Monday, June 11, 2018

Collections

I love collectors! People who collect things are interesting, usually adventurous and always happy to share what they know about their collectibles. I’m talking about people who really love the things they collect, not for their monetary value, but for their beauty, function, age, whimsy, uniqueness or variety. People who research the subject and can tell you the who, what, where, why and how about their obsession. Folks that don’t mind tromping through mud or spider webs, and know that even rusted, dirty things have beauty and purpose. Folks who will skip eating lunch out for a month so they can afford the treasure that will make such a great addition to their collection. (I never say complete a collection because who can do that?) The only time I don’t like collectors is when we go into a house and the family tells us there is “a huge collection of plates from Bradford Exchange” or any of the other “collectibles” from any of the exchanges, mints, or clubs that are modern day companies. The reason I don’t like them? Because these things are marketed and sold as if they are going to increase in value and it’s just not true. You have all seen the ads in Sunday’s paper and in magazines telling folks to “buy now at the incredibly low price of $___ because once we close this offer, the mold will be broken.” (Or pattern retired, plans locked in a vault, yada, yada, yada) The thing they don’t say is that the offer will only be closed when people stop buying them. (So once they hit that 8 million mark, that’s it!) There is no limited run on most things sold as collectibles. So now I go into a house and mom loved the porcelain babies that look real with beautiful little dresses and life like hair and she never took them out of the box and all of them have the certificates of authenticity that came with them and she paid almost $100 for each one of them…and I have to tell the children that we will be lucky to get $10 each for them. Please don’t misunderstand me though, if you love these things and buy them purely for your enjoyment, by all means, keep right on doing what you love. But don’t let slick ads and pretty pictures make you believe that you are buying “an investment” or a “future rare keepsake”. Also, don’t think that people won’t buy these things; there are collectors out there who love them and only buy them second hand, so they do sell at our sales. But I’ve never sold a modern day collectible for more than its original price. The moral of this story is that just because you call something a collectible doesn’t make it valuable.

Ok, enough tough love, time for fun. I am fascinated by the things people collect so here is a list of some of the more interesting things I’ve heard about and seen:
*Old candy boxes used to display candy in the store. The kind that held 24 Hershey bars and the top lifted off and the bottom one was slipped inside it.
*Postcards, but only ones that were actually used and none newer than 1940
*Original paintings of houses
*Tiny baby dolls, antique, porcelain or bisque but only those small enough to fit in your palm
*Water guns from the 1950’s and 60’s
*Homemade stuffed animals
*Tiny books (the size of a domino or smaller)
*Old game pieces
* Pictures of people with a horse
*Old coat hangers
*Wasp or hornets nests
*Bird’s nests
*Jewelry boxes with ballerinas that twirled
*Cocktail stir sticks
*Pen knives with company logos
*Small screwdrivers (less than 4 inches)
*Barbed wire
*Small animal cages and traps
*Eggs (actual eggs, not plastic or ceramic!)
*Promotional material for products that didn’t make it for one reason or another and of course the actual product if they can find it
*Figurines of great people, works of art, etc.
*Belt buckles that have hidden uses (knives in them, secret compartments)
*Boat paddles, especially homemade ones
*Monkeys doing things that people do (riding a bike, cooking, using a camera)
*Cancelled checks with interesting handwriting, amounts or notations
*Casket pictures
*Unusual kitchen gadgets and serving pieces (silver tray that holds a pickle jar and tongs to retrieve them)
*Wooden clothespins
*Small plastic cake decorations
*Tiny license plate replicas that were to hang on your keychain
*Old boxes of pencil leads
* Toy houses and barns
*Vintage pictures of cowboys and cowgirls
*Homemade Barbie clothes
*Glass eyes

Don’t you just love it?!

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Vintage Sewing Baskets, Boxes and Needle Books

I love old antique sewing boxes and baskets, notions, needle books and cases and just about anything that pertains to sewing...do I sew?  Very little!  I don't really have the patience to be good at it.  Maybe that's why I like all the pretty boxes and baskets so much...they look so pretty when they aren't in use! 😏

The Victorian boxes with their gorgeous tools and fancy decorations are undeniably some of the prettiest you'll ever find and lots of French tools are made of silver and ivory.  Fancy boxes and baskets can be found in most every style and size.  But my absolute favorites are the American ones whether homemade or purchased, that are filled with a lady's favorite notions that she used.  I like to see the half filled needle books and the button cards that have 2 left out of 5 on the card, the wooden spools of thread that are half full, tiny scissors for handwork and bits of lace and trim.  These are the ones that allow me to appreciate how much love and attention someone gave to their family.  

People don't sew as much these days as women did in the 20th century but that doesn't mean it should be forgotten.  I have a basket that has all the essentials for sewing on buttons, mending small rips and tears, hemming a pair of pants...and when I do these things I can appreciate all the women who did so much more with their baskets!  

We have a Pinterest board dedicated to the wonderful baskets, boxes and needle books of the past. 

Friday, June 8, 2018

Storing Things in the South


Storing things in any part of the country must be done carefully but especially so in Louisiana. Our high humidity levels, extreme heat and huge assortment of varmints and critters make for some pretty challenging conditions. Best advice? Don’t.
Ok, I realize we all have to store things sometimes. So when you do, take as many precautions as you can to prevent any problems. One of the biggest challenges we have here is high humidity. More moisture in the air means things mildew very quickly. It’s important to understand that anything can mildew, even furniture. When wood is stored in a closed space with no heat or air conditioning, there is almost a 100% chance it will be ruined if not taken care of regularly. Taking care of it means going in and wiping it down with cleaner/furniture polish. If you already see mildew, use white vinegar to wipe it away and then use furniture polish. Do not use bleach, Pine-Sol, or any product containing bleach. Vinegar will kill the mold spores without damaging the wood. (Just pour a little on a soft cloth, don’t pour it on the wood directly.) Check for mildew at least every month while furniture is stored.
Clothing should be stored for as short a time as possible and should never be packed in tubs or boxes. Hang clothing so that air can circulate around it. It should be covered to protect it from dust and such but not with plastic! Don’t use the dry cleaning bags, use clean cotton (like a sheet) or in a pinch you could use tissue paper.
The high humidity also causes metal to rust; kitchen utensils that aren’t stainless steel will ruin quickly as will patio furniture, picture frames and costume jewelry.
Try wrapping things in tissue paper and throw in some of the silica packets that you find in packaging of all kinds of things. Silica is a desiccant and will absorb water vapor. Use it in boxes of books also to keep the pages from molding and sticking together. 
Temperature changes also affect wood. The temperature in a closed building with no AC can quickly reach 120+ degrees during our summer months. That kind of heat will cause veneers to buckle, wood will expand and drawers no longer open smoothly, and small pieces of trim and decoration will become brittle and crack. 

Try leaving a fan to circulate air if electricity is available. There isn’t really much else you can do except get things out of storage as quickly as possible. Furniture isn’t the only thing affected by extreme heat; books will become dry and brittle, paint will flake, and anything made of plastic, rubber or wax will melt.
Finally, you have to contend with pests when storing things for long periods of time. Roaches, mice, earwigs, wasps, dirt dobbers (daubers if you’re fancy), spiders, rats and even snakes will all invade storage facilities and make themselves very comfortable. They can get in plastic tubs with lids, boxes that are taped shut, bags that tightly tied, and any other thing you might try to use! 

You can’t keep them all out all the time but some helpful deterrents are mothballs, insect sprays or bombs, Borax powder and peppermint oil. Be sure that whatever you use is safe for use with the items you have stored and won’t harm any pets that may ingest it accidentally. Don’t ever bring things that have been in storage for any length of time into your house and leave it. Unpack outside and shake out the contents before bringing them inside. Otherwise, you are just moving the little creatures in with you! Books are especially bad, leave them outside for several days and inspect them carefully before bringing inside. Also, don’t stick your hands down into containers without knowing what is in there…empty the contents if possible or take things out from the top, one at a time. Spiders, snakes and all kinds of scary stuff love burrowing down in dark places. Be careful!
I know this post is probably raining on some people’s parade and I’m sure sorry if it’s yours! But I’m even sorrier when I do a sale and find wonderful things that are ruined because they were stored in an attic or outside building for years with no regard. I’m sure it isn’t intentional, but the items are ruined just the same. I hope this information will help you make hard decisions. Many people tell me they stored things because they didn’t know what to do with it, or they didn’t have room for it, or it belonged to a deceased loved one and they didn’t want to part with it…the reasons are all valid, but if it ruins while you have it stored, you might just as well have thrown it away and saved yourself the trouble of packing it up. Ask family members if they would like to have it, sell it, give it to charity or replace a piece you already own with it, but please don’t let it ruin while in storage.


Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Label Your Photos

One of the things we frequently find is photographs. Old black and white photos, daguerreotypes, vintage Olan Mills posed photos, and old color instant Polaroid’s. Sometimes, we find boxes of them! We usually put them away for the family, unless we have been told to just throw them away and sell whatever frames they are in…you read it right, throw them away. The first time someone told me that I was so stunned that I blurted out “Oh my gosh, no, I can’t throw them away, it’s your family!” The client calmly informed me that all family members already had copies of most of the photos or at least of the ones they wanted. As for the older photos, they had no idea who was in the pictures so they held no meaning or sentiment for them. How sad, I thought.
Image may contain: 37 people, people smiling
Which brings me to the point of today’s post: Label your photos. Let the next generation know who is in the picture, how they are related, where and when the picture was taken (if known), and anything else you might want someone to remember (favorite uncle, fought in the war, etc.) I know, I know, it takes time and it’s a lot of trouble. But try. Do some every night while watching TV during the commercials. Set aside time to get together with other relatives and pick their brains if there are mystery pictures in your possession. You don’t have to do it all at once; you don’t have to go buy expensive albums and acid free boxes for storage. Just write down what you know and keep it with the picture. You can write on the backs of the photos IF you use a soft lead pencil with very light pressure or a permanent odorless marker. Do not use a regular permanent marker; it will damage the photo eventually. You can buy the ones that are safe for photos at hobby or photography stores. If you use a pencil, do not use much pressure so you don’t leave an indentation. 
Image may contain: 2 people
If you have much to write, use an index card and keep it with the photo in a sleeve. If you feel really industrious you can scan all of your photos into your computer and give each a unique number. You can then create a table of numbers with a description or columns of information for each picture. Just be sure to back it up once you get it done! I did a little quick research and found that the Canon CanoScan (various models), Epson Perfection Model V300 or V500, are probably the best scanners for this task. Each offers different features so research which one will best serve your purpose. Scanning them into your computer also makes it easier to share them. You can print high quality images at home that are equal to or better than some quick print retail options. If this sounds like way too much technology to navigate or will be too time consuming for you to tackle yourself, there are companies that will scan, restore and store your photos for you. Prices start around $20 and vary depending on services requested.
Once you complete labeling and/or scanning, you still have photos to store. Light, humidity and temperature are the greatest threats to old pictures. Store them inside your house in a dark closet. Never put them in the attic, outside, in the garage, or in a basement. (If you move, lol) This is the part where you can spend some money buying quality albums and boxes that are acid free. But if you can’t or choose not to, plastic sleeves (not Mylar or vinyl) will protect them, as will a box. Just keeping them dust free and away from light and temperature extremes will go a long way in preservation. If they are hanging in your home, make sure they are not getting direct sunlight on them. 
I hope you have old photos that you can identify and share with your loved ones. I promise you they will appreciate the effort you put into doing it. A strong family history is something parents can pass on to children giving them a sense of belonging, pride and self worth. Knowing that you come from a long line of good people makes you want to work hard to become another link in that chain.

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Monday, June 4, 2018

Family Recipes

All of us would like to ensure family traditions live on long after we are gone. One way to do that is with recipes.  Few things bring people together like good food lovingly prepared and shared. Think back to your fondest childhood memories of holidays. Can you name the food on the table? I can for nearly every meal we had at either grandparent’s house. My father’s mother made the absolute best fried chicken in the world and a coconut cake that I would walk to Texas for. My mom’s mother made the lightest, sweetest homemade rolls that I’ve ever had and she could make pie crust that made you not care what kind of pie it was, just give you some more of that buttery, flaky crust. Can you tell I like sweets? It’s sad but true, I will pass on steak anytime for cake!
Vintage Buttermilk Biscuits Recipe Card from 1900's Recipe box
I digress though. Go to the person in your family who makes the dishes you love and ask them for their secrets. Don’t just get the recipe; ask them to teach you to make it. Anyone can measure ingredients and use heat to render them edible. I’m talking about people who know that if you “work the dough” too much it will be tough. I’m talking about cooks who can tell by the color of the sweet potatoes when they are candied perfectly. I’m talking about the hands that can mix an egg and buttermilk in a little “well” in the center of a dishpan full of flour and wind up with the perfect amount of biscuit dough for one pan of biscuits. Delicious, light as air, fall out of the pan biscuits. Beg them to show you the things they have learned from years of doing it over and over. Ask them why they use a glass to cut their biscuits instead of “dropping” them. Find out why they prefer one brand of flour over another. Watch as they cut up their vegetables, pay attention to how much bacon grease they put in a pot of butterbeans for flavor, offer to help put up pears or beans, bring jars over and learn to make jelly from mayhaws.
Look carefully at the pots and pans they use. Most good cooks have pots they love. Well seasoned black iron can’t be beat for frying eggs or pork chops, skillets make the perfect cornbread too. Some cooks swear by copper anytime they are cooking sugar and even rookies know that you need a deep, even heating, thick walled, stainless pot for making gumbo. Most cooks have favorite pots and dishes they use for specific recipes. Watch how they mix things, do they use specific utensils or bowls? Do they measure everything or do they add ingredients with the confidence gained from a lifetime of experience? Do they have a recipe they follow and if so, where did they get it? Was it their mother’s? Did a long ago neighbor teach them to make some exotic dish? Is something they make a carryover from “the old country”? Learn all you can and memorialize it. Write it down, set your phone to record a video as they teach you, take pictures, keep all the evidence you can to remind you of why the recipe is so special.
It’s easy to go to the store and buy frozen biscuits (they are good!) and there are cookbooks and online recipe sites that can tell you how to make almost anything. But once someone is gone there are no more chances to get that special pancake recipe or ask exactly which spices to use when making bread and butter pickles. More than the recipe though is the time you get with that person. Time is the most valuable commodity any of us have. Use yours wisely and ensure that future generations have the same traditions you cherish. Making cookies with your grandchild will be all the more special if you are using the same recipe and cutters that your grandmother used when she taught you to bake. Don’t let the opportunity pass you by; even if you only use the recipe(s) once a year, you will never regret having them. And every good southern cook should have at least one signature dish…what will yours be?