Saturday, November 27, 2010

Garage sale finds.

Two weeks ago, when my father-in-law John and my brother-in-law Tony were visiting us for some fishing, we all piled into Tony's SUV on Saturday morning and ventured out in search of garage sales.

Luxuriating in the spacious leather back seat of an SUV while someone else drives (Tony) and someone else navigates (Todd) is truly the way to go garage saling. Plus, I had one of my best sale days ever.

I got all three of these recipe booklets for 25 cents. The one on the left was compiled by a local woman 15 years ago and has all her favorite family recipes in it. The Pillsbury Bake-Off booklet is falling apart and very well-used, and no wonder--there are a whole pile of mouth-watering recipes in it.

For $1.00, I got a Girl Scout manual from the late 1940s that has the cutest illustrations, and lots of useful information about knots and table settings and such things.

I got a big pile of vintage ornaments for about $3.00. They're not the fancy kind with images on them (those are my favorite) but they'll work very well as filler on my tree.

I also got a giant wicker basket that I'm wondering what to use it for now that I have it ($1.00) and a scanner. And I found an amp for my friend Matthew's new electric guitar.

But the best find was these chairs:

In this spot in our living room I have had two small Ikea armchairs with white duck slipcovers, which we've had for about 8 years. We've had small living rooms ever since we bought them and they've been perfect for each one.

But they were very boxy and plain, in true Ikea style. And visually, they took up a lot of space. So when I spotted these vintage yellow armchairs in the front yard at an estate sale, I snatched them up for $45 for the pair. Don't they look great? They're small and they fit into the room very nicely. They're not cushy, but they're comfortable. And the upholstery is in great shape. I'm just delighted with them, and my mother-in-law has laid claim to my old chairs, so everyone's happy.

Now if I can just figure out how to get Tony and John to come back down every couple weeks next spring to drive me around and bring me good luck again!

P.S. I think I came off sounding pathetic in my previous post, and that wasn't what I intended! We had the option of spending Thanksgiving with my brother three hours away, or we could have flown up to my husband's family get-together in Columbus. Running up to DC for a day at the museums just seemed more manageable (and affordable), and there was a Norman Rockwell exhibit I especially wanted to see. So we had a very nice day and a tasty meal (with no clean-up afterwards!) I just wish my family was a few minutes away instead of a bunch of hours.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Hope everybody had a fun Thanksgiving! We weren't up for doing any major traveling this year, so we just made a run up to Washington D.C. and cruised through a few museums, and then ate Thanksgiving dinner at Old Country Buffet (we managed to get there right before the stuffing pan got cleaned out, so, whew! Crisis averted! It wouldn't have been pretty if I'd had to eat Thanksgiving dinner with no stuffing.)

My sister and I were talking on the phone today and realized that we both have high expectations of holidays, which often leads us to feel sad or let down. I was feeling sad on Wednesday hearing people talk about what they were going to cook, who was coming to their house, etc., knowing I'd be eating dinner in a restaurant. But most years it's just not feasible or desirable to sit in a car or on a plane for hours for every single major holiday. So Todd and I have spent more holidays alone than I would like.

My theory is that since my sister and I grew up with lots of extended family around, it just doesn't seem like a holiday to us unless there are a lot of people crammed into a house all talking at the same time and drinking coffee and playing games and teasing each other. When it's just you and your husband staring at each other across the table (or in my sister's case this year, her and her husband staring at each other while the kids played games on their phones) something feels wrong.

On the other hand, when you see people sitting and eating their restaurant turkey dinner absolutely alone--and she and I both saw people who were all alone--then you realize how much you have to be grateful for, even when things don't turn out exactly the way you pictured they would when you were a kid and thought every holiday would always be the same forever and ever.

Speaking of family, I ran across something today that took me back across the decades in a flash. April Winchell runs a site called Regretsy, which spotlights some of the worst arts and crafts from the crafters' sales site Etsy. She and her readers regularly make me snort or choke on whatever I'm drinking...they are seriously funny people.

April linked to her list of horrible holiday mp3s the other day and I just discovered a little gem on the list called "I Yust Go Nuts at Christmas" by a guy named Yogi Yorgesson, who was the alter ego of a comedian and radio personality named Harry Stewart in the 1940s and 50s.

When I was a kid, my grandpa Martin would make 8-track tapes for me and my siblings. Sometimes he would tape records for us, but other times I think he'd just tape whatever he found on the radio. I can't remember much of what was on the tapes, except for "I Yust Go Nuts" and some Italian song that I actually heard at an Italian restaurant a few months ago--the first time I'd heard it in 30+ years.

"I Yust Go Nuts" is like a brain worm, or it was for a kid who memorized a lot of random things, which I did whether I wanted to or not, because my brain just latched onto stuff. To this day, every now and then I'll think "And just at that moment someone slugs Uncle Ben" or "I step on a skate and fall over a tricycle."

If you listen to the song--and why wouldn't you want to listen to such a gem?--at the bit where he sings about stepping outside for a cold glass of beer, that's where Grandpa faded the song out and skipped over the part where the guy drinks eleven "Tom and Yerrys." So in my memory, the song goes "I think I'll step out for a cold glahh uhh bbb..." and then picks up again when the kids are jumping on his belly. I guess Grandpa didn't want us little kids to hear about some Swedish guy getting hammered on Christmas Eve, although he didn't have any problem with us hearing about the ensuing hangover on Christmas morning. What a funny little memory. Thanks for letting me hear the whole song, April!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

More Florida.

Got the dining room--or most of it--done, whew! I'd share a picture, but no one would be able to tell a difference. Todd couldn't when he got home! All I did was cover that shiny finish with a slightly darker and non-shiny color. The color was originally Laura Ashley Pale Apple 2, and now it's Valspar Soothing Aloe. I used Benjamin Moore Aura paint, since it's got primer in it and can go over semi-gloss without having to treat it or sand it or anything else time-consuming. What fantastic paint! It goes on like butter!

Next week we'll move everything out of the living room and I'll re-paint three of the walls in a hurry before the carpet guys come on Wednesday. (The other wall was re-painted a year ago when Todd put in our new mantel.) By next weekend I hope to have some of the chaos in my home put back into place, but for now every room is a hot mess.

Here are a few more pictures from Florida:

It was so odd to see Christmas decorations and hear Christmas music while the palm trees blew in the balmy breezes! I guess to people who live there it's no big deal, but it was odd to this Northerner.

I stopped in at this shop my first day there and got a half-gallon of fresh-squeezed juice and a huge bag of locally grown oranges. I got through all of the juice and most of the oranges by the time we left!

This made me laugh. I had totally forgotten that "I Dream of Jeannie" took place in Cocoa Beach until my friend Bev asked if I was going to find Major Nelson down there!

All I had to do to get to the beach was walk out the back door of the hotel, past the pool and a few steps over a little boardwalk. It was fantastic; I spent a couple hours out there every day. This is the Cocoa Beach pier again.

The water was cold. And the air was none too warm most days, either. The temperatures were in the upper 70s to the lower 80s but it was extremely windy. I still hopped in the water every day but the last day, though. And then shivered till the sun could warm me up a little!

On our last morning there, we went to Downtown Disney for a couple of hours before heading to the airport. It's in the Disney World area, but you don't have to pay to get in, it's just a bunch of shops and restaurants. It was the perfect place to walk around and get some sunshine before sitting in a plane for a couple of hours.

They had a cool Lego store with lots of Lego creations.

Princesses outside the World of Disney store. Inside they had a boutique where little girls could pick out a princess costume and then get all fancied up with hair-dos and make-up. I got a kick out of seeing all the little princesses running around.

We spent some time here picking out the souvenirs I was too sleepy to buy when we were at Magic Kingdom at midnight Tuesday night! They had tons of pins of all the different characters and rides, that was my favorite thing.

I loved seeing poinsettias growing in pots throughout the area.

And then we took off for the airport. It was a nice week, and I'm glad that Todd wanted me to come along with him.

Now I'm going to work on some of this messy house.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Catching up while the first coat dries.

I slapped on the first coat of paint in my dining room this morning and now I'm waiting out the required four hours before I slap on the second coat. Lordy, how I hate to paint! It's not really a necessary paint job, either--I'm just putting on a satin coat over the original semi-gloss coat in a slightly more muted color. The semi-gloss has always bugged me. I was young and dumb when I decided on semi-gloss five years ago. It shows every tiny imperfection on the walls.

I scheduled the new carpet installation for next Wednesday, so this really is the right time to get that painting done. I've dripped on the old carpet a million times already. I am the world's messiest painter.

We got home from Florida on Saturday evening. It was such a relaxing week--even Todd got some relaxing in after his training class each day. This was the view off our hotel room balcony; that's the Cocoa Beach pier on the right:

I went to the Kennedy Space Center; here's their "rocket garden:"

And the Mercury Seven astronauts:

A re-creation of the old mission control room:

The space shuttle Explorer:

I took an extra tour called "Cape Canaveral: Then and Now" where we went onto the Cape Canaveral Air Force Base and visited all the old launch pads. This is the actual blockhouse and control room from which Alan Shepherd was launched into space in 1961:

When you look through the reinforced windows, you can see the launch pad and a replica of the rocket and capsule:

This is the sign on the front of the blockhouse:

This is the oldest building at Cape Canaveral and it dates back to the earliest days of the U.S. rocketry program in the late 1940s. Werner von Braun's office was here. The Cape Canaveral lighthouse is visible behind it.

The sign in front of the launch pad where John Glenn and some of the other Mercury astronauts were sent into space:

And this is the remains of Launch Complex 34 where the astronauts in Apollo 1 were killed when a fire swept through their capsule during a routine test.

Apollo 7 was the last manned launch sent up from this site and from Cape Canaveral--after that, all manned flights moved to Kennedy Space Center. Cape Canaveral is still the site for rocket launches--we were eagerly hoping to see a rocket launch while we were there, but it was scrubbed several times and we missed it. Here's the rocket on the launch pad, though--I was very excited to be that close to it!

The Cape Canaveral tour was really amazing--our tour guide was a retired high school history teacher who did a great job. Todd and I watched an excellent program called "When We Left Earth" on Netflix a couple of months ago, and it turned out to have been the perfect prelude to this tour.

Since Todd's class was at Kennedy, his co-workers dropped him off in the visitor center parking lot and I picked him up when my tour was done so that we could speed away to Orlando, an hour away, and go to Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party at the Magic Kingdom.

Neither of us had ever been to Disney World, or ever really even given it any thought, so we weren't sure what to expect. We climbed on a ferry boat to take us over to the entrance, and we could see the lights of Cinderella's castle in the distance. That was when I started feeling like a little kid!

It was extremely crowded at first as the regular visitors were leaving and the Christmas Party visitors were arriving. Really crazy. And the weather was unpleasant, extremely humid and eventually rainy. And in the dark it was hard to get any good pictures, but we did take a few:

Apart from the weather, we had a very good time. There were fireworks and a holiday parade, free cocoa, apple juice and sugar cookies throughout the park, and the lines for the rides were very short. My favorite was the "Small World" ride--I think I could have ridden it ten times! The singing kids from all over the world were so darned cute!

Then it was past midnight and we still had to get out of the park and get back to our hotel in Cocoa Beach. I drove most of the way and had to sing--loudly and badly--with the classic radio station to keep myself awake. We rolled into our hotel at 1:45 AM. It was a long day!

I've got a few more Florida pictures...I'll share them later. Time to get back to painting.....

Monday, November 15, 2010

Day 1 in Florida.

I spent some time today driving up and down the tiny strip of land that is Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral, trying to get my bearings and find out what there is to do while Todd takes his class every day.

There actually isn't a lot to do...this is a somewhat isolated little beach town, leaning heavily toward restaurants, hotels, bars and strip clubs. But it's still fun to drive around and see palm trees everywhere. And I had a great lunch at a little coffeehouse and an even better dinner at a waterfront seafood restaurant where we watched the sun set. That's where the photo was taken--the only photo I took today.

Tomorrow I should do better, photo-wise--I am going to tour Kennedy Space Center all day tomorrow, and then pick up Todd when his class is done, and we'll take off for Orlando and see Mickey. It should be a really fun, really exhausting day!

Our hotel is right on the ocean, so I was able to step out to the beach this afternoon and sit in the sun for a couple of hours. The water was cold! The breeze was chilly, too, as the sun got lower. I think it was about 78 degrees here today, but cooler by the water. Tonight we walked down and watched the stars from the beach for a little while--very romantic.

Friday, November 12, 2010


November is such a great month--cool temperatures, leaves at their peak, Christmas things popping up in the stores, stews in the crockpot and cookies in the it. This November is proving to be more active than I'd planned. Yesterday my father-in-law John and my brother-in-law Tony (two of my favorite guys in the world) came down to spend the four-day weekend fishing with Todd. Last night was too windy for them to get out and catch anything, but they're out today and I have all my fingers crossed (except for my typing fingers) that they're having fun.

Next week Todd has a training class at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and he asked me to go along with him. So I am getting to spend all next week in Cocoa Beach, Florida. I'm excited! I've never been to Florida, and it will be fun to explore a new place. Todd will have all his evenings free, and we're hoping to go over to Orlando one night and go to Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party at Disneyworld. I hope so much that it works out! I feel like a little kid, I am so ridiculously excited at the thought of walking through Disneyworld at Christmastime.

We're also planning to make a quick trip up to Washington DC for Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday. And after that I'm going to be painting my dining room and living room in preparation for having new carpet installed. I'm beside myself with excitement about this, too. (Not the painting--the carpet! Still hate to paint, but it seems like a good time to get the walls touched up before the carpet goes in.)

And then it will be Christmastime before I know it. The last bit of the year always goes so much faster than I want it to!

Thursday, November 04, 2010


Here's an amazing holiday online magazine--I could not believe how lengthy it was and how many terrific ideas were packed into it. I only just found Amy Powers' blog a few weeks ago when another blogger linked to her fall online magazine, which is also amazing. I've found about ten things I want to try, which is about nine more than is reasonable for me!

It has been gray and cold and gloomy here for the past few days, which I don't really mind, but it does seem to sap my desire to craft or create or really do much of anything besides the regular round of chores and then sitting on the couch watching "Mission: Impossible" episodes. That show is so crazy! I love Peter Graves, he was just a giant hunk of a man, wasn't he? Martin Landau was pretty easy on the eyes way back then, too.

Oh, I found another cool site the other day, called TV Party, where they have all sorts of articles about classic TV shows. I had fun reading about the old holiday shows, especially. And this was really fascinating to me--it's the ABC fall TV promo for the 1970-71 season. I guess they used to run 30-minutes shows detailing the whole line-up for the season. I wish I could see more of them from other years, because they're like a little trip back in time. I can't quite believe that was how the world looked when I was born. It looks so familiar, and yet so very odd!

Monday, November 01, 2010


Hope everybody had a fun Halloween! We sat on our front porch and handed out candy for a couple of hours to the usual assortment of princesses, ninjas, aliens, superheroes, and a whole class of wizards from Hogwarts School. And the most adorable, tiniest Yoda I have ever seen--I wanted to put her in my pocket and keep her forever! (She's our neighbor's daughter from across the street, and she's somewhere between 18 months and two years old; I can't exactly remember how long ago she was born. Unbelievably precious.)

I carved two jack o'lanterns on Saturday and was happy with how they came out. It's been so long since I've done anything like that, I forgot that you have to make a silhouette and you can't draw lines across anything that you're going to keep, so my first jack ended up toothless because I'd drawn lines across all his teeth!

I saved all the pumpkin seeds and fully intended to roast them, but after rinsing and rinsing and rinsing them, and finally finding one stuck to my right boob, I decided to chuck them and make Chex Mix instead. I hate food you have to work for, like pomegranates and lobster, and apparently, pumpkin seeds also fall into this group.

I have these enormous white mums growing right by the front porch steps, and last year a few kids commented on them. This year they're bigger than ever, and I also have some purple and yellow potted mums on the steps themselves. I was tickled by how many of the kids complimented me on my flowers--and how many of them were boys! One little boy was petting the flowers on one of the giant white mums like it was a dog. Kids are so funny.