Saturday, December 29, 2012

Cosco Cart Remake

One of my favorite Christmas presents this year is probably as old as I am.  We found this vintage Cosco three-tier rolling cart in the basement of my former in-laws' house, which my son is cleaning out and fixing up to sell. No one else in the family wanted it, so he told me to take it.  It was rusty and needed some work, but I knew that my elf, Doug, could work wonders on it:

I told him to surprise me with it for Christmas.  After several secretive days in the driveway and garage, he finished the project and then hid it under a plastic tarp.  He wire-brushed the chrome frame, painted the wheel hardware with chrome spray paint, and painted the trays a gorgeous 50s aqua (the color is more accurate in the pictures further down), and this is what I saw on Christmas morning:

We took it to the beach the next day and outfitted it with some baking items, including vintage Pyrex bowls and baking dishes that we already had and some stacking cooling racks that Christine gave me for Christmas. It's sitting in the dining room but can easily be moved to the kitchen as a temporary island when we need more space for baking, cooking, or serving:

My stepson Corey and his wife Kristin gave us the towel for Christmas, and it's a perfect match -- even though they didn't even know about the cart when they chose it.

Apparently, getting one of these carts for Christmas isn't so unusual.  This vintage ad advises the 1950s housewife to "Put a bug in his ear that you want Cosco."

I guess I did "put the bug" in Doug's ear, but he had to do a lot more than make a trip to the local hardware store to get my Cosco cart.

Sunday, December 23, 2012


I hate to cook, but I love to bake.  I guess that means that if I weren't married to Doug, I would live on homemade cookies and takeout pizza for the rest of my life.

We have a small kitchen, but we bake so much that we actually bought a piece of furniture a couple of years ago dedicated to baking supplies.

It came with two trashcans in the pullout bins, which we replaced with 8 large Tupperware containers for flour, sugar, chocolate chips, oats etc. The drawers hold colored sanding sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and small spice containers:

This weekend, we pulled out all of the supplies and made more than 1,000 cookies to give away...and to eat. We baked all of them in our 60-year-old Chambers gas stove:

Doug is great with a piping bag, so he made everything look good.

Like sugar cookies:

And homemade to-die-for toffee:
And almond roca cookies:

And jam turnovers:

We also made shortbread, peanut butter blossoms, Toll House cookies, Guiness gingerbread, and Special K bars, which Doug is cutting here:

We pack the toffee in little bags:

And we make up boxes and baskets for friends and family:

I know he didn't help with the baking, but I can't resist finishing with a picture of Pax, our 8-month-old orange tabby, who was the star of our Christmas cards this year.  The caption?  Wreck the halls.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Kitchen Tree

Last week, Christine came over with an early Christmas present for me. She was as excited to give it to me as I was to open it.

Although she sometimes asks for gift suggestions, this one was a complete surprise: a set of 12 Fiesta ornaments.

I have a lot of Fiesta in the kitchen--mixed with other brightly colored dishes from Pottery Barn and Kohls. They're a perfect choice for our kitchen, which has glass-fronted top cabinets from an old butler's pantry.

I also have a few vintage pieces in another cabinet:

So her guess that I would love the ornaments was right on.  We immediately strung them on some red cord I had left over from last Christmas and hung them on the little tree I keep on the kitchen table. I dropped one as I was unwrapping it from one of those awful clamshell packs, but it survived the crash to the floor, so I still have my even dozen:

 This morning I baked some gingerbread people to add to the tree:

With grilling Santa standing guard, it's the perfect addition to our 1930s kitchen.

Thanks, Christine, you are a great gift chooser!

Friday, December 7, 2012

A Day in the Big Apple

This past Wednesday, my friend Jennie, her daughter-in-law Lauren, Lauren's mom Marge, and I were among the more than 700,000 people who pass through Rockefeller Center every day during the holiday season to see the magnificent Christmas tree.

Like most tourists, I took a picture with my iPhone, which of course doesn't do justice to the tree.

According to an article published in Business Week, the 80-year-old Norway spruce weighs about 10 tons and stands 80 feet tall. It’s wrapped in about five miles of LED lights with 45,000 bulbs, topped with a 550-pound, LED-powered Swarovski star studded with 25,000 crystals, and it has no other ornaments. This year's tree survived Superstorm Sandy in New Jersey, and when it's taken down, its lumber will be milled for use in constructing a Habitat for Humanity House.

We also visited Central Park, where we watched some very young hockey players in training--the four- and five-year-olds spent more time with their butts on the ice than they did with their blades. 

After Central park, we checked out the Plaza Hotel, which was already famous but became even more iconic thanks to Macauley Culkin.  We had already eaten lunch, but we drooled over the food market downstairs, with all of its beautiful fresh produce, layered cakes, jewel-box-like petit fours, rich multi-grain breads, and cookies that look like works of art:

Jennie and I posed in front of a wreath on the front of the hotel, just to show how big it was:

We also went into Bergdorf Goodman, where we saw actress Andie McDowell making a purchase.  But I was more impressed with the wreath-on-every-window exterior of the building than I was with the bling and celebrities inside:

At night, we made our way to Bryant Park, which features a series of small glassed-in huts, each one specializing in a particular line of merchandise--socks, scarves and hats, candy, Christmas merchandise....

Yes, that last one was the one that got me.  And yes, even though I'm the person who said we don't have room for any more Santas--except maybe an ornament or two--I succumbed to purchasing a grilling Santa for Doug.  He looks pretty cute next to the miniature tree on our kitchen table:

 Merry Christmas three weeks early, honey.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Here Comes Santa Claus

Here comes Santa Claus, right down Santa Claus Lane--which I think is in our renovated attic.

I guess it's appropriate that Doug, who looks a lot like Santa, collects Santas.  He started about 8 years ago, and his collection has grown to well over 100.

We have tree ornaments, Pez containers, nesting Russian dolls, snow globes, statues, salt-and-pepper shakers, and stocking holders.

This snow globe plays a song when you wind it up, and a little train runs on a track around the base.  Santa is drinking a coke:

This weekend, we made our annual trek to Eldreth Pottery in Strasburg, Pa., to get the latest redware Santa:

He joined several other redware Santas in our collection, although one is conspicuously absent this year--it's a very tall one that we're afraid will get knocked over by our rambuctious orange-tabby menace, Pax. Maybe by next year, when he's a little more mature, we can bring that one back out.

While we were in Strasburg, we also went to some antique shops and bought the one on the right--it has four more Santas inside, all in different colors:

We also have an extensive collection of blue Eldreth pottery Santas.  They're on display in our upstairs bathroom this year:

This Eldreth is large and stands on the floor next to some vintage picnic baskets.  His lantern is a separate piece that hooks over his hand:

My aunt, who is a talented decorative painter, made this one for us:

This little vintage toy Santa has a bell in his hand and collapses when you push up on the base. I guess the manufacturer thought we wouldn't know who it was, so they stamped "SANTA CLAUS" on the base.

I wish we had one place to display all of them, but our house is just too small for that. So this group is on a bench upstairs. When Doug started collecting, he picked up just about any bargain Santas he found at thrift stores, yard sales, and junk shops, but I've convinced him to be more discriminating because we just don't have room.  When Doug sees this picture, I'm sure he's going to point to the space in the front and tell me we have room for at least a half dozen more.

And of course, other people buy him Santas. My stepson Corey is responsible for this gem, which sits in the office area of our attic and plays loud music when you push a button:

 My daughter Christine brought back this interesting "pepper" Santa from a trip to Arizona.  Santa didn't weather the travel too well, but we glued him back together:

My son Alex found this one when he was cleaning out his grandparents' house last week.  It's one in a set of six called Santa Through the Years.  This one is called The Contemporary Santa and is intended to represent what Santa looked like beginning about 1920:

We have two Santas at the beach, which I don't have pictures of right now--one is a coastal-looking Santa that our friends Steven and Lauren bought for Doug as a thank you for taking their engagement pictures.  The other is a whimsical Florida-themed Santa from my cousin Lou.

This old candle is one of Doug's favorites.  He remembers seeing it every year when he was growing up, and he almost had a heart attack one year when his mother lit it.


I guess everyone should have known back then that Santa was Doug's alter ego.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Cottage Makeover

Some of you have been following our beach cottage renovation along the way, but I wanted to write one entry with all of our before and after pix in one place.

Pictures like this one remind us of why we went through all the blood, sweat, and tears of the project:

Here is the renovation, room by room.

Living room before:

We got rid of all the disgusting furniture and filthy layered rugs.  We also pulled down all of the drapes, pink plastic blinds, and sheers blocking the beautiful view of the marsh.  

Living room after:

We hung inexpensive bamboo blinds at the windows, chose some of Doug's beach-oriented photos for the walls, and brought in a red couch from our house (it was kind of surplus because we had already bought a new PB denim one for our living room at home).  Everything else was donated by friends or purchased at yard sales and thrift stores.

Dining room before:

The previous owners apparently thought the dining room was a good place to sleep, so they filled it with beds:

They also thought the views out the windows were to be hidden because they covered them with a motley collection of curtain panels:

We threw away all of the furniture and curtains, tore down the dark valances above the windows, and ripped up the filthy 1970s orange tweed carpet.

This is what it looked like emptied and swept--still a long way to go...but much better!

Dining room after:

Here is the room cleaned up and ready to be furnished.  Because we had no money for new flooring, I pulled out all of the staples and tack strips and painted the plywood subfloor with dark grey porch paint from Lowes:

We hung bamboo blinds in this room too and furnished it with an LL Bean cottage-style futon:

and a vintage table with four chairs that I bought on Craigslist and spray painted with various pastels:

Our cat Pax likes the view out the windows:

My friend Jennie spotted the vintage quilt runner at an antique store and bought it for me because she saw how perfect it was for this spot:

Doug made this little beach bar out of a wooden crate that we got for free from a neighbor at a yard sale:

Bedroom before:

Like the other rooms, the bedroom was filthy, dark, and full of junk, including cans of paint and a car jack:

Bedroom after:

We threw away everything but the built-in dresser.  We bought a bed, and Doug made the headboard out of an old door.  I made a quilt for it out of scrap material I had.  We painted the wall sconces and outfitted them with donated shades. I also made the curtains out of thrift store fabric.

I painted the dresser a pale blue (same as the built-ins over the bed) and spray-painted the hardware.  The mirror came out of our basement at home:

Kitchen before:

OK, I admit it.  I saved the best for last.  The kitchen was disgusting, and Doug and I can't believe that we ever thought we could salvage anything from it except the stove, which was brand-new.

This cabinet was next to the fridge (hidden in the above photo)--it was filled with dirt and garden chemicals and was the first thing to go into the Dumpster from the kitchen:

But we soon learned that all of the cabinets were falling apart, the floor was rotten, the sink had been painted with latex paint, and the range hood was rusty and hanging from an old cloth-covered electrical wire.

We are now very grateful to the sink because it made us realize that the kitchen could NOT be saved.  We gutted the whole room and are thrilled with the results.

Kitchen after:

We bought a vintage sink at a salvage yard.  Doug made a base for it, I made a curtain out of some homespun that I bought from a co-worker, and we bought a new faucet from Home Depot:

Doug fashioned a pot rack out of a roasting rack, and he built a small cabinet out of scrap wood.  We also covered all of the walls and the ceiling with bead board, and Doug installed a new wood laminate floor.

The hotdog sign came from a yard sale:

He made a countertop out of an old lab bench and two shelves from an old tongue-and-groove door:

We bought a new range hood, which Doug framed out with bead board.  The kitchen is tiny, but I LOVE working in it!

The cost for the entire kitchen was less than $2,000, including the sink, faucet, fridge, microwave, range hood, flooring, bead board, electrical and plumbing materials, lighting, and miscellaneous supplies.


The bathroom is so tiny, it's difficult to take pictures.  Plus, I was in such a hurry to get it decontaminated that I took NO before pix at all.  We painted the walls and ceiling. I also tore out the old linoleum and painted the plywood subfloor. I ripped out the vanity front and replaced the half drawers with a blue ticking curtain hung from white string. I added a striped shower curtain and a yellow rug from Goodwill, some towels, and a new toilet paper holder. It's not beautiful, but it's serviceable!

Bathroom update:

This weekend (July 4th), we found a porcelain sink sitting at the end of a driveway on the road out to our cottage.  Maybe that means the lovely gold plastic one can go in the trash soon....

Bathroom update update

It's now Spring 2014, and the "new" sink and vanity have been installed!

Doug built the vanity out of scrap wood, and it's now actually big enough and clean enough that I can store extra towels below the sink!


We painted all of the walls, ceilings, and trim with Sherwin Williams eider white.  The cabinet, built-ins, shelves, and doors in the hallway are Sherwin Williams sea salt. We used a blocking primer over the varnished wood and wood paneling to keep the color from bleeding through.

Next up?

The exterior as soon as the weather breaks next spring. For now, we just get to enjoy the inside.