Thursday, February 28, 2013

Go From Eating Out To Eating In...The Easy Way

Original Image From Here

Here's a true confession: we ate out a lot when I was growing up. The times my mom or dad cooked were more the exception than the rule. I carried on in this manner as an adult. Unlike my parents, I actually love cooking (thanks, grandmothers!). However, my cooking tended to be very involved affairs with various spice profiles and multiple pots.

Not sustainable. Especially after J and I married I needed to churn out inexpensive, budget friendly, tasty meals on the regular. We both really enjoy cooking, so for awhile every night was a culinary adventure.

This was also unsustainable. I read around on the internet on "how to eat cheaply" and "how to eat at home." I didn't find these ideas especially useful, either. These plans were usually extremely complicated, full of processed ingredients, and involved freezing complete meals. I didn't think this was workable either.

So here is how I went from eating out to eating in, and saving money along the way.

1. Avoid The Chicken Nugget Conundrum

Photo From Here

A friend recently commented that she and her husband need to save money and decided to cut out restaurants, but inevitably ended up grabbing fast food because they were exhausted and fast food is quick.

This is where I break away from most "save money on food" advice.

As you move from eating out (and grabbing take out) on a regular basis to eating in, you need things in your freezer that don't require forethought, a lot of time, or preparation.

You need to hit up the frozen food aisle. Yeah, I said it. At any given time our freezer is usually home to various frozen pizzas, chicken pot pies, and taquitos. Over in the pantry I keep a few cans of clam chowder.

Now this stuff can be ridiculously expensive. Never, ever pay full price. Friend the makers of your favorite frozen meals on Facebook; occasionally you'll score a coupon. Watch the frozen food aisle for sales and decide what your acceptable price is. I never pay more than a dollar for chicken pot pies, $4 for a big box of taquitos, and $5 for a large, specialty frozen pizza.

It might not be the healthiest choices EVER, but it's much better to spend $4 on a 20 count box of taquitos and add on $.50 of salsa than to buy dinner for both of us at Taco Bell, which would definitely clock in at over $10.

We also don't do this all the time. Maybe once a week.

By the way, rotisserie grocery store chickens can be a fantastic deal. I buy them at our local store for $5 and usually get at least three meals for both of us at out of it (sliced chicken, various chicken bits in a pasta dish or salad, and the carcass as the basis for chicken noodle soup).

2. Develop A Collection of Quick Recipes

Photo From Here

I love long simmered braises and stews. Those don't happen on a regular basis. If turning out dinner becomes an involved, hours long affair which results in fantastic food but multiple dirty are going to resume your first name basis relationship with the nice person at your favorite drive-thru with a quickness.

Create a collection (and record them somewhere easily accessible; I actually have a private blog where I keep all my recipes) of easy, quick dinners.

One of our favorites is a spinach salad with either boiled eggs (which I try to keep ready in the fridge) or sautéed chicken with sesame dressing. Delish. Another quick favorite is curried carrots and lentils (I sauté onions with curry powder, add chicken broth, add diced carrots and lentils, cook for 30 minutes). I adore eggs in purgatory , which is basically poached eggs in tomato sauce, which I eat with toast.

One pot meals are awesome. Orzo pasta can cook with the pasta toppings. Sauté tomatoes, onions, and mushrooms. Add in broth, add in orzo...and you have dinner.

Sandwich fixings (we both ate roast beef and cheddar sandwiches for dinner last night and were very happy) are also awesome for turning out quick meals AND bringing your lunch.

Any sort of "flat" sandwich also make for great dinners. I'm a big fan of bean and cheese quesadillas. Super cheap, super easy.

3. Decide On What's Convenient For You

Photo From Here

There is nothing I love better than a long simmered, homemade chicken stock. I wish I was the kind of person who always has some stashed away in her freezer. I'm not. So I have beef and chicken stock bases in my cabinet. I'm not going to pretend that dishes made with prepared broths and stocks are as good as those made with homemade stock; they aren't. But with most dishes the prepared stock is fine. It's a really rare dish that's going to be severely comprised by using commercial stock base.

Usually I cook up huge batches of dried beans, divide them up into bags, and freeze them. If I'm running low and know I'm not going to cook up another batch I'll buy canned beans. Canned beans are still a good deal. They can help make a salad, pop into a pasta dish, be part of a rice and beans dish, or go into a quesadilla or burrito.

Other "convenient" items I keep on hand are bread, tortillas, a couple of jars of pasta sauce, salsa, and lots of canned tomatoes. Sometimes I buy hummus.

(Stuff I never buy? Canned soup (other than clam chowder) because I think it tastes weird.)

The biggest thing here is to be realistic. I often think that I'll just grab a huge country ham, cook it, and we can make sandwiches off of it for months! In reality, I know that although deli ham isn't as good of a deal, it means we'll actually have sandwich fixings.

4. Don't Come Home From The Grocery Store And Decide You Have Nothing To Eat

Photo From Here

We've all been there. We've gone to the grocery store, spent lots of money, come home, put away bags and bags of groceries, looked in the fridge, and felt like there was nothing in there to actually eat.

I think this phenomena occurs because people shop for recipes instead of for food they actually eat. When I walk into the grocery store I rarely have specific recipes in mind (unless its for a special occaison). Instead I focus on the kinds of food we like to eat and zero in on sale items.

I buy different things at different times of the year. During the winter we eats lots of beans, potatoes, and cheap cuts of meat because we eat a lot of braised dishes and soups. During the spring and summer we eats lots of vegetable based dishes.

Later I'll post about exactly how I save money grocery shopping, but right now I just want you to focus on keeping your kitchen stocked with food you genuinely like to eat. If you eat lots of pasta dishes, make sure you keep pasta on hand.

What tips do you guys have for cutting out restaurants and take-out?

Friday, February 22, 2013

The 15/10/5/1 Cleaning Plan

As I alluded to in this organizational ideas post I'm not naturally a well-organized person. I'm also not a person whoever thinks housecleaning sounds like an awesome way to pass the afternoon.

So after many years of trial and error I've come up with the 15/10/5/1 cleaning plan. Basically, I've broken down all chores into either a fifteen, ten, five, or one minute category. By devoting thirty minutes or so a day (or, uh, every few days) it allows you to keep your house clean without having to devote all day to the task. You don't even have to do the thirty minutes all at once! Usually I end up doing a few minutes here or there throughout the day.

Oh...true confession. This doesn't cover EVERY chore. Taking out the trash and scooping/changing the kitty litter isn't on this list (changing the litter is about a ten minute chore/scooping more like 5 minutes. Neither are more rarely done chores, like windows. This is just a simple overview of most basic chores.

15 Minutes

1. Wash dishes

I don't have a dishwasher (insert sad face here). I can wash up the daily dishes and pots in about fifteen minutes. I try to do this right after dinner; usually I do it when I let Emily out for the last time before bed.

2. Vacuum A Room

3. Attack Your Personal Monster

We all have one. Right now my personal monster is our spare room. It's such a disaster that the idea of spending the day on it is both horrifying and overwhelming. Instead I devote fifteen minutes every couple of days to it. Slowly I'm seeing the light at the end of tunnel! Other Personal Monsters might be your basement, closet, whatever is a mess you aren't quite sure what to do with.

4. Scrub shower

5. Fold laundry

The worst part of doing laundry...and yet the part you can do while watching Parks and Rec.

10 Minutes

1. Sort Laundry

We don't really have room for a complicated dirty laundry system. So we toss it all into a hamper in our bedroom closet. Once a week or so I sort it into dark/lights/handwash so that when I'm ready to do the wash it's all ready.

2. Change Sheets

I know lots of people only have one set per bed...I don't understand this. We have two sets, and I'd really like another set. That way I can strip the bed, toss the dirty sheets in the hamper, and put on clean sheets all at once. The clean sheets live in the linen closet.

3. Quick Mop

Ten minutes is about right to mop either our kitchen or bathroom.

4. Organize A Trouble Spot

Trouble spots are different from personal monsters. Trouble spots are oft used areas of your home which are magnets for clutter. Our trouble spots include the dining room table and the credenza/go chair landing strip. Mail, dog accouterments, jackets, and shoes are our big clutter monsters.

5. Blitz Clean

This is sort of related to organizing a trouble spot. Blitz cleaning occurs when a room is veering slightly out of control. Grab a basket. Anything that isn't trash/dishes that doesn't belong in the room goes in the basket. Hopefully you'll be able to deal with basket in the same ten minutes. By the way, as you are putting the stuff in the basket up look for repeat offenders or things that don't really have a dedicated home. Clutter happens when things don't have a spot.

5 Minutes

1. Make Bed

2. Polish sink

I never really considered doing this until I happened across Flylady's post describing shining your sink. Now I try and do it everyday-ish. It feels like a little reward (as bizarrely Donna Reedish as that sounds) for finishing the dishes and cleaning the kitchen.

3. Dust 

It's enough time to knock out at least one major piece of furniture.

4. Clean Fridge

Anything lurking any there? Anyway, I bet it also needs a nice wipedown. 

5. Wipe Down Stove/Counters

We have an old stove with burners and eyes and everything. Just wiping it down isn't sufficient. A few times a week I need to really clean the burners and even lift it up and clean out anything that's fallen underneath. While you have your cleaner (I use diluted white vinegar and lemon) out wipe down the countertops!

1 Minute

1. Scrub toilet

Yes, in one minute. I keep a bottle of white vinegar and a toilet brush in the bathroom. Every morning toss in some vinegar and give it a quick scrub. By doing it every day the toilet doesn't ever get really dirty.

2. Reset Sofa

In my world, this means fold up the throw blanket and return the pillows to their correct positions. Instantly makes the living room look neat.

3. Wipe Down Bathroom Mirror

This is something else I do every few days. I'm incapable of NOT splashing water all over the mirror as I get ready.

4. Start Laundry

Okay, if your laundry is sorted and ready to go actually tossing it in the wash takes about a minute. It takes roughly the same amount of time to toss it in the dryer later...and then putting clean laundry in your clean laundry basket to be folded when you have the time.

5. Clear Nightstand

My nightstand is a known trouble spot. So every morning (in theory, anyway) I gather up the debris of the night before and throw away/return to actual spot.

Now I want to know how YOU do it. How do you keep your house neat?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Share Your Story: Erin's Art Part II

One thing that really caught my eye when Erin shared her Pinterest link with me back in the day was the originality of her collection. Yes, she has an amazing eye for finding amazing painting at the thrift store. She also susses out more original items to hang on her walls. 

I love it! I think it's very easy to get hung up in the "important painting" idea when we are decorating rooms. Here are some other original ideas for inexpensive (but fabulous!) wall decorations. Some of these ideas are especially good for filling out gallery walls.

Erin: Two framed pages from a vintage 1940s children's book. The illustrations are by Pelagie Doane. This is hanging in my daughter's room.

Erin: I found a 1970s typography book at St. Vinny's for one dollar and framed the pages in matching frames from Walmart. I painted the mats turquoise to match all the turquoise in my house! These look great in the hallway.

Erin: Prints of 4 Ladies' Home Journal covers from the turn of the century. I have sort of an Edwardian theme in the guest bathroom (I guess inspired by Downton Abbey, ha ha.)

Erin: Vintage license plate. This is a fun way to spruce up an area, and you can usually get vintage plates for not too much money.

I love this idea! Prior to the seventies/eighties most states issued a new metal plate every year, so it might be possible to find years meaningful to you. I'd like to find a vintage license plate from every state we visit together and hang them in the hallway. Be very cool to add on to them from time to time!

Erin: I bought 6 vintage postcards from places that were meaningful to me and my husband (where he was born, where I was born, where we met, where we live, etc.) I framed them & hung them together to create this piece.

Yeah...I'm stealing this idea.

 Erin: A hand-painted peacock cutting board. This was painted by a local Norwegian man. Is it creepy that I Googled him after I bought it? :-)

I always pull out my Nancy Drew skills after I buy something with a name on it.

Classic vintage silhouettes. I think these were probably mass produced in the mid-twentieth century.

Erin: Vintage rolling pin and a similar toy one hanging on the soffit in my kitchen. I thought they looked sweet together.

So that's a portion of Erin's amazing art collection. Do you have something you'd like to share? Email me!

What about you guys? What non-traditional things do you have hanging in your house?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Free Gift Cards!

I am slammed with work, and I'm sorry about the spotty posting this last week! Tomorrow I'll share more Erin's amazing art collection and a cute project is on deck for Friday!

We are always looking for little ways to save money. One thing we do is save our change. We have a couple of different coin collectors; I talked about the white vase in the living room in my post on organization. There's also a Mason Jar in the bedroom and a small cup in the car.

For a long time we'd save our change for awhile (or until the vase was full), spend an evening rolling it, and then take it to the bank. Recently we discovered a better option!

Coinstar! They've been around forever. But I've always avoided them because I didn't want to pay the 10% charge. Then I learned Coinstar doesn't charge a fee if you get giftcards instead of cash.

I tried it out Monday. Just in our little vase we had right at forty dollars. I chose a Amazon gift card, and then ordered stuff we needed, like Emily's flea medicine and my favorite dish soap.

So, maybe everyone in the world already knows this, but I think this could be a great way to get "free" gift cards! (BTW, I have no relationship with Coinstar and just thought this was a great tip!)

What other little tips and tricks do y'all use to save money?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Share Your Story: Erin's Art

Meet Erin.

Erin was one of Middle Class Modern's first regular readers, and when she linked up her Pinterest board devoted to the art in her house, I knew I had found a like-minded soul!

So it's super appropriate that Erin's art collection is the first entry in a new feature here at MCM, "Share Your Story." Have you finished a cool craft, own an awesome collection, or are super proud of a room makeover? Email me at and tell me about. I want to share your story!

Here's what Erin has to say about her oh-so-amazing and oh-so-affordable art collection:

Hi, Tracie! I'm so glad I found your blog! I've been a lover of all things vintage since I was a teen. Both my parents are antiques dealers so I suppose that's where I get it. Vintage art just seems to have SOUL. Most of mine come from thrift stores and Craigslist because I love a bargain! I don't have any rules about what I buy; if I like it, I buy it. Part of the fun, to me, is layering different time periods and styles. (I LOVE that eclectic gallery walls are so popular right now!!) Somehow, even though all my artwork is very different, it makes sense when it's placed together under one roof. And everywhere I turn, I get to see something that makes me smile. Anyway, hope you enjoy the pictures!  --Erin

Something I think you might all enjoy is how Erin layers vintage and eclectic art into a more traditional home. She also plays with the definition of "art" with charming results. (I've organized her collection into loose themes.) Erin's collection is cool and amazing I'm actually splitting it into two parts-come back next week for the rest of it!

Transportation Art

I love trolleys, and this soft little drawing of a trolley car is just adorable.

This mini-gallery wall of antique car art is fantastic.

I love this one! 

Erin: It's a print of a painting by maritime artist Frank Vining Smith. I love the soft blues.
Me too!

Vintage Portraits

I love this painting of the (Regency?) little girl in a red and cream dress holding a kitten. It's kind of Gainsborough-ish (is it a Gainsborough?).

 This painting of the Victorian woman in a red dress playing the piano is "Sonata" by M. Ditlef. There's an entire series of these paintings. Go ahead and anticipate that post, alright?

Also? I used to own this painting (different frame!). I love that Erin found it recently at a thrift store. For $10. When I've looked on etsy (I'd like to replace my copy) the going price? About $200. #IWantToShopWhereSheShops

Erin: In addition to vintage art, I also love to collect ephemera. (Scrapbooks, journals, etc.) This drawing came from a book full of old schoolwork and artwork by a boy who was in eighth grade in 1910. I had to frame it because it was too cute. Sailor suits were very popular for young people at the turn of the century. 

Amazing Needlepoint

WOW. This is a big, massive needlepoint scene of a steeple against mountains. Done by HAND. Someone worked really, really hard on this. I love landscape orientated pieces like this!

Erin: This vintage needlepoint picture is huge! It just have taken months to complete. It's such an unusual size and I love the colors.

Or, you know, what Erin said.

All right, so here's the partial tour of Erin's art collection. Come back next week for the rest...and in the meantime, remember to share your story!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Favorite Things: TV!

In honor of Valentine's Day I'm devoting this week of posts to my favorite things. Sounds fun, right? I'm going to post my favorite recipe, introduce my first Your Story (from one of my favorite readers!),   all sorts of fun stuff.

So I thought I'd kick off with my favorite television shows. Because, evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, I really don't spend all my time watching Bewitched and The Brady Bunch.

1. Downton Abbey
The Beautiful Crawley Sisters. From PBS
Downton Abbey is simply incredible. I know there's rumblings about how season three isn't as good as season two which wasn't as good as season one...whatever. J watched it with me one night and described as "General Hospital with accents, costumes, and castles."

When the man is right the man is right. Downton Abbey  is exactly a soap opera with posh accents and amazing accessories. And I can't get enough of it. If you are the rare person who hasn't seen it, I won't spoil it for you. Just go watch it, twitter me, and lets dish.

2. Dallas

Image From TNT
True story: Dallas was my favorite show growing up. My whole family would watch together on Friday nights (I still remember my mother's reaction to Bobby's death being just a dream. The gist was "this is ridiculous." With curse words.

So naturally I'm ALL OVER the reboot. Y'all, Christopher is SO WHINY. How did Bobby raise that brainless brat? I'm rooting for Pambecca and John Ross simply because they manage to be evil AND rank lower on the douche-o-meter!

(We aren't even going to talk about Larry Hagman's death, okay?)

3. Community

Yeah, I love Annie and Jeff. So what? Photo from NBC
The goings-on at Greendale Community College never fail to leave me howling (and sometimes very, very confused). My favorite ever ep? The Law & Order spoof from last season. J and I were crying we were laughing so hard. 

Okay, and the fake youtube couple vid of Annie and Jeff was also pretty classic. And and and. 

4. Scandal 

Grey's Anatomy never did anything for me. So I pretty much gave Scandal a pass. Then a funny thing happened: everyone on Facebook and Twitter started talking about it. Non-stop. All the time. So I gave it a shot.

Coincidentally, this was the episode where President Fitz (Olivia's undercover lover/Republican president she rigged the election for without his knowledge) was shot, and LANE KIM FROM THE GILMORE GIRLS WAS KILLED.

OMG! I was hooked. This is another show I attempted to describe to J. I went with "it's like the West Wing, if the West Wing had been written by romance novelists and Martin Sheen was all kinds of wrong-hot."

Shockingly, this didn't make him want to watch it.

Really, though, there's a better description. It's a crazy pastiche of Valley of the Dolls meets All The Presidents Men meets The West Wing with a heaping side of Machiavelli (seriously, Machiavelli would be incredibly impressed with the endless machinations of First Lady Melly...who might be named for him, actually, come to think).

Anyway. Watch it.

5. Mad Men

Raise your hand if you just sort of automatically assumed Mad Men is my favorite television show? Yeah, you are right. And this year it comes back the week of my birthday! Thanks, AMC.

I will say that while I love looooovvvveeee the set design (the office is my favorite, but Don and Megan's penthouse is also incredibly awesome) and the costumes, the whole show is amazing. The actors, the dialogue, and I even think Matthew Weiner and company handle the history in a real, organic, IVeryRarelyThrowThingsAtTheTelevision kind of way.

So...these are my favorites. I'm very grateful they aren't all on at the same time so I can actually watch them all! What about you guys? What shows do you love?

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Hey, I Won An Award!

When I checked my email this morning I saw message from o'habitation. I've won the Liebster Award. It specifically seeks out new/small bloggers.

I think the last time I won something quarters, Fred Flintstone, and plastic eggs were involved!

This is what she had to say about me: Tracie at Middle Class Modern had my attention immediately with her hilarious writing style.  She stalks houses (real and fictional), shares the ups and downs of her embroidery projects, offers great pet advice, and steals her husbands clothing for DIY projects.  I can’t wait to read what’s next!

I don't know about great pet advice, but I do regularly, um, "repurpose" J's clothing for lampshades and the like!

I'm supposed to list 11 facts about my self, and then answer some questions. So here's your chance to learn WAAAY to much about me!

11 Random Tracie Facts

1. I wore a sunbonnet to school every day in third grade due to an obsession interest in Little House on the Prairie.

2. I have scoliosis. I wore the brace and everything for a couple of years.

3. J and I met when he moved in next door.

4. I graduated from a women's only college.

5. I loved college.

6. I spent a lot of time with my grandparents growing up; this probably explains why I have the taste and likes of your average 80 something.

7. I'm a voracious reader.

8. When I take a shower I don't feel properly clean until I've steamed myself and my skin has turned a nice shade of pink.

9. I have insanely thick hair.

10. During the same period of the scoliosis brace, I also had a mouth full of braces AND a spiral perm. See number 9? Thick hair and spiral perms are NOT a good combo.

11. You know how you buy six months worth of disposable contact lenses? I made my last pack last three and a half years. Oops.

11 Questions

what is your favorite blog and why?
Um...I have so many I love and read faithfully. I'm going to answer Pam at Retro Renovation, just because I started reading her about a month after she started posting...six years ago. She was my first homespace blog. I love how well-researched her posts are and I've learned a lot from her posts over the years.
would you choose the mountains or the beach?
Preferably, I'd live somewhere where I'm close to both. Actually, we sort of live there now. We are at the  foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains and live right by two lakes.
what prompted you to start blogging?
I don't have a neat, linear blogging path. I wrote one post in 2010, and then a handful in 2011. 
Fall of 2012 I was reading the comments on a Young House Love post and saw a comment from Emma at Broke Ass Home. I HAD to check out that blog. Emma and I soon struck up a friendship, and I "met" Kenz from Interiors by Kenz and Sandpaper and Glue's Stephanie. My bloggy besties help keep me on track with blogging!
what is your favorite time of day?
Depends on the day! 
when you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Usually a writer or an actress. 
what is #1 on your bucket list?
Finishing grad school.
what is your favorite meal to make at home?
Beef Stroganoff. It's beefy, carby, creamy, AND has copious amounts of mushrooms and onions. These are basically my favorite things.
what is your favorite meal to eat out?
Probably Mexican, although a good Dim Sum Sunday is hard to beat.
if you could meet anyone, living or dead, who would it be?
So many people! Eleanor Roosevelt, Marie Curie...I'd really like to meet my paternal great-grandmother. I've talked about my interest in genealogy before, and when I researched my family I became sort of fascinated by her. She died before my dad was born, but my grandmother (her daughter-in-law) described her as the "sweetest woman she'd ever met."
If your DAUGHTER-IN-LAW thinks that about Anyway, she went through a lot in her life and I'd love to hear her take on it. I wish SHE'D had a blog!
what is one thing you would change about yourself?
What my husband describes as my Eeyore-tendencies. Self-doubt and a slightly pessimistic nature are my foes.
what is one thing you would never change about yourself?
I think I have an unbridled curiosity and I love learning things.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Fantastic Vintage Valentines!

Many years ago I bought a used book (I believe it was Arthur Hailey's "Hotel") and found a beautiful vintage Valentine inside. I loved it, and for years it hung out on my fridge. I adore how retro valentines combine the beautiful typography and commercial artistry from the mid-century era.

The puns are also kind of classic. Here are some of my favorites from around the web.

artist valentine 
Dogs randomly appear in a lot of valentines from the 1950s and 60s. I approve! I love the little artist with her blonde topknot, pink artist coverall, and red keds.
 darn it valentine
Combining a knitting joke and valentines day? Darn it, why not?
Bat Girl Valentine 

This bat girl, "I'm Batty About You!" valentine might be favorite.

Donut Valentine 
Do-nut say that you don't love this valentine! Doughnuts! Coffee cups!
Head Over Heels Valentine
The kids on this "Heels Over Head" valentine sort of look like the Campbell Soup kids, doncha think?

My Heart Is Yours Doggie Valentine
A sweet vintage doggie declares "My Heart Is Yours."

Hello Valentine!
Here's a valentine honey Don Draper would approve of, since it appears she's mixing sort of cocktail.

Hot Dawg Valentine
A dog making hot dawgs! Get it?
Popcorn Valentine

This valentine pops a corny question- Will You Be My Valentine?

Singing Valentine

Another random doggie. This one sings! Love the crooner.

Strike Up A Match Valentine
I feel like there is some innuendo in this strike up a match Valentine, don't you?
Small Fry Valentine
This is a very wordy Valentine, but the two little eggs in the cast iron frying pan is so cute! I love anamorphic food, don't you?

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Big Eyed Lovelies

This post requires you to know one thing about my childhood; I was gifted with two amazing sets of grandparents. Both sets influence this post. However, don't blame my dubious taste in art on them. That's all on me.

Remember how I posted that J bought me these paintings when we were in South Carolina while I was pregnant, but then I thought they were lost when we moved in here, and then J found the box? Yeah.

Photo From My Girl Thursday

And then I was flittering around Pinterest one night and saw this gallery wall, which stars my bongo drum boy?

Well, after I wrote the post I went and studied my paintings. Somehow I never noticed both were signed...with different signatures. The ballerina girl was signed MAIO, and bongo boy is signed Medeiros. The Medeiros name is interesting, but the MAIO really caught my eye.

Because I could see another painting when I looked at it. When I was eleven or so, my family, including my paternal grandparents, road-tripped to Rome, Georgia. I have absolutely no idea why. Anyway, my grandfather and I were in an antique store when I fell in love with a painting of a girl with light brown hair in a Patty Duke flip standing on a green hill, wearing what I considered a "Robin Hood" (the Errol Flynn version) outfit and wearing a quite fetch hat.

He bought it for me.

For the rest of my childhood it hung in my room. It was lost during a move. 

I realized the same artist painted my ballerina girl that painted my lost childhood painting. 

I did what any obsessive person does in 2013. I hit up google.

Image from eBay

The hairstyle is identical to the one remember, but my girl had darker hair and a different color outfit. Also, no poodle. Still, I quite like this Maio painting.

Image from eBay

Another one from MAIO's harlequin series. Another blonde girl, with a goat instead of a poodle.

Image from eBay
Very, very close to my girl, but mine was wearing her hat.

Image from eBay

My ballerina has a sister. I love the face on the blue ballerina the best, but I'm still coveting the red ballerina.

Image from eBay
Two more from the Harlequin series, a girl leaning against a wall with a parrot (!) and another playing a lute. I LOVE the haughty expression on Parrot Girl.

So during my research I quickly learned MAIO was considered a "big eyed painter".  I had no idea. Now, my parents started dragging me to antiques fair as soon as I could walk and I started frequenting thrift stores as soon as I had transportation, so I certainly know ABOUT big eyed paintings. I just never considered MAIO a big eyed painter! I tend to think of images like these:

Image From Keane Eyes Gallery
Lots of people enjoy Margaret Keane's big eyed paintings. I'm not one of them. I think there's enough sadness in the world without those demented children and their poor pets staring at me everyday.

Quickly I learned "big eyed" covered a much broader field than I was aware of. Both Medeiros and MAIO were considered "big eyed" painters.

Remember my excitement over the fact both of my paintings had W.T. Grants written on the back of them? That's because oil on board big eyed paintings were usually sold at "five and dime" variety stores like Grants, Woolworths (!), and other now-defunct chains.

Y'all, I am straight up obsessed with Woolworths (this is due to my maternal grandmother. We ate lunch at Woolworths at least twice a week during the summers when I was little) and love finding old dime store merchandise.

I feel an obsession coming on.

Image from Medeiros Online

Here's the Medeiros bongo boy with the dark haired harlequin MAIO girl, in matching frames. Just like my ballerina girl and bongo boy are in matching frames! I can't find a grown-up/teen boy by MAIO so I think the bongo boy was packaged with the MAIO girls for a his and her set.

By the way, MAIO did a whole set of big eyed kid paintings I find kind of creepy, but I love her adult/teen set of paintings. I haven't yet found the one I had as a kid. However, there are TONS of variations on the the harlequin theme that I've found, so I have faith I'll find it eventually.

(And if anyone sees it in the wild, well, you know where to find me!)

I've also determined that I already own another big eyed painting.

Mr. Owl!

Anyway, does anyone else have a strange little art obsession?


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