Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year! Join Us This Weekend for a New Show -- And Here's Our Surprise

We're really excited about the new show taking place this weekend in St. Charles! Judging from the calls and e-mails, you guys are, too. Join us this weekend at the DuPage Expo Center on Saturday from 11 to 5 and Sunday, 9 to 3 (as far as we know there is NO early buy, but you are welcome to call the promoters to check, 715-526-9769 -- we're going to do that today as well).

The Expo show will take the place of Kane in our line-up for January and February. Many of your other favorite dealers have made plans to be there, too. Should be a great time. We've been hard at work on some lovely furniture, great containers, new framed pieces, smalls and -- our SURPRISE: altered-art trophies, which are featured in this month's issue of Somerset Studio magazine!! We were thrilled to find out that they were accepted for publication. I'll tell you more about that in Monday's post, but we will have the trophies for sale for the first time this weekend. Come check it out. Happy New Year! xo

Editor's Note: I wanted to thank everyone who's read and commented the last several weeks. I totally apologize for not responding; I've been working on the business' year-end books, which sucks up every minute I have! Hope to be back soon. Thanks! xo

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Start your New Year off right! Join us this Saturday and Sunday for a BRAND NEW SHOW! Since there is no Kane County this weekend, many of your favorite dealers have joined forces with Zurko Promotions to bring you a brand new winter show at the DuPage Expo Center in St. Charles. Joe and I (and our crew of excellent family helpers) are hard at work -- we'll have lots of beautiful furniture, fabulous smalls and a special surprise that I've been saving for the New Year. Stay tuned for details. And plan to join us! Can't wait. xo

Friday, December 25, 2009

From My House to Yours

Some years ago, my mother-in-law inaugurated a holiday tradition: the Christmas Matrix. Now, before you start thinking about the movie, let me tell you up-front that it's a kind of fill-in-the-blank Christmas letter. The last category is "Wish to You," and all of us add ours to that year's list. Sometimes, my wish for others is "Happiness." Occasionally, it's "Joy." But most often, it's the thing I wish for myself, "Time." Time to spend with those you love. Time to work on relationships that are broken. Time for all the things you should do. Time for the things you want to do. And the little luxury of small amounts of time to do "nothing" -- breathe, dream, rest. For without that kind of time, all the other things are difficult to achieve.

So, on this joyous day, I hope you have lovely gifts -- for a well-chosen, well-wrapped gift is a very happy thing. I hope you can earnestly celebrate the anniversary of baby Jesus' arrival on earth -- for hope is just what means, then and all down the ages, 'til today, December 25, 2009.
And I wish you Time.
Merry Christmas, my friends, and lots of love! xo

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Yesterday*, I wanted to concentrate on this:

But instead I was working on this:

The storage area. Yikes.
It is an unfortunate but well known fact that antique dealers tend to accumulate stuff. The joke goes that when a dealer dies, the funeral is at 10; sale starts at 11. (You must say this in a very deadpan fashion.) To some extent, you just can't help it. It's the nature of the business. There is stuff that comes with stuff, stuff that's just too good to pass up, stuff that is still usable and can't be just thrown away, stuff that you actually paid money for but doesn't sell (what's wrong with you people, anyway!?) So there comes a time every year when all that stuff must be dealt with, lest you end up in the newspaper in one of those hoarding stories. With lots of extra pets.
Once a year, Joe and I sort it all out, box it up, and take it to a wonderful little auction in Michigan. That's today's task. Tomorrow, bookkeeping. But after that, it's all about the tree, baby! xo
*P.S. You know I'm feeling guilty about this, MT; since it's a holiday week, I hope 5 a.m. Tuesday still counts as Monday! (:

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Public Service Announcement

Editor's Note: This post is dedicated to one of our favorite Chicago customers, Megan Townsend. Megan has been teasing me about being a blogging slacker of late. I've fallen from my heady rate of three posts per week pre-Thanksgiving to approximately .75 posts per week post-Thanksgiving. However, instead of pleading post-holiday-fatigue syndrome again, I actually took my camera along Monday so I'd have no excuse for not doing my second post! Megan, this one's for you! (:

This is just a friendly reminder from your pals at rhubarb reign to shop your favorite indie retailers this holiday season. I've written all year about a number of our customers who fall into this category (you can check some of them out on our blog roll), but wanted to show you just two of my hometown favorites:

City News and Books (which should really be called Small Town News and Books, but I guess that's not as catchy), and

Karma Records. I love both of these stores: the clerks are always friendly, helpful and actually know my name. If they don't have what I want, they can order it, giving me an excuse to go right back and shop some more. I always leave feeling happy. What more can you ask for?
I like indie shops because the personality of the owner comes through -- you get the feeling they've looked all over for the best stuff and have set it up just for you to come and see. Done right, an indie shop is truly a creative exercise, requiring both vision and editing. Why would you want to spend those holiday dollars anywhere else when these folks have done a lot of the leg work for you?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Laura's Lovely Letters

Hand-painted letters by Barrington (IL) artist Laura Simpson have been a bestseller for rhubarb reign from the moment we began carrying them. Laura is amazing to me -- in addition to being one of the nicest people on the planet (I've never seen anyone who would go to greater lengths to be sure custom orders are delivered on time), all of her letters are done ENTIRELY free-hand. No tracing, no penciling in first, nothing. Whoa.

At Grayslake we added three new items to her roster:



and City Signs. Special orders are taken on these, so we can offer your hometown, neighborhood, street -- you name it. Another plus is that Laura uses scrap lumber -- an excellent upcycled feature -- and all pieces are offered in a number of font styles and sizes. Come see our complete collection this weekend at the Wheaton show.
Saturday's crowd at Grayslake was good, despite the colder temperatures, until about 3 pm when coincidentally, the Bears game started. We'll have to give the coach a call and see if he can push the start time back a little. Shouldn't be a problem. Sunday was mild, but the crowd was thinner, which is pretty typical. We sold a range of items --furniture, industrial, smalls, holiday. Tomorrow, we'll start work for Wheaton, our last show for this year. Come and see us! We'll be having a little holiday sale and celebration. xo
P.S. A couple of personal notes:
Kelly -- Thanks for coming to show me your photocollage! You looked adorable, by the way.
Beth -- Congratulations on Painted Lady's inclusion in the January issue of Lucky (p. 45)
Stacy and Emily -- Congratulations on Snug's inclusion in Daily Candy
Megan -- Be sure to check back Thursday; the post is dedicated to you, baby!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Happy, Happy, Happy

Today's post is brought to you courtesy of the Rolling Stones:

I have been a Stones fan since high school, mainly because they were my boyfriend*'s favorite band. This comes in handy now-a-days because my son also likes the Stones, so it's something we can both enjoy on the drive to school. And we turned up the volume today, because you only turn 15 once:

Happy Birthday, Jack Garrison -- faithful member of rhubarb reign's creative team and my all-around favorite son. It's gonna be a good day!
In addition to the birthday excitement, I have a bunch of things to be happy about today. Joe and I set a new sales record for December at Kane. WOW! Many, many thanks to all of our excellent customers for making that possible.

Sales were strong in all categories, from holiday handmades to furniture, big and small. Smalls did well, as did industrial. We didn't sell much art or paper this month, but blew through all of our Christmas. Excellent! We'll get to work tomorrow for Grayslake.

But until then, I'll be sippin' hot chocolate laced with these excellent marshmallows. If you have a Williams-Sonoma nearby, I suggest you stop reading right now and go get yourself a box. They are amazing, practically guaranteed to induce happiness.

And I'll be wearing this excellent new skirt, purchased from our friend and customer Cheryl Herman at Panache in St. Charles (IL).
(It is part of the Cutest Outfit Ever, which I'll be sporting tonight at Jack's party. Cheryl was nice enough to stay open Saturday so Joe and I (along with our pal Diane) could get a peek at her newly redesigned interior. It is stunning. Every bit as cool as Anthropologie, but much more personal. A smart blogger would have thought to bring her camera along. Hmmm. Guess I'll just have to go again in January (with Christmas money)! And to do a post. Wish I could figure out a way to visit all our customers' stores next year, so that I could share them with you. So much creativity out there! )

And I'll be turning up the Stones, working on Christmas cards and wrapping gifts. Happy, happy, happy! xo

*One of the many dangers inherent in small town life is that you have a greater chance of running into old boyfriends. Last time I saw this one in particular was at church a couple years ago. He looks EXACTLY the same, while I look like a green grape speeding towards raisin-hood. This is not a topic that can be included in my Happiness post, so we will cease discussion now. (:

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Transformation Thursday: Lamp Base Christmas Trees

People know that we love to make things, so it's not uncommon for someone to come by with a bag or box of stuff that they couldn't bear to throw away, thinking we could surely use it. Case in point: a couple of years ago, a favorite customer came to a show with two bags of branches from a vintage Christmas tree. The base had long ago gone missing, but he figured (rightly!) that we'd think of something to do with the remaining pieces. As it turns out, we've used that windfall for several seasons, this year using vintage lamp parts for bases:

First, the lamps are disassembled and cleaned. Then, florist foam is cut and glued in place underneath. Depending on the size of the opening, a washer is epoxied to the top of the lamp base to hold the branch snuggly in place. Next, the branch is cut to size, using either wire cutters or a dremel. Last, vintage paper is attached underneath to cover the foam and stem:

To see more of this year's holiday projects, check out our friend Katie Palmer's site, SoBo Style Journal. To see more cool projects, click the button on our sidebar to visit this week's installment of Transformation Thursday. xo

Monday, November 30, 2009

Calling a Dealers: New Show in Town, Plus a Peek at the Midland Load

Calling all dealers: there's a new show in town! Zurko Promotions, of Grayslake and Wheaton fame, is now booking space for the first weekend in January.

Booth space for the new show, to be held in St. Charles (IL) at the DuPage Expo Center, is comparable in size and cost to Zurko's other shows, so what are you waiting for?! Get the new year off to a great start. Joe and I are psyched -- with Kane County on break in January, this is just the opportunity we were looking for. Come join us.

Back to November: hope everyone had a terrific Thanksgiving! On Saturday, we took the day and went to restock at Midland. We were really happy with this load; lots of interesting industrial pieces, plus groups of smalls that worked into logical vignettes:

Let's play store! Mannequins, hat blocks, display cases made this corner feel like an old department store.

Cool It! A great group of vintage fans -- all of which work.

Heavy Metal -- stacking bolt bins, fabulous film reels, vintage metal advertising pieces.
The parking lot was packed -- we were busy all day -- hauling, rearranging, pricing and chatting with customers. Whew! Today, we start work for Kane County. We'll have lots of great stuff -- furniture, industrial, smalls, plus tons of handmades and gift ideas for the holiday. Come see us! xo

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Many Ports of Call

We just got back from an appointment at SoBo Style in Columbus, Ohio. The store looks fabulous -- all decked out in pink and silver for the holidays. Katie's clerk, Heather, made these pretty frosted roses -- don't they look tipped with a light dusting of snow?

The pink and silver holiday pieces were perfectly set against Katie's green walls and painted furniture. Her windows were adorable -- simple and striking -- with a handmade paper chain pulling everything together. Katie said mercury glass has been a huge seller again this season -- wouldn't it just make your holiday table?

She also has a terrific selection of Cody Foster -- I picked up a new piece for my collection. Katie called while we were on our way home to say that she'd just had her best Sunday in the eight years she's had the store. Excellent! You go, girl!! For more photos, check out Katie's blog and watch for details on her upcoming open house.

Last Monday, I was on my way to Chicago for a little face time with my BFF Kathleen Hughes. We went to see the Victorian photo collage exhibit, which was fascinating. I was glad that they had a catalog to go along with it, as the pictures are very intricate and detailed -- full of symbolism, which I love learning about. The catalog will give me more time to do just that.

Here's just one example: who knew that spider webs were common themes in Victorian photo collage? Seems kinda sinister, especially with the bats, but I gather that was not the implication. Don't see much of that on the scrapbooking shelves these days. I could do a whole post just on one or two of these pages. Stay tuned -- I'll come back to it.

The day before my trip to Chicago, we'd been at the Wheaton Antique Market. Although Wheaton is the smallest Chicago show we do, it was our biggest venue in November -- wow! Many thanks to our wonderful customers for turning out in force to support it.
Here's a peek at some of my favorite projects from the weekend -- Snow Day Mini-Photo Holders;

Fanfare Jewelry Displays, made from vintage lamp parts;

Aladdin Trees, again made from vintage lamp parts;

And this Enchanted Forest tree, a special order for one of our favorite clients -- I loved the glass ball and finial at the top. We sold merchandise in all categories at Wheaton and were delighted to see some of our wholesale furniture buyers, who were mostly absent from Kane and Grayslake. They've just been busy was their report -- again, good news.

I hate to end on a somber note, but I wanted to share this with you, as I'm still thinking about it. I was running late last Saturday, needing to get to the studio to finish the projects I just showed you. But Jack and I were decorating the front porch with flags. Not for a parade; this time for a funeral.

We were surprised and saddened to learn that one of the soldiers killed at Fort Hood was from our little town. Although we didn't know the family, we'd driven the same streets and walked the same halls. He was a neighbor. The motorcade for SSgt. Justin DeCrow would pass right in front of our house, and we wanted to let his family know our thoughts were with them.
The town turned out in full force to say good bye on a beautiful fall day that was eerily reminiscent of 9/11 -- remember how blue the sky was that day? He was only 33, with a wife and little boy. What a shame. Please remember them, and our other soldiers and veterans, in your Thanksgiving prayers. xo

Thursday, November 12, 2009


Be sure your weekend plans include Sunday's Wheaton Antique Market at the DuPage County Fairgrounds. We have some funky industrial stuff, great furniture and a new group of holiday projects. Come see us!

About next week: just wanted to let you know that like last week, I won't be around Monday. I'm headed to Chicago with my BFF Kathleen to see the Victorian Photocollage Exhibit at the Art Institute. So excited! Will have photos later in the week! xo

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Grayslake: A Tale of Many Projects

In addition to the time spent in my sewing room last week, it was all hands on deck for our first round of holiday projects. Here's a peek at just two of my favorites:

We made these Snowflake Magnets from vintage chandelier crystals and an assortment of great old papers from our scrap stash. I love how they turned out -- each one different, just like real snowflakes!

We also made four different types of photo holders using vintage bottles, metal odds and ends, thread spools and rulers. Here are the thread spools; my son was in Indy for the final band concert of this season; I was wishing he was there to help, because he would have loved using the dremel to make the tiny holes in the top of each spool! We had those little wire holders since the beginning of the year; anyone have an idea of what they are? I have no clue.
In addition to the projects pictured, we made a batch of our signature Vintage Holiday Vignettes and handmade Holiday Banners, plus embellished Wonderland Jars and tiny feather trees. My mom, aka Granny Elf, was a huge help in getting everything finished -- an extra pair of hands for cutting, pasting, tying, you name it, makes everything go that much faster.
Many thanks to our wonderful customers for taking just about everything home! We'll be hard at work this week on another round of projects -- plus more furniture and smalls -- for next Sunday's Wheaton Antique Show; check the show sidebar for details and come see us.

P.S. As I mentioned in the comment section of the post on these burlap basket liners, we ended up going with stencil numbers to embellish them; here's the photo I promised. I think I'll use this post for Transformation Thursday this week, so if you're reading on Thursday or after, remember to click the button on our sidebar to see all the other great projects listed this week! xo

Friday, November 6, 2009

Come see us at Grayslake this weekend!

Come see us this weekend at the Grayslake Antique Market! We've got lots of holiday projects, funky smalls, DIY and some really beautiful furniture. Don't miss it. Just click the link on our sidebar for show details. xo

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Transformation Thursday: Burlap Basket Liners

I spent the morning at my sewing table today -- something I haven't done in a loooong time.

We got six of the baskets pictured below a while back. Because there is so little structure, we thought some liners would make them much more usable. Burlap to the rescue once again!

There were several shades to choose from at JoAnn Fabrics. I had a hard time deciding, so I picked two -- one light, one dark. Each basket measures approximately 18 x 24, so I figured I'd need about 5 yards of fabric.

Sewing without a pattern is still a little nerve-racking for me, even though I used to make slipcovers for a living. I just hate to start over; I always want to get things right the first time -- I think that's part of what makes me nervous. One lesson I've learned about the creative life is that you just have to push through fears like these. It seems like a little thing, but I'm amazed at how stuff like that holds me back sometimes.

Behold, the serger -- one of the greatest machines of all time!

It trims and finishes the edges as it stitches the pieces together -- what could be better!?

Here's the finished stack. Now comes the fun part: tomorrow at the studio I'll get out all my trim and embellish the baskets. Check back to see what I come up with and check out all the other great projects on today's Transformation Thursday -- just click the link on the sidebar. xo