Promises, Promises

Nothing is as easy to make as a promise this winter to do something next summer; this is how commencement speakers are caught.  ~Sydney J. Harris

Yes, well.  I can vouch for this.  The call came in September.  Would you be available to speak to a group of students on March 1st? at five o’clock?   Of course, I said agreeably.  After all March 1st was farrrrrr away—it was after Christmas, for heaven’s sake.  And, March 1st is a Tuesday; really, what are the chances of a conflict?  What’s that you say?  Oh yes, one hundred percent chance of conflict.  (Like having to be a five-hour drive away in Saint Simon’s Island, Georgia, for an 8 am Wednesday meeting.)

Still, a promise is a promise.

So, on Tuesday, March 1, I will be the guest speaker for about 50 senior university students for their final Apparel, Textile and Design Forum.  (Yes, secretly—well, not secretly anymore—I have a life other than the one I write about here.  Don’t be shocked; I know you do, too.  Have another life, that is.  If not, then, well, you might be over-sharing, just a bit.)

I’ll be talking about fair trade and batik and Peruvian knits and ata grass and well, some other stuff, too.  Stuff like retail experience, and customer service, and color stories.  And faith-based businesses.

The inviting professor called me to confirm early last week.  Tuesday, March 1st, 5 pm.   Right.

I mentioned that I would like to bring along some sample fabrics and clothing, so I would need a small table.  I was told that was fine, and that I could have access to the room at 4:50.  Seriously?!  A whole ten minutes to set up?  Welllllll, okay, I can be quick. 

My next question was if there would be someone with technical expertise to help me connect my laptop to a projector so that I could show some photos of artisans and so on.  A long pause followed.  I sensed trouble, so I offered to bring my images on a dvd or usb, if that would make things easier.  I think I remember hearing throat-clearing before I was told that this particular room didn’t have a screen or a projector, and that there would be no one to help me.

Did I mention that I am supposed to speak for 40 minutes?  No pictures, no Power Point, it’s just gonna be me.

Plan on a generous Q and A session, kids.

The best way to sound like you know what you're talking about is to know what you're talking about.  ~Author Unknown

Although I wouldn’t say I’m a seasoned public speaker, I’ve had some opportunities and I actually enjoy it sometimes.  Still, forty minutes is quite a bit. of. time.  And, frankly, I’m floored that I’m supposed to speak to design students without the benefit of visuals.  I suppose I will rely on the above advice as well as the advice below.

Always be shorter than anybody dared to hope.  ~Lord Reading

 Photography by Charles Ryan Barber. 
For more information about the clothing featured here, email Town and Country Mom.

Time Travel

My life is full, and I am grateful.  Some days, though, I wish that the pace could be a bit slower.  Maybe you feel that way from time to time, too.   If so, I’ve found the perfect respite in Micanopy, Florida.  Only a short drive off Interstate 75, Micanopy (pronounced MICK-uh-nope-ee) is a place where time truly seems to stand still.

Established in 1821, Micanopy’s town fathers recorded  600 residents.  Today, there are about 650.
Cholokka Boulevard is the town’s main street and the address of the Episcopal Church of the Mediator, where the Mister and I were able to take a quiet walk around the churchyard.
IMG_3545 From the church, we walked right over to the Mosswood Farm Store and Bake House to have a cup of coffee.IMG_3546 Of course, once inside we browsed through the organic and fair trade offerings before making our way to the bakery counter.  We split a small spinach feta tart while we sat outside, listening to the chirping birds.IMG_3549Just across the street is the magnificent antebellum Herlong Mansion, where preparations for a wedding were underway.IMG_3547IMG_3548
Next time, I hope to take a look around the interior.  IMG_3554Micanopy’s quiet streets are home to several antiques shops.  Old Florida items seem to be the focus, with everything ranging from Native American pieces to Henry Flagler era items to the most kitschy souvenirs you can imagine. IMG_3550The “garage” building in the photo above was part of the streetscape for the 1991 film Doc Hollywood, which was filmed in Micanopy.  The movie starred Michael J. Fox, who portrayed a young doctor on his way to Los Angeles. While en route, he caused a car accident in the fictional town of Grady and was sentenced a week’s community service in the local hospital.  It was during filming that Fox first noticed signs of early onset Parkinson’s disease.  The town of Micanopy has continued to celebrate its moment in the sun by establishing a Doc Hollywood event, which honors a local, rural physician and raises funds for Parkinson’s research at the nearby University of Florida in Gainesville. IMG_3556Today, the garage building houses a used bookstore, with room after room filled with out-of-print and esoteric volumes. IMG_3555 This is one of two used bookstores in Micanopy, and the Mister and I wandered around both for a good long while as classical music played.
After that, we had a bowl of black bean soup and yellow rice on the patio of the Old Florida Cafe.  Then, we took a meandering drive through the live oaks to the Mister’s folks’ house and celebrated his beautiful mother’s 77th birthday!
Talk about time standing still!

Orange Blossom Special

IMG_3509A trip to Florida wouldn’t be compete without a trip to a Lake County citrus grove.IMG_3503  The Mister and I are blessed to have a friend who manages an organic grove on the outskirts of Mount Dora.IMG_3511Even after a long day of antiquing, we were not too tired to pick a few tangelos.  “Fresh from the grove taste” is more than an advertising slogan.  IMG_3538These beauties have seen no dye, no fertilizer, no pest control, and they are delicious! IMG_3516 And the grapefruit!


True love is sectioning about fifteen pounds of grapefruit for the Mister and me.  We have it in the morning, and often for dessert, too.  I love it on mixed greens with slices of avocado for lunch.

Do you love citrus, too?

Finders and Keepers

Up at 5:15, I crept about my in-laws’ guest bedroom in the pitch dark to get ready for my day of antiquing.  At exactly 6:05 my sisters-in-law pulled up outside the cabin, and we were off on our annual adventure.  It’s a two-hour drive to Renninger’s, but the time went quickly as we solved the world’s problems and alternately discussed what we hoped to find at the Extravaganza.  IMG_3501

We scored a parking space at the bottom of the hill, which may seem insignificant at eight, but it is of utmost importance at five in the afternoon.  We breezed through the gate, thanks to a dealer friend who sends us three-day passes each year, and we were off to the indoor dealers.  As a courtesy to Renninger’s permanent dealers, the indoor stalls open at eight; the outdoor booths may not sell until ten.  Most dealers abide by this code, nevertheless, I am always eager to get outside and get going. 

First find of the day were these sweet thumb back chairs with solid plank seats.  The one on the right still has some of the original red paint.  IMG_3527

They’re just simple country Windsor chairs with good signs of wear and nice turnings, perfect to hold towels in a bathroom or to serve as an extra chair in a kitchen or informal bedroom.  Of course, I ask, What’s your best price?  How about ten a piece?  My reply is that I’ll be by to pick them up before the show closes.IMG_3537Next up, a brass lamp.  Heavy.  This was marked $80 with a shade I didn’t particularly care for, which turned out to be my bargaining chip.  When asked her best price, the dealer came down to $60 right away, and I countered with $55 if she kept the shade, which I thought looked a little too new and “Targetish” for this lamp.  Deal.  Now the question for you, Dear Readers, is shall I polish it to a gleam or leave its patina?

I still have a lot to learn about Imari, but I’m studying and trying to get the “feel” for what’s really old.    I love the navy, the rusty red and the bright spring green on these pieces.  IMG_3529 I tend to like the less formal pieces, those without any gold trim.  IMG_3530I’ve seen similar Imari in design, weight, and wear priced much higher, so I jumped at this scalloped bowl and plate.  Marked at $48 and $45, respectively, I got both pieces for $70.


This dealer had several more plates, and I am wishing I had bitten the bullet and bought them all, as I’ve seen them recently in the $80 to $150 range here in town.  I love how they look in our living room secretary.IMG_3578

Another favorite that I’ve gotten rather hooked on collecting, much to the amusement of my sisters-in-law and the Mister, are miniature brass fireplace fenders.   I know, crazy.  But I love them!  The debate rages as to whether they were made for dollhouses or as salesmen’s samples (which is what I think), but they add just a bit of brightness and interest to a bookshelf or tabletop.  So far, I’ve yet to see two alike.  Of course, I have only seen three for sale in the past two years, and I’ve bought them all.  This one is rather dinged up, but they are so hard to find that I really didn’t hesitate.IMG_3534  This show’s addition to my collection cost a mere, well, never mind; I think the Mister does read this.  Let’s just say that comparatively speaking it was a great buy and leave it at that.

My last two finds include a brass-knobbed walking stick, which was just not that interesting when photographed, but it does look good in my umbrella stand, and this charming gent. IMG_3575

I’ve had a thing for silhouettes for years, but I’ve only recently been collecting them.  This piece appears to have  a wedding announcement on the back, stating Lovell-Pugh.  On the 23d inst., at St. George’s, Hanover-square, by the Venerable the Archdeacon Clive, Peter Audley Lovell, Esq. of Cole Park, Wilts, to Mary Jane, youngest daughter of David Pugh, Esq., M.P. of Montgomeryshire.  Handwritten below is what looks like February 1857.  Again I have a lot to learn (starting with, does the gentleman’s costume fit the time and occasion?), but that’s part of the fun.  I paid $40 for this obviously hand-cut silhouette.

Did I mention that the Mister came to meet us for the second half of the day?  Well, he did, and we had a lot of fun, but the Mister needs care and feeding, so we stopped for a quick bite at one of the market’s many food vendors.


While we were scarfing down our sandwiches and chatting with a nice lady from Maine, I glanced up and recognized Eddie Ross and Jaithan Kochar walking up the hill!  In a most out-of-character moment, I excused myself and hopped up to chase after them!  I caught up with them at the next chow wagon, where I managed to blurt out that I didn’t want to bother them, but I just had to tell them how much I enjoyed their work in various magazines and their blog.  They could not have been more gracious.  Eddie even found a gentleman to take a photo of the three of us!  They were at Renninger’s on assignment for Southern Living magazine.  They will be doing a feature called In With the Old, which makes its debut in the May issue—I can’t wait!  Read all about it here.IMG_3496

So here we are under the oaks.  I loved that Eddie and Jaithan were carrying LL Bean camouflage bags, but I guess I’ll have to wait a few months to see the  finds they were toting!

Thanks so much, Eddie and Jaithan, for taking a few minutes to talk with me.  I hope we run into each other again sometime!  In the meantime, I look forward to keeping up with you at Eddie Ross {dot} com.

Be Really Prepared

Finally, it’s time to go antiquing! IMG_3495

My sisters-in-law and I have been going to Renninger’s Extravaganzas together for at least 14 years.  Renninger’s has markets in Pennsylvania as well as in Florida; each market hosts a variety of fairs and special events in addition to its Extravaganzas, which include upward of 1000 dealers.  The Mount Dora Extravaganza is held three times a year—the weekend before Thanksgiving in November; Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend in January; and President’s Day weekend in February.  Throughout the year, the Antiques Center is open every Saturday and Sunday.  The Center features more than 100 permanent dealers, and is definitely worth an afternoon of shopping if you are visiting the Orlando area.

Above is an aerial photo of the vast Extravaganza.  Most of the cars are parked under the trees in the far right of the picture.  The permanent building is the E-shaped structure in the lower left.  There are also two open-air covered buildings, and the rest are tents!  For us, it’s an all-day event, and sometimes a two-day affair.

So, of course, we’ve done our homework and now it’s time to get down to business.   A few helpful tools are always with me when I go antiquing, and it’s smart to bring a few “comforts” along, too.


First, comfortable shoes are essential.  Next, a good tote bag.  This one has been my faithful companion for probably ten years now, and I bought it at Kmart, of all places!  This bag works well for me because of the outside zippered pocket, which is where I stash the cash.  I carry a few other things in an inside pocket, and I still have a lot of room to store any “smalls” (antique lingo for items that can be hand-carried).   Now, I have other, cuter totes, but I like this one for antiquing because of its utility and its generic appearance.  It’s not as easy to drive a hard bargain when you’re obviously carrying an expensive bag.


What’s in the bag? 

Flashlight, small but powerful.  I carry a tiny red Maglite, which is useful for reading marks on porcelain and silver as well as for examining plane marks and joints on old wood pieces.

Magnet.  Solid brass will not hold a magnet; pot metal plated with brass will.  If one knows the difference, one will not have to pay the difference.

Reading glasses and a magnifying glass or jeweler’s loupe.  Again, these are sometimes necessary to read marks on silver and porcelain.IMG_3500

Measuring tape and the measurement of any “spots” that I’m hoping to fill.  I don’t limit myself strictly to furniture placement.  It’s helpful to know things like the depth of  shelves or the distance between the top of the secretary and the ceiling.

Cold, hard cash.  Most dealers will accept checks and many are even equipped to take credit cards, but in a free-wheeling market like Renninger’s, cash is still king.  IMG_3497

In my “Antiques” notebook, I keep several running lists.  First is my “get list,” or what I hope to find on this particular trip.  There are some items I’m always looking for and next to those I’ll note the last price I paid.  This is also the place to record any booths I may want to return to later in the day (I’ve learned the hard way that I will not remember the location or number!)

Other necessities are hand sanitizer, Band-Aids, a bottle of water, sunscreen, and some lightweight snacks. 

My last bit of advice is that I if you love it, buy it.  I’ve made some buys that I regretted (and in time they all found new homes), but I still think about a few things I let get away.

Tomorrow I’ll post about this year’s finds and my celebrity sighting!  In the meantime, do you have any favorite finds—or ones that got away?

I’m linking up to Inspiration Friday at The Picket Fence!

Be Prepared

We are home after a wonderful President’s Day weekend in the Sunshine State, and I have lots to tell you about, including a celebrity meet-up (!), but first, I want to recount my annual visit to Renninger’s Antique Extravaganza in Mount Dora, Florida.  And I’m going to start at the very beginning.

Recently I was asked by a new reader if I “antiqued” or if I “junked” or both.   Good question.


Now, in my mind, the junker is someone who sees old (and usually not valuable) items and is able to envision creating something new from them.  No doubt we’ve all seen headboards painted and fashioned into garden benches or window screens transformed into jewelry storage.  I don’t junk; I’m not that clever.IMG_3499

So, I “antique,” although that doesn’t mean everything—or even much—of what I buy is in pristine condition.  I have managed to accumulate some pieces that when delivered required nothing more than a light dusting, but that’s not always the case.  And although, it is fun to buy something that’s “perfect” from an established dealer, who knows my taste and has become a friend of sorts, it is just as much fun to find something unexpected and perhaps needing a bit of work, say a good waxing.  And, of course, it’s always fun to find a deal!IMG_3494

Wisdom tells the job seeker that opportunity favors those who are prepared.  It’s no different for the antiques lover.  Over the course of a lifetime of collecting, there are bound to be a few heart-stopping moments when one is at the right place at the right time and finds something wonderful at the right price, but, for most of us, it’s the thrill of the hunt that lures us into the strip center antique malls or the flea market fields with the same enthusiasm with which we attend high brow antiques shows and drive out of our way to visit renowned dealers. (As an aside, let me say that no matter how small your budget, it is always worth it to seek out the best and to talk to the dealers or their representatives.  There’s no shame in explaining that you’re a new collector or that your budget is small.  Most dealers are eager to talk about their wares and to recommend helpful books and websites.)IMG_3498 

So, how does one prepare to antique?  Study. Study. And continue studying.   

My favorite resources, which I turn to time and again include:

Cover Image

The Antiques Book by Alice Winchester

This the 2007 edition of this classic.  I have both the 1996 edition as well as the 1950 edition of the book that is often referred to as simply as Good, Better, Best.

Ralph Kovel’s Know Your Antiques as well as Thomas Ormsbee’s Field Guide to Early American Furniture and Know Your Heirlooms are wonderful references and, although out of print, can be found on internet auction sites as well as from used book sellers.  Happily, I have found most of my resource books at estate sales.  In addition to books on furniture, there are, as you might imagine, scores of books specializing in silver, porcelain, rugs, jewelry, and so on.  Generally speaking, the older the book the more valuable it is as a reference.  If you are seriously interested in collecting an object, don’t settle for merely studying price guides.  Instead take the time to learn how the object was made along with all the history that surrounds the piece.  You will be a more informed and discerning collector, and, as a result, your collection will grow in both aesthetic and historic and, possibly monetary, value.  I believe that a true collection, thoughtfully built and edited over time, brings pleasure and warmth to a house in ways that the latest decorating trends cannot match.

Do you have any reference books you would recommend?

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