This morning was gloriously cool and bright in Atlanta–perfect fall junking weather. Posse member Jinxie and I headed out to a very promising “Meemaw” estate sale in nearby Virginia-Highlands. What is a “Meemaw” sale? It’s the real-deal old-lady kind of sale–where nothing has been replaced (or cleaned!) in decades. You know you’ve hit a Meemaw sale when you see either a walker, bedpan or potty-chair on the front porch. Today’s sale had walkers AND bedpans, so that was promising.

It was a sweet little duplex and by leaving at 7:30 a.m. (and driving past all those annoying health-nut runners) we were there when they opened at 8. Meemaw sales are growing increasingly rare around here, much to my sadness. What did I get? A couple of ribbed-glass aluminum-lidded Hoosier cupboard jars (my most expensive purchase), a couple of gigantic gallon glass jars (for some kind of Halloween display in booth at Seaside Sisters) and my favorite item of the day, a complete stack of four nesting Pyrex Butterprint batter bowls–plus an additional fifth bowl. Also a cute pelican planter and a way cool vintage Black Flag pump-style bug sprayer. The bug sprayer will look great in my Halloween display at the shop. And a little green wood-handled sugar scoop.

One of the bedrooms had been designated the crafts graveyard. Sewing supplies, knitting supplies, plastic funeral arrangements, a nifty sewing machine and cabinet full of thread and accessories. A sign on the door said every object was $1. Seriously? I found a plastic box full of two different kinds of completed quilt squares. There were 31 completed Vogue-Art cross-stitch squares and 37 of the sunflower appliqued squares. I may just have to try and list these on Etsy or eBay. Score! A big bag full of knitting needles, crochet hooks and yarn. Double score. Do I knit or crochet? Well, no, but I have friends who do, and for a buck a bag, I couldn’t not get them.  I also picked up a plaid wool stadium blanket which will be a great addition to the red/green/plaid/fall/camping theme I’mm planning for my booth.

Then we got to the basement. The basement at a Meemaw sale can be very scary. I myself have spotted rat skeletons and unknown vermin poop, not to mention toxic levels of mold, mildew and rot many times in basements.At one Meemaw sale earlier this summer we noticed they had at least a dozen aquariums lined up on wooden benches. With gravel in the aquariums. It gave me a bad feeling and I could not have gotten out of there fast enough. Upstairs, I asked Vicki, the dealer running the show—if the aquariums had been for snakes. “Um, maybe?” Yeah, I was mouth-breathing the whole time!  This basement wasn’t so bad. Jinxie pointed out a gigantic galvanized tub with chippy red paint. We got the price–which was less than a Happy Meal, and of course I had to get it.

After we paid and went on to another sale–at a ritzy condo in Buckhead where you had to be escorted in and out of the locked building–I realized I’d left my horse trough behind. Back we went, and fortunately, it was still there. All in all, a fabulous fall day of junking. Made better when I did a little research and found that the Pyrex nesting bowls book for between $50-$75. Yay, me!

And before you ask–TFB (the friggin’ book) isn’t done. Yet. But it will be, this week.

A junk round-up


Junk for Joy Part 2

Saturday, Katie and two of her high school classmates and I saddled up for the Druid Hills neighborhood yard sale extravaganza. We headed out shortly after 8 a.m. for the 9am. start time, and by shortly after 9, I’d made my first purchases of the day, the black tole tray below, and the pink tole wastebasket. It was a lovely day for junking. I also got the two framed seashell prints shown with the tole items, and at the same sale, Katie scored a $50 sofa to put in her husband’s “man cave.” One of the girls also purchased some new-in-the-box Ikea wall sconces, new white china canisters, and some other household items. My favorite item from Saturday has to be the faux crocodile train case. I think it looks like something from an old Doris Day movie. I mean, can’t you see Doris arriving in New York, wearing a chic hat, white gloves, pumps, and carrying this train case? It had a $7 pricetag, which wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t what I felt like paying. It was locked, and had this old-timey padlock. The thing is, my high school graduation luggage had a lock just like it. You were supposed to set the combination, and I never did. Just left it at 0-0-0. So, I spun the combination, and yessirreebob, it was set at 0-0-0. I took it to the woman running the sale and asked if she could do better on the price. She just looked at me and said, “honey, it doesn’t unlock. But if you can unlock it, you can have it for free.” Oh, really? I spun the lock and it clicked open. She laughed and told me I could have it for free. Then I told her the trick, and being a good sport, she laughed again. Don’t you just love free? The other items are some of the things I found on Friday at the “Five Gay Men with Fabulous Taste” sale, which is where the television trays, the wicker hamper and the wool plaid stadium blankets and shaving mirror came from. I spent part of the day today working on re-doing the antique New England wooden screens I brought back from Brimfield. I think they’re going to look great when I’m done. The problem is, I’ll have so much time and money invested in them, it’ll be hard to make a profit. And of course, the more I fix ’em, the more I fall in love with them. Such is the lot of the part-time antique dealer, I guess.

Junkin’ for Joy

The junk planets seem aligned just right. Yesterday, three members of the posse–including daughter Katie, saddled up to attend the 6th annual ATLANTA PET RESCUE tag sale. Jinxie and I went last year and got some major scores, so we all ponied up the $25 “advance” fee this year, and dashed inside. I scored a great painted beachy dresser–in fact, it’s painted with a shell border on the bottom, for $100. This will go in the Tybee beach house. Also got a great wooden pole lamp for $20, and some designer fabric 1/2-yard swatches for $4 apiece. While waiting to get into the sale, a guy was handing out flyers for his sale, which started today. The come-on? “Five Gay Guys with Fabulous Taste are Having a Yard Sale.” Well, how could I not check it out? Got some cool stuff, including three wool plaid stadium blankets, a wicker hamper, brass shaving mirror with bevelled mirror, awesome big white scrolly clock, and a pair of rattan TV trays on folding stands. I also checked in at another estate sale in Buckhead. I got a bag of five vintage 1950s Christmas pixies–the ones with the little fabric legs folded up, all with the original dime-store tags. I’ve got a collection of those that I put out for my vintage tacky Christmas display. Also snagged a retro red taffeta Christmas apron with white embroidery. Tragically, I was also the victim of unprovoked estate sale viciousness. I’d spotted 12 white milk-glass dessert bowls in a kitchen cupboard–marked $15 for all. I scooped them up, and went out to one of the cashiers to ask if I could make a pile of stuff I was buying. She told me to put the stuff on a chair and she’d guard them. As I was setting them down, this heinous bee-yatch (you know the type–dressed in her cool work-out clothes) rushed over and snatched up the whole pile. “Uh?” I said in my best passive-aggressive back-off bee-yatch voice. “I was buying these,” she snarled. She turned to the lady. “Remember? I asked you to move them and put them in a stack for me?” the yard-sale lady just kind of shrugged and said ok. People, this is not proper estate sale etiquette. I let it go this time, but next time around, I will smack this bee-yatch upside her botoxed-head with my sack o’ Christmas Pixies. Seriously. Tomorrow is the big Druid Hills neighborhood-wide yard sale. Druid Hills is the Atlanta neighborhood around Emory University, and it’s full of beautiful old homes. It was also the setting for DRIVING MISS DAISY. Supposedly 140 families are participating. I’m just a-quiver with excitement and anticipation. Will hopefully blog/brag tomorrow about all the treasures I score.

The Fixer-Upper: Stick a fork in me—I’m DONE!

I am beyond thrilled and amazed to announce that I finished THE FIXER-UPPER at 4:55 p.m. EDT today. Yayayayayay! As has been my tradition upon finishing a book–and this is my 18th time–I toasted myself with some favorite treats. Usually, I wash my celebratory Reese’s down with Wink, the delightful grapefruit soda of my youth. Unfortunately, I forgot to pack the bottle of Wink I’ve been hoarding since spring, for the trip to Tybee. The Wathen’s Kentucky Bourbon made a tasty substitute, but it just ain’t Wink.
Tragically, you can no longer buy Wink in Georgia, because I guess they don’t have a distributor down here. I bought my bottle of Wink back in the spring, when I was on my writing retreat at Holden Beach with the Inksters. Anyway, here’s to me! Technically, of course, I’m far from finished with THE FIXER UPPER. The manuscript you see in the photo here is not a pretty thing. It is a bloated disgusting mess at this point, full of pointless meanderings, shoddy grammar, nonexistent punctuation and worse. Fortunately, I have the honor of having an amazing editor at HarperCollins, who is even now sharpening her red pencil in preparation for whipping this beast into shape. Here’s to Carolyn! Burp. Excuse me. That’s the bourbon talking, not me. Soon Carolyn will have me slaving away over revisions, slashing thru the excess and the absurd. And then comes the fun part. We figure out zingy candy colors for the jacket. We finalize the jacket art and talk about marketing this puppy. And I get about 27 minutes off, until I start all over again on a new book. Oh the horror! Oh the sublime, blessed joy of making a living off what you love to do. Thank you, dear readers, for making it all possible.

A bump in the road

There I was, writing along, singing a song—well, not actually singing–but I was cranking out the pages. And then, to paraphrase Dr. Seuss. Bump! How that bump made me jump! And I’m so close to the end, too. I’m at a plotting impasse. I’ve called my editor for an emergency consult, so hopefully, I’ll jump the bump. Tomorrow or the next day. Which means maybe I stay down at Tybee a little longer than I’d originally planned. Not a bad thing, except I miss home and hubby—and junk buddies. And I SO want this book done. But you can’t hurry fiction. So here I stay, for the time being. In the mean time, on Tuesday, when things were going well, I finished my morning page quota in time to sneak out to an estate sale. It’s totally a very tiny world, because while at the sale, I discovered it was being held by an ollllllddd college buddy from UGA. BD, (who is still an amazingly talented photographer–and he even teaches digital photography–gotta sign up for a class) and I worked together at the Red and Black (that’s the college paper), and then later, we free-lanced stories out of Savannah together for the Atlanta and Jacksonville newspapers. The house was BD’s late mom’s house. I bought a swell lavender chenille bedspread, and some cool ’60s banded ice tea tumblers, and an aluminum water pitcher, all of which will go in the booth at Maisy’s Daisy. The bedspread had some weird orange stains, but after four washings, including an Oxy-Clean soak and extensive Oxy-Clean spray-on stain removal, all the orange went away. What the ??? is in that stuff? I wish I could buy stock in it, I love it so much. While my mind was in a stall pattern today, I took my new finds, plus the rest of my Brimfield goodies, over to Maisy’s Daisy, where Susan, the Seaside Sister madam, has promised to make it all look yummy. In the meantime, here’s a peek at the goods, which I styled here at the Mermaid Cottage I’m hiding out in. Check out the amazing egret/heron barkcloth pillows I picked up at Brimfield. Also, the cool old black and white 1920s beach snapshots. Tonight, I went to an book-signing for my friend Polly Powers Stramm, at the Trends and Traditions Framing Gallery, in Ardsley Park. Another example of what a small world it is, I used to work at the Atlanta Constitution with the owner’s father, the late, great, Tom McCollister, a wonderful sportswriter and all around sweet man, who we lost too soon. And of course, Polly is an old pal from waaaay back (we’re talking 30 years here) when I was just a baby reporter at The Savannah Morning News. I bought a copy of Sentimental Savannah, her collection of columns written for the Morning News, to put in my “local library” which I’m planning for the beach house. And now, just to tease you, here’s a sunset I shot from the Back River the other day. By the way, today the weather was so beautiful. Breezy, with just the slightest hint of fall. It’s a great time to be at Tybee…if only I could jump that bump.

Sneak Peek

The worst part about coming home from a buying trip is the un-loading and un-packing. The fun part is the hunt, and then the fluffing. After a 14-hour drive Friday–much of it through driving rain, Beth and I made it back to Raleigh, and then I drove another six hours to get home to Atlanta Saturday afternoon. Today I unpacked my treasures. So, here’s a sneak peek at some of the goodies. The quilt has wonderful colors and detailed quilting, but the red dyes in old fabrics frequently made the fabric weak, so the red stars have some wear. Still, the wonderful red, white and blue colors and the graphic appeal of the stars would look wonderful as a wall hanging, or even folded at the foot of a bed or in a cupboard. I fell hard for the vintage Georgia and Georgia Tech pennants, which are framed, and you can see a representative assortment of other stuff too. Not shown is the great pink and white quilt, which is being laundered with Oxy-Clean. I don’t know what’s in that stuff, but I swear, it works wonders. Two weeks ago, a friend’s son knocked over a full glass of red wine on the sisal rug in the living room. She brought over a steam cleaner to try to clean it, but it only turned the wine stains black. The next day, I gave it two applications of spray-on Oxy-clean, and voila–the stains disappeared. Also not shown is the wicker highchair, which is a work in progress. It’s Heywood-Wakefield, complete with worn label on the underside. I’m painting it Seaside Green, and then it’ll get a vintage barkcloth seat cushion. The three-panel cottage screen will also undergo a transformation, with a new paint job and some shirred fabric. I’ll try to post them when my projects are completed. As usual, I’m torn this week–between getting my Brimfield goodies priced and ready to take down to Seaside Sisters–and writing. But writing must win. Mustfinishbookmustfinishbookmustfinishbookmustfinish….

Bye-Bye Brimfield!

After three days of serious, kick-ass, hard-core junking, junk sistah Beth and I are packing up to go home. The van is full, our bank accounts near-empty, and we are, as my daughter Katie would put it, “tore up from the floor up.” But it was loads of fun. If you are a junk novice, let me just tell you that the Brimfield Antique Market is the largest antique market of its kind in the U.S. Estimates vary, but I’ve read that at least 2400 dealers from around the world set up here in these former pastures in the tiny town of Brimfield, Mass. And buyers come from around the world too, especially antique dealers, who come to re-stock their shops. I’ve bought tons of goodies for my booth at Seaside Sisters, at Tybee Island, Ga., and Beth has been buying for her business, Knick-Knack Paddywhack, in Raleigh. Fortunately, we are at the opposite ends of the spectrum in the antique world. Beth buys high-end, bona-fide antiques–much of it French or English for her customers. And me? I buy shabby chic, retro, funky junky beach house-type stuff. I love to buy original art–amateur oil paintings, water-colors or drawings. I have a weakness for forties and fifties barkcloth, and because our little shop is at the beach, I buy anything nautical. And wicker. And rattan. And McCoy pottery. And architectural salvage. So, a reader asks, what did I buy this week? Three cottagey screens which can be hinged together, with chipped white paint. A pair of fabulous barkcloth pillows in acid green with herons on them. A wicker high-chair, a pair of 1950s-era framed Georgia and Georgia Tech felt pennants, an adorable turn–of-the-century double school desk-table with cast-iron legs. Four children’s English blue willow grill plates. A pine-topped green wicker table. An old-timey bingo hopper, complete with the original bingo balls and bakelite detailing. A pair of small wooden paddles, several paintings, and some great vintage black and white beachy snapshots. For her part, Beth bought several oriental rugs, lots of blue and white English transferware, a pair of 19th century French walnut cane-bottom chairs, a gorgeous French daybed, some silver, and a slew of paintings, including a Florida Highwaymen painting which I covet in the extreme. It’s been a good, fun week. We ate at our favorite food court, New England Motel, pictured above, every day. Beth had lobster, I had pilgrim roll (turkey sandwich with cranberry sauce), and Greek food. The people-watching was great. I saw a dealer who specializes in selling Viking ships (now that’s specialized!), and another who buys full-sized robots and models of flying saucers. Lots of dealers had their dogs in their booths. I saw a huge Robert E. Lee statue. In Massachusetts, yet. Beth had a celebrity sighting–Keri Russell was buying up lots of Swedish antiques. And now? It’ time to head home and try to out-run the tropical storms and hurricanes taking aim at the South. Oh yeah. Time to go home and finish the new book before my editor comes back from vacation.

Book Fair, and Back to Brimfield

The AJC Decatur Book Festival was big fun. Friday night, my friend Jennifer and I went to hear poet Billy Collins at Agnes Scott College. He was wonderful, funny, charming, refreshing, his poems funny and sly and subversive and silly. My favorite part was when he dropped the F-bomb. I mean, the former poet laureate of the United States, and he drops the F-Bomb at a girl’s college. You gotta love it. I got to meet him afterwards, and before-hand, got to meet one of my favorite southern writers, Bailey White. If you’ve never heard her on NPR, or read SLEEPING AT THE STARLIGHT MOTEL, or MAMA MAKES UP HER MIND, you have missed a rare and wondrous treat. She’s got a new book coming out, called NOTHING WITH STRINGS, and I, for one, can’t wait. I met Rick Bragg in the author’s green room too. That’s the great thing about a book festival. One time, I was in the green room at the Miami Book Festival, and Amy Tan came in, with her two eensy-weensy purse puppies, and then Dave Barry came in, and I just took it all in.

We had a very nice crowd for the book festival. Right after my gig at the festival Saturday, I ran home and jumped in the 10-ft. cargo van and hot-footed it up to Raleigh to pick up junk sistah Beth. Sunday morning, we lit out for Brimfield, which turned out to be a 14-hour odyssey, due to traffic jams on various turnpikes. But we are here, we have done a reconaissance around the fields, and have set our alarms for—buttcrack of dawn, or as some people call it, 4 a.m. All the antique fields are supposed to be officially closed today, but I snuck in, and the first person I ran into was Bob, who sold me my bathtub and kitchen sink at Scott’s in Atlanta. The junk world really is a small place. A few years ago, on my first junking trip to England, I ran into a dealer friend from Atlanta at the antique fair in Ardingly. Tomorrow, I junk for joy!

That sinking feeling

Irushed back from the mountains last Thursday because it was early shopper day at Scott’s Antique Market–and I definitely qualify as an early shopper. As I drove into the parking lot at the South building, I spotted it–a jadeite green sink almost exactly like this one pictured. It practically screamed beach house–so I sprinted (well, ok maybe not exactly sprinted) hurried? over to check it out, and it quickly became mine for a hundred bucks. The one pictured here was one I found online at a antique salvage shop–and it sold for $750, so I’m feeling pretty smug about my green jewel. Mine came out of a beauty parlour in New Hampshire. It doesn’t have the spray attachment this one has, but it has a slot for one. Of course, now I’m jonesing for a jadeite green toilet, but have very little hope of finding one in decent condition. So I’ll probably just settle for a white toilet, with the green sink as a “statement” in the downstairs bath. That statement will be–“I was bought by a crazy woman. She is the kind of person who will pry old windows out of an 80-year-old house in hundred degree heat. She is the kind of person who trolls ebay and craigslist for hours on end when she should be writing her next book. She is the kind of person who is seriously considering a trip to Eugenia’s Antique Hardware in Chamblee, Ga.–because on their website they have a photo of a jadeite green porcelain toothbrush holder. She is the kind of person who, even now, is pining for a TURQUOISE vintage electric stove she found on Ebay. She is the kind of person who would, given any encouragement, bid on this stove, sight unseen, and then drive to Gawdknowswhere, Michigan to try to stuff it in the back of her under-sized SUV. This woman needs help!

Life imitates Art…or sumthin’

For months now, I’ve been working on the next book, THE FIXER-UPPER, in which my protagonist, a young woman named Dempsey Killebrew, returns to her family’s homeplace in a small middle Georgia town, to search for a new life–and to fix up said homeplace. And all this time, I’ve been scheming and shopping for what I’d come to call our virtual beach house. In June, we finally sealed the deal on our own fixer-upper. And now, life is imitating art. I’d been lusting after an old-timey backsplash porcelain kitchen sink for the beach house, so I had Dempsey’s handyman buddy find her one at the town dump. Then I found one at the Scott’s Antique Market here in Atlanta last month. I also found a claw-foot bathtub for our soon-to-be master bath at the beach, and Dempsey already has one of those. Dempsey had a great old pre-WWII gas stove in her kitchen, so I’ve been lusting after one of those too. I used to have my aunt’s pre-WWII gas stove in my old house. It was a gleaming white Roper, big as a battleship, and we designed a kitchen around it. Sadly, we sold that house. So I’ve been pining for another old stove for the beach house. Scanning Craigslist–my favorite time-waster, I found the perfect old gas stove–it’s called a Grand, it’s preWWII, in great shape, and in a house only 15 minutes from mine. Yesterday I went and looked. I fell, hard. But it was not to be. This old gas stove has to have the burners lit each time you use it, and I was afraid our guests at the beach house would be terrified–or worse, blow the whole damned place to kingdom-come. BUT…the owner of the stove is getting ready to tear down this great old 1920s bungalow, and his in-laws were already harvesting the oak floors for their home. So I fell for this great pedestal sink–and he GAVE it to me. A sink! I call it a belated birthday gift. I somehow persuaded Mr. Mary Kay to remove the sink yesterday, and then, we bought a bunch of gorgeous old solid-wood panelled doors too–for five bucks apiece. And then I went back with my son-in-law Mark, and the cordless screwdriver, and Whitey Ford, the community pickup truck,….and bought the narrow crank casement windows, and some white porcelain bath sconces. And for less than a hundred bucks we got: an amazing vintage porcelain pedestal sink, 8 vintage solid-wood panel doors, 9 vintage windows, pair of sconces, pair of Craftsman iron lanterns, assorted doorknobs. The doors will replace the cheesey hollow-core doors at the beach house. I hope to make the windows into upper kitchen cupboard doors, the sconces will go in the master bath, the lanterns will be probably go on the screened porch. I’ll have to settle for an ordinary stove, I’m afraid…unless somebody puts a vintage ELECTRIC stove on Craigslist…..