Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Reuse and Repurpose: A Perfect Brew

Photograph by Stan Williams
Even though I never drank coffee until after spending time in France, this stovetop percolator refashioned into an imaginative table light, seen at one of the vintage shops in Kansas City’s West Bottoms, brought to mind my own long history with this fragrant, caffeinated beverage.

One of my first memories of a coffee percolator was of a time when I was probably four or five and somehow, the morning’s brew sat on the stove too long and burned. To me, Starbucks coffee always tastes bitter and singed, but the scent of scorched coffee can literally stings the inside of your nostrils. I think my mom tried to cover the stench with a coating of Lysol, which transformed the odor into a medicinal stink that remains etched in my olfactory memory. Soon after, my parents replaced the coffee pot with an electric version, and then later, with the ever-popular ‘70s sensation, a Mr. Coffee.

I’m also reminded of many relaxing weekends spent with the Quinn family in their Jersey Shore home. I rarely sleep late in Manhattan, but I am almost never the first person up when visiting the Quinn’s. Free of city noise that often has me tossing and turning at home, I awake most mornings in Quinn household to the warming aroma of coffee being prepared in an old metal percolator. We often go through two or three pots, eat time waiting for the brown liquid to bubble up into the glass top, indicating that it is time to set the timer for the moment we pour another perfect cup of Joe.

Drink up!


The Elegant Thrifter

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

What is The Elegant Thrifter?


Recently, I began to re-think the name of this blog after someone questioned whether The Elegant Thrifter  was an apt description for the stories and photographs I share in this space. The concern, delivered with all sincerity, centered on the idea that my blog was more down home, warm, kind, curious and sincere, more so than elegant or thrifty.

Putting my ego aside, I began to think seriously about the words I cobbled together several years ago for the title of this blog, especially since I’m working on sweeping away the cobwebs that have gathered at The Elegant Thrifter during a period of neglect. Maybe, as the critic suggested, a name change was in order.

Elegant: In my mind the word refers to a way of living: gentle, graceful, beautiful, pleasing and soothing along with the sentiments mentioned before: kind, warm, curious and sincere. Nowhere in the definitions I read could I find it associated with snobbery, exclusivity, price, class or pedigree. That is not me. I am attracted to authenticity and honesty, and my heart cannot not swayed by dollar signs. Like the crow, I, too, am attracted to shiny objects, but whether they’re made of platinum or silver plate doesn’t afford them a more honorable place at my table.

The word “elegant” could just as easily describe a carefully arranged table setting that includes mix-and-match flatware and cloth napkins bought at garage sales as much as one created out of store-bought goods. A nick here and a ding there? Doesn’t bother me. Those imperfections are the love marks of a lived-in patina that makes them feel timeless and welcoming.

As you know if you’ve been with me for a while, taking a homemade pineapple upside-down cake on a vintage serving dish is how I like to show my appreciation to a host or hostess. Plus, I enjoy the baking process: the preparation, the mixing and the final moment when the confection hopefully drops out of the pan.

This is where “elegant” starts to blend into the made-up word “thrifter.” Even tough as a kid I had everything I ever wanted or needed, my family was not wealthy, and the allure of getting a great deal at a garage sale or shift shop was, and still is, hard to resist. The treasures in my home are the ones I have hauled cross-country from flea markets, discovered lying in a driveway for a few dollars or made by hand by a dear friend.

So back to the cake. When I bake one for a gift, I like to present it on a thrift-store platter. Not only do I enjoy rummaging through shop shelves for a plate to match the occasion, but it also relieves me of having to retrieve it after the cake is eaten. Often after enjoying time in a friend’s home, it’s time to leave and the question of what to do about the plate pops up. I just respond, “Keep it, it’s yours. It’s part of the gift”


I’m not giving up on The Elegant Thrifter. And I’m keeping the name. It, too, is part of a gift I gave myself. And if you like, I’ll share it with you -- elegantly and thriftily.

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