Monday, July 28, 2014

Behind the Curtain - the "Real" Antiques Roadshow

One of PBS' all-time, most-watched television programs is Antiques Roadshow (AR), and its 18th seasonal tour will be wrapping up with a stop in our home town, Charleston, WV, on August 16, 2014. While this is exciting, I have already been to two different AR program city tour stops, and I want to share with you a little about the "real" Antiques Roadshow - the proverbial "Oz behind the curtain" tour.
Mark Walberg, host of Antiques Roadshow, and I, outside of Pittsburgh restaurant (2011)
I love AR, but once you've been through the process, the true reality of the whole thing really is a little disappointing and anticlimactic. Perhaps I'm just still feeling a little scorned that my items weren't the talk of either the towns of Washington, DC in 2010, or in Pittsburgh, PA in 2011 {jk}.

Tickets are not sold to the Roadshow stops, but you enter your name early each year on their website for a chance at a random drawing, selecting your preferred city stop and time you'd like to have your appraisal of two items (max).  Sister M and I entered our names and were drawn in 2010.  Sisters M, J and I - all three - attended in 2011, with a little finagling. I am mixing photos taken from both cities to demonstrate the process clearly.

When you arrive at your city's venue near your designated time, the entry will look something like the photo below.
Entry to Antiques Roadshow city tour stop
You may find yourself going through a maze of various floors by escalators or elevators, but can get information if you feel uncertain or lost.
AR tour city stop information desk
There are signs along the course of the proverbial yellow-brick road to see Oz....
Signage, pointing the way at an AR tour city stop
And then you may see a welcoming sign, validating you are at the right place, at the right time...
Sign designating ticket time at AR tour city stop
Finding our spot to get in line at the AR tour city stop
Then, the waiting lines begin in earnest....
AR tour city waiting lines - in the midst
Here's what the waiting lines look like from an aerial view (below).  This is all BEFORE you get anywhere near the appraisers' tables. Outside of the black curtain is the main line, spilling over into another taped off line.  Two huge projection screens are visible in the line-standing waiting area. I'll explain what's inside those black curtains a little further in the post.
Arena waiting lines setup for typical AR tour city stop
There are a multitude of volunteers designated with jobs of trying to entertain the crowds while waiting, and those huge screens are continuously projecting previously recorded airings of the AR programs while you wait. Volunteering through your local PBS station would be another way to try to get to AR in your town.
Huge projection screens with programs running for attendees while waiting
Once you make it past these "outside the black curtains" lines, each attending person is funneled into a "triage" table. It is at the triage table that your collectibles are categorized, so it pays to know, in advance, the type of category and/or the AR appraiser names of who typically appraises an item you are bringing so you can "suggest" it.  If your item is a cross-collectible, you risk getting a less-than-accurate initial assessment at the triage table, so try to have a pretty good understanding prior to this point.
AR "triage" table
From the triage table, you receive a ticket for each item being appraised, and you herd into another line.
Triage category ticket
What you see in the photo below, within the circle of blue banners, is the set you are familiar with seeing on the television program - that is Oz behind the curtains!  All of the lines outside of that circle designate the triage categories - Dolls, Paintings, etc.  Once you have your category ticket, you circle the wagon of blue banners to find your next line (there are signs and volunteers everywhere).  At this point, you either split from your party, or all stay together and go to each station together. Photos are not allowed from the triage point and beyond, but the photo below was taken (in Pittsburgh) where my vantage point was entirely outside the arena, looking down, through a glass structure.
AR city tour stop television program set (behind the curtains), with waiting lines surrounding 
The next photograph is inside the constructed set I mentioned earlier. This is the cordoned area visible in one of the photos above, near where the big screens were entertaining folks standing in line waiting, at the beginning of the process. It is the holding area, or green room, for those attendees who are selected to be videotaped with their items. When invited here after an appraisal, one does not know if it is to be made fun of for bringing a fake, or to be delivered great news of "the" item that caught the appraiser's eye in a good way.
Holding area, or green room, at an AR city tour stop
In spite of any negative overtone I may have projected in this post, I love Antiques Roadshow, and so do my sisters.  We had a blast (both times for M & I) going to DC and Pittsburgh for our appraisals.  We made each trip a buying trip and sightseeing event for ourselves.

Panoply sisters outside of Pittsburgh AR appraisal ring
We even did a little star-gazing at each city.  Each time, we stayed at the hotel adjacent to the appraisal site, anticipating that the crew and appraisers would likely stay there also.  We were right each time, and both times we saw plenty of foot traffic by the AR appraisers, conversing with each other, and heading out for meals.  We even ended up eating at the same restaurant as Mark Walberg and Marsha Bemko.  That's how I ended up with a photo with Mark (at beginning of post).  Surprisingly, he's not very tall!
Mark Walberg, host of AR, and Marsha Bemko, executive producer of AR, heading out for a meal
If you pick up a copy of Antiques Roadshow Behind the Scenes  (Amazon), there's a whole lot more insider information, quite apart from what I shared in this post.  It's a fun book, and very informative.  It's a must-read, in my opinion, if you plan to attend an AR appraisal event anytime.  My number one takeaway and piece of advice if you plan to go?  Plan to have fun in the experience, and take an item either: a) that you hope to learn more about than you already know or b) that has unique family history/story that you can share with the appraisers that may be of interest to them and/or others.
"Antiques Roadshow Behind the Scenes" book
Have you ever been to an Antiques Roadshow tour stop?  How was your experience?  Were you surprised and/or let down by the "Oz behind the curtain" phenomena?  Please share!

NOTE:  This is a no-ad blog, and no sponsorship was provided for this post.  All opinions and photos are mine, strictly for my readers' pleasure.

BNOTP Met Monday

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Basement Purge: Pt V in a Series of Getting Organized

As my mother used to say after I would complain of hard work, "no rest for the wicked".  Today is Sunday, and I have spent eight hours in my basement, beginning the major purge and reorganization of STUFF.  I keep telling myself it has to get worse before it gets better.

I started my purge in spring with my closet, and wrote about that here. With several blogger friends out there making major moves into new homes, whether temporary or permanent, I was motivated after taking a break, mostly preoccupied with landscape gardening.  It's getting too hot to do much more than deadhead and water plants, so to the basement I went.

The last view of my basement looked like this:
Pre-project appearance, main wall
This is a mix of my personal belongings - china sets, things moved into my present marriage in 2003 (including my two girls' things), and things for resale in our antique mall booth space. The photo below is mostly stuff for resale.
Pre-project appearance, middle of floor
What a mess!

To get this party started, I bought one commercial shelving unit from Sam's in early June. I put it together, thinking I would use it for all of my china, flatware and utensils. That is why the top shelves are smaller, and the lower three are for storing the tubs (three per shelf).
Commercial shelving unit
After hauling everything away from the wall and re-stacking things on the shelves, I quickly found that the items I stored on the unit were not uniform in appearance, and that bugged me.  Also, all the tubs and boxes I hauled into the middle of the floor bugged me, too.  I quickly surmised I needed the tubs for a uniform appearance, and most of the tubs were holding the oldest stuff, from 2003. Project scope creep. So I went on vacation.

Back from vacation, I bought two more shelving units, and put those together yesterday. I have pulled most of the tubs and boxes away from the wall, and I have begun going through EVERYTHING.
Shelving units, purging, reorganization in progress (see how that far left unit is not uniform??)
Today, I emptied nine tubs, which I will ultimately use for uniformity in reorganizing my stuff.  The two shelving units I put together yesterday are better fitting for the tubs, so I may (or may not) reconstruct the first shelving unit to match.  Uniformity.
Nine Tubs Emptied Day 1
I am using the shelving units to lay out all my stuff and help me put like things together.  I also reorganized several tubs and boxes that my girls need to make decisions on (keep or donate), and I have bagged and boxed many donations already.
Donations Day 1
Boy, oh boy, do I have a mess.  Did I say that already? Not only is the wall still a mess, but so is the middle of the floor.
Middle of the floor - the pile keeps getting bigger
And, to make matters worse, there's stuff under the stairs. It is 80% stuff for resale, so it needs to be gone through and reorganized too.
Under the stairs, and then some more.
If you look at that photo above with the three wall units in place, there's also a stack of boxes on the far right that has a my kids' newborn through school days (college included) stuff that needs to be purged.  I think it's time to throw away the macaroni tambourine my daughter made when she was in preschool, don't ya think? 

And the trash I hauled out today was two Hefty lawn size bags of, get this - mostly career-related seminar booklets, graduate school papers and notes, and business attire hosiery (yes, almost half a garbage bag full! Please don't tell me I could use them to store wrapping paper or some other crazy Pinterest idea. They're trash, probably dry-rotted after being retired for nearly eleven years).  It never felt so good to get rid of Teambuilding and Facilitation Workshops, Project Management and Myers-Briggs crap.  I know who I am, and I'm doing fine with managing my projects and facilitating my life and living.

Now, if I can just get Mr. P. to get rid of his four boxes of reference books, then I'll start to believe he's really retiring.  He's also got his dissertation that he did in 1972 (all hand-typed).  I'm hoping to pay Kinko's or some other place to scan and put it on (cd) disk for him.  Speaking of disks, I threw away lots of those 3.5" things - we don't even have a computer with a slot for those anymore. Turbotax 1996 and Lotus, lol. Oh, I almost forgot!  I found $35 - a lot less than minimum wage for the number hours I worked today, but it made me happy.

What a mess!  The project at hand bears repeating my sentiment.  I just hope I can muster the motivation to get this finished by September.  I didn't say beginning or end, and I didn't say what year.  

If you missed my related posts in this organizational series, you can find them quickly at these links:
Getting Organized - Part I of a Series (Paper)
Getting Organized - Part II of a Series (Bath)
Getting Organized - Pt III of a Series (Great Pantry Design)

Monday, July 21, 2014

Changes in Latitude, Attitude: Vacation in Grand Cayman

My family and I just returned from our vacation on Seven Mile Beach in Grand Cayman, BWI.  Quite literally, it was a change in latitude and change in attitude for all six of us! My husband and I have vacationed in Cayman for the last fifteen years (with the exception of 2005, the year after Hurricane Ivan), and have taken my daughters and their spouses several of those years, including this year.

This was the view outside our condo rental this year, from our living room.  The Spanish architectural arches of the buildings' exteriors were the perfect frame for the perfect view.
Our view of Seven Mile Beach, Grand Cayman, from our condo rental living room
We have never been to Grand Cayman during high season (December to April), so we pretty much are used to having our beach space mostly to ourselves.  The video sound and site below is what we are used to on our beach area during our stay at Cayman:

Each day, my husband would be the first one up, and his job was to claim chairs on either side of our walkway out to the beach.  After the tough job of laying towels out, Mr. P. would take a break.
Mr. P., taking a break from his work on Seven Mile Beach
Back in 1998, Mr. P. offered me the opportunity to get SCUBA (Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus) certified at Grand Cayman, one of the world's top diving destinations. The standard PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) requirements involve both classroom/pool skills, accompanied with open-water dives to demonstrate abilities that allow you to dive to 100' foot depths for recreation.  I said, "yea, I think I can do that!", completed my classroom/pool work at home, and the open water dives in Grand Cayman in 1999.
That's me, completing SCUBA certification, 1999, with Red Sail Sports Grand Cayman
Our primary purpose for vacationing in Cayman is for scuba diving each year. We dive exclusively with Red Sails Sports Grand Cayman. The crew of Red Sail are second to none, some of whom have been there since we've been going, like our buddy Clive Webb.
Clive Webb, Mgr at Red Sail, with daughter B (she wants to work there).
The underwater vistas at Grand Cayman are stunning, whether it's sheer cliff walls or shipwrecks, and the wildlife and coral reefs do not disappoint! These next four photos were taken by Red Sail staff on our dives.
Fireman sil, exploring the underwater coral ledges at GCM, with Mr. P, following
Oldest daughter and sil, on the Kittywake sunken shipwreck, with Mr. P and me exploring in background
Coral life undersea at Grand Cayman (dive boat visible on surface at top right corner)
Spotted eagle ray (stingray), soaring across ocean floor, Grand Cayman dive site
Never would I have thought my kids would also become divers and enjoy these trips with us, too. Over the years, we have gifted them trips for momentous occasions (college graduations and part of wedding budget choices).  We have really come to enjoy this time together, and our groove is a good one in that the kids do most of our cooking and this year even did our grocery shopping (yay!).

My oldest daughter and her husband became SCUBA certified in 2011, and they are interested in becoming advanced divers sometime in their future.
Oldest daughter and sil, with me, Mr. P., 2014, after a 2-tank North Wall dive trip, GCM
My younger daughter completed the classroom/pool work, but (with regret) did not complete the open water dives.  She still dives though, going on what are called resort dives - diving no deeper than 40' with a guide, while certified divers can go to 100'.  Her husband is a fireman, and he is SCUBA certified as an advanced, rescue diver (in black water, as rivers and lakes at home are known).
Me, younger daughter and fireman sil, older daughter, after a West Wall GCM shallow dive (to 60').
If you notice in these diving photos, I am still wearing the same swimsuit.  It still fits me and, admittedly, it's kind of a superstitious thing for me to wear it on dives. I must also admit that underwater diving is one of the scariest things I have ever accomplished, and after 15 years, I think I can finally say I am somewhat comfortable doing it.  Oh, the tales I could tell you of diving with my buddy, Mr. P., most of which have been equipment-related.  Even this year, we had some close calls to dangerous situations, but experience helped keep any panic at bay. Also, the staff at Red Sail are competent for any situation I've ever witnessed.

Of course, even if you don't scuba dive, there are several other activities you can do on island, such as snorkeling.  You can take an organized, catamaran sailing trip with Red Sail to Stingray City and snorkel with the resident stingrays, or just walk out and snorkel close to shore to hunt for cool shells and sea glass.
Sil with stingray, on Red Sail catamaran trip to Stingray City
Or, you can go parasailing for a chance to see the island from 500-600' above.
Parasailing at Grand Cayman
This year, my daughter and I tried standup paddleboarding (SUB) for the first time.
My daugher and I, getting a 5-minute briefing before attempting SUB
Off we went!  SUB was easy for us, even being our first time, and calm water helps!
You can also do the typical, touristy kinds of things while in Grand Cayman, like go to Hell, the tourist trap that boasts of lava rocks that supposedly resemble what we imagine Hell to be like. There's even a post office where you can send your loved ones letters and postcards from Hell.  Or, you can go to George Town, the port city, where all the cruise ships land and disembark for duty-free shopping.  A few years ago, we took my daughter and sil to George Town.  It was the year Prince William and Kate married, and the islanders were celebrating in their own style. :)

Hell at Grand Cayman
William and Kate Cutouts in George Town, Grand Cayman
There are plenty of places to relax and hang out at Grand Cayman, too. There are a few club houses along Seven Mile Beach, where you can sit in the sand, get in the water or go to the restaurant and/or bar. There are also many fine dining choices, although, over the years, we have trimmed that part of our budget by mostly dining in.
Signage at Royal Palms Beach Club, SMB, Grand Cayman
You can also do simply nothing at all, which is what vacation, or at least part of it, should be, relaxing....
Inactivity Director at Grand Cayman
...and enjoying a beautiful sunset.
Sunset at Grand Cayman, Seven Mile Beach
It's a magical place, Grand Cayman, and we have come to love the place like no other.  It can be expensive; however, we have learned many tricks for keeping the vacation within a reasonable budget, surprisingly comparable to what many people spend on the typical US beach vacation.  I will share our money-saving tips in an upcoming post that very well could have you planning your own trip to this beautiful island.
Casuarina trees on SMB, Grand Cayman
Flags at George Town, Grand Cayman
Bumper sticker 
I hope you've enjoyed this virtual trip to Grand Cayman. If there are any particular questions you'd like answered, I'll try to do that in my post on travel tips for Grand Cayman - just leave a comment here, or send me an email:, and I'll do my best to answer them and include it in the post.

Dwellings' Amaze Me Monday
Sunday Showcase
BNOTP Met Monday
Coastal Charm's Show and Share
A Stroll Thru Life's Inspire Me
The Scoop
Ivy and Elephants What's It Wednesday
Savvy Southern's WOW
Dedicated House's Anything Blue Friday

July Estate Sale Finds

I went to a local estate sale in early July, and came away with what I found to be some pretty cool finds. I was only in search of small items, but there were a few really quality antique pieces of furniture too. Of course, I will always look for textiles in an estate sale, and I found a few really nice, hand-worked articles.  The first is a needlepoint rug, measuring 4' x 8', in excellent condition (below).
In addition to this, I picked up one lap-size quilt, and one hand-crocheted trimmed tablecloth.
The quilt has some tattering on one edge, but I loved the hand work and pattern (Grandmother's Flower Garden), and the price was right. I also spotted a nice Dhurrie rug, the same size as the needlepoint, but there was no price on it.  The hosts obliged with an extremely good price, so I bought it as well. It goes perfectly with my sunroom furniture and my breakfast room dining set too! Even though there were a couple of minor places with loose threads on the edges, it was clean.
The kitchen is usually another gold mine of treasures for me at estate sales. I got pretty excited about a set (except for one or two odd pieces out) of vintage Oneida flatware.  There were a few other pieces thrown in from other Oneida sets, but this was the pattern I loved, tarnish and all. If anyone recognizes the pattern, please let me know. From what research I've done, I cannot find its name.  It's nice and weighty, the way I like my utensils, probably from 1940s - 1950s, I would guess. It just says Oneida USA on the backs.
Another item purchased (but not photographed) was a set of berry bowls, in white ceramic porcelain (newer). They match another set I bought at a sale earlier this year, only in yellow. So, now I have 16 mixers and matches. :) From the husband's office/library, I picked a very cool, telescoping, pharmacy-style floor lamp with a black matte finish that I didn't photograph either. The items below also came from that same room.
Whenever I see a 48-star flag, I always buy it, and I've sold several.  It is made of wool and linen, and dates sometime between 1912-1959. The binoculars and specs couldn't be passed up either.

When going to an estate sale, don't forget the garage!  If you need yard tools, hand or power tools, you'll usually find some great stuff there. I picked up a couple of things that will come in handy when moving big items - a ratchet strap and two bungee cords. They'll be permanent items for my SUV's trunk.
Lastly, I found this great wooden crate in the garage (below), which became my shopping cart to haul all my things to the car after checking out at the sale.
It's a good sized one, with side holes for handling.  We currently have a variety of crates with advertising graphics on them set up in our booth space, to which I'll likely add this one, as a couple have already sold from what you see below:
That's it for this sale's finds.  We're running a 30% off clearance sale in our booth spaces right now, and we're hoping to purge and make way for vignettes with late-summer, early fall themes.  

Meanwhile, back at the proverbial ranch, I've purchased two more industrial shelving units to organize and purge the basement. Oh dear! I've had to tell Mr. P. it will get worse before it gets better.  Right now, it definitely just got worse!  My target goal is to be finished by September 25th, as we (Panoply) are participating in an antiques fair that coincides with an antique car show here locally.  It will be held in a barn, so we're gearing up for a good time and a new experience.  I'll keep you posted on details as they unfold.

Happy sales to you!