Thursday, April 26, 2012

Sparkle and Shine

Vintage pieces of jewelry that belonged to my grandmother, mother and aunts are little glittering treasures I style in fresh ways to complement what I’m wearing. I attach clip earrings to a ribbon choker as ornaments on a necklace. I wear sparkly pins as pendants. I wear several pieces at the same time, combining pearl chokers with longer necklaces. Altered and restyled, they have a second chance to shimmer and shine.

Sometimes I feel a little like a stone in God’s jewel box. A gem that needs the rough edges polished in order to sparkle. Hammered like silver to better reflect his character. Attributes I’d like to mirror. I’d like to learn to relinquish my desire to be right to honor someone else’s feelings. I’d like to find it easier to forgive for unintended slights that sting my feelings. I’d like to shrink my doubtful, skeptical outlook and broaden my viewpoint that God has plans to work all things for good in my life, just as he’s promised.

Life’s circumstances have a way of chiseling away those old inclinations. Like when I learned to wait. Not to maneuver a situation with my own agenda to get what I wanted. I gave up my timetable. My plan didn’t materialize. But the waiting was priceless. Because while I waited, God met me in a fresh way. His undeniable presence stirred my soul. I realized that knowing him from the fringes wasn’t enough. I wanted him to remake my character and sand down the imperfections. It's hard. But transforming.

Instead of staying stored away in a drawer as outdated relics from another decade, my vintage jewelry emerges. The pieces still have a purpose. They can still put the finishing touches on an outfit. With my refashioning efforts, despite a little chip or scratch or a rhinestone missing, they’re just as pretty. Restyled jewelry for a life reworked. A new approach. New ways to shine. A work in progress. But still dazzling.

"You make beautiful things; You make beautiful things out of dust. You make beautiful things; You make beautiful things out of us." -- Gungor's "Beautiful Things"

Thursday, April 19, 2012

In Rare Form

The first time I saw a vintage dress form displayed as a decorating feature in a magazine spread, I knew I wanted one. I started noticing that dress forms could be used to display jewelry, clothes or accessories. I thought they looked French and fabulous. The more worn and tattered, the better. I had visions of turning a corner of my living room into a fashion house with my dress form wearing haute couture and my 1930s and 40s fashion ads from womens' magazines hanging on the wall behind it.

Although I occasionally saw dress forms in antique shops, I never found just what I had in mind, with the right vintage look or at just the right price. I never lost hope, though, that someday I might find the perfect one. 

Several years after I was first smitten by dress forms, my mother called me, very excited. “You’ll never guess what I found for you,” she said.

As my mother drove through her neighborhood on her way home one night, she spotted a dress form out on the curb for trash pick-up. She screeched to a halt and knocked on the door to ask if she could have it. Her neighbor said it had been his daughter’s but she no longer wanted it. He told my mother to take it. My mother then had to roll the dress form down the street on its metal base since she couldn’t fit it in her car. (I can only imagine what that scene looked like.)

I couldn’t wait to see the rescued dress form, and when I did, it was love at first sight. I had no idea how old it might be but it looked very stylish and vintage to me. On a black metal base with wheels, the mannequin was covered in tan fabric and was adjustable. The clasps that moved the form from size to size were rusty and after one try at adjusting them, I thought I’d better leave her as-is.

My grandmother's pearl choker and
peach flower pin adorn my dress form.
Yes, her. She seemed to take on some sort of a persona after I wheeled her into my living room and twisted a string of pearls around her neck. When I wrapped a red bolero jacket around her shoulders, she seemed to stand a little prouder, glad to be back in service again, modeling beautiful garments like she did in a former life. She’s now the perfect display for my grandmother’s jewelry, vintage clothing and chic accessories.

I guess the old expression that one girl’s trash is another girl’s treasure holds true to form.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

My Grandmother's Pink Cake Plate

The pink cake plate (center).
I am the proud owner of my grandmother’s cake plate. It’s made of pink Depression glass with a flower pattern, probably from the Jeannette Glass Company. 

Many of my grandmother’s relatives worked for the company, located outside of Pittsburgh, in the 1930s and 40s and often gave her pieces of the glassware. My mother remembers seeing the plate in their china cabinet for as long as she can remember.

For Easter, I made my grandmother’s specialty that she made for so many holidays and birthdays -- lemon cake with cream cheese frosting. 

My grandmother made delicious desserts. Pies of every flavor, sometimes from apples and berries picked from the trees and brambles in her backyard. Pumpkin cookies, light as pillows, full of sweet deliciousness. Nutrolls bursting with a sweet mixture of honey and walnuts from a recipe from her Czech heritage.

My grandmother Evelyn in the 1920s.
But cakes with cream cheese frosting were her specialty. Her recipe always blended cream cheese, sour cream and a few spoonfuls of marshmallow cream for the perfect balance of sweet and tart. 

No overly sweet buttercream frosting for my birthday cakes, growing up. I loved the zesty, creamy icing. She even made a chocolate version of it. 

The cakes always arrived for my birthday perched on the pink cake plate, which my grandmother cradled on her lap on the drive over to our house.

My mother gave the plate to me since I inherited my grandmother’s love of baking. 

It has a special place of honor, perched on top of my white cabinet filled with vintage dishes and glasses. Except for the special occasions when it is called into service. 

To carry on the tradition. To hold yet another cake with creamy frosting. To let the next generation discover the joy of lemon cake with cream cheese frosting. 

My niece and nephew -- her great-grandchildren who she never met, can’t wait for the cake to be cut and sneak a lick of frosting from the pink cake plate.

Somehow I feel sure my grandmother knows. And smiles.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Gifts from a French Flea Market

My friend Deb recently traveled overseas and brought me gifts from a French flea market. She knows how I love all things chipped, vintage and French, so I was thrilled to receive a pink enamel bowl and three petite volumes by Alexander Dumas, the nineteenth-century novelist. The book covers are detailed with decorative scrolling and the paper-thin pages are written in French. These sweet French objects add charm to my home, but a friend remembering me on her vacation and thoughtfully choosing gifts just for me means so much more.

In an era of prolific Facebook friends and superficial, casual aquaintances, sometimes the rare gift of true friendship is taken for granted. During a recent emotionally unsettling season, my friends graciously listened and offered invaluable advice, cheered and commiserated, encouraged and prayed for me. I was overwhelmed by the generous gifts of their time, wisdom and support.

I want to be a better friend. I want to listen more and talk less. I want to write a note to tell them why I appreciate them being in my life. I want to ask if I can pray for them. I want to write the requests in my prayer journal to be sure I follow through.

I am grateful for the one-of-a-kind perspectives each of my friends contributes to my life. A new way to tackle a challenge I hadn’t thought of. Advice about favorite lipstick shades. A kind critique of a piece I’ve written. An expert view of the world of figure skating. An amusing analysis about my latest fix-up date. All of these women share themselves with me in friendships I treasure. This is one of life’s cherished gifts. Maybe I should let them know that more often.