Archive for October, 2009

I am not the “greenest” guy out there, but one of my favorite things to do is find new ways to use old things.  Call it recycling if you must but I like the whole idea of “repurposing” – and in time you will see many examples of it here.

But today I wanted to show you one of the simplest ways to re-use all those empty wine bottles that just end up going to the local transfer station.  Turn those bottles into cool, colorful tumblers or vases.  You can buy a glass cutter at a local craft supply store and every thing you need to buff down the rough edges.

Or, you can stop by Green Depot’s website to see Green Glass Co. Recycled Wine Bottle Glasses – these things are very cool. GGRWBG

“These 100% recycled glass tumblers are produced from reclaimed wine bottles. Made in the Northwoods of Wisconsin. Available in 4 colors sourced from a variety of bottles. Cyan (Bordeaux bottles), Cobalt (Westport Rivers Wine bottles), Evergreen (Bordeaux bottles collected from the organic restaurant and B&B on the Cave B Winery estate), and Topaz .”

I have been saving glass bottles for years.  I put some of the most colorful in the sunny windows of my kitchen and I love the light passing through them.  These wine bottle glasses are fun and unique and you can feel good about saving a little something from the land fill and have another good reason to drink wine.

I know I am going to regret this, but I must write about a great hotel find in London.

When I travel to a big European city, I like to stay in small hotels in the neighborhoods.  I have never been a fan of the large generic hotels in city centers.  One of my favorite cities to visit is London and I can assure you there is no shortage of small hotels from which to choose.  I have stayed in many of them, and I have to say there are some really good ones, but some very bad ones as well.

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A couple of years ago I discovered one of the good ones – Vancouver Studios located in the Bayswater district – close to Hyde Park and Queensway.  

I love this place.  Vancouver Studios is comprised of a few traditional Victorian row houses strung together.  I’ve stayed here a few times and loved every minute of it.  I have to say that if you like the big fancy hotels, you may not like this place.  But if you like the smaller tourist-class hotels, this is the place.  The best part is that each of these rooms is a mini-suite complete with a kitchen area.  Having a kitchen, even just a mini-fridge, can make all the difference when staying in a city as pricey as London.  With the kitchen, you can do some shopping and save on meals.   

The rooms are small but very well appointed – not a wasted space to be found.  The bathrooms are clean and modern and have good water pressure.  And you can’t beat the location.  You are right in the city just a block away from the hustle and bustle of Queensway, but it is relatively quiet.  It is a short walk from the hotel to connect with the Underground and busses.  They even have bicycles to let. 

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The big drawback of Vancouver Studios is that there is no elevator.  If you get a room on one of the top floors it can be challenging, but well worth the climb.

I love how they describe the place on their website:  “Scattered around the building are reminders of a bygone era – quirky surprises greet you on every landing. From the warmth and coziness of the drawing room to the sound of a trickling fountain in the hidden walled garden, Vancouver Studios is truly an Oasis in the centre of Bayswater.”

The true charm of this hotel is that your feel like you are staying in a private home, but you have all the privacy you need. 

Again, not for everyone, but a charming place to stay in one of the most exciting cities on the planet. 

Note to LostCowboy fans – get used to hearing about London – I am going to write a ton about it. 

Read more about Vancouver Studios and make a reservation.

There is no better way to freshen up a room than by changing the floor covering.  Whether it is refinishing hardwood floors, laying some spiffy tile or plopping down a colorful area rug – you can change the feeling of your space.  

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That is why I love the floor coverings offered by FLOR.  “FLOR is a line of design-inspired carpet squares for the home that lets you create unique area rugs, runners or wall-to-wall carpet designs quickly and easily.”

Spend just a few minutes tooling around the FLOR website and I am confident you will be inspired to create a new floor design for at least on room in your house.  The cool thing is they offer all sorts of options – from traditional colors to cool patterns and my favorite, funky images.  Best of all, because the squares are modular you can mix and match and create your own design.

FLOR was founded “on the idea that carpet could be fun, stylish, practical and responsible” and it comes across in their offerings.

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I like the idea that you can get as few or as many squares as you need and there are solutions for awkward spaces in your house that could stand to be brightened up.

I also think some of these squares would make cool wall coverings – the possibilities are nearly endless.

The FLOR website is just fund to explore to see different ideas for designing a new floor.  There is also a very cool “Online Configurator” which allows you to design your space.  

Check it out.

 My FLOR favorites are:FLOR3

 The Be My Neighbor Rug

The Find A Face Rug

Visit the entire FLOR showroom here

The Forgotten 500 The Untold Story of the Men Who Risked All for the Greatest Rescue Mission of World War II

by Gregory A. Freeman

“In 1944 the OSS set out to recover more than 500 downed airmen trapped behind enemy lines in Yugoslavia. Classified for over half a century for political reasons, the full account of this unforgettable story of loyalty, self-sacrifice, and bravery is now being told for the first time.”

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This is a great book!  Billed as one of the last untold stories of World War II, The Forgotten 500 tells the amazing story of the rescue of US airmen trapped behind enemy lines in Nazi-occupied Yugoslavia.  More than that, it tells the story of how the peasants of the villages did everything they could to save and hide the Americans from the Nazis, including giving up their own lives.  Truly inspiring.

The story is a true adventure tale, and it is as gripping as any real or fictional story about the war you may have read before.  But what is a revelation is the history of Yugoslavia before and during the war, before it became a Soviet puppet.  What the Yugoslavian villagers did to help save hundreds of downed airmen from the Nazis is the most inspiring story I have read about in a long time.

This book transcends the topic.  Sure, if you are interested in World War II and stories of how the Allies beat the enemy, you will enjoy this book. However, anyone interested in the ability of mankind to help one another in the most difficult of circumstances, this is a story you must know. 

It is so easy to think about recent history in the Balkans and think that it is all beyond our modern sensibility’s comprehension.  This story will provide you with context as to what Yugoslavia was before Tito and Communism and all that came after. 

Most of all, it is a great story that will renew your faith in your fellow man.

The Forgotten 500 is available on Amazon and other retailers.

When I was a kid growing up in the 1970s there was no place in my family’s household that was more forbidden than my father’s dresser.  I remember the dresser quite well.  In fact, as I write this, my muscles are aching from moving that dresser this very day as my parents made the big move to their new post-post-retirement home.  But, that is another story.

As a kid, dad’s dresser loomed large.  It was much taller than my mother’s dresser, which was just as big, but more wide than tall.  Anyway, I was an adventurous kid (read: snooper) and I made my way to the top of dad’s dresser a few times.  I was always fascinated by what I found there: collar stays, cufflinks, watches, knives, etc.  But mostly I was intrigued by a glass jar with a clown’s head for a lid.  The jar was clear and most often contained loose change.

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I am not going to say I ever opened said jar, just that I remember it always being there standing sentry over my parents’ bedroom.  By the way, if you want a kid to stay away from something, don’t put a clown head on top of it and don’t fill it with money.

A couple of weekends ago, while on one of a dozen or so recent trips to the old homestead to help the folks downsize for their move, my mother was doling out her most precious family heirlooms from the china cabinet.  There wasn’t anything there that I wanted, the things were nice and some extremely valuable, but they did not hold the sentimental value I desired.

My mother asked me of all the things in the house, what did I want to keep.  I said I wanted the clown head jar from dad’s dresser.

“The Bosco clown?”  My mother said.

“I guess.”  I replied.

“You mean the clown bank we used to steal candy money from?” My sister asked. 

“What clown?”  Dad asked.  Um, another long story.

I led dad up the stairs to his room to the dresser.  “That clown,” I pointed.

“Oh that, sure, you can have it.”

I was ready for of fight.  How could he let something so meaningful go so easily?  The dresser was making the move to their new one-floor living unit, didn’t he want the clown too?

But I just said thank you and packed it lovingly for the ride to my own home.

Now my mission was to explore this mysterious clown, now known as the “Bosco” clown.  All I knew of Bosco was from the Seinfeld episode where “Bosco” was George’s ATM pin code.  From that episode I guessed Bosco was a regional chocolate syrup for mixing into milk.

Well, thanks to the internet, I was able to find the jar – they are all over the place.  Apparently, back in the 1950’s Bosco sold their chocolate syrup in these glass jars with a plastic clown’s head meant to be a bank when empty.  You can find these on various sites for sale, they seem to run anywhere from $5 – $10, more if the label is intact, which I guess is rare.  But the one I have is worth a whole lot more to me.

The clown that invited me to do things I knew I shouldn’t all those years ago now sits on my own dresser, ready to temp a whole new generation.

http://www.boscoworld.com/

While browsing a local stationer recently, I was drawn to some clever cards that featured cut-outs of various images that made me smile.  There were cowboys, superheroes, ballerinas and spaceships.  They reminded me of what we all wanted to be when we grew up.

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I was intrigued by the design of these cards.  Although they were mass produced, they each looked like a piece of hand-made art.  And that is very cool.  I purchased a few of them with the intent to frame them as a piece of wall art.

I have not done that yet, but will – watch this space.  But what I have done was research where they came from.  They were made by Meri Meri a design company that makes “traditional cards and invitations to Gift Sets, Partyware, Advent Calendars, even Mechanical Cards.”  Meri Meri are “an award winning paper design company based in San Francisco and The Cotswolds, England.”

Once I discovered the Meri Meri website, I fell in love with the work further and promptly purchased more.  I am impressed with the quality of the design and production of each item – seriously, they are all works of art.  Although the cards may be a little more pricey than your average Hallmark, they are inexpensive as the art that they are.  Check out the website where there are cards on sale that make it a no brainer. 

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I purchased a bunch of these cowboys – part of Meri Meri’s scrap booking accent collection.  I can’t wait to get my hands on them to explore cool ways of displaying them.  Stay tuned.

Visit Meri Meri on line.

Find a Meri Meri retailer near you.

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I know what you are thinking: “Sounds like a great story but what is the Lost Cowboy Found blog going to be about?”

Fair question.  I realize I am a nameless, faceless stranger to most of you, so the personal story may not resonate quite yet.  But I am confident over time as I tell the story you will come to care.  But yes, that is not compelling enough for you to bookmark my blog and visit regularly.

What my first two posts were about was setting the stage by exploring the inspiration for Lost Cowboy.  What I haven’t done is explain what is going to happen here.

When I bought that little “lost cowboy” at the flea market and when I experienced the joy of helping my mother share her collections with others, I had a revelation.  I realized that I had the ability to bring things out from the shadows for people to find anew or enjoy for the first time.  This prospect thrills me.

Many of the treasures my mother held so dear were packed away for years.  I watch as she lovingly held each one, like a child, and reluctantly gave it up to sell.  In the end, the reason she was able to give these things up was knowing that someone else will find, love and take care of them for the next generation or two.

Lost Cowboy will be about bringing things out from the attics, closets, barns and boxes and sharing them with the world. 

Lost Cowboy will find beauty in unexpected places and display art in the forgotten.  Lost Cowboy will recommend books, films, and artists and much more.  And soon, we will launch our own shop where some of our best “finds” will be offered for sale.

More than any of these things, Lost Cowboy will be about a sensibility honed over years and years of spending time with people who love people, places and things.  Lost Cowboy will be about finding lost treasures and new ways to use every day things.  It may be discovering a vintage button or a new jazz artist.  It may be about how to “repurpose” old milk bottles or recommending a restaurant in Central London.

Trust me, it will all make sense over time. 

If you have any questions – make a comment or send an email: curator@lostcowboyfound.com

A few weeks later in late September, a dear friend of mine invited me to go to Todd Farm in Rowley, MA.  The Todd Farm Flea Market is a seasonal show held on Sundays (April-November) where vendors set up to sell their wares.  My friend did not want to go to shop, she wanted to sell.

Here is where my inspirations come together.  My friend thought that I might want to join her to sell some of the many collectibles my mother had gathered over the years.  I promised the long story of cleaning out my parents’ house would be told over time, and it will, but here is the short version:

My parents, who have been married for over 50 years, are in the process of moving into a new home after decades of living in a rambling antique farmhouse in rural central New Hampshire.  The old house is filled to the gills with stuff.  All sorts of stuff.  Some of it is junk, some of it is just what you collect after living in one place for so long.  Then there are the treasures – the result of lives spent collecting.  As long as I can remember both of my parents collected things.  Just how much they collected and what the collected are now coming to light as we help them downsize.

A few dumpsters and truckloads to charity later, we are left with the fruits of my parents’ years going to auctions and tag sales.  My mother’s fear during this process was that we would just throw everything into the dumpster without considering the value.  She thought this because that is what we teased her about over the years.

So you can imagine the pure joy my mother demonstrated when I approached her with the idea of bringing some of her treasures to sell at the Todd Farm antique market. 

My mom, who had been sick all summer – part of the reason for the move – was so excited as we went through her collected gems to price for the sale.  The collection we chose ti start with was her lifelong collection of sewing collectibles.  My mother has always enjoyed sewing and everything about it.  She amassed hundreds of items from pin cushions, thimbles and buttons, to scissors and sewing birds.  Some worth pennies, others worth hundreds of dollars.tf

So there we were a couple of weeks later at 5:30 in the morning setting up our table in the dark of Todd Farm.  It turns out you need to get there early to get a good spot.  Even though we were told that the dealers are out early with their flashlights looking for deals, we were overwhelmed by the attention.  Within the first 30 minutes, more than half of the items I brought to sell – my mother’s treasures – were sold. 

We were just getting started.  After the dealers, the sun came out as did the serious buyers.  Later in the morning as the day finally warmed up, the casual buyers came.  By Noon most of what I brought to sell was sold.

Knowing what else my mother had waiting to sell, I turned to my friend at one point and said:  “my mother is sitting on a goldmine!”

The inspiration for this blog comes from two events I experienced this past summer: helping my parents clean out their collectibles-filled home and a trip to a local flea market while on vacation.

The first event, which is a long story 50 years in the making, will be told over time as my postings develop.  The second event is easier to grasp.  So let’s start there.

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Every summer for the past decade or so, a group of friends and I have spent time in Wellfleet, MA on beautiful Cape Cod.  One of the things we like to do while there is visit the amazing collection of shops and galleries in town and then visit the flea market held on weekends at the local drive-in movie theater.  Yes, Wellfleet still has an active drive-in theater.

Anyway, we were browsing the flea market looking at the various booths.  I was not looking for anything and this flea market is the place to go if you are not looking for anything.  The place has the typical mix of new and used stuff, knock-offs, cheap t-shirts and junk. But there is also a few vendors with vintage jewelry, collectibles and antiques.

It was at one of these latter vendors’ tables that I came across a little metal cowboy.  For some reason it called out to me.  The last thing I needed was to purchase a little metal cowboy that looks like it is broken off of something.  But he looked lost.  In the 30 seconds it took me to take out the $2 to pay for him, I came up with about 50 different uses for him.

I thought I could put him in a shadow box to make an interesting piece of art; I thought about fixing him to the top of a wooden box as an ornament; I thought he could be the start of a new collection of tin toys; But most of all, I felt, for no real reason at all, that he would be the start of something really special in my life.