Last week I told you about the neat leopard skin chairs I bid on at Raphael’s auction. No bargain comes without a price tag. Sometimes a dresser has one drawer permanently stuck shut. Sometimes chair leg is slightly wobbly. Those chairs I bought are sensational. But they smell musty. No problem, I thought. I’ll put them in the sun. I put them out in the morning and took them in at night for a week. They are very heavy which makes me love them all the more and even overlook the fact that they are a tad low. The smell is fading but I first gave them a spray of Fabreze which only gave them a perfumy smell – more odious than the musty smell. The Internet suggested vinegar. I did not like this idea. Now it is ten days and the odor is fading, and my “out in the sun,” routine goes on.
We all have things that make us nostalgic. When, for example I find a old box filled with buttons at a yard sale it makes me want them.
Since sewing is a lost art, most of us are reminded of a grandmother’s sewing box of implements when we see these things. I used to sew, not well, but well enough to turn an idea in my head into a real object for use. Mind you, it was only on the order of something like stitching one square of fabric to another, nothing wearable. Once, many years ago I took a sewing class at the community school. Of all the things I could have picked as a first project, the red satin evening coat was probably a very poor choice. First of all, it was impossible to make for a beginner. And second of all, where in the world did I think I was going to wear such an elegant garment? Perhaps I was living out some fantasy from another life.
I don’t remember if I ever finished it, but I know to this day I can not claim sewing as something I’m proud of although I do own two sewing machines.
They gather dust in a closet. Somehow I never got the hang of how that bobbin works. And forget about instructions. I never trust them even when they aren’t written in Chinese. But to this day I love sewing accouterments: buttons on cards and in baby jars a staple of every yard sale and junk yard store, old fashioned scissors called “snippers” from the 1930’s, tape measures made of silk and encased in metal, wood or celluloid from the 1920’s, pin cushions, needle packs with ornate labels with fancy fonts, patterns on yellow tissue thin paper and wooden spools of silk thread.
Right now I’m interested in salvage materials. I just finished writing an article about a house in ‘Sconset that was originally two small early cottages built in the 1800s. They were nothing special until they were moved and attached and made into one. Then in the 1960s some pretty bad renovations were done to it, like replacing old windows for vinyl ones! I guess the Historic District Commission was asleep at the time, or maybe wasn’t yet established. At any rate, new owners hired the firm of Angus MacLeod Designs to restore and renovate it in 2011 and they masterfully salvaged and repurposed all the really good old material for the new house.
While writing about this project I was introduced to a wonderful resource that anyone within striking distance of Boston should know about. It’s the Restoration Resources store in Boston. Angus MacLeod describes it as “an art gallery of beautiful salvaged items” where you’ll find early doorknobs, interesting hinges, balusters, old doors and windows and such. Now that I’m working on my new book, Salvage Style, this is my next “go to” place. Read More
When I travel I like to stay in one place for long enough to feel at home. Or, at least to get more of an impression of the place than you get from passing through. Having a home away from home is always better than staying at a hotel, if possible. Jon and I have rented dozens of houses, and apartments in lots of diverse places. We’re good at temporarily moving into other people’s homes and instantly, making them our own.
During the month of August we like being a tourist in someone else’s touristy town. It’s more fun than getting annoyed at tourists invading our own hometown of Nantucket. Feeling displaced has become less desireable than being a tourist in someone else’s town.
When you go to a place and settle in for a while you get to know a few locals. You frequent the restaurants, wander into the local bookstore perhaps, have breakfast every morning at the same diner, maybe even take an exercise or Yoga class. It’s fun to enjoy a normal routine doing normal everyday things, like shopping in the local market, only in a different place from home.
We are in Napa Valley, CA. Every day we do one thing that we don’t do at home. Yesterday we took a cooking class at the CIA. Jon thought he was going to spy school until I translated Culinary Institute of America. We had no interest in cooking but it was a very cool thing to do in a really cool building that looked like a medieval castle.
It can’t possibly be the end of summer. It doesn’t feel like summer is over, but we who live here know that the best part of the season is about to begin. The days are dryer, a bit cooler and best of all, less traffic everywhere. Jon and I went down to the Jetties late day on Sunday. We walked down the boardwalk by the Galley Restaurant , dubbed “the Gaza Strip” by locals many, many years ago. Right away we ran into familiar folks enjoying the less crowded beach and a swim in the calm water there, always warmer than the ocean.
Reflecting on the photos I took while away this summer, I came upon several of the Napa Valley Wine Train taken from my car window. Train travel seems like such a civilized way to get from one place to another. When I was a child we often took the train from Connecticut to visit my grandparents in Florida. Back then it was an overnight trip and seemed very exciting sleeping in the pull-down berths, and eating in the dining car.
Now that it’s September all the local events kick in. On Saturday the Egan Maritime Institute hosted their yearly Maritime Festival on the grounds of Children’s Beach. This is a free event for everyone and families come to participate in all sorts of maritime arts and crafts. There’s also plenty of food served throughout the day.
Maritime Festival at Children’s Beach
A huge tent was set up with a dozen or more tables manned by volunteers and hosted by artisans encouraging children of all ages and adults to pull up a chair and participate for however long they wanted to stay.
This was the weekend for taking stock. The weather is turning slightly away from ultra muggy to bearable. I’ve actually gotten out my duvet cover and turned off the overhead fans. What I overlooked all summer is now glaring: the tiny spot on my white linen slipcovers, the one unlined drawer in the kitchen cabinet that drives me crazy because I ran out of lining paper just a strip short of finishing the job in the spring, and the stair treads that need to be repainted every year.
A fall arrangement of dried flowers, orange snooker balls in a wooden trough (found in a second’s store), a painting by Nantucket artist Paul LaPaglia and a burnt orange painted folk art table from Spouter Gallery add a touch of fall color scheme to my living room. The reindeer candle holder from a yard sale is a year ‘round staple and has a twin on another table.
My summer clothes all need washing and put into plastic containers or clothes bags – go into a box to be sent to Key West in January. Why is it that every white t-shirt has a stain or spot I didn’t detect all summer? Everything in my house is assessed to see what should be replaced, refurbished, or is okay for another season.
All this “stock taking” precipitated an imminent off-island trip to the big city of Hyannis on the Cape. I hate to admit it, but all my basic needs can be fulfilled in this place where they have a Home Goods, a Dollar store, a K-Mart, a T.J. Max and Marshalls. In other words – I’m discount deprived.
I returned home from California to Nantucket’s best kept secret – end of summer. By the last week of August right through Columbus Day, the weather on Nantucket is spectacular! The ocean is warm enough to swim and it’s not too hot to do anything outdoors. My garden is thriving, even after this scorching summer thanks to Sally Obremski who’s kept it looking good. So now I’m enjoying some last days on the beach. One of my favorite spots is Stone’s Beach on Surfside. It’s still the way it’s always been, no perceivable erosion here. But the thing that always makes me smile is the little “free library.”
The picture of a simple farmhouse with cushioned chairs for relaxing are quite beckoning. This could be a property anywhere on Nantucket or in New England. The trees that surround the property are familiar, unlike the palm trees, for example in the south. But this is a small, family owned vineyard in Calistoga, California and the house is where they have regular wine tastings, open by appointment to the public. However, unlike any other winery in Napa Valley, this one is owned and run by a Nantucket born resident, Ehren Jordan, son of Nantucket real estate owner, Lucille Jordan.
When you come from Nantucket, driving through Napa Valley, with huge mountains everywhere you look, can be super overwhelming. In a word it’s awe-inspiring. Add to that, fields and fields of symmetrical rows of grape vines. It is just pre-season for the vineyards so everything is pretty quiet. Even though the pickers are nowhere in sight, we are told there is much going on behind the scenes. This area is farmland and all about one industry. Nantucket used to be that way at different times in its history. Imagine how quiet things were during the whaling era when every able bodied male was off to sea for months, even years at a time.
When I first came to Nantucket as a child, tourism was in its infancy and most year ‘rounders made a living from scalloping. The energy level of the town was what might be described as “laid back.” For three weeks we’ve made the small town of Calistoga, CA home. And now, after two weeks the pace I normally operate on is slowed down to where I am questioning if I will ever get back my “normal” energy level. Maybe this is what a vacation is for.