Category Archives: Collecting

Our Mudroom Before and After

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If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know that we’ve been slowly refurbishing the smallest and most neglected room in our house – the mudroom.

Mudroom before

Little Room – Big Embarrassment

The mudroom had become an eyesore over the years. Which was unfortunate since it is the best way – the only way really –  to get out to the back patio where we sometimes have dinner parties.

So when we had people over, I was always tempted to stage some kind of distraction as they walked through the mudroom so they wouldn’t notice how dingy it was.  (“Oh, look out there! Is that an eagle?”) is all new

The biggest challenge with the mudroom is that there are three doors and a large window in this 5′ X 7′ room.  So that really limits wall space.  In this room, we simply can’t do the cool storage lockers or vertical cabinets that look so great in other mudrooms.

Mudroom windows

But in 1927, when the house was built, no one was thinking about wall space in the mudroom because it wasn’t a mudroom then – it was a covered back porch.

The Makeover

Our mudroom makeover has taken months.  Since it’s next door to our laundry room, and they share the same concrete floor, we’ve been remodeling both rooms simultaneously.

Here is what’s been happening in the mudroom:


This all started back in January when we hired Kenji to refinish the scruffy concrete floors in both rooms.

He took the floors from this

old concrete floor

to this.

remodeled concrete floor


The mudroom was in rough condition.  This corner was the worst part.

Southwest wall before new floor and new paint.

I painted the walls with Benjamin Moore Pale Oak.  For the trim, I used a white paint we’d had custom mixed to match our kitchen cabinets.  Since the mudroom  can be seen from the kitchen, this helps unify the spaces.

Southwest wall after paint

The ceiling, still beadboard from when the mudroom was the back porch, didn’t need repainting.  We kept the vintage parrot light here that matches the one we have in our kitchen.

Beadboard ceiling


Now don’t laugh, but here is what was hanging on the wall near the back door before.


The large mirror/shelf was from Pottery Barn, and it was really something in its day.  But with wall space being such a premium in this room, a large mirror is the last thing we should have had taking up that space.

Plus the shelf above the mirror was so high that it wasn’t practical to store anything useful, so it became a catch-all for silly things.

We wanted to put shelving there instead, but we couldn’t find any ready-made shelves of the right dimension.

So Chris made these beautiful shelves.

Custom mudroom shelving

He bought a piece of fir, cut it to size, and used a router to soften the edges.  Then of course he sanded, stained, and finished the wood.

mudroom shelving

It was a fun little project, but I think the part he enjoyed the most was finding the antique shelf brackets on eBay.

antique brackets

We were very lucky, he says, that someone was selling four of them.

The wire baskets hold hats and gloves.  The shelves sit above a small shoe cabinet.  It all barely fits in the shallow space between the wall and the door.


Chris can display some of his vintage camping lanterns here.

1955 Coleman Lantern

The little shoe cabinet helped us solve a problem:

The Shoe Solution

Chris likes to keep most of his shoes in the mudroom near the door – which really makes sense.  But here is how our shoe situation was before.  Not good!

And, since I didn’t want to make things worse, I kept my shoes in the laundry room.

Notice too all the shopping bags stuffed into one cubby, and the basket for hats and gloves above that.  It was a little tower of clutter. And it left us nowhere to sit while putting on shoes.

So as our earliest mudroom project, we converted a little shelf unit that had been sitting by the back door into more shoe storage by adjusting its shelves.  Here is the post for that fun little project.

mudroom shoe storage

This freed up some space in and around the shoe bench.  I repainted the shoe bench and made a cushion.  Now we have somewhere to sit while putting on shoes.

Mudroom shoe bench

I got rid of the coat rack hanging above the bench since it looked terrible and we never used those jackets.  We use the shopping bags more, so I made a space for them instead.

So the area that looked like this

Mudroom before

now looks like this

Mudroom after

Something Missing

I do miss having a mirror in the room for that quick last look  before heading out, so I’ll find a space to hang a small mirror.  And then we’ll be done.

Clean and Simple

This little room is more functional now.  And it will stay this organized forever!

Just kidding.  Even I am not that delusional.


mudroom remodel

Behind the Door

Let’s open the laundry room door and take a quick look at the progress in there.

Since my last laundry room remodel update, we ordered a quartz countertop for the north wall where the appliances and sink will go.

And now we wait until mid-July for the installation.  In the meantime, we’ve been shopping for accessories including this stainless retractable clothesline, which I can’t wait to install.

But there is something new and exciting.  My brother, Dan, is building us a beautiful custom corner cabinet.

Custom corner cabinet

We wanted to get the most out of this tricky corner without taking up too much floor space.  This corner cabinet is our best option.  And there is no one better to build it than Dan, who has created some gorgeous built-ins for his own house.

It fits nicely under the window.  The drawer still needs to be installed, and it will have the same quartz countertop as the appliance wall.  But it’s already looking perfect for the space.

Materials for the cabinet cost almost nothing.  Dan used old plywood he’d salvaged from his kitchen remodel.  And I had two extra cabinet doors (for our new cabinets) left over from our own kitchen remodel. Luckily they were the right size for the corner cabinet.

So now the corner cabinet matches the sink base.  And both laundry room cabinets match our kitchen cabinets.

And my brother rocks.

Posts on this website are for entertainment only and are not tutorials.

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Roses, An Easy Patio Tablecloth, and Some Vintage Finds

Are we already in August?  As usual, the summer is going by too fast, and now we only have a few weeks left – with so much we want to do.  So I’ve decided to put this blog down for a little late-summer nap.  While it’s sleeping, I’ll be working on projects to share with you in September.  At least that’s the plan.

And since this is my last post until then, I have all kinds of things to show you.

Costco Roses with Summer Garden Clippings

As I mentioned in my previous post, My Three-Season Greenhouse, my husband gave me two dozen Costco roses for our anniversary.

Arranging roses in a Sunglo Greenhouse

With so many roses, I thought it would be fun to break them into several different arrangements and include some fresh clippings from the garden.

I gathered some of my favorite vases and headed to the greenhouse.

Vintage vases

I had to work fast because it was warm in there and I didn’t want the roses to wither.  I came up with these three arrangements.

Thriller, Filler, Spiller

The old thriller-filler-spiller technique used in container gardening also works well for floral arrangements.

Roses, lady's mantle and love-lies-bleeding in a vintage glass vase

  • Thriller:  Red roses
  • Filler:  Lady’s mantle flowers (Alchemilla mollis or Alchemilla vulgaris)
  • Spiller:  Love-lies-bleeding (Amaranthus caudatus)

I love the fresh green of the lady’s mantle flowers as a substitute for fillers like baby’s breath.  The crimson-tasseled annual called love-lies-bleeding adds a little drama and works nicely with the color of the vintage glass vase.


I set yellow roses upright on a spike frog in a vintage milk glass vase for this buttoned-up look for the master bedroom.

yellow roses with dahlias and maidenhair fern in a milk glass vase

I tucked in maidenhair fern (Adiantum) fronds from the shade garden and, around the perimeter, Bishop of Llandaff dahlias.

This late in summer, most of my summer perennials are starting to fade, but because I deadhead these dahlias, the plants bloom for months.


I put the remaining roses in a tall crystal vase with honeybush (Melianthus major) leaves around the perimeter.  These large silvery leaves add a touch of glamour.

roses with honeybush leaves in a crystal vase

An Easy DIY Patio Tablecloth

Feeling like the summer was getting away from me, I hosted several small get togethers on our patio last week.

Planning the table decor is always half the fun, and I wanted a tablecloth that would complement our china and the chair cushions.

At the fabric store, I came across a whimsical home decor fabric called Sannio Cabana by SMC Swavelle Millcreek.

outdoor table setting

It was 54 inches wide, so I just asked for a 54-inch cut of fabric and hemmed it to have a square tablecloth.

home and garden - outdoor table setting

The square tablecloth worked well with the 42-inch round table.  I positioned it so that it draped elegantly between the chairs yet guests didn’t wind up with a bunch of extra fabric on their laps.

home and garden - square tablecloth on a round table

With a tablecloth this lively, I didn’t need much else in the way of table decor – especially on such a small table.

home and garden - patio party table setting
Photo courtesy of Lisa Wildin

Not wanting to attract bees, I didn’t use any flowers.  The centerpiece was a citronella candle.

home and garden - citronella centerpiece

That and a couple of dryer sheets under the tablecloth did a fairly decent job of keeping pests away.   (Note: For more tips on keeping bugs from crashing a patio party, see this post.)

Minted's Limited Edition Art Prints

My Recent Vintage Finds

I always look forward to the annual garage sale that my neighborhood hosts.  I never participate because I would rather cruise around and see what everyone is selling.

This year I scored with two of these tall fir cabinets with leaded glass doors – for $5 each!  The style is an exact match to the original built-ins in our house.

home and garden - vintage cabinets

They have that “old schoolhouse” smell that I love.  I have several ideas of where to use them in our house, so we’ll see what happens.

My friend, Carolyn, participated in the sale and when I admired these adorable mid century salt and pepper shakers that belonged to her mother, she gave them to me.  Thanks Carolyn!

Mid century salt and pepper shakers

They are perfect for our vintage trailer, the June Bug.

And then while visiting an antique store in the historic Fairhaven district of Bellingham, we found this spike frog to add to my frog collection.

vintage flower frog

I couldn’t resist that rustic patina.

See You in September

I hope those of you living in the Northern hemisphere have a chance to get out and enjoy what is left of your summer.  Let’s meet back here in September!

Disclosure:  This post contains Affiliate Links. 


Here are a few fun tidbits from around the web, including the fabric (at a lower price than I paid) and the salad plates I used in my table setting.

Late summer design inspiration

Center:  Villeroy & Boch Switch 3 Cordoba Salad Plate  Clockwise from top:  Set of 2 Vintage Flower Frogs  | Sannio Cabana fabric by the yard | 4″ Daisy Milk Glass Ruffletop Vase | Beettle Kill Pine Candleholder with Citronella Candles

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Collecting Vintage Christmas Lights

A couple of years ago, I noticed that my husband, Chris, was spending a lot of time at his computer looking at vintage Christmas lights.  At dinner that was all he talked about . . . C-9 bulbs, C-6 bulbs, swirl bulbs, cloth-wrapped cords.  It was no surprise when boxes began arriving at the door.  Chris was starting a vintage Christmas light collection.

Soon our house was softly glowing with warm vintage color.  Since this is one of the prettiest collections we have – not only the lights but their sweet retro packaging – I thought it would be fun to share just a few of his most prized pieces.

Early NOMA Lights

NOMA* (which stands for National Outfit Manufacturer’s Association) was an American company which began in 1925 as a trade group of small manufacturers.  Through the mid-1900s, it was the leading U.S. manufacturer of Christmas lights.

NOMA’s early offerings had cloth-wrapped cords.  This set was manufactured in the 1930s or 1940s.

Vintage Christmas lights: NOMA 15-light decorative set

If only we could find modern lights that have truly independently-burning bulbs, a washer for each Bakelite socket, and cute adjustable berry beads to hold each individual light in place on the tree.

The C-7 bulbs have soft, attractive colors.

Vintage Christmas lights: C-7 lights on cloth-wrapped cord

And I just love these cute fluted C-6 bulbs from the same era.

Vintage Christmas lights: C-6 taper lights on cloth-wrapped cord

Vintage Christmas lights: C-6 taper bulbs lighted

Mid-Century Christmas Lights

In the 1940s, NOMA introduced all-rubber cords.  Fused safety plugs came in 1951.  What a concept!

Vintage Christmas lights: NOMA safety plug lights, mid-1900s

The fuses for the Bakelite plugs were replaceable.  I would be happy just to collect the adorable, tiny boxes that the spare fuses came in.

Vintage Christmas lights: collectible fuse boxes

Another brilliant innovation was the patented process of painting the ceramic glass bulbs on the inside instead of the outside to eliminate paint chipping.

Vintage Christmas lights: C-9 Swirl bulbs

These are C-9 swirl bulbs – classic large outdoor bulbs. There were two manufacturers of swirl bulbs – primarily GE, and to a lesser extent, Westinghouse.  Stamps can be found on some of the bulbs.

Vintage Christmas lights: manufactuerer's stamps on bulbs

They are beautiful lighted.

Vintage Christmas lights: C-9 Bulbs lighted

The Icing on the Cake

I saved the best for last:  This pristine set of never-lit circa 1955 outdoor “Safety Plug” lights.

Vintage Christmas lights, circa 1955

And they never will be lit – as long as Chris owns them anyway.  So now that we have had a look, the lid is going back on the  box.  Show’s over folks.

Vintage Christmas lights

Actually, vintage Christmas lights can be a surprisingly affordable collectible.  Of course the more valuable sets still have their original packaging with everything in good condition.


Here’s a formula to remember:

Vintage + Electrical = Potential Fire/Safety Hazard.

Always have your vintage lights examined by a professional before using them.

The bulbs get very hot very fast, so be careful about what you have them on or around.  Never leave them unattended when lit.

What is Chris Collecting Now?

Chris has moved on from vintage Christmas lights and is collecting another illuminating vintage item.  I hope to share that with you soon, but in the meantime I won’t spoil the surprise.

*There was also a NOMA Corporation in Canada, and a company called NOMA Lights is still in existence in the UK.


Vintage NOMA lights are still plentiful.  A huge selection can be found on Etsy.

Vintage Christmas lights

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Flower Frogs 101

It’s back to school season – time for a basic course in flower frogs.  Why flower frogs?  In part because the holidays are just around the corner and a good centerpiece starts with the right frog.  But mostly because I enjoy collecting vintage flower frogs.  And now I want to talk about them.

How a Frog Collection Starts

A while back, I inherited a few vintage flower frogs from my mother-in-law, Betty.  One was an ancient-looking, tiny spike frog measuring only 1-1/2 inches in diameter.  It intrigued me, especially in contrast to the largest of Betty’s frogs, an obviously much-used glass frog measuring 5 inches in diameter.

Vintage flower frogs

It started me thinking about how much variety there is in the world of vintage frogs  – all the different sizes, shapes, and designs.  I began seeking them out.

Types of Frogs

There are countless flower frog designs out there, but most frogs fall loosely into one of these categories:

Cage Frogs

Usually made of wire, mesh, or metal, cage frogs are very popular.

The green frog on the left is a Dazey Flower Holder with a patent date of 1918.  The copper colored frog on the right is unmarked and has a suction cup on the bottom.

vintage flower frogs - cage frogs

But cage frogs need not be placed only on the bottom of a vase.  If the circumference of the vase works for it and the vase is sufficiently weighted at the bottom, these frogs can be wedged at or near the top for better control of the flowers.

Popular mason jar frog lids are also a form of cage frog.  As the name suggests, they fit on top of a mason jar, taking the place of the lid and turning the mason jar into a vase with a built-in frog.

But I will show you later in this post how to make your own temporary frog that works similarly for any vase.

Glass or Crystal Frogs

Glass or crystal frogs are great because they are usually weighty and stay in place.  Some, like those made of depression glass, are also very decorative.

I acquired the frog in the photo below because it is unusual:  The center hole is larger than the perimeter holes, so one large and showy flower stem can be placed in the center, surrounded by smaller stems – or so I thought.

Vintage flower frog - glass frog

But I wondered why the large center hole is not cut all the way through.  An observant reader solved the mystery:  It is so that it could be used to hold a candle.

I have yet to use this frog, but am looking forward to the possibilities.

I did use a glass frog in this centerpiece.

Daffodils in milk glass vase

Spike Frogs

For practical use, these are by far my favorites because they allow more versatility when arranging flowers, and they are excellent at holding stems exactly where I want them.

Vintage flower frogs - spike frogs

I recently acquired the frog to the far left at an estate sale.  Its rectangular shape is unusual, and the base is early plastic instead of metal.  The stamp on the bottom is intriguing.

spike frog made in california

It’s hard to read, but the bottom line says it’s made in California.  How often do we see that these days?

My favorite spike frog is the tiny one I mentioned earlier.  It works great in shallow bowls and was the glue holding these three arrangements together.

For more on these arrangements, see my posts about my camellia centerpiece,  arranging calla lilies, and the flowering quince.

Wire frogs are nice for arranging flowers in a uniform height and spread.   My mom, Erika, used a wire frog for this arrangement.

Carnation centerpiece

Ceramic Frogs

Vintage ceramic frogs are very decorative in their own right, and some are made by well-known pottery studios such as Weller Pottery.

While on a road trip recently, we stopped at an antique store.  When I saw this frog, I suddenly heard the words “I need this for my frog collection” tumble out of my mouth.

Vintage flower frog
Ceramic pottery frog, circa 1940

The proprietor looked amused that anyone would have a frog collection.

DIY Temporary Frogs

These are not vintage frogs.  In fact they aren’t really frogs at all.  But I just thought I would share a couple of work-arounds that I use when I don’t have the right frog for the job.

For instance, getting back to those mason jar frog lids, what if you don’t have one, or what if you want use something other than a mason jar?  Say you have a pretty glass vase and you don’t want the frog to show through.  No problem – just create a tape grid on top of the vase as I did for these two arrangements.

roses    Hydrangeas in large urn

The how-to can be found in my post on arranging hydrangeas.  You could do the job right and use waterproof clear floral tape, but I find it works for me to just use regular clear tape.

Erika likes to use florist Oasis in her arrangements, and last fall she used it when creating the centerpiece for her fall dinner party.

fall party table setting

Other Uses for Flower Frogs

When not holding a floral arrangement together, these little superheros can serve many purposes.  Glass frogs make great paperweights.  Ceramic, glass, and cage frogs can hold pencils, pens, makeup brushes, small tools, small paintbrushes and other art supplies. Spike frogs can double as stands for business cards, post cards, and place cards at formal dinners.

uses for frogs

Your Grade

If you’ve read this far, then you’ve earned an A in Flower Frogs 101.  Want an A+?  Leave a comment with your own creative use for flower frogs.


Vintage flower frogs are collectible but a savvy shopper can still find them at bargain prices.  I love these unique frogs on Etsy.

Brush McCoy Frog Frog Cage and Spikes set Depression Glass Frog Green flowr frog Hair Pin Style Metal Frog Industrial metal frog

Brush McCoy Frog Frog | Mini Spike and Cage Duo | Depression Glass Frog | Green Flower Frog | Hairpin Style Metal Frog | Industrial Metal Frog

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My Edwardian Shamrocks

Since this is the time of year when we are all thinking about green beer and leprechauns, I thought I would share my century-old Irish-German-American shamrocks.

This delicate Irish-inspired china set came from my mother-in-law, Betty, who had a keen eye for special pieces.

antique china

How is it Irish-German-American?

Most of the pieces have a single gold stamp on the bottom that show that they are Pickard, an American maker of fine china.  The mark was used between 1912 (the year the Titanic sank) and 1918.

antique china

So what we have here is an Irish-inspired American china set, right?

Except that the larger plates have two marks.

antique china

This particular Thomas Bavaria mark was used from 1908 until 1939.

And with a little more research, I learned that this pattern was retired in 1915.   And then I knew I had a century-old Irish-German-American china set.

But Two Marks? What is Going On Here?

The Pickard china company (founded in 1893 and still in business today) at one time imported china from Europe and Japan.  One of their suppliers was Thomas.

Pickard then hand-painted and gold-gilded the china in their Chicago location.  They employed notable artists and did many art pieces as well as china sets.  Their work was imaginative, beautiful, and detailed.  Small variations in the hand work set it apart from machine work.

You can see here with the salt and pepper shakers that the height of the gold band varies, something that was probably not planned.

antique china salt and pepper

The cups and saucers have so much character and beautiful color.

antique china cup and saucer

By the time these pieces were made, the Thomas china company in Bavaria was an independent subsidiary of Rosenthal.  Thomas had only been in operation for a few years before their beautiful work caught Rosenthal’s attention.  Different incarnations of the Thomas mark endured until at least 1977.

But during the world wars, Pickard could not import their china.  They moved their operations to Antioch so that they could begin to manufacture their own pieces.  They have a long history of supplying china to the U.S. government as well as foreign dignitaries.

More Shamrocks

My set (really a partial set) comes with some fun pieces.  I love the heart-shaped handle on the sugar bowl lid.

cream and sugar - Pickard

I have one little egg cup.  So cute!

egg cup Pickard

And an interesting little footed bowl.

footed bowl Pickard

Since there are no dinner plates, my set could be a dessert or tea set.

place setting pickard

But that doesn’t explain what appears to be a gravy bowl among the serving pieces.

Serving pieces - Pickard shamrocks
Serving pieces and cup saucer.

I do use these pieces on special occasions, but as you can imagine I handle them very carefully.

antique china


This is all from Betty’s collection, but I am playing with the idea of adding to this set.  While not a dime a dozen, I can still find some pieces on the internet.

It was interesting to learn the history behind this set.  These old things we have in our homes often have a hidden history waiting to be discovered.  What do you have in your china cabinet?


Here are some other stunning examples of Pickard china from Etsy.

Pickard gold platepickard gold rimmed flowerspickard noritakepickard woman artistpickard tulip platepickard shamrocks

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