Friday, May 29, 2009

Peacock thrift shirt I wore as a teen

This is my sis and me walking into the sunset in Vancouver, British Columbia the summer before grade 11 or 12 (I'm in the green skirt).

We've walked into the sunset again: she and I are currently in Ottawa for our big high school reunion, which means grunge queen won't be posting until Tuesday or Wednesday of next week.

Then I'll be returning to regular grunge queen programming - thanks for your patience letting me stroll down memory lane this week.

I actually still have the green skirt I'm wearing in this pic. I found it in a second-hand store in Vancouver that summer so long ago, and I wore it for years. In my early 20s, after high school, I busted the seam and got it repaired. It looked kinda funny after that but I just couldn't let it go ....

Now it's being used as a makeshift cover for a thrift store stool. I'm going to get it made into a pillow because I love the green peacock print. So I'd say this 1960s skirt still has some mileage left in it!!

See you in a few days, and take care!!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Blue jewel earrings

My sis and I bought these earrings the summer before grade 9, at the Ottawa Exhibition - and I still have them.

We wore them a lot in grade 9, and so did our pals! The fun thing about being young: wearing eachothers' clothing and accessories!

So as we prepare for our highschool reunion this weekend, here's my tribute to grade 9 fashion, and to hanging onto special things that hold fond memories: my grade 9 class pic.

This is one of my fave pics of myself. Quelle hair! I threw a bottle of blond hair dye on my hair - stupidly - hence the brassy look.

I'm wearing my fave royal blue wool sweater here, with a black scarf I bought the year earlier and wore to death for a few years - wonder what happened to it? I lent the sweater to a friend and never got it back, alas - it still smarts that she never gave it back nor recognized how important it was to me.

This is me in grade nine

You know that Barenaked Ladies song, "This is me in grade 9"?

Since I'm off to my highschool reunion this week I'm taking a trip down memory lane ....

And this really IS me in grade nine, my first day at Canterbury High School for the Arts in Ottawa, next to my (fraternal) twin sis, right.

Yes, my glasses are the size of my head.

I agonized long and hard over my outfit: my fave skinny jeans (in style again), a cotton tee worn under an oversize cardigan borrowed from my sis, and plastic beads picked up the year before in England - plastic beads were ALL the rage back then (as they are again now). You can't see them but I think I wore flats - either that or the very strange boxer-inspired boots I picked up that year. Old army bag I bleached a fish-belly white, don't ask me why.

My sis's look was a little more 1980s pop: Billy Idol hair, plastic red earrings and kerchief at the neck, Flashdance-inspired cut sweatshirt with Esprit de Corps jacket over top (God we wore that thing from grade 8 until it must have disintegrated), and best of all, those red harem pants, bought that summer in some strip mall in Weyburn, Saskatchewan with our dear cousin Clayton.

We were still so green, and I think our innocence and enthusiasm showed through in our garb.

That was the best autumn of my life. And Canterbury was a great school. So looking forward to being there again.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Grunge queen at 16

If I told you exactly what year this was, I'd have to kill you.

I'm off to my -- high school reunion near the end of this week, so this week's posts will be somewhat nostalgic in bent.

Can you tell which one is me? I haven't changed much, have I?

I was a grunge queen at 16. The turtleneck and shoes were new (but I had the shoes since grade 8!), and I picked up the funky paisley skirt at a second-hand shop in Ottawa for next-to-nothing. It came with a very retro jacket with three-quarter sleeves and a huge yoke collar, and the waist on the skirt was so huge I had to get the skirt cut in half by my seamstress to wear it!

I loved that skirt and its funky purple and maroon swirls. Why did I get rid of it?

And that blue leather coat? It belonged to my mom when she was younger, and my sis and I wore it do death when we were in high school. Why oh why did we get rid of it, and where did it go?

This is a look I'd wear now, a pretty timeless retro go-go 1960s look. Pretty sure I wore this ensemble with silver hoop earrings too.

Ah, those were the days.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Obsolete tools

With the recent gift of a wood grainer, pictured here, I realized I have a little collection of industrial tools forming - all of which were given to me as gifts, come to think of it.

Mark Taaffe of World Headquarters at 2885 Dundas St. West in the Junction gave this wood grainer to me. I love it. It looks like there's a patent number and a 1911 date stamped on the handle on the back.

If you're like me and need some help figuring out how this would have been used, I'll tell you what Mark told me: this would have been run down the length of say, a cupboard that had been painted, to create a grainy effect.

Doug Killaly of Post & Beam Reclamation, another Junction gem at 2869 Dundas St. West specializing in architectural salvage, gave this to me a couple years ago.

Can you guess what it is?

It's a wood block floral pattern stamper, from Hungary if memory serves, and was used to stamp patterns on clothing.

I love that it's stained blue. Doug mounted it on a little stand, so now it's a decor object just like my wood grainer.

A man gave this to me many years ago as a Christmas gift - he found it in a Paris flea market and the tool generated much conversation around the holiday tree in the south of France that year ....

We never figured out what it was used for.

I think I'll be haunting the salvage and junk shops for other old artisan-type tools and implements such as these. Is there such a thing as feeling nostalgia for items you've never experienced before? Let's just say I appreciate their artisan handy bent and their history, known or not. And the tools make for neat decor groupings.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Easy chair makeover

Let's be honest: I'm not crafty or handy in any way. In fact my best ideas about how to fix up junk entail little physical prowess or handiwork.

But I'm drawn to retro chairs like a bee to nectar, and plain and simple, I can't help but collect 'em if their bones are good and the price is right (ie: free at the side of the road or a few dollars at a garage sale).

I found this retro chrome chair on the sidewalk. All I did to spunk it up was buy some new foam, cover the seat in a textured fabric and add a silk cushion to make the yellow pop.

This was a few years ago so I'm ready for another change. The boho bonanza gal in me would want to redo the seat cover in a rich jewel tones and a patterned fabric - something that would foil the streamlined modern lines of the chrome.

I snagged this rather skanky chair (don't want to speculate on the stain) at a garage sale a few years ago for five bucks.

My solution this time was easy peasy Shabby Chic: simply cover it in a tablecloth from the dollar store and tie the tablecloth with a long chiffon scarf.

I like how the polka dots and swirly pattern mix together - the look is spanky chic. The bonus is I tend to hoard nice fabric, tablecloths and such so I can change up the look - with one of my many scarves - as often as I want. Mmm I think I have a funkier look I could come up with - stay tuned!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Good Goodwill haul

Ever heard of a thrift quick fix?

It had been, like, weeks since I thrifted and I was getting a definite ITCH.

But with a busy long weekend planned, I had little time to troll the shops. So on Saturday on my way home from errands, I popped into Goodwill. I gave myself half an hour.

For $20 I left with a happy haul o' goodies. On time, on budget.

I love tarnished silver - it has an old-world elegance and slight decrepitude that I find alluring. This urn was $2.99.

The bohemian look is still going strong in my decor books.

This pillow cover from India, pillow included, was only $2.99.

It's sitting on my "new" chair from the trash - see posts below.

Meanwhile this beautiful boho vase (wine holder?) made in Greece was $3.99. I love the colours and pattern.

I also picked up a long night gown for $2.99 and THE MOST STUNNING 1960s maxi dress with halter top and fitted bodice that fits me like a glove for $6.99.

Will have to get a pic of me wearing it as it's just a gem --- now I need someone to invite me to a red carpet event!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Work area makeover

I think I'm going through thrift shop withdrawal.

I'm trying to budget in preparation for my high school reunion at the end of the month, and it's rough, this not thrift shopping thing.

I still have some garage sale booty to show you but wanted to finish the big reveal re: my most recent makeover.

The TV used to be where the chair (found in the trash) with the red pillow now is.

I hated that the TV was the focal point of my living room and wanted to tuck it away, which you see I have in the far corner.

I also tried to streamline the decor a bit as I find I naturally want to pare down a bit in the summer - which makes total sense as we do it with our clothing.

I kinda like the way it all turned out. My work desk area is normally so junky clunky, so I got rid of all the papers on the desk and relegated them to the coffee table I placed by the entrance hallway, which is under the retro painting and flanked by the green lampshade lamp and teak hutch.

That table is my toss table when I come home, and it's where I'll throw all my papers and bric-a-brac collected throughout the day. Once every week or so I go through it and recycle, toss or store its contents.

I've tried to keep the teak hutch you see on the back wall (bought 15 years ago for $80 at a thrift shop in Ottawa) fairly streamlined. The top shelf features a piece of green pottery purchased at an artisan shop in Ottawa during my university days (yes even in my starving student days I shopped). The painting next to it is by my very talented twin sis (see her work at; the bowl my garage sale buddy Matthew bought me at a garage sale; and the paper vases - which I'll give you a better view of soon - are by Filipino designer Tes Pasola.

The metal shopping bins under the teak coffee table to the right I found - where else? - on the sidewalk outside my apartment.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Room redo great for entertaining

I'm like a proud mommy with this one: I know I've already shown you this thrift store and garage sale corner arrangement - you know, the dining room area I lugged the green loveseat into after I lugged another loveseat in and out after I took the dining table out?

I love the spring-like pops of colour here in the thrift store painting and lampshade coupled with the green velvet sofa and silky cushions - it just makes me happy to look at.

But I realized the night of my dinner party (see post below) that this tableau is functional for another reason beyond the unobtrusive TV in the corner thing.

As I prepared salad I invited my date to sit on the loveseat across from the kitchen doorway - that way he wasn't sitting around the corner where I couldn't see him, but rather in full view while I puttered in the kitchen.

Just goes to show, sometimes a room redo can make more sense once you settle into it. Now I have a place for my guests to sit while I play hostess - I'm so excited because it means I can join in on conversations and not feel like I'm ignoring the people I've invited into my home!

And no, the TV will not be on.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Dinner party table

I had a dinner party last night and decorated my rarely used dining table for the occasion....

An easy yet glam way of jazzing up your table is to plop a mirror on it that can function as a receptacle for flowers, candles and a lamp, in my case.

I picked up some lovely Yves Rocher scented candles from the dollar store and plonked one in a teacup saucer and the other in a silver tub - easy peasy chic!

The purply tea roses were lovely and all, but then my date brought me my fave kind of flowers: orange-y roses, a dozen of them!

Gee, not only did my heart melt - I was also thrilled that they matched my dining table display to the tee!

The tableau looks way better with his flowers - everything matches but it's not too matchy-matchy as the black tablecloth provides some contrast and the mirror a bit of bling.

If you look closely you'll see that I wrapped the neck of the lamp in a pink ribbon. Hey I was dressed up, why not dress up my lamp a little?

I was temped to ring my dinner bell (see Emotional Decorating post from a few days ago), but since this was a party of two I thought it would be gauche.

I'll be posting another entertaining tip soon - I scammed it from a friend who had me over for dinner a few weeks ago and it's a charming idea!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Get a leg up: fishnets and ruling the world

Want to have men fall at your feet and women you don't know give you the evil eye on the subway?

Wear a pair of fishnet stockings.

I picked up these brown honeycomb stockings at a warehouse sale in Toronto - six pair of Hue for $20!!

I've been wearing fishnets for years. They're comfy as hell, last way longer than regular nylons, and offer a different take on a sheer stocking.

NOTE: I rarely wear black ones - they tend towards trashy. I lean towards nude shades or fun hues like purple.

Plus they're cheeky little guys, and the reactions you get are crazy. Women I know who are pals shower me with compliments.

Women I don't know eye them and me suspiciously, sometimes downright nastily: Who the hell do I think I am, a pin-up girl hussy?

A manager at work kept staring at them the other day with raised eyebrows. I asked her if she liked them. No comment.

Men tend to turn into little boys. Their brains melt to mush and if they do know you they start blathering on about your legs or some other meaningless topic.

If they don't know you they just stare, stare, stare.

Ladies, if we want to rule the world now we know what to do: don a pair of fishnets!

At the sale I also bought some beautiful patterned nylons.

Fancy stockings purchased at warehouse sales are a cheap way to zoot up your wardrobe, and they're perfect for this time of year when it's still a touch too cool to wear bear legs.

It helps if you wear them with fancy shoes. I found these patent strappy point shoes at the Sally Ann for $6.99, and they inspire a similar reaction as the tights when I wear them together!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Who says shoes won't do? Decorating with heels

Well, why not?

Once I left behind a pair of gorgeous retro lace lace up shoes handmade in Paris - they were a size 6 and since my clompers are huge I figured I had no use for them ....

But when I saw these yellow pumps in excellent condition, handmade in Spain, I took the plunge and bought 'em for $5.99 at Stretch Thrift.

I can either give them to a pal - the colour is so hot right now - or keep them for a display.

This isn't the most brilliant display but I like the contrast between the blue and the yellow - complementary hues on the colour wheel - and the simplicity of the tableau is in keeping with the sleek lines of the Danish modern teak hutch that I'm using as a bookcase.

But sigh, I wish I could cram my feet in them. They're in fab condition and the gold script reading "Arnold Churgin handmade in Spain" isn't smudged or worn at all.

Arnold Churgin, a quick Google search reveals, is a Calgary, Canada--based ladies footwear company that started in 1964. Love that they're Canadian but the Spain connection has a certain amount of Euro cache.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Chair from the trash

Remember my garage sale booty (two posts below and I still have more to show you!)? On my way home that day I found this fab faux bamboo chair in the trash - fully functional!

I believe in trashing Karma: if you want something in home decor, it will eventually come to you in the form of garbage.

It's a big chair, maybe a dining room one, that I would have used at my desk if it weren't so large. For now it's tucked in a cozy corner by my dining room table.

I plopped a cusion on it I found at Value Vilage for $1.99 - it has an old tag on it that says "The General Store on Mount Pleasant Ltd Toronto" - a shop that I can't find a reference to so it must be long gone ....

I bought the coverlet that's on the seat that day too. After the garage sale I strolled around an area in Toronto called The Junction and previewed some of the photography exhibits for the Contact photography show premiering that night.

The Junction is a haven for semi-junky and architectural salvage shops. Mark Taaffe's relatively new store, on Dundas St. West near Keele, houses all kinds of quirky items this deal diva could just eat up.

I walked away with this shawl, something Mark called a great example of Victorian Industrial prowess, if memory serves. He told me it came in a box marked "great-grandmother's shawl" and was apparently bought in a London market in the early 1900s.

I love it, eventhough it's worn and is stitched up in places ... but that adds to the charm for me. It's wool and large enough to function as a table cloth, duvet coverlet or even a wall hanging. Mark let me have it for a song.

More on Junction shops soon.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Emotional decorating, part deux

I truly believe we shop and buy largely for emotional reasons - when we're stressed, sad - even happy. Grunge-queen is no exception, except I revel in decorating my home and even injecting a bit of nostalgia in my wardrobe with items that conjure up happy times from my past ... all found at the thrift shop, natch.

On my way home tonight I took a quick peep in my fave local thrift shop, Stretch Thrift. I saw a glass or crystal bell on display that was pretty garish, but I thought how lovely it would be to have a little tinkle sound to announce, say, dinner or maybe even drinks.

Lo and behold my eye zoomed on on this darling brass number made in India - a dinner bell JUST like the one Mom and Dad had while growing up (except the one from childhood HAD no bell and I always missed it)!

Price? Two bucks.

Now I'll have to have a dinner party. Or maybe I could use it for the cats in the morning? Not that they need a bell to remind them, ferociously hungry felines that they are ....

Meanwhile I grew up with a clock EXACTLY like this, an Ingraham of Toronto clock in this exact green hue that Mom and Dad hung in their retro 1950s kitchen, in the decorative wood yoke above the sink.

I found it in a junk shop for $15 (bartered to $13 as that's all I had) and was so pleased to find it worked.

Crazy that I can be emotional about a clock, but hey, I used to dash down our killer steep 13-step stairs when getting ready for school as a teenager and would glance at that thing umpteen times to ensure I'd catch the school bus on time (we lived in a rural area so yes, the school bus was a necessity even for an 18-year old).

Now I have this positioned so that I can see the time when I leave and come into my apartment.

And this painting, which I've posted elsewhere, I bought at Stretch Thrift for $39.99 'cos it reminded me of how I saw Heaven as a child- as a desert wasteland of sand and sun where people slept on the rooves of houses like the one depicted here ....

I love having these emotional reference points surrounding me in my little nook of a pad - they reinforce where I've been and who I am and give my soul a sense of home.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Garage sale booty

Doesn't grunge-queen look happy? That's 'cos she and her garage sale pals went trolling at the first garage sale of the season in the area that looked worthwhile - an apartment garage sale just up the way ....

Three hours later after visiting each and every table/groundsheet, I emerged with some great deals - all for the price of the scarf I'm wearing here bought at the new Anthropologie store the other day!

I bought so much stuff I can't possibly share it all with you today, so here are my costume jewellery finds and some tips for what to look for while garage-saleing for baubles ....

Sarah Coventry pin for 50 cents!

Sarah Coventry costume jewellery has been around since 1950 or so and is quite collectible.

This pin has "Sarah Cov" and a copyright symbol on the back, indicating it's from the 1960s. Pieces from different eras will have different versions of the Sarah Coventry name on them, "Coventry" being the oldest.

Not sure how much this is worth but if you see anything with a name on the back - even Avon as celebs like Liz Taylor would put their names to designs - I'd nab it.

This is a circa 1960s retro tiered necklace that's so interesting my eyes were drawn to it immediately. No marks or signatures but I can tell it's retro/older by the string and the clasp.

The black plastic (?) circles are worn slightly but I love that, and the little brass (?) beads inside jangle when I walk ... wore it to dinner last night and felt quite boho-chic.

Look for old clasps, string connecting the beads and interesting designs such as this.

These rings aren't old but they were too yummy to leave behind - the gold and red one and purple stones were used, only $3 for the two. The others were new, leftovers from a gal's Ebay selling venture and only $5 each for sterling silver and semi-precious stones.

You can tell a ring is silver by looking inside the band - most will have "92.5" or "925" stamped on the inside, meaning it's 92.5 % silver. If it's Mexican silver it'll have "Mexico" stamped on it, which means it has slightly less silver than 925.