(or how to create a bit of the 1300's in 20 seconds or less)
NOTE: again, sharing the text here as well as link (above) in case the site ever disappears
Okay, maybe not 20 seconds, but quick as I can.
People ask me all the time where I found 'that neat stuff?'. I tell them that I search and search and search, that's how. I have very specific taste, and I wont settle for anything that doesn't fit into that boundary. Because I'm so fussy, or maybe inspite of it, I have figured out a system for finding 'neat stuff'.
Scour flea markets--and I do mean scour. Go early, believe me, you wont be alone if you get there at 6:30 a.m. with a flashlight and cart in hand. The best stuff is gone before the general public gets there and anyway it gets too crowded and crazy later on. However, if you just cant make yourself get up there are benefits to going later too. The vendors might be willing to come down on the prices more later on in the day in an effort to just sell the stuff. Dress in layers unless it is an indoor market, you dont want to freeze in the morning, but you dont want to die of heat exhaustion later. Bring a hat, too. And dont be afraid to haggle! Be sure and bring pencil and paper to write down notes, like stall locations. Also, bring personal checks, cash, and credit cards to cover all your bases of paying for stuff. There is nothing more frustrating than finding the perfect vintage curtains, and they wont take personal checks, or Visa. Check you local antique and craft stroes to find where the flea markets are in your area. My favorite flea markets in Southern California are:
1)The Pasadena College Fleamarket on every first Sunday of the month
2)The Pasadena Rose Bowl Fleamarket on every second Sunday of the month (this is supposedly the biggest flea market in the US - but dont quote me)
3)The Long Beach Airport Fleamarket on every third Sunday of the month
4)The Santa Monica Airport Fleamarket on every fourth Sunday of the month
Other good places to find 'neat stuff' are vintage shops, antique stores, thrift stores, craft faires, cultural faires, any kind of historical recreation faires, like the Rennaissance Faires in my area and across the country. Make friends with the vendors and get on their mailing lists.
Try to shop boutiques, or small family owned stores as oppposed to department stores and malls. If you get a lot at one time--say you are looking to get 4 velvet pillows for the back of a great old bench you have in the kitchen--you should ask for a discount for getting so much at one time. Many store owners will give you one. It might be a big chunk out of the wallet at one time, but you will be saving over the long run. And if they wont give you a discount you can always just get the one or two and come back another time.
To create the look of a wise-woman home and give it a medieval feel
Firstly and very importantly. Avoid plastic like the plague. They didnt have it in the medieval period. Stick to natural and rich materials. Wood furniture or metal, wrought iron, earthenware, even wicker. Sumptous cloths like velvet, silk, cotton, and linen. Tall wooden or wrought iron beds with feather beds, feather duvets and cotton sheets-as described in my Care for Body Mind Soul page. Electric lights and TV are the two biggest killers to a medieval mood. Keep the TV in a armoire, or other wooden cupboard, so you can easily close the door on it when you want to. Use candles to light your home, or maybe just one room. Find a place where you can buy candles inexpensively, and keep in mind that scented candles are more expensive, burn faster and drip more, posing more of a fire hazard than non-scented ones. I have a few in every room to give off the wonderful scent, but for light I use regular ones. Have many incenses and holders around and use them. Also have a stock of wondeful traditional music on hand--old Celtic music is wonderful. A woman by the name of Loreena McKennit has some amazing CDs out that will transport you right to medieval Britain. Have crystals around, one in every room or more. They look great, and they give your home their power and protection. Use wicker baskets to store everything from socks in the closet, to recycling in the kitchen. Remember that some decay and wear looks pretty darn cool. An old table that is peeling just a bit around the edges, or a great chenille slipcover that is faded from the sun. But if you do decide it is time to get rid of something, do the wise-woman thing and donate it to the poor. In medieval days, the nobility, and royalty had an almoner--a servant whose job it was to distribute alms to the poor. Make almoner part of your job description.
Housecleaning the Wise-woman way
Yes, yes, I know, we all hate it. But there are things you can do to make it more interesting at least, and maybe more enjoyable. First of all, create a mood within your home. Wouldnt it be much more fun to fold laundry while sitting on your wonderful big feather bed, with a candle and some incense burning and some great music on in the background than while standing in your garage next to the washing machine? When the weather is good, dry your laundry outside on a line, or over a hanging rack. At least your whites and definately your towels and sheets. Nothing feels and smells better and the sun is a natural bleach--plus you'll be saving money and the environment not running the dryer. When you do use the dryer, toss a sachet in the dryer, it will gently scent your clothes. You can keep sachets in your kitchen drawers and cabinets as well as in your clothes drawers and closets, by the way. You'd be surprised at just how much you can actually throw in the washer. People are horrified when I tell them that I wash all my velvets and silks. But it is true. Many tags that say dryclean only are there to protect the designer from any liability if something happens when you wash it. I am also going to say right here and now, I am not responsible either if you do try it, but I do wash most of my things and they are fine. It adds a great vintage feel to them. But while most things can be washed--try cold water, delicate cycle--not everything can be dried in a dryer. Use caution. And the one thing I have found that cannot be washed is rayon.
Burn herbs in your fireplace when it has died down to low embers. It will work as a sort of incense.It can also help keep away fleas--try these herbs in particular: fleabane, mugwort, wormwood. Also for fleas, try putting cedar chips inside your dogs' pillows. To keep ants away sprinkle catmint on their trails. They dont like the scent. Your cats will though, so keep that in mind.
Sprinkle sweet smelling herbs on your rugs before you vacumn, let them set awhile, then vacumn them up.
When you wash floors, (now dont kill me here, I have a point) do it twice. Yes, twice. Wash them once, then refill the bucket with hot water, and add a few drops of your favorite essential oil. Mop the floors with this to add a gentle scent. You can also wipe down windowsills, door frames, countertops, appliances, sinks, tubs, etc.. with this mix.
Housekeeping Tip of the Month
How easy would you like me to make this? There are the oldefashioned ways of drying, which I prefer, (not that that surprises you, I am sure) and there are more modern ways as well. A quick modern way is to place your herbs on a paper towel and put them in the microwave for for two minutes, max. Or on a ungreased cookie sheet for 5 or so minutes on the lowest setting. But keep the door open so the moisture from the herbs can get out. If you havea serviceable attic, or upstairs room that gets more heat than maybe some of your other rooms do, you can dry your herbs laid out on the floor on a muslin sheet or on cheesecloth. My favorite way is to tie them in bunches with raffia and hang them upside down in a dry, dark place from a wooden rack, like closet rack..
After your herbs have dried you can leave them in their bunches and hang from pegs in your kitchen, or wherever you want them kept. Or you can get adorable little glass jars with corks and crumble the herbs into those. Glass jars for this purpose can be bought as is, or if you are a bath conniseur, like I am, lots of bath salts and oils come in glass jars. Obviously, these are the more expensive bath products, but if you do get them, dont throw out the jars, clean them thoroughly in a hot, hot dishwasher, or wash and soak in boiling water, and reuse the jars for herb storage. Make those suckers pay for themselves!! Be sure your herbs are completely dry before you store them in jars though, as any moisture left in them will cause them to get moldy.