Yard Sales — and a Mystery!

Okay, all y’all antiques detectives. I need help! As much as I love a good bargain and the thrill of the hunt, I’m not one to get all googly-eyed over yard sales. Some people are. Some people get up on Saturday morning while it’s still dark and gather their yard-sale tools (measuring tape, hand wipes, bottled water, coffee) and then set off to discover treasures. I only do that in extreme circumstances — such as when the bed-and-breakfast in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, where Dear Husband and I stayed after our wedding is cleaning out the linen closets and hosting a yard sale with profits benefiting the church next door where Dear Husband and I got married. Now, that is worth it. The folks who owned Byrn-Roberts Inn, a gorgeous 1903 house on Main Street just a block or so away from Murfreesboro’s downtown, had closed the inn several years ago and were simply living in the house as normal people. But apparently they decided they didn’t need dozens of water pitchers and hand towels after all and decided to declutter and help out Central Christian Church at the same time. My mom and Younger Daughter were all up for the adventure, and we planned so well that we got there even before the sale started. And we all scored. My mom, with her usual impeccable eye for gems among junk, made some great buys. And YD and I didn’t do so badly either. For less than $45, I bought a wicker towel rack, a metal wall mirror, a wine carrier I’m going to use for flowers or silverware, three adorable square glass flower vases, a restaurant-style ice bucket with tongs, a fun breads cookbook and some … I don’t know what you call them … cute things on metal stakes that you stick in your garden or landscaping — including an adorable metal ladybug for Capt. Adorable (he calls them “Grouchy B Bugs” from a favorite Eric Carle book). And then I also bought this stainless-steel Mystery Pitcher. It’s about 5 inches tall and 11 inches in diameter, with a brass-colored handle and hinge on the lid. I would guess it was for warm maple syrup or something else breakfast-in-a-quaint-Victorian-inn-like except for the holes in the lid near the spout area. I forgot to ask the inn’s owners what it was when I bought, so now I’m hoping y’all can help. Any ideas?

Shopping

My friend Susan has a consignment store in Sheffield, Alabama, that’s full of  treasures you just want to take home with you. Susan also has hired a new part-time employee with a wonderful creative eye for display and a stylish flair for vintage fashion. Okay, that employee is my Younger Daughter, but still! Susan and YD make a great team and visiting Upscale Resale is like browsing through a fun and funky antiques shop . I love the way YD has put together these retro looks with coordinating gloves, hats and handbags. Makes me feel all Jackie-O and Audrey Hepburn. I just missed the white-glove era but I (barely) can remember my mother tucking a pair, along with a floral cotton handkerchief, into her purse as she’d get ready for church on Sunday mornings. I think I remember that, anyway. I’ll have to ask her if she ever wore or took gloves to church when I was little or if I have completely and totally made that up — which is entirely possible. What I am sure of, however, is that a pair of white gloves is the perfect accessory for this lovely plum-colored spring suit with the pleated skirt and gorgeously tailored jacket. I can just see this at church on Easter Sunday, can’t you? Upscale Resale is at 2613 North Jackson Highway in Sheffield. Phone number is 256.381.7773. It’s open weekdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.  In addition to vintage clothing and jewelry, there is furniture, art work, home decor, glassware, books, holiday items and all sorts of things. You’ll love it!

Shopping

If a store can have a personality, then What’s on Second? in downtown Birmingham, Alabama, is geeky with a strong dash of uber-cool chic. It’s an antiques shop and a vintage boutique and a collectors’ paradise all in one … and the place where you’re going to come face to face with your childhood. After “Oh, wow, look at this!” the most commonly heard phrase among browsers  is “Oh, wow, I remember having one of those!” What’s on Second? is at 2306 Second Avenue North just a couple doors down from the Urban Standard coffee shop — the two must-go destinations are part of a downtown growth in art, music, food and style. The wooden floors and tin ceilings of the store’s two floors are as much a part of What’s On Second? as the somehow carefully arranged piles and stacks of … well, anything you can think of. There are postcards, books, posters, china, toys, clothes, lamps, household goods, tools, furniture, art work, jewelry, glassware, local history items — and that’s just your first few steps inside the front door. I asked the person behind the cash register once where all this came from — did the owners go to auctions and estate sales all the time? Turns out that most of the inventory comes from people bringing treasures in to sell. Prices seemed a bit high to me, but then I still can’t get used to spending $3.95 for a non-fat dry cappuccino so what do I know? At least it’s free — and fun — to browse and explore and maybe stumble across your own treasure. There’s no Web site, but you can call What’s On Second? at (205) 322-2688 for details.

Journalism — and Jewelry

Antique mallsYounger Daughter and I recently were browsing through an antiques mall in Florence, Alabama, when she called me over to where she was standing. “Isn’t this your story?” she asked, pointing to a framed story from the local newspaper — the TimesDaily — about pins that was next to a display of wonderful vintage pins. And YD was right — there was my byline from my former days as a staff writer for the TimesDaily life section, before I retired almost two years ago to become a financially challenged but incredibly happy columnist and freelance writer. I have to say that it was sort of a strange feeling to see such care taken with a story I didn’t even remember doing — one of several hundred, probably, I don’t remember doing throughout the 10 years I worked in the TimesDaily newsroom. Yet there was my story, years later still stuck in black and white (well, sort of faded beige) and still influencing folks to think about buying a vintage pin because “brooches update fall wardrobes.” I have to admit it was a strange sensation to see this — a kind of out-of-body, did-I-really-write-that experience. Sort of makes you think. Sort of makes you hope you did a good job. Sort of makes you wonder how many other things you wrote are floating around influencing people to do things. Sort of makes you promise yourself to Write Only Good Things From Now On … beginning, maybe … tomorrow.

Family

Ponderosa Tree Farm AntiquesHappy 75th birthday to my mom, Susan Wood, of Antiques Manchester, Tennessee, today! She is practically the most awesome person I know, and my goal is to grow up to be just like her. And since she hates having her picture taken, I’ve done the next best thing and put pictures here of just one of her claims to fame: her antique shop, Ponderosa Tree Farm Antiques. She is known far and wide as an antiques and auction expert and she’s gathered some of the results Tennessee antiquesof her sharp eyes and buying skills here in her antiques shop. She also has three booths at an antiques mall, but my favorite is her shop. I love wandering through and discovering new finds she’s rescued from folks Manchester, Tennesseewho don’t appreciate the value of a vintage flour-sack apron or a chunky retro beaded bracelet. She’s got dishes, books, kitchen ware, dolls, toys, clothes, linens and almost any other thing you might want to collect. And, listen, she does all this herself — and with help from my dad. She loads and totes and prices and organizes and cleans and presses — it’s exhausting just to think about, but she loves it. I cannot keep up with her. In fact, I can’t keep up with either of my parents — they pretty much put me to shame. Read more in my weekly newspaper column, http://www.timesdaily.com/article/20091030/ARTICLES/910305000, and have a happy birthday, Mom! Love you!!!

Food and Drink

Is the glass half empty or half full … or broken? My mom gave me four of these wine glasses for Christmas after I admired them at Henhouse Antiques in Birmingham, Alabama (http://www.shophenhouseantiques.com/). I loved their style and also the fact that I couldn’t knock them over and break them, the way I do with stemmed wineglasses. But, of course, in the 10 months I’ve had them, I’ve broken every single one of them. The fourth and last one  developed a crack on Wednesday night, probably in sympathy with its lost three companions, and so I put it out of its misery.

And in other random thoughts, friends and family always are tickled at my love for Fresh Market and Whole Foods and places like Tria Market in Birmingham — since they all know that I don’t actually cook. Much, that is. My husband’s sports-editor schedule means that we eat out a lot. And when I’m on my own, I’m a low-maintenance grazer. But I love good food, so you gotta go to the source. Besides, it’s the promise of possibilities that I love in good grocery stores. With all that inspiration, it’s possible that I might get motivated to grill some cedar-plank salmon or whip up a fresh risotto. It’s possible!

Yard Sales

My mom and dad recently had their Super Incredible Mega Yard Sale in Manchester, Tenn. They do a massive cleanout every year or so and sell the results at the Ponderosa, their farm on nearby Old Tullahoma Highway where my dad grows nursery stock and my mom has her antique “shed” — it’s smaller than a shop.”  They did most of the toting and packing and moving things around, but I helped a little bit — mainly by telling customers, “I’m not sure what that is. Let’s ask my mom!” Anyway, the weather was perfect and we had so much fun, especially when my daughter and son-in-law brought Cutest Baby Ever up from Huntsville, Ala., for a visit. And I loved watching my parents in action! My mom knows her antiques, and she arranges things so creatively: Linens in an old suitcase, plates in a dish drainer. Everything in the sale had a story, from the wooden lobster trap they brought back from Maine (“They don’t make them like this anymore,” my mom said. “They’re all plastic now.”) to my grandmother’s decades-old mixer — which my mom sold to a young woman who seemed to appreciate it. But it wasn’t all selling. My dad met a couple tractor collectors, which led to deep conversations about … well, tractor stuff. And he also ended up giving away some bed railings that weren’t even in the sale to a woman who was helping a disabled friend of hers set up housekeeping. Profits from the two-day sale were only about $250, but I took away much more than the $15 I got for some pots and pans.

This is where I was when I found out my younger daughter had mono — and I had shared her soup and sandwich at lunch earlier that week. Yikes! She already was feeling better by the time she got her diagnosis but of course I convinced myself that I was feeling worse. Read about the happy ending at http://www.timesdaily.com/article/20081010/ARTICLES/810100302

Hometown Shopping

This barbershop in Florence, Alabama, is where my husband gets his hair cut. (No. That’s not his truck!) He likes it, he says, because it’s simple and direct — he walks in, gets his hair cut and beard trimmed and then walks out. Nothing fancy but it gets the job done in an authentic sort of way. And that describes this part of Florence — called Seven Points –perfectly: Easy to get to, shopper-friendly and full of local folks with real shops doing real business. Such as Hodgepodge Antiques Mall, 11142 N. Wood Ave. It’s three rooms full of treasures, and you can rummage around all day if you want to. No pressure. Another must-visit Seven Points retailer is Scent-Sations Candles and Gifts, 1123 N. Wood Ave., where you can buy hand-poured candles in almost any fragrance imaginable — visit http://www.pouredbyhand.com to see the list. One of the best things about Scent-Sations is that you can turn your own containers into candles — a great way to recycle. Then head to Peck Ace Hardware Co., 1118 N. Wood Ave. , one of those true hometown hardware stores that’s been there for decades and still has what looks like the original wooden floors. You’ll get a friendly “hello” when you walk and an equally friendly “come back soon” when you leave, regardless of whether you’ve bought anything or not — browsing is encouraged. And then there are some of the most interestingly named businesses in Florence: Crazy Carolyn’s Fashions and Wigs, 1148 N. Wood Ave., actually run by a woman named Carolyn; Polly’s Radio and TV Service, 1128 N. Wood Ave., not run by a woman named Polly (although the building is where I took ballet lessons about a million years ago); and the fast-Chinese-food Wok N Roll., 115 Edgewood Drive. The McDonald’s at Seven Points also is fun — it’s decorated entirely in purple and gold to support nearby University of North Alabama.

Isn’t it amazing what you can find in your own backyard?

Whaddyabid?

Chairs and other furniture at an auction in Tennessee

Chairs and other furniture at an auction in Tennessee

My mom tried to talk me out of going with her to an antiques auction this past weekend in Manchester, Tenn. “You’ll be bored,” she said. She knows I’m a one-and-done antiques-shopper: I take one turn around the antiques mall/estate sale/antiques shop and I’m done. But she takes her antiquing seriously —  and I’ve got a couple friends like that, too. They drive miles and miles out of their way to check a possibly interesting yard sale. Then they take hours and hours to examine Every Single Little Item at the possibly interesting sale. Of course, I come away empty-handed and they end up with bargain-priced treasures. That’s what happened Friday night at the Coffee County Fairgrounds when the contents of a going-out-of-business antiques mall were in the middle of a three-day sale. My mom had been Thursday and found some prizes, so I was intrigued with the chance to see her in action and pick up some secrets when she wanted to go back Friday. So, am I the only person who didn’t know how much fun auctions are? It was like a shopping trip, a history lesson and an evening of entertainment (how can auctioneers possibly talk that fast?) combined. I loved poking around the tables and shelves and boxes full of leftover antiques and junque. Then I sat, listened and learned: 1) Stay calm. 2) Set a bid limit and stick to it. 3) But don’t let anything you really want get away. I was awestruck by my mom’s smooth confidence and discerning eye. She would merely raise her hand a bit to bid. A horizontal slash of her hand meant a half-bid increase and a slight shake of her head meant she was done. But it wasn’t all sitting. My dad and I were the “toters,” grabbing paper and boxes to wrap up Mom’s successes — she likes glassware and linens (much easier to pack) — and then toting them out to the truck. Business as usual for my dad, but I was startled at how much physical labor antiquing demands. I got rewarded, though. My mom won this old McCoy pottery bowl I liked and then gave me one of three white-and-blue china demitasse cup-and-saucer sets she’d bought for my brother. Sold!