Heirloom tear drops

Growing up, I always loved to borrow my Mom’s clothing and accessories—the old stuff. I loved her funky dresses and jewellery from the 1960s and 70s, and often dreamed of one day owning it all.

I was elated when, as a teenager, she finally gave me an old handbag of hers from when she was in high school. It was the first bag in my vintage collection and remains a favourite to this day. I wore her flowing gowns (more often than she may know!) and flashed my bedazzled fingers that were loaded with funky rings. And the bracelets and necklaces—oh my! I even wore her wedding dress when I got married!

Slowly but surely, I’ve become the owner of some of these bits and bobs. So today I thought I’d share one of my favourites with you! And it goes beyond Mom, too, which is cool.

So, here’s the story as told in the letter that I got when I received this amazing set:

Frances,

‘Tis the year for re-gifting! Actually, this is a piece of history. Your grandmother had this necklace and earring set in high school. She wore it several times as I was growing up. In 1970, I had a new lace outfit for the Marine Corps Ball and needed a blue necklace to compliment it. I requested to borrow this set and Mom sent it to me. She told me I could keep it because she didn’t use it anymore. I have now chosen to give it to you. I know you’ll use and cherish this set.

Enjoy!

Love,
Mom

I have worn the set on several occasions over the past few years. The last time I wore it was for the last professional portraits Paul and I had taken together. I love them so much and hope that I’m able to find an occasion to wear them again. (Anyone want to take me out for a nice dinner?)

Oh, and Mom, I can still fit into that lace outfit you wore in 1970. You and I both know that I will give it a good and loving home. You know my address when you’re ready to pass it along …

Random thoughts: Simple pleasures

Random thoughts—Week 3: List 31 simple pleasures; pick one and write about it.

Last year I was challenged to write a list of 30 things that made me smile and I imagine that this list may include a few duplicates, but I will try to keep those to a minimum.

  1. Finding coins as I’m walking down the road
  2. Unexpected postcards (heck, even expected postcards!)
  3. Lunch with friends
  4. Internet chats and phone calls with my nieces and nephews
  5. Dirty Martinis
  6. Seeing children skipping down the road
  7. Skipping down the road (yes, even as a full-grown woman, I do that sometimes!)
  8. Hearing a favourite song on the radio
  9. Watching a favourite movie on television
  10. Long soaks in a hot bath
  11. Finding my favourite [whatever] on sale
  12. Smells that rekindle a happy memory
  13. Running
  14. A well-cooked steak (that would be medium-rare, thank you!)
  15. Riding on carousels
  16. Playing on swing sets
  17. The feeling of the sun on my face
  18. Flirtatious encounters with cute boys (even when I know I’ll never see them again)
  19. A quiet night in with some jazz, red wine, candle light, and a good book
  20. Sleeping in on a Saturday morning after a long week at work (or school)
  21. Finding a ‘new’ vintage handbag that I love—and can afford!
  22. Watching (and listening to) a massive rain storm—complete with thunder and lightning
  23. Seeing my friends happy and giddy with excitement
  24. Waking up dreading going to work, only to realise it’s the weekend
  25. Walking barefoot in the grass or on a sandy beach
  26. Gravy style popcorn
  27. Picnics in the park
  28. Finishing a craft project
  29. Weekend city breaks to fantastic places
  30. Finding an out-of-the-way pub that sells great beer—but that no one knows about!
  31. Hugs and kisses from family and friends

Now, I know that I’m meant to write about just one of these things, but it would seem that I had a fantastic opportunity to combine a few in one. So, here’s a wee story about something that happened when I was in Cambridge this weekend:

I woke up early to go for a run on Saturday (No 13). And after the run, I had a bit of time to waste waiting for my running partner (who’d gone off for a longer trek!). So, as I waited, I found myself (literally) skipping (No 7) over to the playground where I plopped myself down on a swing (No 16). And as I swung, I noticed some shiny things on the ground below. Sure enough, those shiny things were coins—33 pence worth of them (No 1)!

Of course, the weekend also included Nos: 3, 12, 17, 23, 29, 30, and 31. And loads of other simple pleasures that didn’t make the list.

Oh! And be sure to check out Rebecca’s blog to see what she wrote for her topic this week!

The little red dress

Twelve years ago, I purchased a lovely silky red dress that I just loved. Form-fitting and sexy, I loved finding excuses to wear it. The only ‘flaw’ was that I needed to add a bit more help to the upper portion—more than I normally need to add. (Sorry, this is my blog and I can talk about my less-than-endowed form if I want.)

Ten years ago, I brought it to Scotland with me hoping that I’d have a chance to wear it. Then I met Paul and I figured I’d get the chance. And I did. And he loved it. And over the years, I’ve pulled it out again for special occasions.

The last time I wore it was Easter 2009—just two weeks before Paul died. I remember standing there wondering what to wear for church, and he pulled that little red dress out. After all, he said, with a light sweater it would be more than appropriate for Sunday Mass. And when we got home and began making our Sunday lunch, he told me how beautiful I was in that dress.

So, when I packed my bags to return to Scotland last summer, I couldn’t help but to pack the dress; even though I didn’t know if I’d ever get a chance to wear it. And, to be honest, I’ve felt a bit soft and gooey the last several weeks, having not been running but still eating as if I’m training for a marathon!

Anyhow, I wanted to wear something pretty for my birthday later this month and I thought about that dress. And, well, I tried it on with a bit of trepidation because I knew that if it was too snug I’d be upset.

But it fit rather nicely. In fact, I could eat a few extra meals in between now and my birthday and it would still fit! (Though I will still need to add a bit of help to the upper portion; some things never change!)

I am very happy about this little victory. And I know that I’ve just bragged about how a dress that I bought when I was 26 years old still fits me today—just days shy of being 38—but I run and try to stay quite active. (And if this was a pair of jeans, it would be a different story. Dresses are just more forgiving for bum-and-thigh weight gain!)

Now… what am I going to do about shoes and an evening handbag? I guess I’ll need to see what sort of fun stuff they have at the charity shops!

Rationalised spending

Yesterday was meant to be my last training run before my first (and last) ever marathon next Sunday. Only plans got changed. As they do.

So instead of being all fit and athletic and stuff, I went to the antique mall (do they call them that here in Scotland?). After all, I do have to find new old things, since I left so many of my old things behind when I moved.

I looked at handbags and drooled. But then I remembered that I am on a budget and can’t rationalise spending £85 on a vintage handbag—no matter how awesome it was.

But then I looked at a stack of handkerchiefs (something I like to collect as much as handbags) and figured that since I’m back living in my lovely home of Scotland where there’s lots of rain, it would make sense to have a few spare hankies, which meant that I could easily rationalise spending £6 on three pretty little embroidered hankies.

And since my friend, Sharon, always wants to see photos of my latest vintage finds, this post is really all for her!!

Handbag packrat

Ack! It’s happened again! I’ve become a handbag packrat. You know, those women who carry these massive bags around all the time that are loaded with rubbish they don’t need. And the reason they do that is simple: As inhabitants of the western world, we fill the space we have to capacity. (And if that’s still not enough, we just rent a storage unit somewhere on the outskirts of town!)

I am not generally a handbag packratter though. For three main reasons: I don’t wear makeup; I carry smaller, vintage bags most of the time; and I swap out my bags often.

But when I go on holiday I generally carry a shoulder bag so that I can toss my camera and any small purchases into the bag and my hands are free.

Anyhow, when I went to England at the start of the month, I grabbed a larger handbag so that I could have various bits and bobs with me on the plane. And when I got back I entered straight into a crazy world of work and foster mommy-ing and I never had time to switch my bag back over. Which meant that I did what inhabitants of the western world do and I filled the space to capacity.

Well, I’ve had enough and am now cleaning house. Or, rather, cleaning bag!

So, what was in the bag? Well…

  • Money floating loosely: £4.05 in coins; $3.25 in coins; and $6 in cash
  • Two iPods; 1 iPod headphone; and 1 iPod cable
  • A smart phone; a wireless mouse/pointer; and three thumb drives (total storage: 22 GB)
  • Two sets of keys
  • A pack of gum (four pieces of which were out of pack floating loose); a pack of Love Hearts; a pack of Giant SweetTarts; two tins of mints; three lollypops; a tea bag; and an apple
  • Three handkerchiefs; a nail file; a pocket mirror; a pack of secret girly things; and two chap sticks
  • A silver ring; two tooth pick flossy things; five safety pins; and a small container of hand lotion
  • A seashell from Seaton and one teaspoon worth of sand, grit, and coal bits that must have come from the shell floating at the bottom of the bag
  • A large note book; a small Moleskin; two novels; a check book; and a filled check register
  • Fifteen envelopes filled with new bank cards, bank statements, bills, and a fun new art project
  • Four pens; a business card holder; and seven loose business cards
  • Eleven ponytail holders
  • Two empty gum wrappers and a partial wrapper from a pack of Mentos
  • A camera
  • A wallet with: Nine receipts that need to be reconciled; six business cards; a pack of domestic stamps; three international use stamps; eight bits of plastic for banks, identification, and insurance purposes; $11 in cash; and $2.95 in coins

And now, I’ve cleared out the mess and transferred junk into one of my favourite vintage bags: A 1960s wicker bag with teal lining and brass handles and closures. This is a fun bag that I purchased when out shopping with my mommy shortly before I got married.

And its contents are:

  • A smart phone; a 16 GB thumb drive; and one iPod with headphones
  • Two sets of keys
  • A pack of gum; a pack of Love Hearts; a tin of mints; and three lollypops
  • One handkerchief; a nail file; a pocket mirror; a pack of secret girly things; and two chap sticks
  • A tooth pick flossy thing and a small container of hand lotion
  • A seashell from Seaton (I’m taking it to Paul’s grave at the weekend, otherwise I wouldn’t still be carrying it—promise!)
  • A small Moleskin and a check book
  • Four pens and a business card holder
  • Two ponytail holders
  • A wallet with: A pack of domestic stamps; three international use stamps; four bits of plastic for banks, identification, and insurance purposes and $17 in cash

Ah… that’s better. Still a bit too much clutter but much, much less than before! I wonder what bag I’ll pick to use next week… ?

My favourite things

As part of my effort to take back my lunch time, I’ve spent today’s lunch break composing a little ditty on my laptop just for my awesome readers; who are also some of my favourite things. (Yay! for awesome readers! And yay! for reclaimed lunch breaks. And yay! for whatever else you want to celebrate today!)

My favourite things
as interpreted by Just Frances*

Shiny new gadgets and hooker-red nails
Cool vintage handbags that come in the mail
Pretty red sports cars and fun silver rings
These are a few of my favourite things

Movies with mobsters and friends who are so dear
Martinis and pizza and pretzels and good beer
Acting quite silly and playing on swings
These are a few of my favourite things

Books about grammar and good punctuation
Laughing and smiling and Scotland vacations
Songs that are happy, that I like to sing
These are a few of my favourite things

When the clouds come
When the tears sting
When I’m feeling sad
I simply remember my favourite things
And then I don’t feel so bad

• • • • •

[NOTE: Apparently, my laptop is still set to UK English (not proper American English) from working on school application stuff and has therefore insisted that I have favourite things, not favorite things. And I’m totally OK with that!]

* I’m sure you’ve figured it out, but this is to be sung in the tune of “My Favourite Things”. If you need a reminder, here’s a link to a rendition by Pomplamoose. Yay!

To market, to market

I was looking forward to the Moscow Farmers’ Market opening last year but Paul died before we ever made it there and I couldn’t bring myself to go alone until today. I suppose that it was easy to go today because I’ve gotten back into cooking and I was in need of beets and cabbage so that I could make borscht.

So when I woke up this morning, my first order of business was to swap out my handbag. (Well, first I had coffee and took a shower, but you get the point.) My bag of choice for traveling to the farmers’ market was a straw bag with shells and raffia – and a very long strap so that I had both hands free.

As I drove through Palouse on my way to Moscow, I realized that I’d not been to the fantastic little antique shop there in quite some time. And as I was tackling ‘firsts without Paul’ today, I figured I may as well tackle that one, too. It was a bit hard to walk in there alone – and harder still walking around knowing just what Paul would have looked at. He would have been disappointed that I didn’t buy as much as I did, but I was very pleased with the two lovely ‘new’ handkerchiefs I acquired: My first-ever round hankie with lovely blue flowers and a crisp, white linen one with handmade purple and green lace along the edge.

When I finally arrived at the farmers’ market, I was pleased with the selection of fresh produce and homemade breads and jams. But what impressed me more was that the booth selling hand-carved cooking utensils – including left-handed ones! The craftsman was a pleasure to speak with and I was especially excited to hear that he makes one left-handed piece for every three right-handed ones – and he’s always selling out of the lefty tools! Not bad when you know that the estimate is that less that 9 percent of the population is left-handed!

Oh, and I got some great beets, tomatoes, potatoes, and other such goodies, too. But – darn it! – I forgot to get onions so the borscht will have to wait until after my next trip to town! Despite this frustrating oversight, I’m going to call it an extremely successful day’s shopping!

Oh, and I don’t know about anyone else, but is it funny that I drove to Moscow for fixin’s for borscht? No? Must just be me…

Ugly thoughts

Many years ago, a friend came to visit me. She exclaimed excitedly that she’d been walking by a vintage clothing shop in Portland, Oregon, and in the window display she noticed the ugliest handbag she’d ever seen, which made her think of me. So she bought it for me as a gift. (This would not be the last time she made similar purchases for me, with similar statements.)

Now, you may think that I would be insulted by this statement, but over the years I’ve grown to realize that when people say that ugly, gaudy, ostentatious, or tacky accessories make them think of me, they mean it as a compliment, and I take it as one!

This is one of my largest vintage bags, measuring 10.5” across; 6.5” high; and 4.5” deep. (Add another 5” to the height with the handles.) It’s constructed of wicker then has a burlap over-lay on the front with Bakelite flowers attached to it. The handles and the top of the bag are made of a tortoise shell Bakelite with small brass tacks used to fasten it to the wicker underneath.

Anyhow… This bag won today’s bag grab because I was heading to the big-bad-city for a root canal (yay!) and thought I’d do a bit of shopping beforehand. One of the things I was shopping for was golf shoes which meant that I need to bring a pair of socks with me. I know that doesn’t sound like much, but most of my vintage bags are too small to accommodate socks. I also figured I’d take the opportunity to stop off at the little vintage shop “Finders Keepers” whilst in the area.

Sadly, the shoe shopping was a miserable failure (who knew it could be so difficult to find ladies’ golf shoes?) and some serious road construction in downtown Spokane meant I couldn’t get to the vintage shop. But, happily, three people gave me awesome compliments on my awesome bag. Which almost made up for the shopping failures and the root canal.

American pride

As I was getting ready to head to the homeland for 4th of July weekend, I realized it was high time I switched out handbags. As I’d need to bring my camera and my iPod and loads of candy for the nieces and nephews, I knew it would need to be a slightly larger bag. Opening my handbag closet (yes, I have one) I knew in an instant which one it would need to be.

I got this bag at a funky little shop right next to Fopp on Cockburn Street in Edinburgh. (That’s Co-Burn for my fellow Americans who feel the need to say it out loud – unless you want to be laughed at. Trust me.) It’s one of my “holiday” bags – which is a selection of bags that will carry more than my normal, minimal amount of junk. That way I can put little souvenirs in as I’m wandering around whatever great place I’m visiting and don’t have to worry about my hands getting full.

When I switch out bags, I will often leave little bits in the old one that aren’t needed. I often smile as I go through that rubbish months later because it’s a bit of a history lesson. In this case, I can be pretty certain that the last time I used this bag was late-November or early-December 2008. I know this because there are hand-written notes that I took whilst speaking with our social worker about a couple of young kids that were ready for adoption (sadly, we were not the right match for them).

Of course, I also found a small handful of peppermint candies. So they get to stay in the bag and maybe they’ll finally get eaten!

Yep, another pointless post. To make up for it, here’s a fantastic video to get you in the mood for America’s birthday tomorrow!

Hello Kitty

When Mom and I went to the UK this winter, one of my sisters-in-law gave me a little Hello Kitty lunch box filled with Love Hearts, Refreshers, and other such wonderful goodies. The box has sat empty on the kitchen counter for a couple of weeks and I figured it was time to put it to use.

Sadly, it’s just too small for its intended purpose of carrying lunches. Or maybe I just take too much food to the office for lunch. But that didn’t discourage me! I wanted to use it, so just found another way to find some enjoyment from it.

So now, I have a lovely Hello Kitty handbag.

And for those who really know me, you’ll not be surprised to learn that the contents include a handkerchief, a couple of gadgets (iPod, gadget phone), and a couple packs of Love Hearts… of course.

The root of all evil

Last Wednesday I started to feel a bit of a twinge in a lower tooth. I didn’t think much of it and thought it would be gone by the next day. But it was a bit worse instead. Knowing that I had big work events coming up, I told myself to suffer through. But my tooth didn’t agree and by Friday evening I was well and truly in pain. So much so that I opened my one-and-only dose of “emergency” acetaminophen. (Guiltily, I also had two glasses of cheap-and-cheerful wine with my sister and a friend.)

By Saturday morning I was in so much pain that I called to make an appointment with the dentist then drove to town to buy some extra-strength Tylenol and a tube of topical anesthetic. Even with the chemical assistance, I was in severe pain throughout the day.

Sunday and Monday were a bit better – likely because I had a bit of a toxin build-up from all the Tylenol on Saturday then the regular top-ups. I spoke with my dentist on Monday who prescribed an antibiotic, but I declined the offer for him to call in a prescription of Vicodin, feeling that I could maintain with the Tylenol until my appointment the next day.

Well, today was appointment day – nearly a week after the initial pain. Not surprisingly, I am in need of a root canal. Which is apparently a three-step process starting with a bit of drilling and cleaning today after which the dentist packed the tooth with more antibiotics then put in a temporary filling. Next up is a root canal, which may take 3-4 months (really!) to schedule, then I’ll be fitted for a crown.

I accepted the offer for Vicodin after today’s appointment with the hope of getting a decent night’s sleep for a change. As someone who generally steers clear of medications, preferring to treat my ails with a general “healthy living” stance, I have to laugh that I’ve gone from having one stash of “emergency” pain killers in my house to having several of those evil chemicals in my handbag! I hope to be pain (and drug) free soon though, because I never can remember to take those damn pills!!

Feeling blue

I found this bag at an antique store in Seattle a few years ago. It’s an Andrew Geller (circa 1960s) made with a soft baby-blue leather with a satiny, pearlized finish. The inside has a tan-colored satin lining and a couple of small pockets, which are lined with metallic gold satin. It is all set off with brass accents around the hinged clasp and little brass feet.

Measuring 8.25” wide and 7.5” high (without the handle) it holds all of my essential junk with ease and can even carry an extra this-or-that if needed.

There is no reason for this post other than to show off another way-cool bag. Yay!

First bag

A conversation this afternoon reminded me that it’s time to swap out handbags; something I’ve not done since returning from my holidays so it’s really time I get in gear! Of course, what this really means is that I am going to share more useless information with you. Yay!

My handbag of choice isn’t really a “bag” but it still falls into the clutch category, which falls into the overall handbag category, so I’m counting it. It measures 8.5″ across, 4.25″ high (not including handle), and 2″ deep. When open the “lid” side is a full mirror.

Given to me by my Mom when I was in high school, this is the bag that started it all! I was really into vintage clothing and accessories at the time, but didn’t generally carry a handbag because I never saw the use in them. I don’t recall the circumstance that led to my ownership of the bag, just that it became mine. And as I started to carry it I got all sorts of fantastic compliments on it, and really enjoyed telling people that it had been my Mom’s bag in the 1960s.

Of course, after a while everyone knew the story and my old bag was old news. And then someone else gave me an old bag and the compliments and “back story” telling started again. It wasn’t long until I found an obsession with vintage bags!

But the best thing about vintage bags? Most of them have limited space which means I don’t get stuck carrying useless junk everywhere with me. And because I like to swap them out regularly, I tend not to have weeks’ old receipts and garbage cluttering the precious space.

And because I know you care, here is a list of the contents of my bag on an average day:

  • Lip balm
  • Drivers’ license
  • Debit and credit cards
  • Nail file (in a protective case so that the abrasive material doesn’t scratch anything else in the bag)
  • Handkerchief
  • Ponytail holder
  • Business cards
  • Pen
  • Mobile phone
  • Keys
  • Candy

Bag it

It’s a quiet Friday night at home. I’m enjoying a Widmer Brothers’ Hefeweizen and cleaning my vintage  handbag collection. Yes, I am that pathetic!

Of course, as I sat there cleaning my collection, I realized that I still have two boxes of bags in an upstairs guest room, and maybe one or two still floating around my parents’ house. Still, I do have a few fun ones in circulation.

But, it’s not enough. Maybe I’ll have to buy a new bag or two when I’m on holiday. Yes, I think that’s a very good plan.

Shopping failure

I have an affinity for handbags. Mostly vintage bags that have a unique character and flare to them, but I also enjoy modern-day bags when they are a little different than the every-day look. I also tend to be a little cheap and hate to part with my money. Of course, Paul always said I should spoil myself and would remind me over and over again that “we can afford it” when I saw something I liked but couldn’t quite bring myself to buy it. I have been getting a little better at spending money on myself, and while I almost always feel guilty for doing so, I’m starting to feel less guilty with a bit of practice.

While at Macy*s a couple of weeks ago, I saw a fantastic handbag that matched the lovely Barbour jacket my nephew and his fiancée bought for me when I was in England back in December and I really wanted it. But at nearly $100 I just walked away. But I couldn’t get the bag out of my mind and actually went back to admire it a couple of times.

So, last weekend I took my mom shopping with a goal of buying a new handbag that was similar, but considerably less expensive. I looked at Target. I looked at JCPenny. I looked at several little shops in the mall. But no one had just what I was looking for.

When we finally got to Macy*s, there was the bag I’d been admiring. I picked it up and caressed the soft leather, and wondered just how good the Presidents’ Day sales were. Could they be so fantastic that they would bring my dream bag into my dream budget? I sat there (literally, as we were right next to the shoe department where the chairs are) and did the math. In fact, I did the math a couple of times because I wasn’t certain I’d done it correctly to begin with. With my final attempt at percentages (and rounding up so that I knew it would be even less when I got to the till) I knew I was getting a good deal and went in search of someone to pay.

Now I have this fantastic new bag; a bag that I really wanted and that I could take on my holidays to the UK next week. And because you really need to break in a new bag just like new shoes (which I hate shopping for, by the way) I started using the bag yesterday.

When I woke up this morning it was raining. Not sprinkling, raining. It’s less than 10 feet from the kitchen door to my car door, but I was still wet by the time I got there. That’s the sort of rain I’m talking about.

(Slowly getting to the point…)

I drive to work, park the car, and start walking to my office. The whole time I’m walking, I’m realizing my nice, expensive (OK, I got it cheap, but still) bag was getting rained on. When I got to the office there were visible dark spots on the leather and I wondered if they’d become permanent marks (they didn’t). And the point is this: What the heck was I thinking buying a nice leather bag to take on a two week holiday to England and Scotland, in the winter, when I know it’s going to be wet and rainy the whole time?

Yep, I’ve always said I’m bad at shopping, and this is proof positive of that. But, I still love the bag so totally worth it!