House Hunting: Close, but No Cigar.

This past weekend I took a little detour from my weekend plans to check out a new real estate listing. I knew when I bought my house that it wasn’t going to be big enough to hold my vintage pursuits forever—and that theory has been realized for quite some time. Although I’m not by any means ready to pack up and move immediately (the logistics of which are enough to make me want to suddenly become a minimalist), I know that finding my next home is going to take a lot of looking and waiting for the right thing to come along. 20 years ago my dream house would have been a dime a dozen, but these days it’s getting tough to find an unadulterated mid-century time capsule. When I stumbled across this gem, I just had to check it out for myself.

photo 5

An amazing 1957 one owner California rambling ranch. The gargantuan modern fireplace and massive sputnik light fixture were enough to make my heart skip a beat.

photo 4

The sprawling living room had so many great nooks and spaces with great textures like stone, wood and glass sliding doors in the corner.

photo 1

The mostly original kitchen still boasted aqua Formica counters, sandblasted cyprus cabinet doors and even the original 1950s GE stainless steel wall oven.

photo 3

The large dining room even featured a built-in wood/charcoal grill—that had never even been used. What you can’t see in this photo is that the adjoining laundry/mud room behind that open door is the size of my current master bedroom.

photo 2-1

Even this pretty in pink ladies bathroom is pretty stellar, one of three in the house. Pink isn’t my thing, but I don’t think I’d change anything, save for that hot pink carpet on the floor.

photo 1-1

Finding a house like this underscores the difficulty of house hunting. How can you find something this perfect and not pounce on it? A few things. The location wasn’t ideal and, most important, water from a once leaky roof had left widespread damage throughout the house. Water stains on ceilings, walls and carpets as well as the visible signs and pungent odor of mildew hinted at untold horrors lurking beneath the sheetrock. All things that can be repaired, but not exactly something I could take on right now. The hardest part about walking away, however, is not knowing if the next owners will appreciate it.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Response

How To: Revive Your Wood-handled Silverware

Tammy gave me four beautiful, sculptural forks that needed some work.

Forks Before

The metal was in great condition, but the wooden handles had seen better days from washing, maybe even from the dreaded dishwasher. Here’s a closeup.

Forks Before CloseupSo just in time for your fancy Thanksgiving festivities, here’s how you revive them.

First, gather your supplies. This is easy; all you need is a can of Watco Butcher Block Oil and 200 grit sandpaper.

Watco Butcher Block

Next, give the handles a light sanding followed by a wipe down with a wet lint-free cloth to remove the dust particles.

Finally, apply two coats of the oil with a lint-free cloth following the directions for drying time. I waited about six hours in between coats. Always remember to work in a well-ventilated area and wear some gloves.

Forks After

And just like that you’re done. Check out these sleek handles now. Seriously. You can apply more coats, but two should protect the wood unless you exclusively use the dishwasher. Then you’ll want to put on three to four and cross your fingers. Dishwashers are so rough on these guys.

Forks After Close Up

Now you can worry about what to serve instead of your silverware!

Posted in How-To | Tagged | Leave a comment

Weekend Finds: Vintage Holiday

I found this first item last week at a small shop that had just brought out its holiday goodies. The item is an old Christmas corsage. I have a few other Christmas corsages, but this is my favorite being that it has an adorable painted clay face of an elf with a chenille beard. Also I was happy to find a “Made in Japan” paper label still attached to the backside. Who else wants to start wearing Christmas corsages?

11-17-2014 2

With all this cold weather we are getting right now, I also found a little sign of spring with this 1950s papier maché candy container egg. The inside of the Easter egg is marked “container made in Western Germany.” I paid $1.00 for it at a church sale.

photo 2 (23)

photo 3 (9)

11-17-2014 3

What have you guys found lately? It’s so slow around here and so very, very cold, but at least it’s getting me in the mood to start decorating for Christmas.

Posted in Weekend Finds | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Private Stash: Vintage Snow Books

Today marks an important day (at least to a four year old) in Iowa: the first day it snows. My little guy woke up and exploded into our room so excited about snow. Usually I go all bah-hum-bug when it comes to snow, but his enthusiasm was infectious. We’ll see how that continues into February. Don’t even get me started on February.

Along with celebrating birthdays with vintage books, I also have a few books celebrating the first snowfall. My favorite is The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats.

Snowy Day CoverThis book is so sweet. Our 1962 original copy is falling apart at the seams so more than likely I will need to find another one at a used book store. This book won a Caldecott Medal, and if you ever want to find quality vintage books, look for the golden Caldecott seal.

Snowy Day Tree

My son got all sorts of ideas on exactly what to do in the snow other than run around and get cold. Yes, he found a stick and smacked a tree.

Snowy Day Hill

And yes, he slid down a hill. The illustrations are just gorgeous.


Snow by Roy McKie and P.D. Eastman is another classic, also published in 1962. My vintage copy bit the dust so I ordered this one, which is a 1993 reprint.

Snow Skiing

One thing that usually differs from the original copy is paper quality. This one has considerable bleed through since the ink is so saturated and the paper so thin. Oh well, it still gives my son ideas for snow play.

Snow Fridge

I’m giving this one a couple months before I find a snowball in the freezer.

Snow Snowman

And he was really upset with this page. This will happen too I’m sure.

Snow White Cover

Ok, ok maybe this is a cop-out, but I didn’t have any other kids books about snow. My 1937 copy of Snow-White and the Seven Dwarfs is in pretty good shape. It’s the Brothers Grimm tale, not the Disney movie, so you know things are going to get creepy.

Snow White Forest

Dark animal-infested forest? Check.

Snow White QueenEvil queen? Check.

Snow White Dwarfs

All seven dwarfs looming over a sleeping Snow White? Check.

Snow White Prince

Snow White Wedding

Although at the end I have to say I’m a little disappointed in Brothers Grimm. I won’t give it away, but I expected something a little more gruesome for the Queen.

Any vintage books about snow that you recommend? Does anyone else save up books like this or am I the only one with way too many books on hand?

Posted in Private Stash | Tagged | Leave a comment

Before and After: A Buffet of Sadness

Winter is literally pounding against the side of my house as I write this. Knowing this was inevitable, I’ve been tearing through refinishing projects like a mad man, hoping to squeeze just one more thing in before being plunged into freezing temps. As it turns out, today’s little buffet might just be the one project that squeaked in under the wire. A few weeks ago I picked up this faded, battered little buffet at an estate sale a friend was having.



The pictures might make it look better than it really was. The finish on the top was water damaged and beginning to flake off. The doors and drawers were faded, hazed and splotchy. The hardware was tarnished and green in spots. It had seen better days. Initially I was hoping just to refinish the top and polish up the rest. So I stripped the top and applied poly—it was looking great. While the poly dried, I decided to use Howard’s Feed-N-Wax on the rest. I looked on in horror as the wood suddenly became three shades darker and even splotchier than ever as the oils soaked through the cloudy finish and into the walnut beneath. Sigh. My only choice was to sand off all my newly applied poly, strip down the doors and drawers, apply stain to everything and then apply poly. I’m actually pretty glad I did, the results are so much better than I expected.



Who knew all that dark, gorgeous grain was hiding under there? Not me. I truly didn’t think it would look this nice.


A big part of freshening up any piece is to polish up the hardware. I don’t normally do this unless I’m sure the hardware is solid brass or that the plating is fully intact, otherwise you’re likely to polish it down to the base metal. Luckily these were solid brass and after stripping off the protective lacquer, they polished right up. I reapplied gloss lacquer afterward to keep them looking new.


Looking at the before, it’s easy to see why some people grab for their paint brushes when confronted with a tired piece of furniture. But in reality, this project took two days to complete and was super easy. I consider this a pretty solid win, so if winter has to start now, at least I can end the project season on a happy note.

Posted in Before and After | Tagged , | 7 Responses