the festival of garage sales.

The Bryn Mawr neighborhood garage sale in Minneapolis has traditionally been the one that kicks off the summer garage sale season for me.  I can’t even remember when I first started going to this sale, but I’ve been going to it for a long time.

Then, along came COVID in 2020 and of course Bryn Mawr was canceled.  I was hoping it would be back in 2021, but it wasn’t.  But this year, it was back!

This sale is officially called the ‘Festival of Garage Sales’ and with good reason.  It does feel like a festival.  Especially this year.  It was packed with party-goers, um, I mean garage salers.

It’s not just the crowds that make it feel like a festival.  It’s also the food truck, and the police officer directing traffic, and the people having a tailgate party with snacks and drinks, and definitely the guy serving margaritas.

I really typically don’t come home after Bryn Mawr with a ton of finds, but it’s just so much fun to go to this sale.  Really, it’s the people that make it so fantastic.  There was the guy who was drinking a glass of wine at 10 a.m. because he asked his wife to bring him a drink expecting water, but she brought him wine.  Why not?

And then there were the ladies who were explaining what a peach emoji represents, which drew us into an entire conversation about the not-so-secret meanings all of the various fruit and veg emojis.

My sister and I also ended up in a 15 minute discussion of the pros and cons of the various Disney World resorts with the guy wearing a Disney World t-shirt who admired the vintage Mickey t-shirt my sister was wearing (FYI fellow Disney fans, he swears that the Be Our Guest restaurant is well worth the money despite what everyone says online).

I purchased a vintage American flag on a pole from a guy for $5 and as I was handing over my money he explained that he had a hard time pricing it because how to you put a price on patriotism?  Well, apparently it’s worth about 5 bucks these days.  He told me not to use it as a weapon and I promised that storming the capitol wasn’t really my style.

All joking aside, I am calling this my ‘find of the day’.  Not because I’m all that into flying the American flag (and in fact will be selling this one), but simply because it has this beautiful vintage quality.  The soft cotton fabric is gently faded, but not torn or tattered.  And then there is also the fact that my friend Sue had found some vintage metal flag pole brackets for me recently, so now I have the vintage flag to go with one of them.

We don’t normally get to see inside any of the houses during the Festival of Garage Sales, but this year one house was having an estate sale and everything inside was for sale.

I just had to snap a few photos of the attic because it was like taking a step back in time.

It was tiny, but it was filled with vintage trunks.

You just have to wonder how long these trunks had been stored up there, untouched.

As well as what kinds of voyages they’d been on.

In addition to Bryn Mawr (which is a Saturday only sale), I also spent some time at a couple of other local neighborhood sales on Thursday and Friday.  Now that I’m retired I can scoop up some of the bargains I always missed out on as a working stiff.

Here are the majority of my finds from the weekend.

Runner up for find of the day is this adorable Scottie dog boot scraper.

The price was right on this set of 4 canisters …

and I recently purchased another set of the I.O.D. Traditional Pots transfers so I’d been looking for more white ceramic items for the blue ones.

I made quick work of washing these up and adding the transfers.

I have to admit I mainly was drawn to this Watkins Household Hints book because of the color.

I also have this idea of putting together a grouping of stuff that will include this book, but I’m still working on it.

I think I mentioned last week that I’m grabbing vintage books in red and green for the Christmas season.  Well, red and navy works for 4th of July too.

I just have to share the book on the top of that pile especially.  This is one that my friend Sue found for me …

This was published in 1920, and FYI, it’s not at all valuable.  I see it for sale online for $10.  I just think the title is amusing, wouldn’t it make a great gift for a farmer?

I really don’t know why I was drawn to these fish shaped pâté molds.

The guy selling them said he used them as Christmas tree ornaments one year.

I found a tackle box that I’ll eventually paint …

and I purchased that black oval tin because apparently I have a weakness for oval tins.

That stack resides in my pantry, but there isn’t room for a 4th one to be added to the stack where it is.  So now what?  Clearly I’m going to have to re-arrange the pantry again.  Or maybe I’ll part with that striped one on the bottom.  I’m not sure.

By the way, I painted the pink one in the middle (here’s that post if you’re curious about the process).

If you’re wondering about the 3 canning jars filled with a brown liquid in my first photo, that’s syrup.

The Lakedon’s from Lakedon Family Syrup had a table set up at Bryn Mawr to sell their pure maple syrup.  They had three grades available and were kind enough to let us test taste all three to see the difference.  I hadn’t realized that there were specific grades of maple syrup, or that you could easily taste the difference.

Both my sister and I ended up purchasing three different grades; golden, amber and dark.  The Lakedon’s pointed out that the dark version has a stronger taste similar to molasses and is perfect added to baked beans.  Yum!  Can’t wait to try that.

I did bring home a few larger pieces; a vintage dry sink, a pair of small wooden benches, and a huge pot that I’m going to use patina paint on.  But it was raining yesterday so I decided against hauling them out of the carriage house to get photos.  I’m sure I’ll be sharing all of those projects with you as they get completed though.

So, I’m curious, what would you choose as the find of the day from my weekend haul?  Leave a comment and let me know!

a small craft advisory.

Back when we were on vacation in Charleston, we were watching the weather report one day and they mentioned that there was a ‘small craft advisory’ in effect.  I hadn’t heard that terminology in years, probably since I lived in Florida.  Although we have plenty of people with boats on lakes here in Minnesota, it’s not quite the same thing as ocean going vessels.

Anyway, when they said it, Mr. Q said ‘that sounds like it should be the title to one of your blog posts!’

What a clever idea.  I made a note of it in my phone.  And lo and behold, it seemed appropriate for today’s post.

I’m about to share a very quick and easy update to a metal bin today, so consider this your ‘small craft advisory’.

I’ve had this particular container in my pantry for years.  I’m sure that I originally purchased it from a garage sale, but I don’t remember when, where or how much I paid.  It started life in copper, and who knows what I kept in it back then.

This is the best I could do for a true ‘before’ photo.

Yikes!  Who remembers my pantry in its ‘before’ state?  I’ve shared it here in the past.  It was not pretty.  It was behind a closed door most of the time back then.

Here is how the pantry looks now (to see the full transformation of this space, check out this post).

As part of the pantry makeover, I decided to paint the container in that everyday kitchen green color.

Copper just didn’t work with my color scheme out there.  I painted it using a fancy spray paint that I got at Michaels, I’m fairly sure that it was the Liquitex Chromium Oxide Green 6, but I’m not 100% positive about that.  FYI, it has held up beautifully, even on a metal canister with a very tight fitting lid.

Well, recently Mr. Q and I purchased an air fryer from Amazon.  When it arrived, it was too big to fit inside any of our kitchen cupboards, or in the other pantry/closet we have next to the kitchen, so that left finding a spot for it in my pretty pantry.

I’ll just go ahead and admit it, I tend to value form over function.  I love the way my pantry looks.  It does serve a function as well though.  We store toilet paper, kleenex, cleaning supplies, cat food, extra coffee pods, and other pantry items in it.  For the most part these items are kept inside pretty containers.  Generally, if I can’t put it in a pretty container, it gets stored somewhere else.

So I’m not super happy about ruining the carefully curated look in my pantry with a big, black, shiny appliance.  But sometimes I guess function has to win out.  In order to make room for the air fryer, something had to go from the pantry.  And after a process of elimination, this container is the item getting the boot.

I decided I may as well snazz it up a bit and then try to sell it.  So I gave it a good cleaning, and then I added a section from I.O.D.’s Label Ephemera transfer to the front.

I added a couple of coats of Dixie Belle’s flat clear coat over the transfer to protect it.

Then I cut out a new label from some pretty floral scrapbook paper and added the “PARIS,” which is also from the Label Ephemera transfer.

What a difference a little transfer can make!

I love how it turned out, but since it seems likely that we’re keeping the air fryer, I don’t have a spot for this anymore.

So it’s up for grabs.  If you’re local, and in need of a pretty container to stash things in (please note, it is not food safe), check out my ‘available for local sale‘ page for details.

I’m curious, which do you tend to value more, function or form?  Do you want things to look pretty at the expense of functionality (like me!), or are you more practical?  Leave a comment and let us know!


the best laid plans.

One thing I don’t think I’ve mentioned about our recent trip is why we originally chose to visit Charleston in April.  The timing was supposed to coincide with the blooming of the azaleas.

According to my research, azaleas bloom anywhere from mid-March to late April in South Carolina.  I was never able to take a trip during azalea season while I was employed because that was also the exact timing of our annual audit.  So one of the items on my post-retirement bucket list was a trip to see the azaleas in bloom (another is a trip to the Netherlands to see the tulips in bloom, maybe next year?).

But as all of you gardeners out there know, the timing of spring blooms can be somewhat unpredictable.  The weather can have an impact, it can depend on how soon things start to warm up.  So even though we visited Charleston the first two weeks of April, we pretty much missed most of the azaleas, except for that little patch of them in Waterfront Park that I shared earlier.

  I suspect that the storm we flew in on (with torrential rain and high winds) didn’t help either.

My grand plan for viewing azaleas included a trip to Middleton Place, the oldest landscaped gardens in America.  The gardens were originally laid out in 1741 and they were inspired by the gardens at Versailles.

Here is how I was picturing the gardens at Middleton (photo borrowed from the web) …

And here is how they actually looked.

Well, you know what they say about the best laid plans …

And although I was disappointed to have missed the azaleas, I definitely was not disappointed with our visit to Middleton Place.

You have to remember that when we left home there was still snow on the ground, and actually, it was snowing when we returned home too!  So I was quite happy to wander around these gardens and just admire the green.  The fact that is was also a gloriously sunny day and around 70 degrees didn’t hurt either.

It was not crowded at all the day we visited.  Probably because most people were aware that the azaleas were done.  I suspect that when the azaleas are at their most magnificent, the place is packed.

There were a handful of azalea blooms here and there, and a few of the camellias still had flowers as well.  So I did see some color.

But Middleton Place is definitely worth a visit even if there isn’t anything blooming.

There are 110 acres full of paths, formal gardens, and secret gardens to explore.

Just beware that, as all the signs say, the gators are real.

Yikes!  I have to admit, those guys freaked me out a little.  But they pretty much seemed to be minding their own business, and we didn’t get too close to them.

Prior to the civil war, the house at Middleton Place consisted of a main center building with a ‘flanker’ on either side.  It was burned down by union troops in 1865.  The south flanker was the least damaged and thus was repaired and continued to function as a home until 1975 when it was turned into a museum.

It’s certainly a lovely building, but probably not quite what you picture in your head when you hear ‘plantation’.

You can pay extra for a guided tour of the inside (which is the only way to get inside), but we chose to forgo that.

You don’t have to pay extra to explore the stable yards which serve as an open air museum with costumed artisans explaining the functions of the various buildings and the craftmanship of the era.

We chatted with the blacksmith who showed us how they made nails, the cooper who was making wooden buckets, the potter who was making clay pots, and the seamstress who was spinning wool.  All four of them knew a lot about their craft and it was very interesting to visit with them.

They also have livestock including cattle, goats, sheep, pigs and horses at Middleton.

Now you know I’m always keeping an eye out for furniture inspiration, and I found some in the candle making building.

Isn’t that an awesome chippy cupboard?  I love the zinc top that is nailed all around the edge.

Despite missing the azaleas, I enjoyed visiting Middleton Place.  However, if you’re looking for a more traditional visit to a “plantation” while in the south, this may not fill the bill.  There are a few other options in the area including Drayton Hall and Magnolia Plantation.

Do you have any recommendations to share with others?  If so, be sure to leave a comment and let us know!

check the box.

Aside from the occasional winter estate sale here and there, I got in my first real bit of garage saling this past weekend and I’m so excited that garage sale season is finally here!  OK, maybe not quite in a big way yet, but in dribs and drabs.

My picker Sue gave me a heads up on a sale taking place nearby last Friday while I was out plant shopping with my neighbor, nnK.  So we headed over there after purchasing our plants.

I didn’t find a ton of things, but I did come home with these items from that sale …

First up, I grabbed that vintage camera.  It was priced a little higher than I wanted it to be, but I purchased it anyway.  I didn’t realize it was brown rather than black until I got it home and was cleaning it up.

Boy, it’s really hard to see that it’s brown even in that photo.  You’ll just have to trust me.  It’s dark brown rather than true black.

I won’t be hanging onto this one, I will be taking it into the shop to sell.  My non-collection of cameras is mostly black.  Although I guess I do have one brown one, the Brownie Holiday camera is also dark brown.

I hang onto this one to use for staging photos around holiday time, although looking back it doesn’t seem as if I’ve ever remembered to do that.  Hmmmm, I need to work on that.

And speaking of photo props, I snagged the vintage, green handled garden clippers to use for that purpose as well.  They were 50¢, how do you pass that up?

I plan to keep an eye out for red and green vintage books this summer at garage sales.  I will hang onto them until Christmas and then sell them as sets.  They work great for elevating Christmas village pieces …

But also, well, the book called The Boy Scouts to the Rescue is just kind of fun.

Finally, I couldn’t resist the box because I thought the zinc lining was kind of cool.

I have no idea what the original purpose of this box would have been?  nnK suggested it was for storing one’s plutonium.

I’m pretty sure that’s not it.

Could it be a milk box like this example on chairish?  Priced at $275!  What?!  Anyway, it does seem feasible that this box could have been for milk.  It seems like the right size for bottles of milk.  Do any of you have a better idea what it might have been used for?

Well, regardless of the original purpose, there is some water damage at the bottom of the box.

So I decided to paint it.

I mixed up some Homestead House Milk Paint in Algonquin.  If that color sounds familiar to you, it might be because there is also a Fusion paint by the same name (Homestead House is the parent of Fusion).  I brushed two coats of Algonquin onto the box.  I specifically chose to use milk paint because I wanted a chippy look.  So once the paint was dry, I sanded lightly with 220 grit paper but there was no chipping.

No worries, I can fake it with tape.

I always start out with the yellow Frog tape when I’m using this technique.  This is the tape for delicate surfaces, so it has minimal sticky-ness.  I have run into pieces where the yellow tape won’t pull off any paint, and then I switch up to regular masking tape.  If that still doesn’t work, I’ve even been known to use duct tape … but those instances are few and far between.

All you have to do with the tape is press it onto your surface randomly and then whisk it back off again.  It’s a lot like using tape to remove cat hair from your favorite black trousers (I have a fair amount of experience with that too).  Just use caution and go slowly, especially with that first strip of tape.  It can surprise you and pull off more paint than you think it will.  Go slowly and get a feel for it as you go.

Next up I added a coat of Dixie Belle’s flat clear coat before adding some I.O.D. transfers.  If you have chippy paint, sometimes the paint will stick to your transfer (much like with the tape), rather than the transfer sticking to your surface.  In fact, even though I’d taken the precaution of adding the clear coat, I still had this happen in one little area …

I lost most of my ‘S’ and a little bit off the end of that flower bud above it.  I should have let my clear coat dry longer before applying the transfer, but I’m an instant gratification sort of gal.  I can’t make myself wait the recommended 24 hours before adding a transfer.

So, to be on the safe side, let your clear coat dry overnight if you’re going to be adding transfers.  Or, if you’re willing to live on the edge, do as I do and wing it.

Just be prepared to live with the consequences.

And P.S., I used sections from both I.O.D.’s Label Ephemera and their Floral Anthology transfers on my box.

This box is for sale if any of you locals are interested (you can store your plutonium in it!).  Check out my ‘available for local sale‘ page for more details.  I’ll likely take it into the shop in the next week or two.

We had stopped off at one more sale before heading back home that day, and that’s where I found another wooden box.

This box came filled with everything needed to shine your shoes.  There were something like 10 brushes for various colors of shoe polish, multiple tins of dried up shoe polish, and lots of well used polishing rags.  I tossed all of that.

When I initially grabbed this box I definitely planned to paint it.

But when I looked at it more closely, I thought the markings on the sides of the box were pretty cool.

And I really liked the back of the box too.

So I’m kind of loathe to cover all of that up.

But I don’t love the front of the box, and the top lid is in pretty rough shape.

As is the inside …

So here are some options I thought of …

□ option no 1 – I could paint the interior of the box, and the lid, but just clean up and wax or hemp oil the rest of the box.  But what color?  Black, green, dark grey?

□ option no 2 – I could do the painting in option no 1, and then also re-attach the lid facing the other way so that what was the back of the box becomes the front of the box (because I much prefer the graphics on the back of the box).

□ option no 3 I could remove the lid from the box entirely.  Paint the interior of the box black or grey, clean up and wax the exterior, but leave it unpainted.

□ option no 4 – I could paint the whole shebang, inside and out, and dress it up similar to the zinc lined box.

This is where you come in.  Which box would you check?  Option 1, 2, 3 or 4?  Or do you have an option 5 that I should consider?  Leave a comment and let me know.


berry baskets and other things.

I brought home a few wooden totes … tool caddies … garden trugs … berry baskets … I don’t know, what do you call these things?

Regardless of what you call them, I purchased three of these while out thrifting and my picker Sue found the 4th for me (the lime green one).

Last weekend I gave all four of them a much needed makeover.

I’ll start with the smallest one.

The previous owner had given it a sanded down, distressed sort of look.  Either that, or they had sanded it in preparation for painting, but never got around to the painting part.  I’m not sure which.

But it was quick work for me to add a couple of coats of Dixie Belle’s Drop Cloth, sand just the edges to distress …

and then add a transfer from with prima’s Classic Vintage Labels.

I finished it off with a coat of clear wax.  It was a super simple makeover.

Next up is the one that Sue found.

That was quite the bright lime green, and it was filthy dirty.  If it weren’t for those factors, it wouldn’t have been bad to try and save that original chippy paint on this one.

But no, it wasn’t really salvageable.  So I decided to honor the original green … just tone it down a bit.  I mixed up a custom blend of Homestead House milk paint in Upper Canada Green and Sweet Pickins milk paint in Patina.  The resulting color is that sort of jadeite, vintage, 50’s kitchen, everyday green.

I added a bit of an old prima transfer from my pile of scraps.

When painting over an existing color (especially one as bright as that lime green), always keep in mind that it is going to show when you distress the edges.

This one is also finished with clear wax.

Next up is the bare wood version.

Since this was bare wood, I decided to give that DIY Dark & Decrepit a try.  I wasn’t going to leave the stained, dark wood as the final look, I just wanted to create a base that would show under the paint when I distressed the edges.

In typical quandie fashion, I totally forgot to take pictures along the way to illustrate my process.  Jeesh, you’d think I’d be better about that by now.  But I get focused on a project and then I just keep going.  Since I don’t have photos, I’m not going to go into detail on using this product.  I’ll have to do that another time.  But suffice to say, it worked quite well for my purposes here (although it would have been better had I wet distressed those edges rather than sanding).

Once the Dark & Decrepit was dry, I mixed up Sweet Pickins milk paint in Patina and added three coats.  Once that was dry I sanded it with 220 grit to smooth out the surface, removed the dust with a microfiber cloth and then added some of the Whimsical Wonderland transfer from Dixie Belle.

I wrapped the transfer all the way around the tote.

I have to admit, this look is a bit outside of my wheelhouse.  This transfer has some very bright colors.  I will say that putting it over the Patina did tone it down a tad, and so did sanding over it lightly with 220 grit paper after it was applied.

I also like the worn aspect that sanding over the transfer gave me.

So, although the bright colors aren’t quite my style, I still think this turned out nicely and will appeal to someone who likes a more colorful look.

By the way, I topcoated this one with Dixie Belle’s flat clear coat.

I saved my favorite of the four for last.

I often see this style of wood tote referred to as a berry basket.

This one is a bit rustic.  And it needed a better color, for sure.  So I pulled out one of my favorite greens, In a Pickle from Sweet Pickins.

Using milk paint on this piece resulted in some awesome chippy-ness.

I couldn’t help staging it up with those fabulous dishes I picked up while thrifting last week, and of course some strawberries.

I already had one of those green jars.  I use it as a photo prop all the time.  So when I saw another one while thrifting last week I had to snag it.

Initially I was thinking I’d sell it on, but now I think I might have to keep it for further photo staging.  Is two better than one?  What do you think?

FYI locals, I brought all four of these in to Reclaiming Beautiful this week along with a bunch of other goodies.  So if you’re looking for something to do this weekend, I recommend a shopping excursion to Stillwater.

So, which one is your favorite?

The smallest one?

The one Sue found for me?

The brightly colored one?

Or, like me, is the chippy green one your favorite?

Leave a comment and let me know.

south of broad.

On our recent Charleston vacation, we stayed at the La Quinta Charleston Riverview, which is just across the Ashley River from the historic part of town.  Let me just say, this hotel was not great.  The traffic noise in our room was deafening, the hotel staff were awful (we had two hangers in our room and when we stopped at the front desk to ask for more we got a shrug and ‘I don’t know if we have any extra hangers’).  The included breakfast was so bad we only ate it once (and that was with a spoon because when we asked for forks we got another shrug and ‘we don’t have any forks’, apparently there is a hanger and fork shortage in the south).  I could go on, but suffice to say, I do not recommend staying at this hotel.  There must be better options out there.

That being said, we chose it because it was on the cheaper end … so I have to remind myself that you get what you pay for.  Lesson learned, it might be wise to pay a little more for your hotel.  I will say that it was in a pretty convenient location though if you have a car.  It was less than a 10 minute drive into the heart of historic downtown, and there was plenty of free parking at the hotel.  Although their website says that they have a free shuttle to downtown, when we arrived we were told that they no longer provide a shuttle.  Fortunately, we had rented a car and weren’t counting on their shuttle.

After our formal guided walking tour the previous day, on day two in Charleston we decided to just wander the historic district on our own.  We drove to an area called the Battery because my research told me that there was free parking to be had if you got there early.

  Since we’re early risers, and we were skipping that bad hotel breakfast, it was no problem to be parking the car in one of those free spots by 8 a.m.  Although it was overcast and the forecast called for rain, we never did get wet.

We walked along the battery towards Bakehouse Charleston where we knew we could get good coffee and some pastries (and FYI, their frozen mint lemonade is totally delicious too).

It’s a lovely walk where you can admire beautiful old antebellum houses along one side, and pretty water views along the other (and there are those free parking spaces in the foreground, as you can see they were filling up already).

This house along the Battery caught my eye.  It stood out because it was looking a little worse for the wear (this would have been a good one for your dad to fix up Connie), I wonder if it’s a popular stop on the many ghost tours that are offered in Charleston.

Check out that big ol’ crack in the foundation.  Yikes!  I can just imagine how expensive it is to maintain these old homes.  I’m so glad there are people out there willing to do it.  And FYI, this was the exception, not the rule.  For the most part the homes along here were in immaculate condition.

Once we were fortified with coffee and pastries, we headed out towards Waterfront Park.

This is where I found some of the only azaleas blooming for the entire trip (more on that in a future post).

This is also where you’ll find the Pineapple Fountain.

It’s a lovely place to just stroll around.

Just a sidebar note for any of my fellow cruisers out there, there was a Carnival ship docked right there at the pier.

So if you ever end up on a cruise that stops in Charleston, I can tell you that you are going to be docked right in the heart of the historic district and everything I’m sharing with you in this post is within easy walking distance of the ship.

And this brings me to one of the absolute highlights of our trip, for me at least.  Wandering through the neighborhood called South of Broad.

First off, if you want to avoid the crowds, this is one way to do it.  We did see the occasional horse drawn carriage full of tourists,

but for the most part Mr. Q and I had these streets all to ourselves except for the locals out walking their dogs, and the gardeners who were out cleaning up after the previous night’s storms.

My goal was simply to admire the houses …

and the gardens …

up close and personal-like (gosh I envy their boxwood!).  And there’s no better way to do that than on foot.

I’m fairly sure that Mr. Q deserves a medal of some kind for being OK with just wandering around this neighborhood for a couple of hours, stopping every 30 seconds so I could take another picture.

And even being willing to pose next to a giant planter to show the scale.  Seriously, that thing was huge.

Speaking of huge planters, check these out.

Aren’t they gorgeous?

Charleston is known for something called a single house, and there were quite a few examples in this neighborhood.

A single house is one room wide, with a porch running the length of the house down the side.  That door you see in the photo above leads to stairs up to the porch.  The actual front door to the house is in the middle of the porch.  If you want to learn more about single houses, check out this informative article from

Another really cool detail on the houses in Charleston were the gas lanterns.  I initially thought the flickering flames they gave off were some kind of fancy light bulb, but I asked our guide on the Alley tour and he said they were genuinely gas fueled flames.  Since it was a rather dreary overcast day, those lanterns added a warm, cozy feel.  They also go a long way towards convincing you that you are visiting a bygone era somehow.

Now, get ready for some serious eye candy … well, at least for my fellow gardeners out there.  I totally stopped and drooled over every garden we passed by.  Some of them were front and center for everyone to see.

While others were tucked away behind wrought iron.

Wrought iron being another thing that Charleston is known for.

Is there any better combination than wrought iron and wisteria?

This planted staircase also caught my eye.

Isn’t that unique?  I don’t know that I could do anything like that here in Minnesota.  What plant would survive our winters in that little amount of soil?  And how would you clear a foot of snow off those steps without disturbing the plants?  Hmmmm.

I’m afraid I might be coming off as some kind of snoop here, peering through gates and over hedges (and just to be clear, I did not trespass.  I stayed on the public sidewalk or street the entire time).  But my philosophy on gardening is this; if you go to this much trouble to have a beautiful garden, you probably want other people to see and admire it too.

Tell me fellow gardeners, am I wrong?  Does anyone garden simply for their own enjoyment, unwilling to share the beauty with others?

I didn’t just admire the gardens, I drooled over the houses too.

Our self-guided tour was made even easier by the frequent presence of plaques giving the history of notable houses.

We saw quite a few of these, and they gave lots of interesting information.

So if those aren’t an invitation to snoop around, I don’t know what is.

If you ever get to Charleston, I absolutely recommend taking some time to just walk around this beautiful neighborhood.  Get some coffee to go at Bakehouse Charleston and then just stroll around.  While it’s easy to get turned around, the area is small enough that you never can actually get lost (kind of like Venice, right bff?!).  There always seems to be a glimpse of the water around the next corner to re-orient you.

Although I have some more posts coming up about some day trips we took from Charleston, this is the last one about Charleston proper.  Just in case any of you are planning a trip there, I can also recommend the following things we did:

Touring the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon.

This is a great way to learn about the history of Charleston.

Visiting the Gibbes museum of art.

The Gibbes is small (at least compared to our MIA here in Minneapolis), but really well done.  If you’re interested in furniture (um, you are, right?), it’s worth a quick visit.  My favorite exhibit was the miniature portraits though.  Definitely go see those.

Taking a food tour with Bulldog Tours.

This is a great way to learn a little bit about the cuisine in Charleston and how it was formed by the varied cultural influences of French Huguenot and English settlers, and of course the African slaves, combined with the local food sources available.  I admit, I never did quite understand where the banana pudding came into play, but it was delicious.

Eating amazing BBQ at Home Team BBQ.

They have a few different locations, we ate at the one on the Ashley River Road.  It’s fairly unassuming looking from the outside.  We just stumbled upon it when driving back to our hotel one afternoon.  Mr. Q had the BBQ nachos with pulled pork, and yes, he ate all of it!  I discovered my love of Carolina mustard based bbq sauce there.  Yum!

So, I’m curious.  What’s your favorite thing to do on vacation.  Would you also be content to walk around and admire beautiful houses and gardens?  Do you enjoy museums?  Are you interested in the local cuisine?  Or do you prefer more adventurous activities like rock climbing or skiing?  Or maybe you’d rather just a sit on a beach with a cocktail (don’t worry, that activity is coming up later too).  Leave a comment and let me know!

fake it till you make it.

I don’t know about you, but I have to admit that I am a bit of a floral snob.  Fake flowers just don’t cut it for me.  Especially the ones that people put outside in pots when everyone knows that hydrangeas aren’t blooming in Minnesota in May, and geraniums don’t survive here in January.

However, a recent trip to Bachman’s (my local nursery/florist) really made me rethink my aversion to faux stems.

As you locals already know, here in Minnesota it’s still too early for gardening.  Today’s forecast calls for a low of 25.  Ugh.  After seeing all of those gorgeous window boxes in Charleston, I just really needed to splurge on something green and pretty though.  So I decided to head to Bachman’s for some pansies.

Pansies are a cold hearty plant.  They can tolerate temps down to around 25, although if it’s going to be much lower than that you should cover them (I’ll throw old bed sheets over mine if the temps get any lower).  This makes them a great choice for us northern gardeners who just want to have something growing in early spring (and P.S. locals, they were 50% off at Bachman’s last Friday, not sure if they still are on sale this week though).

I found my pansies at Bachman’s, but I also found something else that I wasn’t really expecting; a huge selection of faux flower stems.

And honestly, I thought they weren’t at all fakey looking.  Plus they had what I felt were some unique choices.  Just check out this fake astilbe.

If anything, it looks even better than the real stuff.

I guess Bachman’s is faking it till they make it with lots of faux options before true gardening season starts.

As a sidenote, check out those green lanterns.  That’s almost the exact color of the Sweet Pickins’ In a Pickle, or Dixie Belle’s Kudzu.  I am really loving this shade of green lately, and it looks like I’m not the only one.

Lately I’d been wishing I had a few more fake flowers on hand to use when staging photos for the blog.  All I had on hand was some fake lavender.

Which meant I had to go out and buy real flowers whenever I wanted to use them in photos.

Not that it’s the end of the world, but I don’t always want to take the time to run to the florist.

I’d been looking at the fake flowers at the various thrift shops, and they tend to look a bit tacky to me.  Plus the prices often seem to be weirdly high on them.  I’d also looked at Hobby Lobby, but the day I was there they weren’t on sale and the regular prices there are also a bit on the high side.

So when I realized that the faux stems were 20% off at Bachmans, and the prices were actually fairly reasonable (their prices are often on the higher end too), I decided to grab a few to have on hand as photo props.

Just check out these grape hyacinths.

Aren’t they fab?  You guys are certainly going to see more of them in the future.

I couldn’t resist this columbine either.

Isn’t that lovely.

I had to have some white peonies.  The season for real peonies from the garden is always so short (although this year I will definitely be saving some buds in the fridge for later, check out my experiment with that from last year).

And then I grabbed just a couple of pink choices.

Some ranunculus and some cherry blossoms.

I’d been tucking my faux lavender in a french bucket that I keep on the top of the cabinet on my front porch.  That kept it handy for grabbing for photos.

But now that I’ve added a few more stems, it’s looking pretty good.

I may just have to display them somewhere more prominent so that I can enjoy them on the regular.

So what are your thoughts on faux flowers?  Are you a flower snob like me, or do you prefer flowers that don’t require any care at all?  Leave a comment and let us know.

an april thrift haul.

I still have lots to share from our trip to Charleston, but just in case some of you are growing bored with my travelogue, I thought I’d break it up a bit today and post about my recent thrift haul.

Sue and I headed out Wednesday morning to see what we could find at our local thrift stores.  The forecast called for rain, but the rain held off until we were almost done for the day.  I did have to unload the van in a downpour, but at least it wasn’t snow!

First up are the items that I can flip ‘as is’, although I always wash everything I bring home first, such a these ironstone-like pieces.

I’m not sure if any of those qualify as legit ironstone, but they have the ironstone look.

I also brought home this stoneware pitcher.

It’s super heavy, and looks vintage to me.  But I don’t really know much about stoneware.  There are no marks on the bottom, but I did find these embossed marks.

Does anyone know anything about this stuff?  If so, please leave me a comment and clue me in.

I purchased this silver footed tray just because I liked the shape of it, and the fact that it’s footed.

I thought it would be perfect in the kitchen with olive oils and spices on it.

I also grabbed this set of six copper mugs.

Moscow mules anyone?

Someone really needs to stage an intervention to get me to stop buying pretty china.

After reading about grand millennial style I gave myself permission to consider china again, and so far I haven’t actually managed to sell any of it.  Also, unfortunately, although the dinner plates in this set aren’t crazed, the salad plates are.  I didn’t notice that before I got them home.  So I realized after the fact that I can’t really sell these as functional plates.  I may have to just turn them into garden china.

But that green!

How could I resist that green?

I also picked up a few things that just needed a little something-something added.  I added a quick transfer to this plain white pitcher.

I also added some transfers to these enamelware pieces.

I think any of these would be great as flower pots.  Just punch some holes in the bottom for drainage (I usually do this with a hammer and a large nail), and fill with your favorite flowering annual.  As I’ve mentioned before, in my experience these transfers hold up perfectly well outside.

When I picked up this barn bird house at the thrift store, it was obvious that there were some things rattling around inside.  I had to take 4 screws out to get the bottom off, and here’s what tumbled out.

A strange little mish mash of items; some craft paint, a chapstick, a little foam brush and a fake plastic strawberry.  Someone was having fun figuring out what they could fit through that hole in the front 😉

I thought it would be adorable to add a transfer from Dixie Belle’s On the Farm set.

Now I can’t decide if I want to keep this for myself, or sell it at the shop.  Decisions, decisions.

I love this tall wire basket that I found, although I’m not 100% sure how one would use it.  Of course, you could always put some tall faux stems in it, or maybe some french bread?

Or hey, maybe hang it from a peg and fill it with rolling pins.  To show the height of the basket, I staged the photo with a pair of rolling pins that I picked up while thrifting too.  I subsequently have painted the handles on the rolling pins to give them a more vintage look.

I went with red and green and I think I’ll hang onto these for the Christmas season.

Whenever I see a pretty original oil painting at a good price, I always grab it.

This one is perfect for someone’s lake cabin, and it’s just about to be cabin season.  I gave the frame a quick freshening up with a coat of Dixie Belle’s Silk paint in Deep Sea, which is a deep navy blue.

It wasn’t until I was about to photograph the painting that I remembered that I had this wooden buoy.  I picked it up while thrifting over the winter and I tucked it aside to be a summer project.

I wish I’d thought to take a ‘before’ photo of the buoy, but no such luck.  It was white with a seafoam green colored stripe.  I gave it a fresh coat of Dixie Belle’s Drop Cloth and then added some red stripes in their Honky Tonk Red and a blue tip using Bunker Hill Blue.  Then I added the numbers, which are from with prima’s Everyday Farmhouse transfer.

It’s the perfect companion to the nautical painting.

I did grab a few more things that I’ll be sharing next week, some garden items that will get the Dixie Belle patina paint treatment, a foursome of wooden totes that are all going to get painted, and I even picked up a couple of dressers from my friend Annie.  She and her husband have recently moved back to Minnesota from New York, and she had a little more furniture than her new house would accommodate.

I’m going to get started on this one over the weekend, so hopefully I can share the finished product with you guys soon!

So be sure to stay tuned!

the hidden alleys of charleston.

As I mentioned recently, I have a thing for alleys with the exception of Minneapolis alleys that have a 6″ thick crust of ice in the winter and you’re trying to load a dresser into your van.  But otherwise, alleys always have a mysterious allure that draws me in and makes me want to see where they lead.

And the narrower, the better, right?  Well, as long as you’re on foot.

I think part of the appeal of the alley is that you can get a sneak peek into areas that aren’t necessarily seen from the regular street, without getting arrested for trespassing.

So when I saw that there was a walking tour in Charleston called Charleston’s Hidden Alleys & Passages, naturally I had to book it.

We booked the tour for our first morning in Charleston so we could get the lay of the land and have an idea which areas we wanted to go back and explore further later in our stay.

We were a little worried about the weather forecast.  We had flown in the night before during severe thunderstorms and a tornado watch (something I absolutely do not recommend).  And there was the potential for more severe thunderstorms the day of our tour.  As you can see in my photos, things were definitely wet.

But miraculously, aside from a brief light drizzle, we stayed pretty dry.  We never even pulled out the umbrellas we’d brought along.

And really, I think the overcast skies just added a misty romantic ambiance to the experience.

From a photography point of view, the gray skies made it much easier for me to get great photos in these alleys where the shadows would have been very deep and dark on a bright, sunny day.

One of the alleys we visited was the Philadelphia Alley.

How amazing is it that this alley was created in 1766 and we are still walking on it today.

According to our guide the bricks making up this alley were made by slaves, and the slave children had the job of turning the bricks as they dried in the sun.  As a result, their small handprints can be seen in many of the bricks.

Legend has it that this alley was also a popular spot for duels and that it’s haunted to this day by a man who lost his life there.  I didn’t run into him, but hey, you never know.  I will admit that between the ghostly handprints and the story of duels being fought, it was a little spooky.

One of the last stops on our tour was the Gateway Walk.

The Gateway Walk is an informal trail through gardens and graveyards.  It’s named for the many wrought iron gates that you pass through along the way.

Part of this walkway leads you through the Unitarian churchyard.

Oh my gosh you guys, is this not what you picture every southern cemetery must look like?

Filled with ancient tombstones and trees draped with spanish moss?

And camellias?  It definitely should have camellias.

Is that the most perfect shade of pink?

I really couldn’t stop taking photos of this place.

You might be wondering to yourself why the Unitarians don’t take better care of their graveyard, keeping it mowed, weed-free and tidy.

Instead it looks overgrown and unkempt.

But apparently this churchyard “is a garden that is allowed to flow and blossom and bloom right over and around the many old gravestones. This natural state is in keeping with Unitarian beliefs about the web of creation.”

I kind of love that concept, how about you?

Although this tour was very well done, I have to say that I wish our guide had focused more on the alleys themselves.

He led us through the alleys while talking about the history of Charleston in general.  So, while it was lovely to be walking through all of these amazing spots, in many cases he never even mentioned the name of the alley or any history associated with it.  I found a lot more information online while writing this post and I wish he had shared more of that with us.  This is not to say that he wasn’t incredibly knowledgeable about the history of Charleston, super charming, and quite entertaining.

Would I take this tour again?  Absolutely.  In a heartbeat.  It was a great way to get some background history on Charleston, and to get your bearings.  It also was definitely off the beaten path.  And trust me, that beaten path in Charleston is pretty well beaten.  But if you want to save yourself the $30/person we paid for it, with a little research and planning you could also easily wander these alleys on your own using info available online here and here.  My next post will explain how we did exactly that the following day, so be sure to stay tuned.

the window boxes of charleston.

First up, congrats to Jill H.!  I drew her name at random to win my giveaway of paint from Dixie Belle’s new Desert Collection.  I’ve got a couple more giveaways planned for the next month or two, so if you didn’t win this time, don’t give up.  There will be more chances coming soon.

Well dear readers, I have to confess that I have pulled a fast one.  Mr. Q and I were in Charleston, South Carolina over the past two weeks.  I probably err on the side of caution, but I’ve always felt it unwise to broadcast it to the world when our house is going to sit empty … well, semi-empty anyway.  Our cat, Lucy, was on guard duty.  And Ken kept an eye on Lucy, and things in general, from next door.

But now we are back!  And we had an amazing time.  So, fair warning, you’re going to see a few Charleston themed posts coming up because I took a lot of photos.  Charleston has to be one of the prettiest places I’ve ever visited.  It has a lot going for it, gorgeous old homes, stunning gardens, delicious food, and lots of history.

I’ll be sharing more on all of those things, but for today I wanted to share something that I saw all over the place in Charleston … beautiful window boxes!

As you may know, we have several window boxes at our house.  So I was definitely scoping out the various combinations of plants to get ideas for my own window boxes this year.

One trend that I noted in Charleston were window boxes that included some perennials in the mix rather than just relying on flowering annuals.  The lime green heuchera in the box below is gorgeous combined with pansies and petunias.

Here is another box that used the same lime green heuchera.

I love how they used a lemon cypress to add some vertical interest in the middle of that one too.  I may have to copy that idea.

This next box includes a deep purple heuchera that contrasts beautifully with the variegated leaves of that tropical looking plant (I don’t know what that plant is, so if any of you are familiar with it please be sure to leave a comment to let us know).

That box is a great example of using foliage rather than flowers to make a statement.

I would guess that you can keep perennials alive in a window box year round in the southern climate of Charleston (hardiness zone 8).  Unfortunately, here in Minnesota our winter temps get far too low to keep most perennials from freezing beyond recovery unless they are in the ground.  The rule of thumb for a perennial surviving winter in an above ground planter is to choose a plant with a hardiness zone two times lower than your normal zone.  Since the twin cities are a zone 4, I’d need to find plants hardy to zone 2 before I could expect them to survive the winter in a planter.

Of course, I could also simply treat the heuchera (or any perennial) as an annual and replant it every year.

I saw a few other options for more permanent window box plants, like boxwood.

At least I’m fairly sure that’s boxwood (if any of you know differently, let me know).  There aren’t many varieties of boxwood that do well in my area, so I’m not that familiar with it.  But I love the idea of underplanting an evergreen of some kind with flowering annuals.

Here’s another example of a box using an evergreen.

There were a few gardeners who were really thinking outside the box (pardon the pun) when it came to plant choices for their window boxes.

I love the use of cyclamen in this one …

And how unique is the use of orchids in this next one?

Now, I’m not sure, but I believe that big round leafed plant is a leopard plant (Farfugium japonicum).  Apparently this plant used to be considered a ligularia, but has been reclassified.

Here is it in another box …

I saw quite a lot of this plant growing in the ground as well.  Clearly whatever it’s called, it does very well in the Charleston climate.

I would never have thought to use a calla lily in a window box, and here it is combined with more of that lime green heuchera and some yellow pansies creating an amazing bright pop of color.

I have to admit I’m not usually a huge fan of yellow, but that combination is gorgeous.

I’m going to go off on a tangent for just a moment and admire the green color on those shutters and how beautifully it works with the plant choices in the window boxes as well.

Around the other side of this same house, they went in a slightly different direction with their plant choices incorporating some purple tones.

I saw window boxes with more monochromatic themes in Charleston too.

Such as this one with white begonias, euphorbia and bacopa.

And this one in purply pinks.

I was thinking that tall plant is a mandevilla.  I’ve only seen mandevilla’s as a vine, but apparently they come in a mounding variety as well.  Or maybe that is a different plant entirely, does anyone know?

The cool color scheme of this next one with its pop of blue pansies and purple Scaevola aemula combined with white alyssum and snap dragons really appeals to me.

You’d have to swap out the pansies when the weather becomes too hot for them (they like it cool).  I’m guessing that the owner of this window box pulls them out and puts something else in for summer.

I was especially impressed by the combination of gerbera daisies and kalanchoe in this next window box.  Those pinks match each other almost perfectly.

And to cap it off, this one was decorated for Easter.

See what I mean?  There are little eggs tucked in here and there.  It’s subtle, and I love it.

As you can see, everywhere I looked in Charleston I saw gorgeous window boxes.

I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing them as much as I did.  I’ve certainly come away with a few ideas that I plan to use in my own window boxes this year (you know, once they finally thaw out).  How about you?  Do you have any favorite plants, or combination of plants that you like to use?  If so, be sure to leave a comment and let us know!

I also hope you’ll stay tuned for more posts about our recent trip to Charleston.