Sunday, December 23, 2012

80% Local in The Perfect Storm - Gloucester MA

Are you ready for Tuesday?  I can’t believe how fast Christmas came this year….I seem to say that every year….this year I really mean it though.

The last couple of weekends I have really helped boost my Christmas spirit.  I’ve been “shopping local” and trying to find just the perfect thing for everyone on my list.  

Town tree in Gloucester...totally constructed with lobster pots (or
traps for non-Yankee's)
Last weekend I headed to Gloucester (about 30 minutes from my house) to explore – you know where they filmed the Perfect Storm (and of course the locale of the story the movie was based on).

Gloucester MA
photo source
 There is some irony here given sometimes Christmas shopping can feel like a bit of a perfect storm.  Well, Gloucester last weekend was just the opposite…it was a lovely day and without exception everyone I came in contact with was exceptionally warm and welcoming.  

Lovely proprietor-ess at Pearl's.  She really cared about everyone
who came in and thoroughly supported my 1 for you, 2 for me habit.
222 Main St., Gloucester MA
There are a mix of vintage, green specialty, and general boutique shops on Main Street.  There are also a couple of antique bookstores where I absolutely could have gotten lost in for days…it took all the self-restraint I had not to.  But I trekked on and I definitely checked quite a few gifts off my list.  

Oh my, so much bright shiny goodness at Banana's

How fun is this?
74 Main St., Gloucester MA
Couple of “lessons learned” from this 80% local shopping experiment:
  • In general I have found the local business folks provide a higher level of service than the big box stores…almost every item I bought was wrapped in a bag with tissue & ribbon that can double for holiday wrapping so I don’t have to rewrap everything.  Can you imagine that happening at Wal-Mart?
  • No question there is a much more feeling of community when you are actually shopping in your community!
  • The traffic/parking problems of heading to the mall…non-existent. I found on street up front parking everywhere.  Now the parking goddess tends to sit on my shoulder in general (some folks are lucky in gambling, I am lucky in parking) but I didn’t see a lack of parking anywhere.
  • You can find the perfect gifts in some of the most unexpected places….I scored big time at the local hardware/lumber store.  They had a little specialty nook with specialty gifts and home decorative items. 
Building Center
1 Harbor Loop, Gloucester MA
Some lovelies at the Building Center
More lovelies from the Building Center
  • There are certain things that are just impossible to find anywhere but a big box these days…try finding a small inexpensive camera at a local camera shop…for my 8 year old niece (who doesn’t read this blog so I’m not spoiling anything here) so a $200 camera is a bit overkill…we’re talking $50 price range here.  So Best Buy it is and this falls into the 20% non-local budget.  
Funny side story about why I went the camera route for an 8 year old.  A couple of years ago my nephew (who will be 17 next month) got an ipod touch for Christmas.  He wanted one sooooo bad so his other favorite aunts pitched together and bought it for him.  He has really coveted it ever since.  Well, the niece got a hold of it one day and cracked his passcode and decided she would leave him a little gift….250+ pictures of herself!  She just went to town  posing in every way you can imagine a then 5 year old would, with and without Barbie.  We all (including her) thought it was pretty funny…my nephew not so much.  So this year she gets her own camera.

Self portrait
So I have thoroughly enjoyed taking a little time and exploring the wonderful businesses in my area.  Really the only negative for me was it became harder to fight the “one for you, two for me’s” when I was faced with so much loveliness at every stop.  I definitely ended up spending more this Christmas but only because Santa was very very good to me this year :-)

May you all have a very Merry Christmas with all of your families & friends.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Billy Idol & Beaded Trees

Let me just start this post by stating something many of us would see as quite obvious…Billy Idol back in the day (can’t speak for now…haven’t seen him in years) was one fine looking fella.

photo source

Ok, so what does that have to do with this post you ask?  Well, Sunday morning VH1 Classic runs 80’s videos for a couple of hours and I find this the perfect time to enjoy my coffee and usually write my blog post….or occasionally something else creative.

This morning it was something else creative….finishing a bead tree I had started (I really hate to admit this) a couple few years ago.  I was moving along focused on finishing the darn tree when all of a sudden Billy comes on the TV singing Flesh for Fantasy and for some reason the 16 year old in me surfaced and I was riveted.  Crazy!

Ok, back to my tree…originally when I started this tree the idea came from where most of my best inspiration comes from….a swanky little boutique.  This was one of my favorite shops in Marblehead called Piara Luna…it has since closed :-( …there is a new shop in it’s place called Surfaces which it perfectly lovely…but it’s no Piara Luna :-(

33 Atlantic Ave., Marblehead MA
I actually really LOVE this shop!

One of my friends & I were Christmas shopping and Piara Luna had just the most lovely decorations so of course we headed in.  A gorgeous display had several of these beaded trees as one of its centerpieces…of course we both immediately fell in love….but as usual didn’t fall so in love with the price tag.  So we headed to the craft store to pick up the supplies to make them ourselves.

Bag of least I had the sense to put it all in a zip
lock when I put it aside unfinished...

Since I had started this project so long ago of course I don’t have a picture of the inspiration vignette nor do I have any idea of what that “outrageous” price was…you’ll just have to use your imagination here.

But, I do have my finished product….

I used 3 different sized beads…10mm faceted clear, 8mm white pearl, 6mm faceted iridescent (AB) as well as iridescent sequins and pink seed beads.  I used pink seed beads to give it just a little hint of color since the rest of the beads are white or clear.

These were stacked (seed bead, sequin & bead)on an extra-long pin and then stuck into a Styrofoam tree.  I do have to confess though…there were a few starts and stops (the first 1" pins I used were a bit too small) and another lesson learned was the beads stayed place better when the tree was brushed with some Mod Podge first.

I also had purchased the tree topper back when I originally picked up the beads at my local craft store.  I ended up having to remove the wire that was meant to hold it on the top of a tree and just hot glue the star to the top of my tree.

So another project that I had been procrastinating is finished this year and I’m thinking it looks pretty good with the rest of my holiday trees.

Linking on Savvy Southern Style, A Stroll Through Life

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Christmas Wreath Spruce Up

What do you do when an old fav has “seen better days”?  I love all of the blogs I see that just focus on repurposing their dumpster dive or sidewalk trash day finds.  It is so impressive what some folks can do with a can of paint and a little time/effort.

So this weekend in the spirit of repurposing I finally got around to sprucing up (no pun intended) my glass ornament encrusted Christmas wreath.

I initially made my wreath many years ago while on a visit to my Aunt’s house in Virginia…along with many years, this was several houses ago for both of us.  Aunt G had made one several years prior to our project day for one of her pals and had finally decided to make one for herself.  I happened to be visiting so joined in the fun.

My wreath has been well used but as time has passed packing and unpacking had definitely taken its toll on my colorful shiny wreath.  I had tried to fill in the broken balls over the years.  In the last several not so successfully…

What was left from my original ornament decorated wreath

So my “seen better days” wreath has been in storage for probably the last 5 years waiting for me to pay some attention and fix her up.

Sad, sad ornaments of Christmas past

I had collected plenty of new ornaments over the years from after Christmas 75% off sales…

Fresh from storage & covered in dust :)

I had the floral wire & glue gun…

What I hadn't had was the time…

Tray of miscellaneous balls...plenty left for another project.

After spending too much time blog surfing and admiring everyone else’s decorations and not enough time pulling my decorations out this weekend I found my motivation to finally fix the “seen better days” wreath.

It wasn’t hard…why had I procrastinated so long?

Step 1 – Remove all of the broken bits and pieces from ornaments of Christmas past.

Step 2 – Pull out all of the ornaments you want to use.  You can do a variety of colors or you can focus on just one color theme.  My old wreath was a myriad of colors…for the redo I noticed I had an abundance of gold, silver & red so I went with that.

Post glued just waiting for wire

Step 3 – Hot glue the tops to each ornament so the ornaments don’t fall off your wreath once they are attached.

Kind of a wimpy glue gun but my "big girl" glue gun had run out of glue...
so I pulled out this junior worked just fine.

Step 4 – Gather the ornaments in clumps – 4 or 5 at a time and string them onto a piece of floral wire (approx. 8-10” long depending on how thick your wreath is)

The silver one was reused from the original's very aged
but I think that adds to the charm...makes me think of mercury glass.

Step 5 – Arrange the ornament clumps (that’s a technical term btw) onto the wreath as you want them holding onto each end of the floral wire

Step 6 – Wrap and twist the floral wire to the back of the wreath.  Trim any extra wire and tuck the ends into the wreath.

Step 7 – Repeat steps 4, 5 & 6 until you fully cover the wreath

Step 8 – Add bow & hang

Now you can do as many or as few clumps as you like and you can use as many different sized ornaments as you like as well.  I like the multi-dimensional aspect of using several sizes…I used I think 4 or 5 for my wreath.  I also used different finish balls…some iridescent some regular shiny….I also used some older balls that had an aged finish.  I think they kind of look like mercury glass.

Last minute addition was the angel ornament at 2 o'clock...this was
one of the first ornaments I bought back in the was plastic
and really not so nice...but I like it on the wreath!

Now that it’s done & hung I’m loving the festive cheer it offers to my front door and regretting a bit the years that it sat in my attic waiting for a new life.

New wreath on an old's hoping
Santa will bring me a new front stoop in 2013!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Local DC Goodness - Miss Pixie

Ok, so with all of the wonderful pics I’m seeing on everyone else’s blogs in the last couple of weeks I am feeling extremely negligent in my Christmas decorating this year so far.  And since I’m such a slacker I’ll share a little more of my DC adventures today.

While looking for some local DC Christmas shopping opportunities I came upon a vintage shop called Miss Pixie (thanks to my good friend Yelp)…well with that name you know I had to put it on my must see list!
The pictures on Yelp show a pink storefront with black & white awnings…oh yeah….but, not exactly what I found when I arrived.

Miss Pixies
1626 14th St NW, Washington DC

Other than a drastically different exterior I was so not disappointed by what I found on the interior.  Such cool things!

How fab are these lanterns!

This was cast iron so was heavier than it looks...would look
so nice in my front entry....

And I came at just the right time of year.  Miss Pixie does Christmas right!  I have absolutely never seen such a collection of vintage Christmas bulbs (aka Shiny Brites).

Biggest regret of my DC trip...not buying up all of these!

And where else are you going to see a blue feathered tree on one side of the store and a pink balsam tree on the other side?

This brings Dr Seuss to mind for some reason :)

I've been looking for one of these this year...a bit
tacky but tacky in a chic kind of way
Did you check out the dresser I painted for my office/project room (if not you can see it here)?  Well, I am super proud of it now…Miss Pixie had this one exactly like it (different color paint) with a $150 price tag on it.  How cool is that…mine cost less than $20 (for paint)!

I love that this was priced at $150 and my exact duplicate cost me $20
in paint & materials.  

No question I picked wisely for my local DC stop…there was so much inspiration here.

Farm table perfection!

I walked away with so many ideas…and a list of other cool shops in the area that Miss Pixie generously shares with any customer with a keen eye to the stack sitting on the counter.  I'm all ready for my next DC adventure!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Smithsonian Inspiration - Kelly & Julia

I spent this past weekend in Washington DC extending my stay after a couple day business trip.  DC is a fairly familiar city for of my Aunt's lived in the area for many years and I always loved visiting when I was young.  So much to do, so much fun!

There is always something new to see but I also have my faves that I always hit.  One of these is the Julia Child kitchen on exhibit at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History.  I first caught this exhibit 9 or 10 years ago and I still see something new in it every time I visit.

Julia Child in her kitchen in Cambridge MA
Photo source

I find it so amazing that the Smithsonian went into the Child’s Cambridge MA house that they had lived in for many, many years , disassembled, inventoried, photographed, documented and moved the whole kitchen into the museum.  Reassembled in exact replica it's set up as it was when the Child's lived in their house and Julia shared her culinary genius with the world.

Julia Child's Kitchen as reassembled at the Smithsonian
photo source

A funny happened as I was editing my photos from this visit though…

Actually it really started when I was looking at the cookbooks on Julia’s bookshelf…I spied Joy of Cooking.  Over the years I have had a ton of cookbooks but I find that Joy of Cooking is really all I need.  Really, it’s definitely my bible....when I cook I tend to look for a basic recipe and tweak to my taste so it’s perfect to give the basics for any possible thing.

A very important section of my cookbook shelf...the most used section

Anyhow….last year I shared my secret bible with one of my good friends for Christmas so when I spotted not 1 but 2 versions on Julia’s shelf I was so excited I immediately texted my pal to let her know what good company we were keeping.

Part of Julia's cookbook shelf...apparently her well used section too

And then as I was editing my photo’s there were other parallels that I began to notice between my kitchen and Julia’s.

Remember my pot/pan pegboard that I first told you about here?

My pot/pan storage solution

Well, Julia has one (or two) too…

Julia's pot/pan storage solution

Remember my old school clock  I bought at Circa in the Berkshires (see it here)?

My new (vintage) kitchen clock
Well, Julia has one too…

Love this old school clock
photo source

I was really surprised to see her blue kitchen aid mixer…mine is white (you can see it in my pegboard pic above) but they are both the same model.

Ok, and this may be a bit of a stretch but Julia’s kitchen is green & blue…mine is green with a blue rug.  Who cares if hers is a totally different shade and she uses it on her cupboards and mine is on the walls…same color palate right?

I am loving these copper pans...this will be my inspiration
photo for years to come.

Now if I could only cook like Julia and become a beloved American Icon….the possibilities are endless.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Local Goodness - Grace Sales Co

So, today Christmas shopping begins for me.  Small Business Saturday is so much more my pace than the craziness of Black Friday…and I get to support my local communities businesses as a bonus.

I have decided that this year I am going to do my best to do at least 80% of my gift buying from small businesses (Etsy & Ebay count as small businesses since the transactions are from individual sellersJ).  Wouldn’t it be great for all of our communities if you all could join me in this mission?

So in honor of Small Business Saturday I thought I would share this post that I wrote a few months ago and never actually got it posted. Grace Sales Co has such wonderful quirky things I often wander in when I am in the neighborhood and today this will be my first stop.

Grace Sales Co
185 Pleasant St., Marblehead MA

Sometimes in the place & time you least expect it, you meet the nicest people.  This was the case when after a lovely day of meandering through Marblehead with a wonderful friend I decided on one more stop before heading home. 

My wonderful friend Leslie had mentioned she had missed out on a fab bookcase from Harvard University that was for sale at a fun little antique shop called Grace Sales Co just down the street.  She contemplated just a little too long and someone scooped it up just before her….I call that “just not meant to be”.

Love, love, love these orange wood stools!  They look like something
my friend Leslie would also love.
I have been to Grace Sales Co several times and this is another one of those places where I always see something unusual that I (or one of my friends) just have to have. 

Isn't this blue tufted sofa from Grace Sales window just fab?
Looks very Doris Day in Pillow Talk.
photo source

When I first moved to Marblehead this shop was an interior design shop that had just the most fabulous windows.  I had never visited the shop when the decorator had it but did make regular drive-by’s just to see the windows – they were always so colorful with lots of classic pattern fabrics and chic furniture pieces displayed.  Loved them!

This was one of a pair...wouldn't these just be magnificent in grey?
I’m not exactly sure when the decorator vacated and Grace Sales Co. moved in but I do know Grace hadn’t been open very long the first time I went in.  She has such great things that I have returned many times and usually with friends and we’ve all purchased something.  

photo source

I find this isn’t a shop where I just can’t live without everything in it but there are always a few really cool things I lust over.  And really isn’t that all it takes?

photo source

So on this particular Saturday I stopped in with very little on my list of wants/needs but was in need of seeing what new items were in the shop. 

What a great way to bring a pop of color to a room

While browsing in the back room I happened to strike up a conversation with a woman who was in the middle of checking out a vanity that her teenage daughter was admiring.  Her daughter really, really wanted it but she couldn’t figure out exactly how she wanted to update it.  I suggested Annie Sloan chalk paint and perhaps doing an accent color on some of the edges to make it pop as well as some new hardware (or painting the existing in a fun color).

Some teenage girl in Marblehead has fab taste...this is now a part
of her bedroom.  She loved the lines.

We ended up having so much fun imagining what this piece could be she bought it and was heading out to get some paint to start her project.

Sure hope it looks as fabulous in pink as it does in this original form.

I purchased these a bit ago and love everything about them!

This will soon be hung in my dining room.  I love both transfer ware
and commemorative plates so this just had to come home with me!

So today, I head back to Grace Sales Co to see what interesting finds she has for Small Business Saturday.  Wish me luck on my quest to find all of the goodies my family & friends desire at all of the lovely shops locally owned & operated.