Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Making Lemonade

On a recent meander through the overpriced antique shops of upper Georgetown I noticed a broken plaster pedestal bearing a fancy parchment tag with $350 handwritten in a scrolling script the color of faded blood.

The plaster pedestal above is not that one.  The pedestal above was purchased at my favorite junk shop, Slindy's of Culpeper (I added that "of Culpeper" to give the place some class).  It was not broken when I discovered it, shoved into a dusty shop corner. And it was shoved into that corner because it is not the sort of thing that attracts the typical Slindy's client, who leans toward Russian military memorabilia and clown paintings on black velvet. 

Therefore, I snapped it up for ten bucks, figuring it would be a fine perch for my jasmine come winter in my tiny solarium. As such things happen, I carried it out to the truck and set it down GENTLY on the pavement where it instantly and tragically cracked in half.

After eying the two segments for some time, I had a eureka moment: shove a plastic soda bottle with the top cut off into the pedestal's neck and make a vase. This is a clever trick, I might add.

Being a good and generous mother, I gave the other half of this pedestal (valued at $350) to baby, who has stuffed it with curly willow branches and set it in a corner of her living room.

Speaking of brilliant tricks. That same day in that same shop in Georgetown, I saw a table set with the most delicious faded purple damask napkins. Eight for $100.

While I find damask a little fusty in its white form, this color version was delightful. Like a table in a garden in Provence, without the garden.

Being a natural fiber, I knew damask would take dye very well. And, as it happened, I have a drawer full of indelibly wine spotted white damask napkins that I couldn't bring myself to toss out as they were inherited from my mom.

So I bought a large bottle of purple Rit dye and for a grand total of $4.98 I have eight beautiful napkins.

Napkin trick: I grew up with and have always used cloth napkins. In cotton or linen they're so much more pleasant than paper, and not in the least difficult to care for if you handle them as my mother did: Toss them in the washing machine, fold them in half and pull and pat them flat, then hang them over a rail or a chair back or rod to dry.

If you do this right, they'll have just enough rumple that you look, not a slob, but a casually elegant housekeeper. Like someone with a garden in Provence, without the garden. 


  1. The vase idea is killer! So clever. Love the sherbety napkins. :o) If you decide to open a shop to showcase your smarts, be sure to do it in a part of town with no metro stops and lots of pastel plaid. I think Culpeper or even Winchester would qualify.

  2. Thank you...I think. Tho me + Culpeper + PASTEL PLAID + no subway?

    Baaaaaby... Your response is needed here!

  3. It was a compliment. Too many people would have considered the vase trash instead of an opportunity to think outside the box. :o)

  4. I live for such opportunities. My life is FILLED with such opportunities. How did this happen, I wonder, when I was raised to shop at Saks?

    but let us return to the subject of Culpeper and plaid.

  5. Yes, I've been raised in a house of other people's throwaways. Mumma does this well - the column is a good example. Father...has a basement collection of broken vacuum cleaners.

    Funnily, my panel of piano was HIS trash (oh, woe) that I rescued on my way out to Raleigh. And boyfriend has caught the bug, regularly bringing things from the trash room of our apartment complex.

    PASTEL PLAID! What would you do with such a thing? Slit your wrists over it to add some dark drama? Probably.

    I'm so glad you dyed those napkins.

    Photo of my column will be sent soon.


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