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