light with small shade, a 1940's pie plate, a white 1930's iris ceramic vase, cookbook (for me) called Le Bouche Creole, a small chalkware planter, and a folding mahogany table with drawer on four carved legs.
Meanwhile the back seat holds a full-size repro coffee table and an electrified hurricane lamp (wrapped in my sweater).

Floor of back seat holds four commemorative plates, stuck in between books because (once again) I forgot to put newspaper and bubble wrap back in the car for transporting, as well as a large heavy lamp (the one that goes with the shade in the trunk).

All made it home safely.

Even the white iris vase.

Oh - forgot the framed woodland print, circa 1930's. Can't remember where it ended up - probably behind the kitty litter.

And after estate sales, we even had room to stop and pick up a treat for Sherlock the grandsnake......Frozen Fuzzies!

Murphy's Law for estate sales: If you take the van, you'll find nothing worthwhile. If you take the car, the estate sales will be loaded with antiques worth millions, each priced at $1.00.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Day 276/365 Necessary Distractions

My mother is the daughter of a sharecropper. She grew up in the heart of Appalachian poverty, stuffing newspaper into the walls to keep in the woodstove heat, and wearing dresses out of flour sacks. With that upbringing, she had no real understanding or interest in antiques or "old stuff".

So, it was a friend of hers that took me to my first auction forty-one years ago when I was fourteen (I'll wait while you do the math). I fell in love with the entire idea of owning pieces of history and started buying everything from American Primitive and antique cameras to vintage jewelry and 1930s chinaware.

Eventually my 930 pieces of Blue Ridge dinnerware (plus Ebay) saw us through nine months of unemployment.And I started selling off storage bins full of collectibles. Twelve years later, I'm still selling,on both Ebay and Amazon, and I'm still buying.

As of a couple months ago, I moved into selling in bricks-and-mortar antique malls, opening my first booth. My partner created the name Three Graces, and the inventory comes from both of us. She's the doll collector (I tore the heads off my Barbie's), and I'm the china and assorted memorabilia person. Only a couple vintage books made it here -I prefer to keep those online.

Then last weekend, I opened a second booth, about 30 miles away (and across a couple mountains, so it's further than it sounds). This was the opening set-up with everything that fit into the van and a trailer. That's an unused 1950s Lane cedar chest in a fruitwood finish, complete with the original promotional paper that came with it.

The tablecloths laying the cedar chest were hand-crocheted by my mother, out of fishing net, while she sat on the shores of Lake Bangwelu in Zambia in the early 1970's. Are you asking "how can you sell those"? We have others. She spent a *lot* of time on the shore at Lake Bangwelu, and Lake Tangiyika, and the Zambezi River, waiting for my dad to finish with his students. Hours of tablecloths...

The other side of the booth is retro 1949's and 1950's: boomerang tables, metal and ceramic lamps, rattan Eames style chair, and some 1980's Mickey. And lamps - I love vintage lamps. I have them all over my house: some 1950's, some 1940's, some 1930's. The lamps on the mantle are 1940's, the ones on the end tables are 1959 (I grew up with them - they were the first "new" lamps my mom and dad could afford to buy). All are newly re-wired, courtesy of my daughter,
who, hearing me say "oh, it needs new wiring" , stepped up and said "I'll figure it out." She nows re-wires all my lamps for me.

Within 24 hours two large pieces had sold and so we had to round up another vanload and fill the empty spots (this is a good problem). They are difficult to see but to the left and right of the fireplace mantle sit solid oak colonades, each with it's own original oak column. We actually found these in the attic of our previous home in Minnesota, removed by original owner when they remodeled at the outbreak of World War II and became a boarding house for war brides. I had always hoped to put them back in their original places, but then the house was purchased by the college next door. They had no interest in restoration, so we brought the colonades and columns with us.

Eventually I'll run out of corners and storage areas to pull stock from, but it'll probably be awhile. Meanwhile, there's a couple estate sales tomorrow that I'm checking out....wish me luck.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Day 275/365 Mardi Gras Redux...Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler!

****I'm Back...and what better day than Fat Tuesday or Carnival, better known as Mardi Gras? Below is the 2009 Mardi Gras post, mostly because I've been snowed under both with massive change as well as tons of work - but really because I love that photo of the Purple Man Mask.... I really should be posting from The Big Easy..there is no fairness in life...Enjoy!********

*Originally posted February 2009

It's Carnival Time again! Mardi Gras actually started on Twelfth Night, January 6th, and runs full steam until Midnight on Fat Tuesday, this year February 24th.

I credit my fairly laid-back social views to a lifetime of more-than-a-few Mardi Gras seasons. You can't grow up watching transvestites and grown men dancing in feathered costumes without being affected on some level.

You also learn a certain amount of tolerance when your home is invaded by millions of people annually, usually for the last three or four days of Carnival (fortunately the visitors don't realize the parties actually string out for three to six weeks).

Mardi Gras is famous for its parades, there's always several going on somewhere in the city. For instance today, February 19, there are three. Tomorrow there are five. Parades are full of huge, colorful floats, the most incredible, complex, outrageous floats you can imagine. Each float (and sometimes the whole parade) is sponsored by a krewe. Krewe can loosely translate into "club", and several have been around since the 1800's.

My own favorite krewes:

Krewe of Rex: This krewe picked the famous Mardi Gras colors of purple, gold and green, besides thinking of the idea of collectible Mardi Gras doubloons. The very first doubloons were thrown out in 1960, which just happens to be the first year I was deemed old enough to go to a parade.

Mardi Gras Indians: Traditionally the focal point for New Orleans Black Mardi Gras, now front and center, and famous for their intricate beaded costumes worth thousands of dollars. The "Indians" name was chosen to show the black respect for the native Indians of Louisiana, who would help slaves escape during ante-bellum days. You can also see the Indians parade on the Sunday closest to St. Joseph's Day, March 19 (this year March 22nd), in an afternoon parade that starts around Orleans and Bayou St. John, and goes who-knows-where-from-there. Like any other Mardi Gras Indian parade, the exact route is not designated, and twists and turns through the city.

Krewe of Proteus: Totally themed on Egyptian mythology, dates back to 1882, and the second oldest Krewe

Krewe of Thoth: Named for the Eyptian god of Wisdom (he invented science, arts and letters). To me, letters means the written word, or books. You know I had to love them. Dates to 1947, before my time.

Krewe of Okeanos: Okeanos is the Greek god of oceans and valleys -very important when your city is perched on the edge of the Gulf.

Krewe of Cleopatra: Founded during my college years in 1972, the first all-female Krewe in the Westbank.

Krewe of Iris: The oldest and biggest all-female krewe in New Orleans proper, originated in 1917, and parading since 1959.

And Chewy's favorite:

Krewe of Barkus: the only krewe by and for canines of all types.

The krewe names alone conjure up mystical events and mythological gods: Adonis, Argus,Zeus, Isis, Hermes, Aquila, Jason, Morpheus, Muses, Chaos, Centurions, Nemesis, Rhea, Ancient Druids, Excalibur, King Arthur & Merlin, Pegasus, Caesar, Sparta, Shangri0La, Pygmalion, Gladiators, Ponchatrain,and so many more.

Most krewes have their own royalty. This lovely lady is the 1959 Queen of the Krewe of Troubadours.

Traffic rolls to a stop in both the French Quarter and Uptown, as there is always a parade starting (or ending), and the floats line the sidestreets, waiting for their turn. Floats can be huge carrying hundreds (literally hundreds) of riders. In 1994, the Krewe of Orpheus set a record (at that time) with 700 riders on a single float.

The Krewe of Bacchus carries the various celebrity monarchs and is known for its elaborate floats (and its great souvenirs -thrown indiscriminately to the crowds who are shouting "THROW ME SOMETHING MISTER!")

Many people don't know that Mardi Gras was actually first celebrated in Mobile, Alabama -mostly because they were settled before New Orleans. Approximately 30 years later, New Orleans started in on its first Carnival, and proved to be much better than Mobile at partying, carrying on all night, producing the necessary strange and bizarre personages, and maintaining a live-and-let-live year-round spirit of total debachery.

Let The Good Times Roll!