The Magpie’s Jewel Box

Welcome again to Magpie TV, the unique low tech television show which challenges YOU to use your imagination! In Episodes One and Two, and also Three we detailed the Magpie’s journey to find and renovate a little treehouse of her own. Today’s show is the Magpie TV version of the typical last day of HGTV renovation shows, in which we see a fast forward ( in our case, imaginary) video of a renovated space being furnished.

For those who are new to  the show: You’ve followed the HGTV shows which depict  a hapless individual or couple completely renovating their home or yard over the weekend. It’s easy, right?  Two skinny celebrity do- it- your- selfers come over and show you how to operate heavy machinery on a Friday afternoon. You get four or five friends, and together you rip out those passé  walls and smelly hi-lo carpet, laughing and laughing at the sheer hilarity of tearing up your house.  That’s Friday night. On Saturday you rebuild the walls, install the new kitchen cabinets, and paint. Some of you work inside while others outside make new furniture and decor by gluing sequins to  pieces of board found by the roadside.  Or maybe they reupholster or even spray paint the fabric from a thrift store chair which will eventually be placed in front of the fire place. And finally, on Sunday, all the  magically chosen new furnishings are moved in, curtains and pictures are hung, candles are lit, and everyone lives happily ever after.

But of course it’s not that easy.  Magpie found out it takes a LOT LONGER than a weekend!  In today’s episode we hear it straight from the Magpie herself. ( The show has a fairly low budget.)

Part One:  As far as furnishing the condo went, for many months I had only vague ideas of a midcentury modern space, which included an attractive credenza housing a hi fi, a snazzy bar holding all the cocktail accoutrements I did not yet own, and a teak hutch from which I could serve my guests. As far as upholstered goods went, I came to the conclusion that although I would have loved to furnish the place with all vintage furnishings, I didn’t really want to sit on fifty year old upholstered items. I would therefore look for vintage case goods but buy a new couch and chairs.

It was too soon to buy furniture, but I felt as though I MUST start finding things for the condo. The solution? Art from silent auctions. I readily confess that silent auctions bring out the most desperate acquisitive parts of me. I never leave an auction without something. That is because I bid on 500 things. I will leave my silent auction behaviors for another post but suffice it to say I have left auctions with items  ranging from the doors of railroad cars to hand knit scarves. Since I could not yet hang my selections, for many sad months they languished in a closet. One silent auction find was a painting so shiny I had to have it. Look at the upper left of there photo below:

I bought a painting that reminded me of this Sputnik from outside Joe's Liquors in midtown Memphis. As HGTV would say, it was my "Inspiration" Source:joeswines.blogspot.com

I bought a painting that reminded me of this Sputnik from outside Joe’s Liquors in midtown Memphis. As HGTV would say, it was my “Inspiration”
Source:joeswines.blogspot.com

Also we had this former swag lamp turned into a dining room chandelier.IMG_1908And suddenly it was time to find things.  My ideal method of furnishing the condo would have been to stop in at consignment places and estate sales, waiting until I found just the right thing. But that method wouldn’t work for two reasons. Number One: I didn’t feel I had the luxury to shop slowly over time. I had a mighty powerful hankering to see the place finished. Second: Folks, I don’t like to shop, in part because I don’t like to drive the car around. I did make a stab at shopping locally for furniture when my sister was here, when  we hit a consignment place and found these two tables.

Table Number One. And on the right a partial view of the “Sputnik” painting.

IMG_2060But after that I went straight to…Ebay! I have to laugh because prior to this I had never bought one single thing from Ebay. Instead of starting small, with a dish towel or kitchen implements perhaps, I started with a dining room table!  So you can Imagine my surprise when, as a complete newbie,  my bid was accepted. And now  imagine my further surprise when I realized my bid was only for the TABLE, not the chairs! Oops!

But the table… I loved it! Look what it does!

Its smaller diameter.

Its smaller diameter.

But it expands! This baby is from the50s, but it was in its original box. Never used!

But it expands! This baby is from the50s, but it was in its original box. Never used!

So after purchasing a table I got busy looking for chairs. I could have spent more money, but after the table incident…. I thought these would work, and they did.

These do have signs of wear. Well, so do I.

These do have signs of wear. Well, so do I.

And while I was at it, I found some nesting tables that could be used in lieu of a coffee table.

These hail from Denmark.

These hail from Denmark.

I now had a bed, a table, chairs and two side tables and nesting tables.  The next step was to find the living room furniture. What did I actually have room for in this Magpie’s nest?  Not very much,  as it turned out. After lots of measuring I  got together with Jane the Designer and chose a couch, a chair and an ottoman. At the same time I chose fabric for a curtains and sheers at the sliding glass patio doors. I particularly wanted that big glass door to be covered by the time winter winds came through.

COMMERCIAL BREAK: Hum a peppy “Susie Homemaker” type tune to yourself. Read out loud to yourself: Looking for ways to go greener during the next holiday season? Mindful Magpie has a free tip for you.

I'll et they've never seen a present like this!

I’ll bet they’ve never seen a present like this!

Out of bows and ribbons? Or too lazy to walk all the way up the stairs and find them? Do what the Magpie does and decorate your packages with STUFF YOU ALREADY HAVE!!! Look how nice that coaster looks with the wrapping paper.  It almost keeps you from noticing the bunchy wrapping job. You’d be surprised what items can be used: Mardi Gras beads, small statues, even a nice ripe bell pepper would be festive. Next year get out of the wrapping rut and see what you can come up with.

Part Two: We placed our furniture and drapery orders and waited eagerly for delivery. Weeks and weeks went by. Since I could not speed up the delivery of these items I returned to Ebay for more instant gratification  mid-century modern pieces. We had only two possible spots in the living room for a bar. The space limitation meant we could only use a very shallow piece. Eventually I found this:

And there's another glimpse of the Sputnik painting as well.

And there’s another glimpse of the Sputnik painting as well.

The wire to the little lamp inside had been cut, but it was configured to use in England anyway. Replacing the light is on our to- do list. Now we were getting closer to being able to have those Manhattans! After purchasing the bar my budget was a bit maxed out. Until the furniture came in I really couldn’t make any more decor choices anyway.

Finally, some time in the fall, the drapes and sheers came in. My husband thought we did not need to pay someone to hang these, that he and my taller son could handle it themselves. He and the son did eventually get them hung, but it was a lot of trouble, so much so that when the curtains proved to be a little longer than I expected I chose to leave them as they were rather than take them down for hemming. Ready to see the drapes?

Drapes, a definite improvement over the vertical slat blinds.

Drapes, a definite improvement over the vertical slat blinds.

Drapes and sheers.

Drapes and sheers.

Light coming in through the sheers. Have you ever seen such cuteness?

Light coming in through the sheers. Have you ever seen such cuteness?

I was so pleased with the  drapes. But when would the furniture come in so I could sit and read in that room? Find out when we come back!

COMMERCIAL BREAK: Cue some music with building tension. Newscaster’s voice: We interrupt this commercial for a Handknit Sock Alert. The mate to this sock has been reported missing at the home of local citizen Mindful Magpie.

Will this sock become a permanent singleton?

Will this sock become a permanent singleton?

Some say it is unfair for her to use her own show to broadcast information which may only pertain to her. But Ms. Magpie is convinced of the existence of a global sock abduction conspiracy. No doubt some of you are as well. We at Magpie TV want to give this issue all the attention it needs. If you have seen this sock, please return it. No questions asked. More updates as the story…unravels?

Part Three: Fall 2013. Thanksgiving approached and the furniture had still not arrived. Since we had ordered it in the summer, we were beginning to doubt we were ever going to get it. The manufacturer kept assuring Jane the Designer it would be delivered but then… it wouldn’t be.  How did I manage my impatience, you ask? It wasn’t easy! Sometimes, audience, it seemed the only thing that kept me going was to  remind myself that ONE DAY I  was going to be able to write a blog post showing this whole process. ONE DAY!!!! became my mantra!!!

We decided that if we did not have a true delivery date by Thanksgiving we would simply scrap our plans, go to Macy’s with our tails between our legs, and make the best selection from what they had on the sales floor. Luckily at just the last minute, the company did load our things on the truck and deliver. I had forgotten what I had ordered, it had been so long, but when I saw it I was so grateful I had not had to scrap the all my carefully made plans.   ( Furniture will be shown momentarily.)

Now at long last we could do the part that looked so easy and fast on television: hang the pictures, ( as though that could ever be fast with a male involved) roll out the rug, turn on the lamps and set out the accessories!!!!!!! Drum roll, please!!!!! Close your eyes, and OPEN!!!

Come in the front door!

Come in the front door!

The living room

The living room

The comfy chair and ottoman.

The comfy chair and ottoman.The picture on the wall is a by young local artist, Joey Evangelisti , who also happens to be autistic.

A few accessories...

A few accessories…

DSC_0919

The photo on the wall is from a collection of vintage downtown Memphis scenes.

So here we are. We’re not completely finished with the condo, but what is undeniable is that what started as a treehouse has turned into a Magpie’s Jewel Box. Shininess Abounds!  True, I haven’t solved the hi fi problem, but I’m working on it. Some walls still need pictures. We haven’t done much to spruce up the balcony. But each time I unlock that front door and walk in, I feel as though the condo is welcoming me to sit down, prop up my feet and relax. After eighteen months of condo work, I’m more than ready to do that! Manhattan, anyone?

The first Manhattans!

The first Manhattans!

Closing Credits: A few before and after shots. Sing the song of your choice.

Magpie with her first condo visitors: Jane the Designer and her Ubiquitous Mother, AKA Mimi.

Magpie with her first condo visitors: Jane the Designer and her Ubiquitous Mother, AKA Mimi.

Memphis Sesquicentennial glasses, an early find for the bar.

Memphis Sesquicentennial glasses, an early find for the bar.

In the kitchen.

In the kitchen.

A Word From the Magpie TV Staff: Thanks to all who have faithfully tuned in to a show with no staff, no budget, no audio and no video. We’ve tried to give  a realistic but hopefully not too tedious picture of the making of the Magpie’s Jewel Box. If you have questions or  comments we want to hear them, please!  After all, this is our  first television series; we depend upon your feedback!

Magpie TV – Hurry Up And Wait!

And the beat goes on here at Magpie TV. We know House Of Cards comes out today, OK? WE KNOW. But you DO have time to watch this teeny tiny show before you start streaming. Think of it as a warmup for a second season of shenanigans from Frank Underwood.  Remodeling is not without political intrigue, you know. Now, cue some mysterious music and let’s get on with:

Magpie TV Episode Three

Part One: Magpie and her husband found themselves in a bit of a predicament. They couldn’t put in furniture until they replaced the floor, but they didn’t want to replace the floor until they painted the walls. No work could proceed until Magpie gave Bubba the paint details. But Magpie would not be able to provide paint details until she inveigled the services of Jane the Designer. For you see, Magpie and her husband had a pitiful record in the paint picking out department. Again and again they had had picked out their own paint and been horrified that the sweet pink for their daughter’s room looked like pepto  bismol, the restful pale green like a shade of monkey excreta, and the red a shimmering pulsating shade suitable for scenery paint in The Telltale Heart. Nope, they had learned NEVER to pick paint, no matter how impatient they were to complete a project.

IMG_1796

We turned the paint samples into large popsicles. This is as close as the Magpie has come to painting wild murals on the wall.

Eventually Magpie did persuade Jane  the Designer, who had plenty of other things to do, that she should, on a weekend, not only pick paint samples but take them down to the condo and try them out. From Jane’s suggestions they quickly chose the colors for the whole condo. Now they had the paint picked; how much longer would they have to wait before the little hideaway could be used?

Commercial

A sad road accident. I do hope the driver was wearing his seat belt!

A sad road accident. I do hope the driver was wearing his seat belt!

Part Two: Mr. and Mrs. Magpie felt the project was taking on momentum as Bubba painted, replaced the bedroom window, and the molding in every room.

New baseboards

New baseboards

In addition he built a cornice for the sliding glass door where they hoped eventually to hang curtains. By now it was Spring 2013, but still they could not use the condo. Suddenly, just when they thought they were ready to choose the new floor, Mr. Magpie suggested that it would make more sense to go ahead and do the kitchen next. It need not be stated that  Magpie knew this was the most sensible path, but since they had already spent more money than they had anticipated,the Magpie had chosen to allow Mr. Magpie to reach this decision on his own. When Bubba the Contractor readily agreed that it made MUCH more sense to do the kitchen next the couple set aside their impatience to use the condo, and went ahead with kitchen remodeling first.

DSC_0009

Remember this?

At least they already had their granite, so the Magpie was not starting from scratch. Magpie set about choosing tile and accessories to develop the urban look she hoped to achieve in the kitchen. Meanwhile Bubba got to tearing out that 1980s kitchen.

Bye bye old appliances!

Bye bye old appliances!

IMG_0488A voice in the back of Magpie’s mind kept asking, “What will we put in this empty condo? When do we get to pick out shiny baubles? shiny baubles? SHINY BAUBLES? ( The voice enjoyed repeating itself )  But she just couldn’t make those decisions yet. They waited patiently as well as impatiently for the tile to come in and to be installed. They opted for the plain stainless sink though Magpie preferred porcelain, to save costs. Magpie had her usual difficult time choosing lighting, because she really didn’t want halogen. By the time she pored through 8000 pictures of light fixtures, however, she neither knew nor cared what she was choosing. Whatever. The new tile, cabinets and appliances went in without a hitch.

Backsplash Tile

Backsplash Tile

Sophisticated Plans

Sophisticated Plans

The Magpie was pleased with her idea to tile one of the kitchen walls in brick.

The Magpie was pleased with her idea to tile one of the kitchen walls in brick.

And the cabinets are in!

And the cabinets are in!

Eventually it was time to lay  the floor. Back when Magpie had chosen the paint she had also chosen an engineered hardwood floor from the floor contractor recommended by Bubba. But by the time they were actually ready to install the floor Magpie had changed her mind, necessitating another drive to an obscure Mississippi warehouse for samples, and an excruciating delay while said samples were compared at the condo. At length one was chosen. The flooring was the last obstacle before the Magpie could get to  the wished for stage of furnishing the condo. But would this last project go as planned?

Floor Samples

Floor Samples

Commercial:

This show is partly sponsored by a sock monkey on a fence.

This show is partly sponsored by a sock monkey on a fence.

Part Three. Sadly, the floor installation did NOT go well, ruining the perfect workmen track record the project had thus far enjoyed. When Magpie and her husband tripped delightedly into the condo to inspect the new floor, it was  gorgeous,  but flawed.

The Beautiful and The Damned.

The Beautiful and The Damned.

There were definite scratches on the wood and NO ONE HAD EVEN USED IT YET. In addition, some pieces were damaged in places.

No floor comes this way!

No floor comes this way!

I don't think so!

I don’t think so!

So yet again there was another frustrating delay waiting for the floor contractor to make good his work, a task he seemed disinclined to do. First he said the couple  had to file a claim with the floor manufacturer.  He promised to get them the form to do so, but never did. Then he said the  floor was  just a very soft floor and inclined to scratch. What???! They  didn’t even have any furniture on it yet. They  were not happy. Nor was Bubba the Contractor who had told Mr. Floor Man specifically to make his workmen lay down butcher paper on the floor, not to walk on it directly until Bubba inspected it. Mr. Floor Man neglected to give his men that directive. So Mr. Floor Man was responsible, right? No, he still insisted the manufacturer was at fault and that he would have to contact the rep, a task which he also appeared disinclined to do. Time went by. The couple  did not pay the balance on the floor, pending action from the floor man.

After several weeks of runaround Mr. and Mrs. Magpie  decided to go ahead and deliver a bed to the condo, and let the chips fall where the may regarding the floor. They  had decided to replace our current bedroom furniture and to take what they  had been using to the condo. Finally the bed was delivered to the condo. Magpie and her husband spent some sweaty hours trying to put the thing together, but at last they completed the task.

At last! A bed!

At last! A bed!

The finished kitchen!!!!! Raise your hand if you love it!!!

The finished kitchen!!!!! Raise your hand if you love it!!!

On May 31, 2013, almost one year after purchasing the condo, Mr. and Mrs. Magpie were able to use the condo. Now they could spend the night there, but what about the other furnishings? You’ll have to wait, because Magpie TV is signing off now to catch House of Cards, but don’t worry. Magpie TV is also made for binge watching. We won’t make you wait too long!

Magpie TV Episode Two: A Bathroom Is Born

Welcome back to Magpie TV!  We’re NOT going to recap the last show because that is an insult to your intelligence. So here is:

Episode Two: A Bathroom Is Born!

Part One: The Magpie was so thrilled to have the condo that she initially planned few creature comforts. When she pictured herself in the condo in fact she didn’t think that much about furnishings. Instead she pictured the condo as an empty vessel, the Magpie’s willing muse, waiting  to be adorned with whatever Magpie chose. In particular the Magpie planned to fill the echoing rooms with pulsing rock, lonely ballads,sophisticated jazz, or whatever moved her heart that day as, oblivious to the world around her, she covered the bare walls with expressive colorful murals. She would heed the long suppressed urge to build layer after layer of color, to make the marks her heart demanded. But first, she needed a bathroom.

A creativity killer.

A creativity killer.

For as it has been written, what artist can use a yellow commode with a splintered wooden toilet seat? No doubt some have had to use such facilities but the sheer ugliness of the bathroom, with its tired linoleum, speckled formica countertop and depressing 80s vanity light caused a visceral reaction of disgust in the Magpie. When her husband suggested they gut the whole thing, she was willing to wait a month or so to have something less offensive installed. Since neither of them had ever gutted a bathroom, they needed the services of Bubba the Contractor.

Commercial Break

Cut! Cut! This is a family friendly show! Heads will roll, I guarantee it!

Cut! Cut! This is a family friendly show! Heads will roll, I guarantee it!

Part Two: Magpie knew of Bubba from a friend who had used his services. Bubba, dressed in his freshly ironed work pants, met with the couple and agreed to take on the job. Magpie and her husband never made a better decision than hiring Bubba, whose honesty and work ethic were an even match to those of Mr. Magpie, who found himself able to let go of the idea that he should paint all the ceilings himself. Bubba soon got to work tearing out the iron tub and tile surround.

Bubba later had to go to acupuncture on his shoulder after his efforts in gutting the bathroom.

Bubba later had to go to acupuncture on his shoulder after his efforts in gutting the bathroom.

Because of the dust and mayhem in the apartment, condo life became more of a  spectator sport for the couple. Each week they would stop by the condo to admire the work they had not had to perform themselves.

Bye bye bathtub!

Bye bye bathtub!

Magpie began the process of picking out replacement materials for the bathroom. Bubba recommended that Magpie go  on her day off to look for granite, cabinets and tile in places like Hernando or Southaven MS, and no, Magpie, a city girl,  did not know where those places were.  Unlike HGTV where a designer takes a client to a warehouse and shows them two examples of what won’t work and one example of what will, which the homeowner happens to love, Magpie was on her own. At the cabinetry place they didn’t know what midcentury modern meant. They just had these certain cabinets and Magpie was to choose one. She did the best she could.

The cabinet place had some run of the milll granite that could be chosen for the bathroom vanity but Magpie did not like any of them. So they sent her to another large warehouse in MS. This warehouse was full of shiny granite, tile, and plumbing fixtures. Magpie decided to purchase as much there as she could just to simplify things. That is how she chose a granite which was just as exquisitely beautiful as it was expensive. When she thought back she realized the salesperson had never mentioned the price to her. Should she  choose another, less expensive granite, saving money but delaying the project? The cabinets could not be made until the granite was chosen. The tile would not be laid until the cabinets were installed, and so on. Stay tuned for her decision!

Commercial Break

I would suggest you  hum something Sinatra like here. This photo is of Cafe Fontana, a wonderful restaurant in my neighborhood. I'm proud to have them on my show.

I would suggest you hum something Sinatra like here. This photo is of Cafe Fontana, a wonderful restaurant in my neighborhood. I’m proud to have them on my show.

Part Three:  ( Upbeat music) They kept the original granite!!!! Bubba the Contractor, knowing the couple had not meant to spend that much on granite, had the cabinet company agree to keep the rest of the slab to be used for their small kitchen countertop. Finally  after, unbelievably, a dispute between the couple over what kind of TOILET to choose, all materials were chosen and ordered.

Magpie and her husband realized that they had learned a lot doing this project. Having bought the condo in August,  they had expected to be able to use it by the fall. Now as the months rolled by they laughed at their folly.  And then there was the whole communication thing. She and her husband held many meaningful conversations along the lines of:

Magpie: Bubba called  today. He said something about.. a  hot water heater squirmaloid.  I think he had to turn it around. Or backwards.

Husband:  ( Excitedly)  What do you mean! That thing runs on a 150 powered molly bolt engine! Did you remind him of the Euripidean pass that has to be drilled from under the cortical edge?”  (That’s how science stuff sounded  to Magpie.)

Magpie: (Indignantly, feeling unappreciated because she always had to deal with  tedious condo stuff on her days off) NO! I did NOT ask him. I can only tell you what he told me, that some part of some thing had to be done. Why don’t you call him yourself if you want to know!

So sometimes the husband did go straight to Bubba to discuss mechanical matters which simply did not appeal to Magpie. Magpie found ways to stay busy, for with Bubba’s superior capabilities she was rarely needed in her accustomed  supervisory role.

She went to Amsterdam.

She went to Amsterdam.

And while in town she attended a book signing

A very interesting book by the way!

A very interesting book by the way!

She attended estate sales and looked at other people’s collections.

Someone had to think about the eventual decor of the condo!

Someone had to think about the eventual decor of the condo!

Sometimes the hardest part of waiting for the condo to be ready was having to say to people who asked,”No, We’re not using the condo. They’re still working on the bathroom.”  Probably some wondered if the condo existed at all!

Commercial

This is a public service announcement for the Read In Public Campaign. Meaning, there should be one.

This is a public service announcement for the Read In Public Campaign. Meaning, there should be one.

Part Four   In December, the bathroom, minus paint and towel racks, was ready to use. It had not occurred as smoothly as such a thing appeared to on HGTV, but Magpie and her husband had lots of opportunities to practice patience and breathing, neither of which are shown much on other home remodeling shows!IMG_0320 IMG_1735 IMG_0333

Definitely worth waiting for!

Definitely worth waiting for!

Magpie was grateful for a bathroom even though she could not yet bear to walk barefoot in the rest of the space. Surely the bathroom was the hardest part though, and with Bubba’s help the rest of the work would fly. “I’m also grateful to my friend Jane the designer who helped me decide on tile and fixtures. I haven’t exactly told her yet but she’s going to help me with every other decision I have to make going forward. She doesn’t watch TV, so she won’t know I’ve said this.” Magpie, we sure hope you’re right about that!!! Be sure to stay tuned for the next episode when work moves beyond the bathroom! Of course we welcome your comments and suggestions!

Before

Before! Scroll back up for the after!

Magpie TV, Episode One: Wouldn’t It Be Nice If….

Today, in response to popular demand, we will play  an episode  from the archives of Magpie TV, a show I have actually just invented. This low tech  show allows us to  pretend we’re on HGTV doing cool home things, but without the annoying summaries they give before and after each commercial.  Why the rerun?   It seems  that quite a few readers have forgotten about my own little pied-à-terre nestled in the broad bosom of midtown Memphis. That’s not a criticism; I haven’t wanted to mention the condo much during renovation. I preferred to wait until I could show the whole process.

We’re in the final stages of completion now, so I don’t have to wait any longer. But first I wanted to refresh people’s memories. Inventing Magpie TV seemed the best way to remind folks of where we’ve been before I reveal where we are now. So, without further ado, Episode One of Magpie TV, The Shiny Show that Exists Only In My Mind! We’re glad to have you watching! I mean reading!

If you're trying to experiment with whether or not an old ice bucket will float, you definitely need a new project.

If you’re trying to experiment with whether or not an old ice bucket will float, you definitely need a new project.

Part One: Magpie used to talk to her husband quite a bit about a weekend getaway spot. She used to ponder this idea particularly when she realized that what they had spent on college tuition for their little brood could have been used to purchase a very nifty, if not palatial, second home. She saw herself in a wispy dress, on a  terrace on  the French Riviera, sipping drinks with long legged men in linen suits, drowsy from the sun and their seductive accents….Oh. but then  she realized she was already married and the Riviera money, for good or bad, was already spent.

This woman belongs  on the Riviera!

This woman belongs on the Riviera!

Well then, she thought. What about a weekend getaway  spot in the United Sates? The Magpie and her husband loved the mountains of North Carolina but decided the distance would be prohibitive, as they had recently paid two sets of wedding expenses instead of buying their own airplane in which they could have zipped anywhere at a moment’s notice.DSC_0346

The Magpie wasn’t daunted, however. She realized she did not need a large luxurious space in which to relax. What she needed was the equivalent of a tree house or clubhouse from her childhood, only with indoor plumbing. In fact, the thought of finding her own inexpensive getaway energized her. She imagined a tiny antique Airstream trailer in a silent wood, or miniature A frame at the top of a hill. Her husband listened but didn’t say too much. Most likely he thought it impossible to find what she pictured, but did not want to be the one to tell her so. She had a history of not liking such pronouncements.

Don't even TRY to tell this girl what she can't do!

Don’t even TRY to tell this girl what she can’t do!

One day while drinking her coffee and wasting  time on the internet, Magpie  saw a listing for a one bedroom condo in midtown, in walking distance to theaters, restaurants, and the soon to be revitalized Overton Square. When her husband came home from the gym she asked him, Honey, would you buy me a condo if it only cost XYZ?” “Certainly,” he replied.

The Mayfair Building.

The Mayfair Building.

Now picture the Magpie and her husband with a realtor,  viewing the condo she had found on the internet. The realtor showed them the 1960s era building and its amenities: the pool, the party room, the laundry, the covered parking. They felt at home in the small condo situated just beyond  the elevators. The owner had done some cosmetic work on the unit. Magpie and her husband could move right in and begin to enjoy city life on the weekends. Would they make an offer ?

Commercial Break. Look at this picture and hum to yourself.

Just a nice picture for the commercial break.

Just a nice picture for the commercial break.

Part Two: Yes! They decided to go ahead with an offer on the property. They were ready to close as soon as possible. But then, the realtor called with the unhappy news: the owner had removed his condo from the market.What?!!! Magpie and her husband were disappointed, and the realtor somewhat embarrassed. She offered to show them two other condos for sale in that same building.

One unit was larger than what they had originally looked at, but it  faced busy Union Avenue. It not only had its original 1960s bathroom fixtures, but sported celery green carpet and floor length peach draperies of the type Magpie’s mother in law used to think simply divine. After murmuring the usual HGTV remarks such as , “Nice space,” and “Good lighting,”, they went down a floor to the second unit. The second unit was identical to the uniit they had originally wanted.

The living room.

The living room.

The bathroom.

The bathroom.

The balcony

The balcony

This vacant unit boasted the most economical type of laminate flooring which buckled as they walked across the living room and bedroom. There were somehow two layers of molding and quarter round along the floor; one of the layers was crown molding applied upside down. Magpie thought it looked rather as if she had done the carpentry herself. Though the unit needed cosmetic work, the dated bathroom was in working order, as were the 1980s kitchen appliances. Which unit would they choose? The larger, the more grandmotherly unit facing the busy street, or the smaller, but more private unit at the back?

Commercial break. Look at this picture and stew in suspense, wondering what this unknown couple, whom you now feel so warmly toward, will decide.

Oops. This is NOT the couple. I guess Magpie TV still has a few kinks to work out.

Oops. This is NOT the couple. I guess Magpie TV still has a few kinks to work out.

Part  Three: AND They chose the second unit!!!! ( Imagine upbeat music.)  “We’ll only have to replace the floor and molding and repaint,” said Magpie’s husband. “Also we’ll have to strip the garish kitchen paper and repaint. it should be pretty straightforward.” Magpie remarked,” I like this unit better than the one I first saw, because it is a floor higher, and cost less. Now I’ll be able to make my own choices in whatever cosmetic changes we decide to make.”

Magpie and her husband can drink a toast to their new adventure from these vintage Memphis glasses!

Magpie and her husband can drink a toast to their new adventure from these vintage Memphis glasses!

The show ends with Magpie and her husband toasting each other on the balcony. Please stay tuned for our next show  to see how Magpie and her husband updated the condo! And many thanks to our sponsors, previous posts Funny Thing and Squatters Limbo, for sharing your memories!

Silly Manager

It’s been really ugly around here. I haven’t wanted to include tales of woe and carnage in this blog, but I can compartmentalize no more. I must announce that this very day an attempted coup inside my brain has been  peaceably put down.  Silently and insidiously, possibly for months,  my left brain self, a nerdy middle manager with an extensive collection of pocket protectors, has been co opting the machinery of my right brain. Misled by injections of cortisol, my right brain leader, goddess, and protector of magpies routed untold amounts of energy bound for cooking, writing, sewing, drawing, and countless other creative  and enjoyable endeavors into an endless examination of minutiae.

It’s been awful! Here is how the maniacal manager took hold. About a year ago, my husband and I bought a small condo in a cool part of town. The object was to have a  simple pied a terre for when we wanted to go to the theater, eat out, or just get away. The price was oh, so right, so we bought it, and Voila! We had our little getaway spot. Well, not exactly. It needed a little cosmetic work. The cheap laminate floor was buckled; it would have to go. The walls needed painting, and the crown molding appeared to an upside down baseboard, a construction trick I would probably have tried myself. The kitchen wallpaper was hideous.

We may have just made the above simple changes if I hadn’t realized after closing that THE TOILET WAS YELLOW!!! So the toilet water would always look YELLOW!!!! I could not accept a color scheme with yellow water. And yes, before we knew it we were deciding to basically gut the entire condo. We required the excellent services of Bubba S., renowned contractor, who guided us patiently through months of destruction and construction. We were not able to put a bed in the unit until June 2013, ten months after we bought the condo. Progress was sometimes slow, but since we didn’t live in the unit, it was not as arduous for us as it could have been.

The condo is now transformed, and I promise to do some posts about it later, but for now we must focus on the rebellion. During the  long months of waiting to be able to use the condo, my left brain was busy fomenting dissatisfaction. Along my nerve synapses, it was sending messages such as , ” You’ll never be able to use that condo.” “We’ve been waiting for a year.” “We could have gone to the condo this weekend.”  (Yes we did sleep there some on a blowup mattress, but it’s so uncomfortable.) Thanks to all that left brain agitation, as soon as we were able to put a bed in the unit, I felt a great pressure to get the place furnished instantly. Instantly.

It sounds easy to just furnish a one bedroom apartment, right? Wrong! First, we decided to take our current queen sized bed to the condo and buy ourselves a new king sized bed for the house. So now my old bed is at the condo, and I don’t have one here yet. Because my bedroom here needed painting. So I had to pick paint. But I couldn’t pick paint until I picked out a duvet cover. “Just try harder,” the left brain urged as I scoured every single internet source for duvet covers. The situation again  made fertile ground for the opposition. I ‘ve slept upstairs in a guest room for a month, my clothes are all stuffed in hefty bags, and I only know the whereabouts of one pair of earrings, because they happened to be in my purse. Yes, my brain cells were becoming attuned to the directive voice suggesting I just needed to get organized around here, to make some choices,  to get something accomplished.

At the same time, I needed condo furniture. I wanted a midcentury modern look. In my imagination I could see a snazzy living room with a hi fi set, a vintage bar, a clean-lined buffet,  groovy accessories, and Don Draper sipping a martini in the corner.  But the reality is that that stuff can be hard to find. Many extremely  cool items are either quite expensive or only available for local delivery. I know this because I have also searched every single possible outlet for these items regardless of my need for sleep and moisture for my bloodshot eyes.  And I told  all this to my left brain but he made me keep looking. Finally I found a dining room table and chairs on Ebay.

151061656738_1281087241683_1 I had never bid on anything before, and I think dining room furniture is a pretty formidable first choice for a beginner. But again, my left brain informed  me it was an emergency. I persevered.

I woke up early one morning last week, and when I  closed my eyes to go back to sleep, all I could see was an Ebay page scrolling, scrolling, scrolling.  I had lost touch with the idea that nothing at all would happen if I disregarded the voice of the left brain. I wanted to take pictures of my flowers and make pesto, but robotically I continued to focus on decisions for the condo. I was unhappy and I knew it. But I couldn’t stop. What was going to become of me? Would I wake one morning devoid of all humanity, but an expert on item numbers, bids, costs and measurements?

Last night I had a dream that a former roommate of mine in college was giving a talk on how she was tired of being materialistic and what a dangerous practice it was.  I really think that was the moment when the right side began to feel some reinforcements from some unknown place within. I woke up this morning and knew I had been delivered from the jaws of  an endless future of “human doingness” instead of “human beingness.” That is what the left brain side wanted of me. But I will not comply.

Furnishing the condo was never something to be finished, just something to be enjoyed at my own pace. I will order a couch and chair for the living room , and my new king sized bed this week. And that will be all. Becoming so thing and object oriented is not who I am. I don’t need spectacular surroundings to feel relaxed and happy at the condo; I just need peace.

Right now the right brain  leader, goddess, and protector of magpies  is having a talk with the left brain manager, thanking him for all his hard work. He will surely be needed for duties in the future. ( She catches more flies with honey.)  The neurotransmitters he controlled are being quietly disconnected. He must be tired, she murmurs, as she motions to her minions to make him comfortable in some remote location of the brain. He IS tired, he realizes, as he listens to the hypnotic tones of her voice.  And it feels so good for him to rest right here. Silly manager, he thinks as he drifts off to sleep; a coup would never have worked in a place like this.

She Who Restores Me To Myself

Magpies, in their love of shininess, have an especial need to experience scintillating moments with glittery people. By glittery I do not mean shallow, brittle, self absorbed, or vain. I am talking about an honest  shine that comes from the inside all the way out, an  unconditional shine that radiates warmth over others, a brightly colored shine that pulsates with willingness to pursue novel endeavors. I am of course describing my sister Ellen.

I promised in my last post to write about our latest adventures. But first a little background. Last summer I wrote  a post about my sister in which I referred to her as L.G., or Little General. Ellen did not appreciate that appellation, so I have withdrawn that name from our lexicon. Last week, in a blaze of dervish like activity prior to boarding a plane, I referred to my sister as a hurricane, knowing that should she read the post I would be in big trouble, my kind intentions notwithstanding.

I am  now on record to say that Ellen gets things done, but she is NOT a general. She is a force of nature, but she is NOT a hurricane. What then, can I call her?  She is a person of great intellect, wit, and charm. Her droll humor and clever imagination cannot be matched. Her no nonsense work ethic and organizational skills are an inspiration to others.   Her zest for life is unparalleled, her enjoyment of it a sight to behold. Her authenticity is a beacon to my soul. AND she loves me!

I had not seen my sister since December 2012, when I spent one night with her en route to a friend’s cabin. Little did we know that six long months would pass before we could see one another again. Somehow, with our various travel and work schedules along with  family commitments, the weeks elapsed with no firm visiting plans.

We don’t talk on the phone much. We write letters by hand, on paper, to one another, and have for years. But this past semester many weeks separated our letters. I was beginning to feel like an American colonist awaiting word from the continent.  Had my letter been lost at sea, dashed on a rocky promontory after a shipwreck? Would I hear that she and her family had perished in a smallpox epidemic? Finally my impatience got the better of me. I left her the following cryptic voice mail,”The jig is up!”

That, ladies and gentlemen, got a response, and at last we were able to plan for her to come see me in my town. She flew in on a Friday night just as my husband was flying out on a business trip, making the timing just right for an All Girls’ Extravaganza. I picked up the  Hurric. picked her up at the airport and took her straight to my new midtown condo to spend the night.  She admired the condo, and we both exclaimed over the sweet note my husband had left for us.DSC_0744  Then she unpacked a few of her things.  As I watched her familiar movements and listened to her long accustomed  voice, I had this exact thought: I am restored to myself.

Our plan for the week was to have no plan. That way our plans couldn’t possibly go wrong. That evening, we wanted to eat dinner someplace where we could hear ourselves talk. I recommended a place where we chose a secluded table. No sooner had we sat down  than a large group of ladies, some under the influence of more than two martinis with more in the offing, began screaming raucously, in a way that truly rattles the eardrums.IMG_2071

What do you suppose Ellen did? She approached those ladies, put her arm around one, leaned in and had a little ole talk with them. And they lowered the volume! When we left the restaurant a waitress followed us out to thank her for helping with  the situation!!! How do you describe someone like this?

I told you she's a force of nature!

I told you she’s a force of nature!

The next day Ellen accompanied me to a Knit In Public Day at the zoo. She joined right in with these knitters, sharing knitting anecdotes from her own experiences.. And yes, she had brought her own knitting, self sufficient as always.  She patiently allowed me to show her off to these folks who may never see her again,with nary a complaint  about the heat or crowds. What would you call someone like that?DSC_0711

After knitting we stopped in a consignment store  to look for midcentury modern furniture pieces for my largely unfurnished condo. She said she did not know what midcentury modern was, but she found  me two tables, and rearranged my car so that they would both fit.IMG_2060 But that is not all! She went all the way back down to the condo with me and helped me schlep them up there in grocery carts! Impressive, right?

And wait! There's more! She moves furniture!

And wait! There’s more! She moves furniture!

On Sunday Ellen gamely accompanied me to the Book Club Brunch where she knew barely a soul.  I had actually not read the book to be discussed but by chance she had and was able to make salient comments while I nodded sagely. Though we were at a lovely function in a lovely home, Ellen murmured not  when I announced we must be moving on to the theater to see Death Trap. This allowed me to use my last two remaining season tickets and  also take advantage of the special that day for extending my subscription. All because of Ellen.

On Sunday night we dropped in to Tug’s at Mud Island to be waited upon by my son. While enjoying our meal there we proofread a paper my son was  writing for a summer school class. I am fairly sure we were the only two customers there discussing poetry. After dinner we took a leisurely stroll by the banks of the Mississippi River, remarking on the environs and how many pieces of driftwood resembled dinosaurs.DSC_0726 Thus ended another cultural evening.

After a discussion of poetry over dinner.

After a discussion of poetry over dinner.

DSC_0741Ellen did not flinch the next evening when it was time for Iyengar Yoga. Her graduate school schedule had  prevented her from going to her own class all winter, but she knew enough to know not to push herself. She has “subbed” in my class before, so many members were of course glad to see her. After yoga we spent some quality time outside on my pergola ( which her husband was instrumental in building)  before eating a lovely dinner of grilled vegetables and chicken. Prepared by Ellen.

Post yoga quality time.

Post yoga quality time.

Our chef having some well deserved relaxation.

Our chef having some well deserved relaxation.

Tuesday was my hair day but we made it Ellen’s hair day too. I told her I liked her hair better red than blonde highlighted, so she obligingly had it redone. I watched to see how the stylist blew it dry so I could show her later. We were too hungry to take pictures, so just believe me that we were two groovy red haired old ladies when we left that shop.

And Wednesday. By Wednesday I had to face a deadline – Mary Hannah’s portrait. For months I had been working on the portrait my niece  had asked me to paint. I had decided that I would have it finished as best I could by the time Ellen departed on Thursday so she could deliver it for me.  This meant that after helping me with some yardwork early in the day, Ellen would be stuck watching me paint.DSC_0751 Ellen had, however, bought some teeny tiny canvases, and tried her hand at them while I labored repeatedly  to get M. H.’s skin color to a reasonable tone. Or tint. Or something. Eventually, though her skin looked like combinations of calamine lotion and badly applied makeup, I could do no more. Ellen was suitably soothing and optimistic that the portrait would pass muster with her daughter.DSC_0758

One of Ellen's tiny canvases.

One of Ellen’s tiny canvases.

That night we again spent the night at the condo in order to be closer to the airport in the morning. We wanted to have a nice evening so I made us a reservation a place close by where I did not think there would be gaggles  of loud ladies. Ellen acquiesced when I suggested she change out of those crummy shorts, and together we walked in the blazing heat to the restaurant.  She changed into a skirt of mine that was too long, while  I was wearing a skirt I considered a little dowdy. As we walked I saw how easy it could be for the two of us to become peculiar old ladies together, going to the Early Bird Specials and matinees, careful to be home by dark.

It was a bittersweet evening. As I doodled on my side of the tablecloth, Ellen was compiling  a list of all we had done.

Now with red hair.

Now with red hair.

The list was long, but not nearly long enough. Oh, the things we would do if we had more time! Oh, how empty indeed would even the mundane events be without her! We decided once again that there was no help for it but to retire together in the same place, on the same property if possible. We’ll tell our husbands it’s the only way.IMG_2084

Ellen has gone home now. The portrait is delivered. I am trying to recalibrate myself after almost a week with this adorable creature who knows my thoughts, who finishes my sentences, who always finds something to celebrate. Now that you have read my post I must ask: what you would call my sister? How can she even be described? If you can think of anything – not L.G. or Hurricane of course- I’d be glad to know. For now, I’m just going to call her She Who Restores Me To Myself.DSC_0736

Winter Holiday Club

Who wants to join the Winter Holiday Club? Requirements: Wish fervently for snow so that we can all stay home. Go nuts when it does snow. And most importantly, sing the Winter Holiday  Theme Song. I’ll teach it to you now. It is sung to the the tune of the song “Happy Holidays”. The lyrics are “Winter holiday.” Just those two words. As soon as the first flakes fall, or as soon as the forecast seems bound to actually come true, members are to serenade other humans and pets with the lovely song. If no one is around to serenade, then the telephone may be used to share your joy. Dancing while singing is optional. After numerous stanzas, or when you are are told to please stop, go find your snow clothes and get outside!

Since so many of you will  be joining, I’ll go ahead with my Club Report. I, as founding member of the Club,  have gotten a head start on the snow season by spending the new year in Banner Elk, North Carolina. That is not cheating. Many of us do not live in a place where we can count on snow every year. We have to go places where we can be surrounded in winter loveliness.

My destination at Banner Elk was Boulder Falls Retreat, owned by our dear friends Beth and Jim. Their mountain oasis, which they rent out through VRBO when they are not using it, has everything one could want in a mountain hideaway: mountain views, privacy, comfy furnishings, toasty fireplace, hot tub, and a waterfall on the property. Who wouldn’t dream of being snowed in there, sipping a warm drink by the fire, and listening to the rushing mountain stream outside?

Boulder Falls Retreat. It's only a few years old.

Boulder Falls Retreat. It’s only a few years old.

As we drove to the cabin a few days after Christmas, I thought I might get my wish of being snowed in. About an hour out of Banner Elk we ran into snow, sleet, and hail. Yippee! Would it stick? We didn’t know, but when we left the cabin to eat dinner, the roads had become more treacherous. We decided not to venture further that night, and pulled off the road to eat at a place I will not recommend.

Jim is not a member of the  clergy, but it looks as though he is either praying that our car made it to the restaurant or that we would be able to eat the sub par food.

Jim is not a member of the clergy, but it looks as though he is either praying that our car would make it home from the the restaurant or that we would be able to eat the sub par food.

Back at the cabin, snow continued to swirl around us. I wanted to take pictures, but night pictures of snow are way beyond my skill level. Sadly, lots of the snow had blown away in the morning. But I was not to be deterred. Right after a heavenly breakfast of sour dough bread French toast on a bed of melted butter and warm maple syrup, ( Good food is a vital part of WINTER HOLIDAY)  I donned my “I only wear this stuff once a year” snow togs, grabbed my camera and got outside for WINTER HOLIDAY!!!!!

Rushing water outside the cabin.

Rushing water outside the cabin.

Don't worry. I'm the only one out here.

Don’t worry. I’m the only one out here.

Since I was apparently the only one celebrating WINTER HOLIDAY, I was on my own to explore the environs, and try different settings on the camera.  Being alone in the snow is a delightful solitude. And it was magical! The world was white, crisp, and clean. I could hear only my crunching boots and the icy water tumbling over the boulders. Overnight, the world had decorated itself just for me.

The waterfall behind the house.

The waterfall behind the house.

DSC_0351I continued a ways down the road before making my way back to the cabin and sliding down some boulders on their property to climb some railing onto one of the porches. From there I could take pictures of the view beyond the cabin.

There were no takers for the rocking chairs that day.

There were no takers for the rocking chairs that day.

Later that day, my hostess and I drove into Boone to try to stimulate the economy while the men visited the local family billiard hall. No alcohol, no cola, good burgers.We celebrated the evening with a hearty winter dinner of kale, sausage and pasta.

Downtown Boone, North Carolina

Downtown Boone, North Carolina

DSC_0381The next morning the four of us debated whether to go snowshoeing or to hike the trail at Linville Gorge Sate Park. Because our hosts had more company coming that afternoon we opted for hiking at Linville Falls. But first we had to bulk up with this mountain breakfast of crispy hash browns, eggs, crumbled bacon with toasted sour dough bread. Disclaimer: If you rent the Boulder Falls Retreat, the owners will not be there to cook; you’re on your own.

Was I in danger of becoming spoiled?

Was I in danger of becoming spoiled?

Without a doubt. Especially with the freshly ground Peet's coffee my husband made us each morning.

Without a doubt. Especially with the freshly ground Peet’s coffee my husband made us each morning.

Vigorous outdoor exercise is a vital part of WINTER HOLIDAY.  The idea is to challenge yourself physically and go inside and treat yourself to whatever goodies you want. Linville Gorge had just the kinds of hills and trails I needed to hike. And the views were spectacular.

The falls.

The falls.

Here I am with our hostess. I was trying not to look as though I were afraid I would fall off into the chasm below.

Here I am with our hostess. I was trying not to look as though I were afraid I would fall off into the chasm below.

These beautiful vistas were worth the climb over a sometimes slippery trail.

These beautiful vistas were worth the climb over a sometimes slippery trail.

This fungussy stuff reminds me of  hydrangea leaves.

This fungussy stuff reminds me of hydrangea leaves.

Shiny snow crystals.

Shiny snow crystals.

After many bracing ups and downs, and photo ops, the four of us were tired and chilled. And we ALL recalled an establishment we had passed on the road, advertising coffee and desserts. How convenient that we would be passing by there on our way back!

Winter Holiday Club members are always on the lookout for a place like this!

Winter Holiday Club members are always on the lookout for a place like this!

After our exertions, did Linville Mercantile ever hit the spot! The proprietors don’t need publicity from the likes of me; they’ve been featured in Rolling Stone and other publications. Apparently the area has  “Merlefest”, and the Rolling Stone writers dropped in then, and kept coming. And if you had walked in that place with a freezing nose and freezing hands and smelled that sour dough bread fresh out of the oven, you’d keep coming back too. DSC_0477

It can be hard to remain civilized when someone sets down a loaf of steaming hot fresh bread in front of you.

It can be hard to remain civilized when someone sets down a loaf of steaming hot fresh bread in front of you.

I think the owner said there were one dozen eggs in this cake.

I think the owner said there were one dozen eggs in this cake.

Oh, the steaming hot bread and butter! Oh, the apple butter! Oh, the pineapple upside down cake! Have mercy!I f I hadn’t had the option of getting up to take pictures I don’t know if I could have maintained decorum; I may have reached right cross the table and crammed an entire loaf of bread into my mouth.

Other customers also trying to act civilized.

Other customers also trying to act civilized.

More desserts for next time!

More desserts for next time!

I wish I could have lingered to shop.

I wish I could have lingered to shop.

Or set a spell on the porch.

Or set a spell on the porch.

We arrived back at the cabin in time to prepare for six New Year’s Eve  guests: two neighbors with their two houseguests for cocktails, plus two more houseguests for Beth and Jim, Allan and Janet. My husband and I didn’t know any of these people, but we joined right in, chatting about where to stay in Italy, weddings in Scotland, and life in the Czech Republic.  See what good fun the Winter Holiday Club members experience?

When the cocktail guests departed, we enjoyed a chicken and olive dish for dinner, with bourbon cake for dessert.DSC_0490DSC_0492 Grouped comfortably around the fireplace. the four of us welcomed the New Year with toasts of homemade limoncello. My only regret was that I was way too full to contemplate getting in the  hot tub. Maybe next year.

All too soon it was morning, and time for my husband and me to make the nine hour drive home, where no snow would await us. We had time for one more mountain breakfast at the Grandview. By the time we all ordered I could see we were going to have the whole works: corned beef hash, grits, biscuits, eggs, sausage – in short, everything people our age are not supposed to have.DSC_0493DSC_0494DSC_0495 But we did have good company while eating  it!

DSC_0497We took leave of friends old and new right there in the parking lot. I didn’t think to ask them if they want to join the Winter Holiday Club. But I think I will. How about you? I’d love to hear YOUR WINTER HOLIDAY reports! See you at the next meeting, but in the meantime, get started memorizing those theme song lyrics!