Monthly Archives: March 2015

On the ground and in the air

The shoes go marching two by two

On a rainy Northwest afternoon that wasn’t good for much else, I decided to take the shoe challenge. Eric teases me and calls me “Imelda,” a label I reject. Exactly how many shoes do I have? I marched them out to the parade grounds for review. I dragged shoes out of the closet, from behind doors, from under the bed, and from the foyer. Here they are—a mere 63 pairs.

shoes covering bed

Big Chex was minding his own business, catnapping on his favorite corner of the bed, so I just arranged the shoes around him. He awoke to find himself a kitty in shoeland … and he was freaked out. He clambered around the strange landscape and even tried laying on some of the flatter shoes, obviously desperate to communicate his angst. Defeated, he left for the living room. Poor baby—you can see the stress on his face in these photos.

black and white cat amongst shoes

black and white cat laying on shoes

My shoe collection is fairly utilitarian, long on comfort and practicality but a little short on style. Carrie Bradshaw, I’m not—not a four-inch heel among them. I was surprised to see that most of them are in good shape, even though they have many miles on them. Nearly all of them are walking shoes, or colorful summer office sandals, or boring winter office shoes, or sport sandals and flip-flops. A scant handful are slightly dressy. Apparently I have a thing for hiking shoes. I have three pairs, but it has been years since Eagle Scout Eric and I have gone for a hike.

Eagle Scout poked his head in the door and guessed, “About 60 pairs?” And then he said: “That doesn’t seem like a lot of shoes compared to some women.” Yes. He said that.

In the end, I tossed six pairs because they were wearing out or I figured no one would want them, and bagged another six for charity because they were too big, too small, or too painful. I’m down only a dozen, but that’s progress. (That means I can buy a dozen replacements!)

I dismissed the shoes back to their quarters, picked up Checkers in the living room, apologized to him and escorted him back to his nap spot. He wasted no time resuming his nap.

sleeping cat

Notice anything different in this view? The Heap is gone! All put away. You didn’t know that heap of clothes was hiding my grandma’s copper-trimmed cedar hope chest, did you? Now it’s glowing in the light once more, as it should be.



cedar chest and cellular shade

Inside the chest’s cover, written in pencil, is something like a date (2/10 1911) and a model number (m 53) and possibly a price (16.50). My grandma would have been a young woman in the early years of the Twentieth Century.

interior of cedar chest

Above the cedar chest, we’ve ditched the old miniblinds and installed new Levolor cellular shades, just like the ones in the library, except these are translucent white. Top-down/bottom-up … perfect for blocking out neighbors but still stealing a glimpse of night sky.

top-down bottom-up shades

Next to the bed, I also tossed the worn and stained IKEA paper lamp and replaced it with this porcelain beauty, which you might recognize from that visit to my parents’ house back in 1952 Milwaukee. It was one of their wedding presents, and I dare any cat to knock it over! It’s beautiful, it’s vintage, and it’s sooo much classier than that IKEA lamp.



bedside table and lamp

If you look closely, you can see where three-year-old D’Arcy took a pencil and traced the outline of the leaves. Mom was not impressed.

lamp close-up showing pencil lines

The room feels so much bigger now that it’s tidied up. It would feel downright spacious if Duke’s bed weren’t taking up all the free floor space, but that’s non-negotiable.

Look—up in the sky!

This weekend when I was out in the garden, I spied a little blue radio-controlled helicopter that had crashed in the bushes, or maybe one of our wily cats brought it down. Eric and I joked about it being a drone and set it on the fence in the hope that its owner would find it.

RC helicopter

Later that day, I was on the deck and heard a strange mechanical whirr above my head. I looked up and saw a real drone hovering high over our house! I ran in and called Eric, who had the presence of mind to grab his camera.


With a mixture of fascination and alarm I waved at the drone as if it were a living thing. It saw me. It quickly descended low over our yard to check us out, then zoomed off to a neighbor’s house a few doors away. Eric and I beat feet down the alley to investigate. We found a not-very-talkative young man controlling the drone from his back stoop. I have no reason to think he was up to anything other than playing with his high-tech toy, but it made me glad that we installed the new blinds. Sigh … I guess the days of topless sunbathing in the backyard are over! (Just kidding, of course. They were over years ago.)



Hangin’ out in my kitchen

It’s been a long time coming, but Eric and I finally have started to rehang some of the art and artifacts that used to populate the kitchen walls. Let’s see what’s hanging around! (Warning: This post contains potentially shocking unstaged photos! Yes, and a Lava Lamp.)

sink and stove corner

Starting on the right side of the sink wall: When we were back in Vermont for Maddie and Holly’s wedding last spring, I snagged this little mirrored door as a souvenir from the amazing, frozen-in-time Pond Store (next to the Victorian B&B where we stayed). Hung on Mother Hubbard’s flank, the mirror is mounted so I can stand at the sink and peek down the street to the west. I get a kick out of this for some reason.

old door with mirror

To the left of the sink we’ve hung a collection of antique iron trivets. Some are from my family, some are from Eric’s. It helps to marry someone who can contribute to your stash of memorabilia. Beneath them, our beleaguered papyrus plant which, despite its armored pot, takes frequent abuse from our cat, Fred. Who can resist a plant with tassels?

5 trivets

And above the sink, hanging from the cornice molding, is my collection of egg beaters. I grew up with the one in the center and used it until just recently. Any one of them can beat the living daylights out of their modern replacement. For the curious, they are, from left:

  • High Speed Super Center Drive, A&J, 1930
  • Turbine Egg Beater, Cassaday Fairbanks Mfg. Co., Chicago, IL 1912
  • Hi-Speed A&J Beater, Ecko Products, USA, 1940-50
  • Light Running, Taplin Mfg. Co., New Britain, CN 1908
  • Ladd Beater, United Royalties Corp., New York, 1908

5 vintage egg beaters

my favorite egg beater

Over in the corner by the door to the dining room is the wooden phone that hung in my parent’s kitchen for many years. I’m unsure of its origin in our family. Perhaps my dad, a kitchen designer, bought it from a client, or maybe it came from his parents. It’s a Stromberg-Carlson model with a Kellogg mouthpiece patented in 1901. Unfortunately, it’s been gutted—no more working parts—but it makes a cute little stash cabinet for something small. And how can you not love that face … you just know he would never divulge your secrets.

wooden wall phone

In the breakfast room, the first thing you’ll notice are the two salvaged stained glass panels that hang in the upper portion of our windows. Not only do they look beautiful in the morning sun, but they help block the view of our neighbors across the alley.

breakfast room through the arch

two stained glass windows

Between the windows is an antique candy thermometer, mounted on wood. I know my dad got this from a client, along with this book of handwritten candy recipes. No, I’ve never made any of them. I have plenty to do besides making a huge sticky mess in my kitchen! (Besides, I’d just eat them. Coconut caramels … mmmm.)

candy thermometer and recipe book

I believe this insurance advertisement with a 1901 calendar came from my paternal grandpa’s florist business office in Milwaukee. It hung in my parents’ office when I was a teenager, and now it’s in my breakfast room. It’s framed in a strange kind of pressed fiberboard, painted gold.

1901 insurance ad

On the north wall of the breakfast room is my beloved collection of fruit crate labels. Years ago I found these at an antique show. The vendor was getting rid of his entire stock and I bought a bunch for 50 cents apiece. I shoulda bought ’em all! For over 15 years they languished in a bag until I decoupaged them onto pine boards. No doubt it ruined their collectible value, but they’re mine, so I don’t care. I’d rather enjoy them on the wall than in a bag. I love these colorful graphics. The themes are so American.

fruit crate art on wall

Up n' Atom carrots label

Over the stove: I recently bought this rod and hook set from IKEA without really knowing what I’d hang from it. I gathered up a few odds and ends, not necessarily permanent: ice tongs, a crust cutter, a wire whisk, an old sieve, and a spidery gizmo for piercing holes in cookie dough.

antiques hanging over stove

The jury’s still out on what to do on the shelf and wall behind the stove and fridge. The shelf is formed by the posterior of the dining room’s built-in buffet. Eventually we plan to install more cabinets there, but that won’t happen any time soon (and maybe never, at the rate we move). Until then, it’s an awkward spot that’s hard to reach and great for catching dust.

My parents received the big aluminum tray as a wedding present (a popular gift item in the 1940s). When I was a little kid, my dad spray painted the tray copper, which has faded to a mellow glow. I’ve always been charmed by its circling flowers (daffodils?), especially the one in the middle that looks like it’s chasing its tail. The tray is the queen of the wall, with her ladies in waiting sitting at her feet: an enamel coffee pot, a flour sifter, an oil lamp, a coffee samovar (from my mom’s family), a venerable wooden Pepsi case (which I may or may not have filched from someplace during college), and a jug found in my crawlspace when I moved in.

aluminum tray and flour sifter

“Okay,” you say, “You have a lot of stuff. How’s the stuff in the bedroom coming along?” I’m happy to report the drawers, linen closet, and bedroom closet have been purged, eight bags of clothes donated to charity, and Eric is about to start building our bedframe! More on all that in due time!