Gangsta cat

My friend tells me that my cat, Maple, is a little vandal. “Sit on the right side of the train when you head home and check out the abandoned train with graffiti all over it. You’ll see ‘Maple’ spray painted in a couple of places.”

Apparently, my cat has been tagging trains.

OK, so it probably isn’t my cat because I lock the door at night, so I know she can’t get out, but seriously, whose gangsta tag is “Maple”? It’s so . . . sweet.

On a lunch excursion this week, I spot this amazing piece of work on Stuart St. in Boston. The clever style smacks of Banksy. If you haven’t seen the documentary on this artist–Exit Through the Gift Shop–you should. It’s weird, like graffiti  done by a cat.

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A little research turned up the fact that the artists behind this are Os Gemeos (twins) who have also contributed art to the Rose Kennedy Greenway in Boston.

Need help with 528 down

This mammoth crossword that ran in Virginia’s Daily Press captured the people and events that made news in 2012; what will make the news next year is anyone who can finish it. In addition to its size (820 across and 815 down), the print is so tiny that filling in any of those boxes is an achievement. I have a massive two lines completed but am confident I can knock this out in a couple of months. With a magnifying glass. And a jumbo eraser. And Google.

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Yard sale finds

Today’s find: a dirty bird. As my friends will attest, I have exactly one coaster, which means I’m scrambling for a place for guests to put their drinks. I spotted this tile with an odd-looking, geometric bird for $2. Dusty and sticky, I cleaned him up like a duck plucked from an oil spill, where he now sits on the coffee table—coaster count doubled.

I also found a book titled Grilled Pizzas & Piadinas, which is handy because I’ve been working on perfecting grilled pizza of late (perfecting, failing, perfecting, failing, eating anyway) and am interested to try to make piadinas, a type of flatbread used to wrap sandwiches or as a crust-like bundle for something sweet.

In addition to a sparkly metallic bracelet and a couple of CDs that the DJ sifting through the same box thought fit to pass up (The Sinatra Christmas Album and Corinne Bailey Rae, if you must know), I picked up the book Plastic Ocean for my ocean-loving friend who likes to snuggle up with a good book about the ocean’s flotilla of garbage. I mean, don’t we all?

Cat hammock

I’m not crafty, but the layer of cat hair on the couch has pushed me toward Martha Stewart tendencies.

I’ve made a cat hammock.

I used the bones of wooden magazine rack and a fabric cushion cover bought at a yard sale 10 years ago (seriously) that was just waiting for the right project. Let’s pretend this is the right project and that it’s sewn beautifully and not at all lopsided.

Maple likes it. Even if I had to toss her in there, forcing her to look relaxed.

Tips for shopping Brimfield: a primer

How to tackle Brimfield

Only at Brimfield can you find taxidermied animals, buckets of toy soldiers, Smurfs, vintage shift dresses, anchors, and rainbow parasols. For the uninitiated, we’re talking about the Brimfield Antique Show. It’s Day Two of the show that runs July 10-15 this year, attracting collectors and designers (excuse me, Martha, mine!) from all over the country, so take advantage of this sublime summer and head out to Western MA for the day. Can’t make it? The show comes around again in September.

I hit the show yesterday on opening day after scanning the tips of Brimfield organizers and scouring blogs for the inside scoop. But the suggestions read a bit like those over-the-top-cautious hiking tips to bring 17 layers, enough water to hydrate a camel, and a tent and sleeping bag in case you get stranded. Here, I offer my own tips that you may find handy.

When to go

The show is held in May, July, and September each year, so pick your favorite season. In May you have the possibility of rain, and in July, the hot sun; but September sounds just right. This week promises to be sunny and hot, as evidenced by my flagging energy at Hour Two. The show runs rain or shine, and while the elements won’t deter diehard collectors, rain may dampen (ahem) your experience. You can buy a poncho, look ridiculous, and suck it up, or you could just go another day.

Strategy comes into play when planning the time of day to visit, too. Go in the morning and you’ll find yourself on the road at 3 a.m. to compete with dealers when the gates open; but you do have the best chance of seeing the goods that get snapped up first. Go at midday and it’s a bit quieter, but the height of the day could mean you’re contending with the heat. Go in the evening and you could be one happy camper; while you miss some initial bargains, you can shop at twilight and the dealers may be ready to deal. Imagine what you could score on the last evening on the last day of the show.

Parking

Pay $5 and park in the middle of the mile-long stretch. Five bucks is reasonable (you could probably pay less but have to hoof it even farther or pay more for no reason that I can deduce) and you’ll be able to walk back to the car with your purchases. Or to take a nap.

For your trophy room?

Water

Everyone recommends you bring water. And yes, it gets HOT and you get tired and no one wants to get dehydrated in a dry field mobbed with people, but you know what? Water is heavy. A buck or two will get you cold water on the spot.

Food

Experts advise packing snacks (again with the carrying) for healthier choices and to sustain you. But where there is fair food (hot dogs, steak sandwiches, and fried dough!) there is happiness. Splurge on fries. You’re gonna splurge on that stunning chandelier anyway, so what’s another $10? I found a nice variety in the food corral, actually: Greek salads, Ben & Jerry’s, mac n’ cheese and some killer apple cider doughnuts. Life is short.

What to wear

This is no time to debut the gingham espadrilles. Wear comfy shoes that you can walk all day in and don’t mind getting dirty. The fields are dry and dusty or wet and muddy. Wear light layers and check the weather. In July, dress like you’re going to the beach. May and September could go either way: beachwear or a scarf and hat. It’s New England.

Sunscreen

Wear sunscreen. If you need inspiration, read this graduation speech from 1997.

Know your prices

A little legwork in advance could put you in a strong negotiating position. But all the research in the world will not stop you from shelling out an exorbitant sum when you spot the rare, speckled ostrich feather you need to complete your collection. Still, dealers expect haggling; just do it in a respectful manner. Try, “What’s the best you could do on this old ostrich feather?” It’s like negotiating a salary; let them name the price first because it might be less than you expected.

And bring cash—more than you think you need. Then go back to the ATM and get more.

I hoped to pick up some crocks for my patio garden, after scoring this white one at a yard sale for less than $10. But my failure to research meant I had a good laugh when I realized some vintage vessels cost upwards of $80. Geraniums just didn’t seem worthy.

Grab it

You snooze, you lose. If you circle around feigning disinterest, someone will grab the item you covet before you can finish hemming and hawing. But then, you shouldn’t exclaim, “OMG, it’s a 1970s Topo Gigio doll in mint condition!” either, because you lose all bargaining power, not to mention your self-respect.

If you see something you decide to come back to, good luck—not only because it might be gone (likely), but because the place is a rabbit warren of labyrinthine paths designed to disorient you. I like to think my navigation skills rival that of a GPS, but after a while, all the booths and dealers and fields start to look alike.

A picturesque scene today, but a dizzying maze of booths tomorrow

Transporting the goods

Show regulars suggest bringing a cart. I suppose if you’re a serious collector or have an unlimited budget, by all means, bring a cart at the risk of looking like an 82-year-old hitting the grocery store. But be aware you’ll have to park your cart outside most stalls; plus, they’re unwieldy and prone to running over errant feet. If you’re just hoping to pick up a trinket or two (and not a stone urn), ditch the cart and bring a backpack. Also, there are entrepreneurial porters who will sweat for you as they wheel your bargains to your car.

Mason jars breed like rabbits at Brimfield

Bathrooms

Bring a clothespin. When nature calls, your only option is a portable restroom facility, which we all know is a much fancier phrase for the stifling little shack that shields you while you pee in a hole in the ground. Just know that the best part of leaving Brimfield is not riding home with a carload full of treasures, but the promise of a clean bathroom.

Pets

Pets are not banned from the show, but they’re not exactly encouraged. It can be a long hot day for a beagle, and one innocent wag of the tail could mean you end up owning a broken (fill in the blank with the priciest item you can think of). But if you dog is cute (and it is, obviously), put that fuzzy face to work to get yourself a bargain.

Measurements

Bring a tape measure (not an impractical ruler like yours truly) so you’ll know for sure that the red Formica table will not possibly fit in your car—or your kitchen. Take a moment to collect yourself. I know how you feel. I left these red lockers behind. Sigh.

You shiny, lovely things

Go with your gut

The most important tip: if you love it, buy it. It’s as simple as that. Don’t worry about whether it will “go” with your decor. It’s your decor; make it go! If an object moves you or raises your blood pressure in pure joy, buy it and love it unconditionally. Until you decide to sell it at a yard sale.

Plan on it

Selecting just the right planner and wall calendar is key for a successful year. Without them, your life is a series of Post-it notes and shredded napkins of To Do lists that leave you with napkin fragments all over your clothes and nothing accomplished. This year, I scrambled to find a wall calendar and somehow ended up with the unusual Britain by Rail filled with cool graphic images that maybe one other person in the world might buy. Turns out the images are from the collection of The National Railway Museum in York, England, a place I steadfastly avoided while studying abroad in the same city years ago because well, it was The National Railway Museum. Now, every month, I’ll be gazing at the images I once shunned so cavalierly.

Then I got this featherweight planner by dozi on Etsy.com that is keeping me organized and oohing over the design. The simple lines remind me of mini bird footprints. Like a stampede of mini birds.

Anyway, I’m resisting iCalendar—just one more thing to click on—and going the old-fashioned route. So far, my planner has been a success, reminding me that I had dinner and a movie with Katie on Monday, a show with singer/drummer Vinx tonight at Club Passim, am watching the new season of Project Runway tomorrow (yes, I have to write it down), and checking out Elizabeth Gilbert reading from her new book, Committed, on Friday. Good job, little planner.

Walk this way


Blue Heron Bridge

Originally uploaded by crash575

Sometimes you need to take a long walk because it’s a Sunday in October and it’s 70 degrees and you can’t believe it because last Sunday it was a blizzard. A blizzard I tell you.

The trail along the Charles River from Watertown to Waltham meanders along under a splay of trees competing for color with plenty of lookout nooks to sit and watch the river flow by and the occasional duck making out with another duck.

And then, you happen upon the loveliest bridge and you feel like you’re in a corner of Denmark or Finland or somewhere with impressive European bridges that value form and function, but certainly not Watertown. And then you remember how great this little town is. You don’t need Denmark or the Millennium Bridge in London. You have the Blue Heron Bridge in Watertown and it’s as majestic as a blue heron and all the more special because it’s like discovering wildlife…of an architectural sort.

Marimekko display

The former Crate & Barrel space on Brattle St. in Cambridge, a building heralded for its design, is now home to a temporary exhibit celebrating Marimekko, a Finnish design company that I always thought was a Japanese designer. The window display, a splash and a half of color, caught my eye because it looks an awful lot like my closet: a row of vintage-y dresses in bright floral patterns, their poppy petals and bold swirls wooing passersby. The cheery designs are most appreciated on umbrellas. Pinks and oranges: how can you go wrong?

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Boston needs Apartment Therapy

I’ve been on a season-long quest for the perfect mid-century coffee table—rich brown, clean lines, slim legs. My online searches routinely turn up dreamy tables on apartmenttherapy.com, but they’re always in the NYC classified listings, and thus too far. Once, not so long ago, Boston longed to be part of the Apartment Therapy rave that had taken root in other major cities, chiefly, New York. Now, with our own site, we’ll get to peek inside people’s pads in JP, shop for mid-century furniture in Brookline, lust after gorgeous photos of interiors, and OD on the design side of the city from Brimfield to Reside. Good times. 

Just browsing around, I stumbled on this post of a guy living on the Upper West who painted one of his walls using a blown up sketch of a paint-by-number. I bet his mother told him never to color on the walls.

And check out this cool loft that was a former soap factory. Hello, envy.

 

Ilan Averbuch's artist's loft in Queens from Apartmenttherapy.com

Artist loft of Ilan Averbuch, Queens, posted on apartmenttherapy.com after appearing in The New York Times