Author: The Powder Keg

Retro geek.

Let’s talk about inflation.

It’s tax day. What better time to think about money and the economy, right? Probably depends on whether you filed early or you’re rushing off to the post office today; I’ll bet it’s also a delicate subject if you discovered you owed Uncle Sam more than expected. Anyway, some interesting data on household budgets:

From the booklet "Establishing a Home" published by the New York Herald Tribune. Copyright 1940.

From the booklet “Establishing a Home” published by the New York Herald Tribune. Copyright 1940.

This chart fascinates me. It shows the percentage of a two-person family’s annual income spent across a variety of categories in 1935-1936. I love that both reading and tobacco made the list. Reading DEFINITELY makes the list in my book!

Ironically, my commuting costs, car payment and insurance premiums cost 6.7% of my annual income–it’s not entirely unreasonable to think that even though this guide was published in 1940, some of the other percentages still hold true as well. Taxes and medical expenses, probably not, but I’m curious about some of the others.

I can’t even imagine trying to live on $1500 a YEAR. For TWO PEOPLE. Not in the United States, anyway.


Compact jackpot.

On Friday, my friend Amy emailed me a photo of a compact/vanity set she saw while out poking about at Antiques on Elm.

Amy thought I'd like this. (photo by Amy Janine Coleman)

Amy thought I’d like this. (photo by Amy Janine Coleman)

BEAUTIFUL. It’s a Shari Langlois set…originally it held powder, rouge, lipstick, and perfume, and there was a glass lid in matching pink Depression glass that would have covered the whole thing. While this set is missing the perfume and the lid, I still had to have it – the details on the powder and rouge compacts are simply stunning.

On the bottom of both compacts, you can read the Langlois New York hallmark.

On the bottom of both compacts, you can read the Langlois New York hallmark in an elegant script.

Lately I’m on a crown kick. How could I pass up this bejeweled beauty?

While exploring Antiques on Elm, a shop I’d never visited before, I found two more treasures that simply had to come home with me: a Girey compact with its original box and an Evans carryall that will be perfect for Easter.

In a recent post highlighting my Evans collection, I lamented that my carryall is missing its lipstick. Well, this one isn’t! Everything in this carryall is intact…the comb, lipstick holder, and powder puff are all accounted for. And while I’ll admit that I’m typically not a fan of pastels, this piece feels Eastery to me. It will work nicely with my blue Heart of Haute Milan dress.

So pretty and springy!

So pretty and springy!

I rationalized treating myself with these nice finds as a “congrats on your new job” celebration. Not that I need much of an excuse to buy compacts.


Day 3 of my new adventure

I’m about to start my third day of working at home. So far, all the people I’ve encountered have been wonderful. Lots of Skype meetings!

While I still don’t have my desk, I’ve done some things to make the space feel more like me–and more like an office. (Butters has already attempted to eat the spider plant several times.)

A whiteboard/bulletin board makes the space feel like an office.

A whiteboard/bulletin board makes the area feel more like a work-space.

I also hung up my pin-up girls…over my monitor, so they don’t show up during video calls, but I can see them whenever I look up.

Petty girls and Vargas pin-up

Petty girls and Vargas pin-up

On my desk, I’ve got a cool Rosie the Riveter mouse pad, plenty of coffee, and of course, the ubiquitous picture of my grandmother and her 1940 Dodge.

Rosie the Riveter mouse pad & my favorite photo of my grandmother for motivation.

Rosie the Riveter mouse pad & my favorite photo of my grandmother for motivation.

I’ve promised myself that I will leave the house every day for at least my first three months of working at home in order to fight my natural inclination to avoid people and become a hermit. Monday I went to yoga, yesterday I tackled the grocery store, and tonight I plan to hit up a yoga class again. Friday I’ll have lunch with a friend. Thursday night, Tim Waltner will choose our adventure and I’ll go wherever he takes me.

When people learn that I work from home, they typically respond with a statement like, “Oh, that’s great – you can spend all day in your pajamas!” But I can’t. Really, Skype meetings aside, that’s just not who I am. Call it part of my vintage proclivities, but I can’t bring myself to work if I’m not dressed, with hair done and make-up in place. When I taught college classes, I refused to grade papers at home if I wasn’t dressed. Somehow it just felt unprofessional to me. I don’t care if other people choose to work in sweatpants–if that suits them, then I won’t judge.

Pretty confident that situation won’t change six months down the road, but stay tuned.

Dual shoe funeral

Last week, two of my favorite pairs of shoes succumbed to wear and tear, beyond repair.

Two beautiful pairs of round-toed pumps.

Two beautiful pairs of round-toed pumps.

The gray shoes have been my go-to shoes for the last few years… travel, tradeshows, quick trips to the store… more interesting than basic black, but just as versatile. And so comfortable! But alas… This:

The back of the heel has split.

The back of the heel has split.

Also, the elastic in the heel has let go, so they don't stay on.

Also, the elastic in the heel has let go, so they don’t stay on.

I probably would have let the split at the back seam go, if I could actually keep the shoe on my foot while walking. But it’s reached the point where I’m endangering myself if I continue to wear these beloved babies.

The other pair, cute little polka dot pumps with cherry red heels, only cost $20, so I had limited expectations for their longevity. They’ve lasted about 3 years, so I definitely feel like I got my money’s worth. But again, they no longer stay on my feet.

The side seams have split on both shoes.

The side seams have split on both shoes.

You know what that means. TIME FOR SHOE SHOPPING!!!

Tim keeps teasing me that since I’ll be working at home, I can go barefoot all day and no one will know. I’m not going to an office daily, so I won’t need shoes.


A good day for creativity…

My horoscope for today–

“Today is all about art. It’s a great time for creating new work if that’s where your interests lie, but it’s just as good for soaking up culture in all its forms. Your creative energy is magnificent!”

OK, so it’s not just MY horoscope, it applies to Scorpios all over. Including the other resident of this house. Which is probably a good thing, as I may need Tim’s guidance in today’s endeavor: I’m building a desk. Yesterday I left work early and hit up a ton of antique stores; while I didn’t find anything that was exactly right, I did come home with a ton of ideas. Couple those with all the stuff I’ve curated on Pinterest recently and… you’ve got a recipe for a one-of-a-kind desk with personality. Keep your fingers crossed that I can translate what’s in my head to a functional piece of furniture.

If you don’t follow me on Pinterest (hi, Mom!), here are some of the sorts of things I’m drawn to for inspiration:

Garment Factory Desk

Deco Industrial Desk

Simple wood and industrial vibe

I’ll incorporate lessons learned from my current desk into the design of the new one.

My current desk. Soon to become a dressing table.

My current desk. Soon to become a dressing table.

Those lessons:

  • I like real wood.
  • This desk is a good size in terms of height, length and depth.
  • I need drawers for storage.
  • I also need to be able to fit my legs UNDER the desk, which completely can’t happen now. And it’s not about the chair. If I lower the chair enough to get my knees under the desk, my keyboard is in my boobs. Awkward for typing.

Wish me luck. I’m off to finish my coffee, put on some lipstick and head to the lumber yard.



Mid-way through the makeover

I had an incredibly productive weekend and rocked rearranging my office. I also figured out what I have, what I need, and what I ultimately want the space to look like. While I love old furniture and pieces with a sense of the past, I haven’t chosen any of the furniture that’s currently in my office – it’s all been given to me. That translates into a space that  doesn’t necessarily reflect my own taste, so I’m working to rectify that while maintaining a balance of familiar pieces and carefully chosen new ones.

The big paint reveal:

Blue paint. Very blue. I love it.

Blue paint. Very blue. I love it.

I do love the paint. I will love it more once I get the desk situation sorted out. Lighting, filing, and organization are all dependent on the desk; until I have those, I’m holding off on putting things on the walls. I need to get a desk in here to see how the space will work and what makes sense for me.

The story behind my current desk: my first mother-in-law gave it to me about 12 years ago. She bought it used at a flea market in Colorado in the late 1960’s and painted it the antique-y green you can barely see in the photo. Don’t worry–you’ll get to see more of the desk in future posts as it gets its own makeover. Bernadette suggested that I turn it into a vanity/dressing table – I’ve always wanted one, and the lines of this desk will be wonderful for that. It will go against the wall by the window pictured below – just behind the papa-san’s current location.

The view from the doorway.

The view from the doorway.

I turned one of the bookshelves to make an L and create more a of a separation between work space and my reading/relaxation nook. The sloped roof means there are limited spaces where I can put the shelves…I love them, but sometimes wish they worked better in this house.

These bookshelves came from my dad's parents.

These bookshelves came from my dad’s parents.

The papa-san (actually mama-san, it’s not a huge chair, it only holds one person) is gone. My friend Amy is carting it off to donate it for me. I’m excited to have that out of the office–I want a new comfy chair for reading! I’ve always wanted a leather armchair, but I’m not sure that’s in the budget. We’ll see what I can find.

At some point, I plan to replace the carpet with cork flooring. That’s a bigger project than I’m willing to take on at the moment, though. In the meantime, however, I’ve treated myself to an area rug with a nice print. It will work with the colors in the office, as well as my plans for the vanity. That should arrive soon, I’ll post photos when it gets here.

My grandmother's sewing machine.

My grandmother’s sewing machine.

My grandmother’s sewing machine is going to live with my cousin Becky. As much as I love the machine, I don’t know how to sew and with the current state of upheaval in my life, I’m unlikely to learn any time soon. She’s been sewing for years and will appreciate the machine for its functionality, not just the sentimental attachment to my grandmother.

Overall, I feel like I’ve made good progress in a short time. While I’ve still got a lot of work to do, I’ve got a plan and I’m excited to see everything come together.


Office makeover

Big news–I’ve accepted a new job! Also big news–I’ll be working entirely from home. My new company has no corporate offices; everyone works from home. As part of the transition, I’ve decided to redecorate my home office.

The room is an odd shape that has two little sort of nooks–I’ve been using one for reading and one for my desk. As part of the redesign, I’ve decided to swap them. Some of the drivers behind that decision:

  • Currently, you can see my desk from the hallway. If I move the desk to a place where I can’t see it every time I pass the room, I’m less likely to think about work when I’m not working. It’s a subtle attempt to maintain boundaries or work/life balance.
  • Better lighting. I currently sit by a window on the north side of the house–the other window in my office faces west and will give me more light during the day.
  • Less distracting wall space behind my head. I’ll be spending a lot of time in Skype meetings and video calls and want to make sure that I have a neutral background so the folks I’m talking to can focus on what I’m saying, not trying to figure out what’s on the shelf behind me, or squinting at the window coming out of my head.
My three Petty girls - blonde, brunette, and redhead.

You can see the color here behind my three Petty girls – it’s a deep eggplant, tough to photograph.

The biggest decision right now: paint. I LOVE the purple that I’ve had for years, but it’s just too dark. I want something lighter, brighter, and vivid; something that will energize me. Over the last few years, I’ve grown attached to vibrant greeny-blues. The kind of blues you’d find in vintage bathroom tile or a ’50s Chevy. Something kind of aqua but not too pastel, preferably with a tantalizing tropical sounding name.

Last night I stopped on the way home to collect some paint chips. It’s a competition between Behr’s Jamaican Sea and Bali Bliss right now. I dig the color directly underneath Jamaican Sea on the sample card, Blue Jewel, but I’m concerned that it would be too dark–not a significant improvement over the purple.

Here they are–I’m completely open to feedback. Tell me what you think.

I'm leaning toward Jamaican Sea.

I’m leaning toward Jamaican Sea.