Making: The house look a little more cozy. Finally hanging new curtains in the sunroom. Changing out some of the bedding in the master bedroom. Looking for a good place for our fur throw! Oh yeah – and I bought a little vintage occasional table that thwarts all styling attempts. I’ve gotta get that little puppy in line!
Cooking: Fifteen Bean Soup in the crockpot. A little onion. A little pancetta. 8 hours to goodness!
Drinking: Whiskey. And lots of it.
Enjoying: Our fireplace! We love it and we miss it all summer – and we are honestly so glad to see the summer heat go!
Earlier this summer I launched into this whole closet “downsizing” project. Basically this entailed cleaning out my closet, purging, organizing – you get the drift…. VERY Twenty First Century.
Part of the purge was parting with all the handbags that I didn’t use anymore. I was planning to be lean and mean, y’all. And I succeeded – to a certain extent. It’s hard to be lean and mean with handbags when you are suffering from an addiction…. *looks around shiftily*
So the upshot is that after I purged, I had room for all new bags. Well, new to me. For whatever reason, I just got into this idea that I was going to purchase and rehabilitate vintage and “pre-loved” bags. Because, really, I just get a thrill from bringing old things back to life.
So one of my first purchases was this little sweetheart – a vintage Louis Vuitton Pont Neuf in Mandarin Epi Leather. I bought this bag from an eBay seller in Japan. And I didn’t take pictures of it when it arrived – too excited! However, I pulled the seller’s pics from eBay just so y’all could see some “before” shots. Suffice it to say that this bag was as described, very pre-loved and, for lack of a better word, just dirty.
Here are the before pictures:
The seller’s description of this bag was that it had an “overall feeling of use”. That about summed it up. I think these pictures show that the bag was in pretty good shape when it arrived but it had clearly been well loved and was just dingy.
But let’s back up for a minute and talk about some “rules”.
When buying vintage I think you need to do a few things:
First, you have to know what you’re buying. If you have no idea what a new Louis Vuitton is *supposed* to look like and feel like, then you have no business buying a pre-loved one. Go to the store. Check out the new bags. See how they’re constructed. Learn how they feel. Do some online research. Educate yourself.
Second, you need to define your “deal breakers”. All vintage buying is a trade off between the condition of the piece and your budget – so figure out what you’re willing to give up in terms of condition, in exchange for the lower price – before you start shopping. Personally, my deal breakers are torn leather, torn canvas, interior smells, interior “stickiness” and broken hardware. I don’t mind a bag that looks like someone has used it well. That’s part of the fun for me. But used well and taken into combat are two different things. No amount of cleaning is going to “fix” torn leather on a corner – so I don’t even go there unless you’re factoring the cost of professional repairs into your purchase.
On this bag, the handles show wear (as you’ll see from the pics). Since I don’t mind evidence of use, the handle wear isn’t really a problem for me, but it may be for you – make sure you know what you’re dealing and what you’re willing to either live with or pay to have fixed with when you buy.
Finally, buying vintage online from people you don’t know is a risk and there is no other way to put it. Research your seller. Pay attention to feedback. Purchase through trusted websites. I personally require a seller return policy and pay with a credit card that provides me protection if it gets down to it. But don’t spend more than you’re willing to lose….
So anyway – I chose to start with a Pont Neuf in Mandarin because I always wanted one, they don’t make them anymore and since its not one of the more “iconic” LV bags, the prices were better. I looked around for a while and found that a lot of Epi leather – just doesn’t hold up. So if you’re looking for Epi, be prepared to be patient and vigilant. Finally, I found this one and I think I paid about $400 for it. It arrived quickly and as described. She was in good shape but man – she was dirty, dirty, dirty.
When cleaning, I always start with “least invasive” means first and that usually means a good wiping down with alcohol-free, fragrance-free baby wipes. This generally gets the surface dirt off. Next I condition the bag really well. The color of this bag was pretty blah but a good conditioning brought the bright mandarin color right back. Ultimately, I ended up taking a little bowl of warm water, some Woolite and a nail brush and scrubbed the bag down about three times, allowing the bag to “rest” in between. In addition to really cleaning the leather, I figured out that one of the things that makes an otherwise clean leather bag look dingy is dirty thread. Since the color of the thread is fairly light on this bag, a good scrubbing with the nail brush really brought it back. I also used this method to scrub up the zipper area, especially the cloth part. Not only did it clean up wonderfully, but getting the cloth wet and allowing it to dry restored the structure to the stretched out zipper fabric. Next, I cleaned up all the brass with some Brasso. This takes a few cleanings, in my experience. Finally, the bag had some “dents” in the leather where the handles had pressed into the sides, most likely during storage. Over the course of two or three sessions, I used my blowdryer to bring these dents out of the leather. I conditioned the bag between heat applications to keep the leather from drying out. I’m happy to say that the “dents” popped out really well – although I suspect I’ll heat it up a few more times before its over with.
So after all that blah blah blah – here it is!
As y’all can see, it is nowhere near perfect, but it is a gorgeous, well made Louis Vuitton with a lot of life left in her. The hardware on this bag was in beautiful shape and other than the leather handles, the leather is in great shape with very little scratching or scuffs. When I received the bag, I was surprised that that “dents” in the bag bugged me so much – and they were not obvious in the seller’s pictures. However, the blow dryer trick worked really well in bringing the dents out and I feel like it was good experience for future rehabs.
I have to say that the one of the most exciting parts for me was to finally purchase an LV Epi in mandarin – because I’ve always, always loved it and it was discontinued long ago, as was the Pont Neuf. So I’m pretty happy with this, not only because its something I wanted for a while but also because I feel like some good love really brought it back.
Stay tuned for more. I have been on an LV tear lately and have added both new and vintage pieces. But I’ve also added some vintage Gucci, vintage Fendi, a fairly old Prada, to my collection. And, yes ladies, I bit the bullet and bought a Chanel circa 1986.
So stay tuned as my handbag obsession deepens and takes new turns!
Here are things that I miss – in no particular order –
I miss Morgantown in the fall. Football. Beer. Hum. Cold wind. Runny nose. The 80’s. The future was way out there. The now was going by so fast. Joan Didion says that there comes a time that you realize that it all mattered – “that not all of the promises would be kept, that some things are in fact irrevocable and that it had counted after all, every evasion and every procrastination, every mistake, every word, all of it.” I know that now with as much certainty as I can muster. Missing Morgantown reminds me of of my evasions and my procrastinations, my mistakes, everything I missed.
I miss the smell of wood smoke and coal dust. I miss the rhythm of coal mines that ran on three shifts and how the whole world revolved around it. The minor 3 o’clock traffic jams when the shift changes. The men who looked like they’d been dipped in oil.
I miss the church bells that played hymns beginning every day at 6 p.m. – all summer long. And Ricky, who played the trumpet on his aunt’s porch every evening after dinner as the whole town listened.
I miss my grandma’s back yard. Full of flowers and rhubarb – the clothesline – the coal house – and all the ingredients for making mud.
I miss the radiators in my grandmother’s house and how it smelled of ginseng drying and waiting to be sold in the fall.
I miss the shocking pink of redbuds in the spring. I miss the thrill of a snow day and a deep snow.
I miss the sound of my Beans snoring at night. I miss Lola’s pink ears and Finn’s fat little feet. I kissed them both a hundred times a day and a hundred times at the end. It was not enough.
The word hiraeth means homesickness for a home to which you cannot return, a home which maybe never was; the nostalgia, the grief, the yearning for the past. Hireath has more than four letters. Miss has exactly four.
And I miss. I miss so much. I miss it all. I miss the things that I can’t ever have again. And I know that I missed it then, too. I didn’t know how much I’d miss it. I didn’t know how much I was missing. I didn’t know that I should hold on stronger. I didn’t hold on as strongly as I could have if only I had known. But the irony is that you can’t ever know.
I am grateful that I can remember all that I’ve had and all that I miss. I am grateful to have had it at all – no matter how fleeting it may all seem now.
Like all good children raised in the Appalachian mountains (and elsewhere, no doubt) I grew up eating lots and lots of beans. Since my family lived in the very Southernmost tip of West Virginia, we considered ourselves southerners (people in Northern and Central West Virginia do not, for the most part). So I grew up eating southern green beans.
Southern green beans are a bit different. In addition to adding bacon, you have to cook them until they have only the “merest” molecular structure. My grandma accomplished this by slapping hers in a pressure cooker and I have no illusions about trying to run a pressure cooker – I would totally blow up my kitchen and I know this. So….
I decided to figure this out. I started with a recipe published in Garden & Gun and then tweaked it from there – and although y’all know I hate to brag – mine are better. If y’all want some good southern green beans – this is how you do it.
2 tablespoons of bacon grease – most southerners have a pot of bacon grease in the house. If you don’t, you should get one. Just drain the grease into a jar the next time you cook bacon and save it for when you need it.
2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
1 yellow onion (Vidalia if you can get it) halved and sliced
1 pound of frozen, cut green beans
4 cups of unsalted bone chicken broth
2-4 cups of organic, low sodium vegetable broth
1 tablespoon of kosher salt
1/3 tablespoon of freshly ground pepper
Melt butter and bacon grease into bottom of cast iron pot/dutch oven
Add onions and cook on medium until the onions are golden and transluscent
Add green beans
Cover with chicken stock and as much vegetable stock as necessary
add salt and pepper
bring to a boil and then reduce and simmer, uncovered for 30 minutes to an hour (the longer you cook, the better they are)
you can also add new potatoes to your beans and cook them right along, which I did last time at my husband’s request
“the stars begin to burn through the sheets of clouds, and there was a new voice, which you slowly recognized as your own.”
For as long as I can remember, all I have ever really wanted was my own home. Come to think of it, there is a certain way I look at the world – a way that requires a place for all your things. A place of beauty and peace and tidiness. A place that is warm and comfortable and clean and yours. I think of handbags this way. I actually think of my mind and soul in that way. And I think of my home in this way.
The home where the loved ones are. The home filled with soft light and comfy chairs. The home filled with books and flowers. Art. Music. A warm fire on a cold night. A pot of something good on the stove. A home with bookcases and weird trinkets picked up on travels and jaunts.
I’ve known so many people who have homes that aren’t homes. They have boxes without comfort. A place to come at the end of the day that is a house – a dwelling – but not a home.
My dearest wish is that at the end and I come down to die, that heaven will be (among other things) a place where I get to go and live in my dream home. The house that I’ve build in my head all these years. It will have windows and light, a garden and a lovely kitchen. It will have a king size bead with the softest, warmest, most wonderful sheets, blankets and pillows. It will have all the books. And all the music. It will have fireplaces and a vintage lamps. It will have a glass sunroom where you can watch the summer sky, the winter snow, the spring storms and the autumn leaves fall all around you. Where you can watch the fireflies drift over the hills at night. Where the puppies can snooze. Where the bar is always stocked.
It has occurred to me on more than one occasion that heaven is now. That this good earth, with all its troubles, is still the most wondrous place. I love it. And at the end of it all, I can come home to this little piece of the world.
So many things can and do go wrong in this world. Its easy to expect and anticipate the worst and scary to imagine the best. But, as Frances Mayes wrote “what if the sky does not fall? What if it’s glorious?”
I chose to believe that it would be glorious. And when I’m home, it is.
Hi, guys! Welcome to the October Book List! I thought I’d share some books with you which I hope to read this month.
While I used to confine most of my reading to fiction, in the past several years I’ve really branched out into (what I think) is a nice mix of fiction, theology, biography, poetry and books about birds – seriously “H is for Hawk” changed my life!
After I got home from Paris, I ordered Rodin for the coffee table. I was so inspired by Camille Claudel’s sculptures – which are featured prominently in the Musee Rodin due to her apprenticeship and long term love affair with Rodin. This book is absolutely gorgeous!
I’ve always been a huge Tom Petty fan and I’ve picked this book up and then decided not to buy it on numerous occasions. Looking back, I almost never read biographies of living people – it seems too much to me like trying to capture lightning in a bottle. Now that he’s gone, I’m going to give this a read.
After reading about Kazuo Ishiguro’s Nobel Prize for Literature, I picked up The Buried Giant. I loved Remains of the Day and I am sure that this book will be worth the investment.
The colorful cover of Ready Player One caught my eye while I was visiting my drug dealer local book seller…. Closer inspection revealed what appears to be a fun romp of a read – which is always nice. I’m on page 19 so far. Stay tuned to Goodreads for a review!
I wasn’t kidding when I said I like books about birds! So, you know…. The Genius of Birds seemed like the thing for me to do!
When you’re an American in Paris and a book junkie, it only seems right that you should haul yourself over to Shakespeare and Company and soak up the books! I wanted to purchase something that seems appropriate while I was there and right now, it’s hard for me to think of any author who’s more appropriate than James Baldwin. Baldwin writes so eloquently about race, class and sexuality in America. Eventually, he fled this country for France and remained away for the rest of his life. I picked up Giovanni’s Room and The Fire Next Time. Two slim volumes that I hope will change me and give me something to think about – which is always my dearest hope in picking a new book.
What are y’all reading? I’m always thrilled to hear about a book someone else loved so comment below and let me know!
So – here are a few pics from our trip! If you’ve been following along on Instagram, you’ve seen that we went on quite a tour. Although I’ve been to Paris before (as I’m sure you all know) this was my darling husband’s first trip. It was so very cool to hang out with him and see some of these sights through new eyes. The weather was perfect and the leaves were just beginning to change.
In the past, I’ve always been more about art but Gary was all about sculpture, architecture and the gardens. So for me, it was like discovering a whole new layer of love!
We had lots of wine. Lots of coffee. Daily champagne and just enough rain and gray skies to make it seem like Paris.