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".