Chapter III: Life Beyond Mr. Wonderful – Grandma’s Reminder

I’ve been told that journaling might be a good outlet for me. Because this blog already exists for me to vent, I’ll just park those rants right here. My husband built this blog (and many other websites) for me. Thanks, baby, for giving me an audience.

My husband committed suicide on November 7 of last year and although I appear to be functioning, I feel as far from that statement as is possible.

I go to work, I take care of my dogs, I pay the bills, I return some phone calls. I make my bed, I brush my teeth, I fuel the car, I cook, I clean… But I’m not really here.

Sleep is elusive. Connections with people are difficult. I desperately want attention but don’t want people fawning over the widow.

In short, I’m a little lost.

I’m going to start off this blog series, Chapter III: Life Beyond Mr. Wonderful, with an article I wrote about my grandmother back in late 2004 or 2005. I wrote it when I was with a small publishing company in St. Louis.

It serves to provide me with a reminder of what my role is in life going forward. (I hope.)

2004 will go down in the story of my life as the year that I sat up and took notice of the little things.

My grandmother died this past Spring. My mother’s mother, she was 75, and had battled cancer for almost 20 years. She was opinionated, sweet, wise, and always upbeat and fun. She took pleasure in the little things, and never asked for approval from anyone. She approved of herself, and people respected her for that.

Up until two weeks before her death, she traveled extensively. Her last trip was with a group from her church and I remember talking to her about whether or not she should go. She said she just didn’t think she was up to it. We all knew she was dying; she had been in poor shape for months. But I encouraged her to take the trip. “Grandma, if you’re going to feel icky, do it somewhere with a view.”

She relented, and went on that trip with her friends. At her funeral, her church friends remembered aloud how much fun they had with her on that and other trips, and they shared stories about her fearlessness. They all knew that she didn’t feel well on that last trip, and admired her for smiling and laughing with them nonetheless. She would never dream of complaining; she would say that she was lucky to get to go at all. At her funeral, someone asked my mother if there were any of grandma’s grandchildren who were “like her”. I almost burst into tears when my mother replied that I was took after grandma most. What a compliment, and what an incredible legacy.

Since her death, I have been decidedly free-wheeling. I’ve traveled more, I’ve laughed more, I’ve loved more, I’ve lived more. It didn’t necessarily take losing her to make me re-think my life, but I have re-evaluated how I view things. If she were here she’d say how that’s “just part of it.” She’d smile at me in her knowing way, and I’d feel silly for questioning an experience that has made me a better person.

Grandma and Grandpa’s wedding day, 1947

I’ve met someone, and it makes me sad that she will never get to meet him. She and I used to compare notes about dating, as she was widowed more than ten years ago. She and I had a decidedly similar view of dealings with the opposite sex: stay around till I get sick of you, then go away till I tell you to come back. Her stories about the man who tried to bully her into a relationship with him made me laugh and laugh. As I listened to her recount yet another way he had aggravated her, I could relate, and we would giggle about it together. Bullying me has never worked either.

If she were here now, I would tell her, “I’ve finally met him.” She’d smile, like she always did when she expected she knew what she was going to hear, and then she’d say, “Tell me all about him.” She’d then sit, lean in, and ask all the cutely worded questions like, “How dreamy is he?” It was times like these that she would tell me stories about my grandpa, like what a great kisser she thought he was. I imagine I have that same dreamy look in my eyes when I talk about my “him” just like she did when she talked about hers.

I rest in the knowledge that she’s “looking at me from the clouds,” like she explained to my 10-year-old son that she would. Although I’ll never get to tell her, she knows, and she’s giving me her trademark, knowing smile, like she expected it all along.

Midget-Century Nightstand Fix-Up

Tiny rooms bring big problems!

Rustic Nightstand by Moxy Liberty

Thrift store mid-century nightstand with original wooden drawer pull, as I found it.

I’d been looking for awhile. See, we live in a smaller house than we’ve ever lived in before, with tinier rooms, tinier closets, tinier storage… You get the idea.

Which brings us to our bedroom. It’s, well, tiny. And we have a king-sized bed. So the room is basically “bed”. Our ordinary nightstands, bought for much larger rooms, won’t fit. So I’ve been on the hunt for small nightstands that are just the right look, feel and price. I’ve been looking for a few years now. The criteria: small, mid-century, paintable and cheap. We live in a mid-century house, so I have this new appreciation for appropriately timed pieces.

So I saw this little guy. I wish there were two but I’m glad I found one at all. It was $5 and just needed a scrubbing and a paint job and voila! I used paint I already had, so no extra cost there. I decided to keep the drawer unpainted as a nod to its original state. I feel like its honoring it somehow; my husband says that look is now distinctly “mine”, where you paint most of a piece but leave a part of it “original”. I guess that’s me.

Rustic Nightstand by Moxy Liberty

Before and after of a $5 mid century nightstand. Painted and drawer lining applied.

I added some shelf paper I also had lying around just for a little zing. I think it turned out cute. Just what we needed.

On to the next cheap piece made fabulous!

Would you have taken this troll home?

I admit I was caught up in the moment. An estate sale in my very own town, in a mid-century home whose inhabitants had lived here for at least 50 years. The house was packed with great stuff and the basement was dank, dingy and dirty. In other words, perfect. After a cursory tour, I sniffed out a beautiful old mirror that I was able to negotiate for a tenth of its value. I paid quickly and was headed out the garage door with the mirror under my arm. And then I saw this table. Filthy and long-unappreciated, I casually asked what they wanted for it.

They had to have thought I was crazy. The thing was filthy with car grease and smoke and God knows what else over the years. Both the top and the lower shelf had been covered with a speckled yellow linoleum, secured around the edges with chrome trim, but the bottom shelf had lost most of its trim, so the linoleum piece was barely hanging on. I knew it was old, and I knew no one had monkeyed with it in so long that it would be a good candidate for a makeover.

I handed over the $5 and away I went.

The project took months, and mostly because I was lazy.

My first task was to get rid of the linoleum and chrome and finally discover what was hiding underneath. The top surface was just as I’d hoped: protected for 50 years. Rough and begging for an upgrade. And anything would have been an upgrade.

I cleaned and cleaned and cleaned it. I really didn’t think the dirt would come off. When the paint turned out to be a cream color, I couldn’t believe it. I honestly thought the stuff was cooked on, it just looked so roached and black.

After cleaning, I scraped paint off. The bottom shelf was a really pretty dark stained wood, which suggested the idea of highlighting the natural wood on the shelves.

Then I sanded. And sanded some more. I was lucky enough to have found the perfectly beautiful and breezy day to do it on; it was no chore at all.

I grabbed whatever stain we happened to have in our workshop and I got down to staining the shelves. The color for the legs and such was also an easy decision; it’s elephant gray, a color we have a ton of. After staining and painting, I put two coats of poly on it and almost called it done.

Somewhere along the way, my husband suggested I make the drawer knob white. He thought it would give it a little “umph” and I think he was right. I didn’t actually paint the drawer pull; it is just how I found it, only scrubbed clean.

I think it turned out gorgeous! And now I use it as my printer stand/ an extension of my desk.

Of note: The table is identified on the underside of the drawer as “Davidson’s Furn. Co., Kansas City, MO.” Davidson’s was a high-end furniture store that opened in Kansas City in around 1918. At one time, they had a 20,000 square foot show room. And, of particular interest to me, in the late 1950s they acquired the remaining furniture stock of the local Abernathy Furniture Company, which had closed up shop in the 1950s.

 

Brenda’s High School Project gets an A+!

Many Saturdays ago, I found myself meandering through the rural parts of Clay County, looking for garage sales. There were a few out there, but not many. But they were in the right places, so I found something really cool at almost every stop. Which brings me to this guy.

It’s no secret that I’m somewhat obsessed with anything between Tiffany blue and seafoam green. This stein fit the bill perfectly, although it had obviously been in a barn for many years. As a matter of fact, the woman who sold it to me, Brenda, said that she and her husband moved it for 30 years and just never really used it. She had made it in an art class in high school.

I brought it home and cleaned it up. I think Brenda did a pretty good job! I love the color and I love the relief  and that it’s still all perfectly in tact. It’s a great piece for someone who wants a splash of breezy blue in their design. Isn’t that floppy-eared dog so cute, resting his head on his master’s leg? I just love it.

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Too Pretty to be Single: Beaver Falls Tile All Alone

I don’t know anything about antique tile. Well, I know only what Nicole Curtis has taught me on her show.

So here’s what Nicole Curtis has taught me so far:

  • Old tile is thicker
  • If you can save old tile, do it.

So I was out and about today – it’s been a great weekend for treasure-hunting – and came across this inconspicuous green tile. She was sitting all alone among figurines, ashtrays and other bric-a-brac. I almost didn’t see her, but I did.

First thing you do when you find something old and made of glass, ceramic or porcelain: turn it over. So I did. The lighting in Savers wasn’t that great because when I checked the underside, I didn’t see any identifying marks. I could see that the glaze was crackling, which told it me it was old. (It’s awfully hard to fake that.) She was only 99 cents, so home with me she went.

Beaver Falls Antique Tile

Beaver Falls green checkered tile

In the better light of this beautiful day, I was able to make out the word “Beaver” (tee-hee) under the barely-scraped-off price sticker, so I did a search.

Beaver Falls Antique Tile

Beaver Falls antique tile bottom

Turns out “Falls” was also under the sticker poop, and that’s who made this tile: Beaver Falls. They were in business 1886-1927 and made some of the most beautiful cameo and relief tile in its day. I found some incredible examples, and even more here.

Beaver Falls tile is often highlighted/found on fireplace surrounds as well as stoves and walls (and I’ve seen something similar to the portrait below used in a fireplace mantle too) in homes built in that time. You know, the tile that Nicole Curtis finds many times in the homes she so lovingly restores, the tile that can’t be duplicated, where replacements can’t ever be found should any tiles become damaged… In other words, this tile is the bomb diggity. Unfortunately, because tile can only really be identified on the underside, we may not know when we’re looking at Beaver Falls when it’s in place, and considering the tile artists of the day were moving between and forming new tile companies somewhat frequently, it would take a real pro to discern one from the other without the benefit of the underside/I.D. Whereas mine is a 4 1/4″ squared tile, Beaver Falls also made the smaller subway tiles that we also see in those older homes with the original fireplace tile work, and many other sizes and orientations.

Beaver Falls Antique Tile

Beaver Falls antique 3-tile set floral swag

I wasn’t able to find anything that looked exactly like mine, so here she is!

Photoshop and Restoration

It’s pretty rare that I find a piece of furniture that I like in my price range that doesn’t need some kind of attention, whether it be a thorough cleaning, tightening of screws, paint job, Windex or something. In order to decide which direction I will take on its upgrade, I use my graphic design chops. My most recent case in point: this door-less Empire style tiger oak buffet. It’s got amazing bones and the original bevel mirror, and all of its drawers are in tact and accounted for. But how do I make it look fabulous with no doors below and old, unsightly wood exposed?

tiger oak empire buffet

Tiger Oak Empire Buffet

Well, that’s just it. I don’t know. So I start playing with the image on Photoshop. I can add whatever color I want, whatever texture I want, whatever design I want…

I just started playing with colors on it, and the jury is still out on what to do with it, but I have some ideas now. It appears as though someone tried to give it another stain/poly job and it didn’t do it any favors. So we’ll see. I don’t want to have to paint the whole thing but this poor thing has been through so much, I just don’t know if she has another life exposed in her.

I found a few examples of buffets like this that were painted. I’m weighing all options.

What do you think?

Empire Buffet painted by Moxy Liberty

Excelsior Springs Soda Jerk Sign

Talk about a step back in time! I found this lovely at a garage sale here in Liberty this morning. The house was half of a block from William Jewell College, and the home was a gorgeous Century home with three stories, each 1,000 square feet. The man having the sale said he was downsizing. He didn’t look all that happy to be selling, but he was friendly enough.

The sign came out of a diner in Excelsior Springs, Missouri. He bought it when the place closed for good. But he couldn’t for the life of him remember what the name of it was. It drove him crazy, like it was on the tip of his tongue. So the mystery, for me, still exists. He probably remembered the name as soon as I drove away.

I love its simplicity. I love that it’s a little dirty and just a little beat up. I also love that there are tape marks over the .25 price for Malts & Shakes. And I love that this still exists! And that it’s still in Clay County! And that we know where it came from!

Garage sales are so cool. It’s finds like this that keep me going every week.

Excelsior Diner Sign.jpg