Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Vintage shopping and tips

By Elizabeth Prata

In the 'fill-a-bag for $5' sale at my favorite vintage store, I came away with some fine purchases.

I sit at my vintage, mid-century Formica and chrome table for most of the day, writing and studying and reading. When I look up from my laptop or my book at the wall in front of me, I want a nice piece of art to look at. I'd had an original piece of art there for many years, which I moved to the bedroom to refresh the different views. It was a painting of the bay of Naples with the volcanoes in the background and a trattoria in the foreground. The piece of art I replaced it with is beautiful (lighthouse on crashing waves seashore) but the proportions were all wrong. The piece was too small. I've been searching for another ever since. I needed big art at a low price. It took a while but I found it.

The poster is on foam of a black and white vintage shot of the Venetian bridge Rialto with a gondola underneath for $3. Sold! The proportions are good and I like the change from my usually colorful art around me to B & W.

A sweet two-tone ivory and creamy yellow teacup went into the bag also. The pottery mark said "Pickard" which was a company I was unfamiliar with. It turns out that the company is a US pottery and china making corporation in continuous production since 1893. They supply the US State Department, Blair House, United Nations, Air Force One, Camp David, Hilton Hotels and many other establishments. Whoa! So cool. The cup is from the mid 1930s and I love it.

This wallet or pouch caught my eye. The red and gold were opulent and I saw that it was well made and in good condition. What could it be?

A score keeping notebook for bridge? In fine Italian paper! Each page displays a different Italian bridge and the pages are edged with the delicate illustration you see below. The cover is soft leather, fine tooled. I'm a sucker for paper. A sale posting for a similar bridge tally notebook reads, "Multicolor & gold Florentine scrollwork. Exquisite color printed graphics. Made in Italy, circa 1960."

The item is most likely from Marcel Shurman. The history of that company goes like this:
Schurman Retail Group was founded by Marcel and Margrit Schurman in 1950. Both European immigrants, they were inspired by a love of fine art and by an appreciation for beautiful, high quality papers and design. They had a vision for bringing a range of products of uncompromising quality to the United States and began importing and wholesaling fine art postcards to fine retailers. Since the early days of the business the company has evolved and in many ways and is now focused in Retail and On-line Brand development. Currently Schurman Retail Group now owns over 300 stores that operate under multiple Brands.
I love paper and especially Italian paper. I was delighted with this find.

I've long wanted to make the front of the apartment look nice, but buying lots of outdoor things can get expensive. So I was happy to find this medium sized birdhouse and the welcome slate, which I popped into the $5 bag.

I already hung the slate up and I'll clean the birdhouse later then put it in the tree.

I am always happy to find usable things that I need and also the charm of the unique finds like the Pickard teacup and the Florentine vintage bridge tally notebook. Sadly, even these minimal purchases will have to come to an end for a while as I have medical bills and vet bills to deal with. Priorities, lol! I know I'll be enjoying these purchases for a long time, and meanwhile, I'm glad there are free libraries around for me to get some more books to borrow! I already got Nathaniel Philbrick's Mayflower which I plan to dig into by the end of the week! Meanwhile I'll be enjoying my past purchases, either using or admiring.

My tips for vintage shopping are:

--Have a list of things if you're shopping for things you need. I had on my list "patio or outdoor items; art for kitchen, mid-century books." (RE the books: not to read, but I want to see the cover design, mid-century books are terrific with the covers and I'd tear them off for use crafting or to simply frame them and hang on the wall.)

It isn't a matter of remembering, since there were only a few things on the list, but holding a list with the items written down sort of confirms and guides me as I tend to get overwhelmed and want to just buy everything. A list forces me to stay the course. (Same for the grocery store).

--Go slow. Vintage shop when you have time. You need to slowly look at everything, sometimes squatting, uncovering a pile, sorting through a box, or just standing still and like an archeologist going grid by grid, look carefully at everything in front of you.

--Understand quality. I don't buy in order to resell, as so many people do. I buy for myself, to use or admire. If you're buying for resale, then knowing quality is important but not the only thing. Resellers have to also know the market, what will sell, and comparable prices.

I like quality, knowing that I possess a nice item. Like the vintage Schurman paper and the Pickard teacup. Does the item look good to you? Feel good in your hand? Will it last? I like knowing that my Pickard Teacup is 80 years old, and there are no chips or cracks in it. Drinking a cup of tea from a chipped and cracked mug is OK, but I also like drinking tea from a cup that feels and looks good as I drink it. Then it becomes a case of not only function but pleasing form and eye-catching beauty. Who doesn't need a little of that in her life?

Happy vintage shopping you guys.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

The Golden Hour photos and update on week 3 of summer break

By Elizabeth Prata

I don't have a garden but I live in a beautiful yard with wildflowers and some morning glories and flowering trees. I have a wonderful library, well-stocked for such a small apartment. It is everything I need.

I put "Happy Summer" because I am still happy about summer break. It never, ever, ever gets old. As a matter of fact, the older I get the sweeter summer break becomes.

I'm in week three and this is my update:

Bert my 12 year old cat died and I seemed to have taken that on board in my usual non-expressive, non-emotional way. It's just a fact. He's gone. But the other night I had a dream that I woke up in the morning and got up. As I entered the living room I saw Bert there in his little bed by the coffee table, looking at me with his pretty green eyes. I said aloud to him, "But aren't you dead? I thought you died? Have you come back to life?" And then I woke up all upset.

So I guess I have not taken it on board as yet.

I'm still reading and on track here in week 3 of my Summer Reading Plan. I added a few extra books as needed...I am enjoying Pat Conroy's My Reading Life, and I enjoyed the first third of Grisham's The Reckoning. I skipped part 2 and most of part 3 and just read the last 10 pages. But part 2 was 175 pages i.e long enough, and it felt like old Grisham again and was good enough for me. Especially since I've learned with being disappointed in the last three Grishams not to buy any more books but to get them from the library.

A friend recommended an author I'd forgotten about, Nathaniel Philbrick. I'd read In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the whaleship Essex when it was published in 2001. (Wow, eighteen years ago!!) It's the true story of the true ship and event Melville based Moby Dick upon. Philbrick has written many subsequent historical books, rapidly becoming my new fave genre. I will reserve Mayflower from the library and grab that one up next.

Since I got pneumonia three weeks ago I've eaten very little through it all. My appetite is just coming back now. It was sort of a relief not to have an appetite, Anyway, during the sickness, I ate mainly crackers, scrambled eggs, and chicken & rice soup. I didn't eat any sweets at all. Now that I'm better, I am trying to keep  up the no sweets and I think it won't be too hard. I ate a small cube of a brownie the other day at Sunday School and it tasted very sweet to me. Blech. I also ate two bites of a pecan roll and I couldn't eat any more of it and threw the rest out.

If I can maintain this habit of no sweets/sugar till school opens again, perhaps it will be ingrained in me enough not to succumb to stress eating at the snack bar in the copy room. And by snack bar I mean bypassing the crackers, granola bars, and chips and aiming straight for the Reese's and the Three Musketeers bars. I'm convinced only stressed educators know the comfort and delight of chocolate during the school day.

When school ended just before Memorial Day weekend I'd had visions of sitting at my patio table outside, re-potting my succulents, reading magazines in the sun, and watching the birds. But that weekend a strong heat wave came in and we suffered through highs in the upper 90s near to 100 these last 2 weeks. This was unusually hot very early. I stayed inside. This last week has been rain-rain-rain. Some places nearby received 6 inches in a day. I don't mind the rain since I don't have to go anywhere or drive in it, and it's kind of cozy to curl up inside with tea and a book.

But now the weather has broken and is closer to the usual for this time of year. I was hoping it would get to be so, before the hot weather of July and August steams in. Temps are supposed to be upper 70s to low 80s with overnight temps in the upper 50s to low 60s. This is perfect. Maybe I'll get to do my patio plan after all.

I also want, while the weather is cooler, to haunt some places in the city and take some photos. I love cityscapes and since I don't travel, Athens GA will have to suffice as my stand-in mini-city. There are some nice cityscapes there, if not the skyscrapers I'd love to snap in NYC or Seattle or Miami.

I know about the Golden Hour but I often don't DO anything about it. This is the hour that as the sun rises or prepares to set, the light turns golden and glowing. The noonday sun is high and harsh, but the sunrise hour and the time just before it sets the sun light turns a mellow yellow and adds a beautiful dimension to photos. I would love to go out and snap photos at 7 am but that would mean, like, going out. Same for the 7 pm sunlight. I never quite make it.

Here are a few pics of the yard this morning at the very end of Golden Hour. It was the best I could do, givne my innate sluggishness during the summer.

The last dew drop before becoming sun zapped evaporated

I liked the colors in the pasture hay and grass

Sun dappled pergola

Enormous pine cone thingies

I love light shining through leaves

Golden morning light on lawn

Old yellow Ford across the street

Friday, June 07, 2019

Rainy Summer Doings Update

By Elizabeth Prata

I love playing with my teacups. I mean by playing, looking at them, using them, and re-arranging them. I like the teacups because of their sweet designs. I love admiring each one uniquely and researching their origin.

The main trouble with starting a collection of anything, is that I live in a tiny place. My kitchen is small and there isn't a lot of space to display things, never mind using up counter space that has to be saved for the daily utilitarian things like the kettle, coffee pot, and utensil holders. And there's not a lot of wall space, either.

Last week I went to my favorite vintage shop because they were having a 'fill-a-bag' sale for $5. I needed office supplies, and also a few terra cotta pots to re-do my succulents. Along the way I saw a sweet Homer Laughlin teacup I could not resist.

However, that "one more cup" put me over the top in terms of adequate storage & display. Cups were stacked on top of each other, something that destroys the whole point of collecting pretty things so as to look at them and admire.

I searched and searched on Etsy and Amazon for a suitable teacup display shelf but I found nothing even after taking over an hour searching. I went to my garage to find something I already own, and thought a wrought iron old CD stand would be good. Its size was adequate to hold some teacups but it was too tall to fit anywhere in my kitchen. Back to square one.

Think outside the box. At the Dollar Store the next day I passed a hanging shower caddy. Hmmm. Only $5. HMMM! I bought it and discovered that it could hold 4 teacups in the unit itself and with two added S-hooks, two more for a total of 6 cups. I rearranged the teacups and voila, I now have a display.

It's not ideal, since I can't really see the patterns on each, and the saucers aren't with each cup, but it is vastly improved over the former stacking up, crowded situation I'd had.

I made a Teacups and Teapots board over on Pinterest if you are interested to see all of them. It's here.

I started (and finished) John Grisham's new book "The Reckoning". The story is given in 3 parts. The first part was the murder, arrest, and trial. Typical Grisham, so, it was good. The second part was a flashback to many years prior to the main event in part 1, and I read elsewhere that of the protagonist (a soldier who was in the Death March in Bataan) the part was detailed and gross about the tortures he endured. By then I didn't have the interest to make the leap to the distant past in the character's life, nor to read gory details of the Death March to Bataan, so I skipped to the third part to read the answer to the Big Question the 1st part hinged on.

I've been disappointed in the last 3 Grishams and I'm glad I got this one from the library and didn't buy it. Part 1 was 175 pages, so, it's long enough to be a book in itself. I moved on. Soon I will reserve "Mayflower" by Nathanial Philbrick, and Gerry Brooks' "Go See the Principal."

I also got Pat Conroy's "My Reading Life" from the Library which I am looking forward to starting today, and pairing with Tony Reinke's "Lit!" which is another book about books and reading.

For binging, I've been watching an old tv show called The Commish, as per Wikipedia- "The Commish is an American comedy-drama television series that aired on ABC in the United States from 1991 to 1996. The series focuses on the work and home life of a suburban police commissioner in upstate New York." In my opinion the main character is a nice man, a great cop, in love with his wife, and a good dad. It's written by Stephen Cannell, who was all over TV in the 80s and 90s writing for so many shows. Amazon Prime has the first season. I also enjoy The Waltons, another family show that in my opinion is heartwarming and clean.

The scene here today, a humid but blessedly rainy day. I plan to stay home today:

Since Bert died, Murray has been sticking to me like glue. He doesn't like me out of his sight, and he's suddenly become more affectionate. I don't blame him. The last scene that he saw of Bert was that poor cat writhing in pain and me hustling him out the door, never to be seen again.

Even though Bert was no trouble, neither is Murray really, it's a lot easier to take care of one cat than two. I would not have thought that, but it's true. I decided when Murray goes, I won't get another pet. This is it. I can't take any more heartache.

I better get to today's reading. On the docket is the Letters of Margaret Paton, wife to missionary John G. Paton in 1800s Vanuatu, and I'll start Conroy's My Reading Life. Probably will slip in a bit of Where the Crawdads Sing, too. I hope you all have a marvelous Friday.

Monday, June 03, 2019

Week one of Summer Vacation: Update

By Elizabeth Prata

So it has been one week since the official start of summer vacation from my public education job began. Of course, the last 4 days of school, the half day with the kids and the 3 successive post-planning days, I was not at school due to pneumonia. I don't call that part of the summer a vacation, lol. It was a difficult week.

Anyway, true to my promise to myself, I put my Summer Reading Plan into action. I've been enjoying the books I chose, and I am enjoying the structure of reading through a mountain of books in an orderly fashion. Again, the books I chose are:

I am truly enjoying the Crawdads book. It's written in a lyrical, almost poetic style but not so intrusively it's precious. Nor does it take away from a driving narrative that rolls along from the first sentence. It helps that I love the low country marshes.

The Internet Inferno book is about James and the tongue and social media, so I love it because I'm extremely active on social media but I also sin on social media. This book helps me be more careful, wise, and measured. Combining it with the Reinke book on Competing Spectacles this is a double whammy about how I spend my time...or not.

I chose the Kipling because I always like to read at least one classic during the summer. I've never been a huge fan of Kipling but I thought I'd give him one more try. It's a book of short stories so I'm not committing to a long story arc.

I read Elmer Gantry last year and loved it. Sinclair Lewis is wordy though. Good words, incisive words, poetic words, but lotsa words. It's the same with It Can't Happen Here, about how America could easily turn from representative democracy to fascism in one fell swoop. I like the subject matter and I enjoy Lewis's writing, so I'm good with it so far. He tends to get preachy so I'll be watching for that.

I'm enjoying the others as well.

Sunday School started back up for the summer and also the Tuesday night Bible lessons. I will be attending both, as the Lord allows. I don't have any social plans, other than a birthday celebration Wednesday night for someone out at a local bistro. I have a huge vet bill from the University of GA from where Bert spent his last few days so I don't plan on shopping anytime soon either.

I did go on up to The Special Store for their $5 fill-a-bag sale. I needed office supplies and that is indeed a great place to get them. Staplers, paper, notebooks, stationery, binder clips, markers, you name it. Saturday, I got some paper, file folders, three clay pots (I want to re-pot my succulents), and a 70-year-old teacup. It's a Homer Laughlin Eggshell Georgian pattern Cashmere. It was made in February of 1949. So cool!

Here is a Pinterest photo of it, not my photo. I'm currently too lazy to get up and snap a picture of the one I got. At some point soon I think I will take photos of each of my teacups and teapots and make a Pinterest board of them. I enjoy seeing others' and they also help me identify the ones I buy. So I'd like to return the favor.

I have also been watching Netflix/Youtube/Amazon Prime. I started watching Monk but Monk's pain is so palpable I only made it through season 1, skipped ahead to when Sharona was gone (didn't like her) and watched a few in season 3 with Natalie. Then stopped. It's too painful to watch the man be in so much pain.

I stumbled on an Australian show on Netflix. It's rated TV-MA which if I see ahead of time I skip but I did not see the rating and I'm glad I didn't, because I have not seen anything mature about the show. It's called Court Justice. It is a reality show about people who commit a crime and go to court, from their pov and from the Magistrates' point of view. They interview the judges and you learn their view of what the law is for, how the things that people do impacts society, and the onus of burden on the judges to balance compassion and justice individually for each case, tailored to each offender but also protecting the community.

The people were dressed appropriately, there wasn't swearing, or any crude scenes etc. The subject matter dealt with involves drugs, drunk driving offenses, traffic offenses, civil disobedience, self-representation, etc. There are some scenes of car crashes, when the narrator is explaining the statistics on drunk driving etc, perhaps those caused a TV-MA rating, but there wasn't any blood of victims seen. I'm sad that Court Justice only made it 1 season, and only 10 episodes. I like hearing about the Law and seeing judges who are good and righteous.

I've also been watching season 1 of The Waltons on Amazon. I watched the show when it first came out, 47 years ago. Wow. Hard to believe it's been that long. It's a sweet show and heartwarming. Unlike Monk, which is just pain-anguish-more pain.

I'm still in recovery from my pneumonia. My energy saps away suddenly and then I have to lie down. My lungs still hurt and I'm still coughing. I stopped at Kroger yesterday and got some chicken soup fixins. I've been living on scrambled eggs and chicken soup with rice. The soup is literally what the doctor ordered and she knew what she was talking about. The soup feels so good going down, is easy on the stomach, and fills me up without making me queasy. The hot liquid and steam loosens the fluid in my lungs. I'm going to make some more for a late lunch. Yum. After a nap. I'm tired now.

Sunday, June 02, 2019

RIP Bert

By Elizabeth Prata

In August 2007, I rescued two cats. I named them Bert and Luke. They had been hiding under a row of bushes in Royston, and a friend had picked them up and brought them to the Royston Vet. She then implored me to take them. I was reluctant and she did a lot of convincing, until I wore down and finally said yes, much to my surprise.

They turned out to be the two best cats I'd ever owned. Luke was simply a love bug, enjoying cuddles and purring mightily. Bert was vocal, chirruping and talking to me all the day long. He made this sound brrrrrt when looking out the window, so I named him Bert after his favorite sound.

As they grew the enjoyed each other and me, and they never did a wrong thing.

In January 2014 I rescued another cat. He'd been born in the yard and the neighbor girl on the other side of the duplex began feeding him. Sigh. Then they decided to move and weren't going to take the cat with them since they had a dog who didn't favor cats. I chose to bring Murray in, as the girl had named the kitten. I would feel too bad leaving him outside all the time especially after he'd gotten used to being fed. He also longed for company, running after me whenever I roved around in the yard and asking to be held. In January when a strong and deep cold front moved through, with temps in the single digits, I made the decision to bring him in.

I didn't know that you're supposed to quarantine cat until you're sure that the new one isn't infected with coronavirus or leukemia, both of which were highly contagious among cats. Murray had coronavirus and infected both my other cats, and Luke succumbed quickly, dying of the more deadly version of coronoavirus, FIP, just about two years later in December 2015.

Twelve-year-old Bert did not succumb to the more deadly form of coronoavirus (FIP) but was painfully suffering from degenerative hip disease. His quality of life had diminished and he was in severe pain.

Now it's just me and Murray. Murray kind of doesn't know what to do with himself, as most of his little life has been with two or one cats for companionship. I'm not going to get another cat though, and when Murray goes, I won't adopt any more pets. It'll be just him and me for the duration.

Bert was a very good boy and I'll miss his chirrups and meows and especially his silent meow which was really cute. Here are a few pics of him throughout his life.

Coming home for the first time

Bert loved water and wanted me to turn on a drip for him

Early days, Bert with Luke

Bert's favorite thing to do: nap!

He loved hidey holes

Bert at 12 years shortly before his passing