Sunday, October 11, 2009

Snippets from the Magic Kingdom (Disney)

It's 94 degrees, a Saturday in October, 2009. Not too bad a problem as Disney has lots of air conditioning.

Enjoying the colors: Red train, blue train station, Minnie Mouse's house in aqua's, blues and pinks. The exaggerated cottage architecture.

"TTFN" Tigger's quotation meaning Tah Tah For Now repeated 600 times over the speakers above head as you wait for the Winnie The Pooh ride.

The Jungle Cruise tour guide girl telling all of the children to "stay in school" or they too could be circling a fake river every 10 minutes for the rest of their lives and that any lost children that remain unclaimed are stuck into the "It's a Small World" attraction. A tad of job burnout here.

The topiary garden designs. LOVED Alice In Wonderland and the Rabbit in shrubbery, giant teapots, etc....

Why are there no mosquitos at Disney World? Everywhere else in the South they are still biting like crazy, but no mosquito sightings at Disney? Nice, but curious.

$14. to park the car.

The "Carousel of Progress" show, first introduced in 1964, where the audience circles the stationary stage depicting various time periods in the progress of inventions. The first stage, the "turn of the century" (and I mean 1900's not 2000's) actually was my favorite.

And, something new. A Beauty Parlour attraction to doll up little girls so that they can tour Disney decked out as a princess. The premise is very good. The results can often be a disturbing site, however. 3 year olds with teased bouffant hairdos, make up and wigs of hair as long as they are tall tooling about the park.

Every child on our tram ride going back to the parking lot, hysterical with exhaustion.

Interesting, but must further mentally digest the day.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

DESTINATION: Skyway Bridge Fishing Pier, St. Petersburg, Florida

Can we have scenic fun for $4.00? Yes. Take I-275 towards St. Petersburg, Florida. South of St. Petersburg you will cross the magnificent Skyway Bridge with it's two glimmering yellow arches over portions of the Gulf of Mexico . On both the Southern and the Northern ends of this bridge there are access road exits to reach the old bridge below that has been turned into Florida State Park pier sites for fishing. (If you are only driving into the "park" to look, the fee is $3.24 per car for one hour.) If you came prepared to fish, you pay a fee of $4.00 and no fishing licenses are required. Bring your picnic lunch. Drinks and chips are available along with bait, post cards and restrooms, but that's it folks. There is one covered pavilion/picnic area, but no grilling, alcohol or pets are allowed. This is serious fishing territory. You fish, you eat your sandwich, drink your water and you fish. There are picnic facilities at the Rest Areas before you enter the park and people go fishing here also, but, if you are outside of the State Park boundary then you do need to have a fishing license that you can buy at Walmart and other locations before you arrive.

Personally, I'm not a fishing enthusiast, although I admit, there is not quite anything like a fresh Gulf fish, caught and cooked within a matter of minutes. It's like tasting the sea.


For a day of fun, some people head to DisneyWorld. I, on the other hand, went to Ikea. As soon as you enter the doors of this giant European market the cinnamon sweets and Swedish meatballs aromas hit you with the promise of a nice, filling lunch after a morning of browsing.
You immediately ascend the beckoning escalator up, up and away into the fun and fresh home interior designs that are distinctively Ikea. Ikea is not just a big, box mega store that is overwhelming. It is cleverly laid out, where you follow the path and/or the arrows on the floor so that you systematically wend your way thru the entire place to take in all of their innovative departments filled with affordable design. I saw no evidence of economic depression at the Ikea store in Tampa, Florida on the day I visited. It was bustling with people actually buying things; loading up cars. Do you live in 300 sq. ft. of space? Visit their "model home" where within less than 300 sq. ft. you have your kitchen, living room, bedroom, bath and closets wonderfully laid out and organized by means of shelving and a raised bed. Do you need to exist in less than 500 square feet? There was another model set up that included a children's room. The children's designs are especially functional and fun.

Do you need a giant fabric leaf that hangs from the wall in rain forest, shade like fashion? A white or pink, plastic daisy that hangs on the wall that also serves as a night light? A giant moon-like paper globe lantern for $8.99? Or, perhaps a child's chair, shaped like an egg with a fabric flap that folds down so they can hide inside the chair? View at least two glassed in mechanical demonstrations of how chairs are tested by pounding them with a machine to determine that they have a 10 year warranty. Wow. Who would invent such a precise and synchronized chair testing machine, encase it in glass and place in a retail store?

People tell me I am easily amused. But, I suspect that is a good thing, as I am entertained by the idea of certain things rather than having to actually own the material goods.

To see what's in store on your first trip to an Ikea, check out their website. You will see that not only do they have basic sofas and chairs that you can purchase extra slipcovers for, bedding, shelving, lamps, kitchen cabinet designs, toys, glasses, dishes, plastics, gadgets, rugs, curtains, curtain hardware, fabric by the yard, frames and prints, but their selection of European duvets and pillows using down and feathers is wonderful also. And, we are not talking "Designer" prices, but person-with-a-paycheck prices. So, that makes shopping here fun. There is always the possibility that you actually can and will buy something.

Ikea has their own in house cafeteria style restaurant with reasonably priced selections using real dishes and glassware (not styrofoam). Their specialty is a plate of 15 Swedish Meatballs served with mashed potatoes and a dab of lingonberry (it's a Swedish thing) sauce for $4.99. They also have organic and vegetarian options.

The history of Ikea interested me also. It started in Sweden in the 1940's by an enterprising fellow that started selling matches when he was 5 years old; now expanded into 40 different countries around the world. I believe that they employ their own designers, challenging them to come up with happy designs that perhaps even use eco friendly or recycled goods. If you are ever in a city that boasts an Ikea, do drop in.

DESTINATION: Tarpon Springs, Florida

It's all about the sponge. An entire Florida Gulf village built on the heritage of Greek immigrant fisherman seeking the lucrative natural sponges abundant in the Gulf waters. It is a bit like stepping back in time, if not to the 1920's when this little town thrived, at least to the 1960's when tourists began arriving. And tourists are still arriving with their wallets and apetities. There seems to be no economic crisis in Tarpon Springs. Every table was taken at Greek restaurant after Greek restaurant, so much foot traffic, several bakeries, some with walk up windows to purchase freshly baked Baklava to go, and shop after shop after shop with their merchandise spilling out onto the meanering, aged sidewalks selling 15 cent post cards, colorful sundresses blowing in the wind, Greek fishermans hats, seashells, loofahs, imported and embroidered Greek linens, natural soaps made from olive oil in dozens of floral scents, tee shirts for babies saying "If Mommy says no, ask Yai Yai" (Greek for Grandma), and sponges; so many sponges. There are yellow sponges and wool sponges for washing your car, doing art projects or the shower, silk sponges to apply make-up, finger sponges for fish tanks and floral arrangements, giant flower pot sponges to use as homes for air plants or as containers for various bath or spa items. Talk about organic. Your 50 cent or $2.99 or $8.99 sponge investment can last and be useful for years. Some of the large basket like sponges are sought by collectors and can sell for hundreds of dollars.

I am a great meanderer and loved looking in the various shops, cafes and bakeries. Prices at all places were reasonable. What I call, The Florida Greed Syndrome of soaking tourists one time and then waiting for the next tourist/victim, never took root in Tarpon Springs. These family run establishments have carried on throughout the years serving their friends, family, community and tourists in the same manner and with the same prices, year round. And, this has served them well.

We ate at Mykonos and the owner greeted us as we entered, as I'm sure that he has greeted customers for many, many years, prior to us. Greek was spoken here. It was a small place but I counted no less than 10 workers all industriously busy, lighting flaming cheese dishes and exclaiming "OPA!", flipping sizzling, delicious things on the visible grill, re-filling ice tea glasses, taking orders, clearing tables. No lethargy or price gouging here. A fabulous gyro cost $5.95. Large greek salad with small slabs (not crumbled) of feta cheese were $7.95, delicious homemade white and wheat bread served with your food (free), fresh baked baklava with a nice cinnamon flavor $2.50. The menu states: "We are known for our authentic Greek cooking prepared from scratch daily in our open kitchen." I concur. The dinner plates that I saw coming out of the kitchen looked very appealing: stuffed grapevine leaves, Greek style shrimp and pan fried squid, ahhh to sample it all one day. The paper placemats (remember those!!; I brought mine home as a free souveneir) with a map of all of the Greek Islands also stated that Mykonos was highlighted in Everyday with Rachel Ray Magazine in "Great Meal for a Great Deal."

Besides the shops and cafes you can also see a free, old film in a box like room to the side of a gift shop, describing each and every sponge known to mankind and their uses and an even older film on the danger and adventure of diving for the sponges. Then you are funneled through a dark relic of a tiny museum where various lifesize dioramas on sponge life are to be viewed. True, this museum perhaps had it's heyday in 1960, but I still found it a "must see", very educational and remember it's free. It really puts the appreciation of sponges into you and also into the sponge buying mood. Now, you see you really NEED sponges to make your life easier and complete. I'm in.

Dodecanese Boulevard contains most of these shops and restaurants and faces the docks and the water leading to the Gulf of Mexico. Up close fishing boats and sponge boats and many, many boat tours are available. You can take the Sponge diving demonstration tour boat for a 35 minute run for $8.00 or you can opt for an hour and a half boat tour of the waterways, going out into the Gulf of Mexico viewing the sponge collecting areas of the ocean and possible and probable dolphin sightings for $14.95. If you are eating in the restaurant or taking a boat tour, the parking is free for their customers or you may snag a generally free parking space. Otherwise, parking in various lots is $3.00 for all day.

The day that I happened to visit Tarpon Springs there was also the added delight of an arts and crafts show being held in the street. If you go, remember that this is the dock side area of Tarpon Springs and is known as the Sponge Docks. There is actually a separate and quaint little downtown area of Tarpon Springs that is lined with more Greek restaurants and antique shops that merit a walk about also. (There just happened to be another Arts and Crafts fair going on that same day in this downtown area.) So much to see.

Tarpon Springs definitely rates Day Trip status. Located just North of the Tampa/Clearwater area a day trip is possible from much of Florida and especially when zipping up and down, North and South on I-75. Get to old U.S. 19 in Tarpon Springs. From here you can turn to the little downtown or you can turn onto Tarpon Ave. which leads to the Sponge Docks. The street with all of the Greek action is Dodecanese Blvd. If you want to mapquest, the address for Mykonos restaurant mentioned above is: 628 Dodecanese Blvd., Tarpon Springs, FL 34689


Saturday, September 5, 2009

Coffee Table Re-Vamp

I am taking my daily walk around the block and pass a pile of junk; leftovers from a garage sale held the previous day. Nothing appears to be too promising, mostly cheap, pressed wood, furniture.

As it does in Southern Florida every good summer day, it soon started pouring rain. The next day I go on my walk and pass the same pile of junk, and while most of the pressed wood furniture has buckled and folded into glumpy, swollen messes, due to the rain, one coffee table stands alone. I give it closer inspection and find that it is actually all wood and the rain has not done any real damage. Hmmm, a treasure? I return home, pick up my two wheel hand cart and then go and wheel this giant coffee home to ponder upon. It is dark, dark wood, somewhat marred, and the legs are plump and gorgeous. It could have a cottage-y, beach-y feel, if it were lightened up, I'm thinking. If I were a gifted artist, it would be a marvelous wooden canvas with it's various planes and mouldings, I can visualize each area painted a different tropical color, aqua, blue, parrot green, coral and peach. But, alas, I am not that gifted and do not want to spend the extraordinary amount of time it would take to carefully paint in such detail. So, it gets a lovely coat of white primer, and one edging done in a nice, tropical greenish blue color that I already have on hand. Now it is wonderfully suited to display giant seashells. Which leads to another idea. To give it some pizzaz; I rubber stamp in the words, SHE SELLS SEASHELLS BY THE SEASHORE SHE SELLS SEASHELLS BY THE SEASHORE SHE SELLS SEASHELLS BY THE SEASHORE all around the top edge in small letters and in a nice sandy brown color. And only now am I pleased with the finished product.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Mingle with the Masses at a Flea Market

Today I mingled with the masses. If you want to know the true heartbeat of a community, spend an entire day at a down and dirty flea market. In Fort Myers, Florida, go to Ortiz Ave. they have it all. We're talking 100+ spaces, all outdoors, of good flea market junk, plus fresh produce, green peppers the size of grapefruit 4 for $1.00, Plant City (they are famous for) Strawberries $1.00 quart, live chickens (sadly, I had to resist causing a distraction so that I could free all the chickens), gardenia bushes, blue jeans, tires, washing machines, shoes, DVDs and well, back to the good flea market junk. If you know what to look for there were some extraordinary bargains on antiques, framed prints, and solid wood furniture. Or, if you're there trying to stretch a paycheck, 50 cent clothes and $1.00 sets of dishes were happily being bought and sold, left and right.

I enjoyed my finds and also the food. I noticed many people walking past me, gnawing on a roasted ear of corn with the husks and corn silk singed and pulled back as the "handle". Buttery stuff was squirted on the corn and then sprinkled with really hot paprika. It was adorable to see many small children happily munching on their corn treat (perhaps without the paprika?) as if it were the best lollipop in the world. Just outside the grounds of the flea market is a popular eating place, La Mexicana. It is a grocery store, bakery, and hot food line that is simply delicious and very reasonably priced.

I love the international flavor of flea markets. So many languages and music are heard. It is a very entertaining place to be. Watching people from behind my sunglasses keeps me quite entertained, but there are actual singers, guitar players, and people who will inscribe your name on a piece of rice. What's not to love?

This was my grubby and sunburned adventure today.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Bonita Springs National Art Festival

This event was held March 14 and 15, 2009. The Art League of Bonita Springs hosts these festivals twice per winter in a nice setting along Hwy. 41, (otherwise known as Tamiami Trail) in The Promenade. Most of the artists are from far away places, the North, and enjoy getting away to the tropical paradise of Bonita Springs, Florida.
When I attend a show, I tend to zone in on the photography exhibits. At least a dozen photographers participated so I had lots to look through. There were many Italian street scenes, lots of doors and windows and laundry on lines, and Greek Island scenes with lots of blue. Also purple French lavender and a few kitties. I did not see a lot of people portrait work.
Since I am handy with a 35 mm camera, myself, I truly appreciate photographs that I could not capture personally; those one time circumstance shots when all things just happen to come together, the subject, the setting, the lighting. A moment has been captured that is now past and in that moment there is a story. Those are my kind of photographs.
At this show, I found one such photo taken by Patrick Whalen. The scene is a grand home in elegant Italian decay perched alone and abandoned on the edge of a cliff over looking the ocean. Not too far out to sea you can see Mount Vesuvius with a cloud formation that looks every bit as good as volcano smoke. The home is abandoned, it's last use as a restaurant. Indeed, very small in the the corner of the photography there is a table with a white tablecloth close to a guardrail. And very minute, in front of the house, facing Vesuvius is a swing, empty on an A-frame stand.
I purchased this photo and on the back it is labeled St. Agnello, Italy. Perhaps one day it will be an adventure to go and see this setting/sun/yellow stucco house for myself.
I looked up Patrick Whalen's website and it is nice. Another favorite photograph is the hot pink Italian house with character. I encourage you to look at the sight and hey, purchase a piece of photography art.
Another stop that I made at the show was at artist Jan Peng Wang's space. FABULOUS oil paintings. The talent is phenomenal. His portraits of people, young girls, family scenes, the faces, the highlights, the shading, the eyes. Think "Girl with the Pearl Earring". I almost feel that it was a privilege to view his work at such a humble setting as an outdoor art show. I see his work in the Louve perhaps as a more fitting setting. Strangely, however, when I went to his website, the images there did not make the same impression on me. They were more like sculptures. The work he displayed in Bonita was emotional. I was thrilled to be able to buy three little signed notecards of reproductions of his works, since I could not buy the real paintings. Sigh. Two of my prints have a girl and a young lady with what Hungarians call a babuska tied on their heads, apparantly also a tradition in Tibet where some of the subjects live. The third print is of a young girl seated and her mother and sister braiding her hair. Simple scenes captured in glowing, rich oil paints. Seeing his work is truly a treat and I can at least check out the website to see where he might show these treasures again. Mr. Wang is from Canada.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Clear the Clutter

Saturday, March 14: Gave a lecture on "How to Clear the Clutter from our homes, once and for all" at Florida Gulf Coast University, in Fort Myers, Florida as part of their non-credit classes. It was a good morning and I hope all enjoyed the class as much as I did. It was established that we "clutterers" are in good company because clutterers are highly intelligent, creative or artsy, know the importance of recyclying and may very well be perfectionists.

Some of the highlights: 1) We need to have a vision of what we want our homes to look like. It may be a luxury hotel suite, a model home, our Grandmother's house from way back, or a picture from a decorator magazine. Visualize that environment where there is "A place for everything and everything in it's place." Keep this vision in mind the entire time we are de-cluttering. This is our goal, and we can achieve.

Where to start? Start in one corner in one room. I suggest by the front door. Work your way around the entire room, looking at each and every item, piece by piece to determine is it ???

1)Trash. Immediately put in trash can or recycle bin and get it out of the house.

2) Donate. (find an organization that you can be passionate about helping with donations, such as a no-kill animal shelter, a shelter for women and children, etc..., then you will be happy to give useful items to them and letting them go.) Put the donations in your car today and drive them to the thrift store.

3) Give away. If you are saving things for your children or something would look perfect in a friend's home, give it to them now. Make them come and pick it up today.

4) Sell. Plan that garage sale or find a consignment shop or place the item on immediately. Give yourself a dead-line of when these items need to be gone, such as 3 days. Consignment shops will only want items valued at more than $5.00. so that will help in your sorting. Resolve to not bring anything unsold back into the house after the sale, load them immediately into a car or truck and drive to donate that same day.

5) Keep. Just because you've always had something doesn't mean that you need to always keep it. Look at each item in your home with a fresh eye. Do you love it? Does it bring happy thoughts to you, and not negative ones? Is it useful? If it is clothing, does it look fantastic on you and flatter you? (And, that is you now, not the size you want to be in the future.) Does it have monetary value? Do you have a place for it? Will you need to store it? (not good). Take it to it's new home, immediately.

Never sort into piles on the floor. Sort immediately into the final containers, in the above categories. Do not wait to go through the entire room or house, before you make the trip to the thrift store for your donations, or start selling items, by then it is too overwhelming again. The reason this de-cluttering method is successful is that you spend part of your time, whether it is 10 minutes or 2 hours per day sorting, but you allow enough time for packing up your car and driving the stuff to it's final destination that same day. You begin to see results immediately.

There is so much more advice, it definitely takes a full two hours of seminar to cover it all, but I thought that I would share at least some of the tips to get you started if you happen to be searching for a path out of a cluttered environment.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Shoe Repair Shop Revival

Today may be February 4, but I just got around to reading my February 2 copy of the Wall Street Journal. (It's a long story as to why I have a subscription to the Wall Street Journal.)
There is an article in this February 2 issue that makes me happy! I know, good news from the business world these days?
The article tells us that there is a shoe repair boom; "a new lease on life to the tiny shoe-repair industry, which has been shrinking". In these rough economic times people are re-discovering the old shoe repair, otherwise known as cobbler shops to re-heel high heels, resole boots and polish up oxfords. "Nation-wide, cobblers and their suppliers report markedly higher revenues than a year ago, as newly frugal Americans opt to repair their shoes rather than replace them."
I consider shoe repair an old fashioned business, and like an old fashioned business, generally the skill, equipment and store-front is passed on from generation to generation. The younger generation, due to lack of interest and lack of business had been closing up many of the old corner shops and moving on to other careers. Just try and find a shop in your town. However, those businesses that remain today are flush with new customers, many of whom have never been inside a shoe repair shop. I am happy that so many are re-discovering the glories of a shoe repair shop.
As a child, I used to accompany my mother or father into the dark, tiny shops with their wooden cubby holes full of people's shoes, each with a large manila claim tag. I loved the smell of leather and shoe polish that immediately enveloped you and also the reality of taking something worn and damaged and making it look like new again. How did they do that? Even back then, I loved the "Before" and "After" scenarios. My Mom's Jackie Kennedy style, worn out high heels would be taken in and when picked up they would have brand new heel tips. Separated leather belts and frayed suitcase handles could miraculously be glued and stitched into looking respectable again.
Penny loafers, in leather, of course, were all the rage and they regularly needed re-stitching and sprucing up. We carried them in dusty and torn and picked them up clean and shiny and practically perfect. Also, there was some fabulous fad about making clickity, tapping noises when you walked, so we had the shoe repair man attach little metal taps to the heels also. It made me feel special to click my way down the polished linoleum school hallway, my ponytail swinging side to side, like the cool girls. The affinity for shoe repair shops may be genetic. Steven, my Uncle, (even though he was only about 5 years older than me), purchased the business and contents of the local shoe repair shop in his hometown of Martins Ferry, Ohio. The owner could no longer carry on business and my uncle made a stab at learning the business. This didn't last long and he ended up with a basement full of cobble equipment. Boxes of shoe soles in various sizes, heavy iron shoe forms in sizes ranging from adorable child size to extra large, cool hammers, metal nails, and boxes of those manila claim tickets with the tear off lower portions. You could always go into Grandma's basement and play "shoe shop". In my later years I ferreted out some of the equipment that was still stored there and brought home the tiny child size metal shoe form. Anyway. The point is; LOVE shoe repair shops and glad they are popular once again.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Things from the Past

I do love things from the past, but does that have to include my favorite magazines? Three of my favorite magazine subscriptions include Cottage Living, Mary Engelbreit's Home Companion and Victoria Magazine. Just this weekend, I received two separate postcards that Cottage Living and ME Home Companion have ceased and desisted publication. Sigh. I went through withdrawal pains when Victoria faded from sight for several years. They made a come back and I am enjoying their magazine presently. The three magazines mentioned above embraced and promoted gracious living, artsy and creative surroundings & enterprises and living life large but in smaller and more personalized dwellings. I embrace all of the above.
The thing about a good magazine is that it can transport you to another "place", open your eyes to new surroundings and fresh ideas. For a few minutes you are in New Orleans inside a newly designed Katrina Cottage or looking at old baskets at the Brimfield Antique Show or perusing titles at the cozy, quaint and tiny (cookbooks only) bookstore in New York; thus the disappointment in losing two wonderful magazines. Some of the disappointment comes from being confronted with the fact that there are not enough people who appreciate the whole gracious/artsy/creative/cottage lifestyle to keep two magazines thriving.
But, for the 2% (?) of the population that perhaps do enjoy these things, we must persevere and carry on, moving forward. In that vein, I also received in the mail, this weekend, an invitation to subscribe to a magazine that I had not heard of before, Cloth Paper Scissors. It looked interesting, promising quirky art projects and creative artist's profiles, but I was wavering on paying for yet another magazine subscription. However, in light of the demise of Cottage Living and ME Home Companion, I am going to return my YES subscription postcard today to Cloth Paper Scissors and see what they are all about. I will miss the old but I'm open to discovering new favorites without compromising the standards of the gracious/artsy/creative/cottage lifestyle.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

"Have Junk Will Travel"

"Have junk will travel" is a fun motto to follow. Since I'm from Florida and I read this on a tee shirt in Tennessee at the "World's Longest Yard Sale", I guess you could say I was a follower. During four short days per year there are 654 miles of "junk" on Highway 127 running from Alabama thru Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky and Ohio right up to the Michigan state line. Pure heaven for a "Junk Junkie" (another tee shirt proclamation I saw). I can't dispute the claim that this is the "biggest and best event of its kind in the world".
My first experience with this fabulous sale was in 2006. There were hundreds of thousands of people and yet, because we were all driving slowly, gawking and stopping, it worked. I spotted license plates from as far away as Texas and Nevada. It is a fantastically fun weekend for "junkers", antique seekers and collectors. I arrived from Florida at dusk in Chattanooga, Tennessee and got the last room at the very nice Country Inn. The next morning we found Hwy. 127 and the fun began as we headed North. The drive was stop and go as we snaked our way up the scenic mountain road. The stops were anything from a simple yard sale at a house to a community flea market in parking lot to huge fields packed full of flea market spaces and vendors to an entire downtown transformed into a street festival. Thank goodness the downer of viewing brand new goods was few and far between. The Hwy. 127 sale prices were from fair to average to downright give-away; depending. Some of my purchases included homemade dollhouses, a couple pieces of beat-up furniture, a collection of old Life magazines (love the photographs), two original Western folk paintings, and two guitars.
The original idea of holding sales along Hwy. 127 was to boost local businesses and return travelers to the hotels and restaurants and shops and stops that generally became ignored in favor of the more rapid but mind numbing I-75. It's been a rousing success. Between the pre-sale days, sale days, post sale days and shoppers that stay on to vacation once they've discovered how lovely the area is, the Hwy. 127 corridor businesses are overwhelmingly busy for at least two weeks. I wish Florida Hwy. 441, which runs down the middle of the state would implement the same plan (different weekend please). Georgia has started a weekend sale in March cleverly named "Peaches to Beaches". It runs 172 miles from Perry, Georgia along Hwy. 371 to the ocean in Brunswick, Georgia. This year it will be held March 12 and 13, 2010. For more information check out . But back to Tennessee...
The winding route would have been gorgeous even without the sales. We passed many recreational opportunities, state parks, canoeing , horseback riding...but, alas, not on this trip, the bargains were too tempting, must forge ahead. Fields of Queen Anne's lace, horses, goats and cows grazing, blue/green mountains, corn fields, Dunlop's Restaurant with homemade coconut pie and corn bread; all fine. After 98 degree Florida weather, the crisp Tennessee evening air was refreshing. It was plenty hot in the day time, but still, not Florida hot.
The good folks in charge of the Hwy. 127 sales saw to it that there was no shortage of watermelon slices, bottled water, fried turkey legs, homegrown musical entertainment, country restaurants, ice cream shops or rest rooms on this trek. In fact, we literally followed an ice cream truck for miles and miles. Quite jolly. At one stop I had a conversation with the driver of this melodic truck and found out that he was the only authorized ice cream truck on that stretch of Tennessee. He was quite thrilled to have worked his way up to being bestowed the honor of having this coveted and exclusive route. Congrats. We also had the pleasure of playing vehicular leap frog with an HGTV camera crew as they drove the same route and seemed to make the same stops that we did. All those stops and we didn't appear once on their HGTV special! It aired and I believe it was called "The 2006 Endless Yard Sale". Catch a re-run if you can. The junk has been documented. Actually, I believe that they film a new show every year of the sale.
The party starts to wind down at dusk and we rolled into Cooksville, Tennessee, for the night, our heads slightly spinning from the kaleidoscope of treasures that we viewed and pawed through. We had traveled a mere seventy miles stopping at only a fraction of the sales, but they were slow, interesting miles filled with good company, good food and bargains. A dawn to dusk adventure for sure.
A word to the wise; motel rooms are in short supply. Apparently everyone else had made reservations? All but one (nasty) chain motel was filled and we stayed at the nasty for $129. per night. A long line began to form as we checked in and soon the desk clerk announced that unless you had a reservation there were no more rooms. So, make an advance reservation at a clean hotel or be prepared to camp. Actually, there are many camping opportunities along the route. I also spied quite a few Bed and Breakfast's which didn't seem to fill up as rapidly, since they are sometimes a bit off of the beaten path, i.e. on the top of a mountain. But, it's a good option.
For more information, including maps and directions, almost every county or town along the route has a telephone number or website giving information. One of them is: Fentress County Chamber of Commerce in Jamestown, Tennessee, Originators of the Yard Sale. But don't forget about Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky and Ohio, oh my. If all is well, perhaps I'll see you on Hwy. 127, in 2010. The dates are August 5-8, 2010. BE there. After all, "Have Junk Will Travel". And, a word to the wise. While the official dates of the sale are Thursday thru Sunday, make no mistake, much of the sales start the weekend BEFORE these dates. So, if you are interested in being a vendor or a shopper somewhere along this route, take note that people leasing spaces rent for the entire week, not just those 4 days. Good to know if you will be in the area prior to Thursday.

Fashion Free-For-All

Fashion is a free-for-all; and that's good news. It was an epiphany, a flash of insight. This weekend, I looked at all of the Sunday paper department store ads. I read a couple of the latest women's magazines and looked at their fashion photos. I saw wide belts, skinny belts, short skirts and long skirts. Straight, pencil skirts and gathered peasant skirts, severe lines and crochet and lace. Bold geometric patterns and baby doll prints. Stiletto heels, boots and wedges. Boot cut, tight pants and loose, flowing pants.

I think we have "arrived". Gone are the days when there was one prevailing style that we all had to adhere to in order to be fashionable. Now, thank goodness, it can be about what looks good on you, at this time in your life. Such freedom and enlightenment! Never again should one buy a garment that isn't stunning. And, stunning does not necessarily mean expensive. We are free to experiment, assemble or sew an outfit that is one-of-a-kind. I do love to sew and now I am free to gaze at a beloved piece of fabric and visualize what it should become. We are free to roam through a thrift store, selecting, shall we say "vintage" pieces of clothing and incorporate them into our wardrobe, shamelessly; not worrying that this was last season's (or last decade's) style.

Now, if I like it and it suits me, I can and will wear it. I noticed this tasteful style in Europe. Women did not sport obviously new clothing, or matchy, matchy outfits, but they were good clothes, elegant and well cut clothes that looked good on them.

It's how you wear it, and pull all of the pieces together that makes you attractive and stylish. It is not necessary to have others dictate what you wear.



BE TASTEFUL and you will be fashionable on your terms, which after all, are the most comfortable terms.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Fleas in France

Okay, I am a flea market person. When the opportunity arose to take a trip to France, I began plotting. My first day in Paris would be spent at the flea markets. It's not that I didn't want to see the Eiffle Tower, the Louve and Notre Dame, but, they had been there forever and could wait another few days. In all of those beloved home decor magazines that I pour over, I had read just one too many times a home owner or designer casually drop "Oh, I found that at a flea market in Paris and had it shipped home".
I was always more the "I'll take it if I can carry it back on the plane" sort (as in Lucy and her wheel of French cheese, for fellow I Love Lucy fans). Not knowing what was in store for me in Europe, I went to France with one small suitcase but returned home lugging four very large and exhaustively heavy bundles. Upon changing trains and planes in various stations and airports and running as best I could to catch the next connection, dragging along all of my loot, I began to take note of where the airports had hung their defibrillators. They were always amazingly at the the points where I was just about to give out. Clever Europeans. But, anyway...
Happily, the French are also flea market people. Paris may have the oldest continuous flea market and also the largest. The French word "Brocante" means "second hand goods". "Marches aux puces" translates into flea market. I may know only ten French words but Brocante and Com Bien (how much?) are among them. When seeking out a flea market for the first time and knowing that I was very close, at least in the right neighborhood, I had the word "Brocante?" written down on a piece of paper that I would flash at sidewalk cafe waiters and they never failed to point me in the right direction. I have no pride when it comes to asking directions leading to a juicy flea market.
In France, the traditional stores are closed on Sundays. however the flea markets come alive and so passing the day browsing in the flea markets can be a typical French Sunday. Here in the USA we may say we are going "junking" or "garage sale-ing", but the French have an actual word that means "strolling around at a relaxed pace, wandering around lazily, poking through old goods", and that word would be "Chiner". I like it.
I found that the Paris flea markets have some things in common with USA flea markets. They too have a mixture of the Good, the Bad and the Ugly, the bargains and the overpriced. There is also the fair share of new goods, including yes, athletic tube socks! Much of the new merchandise was lingerie. Stall after stall of lingerie for $2 euro each. It was on the East side of Paris, at the Montreuil flea market that I found Toddler size 2, red, fishnet tights for a fashion forward two year old back home. I am also an admitted fabric-holic and there is a ton of fabric-by-the roll at the flea markets. There are entire buildings devoted exclusively to fabric, floor after floor after floor. It can be heavenly, if somewhat exhausting. So many fabrics, so little time.
The major difference in the USA flea markets and the French markets is that the majority of goods are FRENCH! So, that makes the vintage clothing, dishes, books, etc...all the more interesting to an Ohio/Georgia/Florida girl.
What is commonly called the "Paris Flea Market" is actually the gigantic flea market (Marches aux puces de) of Saint-Ouen, on the Northern side of Paris. This place is a flea market wonderland; a city within a city. There are seven miles of twisting, turning streets and alleys with about 3000 vendors or stalls and at least 35 different restaurants. This massive place is divided into various smaller, separate markets offering true antiques or used clothing or jewelry, that makes it a little easier to navigate, depending on what goods you want to concentrate on looking through. The history of this flea market is very colorful. The story for the location of this market a bit North of Paris is...back in the late 1800's new construction was forbidden in this area, so this was an open area AND there were no taxes in this outer area AND markets were forbidden inside the city of Paris due to the cholera epidemic of the 1800's AND as inner Paris continued to develop the poor were forced to move further and further out, including into this area. Also, in the late 1800's there was no official garbage collection service in many large cities, including Paris so, many of the poor made a living off of the trash of the wealthy. They transported their found and salvaged rags and "treasures" to this Northern outskirt of Paris and it eventually became known as the market place to buy second hand goods. Even though the area around the Metro Porte de Clignancourt which leads to this flea market is next to a freeway and not quaint like say, Rue Cler, (in the 7th "arrondissement" or district, where I stayed, and highly recommend) I will take a hotel room in the Clignancourt area next time for at least two or three nights, just to be close to the flea market "action" so I can come and go with my purchases and not have to lug them in and out of the various Metro stations. If you want an overview of what I'm talking about here, as in MAJOR flea market there are two different web sites to check out. One is . They have fabulous, early photographs of the alleys and vendors of the early days of the flea market all the way back to 1918 and also an aerial view of the current surroundings. Also, offers flea market maps showing the different shopping areas and also lists Packers and Shippers. Plus, both sites offer maps on how to find the flea market by traveling on the Metro, etc...Since it's not every day that one can make such a treat of an overseas trip, I will check out the packers and shippers the next time around. Then, I too, can be one of those people who casually drop "oh, I picked that up in the Paris Flea Market and had it shipped".