Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Old Fashioned Junk

I am a collector of what a lot of people feel is old fashioned junk.  I love my old china much better than any that I could buy new.  I love old furniture, old books, old glassware, old jewelry, old hats, not to mention old movies and music. I also collect and use old linens, specifically embroidered linens from the 1940's and 50's.

I find them at thrift stores, garage sales, and antique stores and have even inherited a few from my mom and my grandmothers.  And yes, I do use them.  They were made to be used and as long as I handle and wash them gently, they will last for many years.  They are also quite affordable - their modern counterparts tend to be much more expensive and are of inferior quality. 

I am always amazed that so many people consider them to be junk.  They throw out or give away something that their own grandmother or great aunt embroidered or crocheted.  I don't understand that; I treasure the things that were made by family. Plus, since I do embroidery and crochet myself, I understand and can appreciate how much work went into making these things.  Some of them are just exquisite.

So, today, I'll show you some of my "junk":

My granny made these dishtowels for my mom when my parents married in 1954.  They're discolored from age, so they're currently in my neverending pile of linens that need a good soak.  Mom's set was missing the Sunday towel, so I found iron on transfers for this design at the Pattern Bee so I can embroider the Sunday towel myself.  I ordered several sets of  transfers made from original 1940's & 50's embroidery patterns. If you're looking for old embroidery patterns, it's the place to go. It's a fun website, has good prices and fast service, and no, they're not paying me to say that. 

This embroidered lady hangs over my bed.  She was originally a bedspread.

These are awfully wrinkled, but that's because they're on my bed pillows right now.  Old cotton pillowcases are soooo soft.

These pillowcases were in my mom's linen cupboard. I'm not sure who made them, but I know both of my grandmothers did beautiful needlework, so perhaps one of them gave them to Mom. They look like something my mom's mom would have chosen.

I had had this throw pillow for several years when I found a tablecloth with the same embroidery pattern.  I just love the dogs, and love the pillow & tablecloth together.


 More dogs:


I love the little bird on this tablecloth.  So sweet!

This is the dresser scarf currently on my dresser.  I switch it out with some of these:

Tea towels:

My grandma embroidered this tea towel.  I often use tea towels to make small throw pillows, as I did with this one:

I don't have too many crocheted items, but this one is one of my favorites.  We found it among the stuff that my mother had saved from her mother.  Since my grandma crocheted all her life, I imagine she made it.  I crochet, but I have never tried anything this intricate.

Thanks for stopping by.  Have a great day!

Linking to Thrift'n on a Thursday at Savvy City Farmer

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Cinema Sunday: Miss Barbara Stanwyck

If I had to choose just one favorite actress, it would have to be Barbara Stanwyck.  Equally adept at drama and comedy, and equally adept at playing a heroine or a villain, her career spanned 60 years.  She made 85 films in 38 years, then turned to television in 1957.  She was nominated for an Oscar four times, and won three Emmys and a Golden Globe.   This is an actress who could do it all, and she did it well.  So, for today’s Cinema Sunday, let’s watch some Stanwyck.  These are my four favorites:

“The Strange Love of Martha Ivers” (1946):  This film exemplifies one of the qualities that I admire the most about Stanwyck as an actress.  She has the remarkable ability to play an essentially unsympathetic character in such a way that you feel sympathy for her vulnerability.  Not many actresses can do this, but Stanwyck excels at it.

The film begins in a 1928 Pennsylvania factory town called Iverstown.   Martha Ivers is a young, unloved orphan who longs to escape from the guardianship of her wealthy, domineering aunt.  On a rainy night, Martha is caught trying to run away with her friend, the street-wise Sam Masterson, of whom her aunt disapproves.  Martha is taken home, but later on that night, Sam comes to get Martha for another escape attempt.  When her aunt hears Martha’s cat on the staircase, Sam hides.  When Mrs. Ivers attacks the pet with her cane, Martha intervenes and accidentally kills the aunt.  This is just the beginning of the web of lies that surrounds Martha and leads to her downfall.

Also starring Van Heflin, Lizabeth Scott and Kirk Douglas (in his film debut), this film is quite underrated, in my opinion.  It is certainly not one of Stanwyck’s best known movies nor most celebrated, but is well worth the time spent watching it.  Watching her play a strong but vulnerable woman is one of the best things about watching Barbara Stanwyck.  She does it so well.

“The Lady Eve” (1941):  This screwball comedy, directed by Preston Sturges, is the story of Jean Harrington, a con artist, who, along with her father (Charles Coburn) and his partner, tries to fleece a shy, na├»ve, rich snake expert named Charles Pike, well played by Henry Fonda.  Jean falls hard for Pike, but when he discovers the truth about Jean and her father, Pike dumps her.  And the fun begins.

This movie is hilarious, great fun to watch, and shows just how adept Stanwyck was at comedic roles, and again, how adept she was at playing multi dimensional characters.  Although Jean is a con artist, she is a lovable one, and you root for her throughout the entire film.  It is one of my favorite films of all time, and certainly my favorite of Stanwyck’s.  Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Writing, Original Story, the New York Times named it as the best film of the year in their “10 Best Films of 1941” list, and in 1994, it was selected for preservation in the US National Film Registry by the Library of Congress  as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."  Well deserved honors.  Stanwyck is GREAT in this!!

 “Double Indemnity” (1944):  This Oscar nominated film noir centers on Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray), an insurance salesman who meets the sultry Phyllis Dietrichson (Stanwyck), the unhappily married femme fatale who plots with Neff to kill her husband. I won’t tell you any more, as to not ruin the film for you, but it is a great movie!  This is film noir at its best, so if you’ve never seen noir, watch this movie.  Watch this film even if you are familiar with noir.  Watch it again and again. You will thank me later.

Watch it after “The Lady Eve”, and you will be struck by how versatile Stanwyck was.  She could well play the essentially sweet but flawed Jean of “Lady Eve”, but was equally adept at playing the treacherous Phyllis, who seemed to have no redeeming qualities whatsoever.  In spite of the character’s lack of good qualities, Stanwyck’s acting skill brought a depth to the character that a lesser actress could not have pulled off.  

Starring also Edward G. Robinson, and directed by the great Billy Wilder, it was nominated for seven Academy Awards, (Best Motion Picture, Actress, Director, Writing, Cinematography, Sound and Music ) but lost every one of them.  The Academy’s loss, I can assure you.

As a side note, I also have to say that Fred MacMurray was great in this movie as well.  Normally known as playing affable nice guys, MacMurray excels as the weak, amoral Neff.  It was his best film.

“Sorry, Wrong Number” (1948): Another example of film noir, this film tells the story of a woman who accidentally hears a murder being plotted over the phone, then gradually realizes that she is to be the victim.  Stanwyck well plays Leona Stevenson, who is a spoiled, demanding, bedridden daughter of a millionaire.  She is married to Henry (Burt Lancaster), a weak, social climber from the wrong side of the tracks.  Again, you see how skillfully Stanwyck plays her character.  You want to hate Leona, but Stanwyck plays her with just enough vulnerability that in the end, you feel sorry for her.  Stanwyck was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress, but lost to Jane Wyman in “Johnny Belinda”.

It is a very suspenseful film, so if you’re the nervous type (or if you're confined to bed), don’t watch this alone at night.

Some other good Stanwyck that I've enjoyed: “Ball of Fire”, “Stella Dallas”, “The Two Mrs. Carrolls”, “Christmas in Connecticut”, “Meet John Doe”, “The File on Thelma Jordan”, and "Witness to Murder".

Who is your favorite actress, and why?

Thanks for your visit.

Friday, February 24, 2012

An Attitude Adjustment

When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don't throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer.        Corrie Ten Boom

When I moved here in October, I only brought two of my plants with me: two amaryllis plants that lived on the upstairs balcony of my apartment. I have a particular fondness for these amaryllis; they were grown from seeds that I had gathered from the plants that grew in my mom’s yard.  I know it perhaps sounds silly, but I am loathe to give up things that have a connection to Mom.

I wasn’t sure how well the plants would do here. The winters here are about 20 degrees colder than in Southern California, and they seemed to be in shock for quite some time. I transplanted one of them to the planter out front, and left the other in the clay pot, not sure if either of them would make it. They just sort of seemed to sit there, no new growth, but seemingly not dead either. I wasn’t sure if they were going to adjust to the change, or if they would just eventually give up the fight.

Well, here they are now:

They’re coming out of it; by Easter, I should have beautiful blooms.

When I left the house this morning, it suddenly occurred to me that I’m sort of like those plants. This was a difficult move for me, because change is never easy, and when you’re middle aged, it seems that much more difficult. Like the plants, for several months, I haven’t been sure if I ever would adjust. Sometimes, I have been paralyzed with fear, afraid to move forward, afraid that this was the biggest mistake of my life, afraid that I would never find a job, afraid of hearing “I told you so” from everyone I met. I still haven’t completely adjusted to the climate, I miss my family and friends terribly, I haven’t really met any “kindred spirit” friends yet (if you’re a fan of “Anne of Green Gables”, you will know what I mean by that), and quite frankly, it just isn’t home yet. Like my plants, I’ve been sort of sitting here, not really doing much, halfheartedly making plans, but not sure if I could follow through with them, as I don’t know what job, if any, I will be doing next week, or next month, or this summer. So, I’ve worried and stressed pretty much about everything, castigated myself for thinking that moving here was a good idea, and wondered if I should just eventually give up.

I’ve worried the most about finding a job. For the first time in nearly 35 years, I am unemployed.  I don’t feel that I have the right to complain about it, as it was my choice, necessitated by a move of more than 200 miles, but nonetheless my choice. Had I been leaving a job that I loved, I probably would have handled things differently, but I was leaving a job that I had grown to despise. I was stressed out and burned out, overqualified for a job that challenged my patience, but not my intellect. As I was leaving an industry hit hard by the recession and other factors, it was time to leave. When I think about how unhappy I had been, for so many years, I don’t regret leaving.

However, I won’t pretend that job hunting isn’t tough. It is not good for the ego, and quite frankly, there are many employers who seem to be taking advantage of the desperation of prospective employees. I went on an interview this week for a job that, at this point, I’m almost praying that I don’t get. The work hours, according to the help wanted ad, were supposed to be 8am to 5pm Monday to Friday. In actuality, the hours are 7am to 8 or 9pm, Monday to Friday, plus I must be available to work weekends at a moment’s notice. And, since it is a salaried position, there is no overtime. All for little more than minimum wage. This is for a job that is approximately 25 to 30 miles away from my home, in an area so remote, I’m not sure I could even find the place again, because the city the company is in apparently cannot afford street signs. When I finally called the company in desperation because I couldn't find it, the directions were “turn left at the McDonald’s, go about a mile, turn right at the red barn, then an immediate left at the first orange grove you see, then drive about a half mile, there will be a blue truck in front of our building.” Holy street sign, Batman!

But, I don’t feel as if I’m in a position to say “no” to any job offer. My savings won’t last forever, I’m not used to being unemployed, I am often bored to tears, and because the budget is tight these days, there are many activities that I just don’t have the money to do any longer. I am often lonely, more so in a crowd, as everyone else seems to know someone. It makes that feeling of loneliness more acute.  And because in our culture, we are embarrassed by loneliness, I try to hide how I feel.  

So, I’ve spent a lot of time these past few months afraid.

And yet, as I was reminded today, the amaryllis adjusted. It didn't give up. And I am determined to adjust. I am still determined to find a job that I love, not a job that just pays the bills, so every time I face rejection or the employer from hell, I remind myself that that job just wasn’t meant to be. That God has something better waiting.  And every time I feel lonely, I remind myself that loneliness is a part of life, of EVERYONE’S life, and that perhaps the purpose of loneliness is to remind us that we are truly never alone, that God is with us every moment of our lives. And when I’m bored, I remind myself that I have a brain, it’s up to me to use it to find something to do. And when I worry about finances, I remind myself that I won’t be going hungry anytime soon, that I could live off the fat from my thighs alone for several months and that, if worse comes to worse, I can rent out one of the bedrooms. I will NOT give up.

So, the two Misses Amaryllis and I are adjusting.  We're doing fine, and the three of us should be blooming soon.

Thank you for your visit.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Favorite Thrifted Treasures

I love to go thrifting, but unfortunately, the thrift stores in this area leave a lot to be desired.  It’s probably just as well, since I don’t have a lot of extra money these days, but I do miss the thrill of the hunt, if you know what I mean. 

Since I can’t do much thrifting lately, but want to relive some of the thrill of finding “cheap treasures”, I went around the house looking at all the beauties I’ve found in the past.  Here are a few favorites:

I bought this shelf more than 25 years ago for $5.00.  It has about 20 layers of paint (no exaggeration), and has held books, china, collectibles and more.  Currently, it’s in my living room holding china, most of which was thrifted.  I see a paint job in the near future for it, but I do like the contrast of the white china against the periwinkle interior.

This rocker was $20.00 at my favorite Salvation Army in Orange, CA.  It’s actually quite low to the ground, but I figure that visiting grandnieces and nephews will enjoy it.

The top two stacked suitcases belonged to my mom.  The other three were thrifted for $5 each.  They store craft supplies.

I fell in love with this silver tea service. $19.99 at Goodwill.  I kind of like the patina of the tarnish, but I also love how freshly polished silver gleams.

I collect embroidered linens from the 40’s and 50’s.  Both of these pillows are on my bed.  $5 each from Children’s Hospital thrift stores (I mourned when they closed all their thrift stores in Orange County about 10 years ago).

I call this lady Marie Antoinette.  She’s a little battered, but then, aren’t we all?  She was $4.95 at Goodwill.

A recent treasure: I found this at the Salvation Army in Visalia.  This 1950's (?) print was $1.79.

I love these little $10 tapestry pictures from the Salvation Army in Orange.  One is threadbare in spots, but otherwise in good condition (sorry for the terrible photos).

I love anything pink.  This candlewick bedspread has a little wear and staining on one side, so it may be cut up to be used for other projects, but it was still a bargain at $9.95.  The flower detail is so sweet.

These beaded bags hang on the wall over my vanity.  $6.95 each.  I love beaded bags and wish I had more excuses to use them. 

Once I find a job here, I can explore the thrift stores in neighboring towns, and can go back to my weekly thrifting.  But right now, with the cost of gasoline so high lately, I'm rarely venturing far from home.

Thanks for your visit. Hope you have a great day.

Linking to Thriftin on a Thursday at savvy city farmer

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Tiptoe Through the Tulips

I’m down in Orange County this weekend visiting family.  My sister and I went out thrifting and were driving around, looking at all the plants that are already blooming here.  We stopped by this one house in Fullerton, which has almost the entire front lawn done in tulips and other bulbs and plants.  It looks great, so charming.  There was a crowd people in front of the house, taking pictures and admiring the garden, so we joined them.  My pictures don’t do it justice, but here they are:

You can read more about this garden here.

I could have taken just hundreds of pictures, I love this garden so much.  Although I'm not planting tulips but gladiolus instead, I am getting lots of ideas for both my front and back yard.  Planting time is coming soon, and I can’t wait.  I have about 70 gladiolus bulbs (Dollar Tree has 6 bulbs for 50 cents!), 5 amaryllis bulbs plus seeds gathered from the amaryllis that grew in my mom's backyard, seeds for 24 different flowers (Dollar Tree also has seed packets 4 for $1, although the selection isn't great, so I had to get some at Home Depot), seeds for 11 different vegetables and 2 herbs.  I found rose bushes for $6.99 at a discount store, as well.  Soon, my rather plain looking house will have some beautiful welcoming color.  And my fridge will have healthy, homegrown food inside. 

Hmm, I think I have Spring Fever.

Hope everyone's weekend is going well.