Monday, June 22, 2015

A Little Vintage Camper: A Dream Come True

I love a good story.  
This is a good one.

My friend, Susie, is soon to be the National President of Psi Iota Xi, the women's philanthropic organization of which I am a member.  (How you like that fancy grammar?)  Her goal has been to visit every Chapter (120+) during her tenure on the National Council, and since our membership stretches from Midland, Michgan to Lexington, Kentucky, over to St. Joe, Illinois and back to Mount Vernon, Ohio, that's a lot of miles and overnights.  Last spring, when she was staying with us in the middle of her travels, we spent the morning drinking tea and talking and somehow, the conversation fell upon how I have always dreamed of having a little vintage camper.  

"A WHAT?"  Susie asked, with a weird look on her face.
"A little camper.  You know, from the '60's."
"A WHAT?"  Susie asked again with a bit of a smile.
"A camper.  A trailer.  Just a little vintage camper."  I was starting to feel a bit silly, and headed to the magazine basket for a copy of Mary Jane's Farm (and an article on vintage campers) to help explain myself when she said,  

"I have one in my backyard."
It was my turn.
"WHAT?"  

The camper belonged to Susie's husband, Jim's, family; when he was young they had traveled all over the country in their 1965 West Wind Custom.  Later, Susie and Jim's kids had used it for a clubhouse, and in recent years, Jim had  used it for storage.  I think they were ready for it to be extracted from their yard before the trees grew too much more, anchoring it at the back door forever!

I tried not to be too excited when I told Susie that I'd be interested in their camper, if Jim was ready to part with it, and after a few months, Susie said, yes, if we would come and get it, it was ours.  We did, and it is! 

We made one four-hour round trip to east central Indiana to have a look and a chat with Jim, then Clay, Nate and Will made the trip a few weeks later to pick it up.  

The outside needs some repair and spiffing up, but I think it's adorable:

It needs all sorts of things updated, like tires and wheel bearings.  We're currently planning work on all the joints, trying to make it a little more watertight.  New windows and a new door would be nice, too, but not necessary.  

What's necessary?  Color!  This gold is nice, but I think she would be so much cuter in turquoise, don't you?  Wait just a moment -- I'll show you the color I'm thinking of ...  

Another upcoming addition will be a large awning over the door and a smaller matching one over the front window, 

Here's the back:  
A little wire brushing, a little white paint and we're good to go!
I can't do the outside work by myself.  I tried while Clay was in Australia, but kept running into problems.  Turns out that the screws are all rusted in -- plus, the heads of the screws are in a stylized figure-8.  Fancy.  I only have flat and Philips in my toolbox.  Plus, I'm short. 

So, I turned my efforts inside.  Here is a collage of what the camper looked like inside, before and during renovation:


Certainly nothing wrong with the inside, just dated.  In fact, if we had new tires, we could have gone camping right away!  If I did that sort of thing.

The biggest job inside was pulling up the carpet, scraping and sweeping up all the black carpet backing, scrubbing the floor, painting the floor with latex paint (as recommended by the tile manufacturer, Armstrong) and putting down new tile.  The 12" tiles seemed a little big for the space, so Jenny came over to help and we ended up cutting each tile into quarters.  I had bought a new box cutter to cut the tiles, but for the trim work around corners, a pair of scissors did just fine.
I sewed new curtains out of vintage linens (tablecloths, pillow cases and handkerchiefs).  I was afraid the foam in the cushions would have to be replaced, but I took one to an upholstery shop, and they told me the foam was good for several more years.  So I just sewed new covers (after much trial and error!)  No zippers and no cording.

And, here is the big reveal!  I still have some things I'd like to do, but you get the idea!  

I had planned to paint the interior a nice clean white, but after hearing Jim talk about how the beautiful birch veneer reminded him of his family's trips to the forests and parks in the west, I didn't have the heart to paint over it.  A good cleaning with Murphy's Oil Soap, and the inside is shiny, warm and cozy.  I love it.  

See? Cozy!

Cushions in turquoise hounds tooth.  I sewed little elastic loops into the corners and fastened them onto cup hooks to keep the cushions upright.  


I had seriously thought about removing the stove top, refrigerator and sink, but friends have talked me out of it -- I think I'm going to build a little platform to cover the burners.  And the refrigerator will make a perfect cooler.  


Do you like this turquoise?  That's going to be the color of the accent stripe on the outside, replacing the gold.  

I like to call this end of the camper the sleeping alcove.  There are two long cushions under that chenille bedspread, and the platform will pull out to make a full bed.  As it is now, it's a perfect napping/reading spot for one, or a couch for several!  


 Just a little trial decoration.

What am I going to do with this when it's done?  Well, first I'm going to have to decide upon a name.  I'm thinking Susie Lou (after Susie and Jim, of course, Lou being a nod to their last name.  Plus, Sue and Lou are the middle names of my sisters!) or Jodi (my mom's nickname in nursing school) or Pixie, for Psi Iota Xi -- clever, right?  But I am also accepting suggestions ...

Her first big event will be our Hen and Chicks Barn Market in September, where she will probably serve as our ticket booth (or napping spot), and her next scheduled event will be the 2016 Psi Ote National Convention in Indianapolis!

Then?  I would like to outfit her as a mobile knitting studio, but I know Sarah and Maggie and their families might like to actually camp in her!

More updates soon.

Peace.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Summer Reading

I haven't written a book post in forever -- sorry.  I need to sit down and compile all the books I've read since my last book report (March 20?  Yikes) because there are some great ones.  And a couple of meh ones.

Currently, I'm reading The Red Tent for book group, listening to A Spool of Blue Thread while sewing (how appropriate, but I'm not sure I like this one at all -- time will tell, I guess) and my current Jane Austen is Mansfield Park, because I watched the 1999 movie last week, and I didn't remember the novel being quite so sexual or political ...
And after reading a Facebook post by my college friend, Julie, which cited this article, I immediately ordered Make Me One With Everything.   Oh, and Benediction by Kent Haruf, which I bought at Indy Reads Books last month (after an amazing lunch with the Purdue Crew at Black Market, right across the parking lot -- thanks, J&J.)

Here, instead, is my reading list for the summer.  (Or fall.  Or winter.  Or next year.  You know how that goes.)

Furiously Happy.  Have you read Let's Pretend This Never Happened?  Same snappy author.  And I'm not ashamed to say that the first thing that caught my eye was this cover.  Raccoons make me furious, but they are so darn cute.  


Love, Fiercely.  The story of this couple portrayed in a painting by John Singer Sargent.  I love art-based novels.

The Homecoming of Samuel Lake.  Amazon told me I would love this one, since I loved The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry (which I gave to Clay, hoping he would love it and we could discuss it at length.  He didn't.  We didn't.)

Euphora.  A novel based on the life of Margaret Mead.  I expect this to be fascinating.  
Under the Wide and Starry Sky.  The story of Robert Louis Stevenson and his wife, Fanny.  By the author of  Loving Frank 

Peace.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Antique Finds

Today, Jenny and I went to the Tri-State Antique Market in Lawrenceburg -- a beautiful day, an amazing collection of dealers from Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky and lots of fun.

  Look at what I found:

You know I love kitchy stuff -- my writing room is full of odd little Oriental figures.  

I don't know why.    
But these little kissing dolls ($5!) will feel right at home there.  

The yellow ashtray ($2) is destined to be a soap dish, the brooch ($3) is for Abby someday (her room is coral and gold -- kind of perfect for her) and the bowl ($2) is Hull Oven Proof just like grandma had.  The towels (both for $10) will be perfect for curtains for the small windows in the camper.  (Oh yes, the camper.  You probably want to know what's going on with her, don't you?  I promise a post this week.)

We also bought a couple of galvanized buckets, some plant hangers and this pair of shutters:


But this is the purchase I am most excited about:



And look!  Sheet music included!



What is it, you ask?  Why, it's a Violin Uke!  

I don't know how to play it, nor did I know something like this existed before today. 

I  just couldn't pass it up; I was channeling my inner Ron Wunder -- my dear friend, extraordinary music teacher, instrument collector and member of our little nursing home band.  He unexpectedly passed away last December, and every week I still expect him to come ambling it, bringing along a sax, clarinet, trumpet, accordion or squeeze box.  Really.  He had a squeeze box, and could play the heck out of it.  We would just tailor our play list to whatever instrument he brought along that day, and we had the most fun.  Oh, I still have fun playing at the home, but now it's down to just me and Jack, the harmonica player and all-around nice guy -- he loves bluegrass and folk music, but he's always happy to play Moon River, Unchained Melody or some Beatles songs.   

Anyway, I thought how fun it would be to learn to play the Violin Uke for the residents.  The sheet music makes absolutely no sense to me yet, but thank goodness for YouTube -- there are lots of Violin Uke videos.  

Who knew?  Off to try to tune it up and give it a spin.

Peace.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

This One is About Annie

I love making new friends.  Oh, I love my long-time friends (you notice I didn't say "old"?  I'm trying not to say that word, except when describing antiques.)  But there's nothing better than making a new friend who seems like a dear old friend.  (oops)

That was my friend, Annie Endris.  I just met her in April of 2014; she was a leader of the retreat I reluctantly went on that spring (as if I didn't love my friend, Lori, enough, I will always be thankful to her for urging me to attend).
That retreat was so meaningful to me, I actually looked forward to going again this year, despite the whole "camp" thing.  You know -- hard beds, 20+ snoring women in a cabin, uphill-all-the-way hikes in Brown County.  But there were things to return for, as well -- wonderful meals, thoughtful discussion with great women, prayerful meditation in beautiful surroundings and uphill-all-the-way hikes in Brown County.

And there was Annie.
Annie, who welcomed us as if we were all her very best long-lost friends.
Annie, whose smile illuminated the joy in her heart.
Annie, who shared her stories, her books, her music.
Annie, who just seemed so happy to be at camp, to be at retreat, to be alive.

And then she died.

That first year at retreat, we went to Mass at St. Agnes, Annie's parish.  During the petitions, when Sister Eileen was naming the sick to pray for, she said, "Annie Endris."
Wait.
My new BFF (of less than 24 hours) was sick?  I was very uneasy through the rest of Mass, the bus ride back to camp and supper, and then, at our evening session, Annie shared with us that she had been diagnosed with cancer.

Wait wait wait wait wait.

I spent the next year praying for her, because thanks to her encouragement, I was praying again.  And miraculously, when we went to retreat this April, there she was.  A little slower, a little tired, but she brought her joy with her.  We prayed with her, and laughed with her, and we all thought it was adorable when she slipped away up to the lake Saturday evening with her husband to celebrate the anniversary of their first kiss.  We gave her small stones on which we had written our concerns; she was going to pitch them far into Lake Michigan the next day when she went up to the Cancer Treatment Center of America for her appointment.

But when she got there, they told her there was nothing else they could do.  And all we could do was pray for her.  A short few weeks later, she died at the beach with her sweet family at her side.

Although I panicked all the way there, I went to her funeral.  Lori and I sat in the back and watched the people fill the church -- I told Lori that this was what I wanted at my funeral:  sweet music, lots of priests, a few celebrities and the need for extra chairs.  Apparently, I wasn't the only one Annie influenced (!) -- her many years as a spiritual director had allowed her to touch the lives of hundreds of people, from regular folks like me to TV anchorwomen.

I could have spent years sitting with Annie, happily soaking up her joy, peace and wisdom.  (I think this is what heaven might be -- sitting around with those you love soaking up joy.)  But because she gave her all to us in those few short days we had together, I know that her joy, peace and wisdom will always be with me.

So here are my top Annie lessons:

1)  Our lives have seasons.  Some seasons we adore, some seasons we endure.

2)  Accept the gifts you are given, both from God and from others.  Rejoice in those gifts and say thanks. (Why, oh why is this so hard for me?)

3)  Outdoors is the best place to be with God.

4)  Inner peace is hard work.  The world keeps messing with it.

5)  Carrie Newcomer.  Annie used her song "Leaves Don't Drop" as the theme for our first retreat, and I've become a Carrie Groupie.

6)  Prayer is powerful.  Community is vital.

7)  It's not about me.  This was Annie's husband's theme for his eulogy, something he told us Annie said often.  I am still processing that, and growing from it, and maybe I will write a big blog post about that in the future.  For now, just know those words are peace-giving.

7)  Smiles sometimes say more than words.  Sweet or sassy.

8)  Now and then, you just have to say Dammit.  Dammit, dammit, dammit.

I'm probably not done with this post yet.  Because I'm sure there are things about Annie that I will remember, then come back and add.  Because I'll always remember.

Will I go back to retreat next year?

Of course.  Annie won't be there, but her spirit will always be at camp.  And I know she would want me to go -- to laugh and sing and endure the snoring and hike and pray.

Peace.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Mary Makeover

The Blessed Mother certainly doesn't need a makeover, but my garden Mary did.  I've had her for years (she was a gift from Clay and the kids many, many Mother's Days ago) and she was looking pretty shabby from years in the rain, snow and sun.

Clay thought I could just re-paint her in the same colors, but I was afraid she would look creepy -- I'm not good with realistic faces, just cartoony ones.



So, I used Annie Sloan Chalk Paint and the good advice of my friends, Heather and Julia at Beautiful Chaos, and I think she turned out quite lovely -- like an alabaster carving.



Peace.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Happy Twin Quilts

I made these quilts last September for the cutest little twins.  I didn't blog about them then, but now that the boys are stars of a video that just cracks me up, I thought I would.

The fabrics are from some bundles I purchased from Fabricworm a couple of years ago.  Just simple modern quilt style, with lots of machine quilting, because once I get started, I can't stop.    On the back, I tried to re-create a motif from the fabrics, with the boys' names done in raw-edge machine applique.  (I squared the quilts up, I promise -- photographing them on the lilac bush/tree makes them look a little wonky!)

Henry's Quilt



Thomas' Quilt



 And their video.  Be prepared to be happy:


 Peace and giggles,

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Flowers,

because I like to mess around with my camera ...




Peace.