Saturday, March 31, 2007

Hardware Store = Art Gallery

Several months back, a revered old hardware store here in Utica, Doyle's Hardware, closed its doors forever. I was very sad. Doyle's was the perfect place to get all sorts of hardware, including old fashioned screws and parts for lamps that are otherwise hard to find. They originally had five stores throughout Utica, but as those had closed, they had consolidated all their stock into the huge, three story brick store down by the train station. So, the store had all sorts of old things with nice old prices on them. As they were getting ready to close their doors, prices, already low, got slashed. I picked up three of these old brushes for 30% off of $2.65! I picked them up just because I really liked how they looked, and because right off they struck me as having a certain sculptural quality. For a while, they were just piled up on a table in my living room. I really liked how the orange worked with my greenish blue walls. But I knew that I really wanted to hang them on those blue walls, so after I finally got around to painting my stairwell, I found just the right spot for them under the windows on my landing. By then I had already decided that I was going to paint my stair risers a color other than the off-white I use for all my trim and woodwork. So, I hit upon the idea of painting the risers the same orange. I took a brush to J-Kay, where Sam Rudolph (who has been incredibly helpful with many a paint color dilemma) mixed up a quart of paint in that very same orange. The color adds a bit of punch to a color scheme that I sometimes worry heads a little in a conservative direction. The morale of this little story is that you can find art in unexpected places!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Another Cool Item from the Trash - But What Is It?

I don't have the slightest idea what this thing is: I only know that I like how it looks, and I figure that sooner or later I'll find just the right use for it. Then I'll be so glad that I dragged it home. It was out in front of a neighbor's house, with their trash. I asked them what they thought it might be, and their best guess was that it was some sort of wine rack. (No way -- it's both way to flimsy to hold a bunch of wine bottles, but, more importantly, the individual slots are much too small.) The wooden knobs are for pulling the middle dowel forward, which slides a small wooden piece towards you, like this: A few of the knobs are missing, and one dowel is broken, but these problems will be easy to repair. It stands about 2 1/2 feet high. I think that one of these days it might make a nice plant stand or what my mother always called an "occasional" table. But for now, it is safely stored in a nice, dry corner of my basement, waiting for inspiration to strike. Meanwhile, if you think you know what it might be, do tell!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Big Score at the Utica Zoo Rummage Sale

Personally, zoos make me sad. All those beautiful animals pacing in their relatively small cages, when they really should be out in the woods or the savannah. Oh well. But the Utica Zoo had a rummage sale this morning, so off I went. There was a medium sized line when I got there, and once the gates opened at 10, in we went. It was a pretty small sale, but there were some good things and they priced by volume. The young woman in charge of pricing and taking money didn't bother to see what exactly we had found. Rather, she just sized up the amount of stuff that we had and priced accordingly. I paid a mere $10 for all of this: I know you can't quite discern all the stuff in this picture, so here is an inventory, more or less clockwise, starting on the left: a nice, though not old, wicker magazine rack which will be perfect for carrying reading material to and from the porch this summer; a set of three inflatable clothes hangers that were way too funky to resist; a bag of tea lights; a set of 6 shot glasses with a carrier; a little box with 13 little old porcelain Christmas bells (I already had 5, now I have 18!!!); a bunch of old linens in a variety of conditions; a pair of jeans that just might fit; a men's shirt with which I can make more of these; a food strainer that I picked up because I have others just like it and one of these days I'm going to fashion them into some oh-so-cool hanging lights; a step on trash can, which, if I can find a bucket that fits, will be perfect in my kitchen for compost (I really need a hands-free way to dump my peelings, etc.); a vintage book on rug-making for my Dad, my favorite rug maker; a metal milk jug carrier; an irresistable vintage white bustier for which I'm too busty but which I'll put up on Ebay; and a zip lock bag full of nice ribbon to replenish my supply. Not a bad haul for $10! I LOVE RUMMAGE SALES!!!

Friday, March 23, 2007

A New Use for 'Tin' Cans

Now, this is not a particularly new idea, and so I take no credit for it as some sort of original thing. I assume that the idea of putting empty 'tin' cans to use after their contents had been eaten is virtually as old as the 'tin' can itself. (I keep putting 'tin' in quotes like because they are longer actually made of tin, and haven't been for a long time now.) I can just imagine that the person who invented the 'tin' can (was it one of the Shakers?) immediately sold the idea to others by saying "And after you eat the green beans, you've got a great way to organize your rusty nail collection..."! So, nothing new here. But my basement is short on space because it has concrete block walls that I have no idea how to attach anything to, like shelves. So, I have to put whatever space I do have to parsimonious use. I attached these empty tomato cans to a wooden wall with metal screws and a drill and they make a pretty handy way to store some of my painting supplies. I'll probably add more as I make more soup, spaghetti sauce, etc. I like how the labels look, and I think you could easily repeat this with all sorts of different kinds of cans to great effect.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Men's Shirts as Cocktail Napkins


So, I've long liked the men's shirts at the various thrift stores I'm known to frequent. I love the stripey patterns and smooth fabric, and I usually stop to rifle through them admiringly. But I've never had any idea of what to do with them, other than buy them for my non-existent boyfriend. But recently, somewhere or other on the web, I saw that someone had refashioned a men's shirt into a pillow cover, by very cleverly taking advantage of the buttoned front placket, which does away with the need to bother sewing in a zipper. (I am perfectly incapable of sewing in zippers. I used to cajole my sister into doing it for me through flattery: "But you do zippers so well!". But she caught on pretty quickly, so that gig is up.) So that got me to thinking. Then, a week or so ago, I had a couple of friends over for cocktails. (I finally caught up with the trend, and have been very into having a bar and making cocktails lately. And, oh yeah, drinking more. Want a great cocktail book? Try this one - it's great.) I've been wanting for a while to have more nice cocktail-sized napkins - just big enough to rest a martini glass on. I've got tons and tons of dinner sized cloth napkins, so many that it usually takes a year or so to work through the stash and then spend a long evening ironing. But I didn't have enough little ones. So, I decided to make a little project out of making cocktail napkins from men's shirts. First, I bought a couple of men's shirts with the following criteria in mind: 100% cotton, pleasing pattern, really big for more fabric, and, crucially, half-price. With that in mind, I found these two shirts, for $2 each:So, I cut them up into 12 inch squares, based on some small napkins I already had. (I was somewhat surprised by how few napkins I got out of each. I have to look for even bigger shirts in the future.) Then I ironed a narrow hem all around and pinned these in place. After sewing them all around, I folded and ironed them again, and I was done. Eight new napkins to put on the bar, and an idea for easy hostess or housewarming gifts in the future.And I did this while watching "Ocean's Eleven" on tv, admiring George Clooney's shirts all the while! Now, if only I could get him to take his shirts off for me...

Sunday, March 4, 2007

When Did Plants Become Disposable???

So, I got this lovely orchid plant(it's a Phalaenopsis) as a gift from my brother and sister-in-law several weeks ago, as housewarming gift, when I finally got around to throwing my housewarming party. (The party was a great success, if I say so myself.) When they gave it to me it had a lovely stem with four or five very pretty white blossoms on it. The last of the blooms died recently, and after removing the flower stem, I was reading the tag that came with the plant to find out how best to care for it. Reading the tag, I was rather discouraged to read the last line:It's that last line that really struck me. This is a lovely plant, even without the blooms, but the company that made it would prefer that I throw it away and just buy another one, rather than keep this plant and nurture it while it readies itself to bloom again. Now, throwing it away isn't directly wasteful. If I were to throw it out, I would put it into one of my compost bins (you aren't surprised that I compost, are you?), so the plant itself and its soil would get recycled. (One of the many reasons I look forward to Spring is that I can once again drag home my neighbors dead plants in order to add them to my composting efforts.) But all the energy that went into growing it, watering it, transporting it from Florida to Massachusetts (where my family bought it), would all be a waste. And much of that energy is, of course, in the form of fossil fuels. And so this little example of planned wastefulness strikes me as the perfect microcosm of the biggest source of our environmental woes and coming disasters: our economy depends on all of us wasting as much as we can, which always means, among other things, wasting fossil fuels. The company that grew this Phalaenopsis makes more profit the more we waste these plants by throwing them away and buying more. We are in serious trouble if we don't change our ways and waste less.