Friday, March 30, 2007

my day as a straight-haired girl

I've always wondered what having straight hair would be like, and today I found out. This morning I went to get my curly hair cut, and Kristin my hair girl insisted on straightening it. Since it was a perfect warm-but-not-humid spring day, all her hard work with the big round brush, blowdryer, and flat iron is still going strong. Which is to say, my hair is as smooth and ruly as I always imagined straight hair to be, but the constant flopping in my eyes is giving me a new appreciation for the barrettes and ponytails market, not to mention why Iris is constantly pushing her hair off her face.

My own mother, who was babysitting Iris, didn't recognize me when I came home. Iris observed, "You look different," and then, "You're still alive."

What better way to celebrate life than with a couple thrift-store stops on my (roundabout) way home? Lookee what I found:

Set of 8 Vera napkins! Never used, from the looks of them. I love love love them.

And this, which was with the $1 scarves. Only it's not a scarf...

it's a furoshiki, or Japanese wrapping cloth, used to bundle clothes, gifts, and other whatnot in pre-plastic-shopping-bag Japan.

I seem to be following a Japanese family around on their thrift store rounds, picking up as they drop off. What could be better? Straight hair, maybe....

Yeah, well, tomorrow I'll be back to my normal unruly, corkscrewy self. Assuming I take a shower. The family consensus is that that is a good idea.

Monday, March 26, 2007

two-hour party people

Today – at 3:23 p.m., to be exact – Iris turned three years old. This morning she came into our bed, quite literally in her birthday suit, having shucked her pajamas in her room, and said of her new doll, "I don't know what she's thinking. Sometimes she drives me crazy!" My big, grown-up girl! Three years old and long-suffering already.

Yesterday we pulled off a Greek goddess party for five children under five and their families, thanks muchly to the creative suggestions of the readers of this-here blog. We made invitations:

and a Greek temple cake. For its scuptural properties, I highly recommend seven-minute icing. J, an architect in real life as well as in the kitchen, fielded many jokes about cake being his modeling medium of choice. I definitely see a niche market for his practice: discerning consumers of baked goods and fine design.

For the younger artists, goodie baskets held origami irises (I know, I know, but if the ancient Greeks had a method for making flowers out of folded parchment, I don't know about it) and markers

for coloring mythological beasts and beings on placemats.

Pegasus flew in for the occasion

as did the goddess Iris – for a little while, at least.

It was such a nice day, the party ended up on the porch. Don't you know that porch swings were all the rage on Mount Olympus?

A good time was had by all. Then it was over, and the birthday girl stayed up to play with her presents (and her indulgent grandmother) while her proud, partied-out parents took a nap.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

house work

For her second birthday, we fixed up a corner of our dining room to be Iris' play kitchen. For her third, we've given ourselves a new assignment: making her a playroom. Not that we've finished our own kitchen, mind you. But the beauty of an old house is that there is never a shortage of projects. This one will make useful living space at last out of a room that has been little more than a glorified storage closet for the past six years.

It's a big room with a tiny window seat under which all the plaster needed to be replaced:

You can still see where the room was once divided into two rooms – so convincingly, we thought it had been built that way at first. One of our earliest projects was to take down the dividing wall to restore the original space:

New paint colors – coming soon to a playroom near you!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

lucky duck

I thought there must be a group on Flickr for posting pictures of thrifted kids' stuff, because really, what isn't there a Flickr group for? But I couldn't find one, so I started one. It's called Lucky Duck and I've left it pretty wide open: it's for showing off the things you cannot believe your luck to have found for your kids (or nieces or nephews or small friends or neighbors), whether vintage or just new to you. Sort of a Nifty Thrift Junior.

I can think of quite a few gems right off the bat that would fit right in: Tracy's bug's vest, Sarah's daughter's dress, and Meg's son's bear-fur, camel-fur, bluejay-fur pullover, just to name a few. But the group is not limited to clothes - toys and other childish things are most welcome as well. The only rule I've set is that members can only post up to five pictures per day. Any more than that, and you'll just make the rest of us jealous.

I've posted five to get things started, but I'm not really happy with any of them as the group icon. So if people add some photos over the next week or so, I'll pick one of yours to replace the placeholder I've created. I know! Heady stuff!

See you on Flickr.

Monday, March 12, 2007

south side story

There are two kinds of thrift stores. There's the kind you can drop by, survey at a glance, and be on your way, and then there's the kind you need a dedicated afternoon and a deep reservoir of fortitude to conquer. The South Side Goodwill is in the latter category, but well worth the time and effort.

The last time I went, I spent more than I think I've ever spent on one single thrift store visit, which is to say the sum total of one outfit at Baby Gap, on five overstuffed bags full of stuff. Most of it was ordinary children's clothes, but then there were these treasures which induced a certain gasp-and-clutch reflex that thrifters know well:

Traditional Japanese children's clothes! This one's a hanten, or short quilted kimono-style house jacket, in a traditional indigo print fabric:

A quick google search for "hanten" turned up this description from an American living in Japan: "It is the epitome of rural farm fashion. Think red longjohns and overalls as the equivalent American outfit." Yes, that jibes with my comfortable memory of hanten being worn to lounge around one's paper-walled house with one's feet tucked under the kotatsu, a low table with heating elements underneath. I'm thinking the concept will translate well to life within our uninsulated brick walls, though sadly, we lack a kotatsu – maybe we could retrofit our coffee table?

I also picked up a vest version of same, which if it has a special Japanese name, I don't know it. Sort of a hanten lite.

As the photos demonstrate, Iris is lukewarm at best on the hanten – she has yet to even try it on. But the vest she loves with all her heart. She even sleeps in it.

I often wonder how things like this end up at the Goodwill. Hanten run $30-50 in Japan, easily over $100 if mail-ordered from here. Did some family receive them as a souvenir from a well-meaning friend who visited Japan, politely thank him or her, then stash them in the back of the closet until it was cleaned out and they ended up in the Goodwill bag? (Both pieces obviously have never been worn.) Or did they come from a local Japanese family whose kids outgrew them before the winter?

Less mysterious are these vintage – I'm guessing 70s – Healthtex jeans:

Dig that groovy rainbow stitching! Now I just have to convince Iris, a self-described "tightsy, skirty, dressy girl," to wear them.

And two vintage sheets in search of a project:

Next time I go, I might take a deep breath and dive into the women's clothes, which are actually organized by color. If I start with the blue section, think I'll find an indigo hanten for me?

Saturday, March 10, 2007

one nightstand

Practically none of the furnishings in our house were bought new. Some were bought secondhand, an embarrassing number were found on the curb, and quite a few came to us through a sad but serendipitous circumstance: an old college professor of J's passed away just as we were moving into our house. Since her family lived in California, most of her things went to her friends, including J, who was close to her.

Obviously one has mixed feelings about a windfall under such circumstances, but not a day goes by that we don't think of her as we sit on her chairs, take clean clothes from her dresser, put books on her bookcases, admire her prints on the wall, sleep under her blankets... the list goes on.

Until it gets to a certain lamp. The lamp itself was the most minimal of objects, a simple chrome pipe on a plain round wood base. But this, my friends, this was the shade:

Can you tell it is made of concentric circles of corrugated cardboard?

Ingenious? Yes. Ugly? Heck yeah.

We used it, because lamps are useful, but always hoped one day we could elevate it to that golden combination, useful and attractive.

And now, at long last, one new lampshade plus one lamp conversion kit later, here is my "new" bedside lamp:

On my new (secondhand) nightstand.

Big plans for tonight: reading in bed!

PS. If you like the old shade more than I do, and you're not afraid to admit it, just let me know in a comment or an email. I'll be happy to send it to you!

Monday, March 05, 2007

you asked!

Interesting, the things you were interested in. I thought you would request pictures of the inside of my refrigerator, my bookshelves, or some such. But Meg's query, especially, was so much less point-and-shoot. So, without further ado....

For Meg: my education and profession. I have a B.A. in English from the University of Virginia and an M.A. in historic preservation from Cornell. These are some old postcards of Cornell that I have framed above my desk:

I have worked in the field of historic preservation for ten years and teach an intro course on the subject at the University of Pittsburgh (where I just co-produced a symposium! Geek out!). I now work part-time in the arts and culture program of a major local foundation, mostly on urban downtown and civic design issues. I wouldn't say it's glamorous, no, but I do love what I do.

For Sarah: Yes! Your package arrived the day after your comment appeared, so I had some inkling it was coming. If I could blog the smell of the sachet, I would. Heavenly. I think I'll sleep with it in my pillowcase. (Seriously, maybe I should since I've been up since 3:30 with insomnia this morning.) Thank you! And if those are Lola's sweet stitches, thank her for me too!

For Tracy – my favorite shoes? Tough one! Not that I have so many to choose from (though my husband might snort at that) – I just can't decide. Give me a couple days and I'll get back to you on this.

For Carol: our house, in the middle of our street. Here is my street as I see it coming out my front door.

This was fun! I'll gladly keep this going for another post if there's anything else anyone would like to see. If not, I'll be back with shoes and, you know, whatever else.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

you tell me

I am in a bit of a dry spell, which is not to say that life is not chugging along. I'm eating lots of cheese and apple sandwiches (with apple butter, yum!) on bread that J baked and having my old rocking chair restored... you know, the usual. I just don’t feel especially inspired right now to write about it, or get crafty, or grade 17 students’ papers, or pay $500 to fix two flat tires and wheel damage resulting from driving our trusty VW through a teapothole (as Iris calls it) the size of a lunar crater. (After explaining to her several times why we could not drive home on two flat tires, but had to wait for a tow truck, she finally concluded with a knowing nod, “The tires need to be plump.” Yes, so true, and as it turns out, the wheel needs to be not cracked.)

At least partial karmic balance was restored the next day when the elderly rabbi who is restoring my even more elderly rocking chair gave me a $100 discount for spending two hours listening to his harebrained schemes for world peace. I mean to imply nothing here about rabbis or chair restorers in general. This one who is both is just… out there. But I believe him when he says he will become one with my chair. And I’m a good listener. So it’s all good.

So, anyway. Would you like to play a game? You tell me if there is anything in my little life that you’re curious about, within publicly-accepted standards of decency and discretion of course, and I’ll take pictures of it for my next post. See, I’m all about service! I blog to your specifications!