Monday, August 22, 2016

Collecting | Vintage briefcases

Like a lot of things, I didn't set out to collect vintage briefcases and portfolios.
I just stumbled upon one at a thrift store that I loved. So I bought it.
Then I found another.
And another.
And another.
The great thing about this collection: It's useful. 
I take one of the cases to work with me all the time.
A few others I store photos and memorabilia in.

This case came with an ID tag taped inside.
I love the aged hardware and leather. 
Here's one of my favorite portfolios.
 The zipper still works.
One of the portfolios is stamped "Marvelux" on the inside.
This portfolio gets a lot of use.
A chunky old zipper closes to keep the contents safe inside. 
I also love old leather-covered folders, scrapbooks, diaries, calendars, etc.
Here are a few my favorites.
This one's a pristine 1966 calendar. 

How could I not buy it? You never know when you might need a 1966 calendar.
This one's a diary. About half of the pages have been ripped out, but I still love the embossed cover.
This one's  an organizer.
 It's not old, maybe from the 1990s. But I love the cover.
Inside it says, "Scully Since 1906."
This one is faux leather -- and new. 

It has my 2016 calendar in it. (Yes, I still use a paper calendar.)
This cover is about 5 inches by 8 inches.
It could hold a pad of paper and a pen.

Here's a cover that shows its age.
It has a plastic photo insert in it.
This three-ring binder is stamped "Made in Italy" on the back.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Polish your shoes. It's good for the soul.

Here's a little post on something I don't do often enough: polishing my shoes.
In our throw-away world, we tend to just toss things out once they start getting battered and worn. But a little polish can make your old shoes look new again and actually preserve the leather. Plus, shoe polishing is good for the soul.
Here's the "before" of the first pair of shoes I decided to polish up. They weren't in terrible shape, but the leather was scuffed and tired looking.
I had brown (on the left) and tan (on the right) shoe polish on hand. I decided the brown was a better match.
Polishing shoes isn't rocket science. You just rub a little onto a soft, lint-free rag and then rub it onto your shoe.
 Brown polish looks almost black when you first apply it, but it lightens up as you work it into the leather.
In the photo above, the shoe on the left has been polished, the shoe on the right hasn't. It's a pretty noticeable difference.
After you give the polish a couple minutes to dry, you buff it with a clean cloth or soft brush, and here's what the finished shoes looked like.
These shoes have been more or less abandoned in the back of my closet for years. Now I'm excited to wear them again.
 Here's the second pair of shoes I had that needed a little polishing up. Again I used the brown polish.
 Same process as before. The shoe on the left is "before" polish; the shoe on the right is "after."
 The shoes looked like new once I had them both polished and buffed.
Here's the third pair I was hoping to salvage with a little polish: a pair of vintage Mary Janes that get a lot of wear -- and look like it.
 They were in such bad shape, I thought I'd start with a little leather lotion before applying polish.
The shoe in the front has had leather lotion applied. The shoe in the back hasn't. The lotion helped soften and restore the leather, but the shoes definitely needed polish too.
Above, the shoe on the left has had polish applied. The shoe on the right hasn't. Huge difference, right? Polish won't remove the cracks, but it sure helps to disguise them and give the leather a smoother look and feel.
Now my favorite shoes are all ready to wear again.''

Linking to:
Sweet Things | Sweet Inspiration
Shabby Art Botique | Shabbilicious Friday

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Welcome to St. Thomas. Bathrooms are on the left. Free rum shots are on the right.

Hello from sunny St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. I wish. 

St. Thomas

My husband and I spent last week there, but, against our better judgement, we returned home to reality (aka Wisconsin) on Saturday. Sniff.

I would go back in a heartbeat, but since that's not going to happen anytime soon, I thought I would take a virtual trip back and invite you, dear readers, along with me.

Our trip started here:

Virgin Islands

Actually, it started in the Charlotte Amalie airport, but since I didn't take any pictures there, this one will have to do -- and it's surprisingly apt, because when your plane lands in St. Thomas, you debark on the tarmac (which, I think we can all agree, is the absolute best place to debark when arriving at a warm-weather destination), then walk into the airport where you are greeted by smiling people telling you, "Welcome to St. Thomas. Bathrooms are on the left. Free rum shots are on the right."

Charlotte Amalie

We spent our first couple days in St. Thomas at The Galleon House, an old B&B that sits on Government Hill in Charlotte Amalie, overlooking the red roofs in the historic downtown. This was the view from our balcony, looking to the left, and below is the view looking to the right.

Charlotte Amalie

Not a bad view either way. We loved The Galleon House. It's a historic building and while it's been modernized, it definitely shows its age in a few spots, so it's not for everybody. It was perfect for us, though. It's in the heart of Charlotte Amalie, surrounded by other beautiful old buildings, lots of shops and restaurants and just a stone's throw away from the water's edge.

St. Thomas, Virgin Islands

They served breakfast every morning on the patio, which is lovely -- especially if you're a Midwesterner who hasn't been able to sit outside on a warm, sunlit patio in six months.

Charlotte Amalie

If you're thinking about booking a stay, though, beware of the stairs.

Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas

I counted 129 of them from the downtown to our room. To be fair, only 81 of them were inside The Galleon House complex. But that's still a lot, especially when you're dropped off at the curb by a cab at 9 p.m. after a long day of traveling and you're lugging a heavy suitcase along with you. The whole complex reminded me a little of Hogwarts, because of all of the twisty, twiny paths and turning staircases. It definitely earns five stars in the charm department.

St. Thomas

Downtown Charlotte Amalie, meanwhile, was a bit reminiscent of Diagon Alley. Lots of narrow streets and narrower alleyways with stores right on top of each other. This photo was taken on Sunday, when all of the jewelry stores were closed. The rest of the week, the place was hopping.

Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas

St. Thomas was owned by Denmark for many years, until being bought by the United States in 1917, and you can definitely see the Danish influence. All of the streets have Danish names. ("Kronprindsens Gade" means "Crownprince Street.")

Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas

It was a lot of fun to poke around the downtown. I could have spent days rambling around taking pictures of the colorful old buildings, the cobblestone streets and the historic architecture.

St. Thomas

This is Fort Christian, which was built in the 1670s and is the oldest structure in the Virgin Islands. It operated as a museum in recent times, but has been closed since 2005 due to a stalled renovation.

St. Thomas

There are lots of random chickens wandering through Charlotte Amalie. These guys were in Franklin D. Roosevelt Park.

St. Thomas, Virgin Islands

After roaming around the downtown on foot for a few hours on our first full day in St. Thomas, we hopped on an open-air bus operated by Franko and Brenda's Fun Tours. Franko was a great tour guide, and Brenda was a great bus driver. I think she had the harder job, because, holy wah, driving around St. Thomas is not for the meek.

Virgin Islands

Roads -- especially those heading up the cliff -- are narrow and winding, and shoulders are non-existent. There are lots of steep dropoffs, lots of guardrails, lots of hidden driveways and lots of horns honking.

Virgin Islands

It's worth the perilous drive to get to the top, though. Once you're there, the views are incredible.

Home of the World Famous Banana Daiquiri

As are the banana daiquiris.

Charlotte Amalie to Cruz Bay

On Day 2 of our vacation, we took a ferry to nearby St. John for a daytrip.

St. John, Virgin Islands

Upon getting off the ferry, you walk up to what looks like a lemonade stand -- except instead of kids selling lemonade, adults are giving away free rum shots. (Are you noticing a pattern?)

Virgin Islands

We took another open-air bus tour around St. John because we sure didn't want to drive on the island -- and not because we overindulged on the rum. Like on St. Thomas, the roads here are steep and narrow, winding around the cliffside. Plus, they drive on the left side of the road, something I never got used to during the week we were here. Even crossing the street is weird. Instead of looking left, right, left, like I was trained to do back in kindergarten, I had to try to reprogram my brain to look right, left, right.

St. John

The one place we wanted to go to on St. John was the Annaberg Sugar Plantation ruins, and it's definitely worth the trip. The ruins are hauntingly beautiful and incredibly sad. The plantation was started in the 1780s and operated well into the 1800s, with slaves planting and harvesting sugar cane that was terraced into the hillside and then processing sugar, rum and molasses on site.

Annaberg Sugar Plantation

Ruins of the slave quarters, the factory and a windmill (pictured above) and horsemill still remain. The site operates as a national park today.

St. John

There were also cotton and tobacco plantations on St. John back in the day, and you still see rogue cotton trees sprouting up here and there.

Cruz Bay

There are also lots of scenic overlooks and postcard-worthy views all around St. John.

St. Thomas, Virgin Islands

On our third day in paradise, we were back on St. Thomas, but we moved up the coast to a resort on Bolongo Bay.

Bolongo Bay Beach Resort

The staff greeted us at the door -- at approximately 10:30 a.m. -- with complimentary rum punches.

Bolongo Bay Beach Resort

Those of you who know me in real life know I am not much of a drinker. I am what we here in Wisconsin refer to as a "lightweight." Two drinks make me happy. Three make me sleepy. Any more than that, and I'm in trouble.

Bolongo Bay

I was definitely in trouble on Day 3.

Bolongp Bay Beach Resort

This is what they call a "Mudslide" in the Virgin Islands. I called it "lunch." It is a chocolate shake with alcohol. Mmmm.

St. Thomas

Anyhoo, from what I remember of it, Day 3 was a fun day. Day 4, not so much. Woke up with a killer hangover and laid low most of the day, until my husband dragged me out on a sunset cruise at 4:30 p.m. He's a big meanie sometimes.

Sunset Cruise

Our resort had a 53-foot catamaran (Heavenly Days) docked on site. I'd never been on a sailboat before, and the cruise was lovely. I even managed to choke down the obligatory rum punch that they hand you when you board. (But then I drank Coke for the rest of the cruise.)

Coral World Ocean Park

Day 5 might have been my favorite day of the entire trip. My husband wanted to go to Coral World Ocean Park. I've never been much of an aquarium person. (I prefer four-legged fluffy animals to slimy marine creatures. Plus, putting any kind of wildlife in captivity bothers me.) But in the spirit of vacation, I agreed to go -- and I loved it.

Coral World Ocean Park

This is the Underwater Observatory at the park. You walk in that little igloo-shaped structure and go down a winding staircase until you get to the bottom, where there are windows on every side looking out onto a coral reef. It's like scuba diving without getting wet. We were there when a diver was feeding the fish. It was utterly captivating to watch the fish swarm around and eat. (And I enjoyed the irony of the humans being the ones inside the tank, while the fish just went about their day outside.)

Coral World Ocean Park

The animals that are in captivity at Coral World are mostly rescues or part of a "headstart program" and will be released back into the sea when they're ready, like the stingrays that we fed. Or at least my husband fed. I was too big of a wimp. You're supposed to hold a piece of food against the side of the tank, and the stingrays are trained to come up to your hand and suction the piece of food right out of it. I couldn't do it. I dropped the food when the stingray got about 6 inches away.

Bolongo Bay St. Thomas

We celebrated our last full day of vacation by going out on the Heavenly Days again, this time to "Swim With the Turtles."

St. Thomas Virgin Islands

Just to be clear, this photo is from Coral World yet. We didn't actually swim with this guy. But I didn't have an underwater camera to take pictures of the ones we did swim with, so this will have to suffice. The sea turtles here are enormous. They're about 3-feet long and can weigh hundreds of pounds.

Bolongo Bay

On the Swim With the Turtles tour, the boat goes out to a quiet cove where the turtles are known to congregate and the water is incredibly clear. Then they hand out snorkeling gear and let you off the boat to paddle around. The turtles mostly hang out on the bottom of the sea but they're air breathers, so every so often they have to surface. You can see them when they're on the bottom, and when they start to rise, you have to get out of their way, because they're not going to look out for you.

Bolongo Bay Beach Resort

I had tried snorkeling in Hawaii about five years ago, and I didn't really enjoy it. The first time I dipped my head under the water there, I came nose to nose with a big, ugly brown slimy fish, and it freaked me out. I decided if that's what was under the water, I didn't want to see it. But here, wow, the water was crystal clear, the fish were bright and colorful and the turtles were just amazing.

St. Thomas

Sadly, that brings me to the end of this travelogue. We met so many people on this trip who told us this was their second (or third or fourth or fifth) time in the Virgin Islands. I am firm believer in vacationing somewhere new every year, because the world is a big place and I want to keep exploring. But I'd definitely make an exception in this case.