Sunday, August 28, 2011

New Uses for Vintage Wardrobes





'There's a forest inside your wardrobe.' I looked at my husband blankly when he made this statement about my 'new' vintage wardrobe that I had purchased earlier that day - my second wardrobe acquisition that I had grand plans for that involved the loan of his sander and a can of Dulux Antique White USA. ' If you step inside you better watch you don't walk into the lamp post and you might meet a lion in there too'. 'Oh very funny!' I replied as I caught onto his Narnia reference in relation to the size of the wardrobe. If only it had been as ornate as the wardrobe that featured in the movie! In the story and at the store there were fur coats hanging inside the wardrobe but my intentions for this piece of furniture did not involve hanging up garments! The older children declared my wardrobe 'a monstrosity' and I have to tell you I did share their opinion and was so keen to begin its transformation I forgot to take any 'before' shots!





With the fleur de lys embellishment glued back into place.
Also lots of display space on top for baskets and candle holders!


You will have to settle for the 'after shot' and my silly little camera has no flash wide angle lens so I can't even show you the full length and size of the wardrobe! It was too big for any wall in my family room so it had to find its place in the hallway - I have a long and wide hallway so it looked in proportion. It's not too far to visit when I need supplies - for my wardrobe is my.....



Craft cupboard!

It has 3 deep shelves which are a perfect fit for the clear plastic boxes that hold all my craft supplies. There is room for paints, fabric, scissors, tins of thread and jars of buttons.




It has the pull out drawers typical of these old wardrobes which were ideal for storing spools of ribbon. Two of the drawers are dedicated for storage of paper and card. I decided not to paint the interior and gave the front of the drawers a fabric and trim makeover to cover up the dark stain - the only evidence of its former life as a dark and dingy wardrobe!





The inside door needed to wear a disguise so I created a pin board using cork floor tiles, ribbon, pins and vintage style buttons to hide the pins. It is a great place to locate packs of stickers, scissors and other bits and bobs.






It's where the paper doll version of me now resides (yes, her name is Ann without an e!) and I thought this 'Happy' needle book looked just the part. No more hunting through drawers to find a needle when a repair or splinter removal is required!






Not only is this wardrobe my craft cupboard, it is also my storage for Christmas decorating supplies! They live in their clear plastic boxes which I was thrilled to find fitted quite snugly - I thought the wardrobe was not going to be deep enough to hold these containers at first. In the central not so accessible recess not visible in this picture is the Christmas tree in its tall box.




I had intended to remove the rail but realized it would be very useful for hanging up my Christmas garlands. So much storage in one wardrobe and because most of my crafting is done in the Christmas season it is very convenient to have all my supplies in the one location. No boxes of decorations hiding and taking up room in the walk in wardrobes in the bedrooms.




The picture at the top of this post is the first vintage wardrobe I acquired. It is actually in a bedroom but is not used for storage of clothes. It is in fact - a lego closet. I am convinced that every boy needs a lego closet and every mother will be grateful to me for suggesting this idea because those ugly plastic drawer sets you buy at Bunnings which are perfect for storing the several trillion tonnes of lego that a boy accumulates by the age of 12 fit perfectly inside the section where you are meant to hang clothes. Do you know I rejoiced, jumped for joy and did cartwheels when I discovered this fact!




Don't bother sorting out the lego into colours or types, having one for bases and some for blocks. It will only get all mixed up again. One drawer though has been set aside as a barracks for the army men who know that it is safe to stay inside the lego closet because they have seen Toy Story 3 and remember what happens to army men who remain on the floor of a boy's room! Any time I find army men underfoot I yell out 'Remember what happened to the army men in Toy Story 3 and that is guaranteed to bring a boy running from the other end of the house!



The pull out drawers in this wardrobe are used to hold other boy stuff which includes tins of tennis balls, books about tennis, posters of tennis players (can you tell he likes tennis?) and all those Where's Wally geography files we picked up at a garage sale that don't fit on the library bookshelf. I'm glad these drawers are not deep because you never give a boy deep drawers - same goes for baskets, they will find stuff to fill them if you do - so don't say I didn't warn you!

Hope you have enjoyed seeing my ideas for new uses for old wardrobes. I like the idea of using old wardrobes for storing and displaying family treasures such as quilts and china. I've also seen them turned into pantries. Alas, I have no free walls left in my home (the price you pay for having lots of French doors and glass everywhere!) so my days of wardrobe transformations are over for now. What alternate uses do you have for old wardrobes and cupboards? Have you ever transformed an old vintage wardrobe? Do share!




Thursday, August 18, 2011

New Uses for Vintage Ladders in the Home


It has been a wet winter at Eight Acres of Eden but I have not used my dryer once. I cannot actually remember when I last used the dryer and this is all thanks to a ladder. An old wooden ladder that was turned into a drying rack which sits above the beams in my dining/family room.




I have wanted a ladder for a drying rack for so long but at every garage sale I went to, all I could find were metal ladders. No, it had to be wooden - preferably old and not a modern reproduction. And then I saw it, exactly what I wanted. In a store that sells country home wares and it was being used to display baskets and bunches of dried flowers. I asked the lady behind the counter about the ladder - alas it was not for sale. A few months later I spotted a notice in the paper about a closing down sale. It was the very country store where I had seen my ladder. I rang my husband at work and sent him to this very feminine store during his lunch hour - that's fine, he sends me on enough trips to the hardware store when I am in town on the weekend! Yes, the ladder was for sale and very soon it was mine. My months of ladder hunting were over!




I did for just one moment consider giving it the Dulux antique white USA paint job but then I saw the stamped lettering on the side. I did not want to ruin its genuine vintage good looks. My handyman husband found some rusty or shall I call it rustic chain in his shed and very soon it was lifted into place. It runs horizontally across the room in line with the beams and sits just below the ceiling fan. I have since realized that he hung it upside down but perhaps that just adds to the charm! I like the fact that 'Sydney' is stamped on the side. A little touch of Australiana.




In winter when we light the Stanley stove and turn on the ceiling fan to circulate the warm air, clothes dry in next to no time. I don't really mind that my dining room looks like the dry cleaners but I do try to remember not to hang up any unmentionables if we are expecting guests!




Some friends came over for a visit and saw our ladder. 'We have an old wooden ladder sitting in our shed at home would you like it?' they asked and very soon we were the owners of another vintage ladder. We decided to turn this one into a pot rack for the kitchen after I had seen one in 'Australian Home Beautiful' in a very stylish home. This sits above my Ilve stove which proves that old and new can reside together. Let's call it eclectic style shall we!






Butchers hooks were found on eBay for a very reasonable price and my set of Scan pans are surprisingly easy to hook on and off. I now have a place to display my collection of baskets which have many practical uses around the home. They are no longer cluttering up the top of the fridge. I'm looking forward to harvesting herbs in the summer and hanging bunches to dry from the ladder. I may even attempt to plait the garlic that is growing in my garden which will be ready closer to Christmas.





My previous pot hanger which I still love dearly has been relocated to sit above the Stanley stove where its black wrought iron is more in keeping with the black chimney. This is where I hang my copper pots from Provence. Looks like they could do with a dust!




The Stanley stove is going as I type so it is time to go and make another sourdough loaf. I have made several this week. The dough rises beautifully overnight when the stove is going. The last loaf I made lasted less than an hour - it was devoured before I could even take out the toaster and we forgot to save a piece for dad! Tonight's loaf will be baked in time for breakfast. I do love this apricot sourdough bread toasted and it is the easiest bread to make - sourdough is not high maintenance once you have a stable starter.








Hope you have enjoyed seeing my vintage ladders turned into drying and pot racks. When was the last time you used your dryer? If you have the room and high ceilings why not consider turning an old wooden ladder into a drying rack?


Monday, August 8, 2011

A Vintage Tea Party for a Teen



The teacups were set out in rows, each one calling out 'pick me, pick me!' to the guests who would soon arrive and have to decide which cup they would choose to take tea in. Shades of pink or green? Roses or lily of the valley? Decisions, decisions. Then to select a tea - traditional black tea, chamomile perhaps or something with a little more zest - lemongrass and ginger or a cranberry, raspberry and strawberry blend? And of course there was always Earl Grey for those who love that hint of bergamot!



This was the birthday party she had requested. A vintage tea party at home with family and friends, mainly mothers and their daughters and one husband who would be good company for her dad at this most feminine occasion! Mother and daughter both took great delight in the details of her tea party. The setting of the table, the cloths we would use and the accessories we would need. A crystal sugar bowl in a silver stand was found in a vintage store. The spoon was missing but in a box of souvenir spoons I found one that fitted into the holder perfectly. Hidden among the rather tacky spoons from various English seaside resorts and Australian tourist towns I spotted a tiny embossed silver spoon. I read the inscription 'Shepherd's Field Bethlehem'. Such a sweet spoon for our sugar bowl and a sweet price too - just fifty cents!



She wanted vintage style so the mismatched china would be perfect. A few more cups would be nice I said to her as we visited a couple of garage sales the day before her party. We were excited by the prospect of an estate sale and walked up the garden path to see tables on the veranda crammed with silver, china, crystal and linen. All the provisions you would ever need for hosting a vintage tea party. We bought two more cup and saucers and a pink glass milk jug, ever so dainty. More tea spoons were needed. I rummaged through a plastic bag of silver cutlery looking for tea spoons than realized it was a set because everything matched! The lady wanted twenty dollars for the lot and I gladly handed it over knowing I had just scored a bargain. Enough silver cutlery (a twelve place setting) for future dinner parties and tea spoons for the birthday celebration. You can see the dessert forks and spoons in the corner of the photograph below. Providence for the purposes of hospitality.



We returned home with our vintage finds and baking supplies and the kitchen was soon a place of much productivity. One daughter was making her famous lemon meringue pie. The food processor was assisting us in preparing a Dana's chocolate cake mix. Twin girls were filling cup cake cases and a toddler was dragging over a chair to offer his services as chief taste tester. The birthday girl was washing tea cups and I was ready to put out the sign 'Ye olde tea shoppe'. So glad to see those tea cups being used at last and not just gathering dust in the buffet unit!




Sunday came and brought with it sunshine. The patio had been swept. The rickety old table found in a shed had its turned legs painted white - just one coat, very rough but somehow it looked right for the occasion. Its old oil stained top was covered up with a floral tablecloth which was overlaid with a lace cloth. This would be the tea table. A vintage sofa perfect for perching on to sip tea was brought outside. A trestle table was covered with a lace curtain. Peach blossoms from the orchard were placed in an old glass carafe. Camellias from the garden were snipped and randomly scattered. My favourite metal tray would be the centre piece to hold the cupcakes but the show stealer would be the birthday cake - this was a birthday party after all!


Would you believe me if I told you that I found a huge tub of strawberry wafers at the service station store where we stopped for fuel on our way home from church on the day of the party! Talk about last minute decorating inspiration!

A peek inside reveals strawberry marshmallow fondant icing made and embellished by her sister with chocolate swirls and bright pink hearts. Once again simple but stunning and those hollow wafers made perfect holders for the fourteen wavy candles!






In the photograph above you can see a little of the detail of the dress we found for her birthday. A vintage style red gingham sundress trimmed with lace and a little denim bolero jacket. The dress is by Raoul. Designer quality purchased online for less than Target prices. It was just perfect for this occasion! The silver rose pendant was a gift from her younger brother. The pearl bracelet borrowed from her mother. Love it that she also loves pearls!

This girl loves to wear dresses and express her femininity!



These girls also love their new dresses. They are wearing Laura Ashley! No, I didn't send to England for these. Once again, purchased online at a greatly discounted price. No more fruitless trips to the mall for this mother searching for pretty dresses for her girls! This photograph was taken on my sweet little antique sofa after the tea party was over.




On the menu for our high tea were heart shaped egg and cress sandwiches, cream cheese and smoked salmon and cream cheese pinwheel sandwiches garnished with cucumber and of course a selection of sweet cakes, biscuits and traditional scones with strawberry jam topped with cream. These are lemonade scones, Have you ever made them? Two cups of self raising flour, a pinch of salt, a cup of cream and a can of lemonade. Be careful not to over mix and bake in rounds or squares as we did in a moderately hot oven for 10-15 minutes. Also on our afternoon tea table were orange cupcakes, lemon meringue pies and a selection of sweet biscuits including Viennese fingers that I did not attempt to make myself! We also offered a pink lemonade punch - the frozen baby berries turned the lemonade pink - magical!




The mothers. These lovely ladies blessed my daughter with lovely gifts of beads and floral hair accessories, a gift voucher for a favourite local gift shop and a gorgeous reversible handmade bag in an Oriental inspired fabric. I will have to take a photograph to show you and speaking of Oriental style - the gift from her mum and dad was the most gorgeous Oriental design doona cover with matching pillows for her bed. In black, red and gold. She has longed to decorate her room in Asian style and now has her little corner of sophistication. Her books about China sit next to her bed. Today I hear her repeating words and phrases in Mandarin on the CD she is listening to which accompanies her Chinese dictionary. She is growing up. The days of pink and pastels are passing with the exception of this tea party!


Inspiration for the outside styling came from this book. I would not have known about this book if it wasn't for blogland. I didn't think I could possibly use that old table from the shed until I saw some of the photos of outdoor settings on the pages of this beautiful book. Old tables with white washed legs are transformed with linen and china tea cups. Rustic sophistication. I love this style! And it is perfect for vintage style tea parties. No need to spend a fortune at the hotels and restaurants in town for a high tea (hugely popular here but pricey) when you can recreate the same atmosphere at home. There is something very special about entertaining at home.




If you need recipe inspiration for a high tea here is the perfect book. The good old Australian Woman's Weekly have published a book called 'High Tea' packed with recipes for savoury and sweet delights and traditional favourites. This book belongs to one of the lovely ladies who attended my daughter's high tea on Sunday. It was lovely to browse through the recipes and we were even more excited at the prospect of hosting a tea party.

It was such a lovely afternoon - just a couple of hours but a beautiful way to celebrate the birthday of a beautiful daughter. Taking time for tea and conversation. Drinking from pretty china cups. Enjoying savoury and sweet little treats. We all need these little moments of beautiful respite in our lives. We enjoyed the experience so much we want to do it all again so I'm thinking of hosting another mother and daughter tea at my home. Maybe in the spring. We will invite more of the ladies to join us including some of the older ladies who I know would appreciate an invitation to a vintage style tea. You know what this means? I now have an excuse to visit more garage sales to hunt down tea cups and plates! A few more cake stands would be needed. Oh just the thought of another tea party. Even today, my daughter made us both a cup of tea. She used our 'new' tea cups found at the weekend garage sale and we sat outside and spent precious moments talking about her tea party and the lovely occasion it was. It wasn't the tea or the tea cups that made it special. It was precious to her because it made her feel special.




As Emilie Barnes shares in her book 'If Teacups Could Talk'-

'It's what happens when women or men or children make a place in their life for the rituals of sharing. It's what happens when we bother with the little extras that feed the soul and nurture the senses and make space for unhurried conversation. And when that happens, it doesn't really matter what fills the cup or holds the liquid. It really isn't the tea. It's the spirit of the tea party. And it is in that spirit that I hope you will join me.'

I'm so glad you could join me today and share in my memories. Perhaps one day I will be blessed to meet some of you dear ladies that read my blog and we will sip tea together or share over a cup of coffee - I would like that too! Let me know if this post has inspired you to host a tea party for someone special in your life.











Wednesday, August 3, 2011

An Invitation to Tea at Eden


My delightful daughter turned fourteen this week. We are planning to celebrate her birthday in vintage style with a special afternoon tea on Sunday. We have been pouring over past issues of Victoria magazine and googling images of afternoon and high teas for inspiration. After much deliberation we decided to keep it simple and sweet - even down to the invitations. There were so many elaborate cards we could have attempted to make but this was my idea and was inspired by a collection of pretty origami papers that I purchased at a garage sale for just a dollar.




Each square of paper was folded in half to create a rectangle and we ran a seam of glue along three sides to create a sachet. The invitation was typed on the computer and printed out on yellowing foolscap paper and glued into place. A special variety tea bag - Dilmah's rose and vanilla tea in this instance - was carefully placed into the sachet and folded up to create a very special invitation to tea. On the tea label a vintage style sticker with the initial of the recipient was placed over the brand name. It was tied up with narrow ribbon - real vintage ribbon from my stash I have been dipping into for numerous craft projects for the past few years. A sweet little scrap booking sticker holds the ribbon in place. So simple to create using materials we already had in our cupboard.



We have been planning the menu and are going to make simple little egg and cress sandwiches, maybe heart shaped but definitely dainty so I won't be making crusty sourdough for this occasion! We do have fresh eggs from our chickens who are starting to lay again after the cooler days of winter and I have a pot that is overflowing with Lebanese cress which is one of the best performing plants I have ever had the joy to grow. It doesn't seem to die back - just keeps on growing in its sunny spot on the patio. We will also make the same mini quiches we enjoyed at Christmas; eggs, fruit chutney and ricotta cheese combine to make the tastiest little appetizers ever.






Inspiration from the pages of Donna Hay magazine

Simple and sweet also applies to the sweet goodies for afternoon tea. A batch of cupcakes using our favourite chocolate cake recipe - decorating decisions are yet to be made. Perhaps some store bought Viennese fingers or lemon myrtle shortbread. Aldi has quite a range of sweet confectionery - we'll opt for those that have only pure ingredients. I am not opposed to some store bought treats as this is for a special occasion and we want to offer a variety. I don't think you need to make absolutely everything from scratch. We're keeping it simple remember and that applies to how much time we will spend in the kitchen preparing. The birthday cake will be made at home of course and decorated by the resident dessert chef. The birthday girl is having some difficulty deciding on what kind of cake. Chocolate? Banana? Vanilla? I tried to convince her to go with my favourite which is coffee cake (made with real coffee!) but she is not partial to this flavour. I even made a sample cake in an effort to persuade her but she declined. This is a cake for mum and dad to enjoy!



Hoping we can convince the dessert chef to allow us to use her beautiful cake stand for the occasion. This has been purchased for her business at the local markets which is up and running! I'll tell you more about her entrepreneurship in a future post but I can let you know that I am just so delighted that she is using her talents and turning them into a business which I am sure is going to flourish going by the compliments she is receiving from customers. She is also going to be selling a range of dessert sauces and berry condiments on behalf of a local company at different farmer's markets around the region. It's exciting times for our family as my two homeschool graduates launch their own businesses, something I always hoped they would do.


Flowers and fruit will decorate the afternoon tea table. We still have lots of camellias in flower in the garden but the mandarins have all been harvested and consumed so the younger members of the family have moved onto the passion fruit. As soon as they ripen they are handed to mum with a request for them to be cut in half. So much for my plans for making passion fruit conserves.


Here's a few more photos from around my home - simple but sweet finds and acquisitions that I am taking delight in. In our quests to be free from clutter and live more simply, let us not forget that we should still have some little displays around us that remind us of the goodness of God.




A simple and sweet ceramic cross with a Scripture that is one of my family's foundational Scriptures for home education. Isaiah 54 verse 13 'And all thy Children shall be taught of the Lord.' I spotted this in the window of a Christian bookshop. When I saw 'Family' then realized what the Scripture was underneath I just had to buy it to display on my wall.




It hangs alongside a vintage style postcard advertising a certain brand of chocolate. I love the fact that it states 'From British Pastures' - yes, that's me! I love little decorator touches that reflect my heritage! Displaying postcards in clip frames is a very inexpensive way of dressing up a wall. I'm always looking out for postcards which have reproductions of old adverts.





I love books that celebrate the simple pleasures of a life at home and these are two of my favourites. Geraldene Holt's 'Diary of a French Herb Garden' is just delightful, you can almost smell the fragrance of the herbs as she gives a month by month account of her time in France restoring an ancient walled garden in a medieval village. It all sounds so exotic doesn't it but you know what? I am excited by the fact that this famous food writer began writing about food after selling her home made cakes on a country market stall. I can't wait to tell you all about my daughter's little venture now!




You don't have to move to France to establish a garden or write about food. 'A Year of Slow Food' by David and Gerda Foster is an Australian book. Another 'year in the life' of an ordinary family who are content to bloom where they are planted and describe the pleasure they derive from growing their own food and eating it. This book is a real life story, another month by month account from which you can glean practical advice, recipes and inspiration. I have borrowed this book from the library on several occasions so was thrilled to spot it surrounded by crime novels and thrillers at a recent garage sale. Another dollar well spent. As I've mentioned before I much prefer reading real life memoirs and sometimes the best ones are about every day life - growing vegetables, harvesting herbs, baking bread and planning for family celebrations.


Her birthday cake from last year. Simple, sweet and stunning!


When I am short on ideas about what to share at my blog and think that people will not want to read about my ordinary life at home I am suddenly jolted by a little reminder that a contented life at home makes for inspired reading which is why I am inviting you to join me this weekend as I host this simple but sweet tea party for my delightful daughter. Come join me next time when I share about our celebration. I will do my best to capture the moments in words and pictures and hope that you will be inspired by them!

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