Category Archives: life-threatening clutter

Looking Back, Looking Forward, A Glance Askance.

Look, guys! A post! I’m writing a post!

I was going to post some highlights from 2013, and don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a “bad” year, but when I thought about the moments that really left an impression on me, it turned out that many were, well, not what you’d call highlights. And the happier moments seemed a little wan, comparatively, in the shadows. So, on to 2014. Ad astra per aspera.

Resolutions: I’m not a fan. Oh sure, let’s set lofty goals. Through fault of our own or not, we falter. And we feel bad. I’m not saying you shouldn’t do it. If the dawn of a new year is what it takes for you to stop smoking, then go for it. I know a number of people who have, through hard work and determination, lost those extra pounds (and kept it off, which is really the hardest part and makes dieting look easy). But I haven’t made any resolutions in years. Tell people that, though, and they think you’re a party pooper or a slacker. So here. Here are my reasonable-utions for 2014:

IMG_1183

  • I will re-think—and complete—one particular home décor project. See this canvas? It’s 36×48 and it’s one half of a project that I started in 2005. And by “started,” I mean I bought the pair of canvases, printed one sheet of inkjet decal paper, realized how much ink it ate up, and set the project aside. For eight years.
  • I will reclaim our basement. See all that junk* behind the canvas? The basement is overrun with stuff. In part because this condo has a lot of square footage, but almost none of it is storage space. And in part because I run a business out of the house wherein I sell stuff. And that stuff takes up what little storage space there is. So in 2014, and I’m aiming for January with this, I will try to pare down the excess stuff. I’d say “we,” but this is pretty much my stuff and my responsibility. Craigslist, thrift store donations, private sales via a new, as-yet-to-be-created Instagram account, whatever it takes. I just want it gone.
  • I will finish refinishing our TV trays. 2013 was unofficially the year of Keeping The Dining Table Clean, and we’ve been successful, but we’re still in the habit of eating weeknight dinners off of TV trays while sitting on the sofa and watching an episode of White Collar. However, our trays have been undergoing The World’s Slowest Makeover. What should have taken a few afternoons has actually been on hold for months because I ran into some trouble with the paint I was using and its utter lack of adhesion to the base coat. I’ve since determined that spray paint is really the way to go with this, but as January isn’t really ideal weather for painting outdoors, this project will have to wait a bit longer. However, it will get done.
  • I will not buy any more sewing patterns for my own collection…unless I sew at least 2 things from patterns that I already have. HAhahahahaha. That’s funny.
  • We, collectively with the aid of our almost-too-laid-back vet, will “fix” our darling Ghrey Kitteh’s rather horrifying bouts of atopic dermatitis (eczema). I am determined that she will not feel discomfort any longer than is necessary for us to make adjustments to her care. I realize that we don’t really have much control over this, but I can pretend.
  • I will say “please” and “thank you” when appropriate. I will not return a personal compliment with, “Oh, no, my hair is a mess and this shirt is a terrible color and…” blah, blah, blah.
  • I will not feel guilty about blogging five times a year instead of the old five times a week. If you’re that interested in what I’m up to, you’re probably following me on Instagram anyway.

There are probably a whole lot of other things that could/should go on this list, but I’m trying to keep expectations low. So, how about you? Resolutions or not?

*Not technically junk. But seriously, when you own eight dining chairs but only keep four of them around the table on a daily basis—because if I wanted a dining table that sat eight people all of the time, I wouldn’t have bought a table with an extension leaf—where do you store the other four chairs?!

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Rhapsody in White

gowns upon gowns

gowns upon gowns

Hello, Readers! I miss you so. Here I am, popping in to say, “Hi!” And to write about…well, a little insight into how my addled brain works.

I have a huge (to me, anyway) inventory of vintage goodies in my storage space. Some is listed in the shop, but I’d guess that about â…” to ¾ of it is known only to me. Which really isn’t the point of having it all, now is it? No. But getting it all cleaned, mended, steamed, photographed, measured, and listed…well, that’s rather daunting. Overwhelming, really. My plan of attack in the past has been rather wishy-washy: I grab the closest X number of items that fit a theme (Blouses. Aprons. Party dresses.) and try to haphazardly work from there. But…

My last big shop update was Everything Red. Didn’t matter what it was. I posted dresses, napkins, neckties. All red. My storefront looked like a bordello a bouquet of poppies. It was days of photography, and a few weeks to get it all listed. But it is, and it’s done, and I was feeling pretty accomplished. The plan was to next move on to Purple and Coral. But…

A few of my wedding dress listings expired. They tend to be pretty popular in the Search stats, but a wedding dress isn’t the kind of thing a gal can wear every day so they don’t sell as quickly as a skirt might. Now, I didn’t want to leave those listings in the ether, but I also didn’t want to break up my color blocking on the storefront. Etsy allows shop owners to move listings around to various pages, but it’s a wee bit of a pain. So? So I sat and thought about it and stressed about it didn’t do a dang thing at all. Which is not the way to sell vintage clothing. So…

New plan of attack: Relist the expired wedding dresses. Photograph a few “new” wedding dresses to add to the category (I have 6–7 of them lingering in storage). And then wash/mend/steam/photograph/measure/list Everything White. Great! A Plan! But…

White tends to be a warm-weather color, so while there’s at least one beaded cardigan in the mix, most of this stash is summery blouses and whatnot. And here in the States, it’s nearly Labor Day with crisp Autumn weather nipping at its heels. But…

I do love my AU and NZ customers. They (you) make up an inordinately large percentage of my sales. And I really do apologize from the bottom of my heart for the cost of shipping, but that truly is the cost of shipping to the other side of the planet. Most of you understand that. So, yay! An update for the Southern Latitudes! But…

I know me, and I know how much time I have available to dedicate to the shop. I do what I can when I can, but it’s not my day job. And if I take pretty much the month of September to list Everything White, I’m afraid that I won’t get to autumn wear until winter and so on. So…

With apologies to my AU and NZ customers: I’m going back to a Theme for just a short break. Wedding Dresses (also not the high season, but hey, people get married all the time) will interrupt the color blocking for a short time. After that: look for, say, Navy. And Black. And Olive. And as always, if you’re looking for something in particular, just ask. I’m always happy to go through storage to search for something special for you.

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Checking In

Whoooo-ie, it’s been a while since I’ve had a day “off” to check in with all y’all! I’m not dead. Or even ill. I have been suuuuper busy. I can’t promise that I’ll get back to writing with frequency, but I have made a concerted effort in the last 24 hours to dust off (figuratively) the inventory at Tiddleywink Vintage.

Speaking of Tiddleywink Vintage, some items have been noticeably stolen from the Shoppette. This does not bode well for the continued existence of said Shoppette, so if you’ve been putting off a visit—and the rare ability to try on items—then you’d best get over there before the current lease expires in August. I expected there would be some theft, but it has averaged, dollar-wise, about 30% of actual sales, and that’s more than I’d allowed for.

Speaking of Tiddleywink Design (close enough), good things are afoot. One regular client has given me an unexpected raise, which is flattering, inspires confidence, and is also so very useful. Raises make an excellent gift. And then there’s a brand new client (potentially; contract in the works) that is in for an excellent design piece, should they decide to go ahead with the proposed project. The ideas are flitting around in my head like butterflies. Beautiful, silky, sleepy butterflies. I know I typically focus on the production end of things, but print design still tickles my fancy when the client has, or at least desires, a vision beyond “I don’t know, what does everyone else do?” You would not believe how often I used to hear that, and that is one reason why it’s important to choose clients as carefully (hopefully) as they choose you.

Related: I was chatting with a colleague yesterday, and she put forth an idea about visually testing interviewing clients before accepting a job. She was joking, but I think it’s an excellent idea. Not only will it red-flag designer/client head butting far in advance of any actual disagreement, but it also acts as a way of sussing out the visual style of a person who may have difficulty speaking in terms that us artsy-fartsy types use. I frequently ask clients to send me samples of what they like, even if unrelated to their specific needs, but I think many non-creatives feel overwhelmed by the request or quite frankly don’t know what they like and just send a random assortment of stuff in hopes of earning an imagined good grade. I’m paraphrasing here, but part of the discussion with my colleague went something like “I’m looking at a client’s submitted “mood board” and it makes me want to stab myself in the eye.” If we, as designers, take control of that task and ask the (potential) client to simply check boxes, it has the potential alleviate some undue stress on both ends. Maybe.

Also Related: I need a traffic manager. Can work remotely. Salary paid in baked goods. Or homemade ice cream.

Unrelated: I have TWO GALLONS of mango nectar, in two 1-gallon bottles. I’d intended to use them up making a series of delightful rum-based tropical drinks, but I don’t drink much and so haven’t gotten around to that. I asked (on IG and Twitter) for recipe suggestions, outlining that: I’d like to use up a GALLON of mango nectar before the open container goes fuzzy or vinegar-y, and I also noted that my household consists of only two people. The suggestions that I got, while all sounding tasty, mostly neglect to meet these confining restrictions. For instance: I’d have to make 448 mango-lemon cupcakes to use up the gallon. I’ll experiment today with a mango sherbet (creamier than sorbet because, well, dairy) and some mango iced tea. That should neatly use up a quart, anyway. The best suggestion was to donate the nectar to a food bank, and I think the second gallon jug will go that route.

Still Unrelated: I reached the 1,000 follower mark on Instagram, and so am running a giveaway contest. It’s Instagram-only, though, so you’ll have to take it up over there.

Upcoming Somewhat-Related Blog Post: Why I’m @ampersandwich on Twitter and IG, and @tiddleywink just about everywhere else.

Until next time!

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Cookbook Envy

A couple of decades ago, my mom wrote up—and illustrated—a cookbook of her own favorite recipes. This cookbook contains all of the special treats that only my mom made/makes, and whenever I ask for one of these particular recipes, I’m denied with the reply, “It’s in The Cookbook.” I know that she has left this cookbook to me in her will, because she has told me in no uncertain terms that I cannot have it before she dies. And not a moment before. Cheery.

She lost the cookbook a few years back. No idea where it disappeared to, but confident that it was around somewhere.

The Boyfriend and I have been working on excavating the basement, which used to be living space before it became overrun with Stuff. We’ve set aside a large pile for VVA (and conveniently arranged pick-up through pickupplease.org), most of which consists of FIVE BOXES of books that my mother has left here for 9 years. Of course, my mother has gone through all of these boxes in her hunt for The Cookbook, but I invite here over for another peek to make sure there isn’t anything else in there that she wants.

She picks out a few keepers, and lo and behold finds The Cookbook! It turns out that it has been in my own possession all this time! AND I MISSED OUT. She won’t let me see so much as the cover. She does, however, donate the following to me:

Romantic and Glamorous Hollywood Design at the Met, Nov. 1974

Romantic and Glamorous Hollywood Design at the Met, Nov. 1974

Inventive Clothes 1909–1939 at the Met, Nov. 1974. Were an age-similar show to be curated today, it would be The 50s, The 60s, The 70s.

Inventive Clothes 1909–1939 at the Met, Nov. 1974. Were an age-similar show to be curated today, it would be The 50s/The 60s/The 70s.

And for that, I’m grateful. In the meantime, if I really want a dish of her frozen creamy raspberry swirl stuff, I’ll just have to beg my mother to make it for me.

 

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Tiddleywink Vintage: The Location

not yet the Tiddleywink Vintage Shoppette

Ooooh, ooooh, newsy and exciting! The lease isn’t signed yet so I don’t want to divulge specific details, but it’s pretty safe to say that by the end of this month the wee space shown here will have been vacated and replaced with a Tiddleywink Vintage shoppette. The online stores will both remain open, this is merely an expansion to cater to local customers who want to see things in person, as well as give me a place to sell items which are too fragile or heavy to ship for a reasonable price. ::coughRACCOONCOATcough:: As a bonus to me, it will get a selection of inventory out of my house!

The space is a mere 8′ wide by 2′ deep, but it has better foot traffic than a larger space I looked at today. I won’t have room for more than a clothing rack (approx. 52″ wide) and something like a bookshelf next to it to fill with Pyrex and other non-hanging items. There are so many pegboard accessories on the market right now, I could definitely utilize the space in an assortment of ways. I’m open to suggestion! What do you think?

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We Interrupt Your Regular Broadcast…

About the Dot Blouse: It’s still in progress. I write posts “live” as it were, and I don’t have a week’s worth lined up and ready to go. In true sew-along style, we would be sewing the blouse together. That is, until I got the flu and then started working 7 days a week. It will still happen, but there’s a delay while I try to fit in cooking, cleaning, and breathing.

On to more banal, personal stuff. I haven’t gone there in a while.

Selfie with a brand-new (and stinky) perm.

Selfie with a brand-new (and stinky) perm.

I got a perm. It’s not the pin-curl-set look I was secretly hoping the stylist could whip up, but at least my wash-and-wear hair doesn’t pouf and frizz as much now. This photo was taken the day of, so it’s not actually as curly as shown here. And while we may have come a long way, Baby, the process still stinks. Literally. It took 4 or 5 shampoos to finally clear the chemical stench from my hair. Yech.

Working. Ya. I’m still officially unofficial over at Prestige Estate Services, although I’ve been “freelancing” for them regularly since October. I should technically be an actual employee by now, but I like the freedom of scheduling days off to focus on design clients. It’s just that I haven’t been scheduling days off, so I wind up spending every “off” day working on design. While I love design and estate sales, I’m running myself ragged. I know this and whine about it, but I still do nothing to alleviate the stress, such as taking an extra day off from Prestige or saying “no” to a client. I have as of this moment very conveniently had 4 days off in a row from both jobs (a client is late getting me her files), and while my time has been filled with much-needed housecleaning, grocery shopping, dental work, and Tiddleywink Vintage administration, it still feels quite relaxing.

My office is set up in a corner of the basement tiki bar/lounge/shop photo studio/storage area, and the office percentage has become smaller and smaller until it’s gotten flat-out claustrophobic. The Boyfriend and I didn’t whip it fully back into shape this weekend, but we made a very good dent in the chaos. Having unearthed the backstock that has never made it into the shop, I am simultaneously overwhelmed and inspired. However, I’m trying to move some of this inventory into a booth at a local “antiques” mall. Space isn’t cheap, but it may be worth it if people can personally inspect the items before committing to a purchase!

The newest addition to my vintage handbag collection: a Lucite purse by Rialto. SCORE!

The newest addition to my vintage handbag collection: a Lucite purse by Rialto. SCORE!

On a separate-but-related subject, I’ve been buying my dentist a boat. While the work I need is deeply discounted through Direct Dental Plans of America, it’s still a lot of work. After today’s session in the dentist’s chair, I decided to stop in at the thrift store next door to look around. I didn’t even bother to take a shopping cart or basket in with me. Any interesting cookbooks? No. How about lamps? No. Sewing patterns? Nothing. Bathroom department, which I usually skip entirely but it’s right next to Sewing: that’s a nice vintage tissue box cover, but let me think about HOLY CRAP IS THAT A—YES IT IS—IT’S A LUCITE PURSE. IN THE BATHROOM DEPARTMENT. I glance furtively around. Does anyone else see this? Was someone trying to hide it over here? I look at the price tag. Nope, this wasn’t hidden. Whoever priced and shelved this must think it’s a cotton ball container or something. Quick check for cracks or chips (none) and to see if the latch works (yes) and I’m off like a shot to the cashier. The hinge is so shiny I think it may be a repro and then under the light at home I see “Original Rialto NY” and I can’t tell you how much I got it for because it was such a steal that I’m a bit embarrassed. And feel not entirely unlike I’d actually stolen it. Now that Viva is fewer than 8 weeks away, I really need to get cracking with the packing. And this purse, of course, will be a part of that.

Since this purse goes into my Pry It From My Cold, Dead Hands collection, it frees up a couple of other vintage white purses for me to relinquish to the shop. So there’s that. Maybe I’ll get some fresh product photography done after tomorrow’s dentist appointment (yes, another one) and meeting with the antiques mall manager! Woo!

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WABAC Wednesday: Applesauce Meatballs

Sunset Cook Book of Favorite Recipes, 1949/1965

I’m not sure what I was looking for in the index of Sunset Cook Book of Favorite Recipes, (published 1949, this copy printed 1965) but I spotted Applesauce Meatballs, checked the recipe, realized that I had all of the required* ingredients, and so put it on my cooking schedule.

It was “scheduled” for two weeks before I actually had the time and energy to make it. Not that the recipe requires much of either, but I’ve been that tired after work lately. Besides, Thanksgiving provided so many leftovers that cooking more food wasn’t necessary.

So. Applesauce Meatballs.
Serves 8 

2 lbs ground beef
1 cup applesauce
1 cup soft bread crumbs
2 eggs
salt & pepper to taste
flour
2 Tbs fat
1 stalk celery, thinly sliced
1 green pepper, minced
1 carrot, thinly sliced
1 small onion, thinly sliced
2 cups tomato juice

  1. Mix beef, applesauce, and bread crumbs; add eggs; season with salt and pepper.
  2. Shape mixture into small balls, roll in flour, and brown in hot fat.
  3. Place balls in a casserole.
  4. To drippings in pan, add vegetables and tomato juice; season with salt and pepper; bring to a boil; pour over meat balls.
  5. Cover and bake in a moderate oven (350°F) about 40 minutes.

If desired, the gravy can be thickened with a little flour-water paste before serving.

If I were REALLY obsessive-compulsive, I’d have cleaned that bit of tomato gravy off of the rice ring. Not that I noticed it.

Here’s where the above asterisk comes in: I had ground beef in the freezer, but used ground turkey instead. I did not have one stalk of celery, one green pepper, and one carrot. Or tomato juice, for that matter. What I did have, though, was a few small cans of V8 vegetable juice. Which seemed to me like the equivalent of all that tomato juice plus the infusion of a few other veggies. And would save me not only a  trip to the grocery store, but a bit of slicing. Because V8 is seasoned, I also left out the salt and pepper. As far as the fat goes, well, all of my readers keep a small jar of leftover bacon grease in the fridge, right? Right?

End result: these meatballs are delicious. I don’t detect any apple flavor, but the meatballs are tender in a way that makes me think perhaps the applesauce is responsible. The tomato gravy, in my case, did not require thickening before serving. Oh bonus! I got to mix apples and tomatoes in a single recipe again!

I’d forgotten to plan a side dish, or rather had forgotten that my planned side dish was to be the spaghetti squash which is still sitting on the counter, so in a panic I cooked up a batch of brown rice and used it to make the Easy Rice Ring from the same cookbook. Not much of a recipe, it’s really just the handy hint that adding a “generous amount” of grated cheese helps hold the ring together. Assuming you have some sort of ring mold in which to bake said rice. Of course, the Shoes & Pie Test Kitchen has a ring mold.

Throw some microwave-heated frozen green peas in the center, arrange the meatballs in a Crazy Kitchen Lady just-so sort of way, and voilà, you have the photo shown here. Also: dinner. I halved the recipe because the Significant Other is out of town, and I don’t mind eating meatballs 4 nights in a row but 8 is asking a lot.

Fussy.

Gratuitous Photo: This object is a, um, meatballer. I’m sure there’s a technical term of which I’m unaware. Automatic Meatball Scooping Tongs or something. It does not save any time, nor is it any less messy than rolling the meatballs by hand. Mostly because the meatball tends to fall apart when exiting the tongs, so you have to roll it back together by hand anyway. Which, frankly, is more satisfying than “machining” a meatball.

What it is good for, however, is keeping your meatball size consistent. I noticed that when I wasn’t using the tool, my meatballs were getting slightly larger with each new portion. That’s not a huge deal except that you want your meatballs to cook evenly, and that isn’t going to happen if the first and the last are wildly different sizes. Besides, you can also use the tong things to make tiny snowballs. To throw at tiny adversaries, I suppose. Anyway, if you have your eyeballed-meatball-portion sense under control, or if you have a #20 or #24 disher, skip this fussy little item.

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