Thursday, March 21, 2013

Going Once.. Going Twice... SOLD! Catching Auction Fever

Spring has sprung! Now, if Mother Nature would just look at the calendar and realize it; things would be much better. Even though it is only 11 degrees right now the sunshine has me optimistic and looking forward to warmer weather and outside activities. My spring and summers are usually consumed with working on furniture that I find at various auctions.  Normally I purchase it when it's in a sad shape. I find joy in bringing vintage furniture pieces back to life. There is something very satisfying about an item that everyone walks by thinking is nothing more than junk and transforming it into a stately piece that pulls at your design heartstrings.

I have to say that I am a bit of an auction junky and proud of it! Some "junkies" are very particular and only attend high end antique auctions.... that is not me by any means. I attend them all from box lot auctions to the high end antique variety. You never know what sale may have that incredible item that you can't live without. My thought on the matter is: why limit yourself to one type. Even if the items to be auctioned came from a modest income family you never know if great-great grandma's Early American sewing box is hidden in one of those box lots just waiting for you to swoop it up. There is nothing like winning the bid on a piece of history at a reasonable price, some may say it is a little exhilarating.

Finding this exhilaration may be a little intimidating to some on their first visit to a local auction but having a little knowledge to fall back on will help you get through it and having you bidding like a pro. If you have watched any of the auction programs that have become so popular on television you will know that auctions have their own terminology. Getting some of these terms in your knowledge bank will help you when you find an auction that you would like to attend.

Basic Terminology:

ABSENTEE BIDDER: A person (or entity) who does not attend the sale but submits, in advance, a written or oral bid that is the top price he/she will pay for a given property.

"AS IS": Selling the property without warranties as to the condition and/or the fitness of the property for a particular use. Buyers are solely responsible for examining and judging the property for their own protection. Otherwise known as "As Is, Where Is" and "In Its Present Condition".

AUCTION: A method of selling property and real estate in a public forum through open and competitive bidding. Also referred to as " Public Auction," Auction Sale" or "Sale"

AUCTION BLOCK: The podium or raised platform where the Auctioneer stands while conducting the auction. "Placing (an item) on the auction block" means to sell something at auction.

AUCTION PRICE: The price of property obtained through the auction.

AUCTION VALUE: The price which a particular property/item brings in open competitive bidding at public auction.

AUCTION WITH RESERVE: Also known as "Reserve Auction". An auction in which the seller reserves the right to establish a reserve price, to accept or decline any and all bids, or to withdraw the property at any time prior to the announcement of the completion of the sale by the Auctioneer.

AUCTIONEER: The person whom the seller engages to direct, conduct, or be responsible for a sale by auction. This person may or may not actually "call" or "cry" the auction.

BID: A prospective buyer's indication or offer of a price he/she will pay to purchase property at auction. Bids are usually in standardized increments established by the Auctioneer.

BID ASSISTANTS: Individuals who are positioned throughout the attendees at the auction to assist the auctioneer, spot bidders and assist prospective bidders with information to help them in their buying decision. Also known as "Ringmen", "Bid Consultants", "Bid Spotters", "Goundsmen".

BID CALLER: The person who actually "calls", "cries", or "auctions" the property at an auction, recognizing bidders and acknowledging the highest bidder. Commonly known as the Auctioneer.

BIDDER NUMBER: The number issued to each person to registered at an auction.

BIDDER'S CHOICE: A method of sale whereby the successful high bidder wins the right to choose a property or properties from a grouping of similar or like-kind properties/items. After the high bidder's selection, the property/item is deleted from the group, and the second round of bidding commences, with the high bidder in round two selecting a property/item. That property/item is then deleted from the group, and the 3rd round begins, continuing until all properties/items are sold.

BOOKKEEPER or CLERK: The person(s) who are responsible for the accounting and paperwork at an auction sale.

BUYER'S PREMIUM: An advertised percentage of the high bid or flat fee added to the high bid to determine the total contract price to be paid by the buyer. Example...  Auction terms 10% of sale Buyer's Premium. You win a bid at $10.00 your actual cost is $10.00 + $1.00 buyers premium + tax.

CATALOG or BROCHURE: A publication advertising and describing the property available for sale at public auction, often including photographs, descriptions, and the terms and conditions of sale.

CAVEAT EMPTOR: A Latin term meaning "Let The Buyer Beware!" A legal maxim stating that the buyer takes the risk regarding the quality or condition of the property purchased. Sometimes the property may be protected by warranty, but this is a rare occasion.

CLERK: The person employed by the principal auctioneer or auction firm to record what is sold and to whom and for what price.

CONDITIONS OF SALE: The legal terms that govern the conduct of an auction, including acceptable methods of payment, terms, buyer's premiums, possession, reserves and any other limiting factors of an auction. Usually included in published advertisements or announced by the auctioneer prior to the start of the auction.

ESTATE SALE: The sale of property left by a person at his or her death. An estate auction can involve the sale of personal and/or real property. NOTE: There sometimes are "LIVING ESTATE AUCTIONS", where the seller is alive, but wishes to liquidate personal belongings and has hired the Auctioneer to do so.

FOR THE MONEY : A lot of more than one item that the winning bidder agrees to pay for each piece in the lot at the winning bid price. Example... Lot of 3 items winning bid $10.00 buyer pays $30.00 for all three pieces.

HAMMER PRICE: Price established by the last bidder and acknowledged by the Auctioneer before dropping the hammer or gavel.

INSPECTION: Specified date, time and place property is available for prospective buyer viewing and evaluation. Also known as a PREVIEW.

MARKET VALUE: The highest price in terms of money which a property will bring in a competitive and open market under all conditions requisite to a fair sale, the buyer and seller, each acting prudently, knowledgeably and assuming the price is not affected by undue stimulus.

MINIMUM BID AUCTION: An auction in which the Auctioneer will accept bids at or above a disclosed price. The minimum price is always stated in the brochure and advertisements and is announced at the auctions.

MINIMUM OPENING BID: The lowest acceptable amount at which the bidding must commence.

OPENING BID: The first bid offered by a bidder at an auction.

ON-SITE AUCTION: An auction conducted on the premises of the property being sold.

PREVIEW: Specified date, time and place property is available for prospective buyer viewing and evaluation. Also known as an INSPECTION.

RESERVE: The minimum price that a seller is willing to accept for a property to be sold at auction. Also known as RESERVE PRICE.

RESERVE AUCTION: An auction in which the seller reserves the right to establish a reserve price, to accept or decline any and all bids or to withdraw the property at any time prior to the announcement of the completion of the sale by the auctioneer. Also known as AUCTION WITH RESERVE.

SELLER: Entity that has legal possession and ownership of any interests, benefits or right inherent to the real or personal property.


TERMS AND CONDITIONS: The printed rules of the auction and certain aspects of the Purchase & Sale Agreement that are read and/or distributed to potential bidders prior to an auction sale.

For a full listing of terminology visit the National Auctioneers Association website at

Now is the perfect time to find an upcoming auction and test the waters. A good free website to visit and find auctions in your area is . This site provides online and local live auction listings for most areas of the United States.

As in any type of sale being early is good and for auctions it is a must. Some auction houses offer a preview the day before but if not make sure you arrive in plenty of time to view the items that are going on the block that day. Usually an hour to an hour and a half before the start of the sale  is sufficient but if it is a very large auction you may want to be there a little earlier than that. Arriving at the last minute is never a good idea since you will not get a lay of the land or a good idea of what may be buried in some of the box lots. Important note,is to dress appropriately. There is nothing more miserable than cold feet and hands or sweating like sinner in church on a hot summer day in the blazing sun.

You arrive at the auction site and the first thing to do is to find the Clerk's Desk or office to register and get your bid card. Every auction is a little different when it comes to this process so be prepared to share your state ID or drivers license with the clerk and they may make a copy of it. This process is so they have a record of who is receiving a bid card (paddle) and bidding on items during the auction. Some auction houses request that you leave a deposit of a specified dollar amount which is refunded when you depart the auction if you do not win a bid on any items. This deposit can usually be left in the form of a copy of a credit card or cash and is done to protect the auctioneer from individuals who win a bid and then do not pay for their items. Now that you are registered get out there and nose around to see what is being offered. It is a good idea to have a piece of paper and a pencil with you so you can write down the Lot Numbers or location of items you are interested in. This is also a good time to write down what your maximum bid would be for that item. Keep this private! You never know who may be looking over your shoulder and what they may be interested in bidding on. It is a very good idea to keep your personal thoughts to yourself regarding what you are interested in and what you think it may be worth. Even if you feel that what is being offered is boxes of junk you don't know if the person standing next to you is a family member, friend or the owner of the items.

Many people have the perception that all Auctioneers talk really fast and are next to impossible to understand unless you have a degree in auction jargon. Another perception in that auctioneers  are out to swindle as much money out of you as possible. These assumptions are simply not true (most of the time). It is rare to run across an auction that is not conducted in plain English. Be prepared because every Auctioneer has his/her own style and cadence that they have perfected and you will someday find there is some that your like better than others. Don't be surprised if you find yourself in a position where you have been out bid and the Auctioneer is trying to pull one last bid out of you. This occurrence is common and should not be confused with swindling, they are hired sell the items offered at the highest price possible and you have the right to agree to another bid or decline.

Going Once ... Going Twice ... SOLD! You won! The first thing to do is write  down on your piece of paper what you bought and what your high bid was, you may need this information later in the day.  That was exciting but now make sure that you gather up your item/items and keep an eye on them. Some higher end auctions will hold your items until you show your receipt at which time they will retrieve everything that you have purchased. Other auctions, especially on premises estate auctions once you have won the bid the item is your responsibility and payment will be expected. It is a good idea to take your item and place it in your car or keep it with you. It is sad but there are some dishonest individuals who will pick up your box of treasures and walk out with them as though they bought them so better to be safe than sorry. I have only had this happen one occasion and was more frustrated with myself than the person who walked off with my box.... I knew better but sometimes you place your trust in the wrong people.

Once you have had your fill and are ready to leave you may have to stay a little longer if you just won a bid. It takes a little time for the the bids to to reach the clerks office and get recorded onto your transaction sheet. Be patient and realize that they may be dealing with 100 or more bidders and it takes a little time and skill to make sure that everyone is being charged for the correct times.  At this point you may get a full printed receipt listing out each item or a stack of perforated tabs with you items written on each one as your proof of purchase. In either case look at them carefully and make sure that only your items are listed, mistakes sometimes happen and there is nothing wrong with pointing them out.

Congratulations, you just completed your first auction and I am sure you will have a great story to share with your friends. Be prepared, a lot of auctions can run for hours and hours so dress appropriately and have fun. Like everything in life enjoying what your are doing makes all the difference!

Next Week ...

Flea Markets ....   not just for Fleas!


As a child I was not particular when it came to food for the most part. This was especially true if that food contained butter, sugar and flour and was baked in the oven! We all had our favorites my mother;s was peanut butter, mine was chocolate chip and father's was Snickerdoodles which ironically was my least favorite. My mother was an incredible cook and baker and to have a package of store bought cookies in her house was unheard of. In my circle of friends, in my class at school and throughout the neighborhood she had come to be known as the "Cookie Lady" an endearing label that stuck with her until her passing a few years ago. 

It's funny as we grow older our tastes change in  almost everything and cookies are no exception. Like I said, Snickerdoodles were my least favorite cookie but over the years have gained popularity on my list of favorites. Maybe it is not so much the taste or the texture but the memory that is attached to them that is able to take us back in time to a place that was happy and always full of excitement. So straight from my mother's dented and faded tin recipe box is her recipe for Snickerdoodles. Share them with your friends and family, that's the way the Cookie Lady would like you to enjoy them. 

Soft Snickerdoodle Cookies

1 cup butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
2 3/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sugar
3 teaspoons cinnamon


1 Preheat oven to 350°F.
2 Mix butter, 1 1/2 cups sugar and eggs thoroughly in a large bowl.
3 Combine flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl.
4 Blend dry ingredients into butter mixture.
5 Chill dough, and chill an ungreased cookie sheet for about 10-15 minutes in the fridge.
6 Meanwhile, mix 3 tablespoons sugar, and 3 teaspoons cinnamon in a small bowl.
7 Scoop 1 inch globs of dough into the sugar/ cinnamon mixture.
8 Coat by gently rolling balls of dough in the sugar mixture.
9 Place on chilled ungreased cookie sheet, and bake 10 minutes.
10 Remove from pan immediately.



Thursday, March 14, 2013

Garages Are Not Just For Cars

Another week has passed and it is still winter here in the Midwest, I can tell by the snow falling from the sky again.This year the thermometer has been bouncing around like Mexican Jumping Beans on a car's hot dashboard not knowing whether to be cold warm or just flat out miserable. In any case I know that the end of the cold and snow is near and in another month or two the world and my attitude will take on a new look. Gone will be the feelings of not wanting to leave my home for fear of the cold and no more shoveling which that in itself could be a good reason to move to a warmer part of the country. I can remember as a child my parents friends going south for the winter months and I never understood why you would want to leave the winter wonderland in the height of its glory. I get it now and someday I may turn into one of them fleeing the cold for the balmy winter temperatures of the low to mid 70's like a nomad of ancient times and being branded a "Snow Bird."

Now that our clocks have sprung ahead the next big event is the start of Spring, that is unless you are Irish then Spring is the second big event. Spring .... ah yes, the season of rebirth, growth and a built in feeling to clean our closets and homes. Sifting through the stacks and piles of articles that have accumulated for no reason other than we can not bare the thought of sending them off to a new home. It does not matter if we have looked at something in sometime let alone used it we still cling to it with a weird comfort that it is in the back of the closet just in case. Tradition has made us believe in spring cleaning so we sort, clean, dust, scrub, vacuum, wax and then in the end pile all our forgotten treasures back in the closet thinking we will make a plan to rid ourselves of them. The thought of making the plan is sometimes much better than the action and the next year we religiously follow the same plan of attack as we did the year prior thinking this time it will be different.

For those who have the will power to purge their homes of these unused articles it is the perfect time of year to host a garage sale. For others like myself this is the time for exciting treasure hunting excursions. Keep in mind that all Garage/Yard Sales are not created equally and what holds treasures for some may be nothing of interest to you. If you are a hardcore Garage Sale shopper you know the ins and outs to make your trip successful and worthwhile and if you are a novice I will share a few of the secrets that will help you load your SUV or trunk with delightful articles to enrich your surroundings.

Like Christopher Columbus a little planning and research will land you in the right spot, or at least close to it. Take a look at the Classified section of your local paper, most news papers will have a section devoted to Garage/Yard Sales, Estate Sales and Auctions. Another good place to locate upcoming sales is on Craigslist where you will find a section listing Garage Sales under the "For Sale" heading. Read through the listings choosing the ones that have an interest to you and write down the address or neighborhood that the sale will take place. Pull out your local map and plan your attack! Set a schedule that will take you from one sale to the next with the least amount of travel time in between, it is all about time management to hit the good ones early and the ones of lesser interest later in the morning. Yes I said morning, if there is something you are particularly interested in get there early, more than likely that beautiful Mid Century carved teak wood statue  will not be there later in the day.

Along with planing your route deciding which sales are most suited for you is just as important. If you are looking for antiques and mid century items a sale in a newly developed subdivision of suburbia more than likely is not going to yield the treasures you seek. It would seem to make sense that you would find sales in these locations to have driveways lined with tables of children's clothes and plastic brightly colored and somewhat faded toys. It is good to know your neighborhoods as the vintage treasures are more than likely to be found in the established older neighborhoods with older families. If you are not familiar with a particular neighborhood do little investigative work before the sale day. Drive through the neighborhood and see what the feeling is, bikes and toys strewn about the yard may imply that the sale will be a lot of children's articles where a well manicured yard and no signs of children may hide that wonderful set of Heywood Wakefield nesting tables.
When heading out for the day pack a survival kit with few bottles of water, some high energy snacks, hand sanitizer or baby wipes and a good attitude. Everyone at some point likes to play dress up and this is the perfect time to pretend you are a high end interior designer. Get yourself a stylish tape measure and make a notebook filled with paint swatches from your home and dimensions of areas you would like to fill. There is nothing worse than trying to decide if the blue chair you found will clash with your living room walls. Instead of contemplating if the chest you fell in love with will fit in the entryway of your palace you will have the correct dimensions with you so decision will be made much easier for you... it fits, you love it, buy it! 

Shop for items that offer something special and unique that provide the opportunity to add flair to your living space that can not be found at the big box stores. Vintage furniture is a great starting point to fill your home with unusual shapes and forms. You may find a wonderful and unusual piece but the upholstery is a little less than desirable since rust and green floral is a little tough to work with. Don't despair fabric can be fixed broken legs are another story.

We have all heard the term "Good Bones" and this is especially true when it comes to vintage furniture. Make sure that you sit in it, not upright and polite but how you would lounge in it at home. Feel the frame for any possible cracks and listen when you sit down and rock back and forth a little, if it sounds like the frame is cracking or squeaking you may want to pass on this particular piece as its "undercarriage" may need more repair than it is worth.  Bad upholstery is not the end of the road for a piece of furniture but it does cost a little to rectify that burlap plaid. Apartment Therapy offers a fantastic guide for how many yard it will take to recover a piece of furniture turning it from an ugly duckling into a swan. Print out this guide and add it to your notebook, you may not use it on one hunting excursion but may come in handy on the next. Also keep in mind that a sprung spring poking up is not the end of the road, an upholstery professional can retie the spring making it as good as new. Maybe you will find that incredible piece that you can transform from furniture into "Fun-iture!"

With your finds in hand keep in mind that most individuals hosting a Garage/Yard sale are looking to make a little extra pocket change so don't go flying in with extremely low offers on items you find especially in the first few hours of a sale. If there is a item that you are in love with pay the price that is asked or make a reasonable offer that will not offend the seller. It takes a lot of work to organize and set up a sale and more than likely by sale day the person is exhausted from the long extra hours added to their day. The last thing you want to do is to offend a person that is teetering on the edge of exhaustion. As always cash is king! Make yourself two stacks of cash, one with big bills and the second with a couple of fives and the rest ones. There is nothing more insulting to a seller than a low offer and agreeing to it because of their illustrious story and then having the customer pull out a role of twenty dollar bills! Big bills in one pocket and small bills in the other may save you a moment of embarrassment and humiliation.

Now that you have your purchases home make sure that you clean them very well. Most sales offer clean items but you never know so play it safe and make sure you are not bringing home more than you paid for. Don't let this scare you into not experiencing the thrill of the hunt there are treasures out there to be found and reclaimed. The more we seek out these vintage treasures the more variety we will have in our homes and lives and decreasing the burdens on our bulging landfills.

Next Time ...

The ins and outs of auctions


Normally at this point I would include a fun recipe for you expand your culinary repertoire but this week is a little different. You see I am normally not a political person and believe everyone has a right to own views in life as long as it does not cause harm to others. This past week I attended our Mayors "State of the City" address and found out that Forbes staff writer Kurt Badenhausen had listed Rockford, IL number 3 in his 2013 America's Most Miserable Places To Live article. My question to Kurt is have you actually visited Rockford, met the citizens and spent time discovering all that it has to offer? I doubt it. Oddly the outcome of his article is proving to be opposite of it's intent. Instead of Rockford hanging its head low in shame the city is fighting back with a new advertising campaign "Misery Loves Company, visit Rockford Illinois"  BRAVO to the City of Rockford for taking lemons, making lemonade and most importantly selling it! Take a look at what we have to offer here its a pretty spectacular place to live! 

 Misery logo slide

Watch the Video Of A GREAT CITY! 

Next Time ...

In and outs of Auctions



Thursday, February 28, 2013

Estate Sale Etiquette

Winter is still here but the potential of warmer weather on the horizon has me hopeful for the future. Along with the thought of warmer weather the anticipation and excitement of the upcoming Flea and Antique Market season has my mind going a hundred miles and hour in about 20 different directions. I know it may be little early to be getting excited about it but there is no time like the present to start planning for the future. My calendar is quickly filling up with potential events throughout the Midwest that I am planning to attend or potentially be a vendor at. After a long cold winter I am ready to get back out, digging through tables of treasures and meeting and greeting those that know the trade better than anyone, the vendors.

Over the past couple of weeks we took a trip into learning about vintage styles and how to determine what era they are from. Now is a good of time as any to start taking what was learned and going out and finding some items that speak to us in a way that only a beloved vintage piece can. As we approach this season I thought this may be a good time to go over a little etiquette about how to conduct business so you can be sure to get the best price possible and the vendor makes the profit that they need and deserve. Every type sale has its own form of unwritten rules some of which are obvious and others that may be a little obscure to the newbie buyer. Whether it be an Estate Sale, Flea Market or Garage Sale having a sharp eye and an idea of what you are searching for always will help you along in your hunt for that perfect item to add to your home or collection.

So what are these rules? Like I said most are unwritten and understood by the patrons that attend these sales often. Hopefully over the next few weeks I can share some of the rules and regulations with you so when you are out shopping and filling your trunk you will look and act like a seasoned veteran and not a wet behind the ears newbie. Possibly the most complicated type is the Estate sale as every one is a little different depending on the requests of the family.


What is an Estate Sale?
Well pretty much exactly what is sounds like, the sale of a person's entire estate or a portion of it is sold at predetermined prices. I know the word "Estate" sounds grand and luxurious but an estate sale can be held in any home ranging from a one bedroom bungalow to a multimillion dollar mansion. In this form of sale the home is opened for a predetermined amount of time and its contents are offered to the general public for a price.

When are these sales? 
Most sales are held between Thursday and Sunday of any given week and can start very early in the morning which means you may be getting up with the chickens if there is something that you are determined to have. Depending on the volume of goods to be sold usually determines the length of the sale so this is one type of sale that a little research prior to attending can aid you significantly in your quest for treasures. If you live in or near a major city there may be multiple sales each week that you can attend so plan accordingly to hit the best ones first.

Where do I find estate sales?
One of the best websites available to thrifty hunters is which lists sales across the country on a weekly basis. On this site you can determine what sales are of interest to you by reading through the description of the sale or looking at pictures of the items that are to be offered. I personally skip over the pictures of tables full of glassware and dolls and look for the dark pictures in the basement ..... that is where the unknown treasures are always hiding! Other sources to consider are your local paper or weekly flyer and Craigslist. There is not a general section for estate sales on Craigslist but usually can be found under the Garage Sale heading and very often will have photos of items to be sold.

  • BE PREPARED by doing a  little research and if there is a certain item that you saw in a photo try to determine where in the home it may be if you can not ask about the item as you go through the door.
  • GET THERE EARLY if there is something that you have your heart set on. In some cases an hour or more before the start of the sale is not a bad idea.  
  • THINGS TO BRING with you that are useful are a tape measure (if you don't have one a $1.00 bill is 6 inches), a large shopping bag since most sales do not offer a basket for you to put your loot in until check out. And a small flashlight tucked away in your pocket.
  • BATHROOM BREAK there aren't any. Make sure that you make a pit stop before arriving at the sale since most do not offer facilities for the public's use.
  • KEEP AN OPEN MIND when it comes to the condition of the home. Remember we do not all live the same way and there may be a reason unknown to you to why it is in somewhat of a dis-shuffled state.
  • BRING CASH even though some sales now accept credit cards cash is still king If you are thinking about writing a check think again, this form of payment is usually unheard of unless you have an established relationship with the proprietor of the sale. 

Life is full of them and Estate sales have their own set to be followed. Take a look at a few of the standard rules so that you are well versed on the dos and don't s. Following these can make you a friend for life or by not following them get your tagged as "That Person".

Photo By:
  1. Once you arrive and park a block and a half away you realize there is 30 people wandering around the front yard. Don't be hesitant you are definitely at the right place! Look for a person with a clip board or ask someone that looks kind if there is a "list". The list is the order in which people will be let into the home. Some sales may have a person out front handing out numbers, if this is the case make sure you do not loose it once it is in your hands. If there is a line of people just find the end and get in it since there may not be a list or numbers being handed out.
  2. It is 9:00am now and the after an hour of standing in the cold they are letting people in but all of a sudden they stopped. WHAT? This is because the amount of space in most homes is limited so normally 10 to 15 people will be let in and once they are settled and dispersed through out the residents the next group will be let in and so on. This is why if you have something in mind it is a real good idea to be early. 
  3. Pick up only what your really intend on buying. It is poor form to walk around with an arm full or bag full of items that you are debating over. Keep in mind the person who came in behind you may of come for only one item and you are caring it around and then decide against it at the last minute. Being a thoughtful shopper has many rewards so try to practice this at all times. Go with your gut feeling about the things you are debating over and leave the rest for someone else to take home with them. 
  4. At most sales prices are marked on each item. If you do not see a price ask one of the sales associates who will be more than happy to find out for you. Keep in mind they are there to help but don't expect them to carry the couch out for you. If you intend on buying large items make sure your have your muscle lined up ahead of time. 
  5.  In the event that you are there to buy large items make sure that a sold tag gets put on the items that you are intending on purchasing before someone else comes by and swipes up that incredible Mid Century Sofa!  Again this is where the sales associate comes in hand y and they are more than happy to mark it sold for you. If you are not taking that big item with you immediately make arrangements with the staff as to when you will be picking it up and make sure to exchange phone numbers in case plans are changed. 
  6. Prices on the first day are usually fixed and not negotiable but it does not hurt to ask. Keep in mind that if the sale is three days long they may not be real flexible with dropping the price that first day but  on the second or third day you may get a great bargain.... especially with large items!
  7. If there is an item that you are truly interested in but the price is not what you want to pay ask if there is a "Bid Box" or if you can leave a bid with someone for the item. Some sales offer this option and at the end of the day if your item is still there they will look at your bid and determine if it is acceptable or not. If they accept it you can expect a call that evening to notify you that your bid was accepted and arrangements will be made for you to pick it up.
  8. Often the last day of the sale or a portion of it prices are discounted. This discount may range from everything being half price, everything half priced except marked items or possibly even make an offer. Just keep in mind that everything has been pretty picked over at this point and your beloved item that you debated over may not be there still. 
  9. Pay for your items and be prepared to bag and wrap your own things. Some sales may offer this service and provide paper to wrap your fragile items in but don't expect it. Make sure you have a couple of recycled grocery bags tucked away in your pockets or purse. 
  10. Be friendly and make a good impression. The company holding the sale will remember who you are and if they have a mailing list make sure that you get on it so you are one of the first to know about upcoming sales. 
There you have it, the most important aspects of an estate sale to get your through your first like a seasoned pro. It is good to remember to keep your comments about the home or the condition of items to yourself while you are at the sale since you never know if a family member is in your presence.  Most importantly have fun and take in the experience. It can sometimes be sobering to think that this is what all of our lives eventually comes down to but think of the joy that is is being passed along and the stories you will be able to share with your friends and family about your experience.

Next Week ...

Garage Sales and picking the right one for you.


Taste, Sight and Smell!
Like I said it is still winter here and mother nature has proved that over the past week with lots of snow. Suffering a bit from cabin fever I wanted something that reminded me of my childhood and would take me back to those cold winter days of my youth where my biggest concern was  if there would be a snow day or not. What better than fresh baked bread! My mother would often bake bread in the winter on Saturdays filling the house with that incredible smell and building the anticipation of a fat hot fat slice slathered in butter and drizzled in honey. If this thought took you back to a similar memory give this recipe a try, it  is very easy and the outcome will put a smile on your face and a touch of home in your belly.



1 tsp (5 mL) sugar
1/2 cup (125 mL) water, warm
1 envelope (8 g) active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp/11 mL)
1 cup (250 mL) milk
2 tbsp (30 mL) butter or margarine
2 tbsp (30 mL) sugar
1 1/2 tsp (7 mL) salt
1/2 cup (125 mL) water, warm
5 1/2 cups (1375 mL) ROBIN HOOD® Best For Bread Homestyle White Flour


1. DISSOLVE 1 teaspoon (5 mL) sugar in 1/2 cup (125 mL) warm water in large bowl. Sprinkle in yeast. Let stand 10 minutes, then stir well.
2. HEAT milk to lukewarm. Stir in butter, 2 tablespoons (30 mL) sugar, salt and 1/2 cup (125 mL) warm water. Add milk mixture and 2 cups (500 mL) Robin Hood Best For Bread Homestyle White Flour to dissolved yeast mixture. Beat with wooden spoon or electric mixer until smooth and elastic.
3. STIR IN 2 1/2 cups (625 mL) of remaining flour gradually. If necessary, add more flour to make a soft dough which leaves sides of bowl. Turn out on floured board. Round up into a ball.
4. KNEAD dough, adding more flour as necessary, until dough is smooth, elastic and no longer sticky (about 10 minutes).
5. PLACE in lightly greased bowl. Turn dough to greased top. Cover with greased waxed paper and tea towel.
6. LET RISE in warm place (75°-85°F/24°-29°C) until doubled (45-60 minutes).
7. PUNCH DOWN. Turn out onto lightly floured board and divide into 2 equal portions. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes.
8. SHAPE each portion into a loaf. Place seam side down in 2 greased 8 1/2" x 4 1/2" x 2 3/4" (1.5 L) loaf pans. Cover with tea towel.
9. LET RISE in warm place until dough rises 1 1/2" (3 cm) above top of pan in centre and corners are filled (45 to 60 minutes).
10. BAKE at 400°F (200°C) on lower oven rack for 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from pans immediately. Brush top crust with butter if a soft crust is desired. Cool on wire racks.
11. QUICK NOTE: This recipe makes 2 loaves. For 4 loaves, simply double all of your ingredients.
TIP: If you do not have a warm place to raise your bread turn your oven on for a minute while you are mixing your dough and turn it off after that minute is up. You just want it to preheat to a temperature that is 75 to 85 degrees. Now turn on the oven light and leave it on. This is a great place to raise your dough in a warm draft free environment.

The Pinterest Pin to the recipe and others



Thursday, February 14, 2013

DesignEras WWII through 1980s

There seems to be a theme in my life and that theme is that I am stuck in my ways. This week marked the end to my laptop and a trip into some weird self discoveries. The computer had seen better days so it was not a total surprise that the end was near. A few weeks ago I had the good sense to remove pretty much everything of importance onto my desktop computer just to be safe, kind of like prearranging a funeral. After receiving confirmation it was gone and not coming back the sick feeling of having to shop for a new one sunk in. There is one thing I get worked up about and that is large purchases where I do not feel comfortable about the product due to a lack of knowledge. So I did what every proud computer illiterate does, I phoned a friend! Not just any friend but one that is well versed in every tech gadget that is out there and can remember the details of each. I am ashamed to say this but this is not the first time I have pulled this stunt, sadly it is the third and never with the same person. So my point of self discovery was when it came to purchase time. Everything pointed to breaking out of my shell and moving into the age of tablets but when it came time to make the purchase I fell backwards and went with another laptop. Yes I admit I am stuck in my ways and can not break free of what I feel comfortable with. Maybe they are right, you can't teach an old dog new tricks!

Now with my confession complete and out of the way lets pick up where we left off last week with the continuation of the design eras. We have covered from 1837 through WWII which encompassed Victorian, Art Nouveau, Edwardian and Art Deco. In order to move forward we have to start this week by taking a slight step backwards on the time line to cover the lengthy Arts and Crafts Era.

Arts And Crafts Era

Style Time Line - 1860 through 1925

Just like in fashion styles sometime overlap each other, that is the case with the Arts and Crafts movement. With its start in the British Isles in 1860 and gaining popularity throughout Europe it did not flourish in the Untied States until around 1910 and continued through the mid 1920's. This style stood for traditional craftsmanship with straight simple lines and little embellishments. In architecture the Arts and Crafts era brought us the Bungalow style home along with Mission Revival, Prairie School and the "California Bungalow." While all having styles of their own they are a reflection of each other through craftsmanship and straight heavy lines. 

During this era home decor items changed to reflect the movement as well through simple pottery and furniture that carried the same simple handcrafted aesthetics as the buildings housing them. 

Modernism Era: 
Style Time Line - WWI through early 1970's

Trying to define modernism can be frustrating since as a style it is less coherent and its boundaries are loose. Being another style that developed in Europe first before reaching the shores of North America it embraced new technologies of the day such as concrete, glass and steel while leaving behind ornamentation. Interiors were sparse with a "Less is More" way of thinking while design around the concept of function being dictated by form.

Mid Century Modern Era: 

Style Time Line - mid-1940's through mid-1960's

The hot trend right now in city dwellings and home decor is the rebirth of Mid Century Modern. I especially enjoy Mid Century Modern and in fact it is my favorite design era. Names such as Eames and Eero Saarinen have become common in conversations discussing home interiors and design. Although this design era has a more distinct homey feel to it, Modernism is actually where Mid Century Modern finds its roots. Items were designed and manufactured with the average home owner in mind instead of the wealthy elite so from a collectors viewpoint this is an era that is full of treasures to be had. Items for the household were mass produced and put on the market at reasonable prices for consumers. Finding items now that are in pristine condition can be somewhat of a challenge since most items were used on a daily basis. Items that stand out as true Mid Century Modern Gems are Merman Miller produced plywood, fiberglass, and wire mesh chairs.

Hollywood Regency Era: 

Style Time Line - mid-1930's through mid-1960's

I have to admit that this style I am at a total loss over. Although I love it since it is truly over the top in everything I am not really sure how it should be described. In my research I found on Design Public the blog "Hollywood Regency 101" that does far better justice than I could ever attempt not to mention the collection of photos accompanying the information are outstanding.  Take a visit and enjoy this fun and over the top style!

Retro Era: 

Style Time Line - Over 15 years of age

That's right, Retro is considered to be anything over 15 years of age. So that country kitchen feel of the late 1980's with its geese, bows and country hearts could be returning soon. This is a style that encompasses pretty much everything from past eras but the hardcore collectors give the late 1960's through the 1980's  top billing. During this time wild and colorful designs were dominant in everything from clothing to home decor items. If the treasure you found at the Flea Market is orange, harvest yellow or brown there is a good chance you are in possession of a retro item.

So there you have it, the design styles from 1837 through the present. If you have some extra time in your day hop on your favorite internet search engine and do a little research of your own. The more information you gather on your favorite era the easier it will be for you to hunt out those hidden gems at your next flea market or visit to your neighborhood thrift store. If you started a Pinterest board of your favorite vintage items take a look at it and see what design seems to attract your eye. This is a great way to start getting a feel of what would appealing to have in your own home.

If you are in the Chicagoland area this weekend and need a break from cabin fever and a vintage fix you may want to check out this Vintage Garages event!

February 16th and 17th, 2013
11am to 6pm
$5.00 admission
1134 West Granville
Chicago, IL 60640


Salty and Sweet ... . WHAT A TREAT! 

If there is one thing that I find very appealing and I crave from time to time that would be the combination of salty and sweet together. In the past his phenomenon could only be found in the tasty morsels of Kettle Corn found at the local fair or in some wonderful Asian cuisines. No one knows for sure who had the courage to mix sea salt with caramel but it has taken over the confectionery world. This is an incredible recipe from "Table for Two" blog that is worth its weight in gold!  My recommendation is to make these on a Saturday morning so that on Sunday afternoon you will have time to make a second batch when you run out.

Salted Caramel Chocolate Cupcakes

Yield: 2 dozen | Prep Time: 20 minutes | Cook Time: 30 minutes


1 box devil’s food cake mix
1 package of Jello instant chocolate pudding
1 cup sour cream
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
For the salted caramel buttercream:
15-20 caramel candies, unwrapped
3-4 tbsp. heavy cream
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, divided
4 cups powdered sugar, divided




  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line muffin tins with baking cups.
  2.  In a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl, mix together cake mix, instant pudding, sour cream, vegetable oil, eggs, milk, and vanilla. Mix very well. Gently stir in the chocolate chips with a spatula.
  3. Equally divide the batter into the baking cups, filling 2/3 of the way full. Bake for 18-22 minutes, let cool for 5 minutes in pan, then remove and place them on wire cooling racks to cool completely.
  4. In the meantime, make your buttercream by first melting the caramel candies and heavy cream in a small saucepan over medium heat. Once the caramel is all melted, stir in 1/2 tsp. of salt.
  5. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter until light and fluffy. Add in the remaining 1 tsp. of salt.
  6. Gently add half of the powdered sugar to the butter and beat until light and fluffy. Then drizzle in the caramel while the mixer is on low. If the caramel has hardened up a bit that you can’t pour it, heat it up just enough so you can pour it into the mixer with ease.
  7. Add the remaining 2 cups of powdered sugar and beat until well combined.
  8. Put the frosting in a piping bag fitted with a pastry tip of your choice.
  9. Pipe the frosting on top of the cooled cupcakes.
  10. Store cupcakes in an airtight container for up to 4 days.
Original Blog Post:



Thursday, February 7, 2013

DesignEras 1837 - WWII

Let me start off this week by saying if you are one of those people that likes to brag about not having had the flu this season or that you will not be getting it... Stop Right Now. The Flu God does not look kindly on this behavior and will force you into submission changing you into a whimpering child in a matter of hours. As I laid in bed last week wondering who would was going to finish my Blog I had a brush with reality. I realized that being a one man show is not always what it is cracked up to be; however, not having to call in to someone and explain that you are sick is somewhat refreshing. That is the call that everyone hates to make and when you finally dial the phone you are then insulted with the standard "You'll need a doctor's note when you return" totally adding a little insult to your injury.  So here is my Doctor's note for last week written by me to me .... I WAS SICK!

Well now that last weeks absence has been clarified lets get back to figuring out our vintage styles. Like I mentioned in the last posting your style is a matter of personal taste and not the taste and trends of others. Whether its crisp clean lines, curves and swirls or the bare minimum it can all be reflected in carefully chosen vintage pieces. Here is a rundown of the many popular styles of the past and a brief description of each that are available to the thrifty vintage shopper.


Style Time Line - June 20, 1837 through January 22, 1901 (the reign of British Queen Victoria)

This style featured ornateness within the home while rooms were neatly divided into public and private spaces. The most important room being the Parlor with the dining room being the second most important space. Wallpaper was made in elaborate floral patterns with primary colors as the backgrounds. To have a room that was undecorated and bare was thought to be in bad taste.


Style Time Line - 1890 through 1910

The word " Art Nouveau" is a French term meaning New Art. This era was especially important to decorative arts. Homeowners changed interiors from the proper feel of Victorian to a much more relaxed and tranquil design aesthetic. Art Nouveau is characterized by an organic feel where the design mimics the natural growth in nature.

Outside the home two-dimensional Art Nouveau pieces were painted, drawn, and printed in popular forms such as advertising, posters, labels and magazines. The influences of Art Nouveau can also be found in industry and public works. Check out the entrances to the subway the next time you are in Paris and your will find the perfect example of Art Nouveau!

EDWARDIAN ERA (Gilded Age) : 

Style Time Line - 1890 through 1910 

The death of British Queen Victoria ended the Victorian Style Era as her successor and son took to the thrown. With the Victorian era lasting the better part of a century the Edwardian era was an exciting and much welcomed change. Although still formal Edwardian Style was relaxed in comparison to its predecessor ushering in a new fresh and light feeling. Somewhat informal and feminine, this era introduced bamboo and wicker furniture into the living space along with pastel colors and floral patterns. Although Edward's reign was short with his passing in 1910 this style era is said to have extended through the Treaty of Versailles in 1919.


Style Time Line - 1920 through Post WWII 

The Art Deco period combined the soft organic lines of the Art Nouveau period with the sharpness found in industrial boom. Although it appeared in the early 1920's in France it did not flourish in the international market until the 1930's. This style is often characterized by rich colors, bold geometric shapes and lavish ornamentation.

During the 1930's the Art Deco style was used in many public works projects ranging from train stations, bridges and public institutions. The streamline aesthetic was influenced by the modern age of aerodynamics which had resulted from the industrial boom in the aviation and automobile industries.  This era holds some of my personal favorite pieces and is definitely an aesthetic that I find attractive in homes and public spaces.

Although there are many more eras to cover this is a good stopping point for this week. Get on Google or Pinterest and conduct your style search of the eras mentioned above. You may be surprised the next time you are out and about how each era has influenced the world around us. Look for those details in architecture and interiors of public spaces that have been influenced by the past and have gone unnoticed to your eyes before. Happy hunting!

Next Week ...

DesignEras WWII - Present  

Arts and Crafts
Mid Century Modern
Hollywood Regency 


Take Out At Home!

Every culture's cuisine has it's own version of dumplings ranging from doughy balls to stuffed purses of tantalizing goodness. I have to admit that my favorite part of Asian fare is the appetizer section of the menu and a perfect potsticker accompanied with a sweet and spicy sauce will grab my attention every time. I have tried to duplicate these tasty morsels on numerous occasions but have always fell short leaving me disappointed and heading to a nearby restaurant to get my fix. Through the power of Pinterest I no longer have to worry about this disappointment since I have found a flavorful make at home version of these gems. The best part is they are easy and it makes a big batch that you can freeze for later cravings. So here it is your family and friends will be amazed at your culinary skills.

1 cup finely shredded bok choy or napa cabbage (optional)
1/4 tsp. salt
1 lb. lean ground pork
2 green onions, finely chopped
1 Tbsp. soy sauce (or to taste)
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp. grated fresh ginger
1/2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 pkg. wonton or gyoza wrappers, thawed if frozen
canola oil
chicken or veggie stock, or water

If you’re using it, toss the cabbage with salt in a medium bowl and let stand for 5 minutes. Pick it up in your hand and squeeze out the excess liquid, draining it as well as you can. ( I skip this since I do not put cabbage in mine)

Mix the pork, green onions, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, sugar, sesame oil and cabbage (if you are using it) mix it all up with your hands.

To fill wontons, place a small spoonful of filling in the middle of each wrapper; moisten the edges with water (just use your finger) and fold over, pressing the edge tightly to seal.

Place seam side up on a cookie sheet, pressing lightly to flatten the bottom. Cover with a tea towel to prevent them from drying out.

(Dumplings can be prepared up to this point, covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 24 hours or frozen.)

When you’re ready to cook the potstickers, heat a drizzle of canola oil in a largeish skillet set over medium-high heat.

Place half the dumplings at a time in the skillet and cook for a minute or two, until deep golden brown on the bottom, shaking the pan a few times to keep them from sticking. Don’t crowd the pan too much.

Pour about 1/4 cup stock or water into the pan. Cover, reduce heat to medium and cook for about 5 minutes – this will allow them to steam, cooking them through.

When it comes to a dipping sauce make your life easy and buy a bottle of good sauce at the market!  

Makes 2 – 3 dozen potstickers.

The Pinterest Pin to the recipe



Thursday, January 24, 2013

Finding Your Vintage Style

Whether it be Furniture, home decor or clothing often older is better! Not to mention oftentimes you may even get a bigger bang for your buck in the long run when you purchase vintage goods from local sellers as opposed to new items you find at any big box store.  I know through experience finding your taste in vintage style takes time, effort and at times a little trial and error before you master the perfect comfortable feel that you longed for.I found that my biggest problem was trying to figuring out where to start and how to get the ball rolling. Hopefully sharing my experiences will give you a little push in the right direction and before you know it you will be out measuring items and snapping pictures of potential vintage additions to your home.

Great! You have decided that it is time to make some vintage additions to your home or office but now find yourself with the posing question of where to start. You may be among many people that have never purchased vintage items and have relied on the big box stores for all their home decor needs. Don't be embarrassed by this, the major retailers have you right where they want you. Shoving knock off vintage items down your throat and into your living rooms. The thing about this that saddens me is that these major retailers do not giving a second thought that they are driving down the value of true vintage with their knock offs and copies. These retailers have over-saturated the market and peoples homes to the point that unique pieces with flair and style have become mainstream and common. This sounds bleak and horrible to the vintage enthusiast but at the same time they have created a great opportunity for us to go out and find outstanding vintage items that will stand the test of time.

Back to a starting point....  so there is this thing out there called Pinterest that you may of heard of. If you read my last posting you will know that change and I do not really go hand in hand. My " To Do List" friend tried to introduce me to this Pinterest phenomenon which of course I fought purely because I did not think it was something i could make time for. Fast forward a few months to a warm and rainy Sunday morning where 2 pots of coffee and 4 hours of pinning I was hooked not to mention a little jittery! She had described it so accurately in saying it is like having the ability to build your own magazine of everything you like, want to read and most importantly try. Not to mention it gives you a wealth of knowledge, some useless but it is still knowledge and there is that saying that "Knowledge is Power".  I have been able to answer a multitude of questions for people and when questioned how did I know that I credit Pinterest by saying... Oh, I read it on Pinterest.

Maybe at this point you are asking what does this have to do with revamping my style and putting a little more pizazz in day to day existence. Pinterest can be that jumping off point to help you choose your likes, dislikes and give you a reference of items that you would like to have in your own home.  This can all be accomplished from the convenience of your home computer or if you have a smart phone by using the mobile application and virtually any place you find yourself sitting in wait you can be discovering new style. If this is a new concept for you I found a wonderful tutorial at The Daily Digi called "Pinterest 101: A Tutorial" that will walk you through just about every aspect of Pinterest and get you on your way to building your dream style.

During the next week get your account set up and start looking at all the possibilities that are out there. Start your own board and pin those items that caught your eye and keep in mind that this is the point that more is better. Eventually we will sort through your choices and pick out those items that are your true love and before you know it your home will be a showplace of your own personal style and character that guests will marvel over and you will feel comfortable in. One thing to keep in mind while you start this process is that this is not about the taste of others but what you find comforting and exciting.

Next week: Vintage Styles and Eras ... what's your favorite?

Last week I promised that I would share an incredible dinner with you so here it is. I said earlier .... sometimes older is better and that is the case with Beef Stew recipe. We have all heard about the evils of bad nutrition but sometimes we have a craving for something that is satisfying and filling versus green and leafy. This may not be the best for us but we eat it anyway and then either feel guilt over our full satisfied bellies or go to the gym for an extra half hour the following day to ease our minds. Whatever the case may be enjoy this fantastic stew in moderation and you will get that comfort food satisfaction that you may be craving at this frigid time of the year.

The Best Browned Beef Stew ..... EVER! 
4-6 servings

1 -1 1/2 lb cubed beef stew meat
1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup vegetable oil (I use Olive Oil)
1 onion, chopped fine
1 carrot, chopped fine
1/4 cup finely chopped celery, with a few minced leaves
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 pinch thyme

1 pinch rosemar
3 1/2 cups beef broth
2 medium potatoes, diced (I use Baby Reds in big chunks)
2 carrots, diced (same thing.. big chunks)
2 onions, diced 

2 cups petite frozen peas


1 Put flour, salt and pepper in a large ziploc bag.

2 Heat oil over medium heat in a large dutch oven.

3 Place meat in bag with the flour and shake until well coated.

4 Shake off half of the meat pieces and add them to the oil and stir until slightly browned,. Remove from the pot and place on a plate. Repeat with the remaining meat. Once slightly brown add the first batch of meat back to the pot.

5 Add remaining flour from the  bag and the finely chopped onion and stir until well browned.

6 Add finely chopped carrot and next 5 ingredients.
7 Cover and cook over low heat for 1 1/2 hours (stirring every 15 minutes).
8 Add diced potatoes, carrots, and onions, cook for another 45 minutes or until potatoes are tender.
9 Add 2 cups petite peas 15 minutes prior to serving.
When I prepare this recipe I buy a few large crusty rolls, scoop them out into bread bowls and pair it with a winter green salad.