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Treasure Hunting

Archive for March 2010

The best thing since (hot) sliced bread

I have a list. Not a list written down on paper, but kept filed away in my mind. So, when I’m out and about prowling through an antique store or poking around the shelves of a junk store, I have certian things I’m always looking for.

One item on that mental list has been, for some time, a toast rack. Toast racks are common on English tables, but not so common here. What’s a toast rack? It’s a nifty little accessory that holds sliced bread.

When your slice of bread pops up in the toaster it’s nice and hot. If you take the slice out and drop it down on a plate, the steam will collect under the slice of bread and it will lose some of that crunch. And, who likes limp toast? But, if you slip the bread in the rack it stays nice and crisp.  They’re not easy to find. I guess I could have gone online  but I prefer the hands-on approach. I like the idea of discovering something and bringing it home. That is, after all, the basic appeal of treasure hunting.

Lucky me. I can check one more thing off my list. I found my toast rack the other day. I hadn’t been out for a while so perhaps I’d accumulated a little good fortune. I walked into a shop and immediately saw the rack. It was chrome, easy to care for, and priced at only a few dollars. I brought it home, put it though a wash in the dishwasher and when we all gathered for Saturday breakfast this morning gave it a place of honor on the table. Scrambled eggs courtesy of all the single ladies in the henhouse in the backyard, pots of hot coffee and toast that stood up to the butter and marmalade.

I couldn’t have asked for more.

BoHo Art Retreat

Let’s see…Take one weekend. Add food, fun, girlfriends, antiques and a chance to be creative with found and funky objects and you’ve got something special. Something like the BoHo Art Retreat.

I’m looking at my calendar hoping I’m free to spend the weekend at the BoHo Art Retreat at Elaine Tolson’s bit of paradise in Chewelah, WA. Elaine is the creative energy behind The Vintage Charm.

For more information about the weekend go to her Tinker Verve blog. And, if you’re seriously interested, let me know. We might get a group together and caravan.

A dash of history and a sprinkle of fun

When we sit down for a meal we are seated at a table purchased years ago at an antiques show. The wrought-iron chairs were picked up at a thrift store and recovered with fabric I found at a tag sale.  The wineglasses belonged to my mother-in-law.

It isn’t just a meal. It’s a celebration of treasure hunting trips from the past.

Take the salt and pepper, for instance.

I keep a small tray with two tiny bowls, one of salt and one of pepper, on the table. It’s a prettier way to serve the most essential seasonings. And, of course, there is  a story behind each piece.

I painted the tray at one of those paint-it-yourself pottery places with my youngest daughter. The blue and white bowl that holds the salt was found at a flea market. The tiny white porcelain bowl that holds the pepper was at the bottom of a box of knick-knacks at a thrift store. The miniature spoons were a gift.

So, you see, each meal is flavored with more that salt and pepper. Each gets a dash of history and just a sprinkle of fun.


All That Glitter adds to all the fun

There were only two vendors at last weekend’s arts and crafts show that specialize in vintage wares. The Funky Junk Sisters were there, as was All That Glitter.

I spent some time chatting with Becky Ellis, one of the glitter girls, and poked around her booth a bit.  I loved her style. Lots of Shabby whites and glittery, papery, crowns and crafts. I was particularly taken by the big pastel paper peonies and twigs behind the iron bed that was the centerpiece of her display.

Just goes to show it doesn’t take much to make an impact. One or two of the supersized blooms makes quite a design statement.

(More photos…)

Funky Junk on a Sunday Afternoon

I stepped in out of the wonderful sunshine today long enough to take in the Custer’s Spring Arts and Crafts show at the The Spokane County Fair and Expo Center.

I’m not a crafter, although I admire the hard work of those who are, so I went looking for vintage finds. I knew there were at least a couple of booths stocked with primarily vintage goods and I found them.

I talked to Dixie from Funky Junk Sisters first. Loved the black and white theme of the merchandise that remained in her booth. There were just enough splashes of red to make it pop.

We dished about the local market, the movers and shakers of the industry and the upcoming junking season. By the time I left my mouth was watering. I can already taste the summer fun.

Gold Standard

When I talk to people who don’t understand the lure of prowling estate sales, flea markets and antique malls searching for that one special something, I don’t try to sell them on the idea by telling sentimental stories.  I don’t go all sappy about the appeal of hand-embroidered linens or the pleasure of drinking a cup of tea from a vintage china cup. I don’t even try to sway them with the concept of recycling by repurposing old things and creating new uses for castaways.

Instead, I go straight to what I consider to be the gold standard. I show them the little charm I wear on a chain around my neck.

Years ago, I was poking around an estate sale. I picked up a bracelet that had one tiny crystal on one of the links and the little lock as a clasp. The piece was lightweight and made a distinctive “pink” sound when I shook my hand.

“I think this might be a nice piece,” I told the woman holding the sale, someone I’d met before. I wanted to be honest. She walked over and looked at the bracelet. “Nah, I don’t think so,” she told me.

“I don’t know,” I said again. “I think it might be.”

She’d already lost interest and walked away.  I gathered my finds and paid for my purchases, including the bracelet. I don’t remember the exact price, but I’m pretty sure it was under $5. I took it home, cleaned it up and let my jeweller look at it.

 Dated 1897, the little charm was gold. As was the bracelet. And the tiny little crystal was a diamond. All worth far more than I paid.

So, when someone asks my why I spend so much time chasing good finds, I have the answer on the tip of my fingers. No need to tell the truth. To say I would go out treasure hunting even if I knew I would never find a real treasure. No need to tell them I love the idea of bringing home something that has had a previous life, perhaps in another woman’s home. No need for all that.

I tell them exactly what they want to hear. That sometimes, when you’re panning for a good time, you find solid gold.


Treasure Hunting returns

In 2004, as a freelancer for The Spokesman-Review, one of the first columns and blogs I developed was Treasure Hunting. The paper was looking for someone to cover antiques and collectibles and I was looking for a reason to justify all the time (and money) I was spending on those very things. It was a perfect match. I spent the next four years junking, antiquing, writing and blogging about my wonderful finds as well as the treasures S-R readers held dear.

The print name was changed to Treasure Hunt when I was named Home and Garden editor and the column was moved into the weekly HOME section. I stopped actively blogging for Treasure Hunting in 2007 but carried forward the print column until 2008.

That was just a minor detail. I continued to get mail from all over the world as new collectors would stumble onto a great find and then Google it. My old columns and blog posts would pop up and they would write me to share.

And, I never stopped collecting. I don’t buy as much as I used to, downsizing to a much smaller house put a stop to that, but I still spend many happy hours at local antique malls, shows and sales. I have a regular thrift store route and often say hello to friends as I see them.

The economic freefall that occured last year changed a lot about the way we were living our lives. Job losses, tight credit and an overall feeling of unease tightened the pursestrings. We were no longer as willing to splurge or take big risks with our money. We pinched pennies and thought twice before making unnecessary purchases. But those of us who can’t resist a little treasure hunting - for seaching out those unusual, irreplaceable and one-of-kind finds - nothing much changed.

I missed writing about my finds and yours. So, I’m back. Treasure Hunting is back.

It’s spring. The antiques shows are coming. Estate sales are calling. Flea Markets will be just around the corner.

I’ll show you mine. You show me yours. Let the fun begin.

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About this blog

Cheryl-Anne Millsap writes about antiques and collectibles and the love of all things vintage. Millsap's Home Planet column appears each week in the Wednesday "Pinch" supplement, and she is The Spokesman-Review's female automobile reviewer. She is a regular contributor to Spokane Public Radio and her essays can be heard on Public Radio stations across the country. Cheryl-Anne is the author of "Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons."

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