Monday, November 28, 2011

One Woman's Trash is Another Woman's...Trash

I survived Thanksgiving with my extended family and came out of it with minimal emotional scarring. The last two times I've stayed at my mother's house have been the only two times in the past 45 25 years that I've stayed with her and not wanted to kill her. I don't know if she's mellowing in her old age or if I'm maturing in mine. Either way, we seem to get along better now than we ever have. I love my mother dearly but she can be extremely difficult to get along with.

My sister ratted me out and told Mom that I talk about her on Facebook. Mom told me not to do that anymore and being the obedient daughter that I am I assured her that I would not talk about her on Facebook as soon as I got home. I didn't say that I would never talk about her on Facebook, just that I wouldn't do it right when I got home. And I certainly didn't say that I wouldn't blog about her. I am the evil good child.

Mom's birthday is a few days after Thanksgiving and for her gift she asked me if I would reupholster a small stool that's in her bedroom. It was there when she bought the house for my grandparents 30 years ago and it still had the original orange and brown vinyl covering. I told her I would be glad to cover her stool so went to the fabric store on Black Friday where she picked out the second most hideous Asian brocade in the store.

I borrowed a staple gun and cordless drill from my sister Shamayn then spent maybe 20 minutes stapling the new fabric and batting over the old vinyl. When it was done you would have thought I just presented Mom with a priceless Ming vase. (You have to pronounce that "voz".) She loved her stool and I loved not hearing her nag me about it anymore. Everybody wins.

Since her retirement Mom has been working hard to declutter her house and get rid of a lot of unnecessary junk she's accumulated over the years. Some of the unnecessary junk includes things like non-working refrigerators and a trash compactor left over from the 70s. The fridge was easy, she was ready to get rid of that. But the trash compactor took some persuasion. Fortunately Shamayn handled that. Mom insisted that she needed to keep the trash compactor so she could compact bulky trash. The only problem with that is that she hasn't even opened the thing for at least 15 years. She hangs grocery bags from one of the knobs on the outside of the machine and uses that for her "trash can".

I don't know how Shamayn did it but she finally convinced Mom that the compactor had to go. Not knowing what to do for a trash can, and since she was used to having a grocery sack hanging from an appliance, Mom hung a grocery sack from the handle on her (working) fridge and was quite content with that setup. She always has plenty of extra plastic grocery bags because when she goes to the store she tells the bag boy to pack them light. If he doesn't comply, she will elbow him out of the way and show him that one tube of toothpaste and a Sally Hansen facial waxing kit are enough to fill one bag and no bag should be any fuller than that.

When we got to her house and saw the new trash system, Jayson immediately offered to go buy Mom a nice trash can. She nearly had a hysterical fit and absolutely forbade him to do any such thing. She liked her system, she liked the small bags, she liked to schlep the bags out to the big can under the carport every 15 minutes. And apparently she liked having trash hanging from the door of the fridge where where she keeps her food. Yuck. To maintain the illusion of peace, we let it go.

We weren't able to stay long enough for Mom's birthday but she sent me a text this morning and told me what Shamayn gave her. Shamayn's really good with gifts and holidays and all that. I barely remember to acknowledge a birthday and I rarely produce a gift. Gifts are not my love language so I don't really care if I ever get one or not but unfortunately I tend to forget that not everyone is like that. Plus, Shamayn is just more thoughtful than me.

The first text from Mom was a picture of a very nice trash can sitting where her compactor used to be. I told her I loved it, I like where it's sitting, and it looks like it's small enough so she can still empty it every 15 minutes if she wants to.

Here is our text exchange about the trash can:
MOM: Mayn got me a trash can at Bed & Bath. It's made to hold grocery bags with hooks on the front and back. I told her I didn't want one. Jayson wanted to get me one and I said no. Mayn said I had to have one. That's where she put it and she said I have to use it.
ME: Okay, it's just gross to have your trash hanging on the front of your fridge where you keep your food. Trash belongs in a trash can. Get used to it.
MOM: Well it's small so I can keep it empty. You step on a pad to open it. I don't have to buy bags. I don't have to touch it except to empty it. I don't really have to look at it. I guess it's okay. At least I have my stool.
ME: Go comfort yourself with your stool.
All I can say is thank God for Mayn.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Happy Hookers, The Critter Fixer, and Pringles Duck Mouth Kisses

I woke up with a "lady trouble" induced migraine this morning which killed all the wonderful plans I had for the day, including the Home for The Holidays Gift Market in Katy and Discovery Green Flea.

The migraine has been downgraded to a plain ol' nagging headache but it has upset my tummy enough to make me leery of leaving the house. So.... I thought I'd use this time to update my poor lil neglected blog. We've had house guests the past two weekends in a row so that means I've had to give my attention to my live friends instead of my virtual ones. Hence the blog neglect. Not that my live friends are more important than my virtual ones, they're just harder to ignore when they're in my face.

Since it's been about 3 weeks since my last update and since it takes a minimum of 10,000 words for me to describe one 24 hour period in which I do absolutely nothing, I think I will spare you as much commentary as possible and make this a photo journal. Uploading and arranging photos can be way more time consuming than typing out my stream of consciousness so that should tell you how much I am putting your needs before my own. I'm just a giver like that.

A friend was archiving some old photos and posted this one on Facebook of me and another friend doing what comes naturally when we eat Pringles.

I have a small collection of retro Delft ceramics. I buy them on eBay when I can find a piece I don't already have for under $20.    

I didn't have any candlesticks and I still don't because the eBay seller shipped them in a store brand popcorn box. They probably would have made here just fine in a Pop Secret box.

To the seller's credit she did give me an immediate refund. I couldn't just toss out all that lovely broken ceramic so I'm making jewelry out of it.

Remember this tulle "valance" I hung with thumbtacks and was trying to decide what to cover the tacks with?

I've decided they needed to be covered with vintage brooches. It'll take me a while to collect enough to cover all the tacks but I'm checking eBay daily to find what I want in my price range.

I like to find really cheap broken brooches that need a little TLC.

Replace a few stones, polish it up and it'll pass.

This poor little Sarah Coventry earring had all kinds of issues, including a piece that broke off in my hand.

I changed out some stones and will use it as part of a jewelry "collage" to hide the missing piece.

This is my most recent creation for The Build Zone class.

The triangular part of the focal was an old metal earring that I pounded flat. The large vintage rhinestone is mounted on a small rectangular piece of steel that I found in a parking lot. The vintage earring at the top also serves as a hanger for the necklace. I got that little hook thing in the fishing department at Wal Mart. Jewelry supplies are everywhere!

Here's a close up of how the screw back earring is used as a hanger. I drilled a hole in the triangle piece then snipped off the round end of the screw post. I screwed the post all the way through the hole and secured everything with Ice Resin which also seals it to keep it from tarnishing.

Our friends from Lafayette came for a visit (which requires its own blog entry later) and Jamie tried to teach me how to crochet this hat.
This is how mine turned out. I had an excellent teacher but the yarn I used was different from hers which made my hat come out too small for a human head. It made a nice little drawstring pouch, tho.
I even lined the pouch (as best I could) and will probably give it to someone for Christmas. I might even include a piece of jewelry.

Jamie and I found a yarn shop called The Hen House, which was conveniently located next to the Critter Fixer Pet Hospital.

The Hen House had all kinds of upscale pricey fru fru yarns as well as classy little doodads like this.

While our friends were here we also went to the little antique shop up the street from me where I scored this awesome mirror. It was really inexpensive compared to others I've seen like it but that's probably because there are a couple of swirly pieces broken off the frame. I'll just sand those to make them look like they're supposed to be that way and paint them to match. No one will know :)

Remember this little guy from this post?

Guess who got to come home with me?! I told myself I'd leave it at the shop for a couple of weeks and if it was still there when I went back I'd take it as a divine sign from God that I'm supposed to buy it. I went back, it was there, I was obedient to God's will for me to have this lovely vintage scale.

I will start working on another photo journal type blog entry that will show some of the highlights of our recent visit with friends. These highlights will include our trip to the Blue Bell factory (aka heaven) in Brenham, a little shopping excursion to the Harwin Central Mart, and a couple of sightseeing excursions including the impossible to describe Orange Show as well as the sights and sounds and aromas of The Flower Man's house. Oh the aromas. They were anything but floral.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Crazy Is As Crazy Does

My mom had a garage sale last weekend which I was only vaguely aware of. That's one of the joys of living 350 miles away. However, that joy is slightly dampened with the guilt I feel about my sister having to deal with our aging nutso parents. My sister, Shamayn, has a disabled husband and 2 disabled children so the last thing she needs is parent drama. Unfortunately, she gets it anyway. It can be very frustrating in the moment but from 350 miles away parent drama can be relatively entertaining. Don't tell Mayn I said that.

When I talked to Mom she said she was putting some stuff in her sister's garage sale so I though that was the plan. Oh, and when I say "talked" I mean texted. We don't talk. Ever. Which is why we get along so well now. I didn't realize that somewhere along the line the plans changed and Mom ended up having her own sale. It didn't matter to me, I'm far enough away that I might as well be on another planet, which is another reason why our relationship has improved.

My only involvement in the garage sale process was to help my mother price some of the items which she felt had a value equivalent to that of The Holy Grail. When she first asked I suggested she use the same pricing structure that my genius friend Melanie uses. She doesn't price anything at her garage sales. She tells people to get what they want, bring it to her and together they will come up with a price that everyone agrees on. I think that's brilliant, especially if your goal is to get rid of stuff.

Mom didn't like that idea, I think because it was too easy. Instead, she asked me to troll eBay to find out how much she could get for her collection of Avon soaps, whiskey decanters from the 70s and some Madame Alexander dolls with missing limbs.  I told her that if she can find someone who collects disabled Madame Alexander dolls, she could probably get $10 for her collection. Otherwise they're worth $.25. Evidently Mom failed to hear the sarcasm in my typing. I should have reminded her that stuff is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it. At a garage sale they're willing to pay a quarter.

Since that was my only contribution to the garage sale I sort of forgot about it until Shamayn called and asked if I was ready to hear about her weekend in hell. I figure since she has to saddle all of the responsibility for our parents, the least I can do is pretend to listen intently while she vents about them.

Shamayn told Mom she couldn't be at the sale on Saturday and since it was Friday she figured Mom had everything under control. We sometimes delude ourselves and forget that nothing is ever easy when it comes to our mother. The simple act of getting out of bed is a dramatic event of migraine inducing proportions for the woman. If she has to do more than sit in her chair and breathe, she freaks out and spews freak out on everyone around her. I love my mom, I really do, but this is just the reality of her.

At 3 p.m. on Friday afternoon Mom called Shamayn to ask if Mike, Mayn's husband, could go to the rental place to pick up the tables she rented for Saturday's sale. Who rents tables for a garage sale?! My mother does. And she waits until the last possible minute to ask someone to pick them up (and pay for them!) for her.

That's about par for the Course of Mom so Mike picked up the tables and all was well until around 7 p.m. when Mom called again. This time she told Shamayn she needed her to go buy some balloons and posterboard. No, she did not ask Shamayn if she would do this favor for her, she merely stated what she needed done and expected Mayn to do it. And she did. We've been brainwashed trained.

My mother is living breathing castor oil. Experience has taught us that it's easier to just hold our breath, do what she says and get it over with as quickly as possible. Arguing, refusing, complaining, suggesting an alternative or any other spoken words on our part would only result in a hysterical fit that would last for days and would only end after we admitted our mistake. Mayn took the castor oil.

Considering the timing and since it was just for a garage sale, Shamayn wasn't willing to put a whole lot of effort into the task. Mom specifically requested red and white helium balloons and past experience has taught us that showing up with any other color would be a killing offense. Mayn knew she could probably get everything at the Dollar Tree. They were out of white posterboard so she had to get red, thinking that since it was within the designated color scheme it would be okay. They didn't have regular red and white balloons but they did have the bigger mylar ones which are fancier so that's what she got. They were the right color, just not the type of balloon Mom was expecting.

When she got back to Mom's house Mayn caught holy hell for not getting the right kind of balloons or the right color of posterboard. Mom carried on as if the entire garage sale was now completely ruined and it was all Mayn's fault. This was traumatizing when we were children but now that we're grown (and certifiably insane because of it) we tend to roll our eyes and shrug it off as best we can. Mayn told Mom that this is what the store had so this is what she's getting and will have to make the best of it.

Mom told (not asked) Mayn to make a sign for the Avon soaps. Because they need their own special sign. Shamayn wrote out the sign then had to listen to Mom complain about how no one could read it on the red posterboard. If Shamayn had showed up with a custom built 10 foot neon sign for the Avon soaps, Mom would still have been pissed because it wasn't the white posterboard that she wanted. She then told Mayn to make more unreadable signs to put in the neighborhood.

When that was done she instructed Shamayn to have Mike put the signs out before 6 a.m. on Saturday morning. Mom looked at each sign and told Shamayn where she wanted each one (they were all the same) to go. She said, "Put this one at the end of the driveway. Put this one in the ditch at Doug's old house. Don't put it in the yard or the new owner will get mad. Put this one at the curve by the entrance. Make sure it's facing the right way so people can see it."

Then she handed Shamayn some stakes and a handful of screws with instructions to use these specific screws...don't use nails or staples. She said, "Put the screws here, here and here...not here."

Then she grabbed the balloons and said, "Put a white balloon with this sign, a red one with this sign, a white one here...".

To appease our mother, Shamayn wrote instructions for Mike on the back of each sign, "Put this f***ing sign in the yard. Put this f***ing sign at Doug's old house. Put this f***ing sign wherever the hell you want to." Those little passive/aggressive gems bring us such joy.

Shamayn reminded Mom that she would NOT be there tomorrow to help with the sale then she went home, took a handful of Ativan and went to bed.

At 6 a.m. on Saturday morning Mike got up, drove over to my mother's neighborhood and put out all the signs. At 7 a.m. Shamayn's phone rang and when she picked it up she heard, "HE FORGOT THE BALLOONS!!  MIKE FORGOT THE BALLOONS!!!! NO ONE WILL SEE THE SIGNS WITHOUT BALLOONS!!" Oh my gosh, the world had come to an end. Mike forgot to put balloons out with the garage sale signs. Actually Mike didn't forget, Shamayn forgot to give them to him which was probably a subconscious act of passive/aggressive rebellion. Shamayn assured Mom that she could still have a profitable garage sale without balloons but she knew that if Mom didn't make what she was expecting, it would forever be Mike's fault for forgetting the balloons. I have a vision in my head of us sitting around the dinner table at Christmas and Mom says, "Well, I'm sorry we only have a 16 pound turkey this year but it's all I could afford since Mike forgot the balloons."

Before she hung up Mom said, "You're coming to help later today right?" Shamayn reminded her, again, that she was not going and she didn't go. Good for her!

Evidently Mom was pleased with the outcome of her sale despite the big balloon fiasco. She didn't sell very many of the hundreds of hotel soaps she had collected and priced at $.10 each. She literally put a $.10 price tag on each and every little bar of soap. Bless her heart.

That's half of the crazy I was raised by. Yesterday I was reminded that you can't be raised by that kind of crazy and not be affected in some way. I was having a text conversation with my mother when I guess I accidentally called her while I was carrying my phone downstairs. Those touch screens can be so sensitive. When I looked down at the phone and saw that it was dialing I knew I was screwed because even if I hung up really fast she would see the caller i.d. and call me right back. Dammit, I had to talk to her.

We had a pleasant conversation mostly about the decluttering my mother is doing now that she's retired. She found a piece of paper that I wrote 20 years ago and she kept. I don't remember it but apparently I was going out of town for a weekend and leaving Taylor overnight with my mother for the first time. Taylor wasn't a year old yet and it was probably the first time I'd left her overnight anywhere. The paper was the instructions I wrote for Mom which she read to me:

"When Taylor wakes up in the morning give her a bottle and some cereal. Sometimes she eats lots of cereal and won't take her bottle but sometimes she just wants the bottle and not so much cereal. Either way is okay. She'll take a short nap in the morning and when you lay her down she should go right to sleep. If she doesn't just pat her back for a minute. Close the door because she's very sound sensitive....And put this one in the ditch at Doug's old house, but not in the yard. And put the screws here, here and here but not here....."

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Alien Helmets, Haunting Regrets and Definitely Not a Chamber Pot

The little antique shop down the street from me, Vintage Gifts and Antiques, was having an open house last weekend so I picked up a few things that were on sale. And a few that were not.

I've been looking for an old wooden ladder ever since I saw an awesome one at an antique store in Lafayette a couple of years ago. I can't find the picture I took but it was a 6' wooden ladder that was covered in years worth of paint drips and rust. It was amazing. And it was over $100.

This little jewel was tucked in a corner and I was afraid it might be someone's actual step ladder that they were using. When I pulled it out I was was SO excited to see a price tag on it! And I was even more excited to see that it was $25 and the booth was having a 25% off sale! I grabbed that sucker PDQ. I haven't decided exactly where it will live or what will be on it, but it will be fabulous I'm sure.

My second big ticket item (over $20) was this most excellent brass bucket. It's large and heavy and has a strange engraving on it that is either some kind of maker's mark or carved by aliens. I don't know what it was used for but it's definitely not a lidless chamber pot. I know this for sure because I would not buy a chamber pot.
Oh the patina, the patina!!
I see letters, numbers and a swirlie thing.

I nearly had to bust an old lady in the kneecaps to get this away from her but it would have been worth it. It's a very weathered table leg that will eventually be...a more nicely weathered table leg. Or something. I'm kicking around a few ideas. The shop had about a dozen different legs like this and they were being snatched up fast at $6 each.

I added a few more doilies to my collection. I don't care much for doilies as doilies but I do like some of the fun things I've seen made from them. I don't know which fun thing I will make but I know it will be fun. I look for the handmade doilies that are $1 because they have some kind of stain on them. I can almost always get the stain out.

I also have a small collection of those vintage folding rulers but I didn't have a folding yard stick so I picked this one up. Hey, maybe I'll display all of them in my new brass bucket!

I use little trays like this all over the place to set stuff on or to hold beads or art supplies that I'm using. The tag said this was brass but I knew it wasn't. It was only a couple of dollars so I bought it hoping that there would be a silver finish underneath. Sure enough there was! It appears to be plated nickel silver and it's also the piece I'm going to experiment with when I try the recipe I found for removing silver plating. Nickel silver and tin can be really pretty on their own and I prefer that to cheesy silver plating. 
Brass colored but not brass.
All cleaned up.

I bought these because they were unusual and I like them. Right now the salt and pepper shakers I keep next to my stove are a couple of Coronita bottles fitted with shaker caps that a most helpful waiter at a Mexican restaurant gave to me about 20 years ago. They went nicely with the set of jelly jar drinking glasses I used to use. I guess now that I'm almost grown up I should probably put grown up shakers like these next to my stove.

These live in my art room with glitter in them.

You hardly ever see a Mellin jar with its lid still in tact and they always cost more than the couple of dollars I paid for this one. This is the sample sized jar and the beautiful blue/green glass doesn't show up well in the picture. Containers are my friends and right now this one is holding the extra box knife blades I'm using while cutting slots into a stack of old books to make a floating shelf out of. I should probably put some Band-Aids in there too. And a tourniquet.

I normally don't give copper bowls a second look but this one caught my attention for  three reasons: First, it hangs. That makes it a convenient container. (See above container references for established relationship.) Second, it was etched with a tribal looking design. The design so totally doesn't go with my shabby chic house but the overall coolness of the etching was sucking me in. Third, it was tarnished beyond tarnish. It was almost Oompa Loompa orange. It needed my help. I knew it would be a challenge but $6 was a small price to pay for something potentially fabulous.

Had I known just exactly what it would take to clean this bowl I would have left it in the store. The tarnish was very firmly attached. It was almost like it was tarnish plated. It mocked me as I spent 3 solid hours scrubbing it with vinegar and salt, Brasso, Noxon and whatever toxic combinations of those things I could come up with. It ate 3 Mr. Clean Magic Erasers. Even steel wool required aggressive elbow grease to get through the funky orange patina...which was more tolerable when I sang funky orange patina to the tune of Funky Cold Medina.

I knew the cleaning process would also remove the black from the etched areas but I wasn't worried about that since I have liver of sulfur to put them back in. However, I decided not to since the etching still shows up nicely and without the oxidation it blends better with my house.

There is something strange about this bowl. I'm not exactly a metallurgist but you really don't have to be to know that metals like copper and silver will naturally tarnish when exposed to air. This process usually takes some time. However...this bowl retarnishes itself almost instantly. I am NOT kidding. I didn't notice it until after I had cleaned the outside of the bowl and started working on the inside. After scrubbing for a while I flipped the bowl over and saw that the areas I had scrubbed so hard to get back to their natural pink were already turning orange again! And a couple of spots were even going to purple/black right before my eyes. Unlike the old tarnish, this new tarnish was very easy to clean off but every time I did it came back in under a minute. That just shouldn't be.

After I removed as much of the funky orange patina as I could, I quickly sealed the bowl to stop the tarnishing. Or at least slow it down. I had to do this in small sections: clean then seal real fast, clean another part then seal real fast, etc. It was a pain, but worth it.

So how does one seal metal to keep it from tarnishing, you ask? Well as all good domestics know, you wax it. You can buy pricey Renaissance Wax which I might do if I was going to eat out of this bowl but since I'm not some good ol' car wax outta the garage will work just fine. I prefer the Meguiar's spray-on liquid wax. I used 3 coats and the bowl was so dang reflective it was hard to get a picture of the engraving on the bottom.

I get the "Handmade in Columbia" and "Copper Art" part and I guess MT 6 is the artist's or manufacturer's mark. Or it could possibly be another alien stamp which might explain the instant tarnishing. Maybe it's not copper at all. Maybe it's special alien metal that can't breath our earth air and that's why it tarnishes so fast. Maybe it's not a bowl either. Maybe it's a hat. Next time you see a homeless person with his head wrapped in tin foil you will remember these words and understand how he got there.

I saw a few other interesting things that I didn't buy but probably should have. I really, really want this scale. It's the perfect size and color, it's worn in all the right spots, the pointer has a lovely shape, and I even love the number font. I just couldn't make myself pay the $29 they were asking for it. I'm going to wait a couple of weeks and see if it's still there when I go back. If it is, I'll take that as a divine sign that I'm supposed to buy it.

This lovely teal adding machine has been in the store for quite some time. I would love to have it because it's quirky and the color rocks but it's one of those things that doesn't have a purpose other than being decorative. I like things that have more than one purpose. I like things I can set stuff on or put stuff in or cover stuff with or turn into other stuff. This just sits there. It's going to have to try harder if it wants to come home with me.

I already have about a dozen of these but my hoarding gene makes me want more. Lots more. Like this whole tub full. And I think I need the tub too.

I'm not really into carnival glass but this pitcher caught my eye because it's the same color as the ram's head carnival glass bowl I have that used to be my grandmother's. They would make such a lovely set. Unfortunately this dealer failed to check eBay before pricing their pitcher at $65 instead of the much more reasonable $20ish going rate. 
Bad lighting in Harry Potter's room.

I think someone should go buy this frog jar right away. He needs a home. Just not MY home.

I saw this old Alka Seltzer bottle in the shop a few weeks ago and after much mental debate I decided I really didn't need it so I left it there. Now it's gone and I will forever regret not buying it. It's a container, I could have put stuff in it. Plus, it matches my house perfectly. And it was a measly $6. Why didn't I buy it?! I could have set it next to the adding machine, giving the adding machine the purpose of accompanying the oh-so-useful bottle. It's regrets like these that will haunt me until my dying breath.