Friday, January 30, 2009

The Gift of Thrift: Liza With a "Z"!

When you thoughtfully curate a gift that doesn’t cost a lot of money, the outcome is more often than not a one-of-a-kind, adored treasure that can’t be purchased pre-packaged in a store.

Back in December my dear friends Bevy Smith and Aimée Morris and I eagerly waited at the Palace Theatre stage door to get a glimpse of Liza Minnelli after her spell-binding performance. And as soon as this legend exited , Bevy walked right up and took her picture with her BlackBerry. The result was a gleeful, bubbly image that reminds us of our enchanting evening – an image not perfect, but perfectly reflective of the joy Liza created that night.

For Aimée’s recent birthday, I printed out the image, placed it in a dime-store frame and inserted under the glass the ticket stub from the event, and offered it to her as a special gift, paying tribute to a night out with some of my favorite gals: Liza With a "Z", Bevy with a "Y" and Aimée with an extra "E!"

In May 2009, Clarkson Potter will publish my book, The Find: The Housing Works  Book of Decorating with Thrift Shop Treasures, Flea Market Objects, and Vintage Details. Pre-order now on http://www.amazon.com, http://borders.com and http://www.barnesandnoble.com. 

Friday, January 23, 2009

Reuse and Repurpose: I'll Table That

I can’t imagine where one would find a fire hydrant not in use, but someone certainly realized a vivid imagination when they refashioned the red iconic street staple into a gigantic table. Unfortunately, the photo I took with my BlackBerry does little justice to this one-of-a-kind piece of outdoor furniture that dazzled me at the Kansas City's River Market Antiques Mall, a place full of almost, and I mean almost -- anything you can imagine – for it has never occurred to me that a table made out of a fire hydrant would be on anyone’s must-have list.

Selling for a mere $495, this Lucite topped fire hydrant seems to me a perfect addition to a Fourth of July barbecue. I can imagine it topped with platters of hot-off-the-grill hamburgers and hotdogs, a big bowl of creamy potato salad and finished off by a summery blackberry cobbler. And then after a copious meal, it might play host to a game of Scrabble or dominos until the sun slinks low in the sky, only to be illuminated soon after by boisterous rounds of fireworks.

Oh the things we long for when it’s 25 degrees outside!

In May 2009, Clarkson Potter will publish my book, The Find: The Housing Works Book of Decorating with Thrift Shop Treasures, Flea Market Objects, and Vintage Details. Pre-order now on www.amazon.com and www.barnesandnoble.com.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Living Memories: Obama-Rama

Back in March I was lucky enough to see Barack Obama speak at New York's Cooper Union. I found out about his appearance at the last minute and thought I would just show up and possibly catch a glimpse of him as he entered or exited the building.
I arrived about 15 minutes before the big event and approached the table in front and simply asked if there were any way I might get in. They directed me toward a small group of people standing along the park fence, and 10 minutes later, I was walking through the front door of the building. 

The room was abuzz with people who couldn't believe they had made it in the hall. And as soon as Obama spoke, he captivated the room. There were people who gasped for joy and others who had tears in their eyes.I happened to have his book, The Audacity of Hope in my back pocket, and after his speech he signed it for me.

As I watched Barack Obama become the 44th President of the United States, I felt as if I were back at Cooper Union. I had a lump in my throat as I held the book Obama signed for me in my hand and I witnessed how the face of power in the the United States is truly changing...and most certainly for the good.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Gift of Thrift: Hooch to Go!

When Monalda4's headband entrepreneur Bonnie Friedman's birthday rolled around, I decided that she deserved one of my signature Hooch Bags for those days she's feeling a little devilish. So to help her celebrate with a touch of sin, I selected a Housing Works-find baguette encrusted with sequins and beads, filled it full of vodka and gold chocolate coins, and plopped the whole thing in a vintage Fendi shopping bag.

The eye-catching shopping bag alone was a show stopper as it garnered envious looks from well-heeled young women as it traveled in my possession in the subway to the locale of Bonnie's birthday gathering. Gawkers must have been wondering what fabulous luxury items this guy was carrying in his gleaming yellow bag ... just a little thrift store bag hooched up to the max awaiting one of sweet Bonnie's bad-girl moments.

In May 2009, Clarkson Potter will publish my book, The Find: The Housing Works Book of Decorating with Thrift Shop Treasures, Flea Market Objects, and Vintage Details. Pre-order now on www.amazon.com and www.barnesandnoble.com.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Reuse and Repurpose: A Show-Me State

When I travel, I always locate a local thrift store or flea market for souvenirs that remind me of my stay away from home. (And if there are garage sales nearby, then that’s just an added bonus!) Specifically, I seek old postcards from the region I’m visiting, and am especially attracted to specimens that glorify landmarks that have endured the years or bring back to life attractions that were once glamorous or exciting, but have since fallen victim to the wrecking ball or faded into disrepair.

The best cards are those that have escaped use -- a find more common than you might think, since traveling with a camera hasn’t always been an easy way to create memory markers. My treasure seeking was recently rewarded at Kansas City, Missouri’s River Market Antique Mall (www.rivermarketantiquemall.com) where I scoured a booth that was featuring a 50-percent-off sale and happened to have stacks of old postcards, marked from 25 cents to $1, piled high on a rickety book shelf. A standout from this discovery came from the Southern Missouri’s Tan Tar-A Resort on Osage Beach at The Lake of the Ozarks (second from right). It must have been created in the early 70s, and its caption is priceless:

“The Ozarks winter fun center. Tan-Tar-A’s Ski Lodge. A cosmopolitan staff from Europe’s ski slopes provide instruction and lend a continental flavor to the area ski fun at the Resort.”

Only in Missouri!

In May 2009, Clarkson Potter will publish my book, The Find: The Housing Works Book of Decorating with Thrift Shop Treasures, Flea Market Objects, and Vintage Details. Pre-order now on www.amazon.com and www.barnesandnoble.com.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Update: The Thing Under the Chair

So here is the distracting thing under the chair that someone pointed out after reading my post yesterday. The thing is a stack of cigarette papers I salvaged from the shuttered Hartera paper mill in Rijeka, Croatia. So here is the thing under the chair up close and personal. And here's a nicer photo of my wrought iron chair, along with its lovely mate in the background.



Mystery solved!


In May 2009, Clarkson Potter will publish my book, The Find: The Housing Works Book of Decorating with Thrift Shop Treasures, Flea Market Objects, and Vintage Details. Pre-order now on www.amazon.com and www.barnesandnoble.com.

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Find: Heavy Metal Moments

When my dear friend Deb Kelt left New York for Austin, Texas, a few years ago, I was heartbroken. I understood exactly why she was leaving – to pursue a teaching career she’d always dreamed of and to escape the rat race that just comes with the territory of living in New York City. Oh, we had many memorable moments together re-enacting scenes from Madonna’s film "Truth or Dare" at a wealthy friend’s swimming pool, taunting waiters who served up yummy beef burgers and heading out totally be-wigged for the original Wig Stock in the East Village’s Thompkins Square Park.

On the sad day Deb finally decided to head back to Texas and started packing up her belongings, there were a few items she couldn’t cart off with her, including a fabulous set of wrought iron garden chairs that she bequeathed to me. Deb told be that she found them on the street in Brooklyn and hauled the hulking hunks of metal up the stairs of her walk-up apartment.

I love the romantic curls of the chair’s hefty form and the idea that I am sitting on a piece of garden furniture even when it’s blistery cold outside. Who says you can’t use outdoor furniture inside? A few years ago, my mom re-covered the seats with scraps of green velvet that I had lying around, but other than that they are just the way Deb found them…and left with me.


In May 2009, Clarkson Potter will publish my book, The Find: The Housing Works Book of Decorating with Thrift Shop Treasures, Flea Market Objects, and Vintage Details. Pre-order now on www.amazon.com and www.barnesandnoble.com.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Living Memories: A Sip in Time

My nephew Grayson celebrated his first birthday a few days ago, and it sounds like it was quite the affair, packed with family and friends, all vying for time with the birthday boy. I saw him just a few days before he turned “1” and he had just started taking sips out of a training cup. With a little help, he even accomplished a big gulp of his daddy’s lemonade right out of the glass. He wrinkled his nose at the coolness and the tartness of the liquid, but that didn’t keep him from going for another round, followed by the same reaction.

Watching Grayson made me think of the training cup I used as a baby – one that I don’t exactly remember, but know that it exists because my mom gave it to me a few years back. There’s no mistaking that it’s mine; my name is printed in faded black Magic Marker on the bottom, and there are gnaw marks around the rim and the handle. Anyone who has worked with me, or my dad, for that matter, has witnessed the trail of chewed up pens and pencils left in our paths. It’s an unconscious concentration aid, one that destroys a plastic Bic in a matter of minutes and leaves erasers on the ends of pencils virtually useless.

I’m quite sure that I myself peeled off part of the plastic mug’s decal depicting a dog driving a sports car, but it’s hard to imagine ever being so young. Childhood memories that seem like only yesterday creep up out of nowhere, reminding us how quickly time slips by.


You’ve got a long, healthy life in front of you, Grayson! Happy First Birthday!






In May 2009, Clarkson Potter will publish my book, The Find: The Housing Works Book of Decorating with Thrift Shop Treasures, Flea Market Objects, and Vintage Details. Pre-order now on www.amazon.com and www.barnesandnoble.com.

Friday, January 2, 2009

The Gift of Thrift: Have a Dotty Day!

Every time I get one of Michael Quinn’s fanciful, handcrafted invitations, I immediately start counting the days until his always-memorable get-togethers. This year’s Christmas event would certainly go down in party-planning history with its request to bring along a $5, grab-bag gift that started with a “P” and ended in a “T.” Peanut? Parfait? Pocket? Post-It? I decided upon a bottle of Pert shampoo, but since I always like to take a hostess gift, I wanted to find a pretty, thrift-store cooking POT to offer him.

When I hit the thrift stores, all I found were crusty, icky pots with burned on stains, missing handles and unappealing dents. But since the thrift gods never disappoint, I was rewarded by my last stop was at a fantastic new store, the Cure Thrift Shop (www.curethriftshop.com), and was agog at the utter variety of high-quality wares on hand. Immediately, I became transfixed by a gorgeously merchandised dining table with a lovely Fire-King, two-quart casserole dish as its centerpiece.

I’d never quite seen a Fire-King specimen as amazing as this amber- and gold-tone variety. Usually the pieces I run upon are of the white variety decorated with flowers or are of clear glass. And the bonus? Retro polka dots encircling the lid! A keeper for sure! I loaded it with classic dimestore candy -- orange slices, butterscotch covered nuts, gold wrapped Rollos and Werther’s Original candies -- and offered my host a really sweet dish!



In May 2009, Clarkson Potter will publish my book, The Find: The Housing Works Book of Decorating with Thrift Shop Treasures, Flea Market Objects, and Vintage Details. Pre-order now on www.amazon.com and www.barnesandnoble.com.