Friday, July 13, 2012

The Wonder of Simplicity

While preparing to post the images of what I unearthed Saturday from collections I found displayed in front yards and strewn about carports, I was thinking about why it is I find such joy in the simple utilitarian items that have, in times past, found their way home with me...

I just needed these grass clippers last night!

Now, mind you, if people around here sold vintage relics of the kind many of you seem to score each weekend, I'd be thrilled to find similar antiquities rich with tradition, beautifully chippy, worn and swathed in patina or crusted with rust. However, most of the time, the fare here is a little less exciting. Every now and then I snag a cool relic, but when those are unavailable for the pickin', I'm happy to find joy in useful beauty, especially if it's caked with nostalgia and I can get it for a song. There's nothing quite like having something you need when you need it. So many of the utilitarian items I've found have come in very handy!

Speaking of songs... my love for all things minimal and practical was instilled in me early. I was a TV-obsessed child (even with only 3 channels, one of which was mostly static), and my love of "simple" came by way of commercials such as the one below from Van Camps Pork & Beans. Back then commercials were populated with catchy little jingles that would stick in kids' heads, ensuring that their parents would never be at a loss as to how to spend their money. Those commercials also fairly well defined the times. Sometimes they defined us. They certainly defined me. 

To this day, I still sing this one.
As an aside...does anyone else think this sounds like B. J. Thomas singing? It also sounds just like his song
Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head. Hmmm...I wonder which came first.

This song lolled about in my head, and I have an especially vivid memory of it traveling along with me to my Aunt Vernie's house one Summer. During Summer vacations we took roadtrips to Grand Rapids to visit family and friends we had left behind when we moved to Florida, back when I was two.

There I was on the front porch of Aunt Vernie's (my mom's oldest sister) home taking in the wonder of the new surroundings. I was intrigued because there were steps, which were in short supply in my Florida world! I thought that was so cool...(back then we would have said "Neat!") I was enthralled by the wonder of them, and I developed a fascination for steps and stairs, probably from those youthful trips to the other-world I discovered in Michigan.

Aunt Vernie's house had a walkway leading up a sloped yard that felt like a huge hill to this girl from the flatlands. Steps took us up to her porch. There was what seemed like a magical endless staircase that led to an upstairs apartment she rented out. The wood floors (being as I was from the land of terrazzo and concrete) were utterly foreign to me and produced an odd, hollow sound when we walked across them, unlike the solid floors of home.

It was in some ways like this home I found online here.

Wonder of wonders, there was even a mysterious, shadowy basement (a fascinating unknown in my short life) to which we were led by more steps toward an odd smelling adventure of discovery and the quaint sights one might find in such a captivating place. Mystery abounded. Aunt Vernie's basement came complete with easels, her paintings and odd basement miscellany that brought a beautiful curiosity to everything about that time and place.

This is Aunt Vernie about 20 years later in the late 80's.
In addition, Aunt Vernie's vocabulary was peppered with quirky words that made my sister and I exchange glances and giggle...she said things foreign to us, like "cockeyed" and "cockamamie", and described things as "delightful", which while causing us to smirk as children, endeared her to us as the years stretched on. We absorbed those engaging moments, her brilliant smile, comforting personality and her creativity. They settled in and took root in our hearts, leaving us with sentimental memories of times spent with her.

There I was on her porch, family mingling inside, the boys running about the yard, the breeze - wonderful, the scent in the air, sweet... and it was dinnertime. When I asked (probably hollered) the age old childhood question through the screendoor: "What's for dinner?" and heard the words "baked beans" in the lineup, the Van Camps jingle welled up inside of me, right on cue as prescribed by the advertisers who had planned for just such a time and place for their plot to unfold. This plan, through the years, by way of every form of media, has become more pronounced, more sinister and more effective than formal training could ever be. At the time, however, this particular media voice was benign enough, and it landed in just the right spot to hitch a ride with me for life, finding it's way to both my inner and my vocal voice more often than I could begin to count.

There was a special sense about that front porch moment at Aunt Vernies. There I was singing "Simple pleasures are the best..." feeling as if I belonged in a commercial. I was probably between the ages of 7 and 9, outside on a neat front porch (another anomaly because where I was from, porches were screened and in the back of the house) in an intriguing neighborhood with treelined streets and a sidewalk. It was kind of magical in that summer vacation/freedom way. Some of that sentiment stuck as I absorbed the glory of the carefree place and time and connected those sensibilities to the words of the song.
I remember feeling a little special, perhaps a bit proud of myself because I knew all the words to the Van Camps song. It gave me the impetus to sing with abandon, hoping I'd "accidentally" be noticed for my impressive memorization ability. If not, at least maybe I'd find a good excuse to bring up the fun fact of my prowess for all who would, no doubt, find my talent enthralling.

Somehow, perhaps catapulted from that moment and the ensuing needs that coerced me to make do in years and life to come, I became a lover of all things beautifully uncomplicated. I found my way toward the joy of the humble and useful, even managing to live decidedly content as that little song clicked on in my head, even at the mention of the words "simple pleasures". Each time it did, I was connected to sweet memories and those simpler times when the world was exciting, carefree and full of discovery.

This is me with my two of my brothers, two of my sisters and part of our Florida neighborhood gang where simple pleasures defined our lives and our times. I'm the mostly hidden one who is peeking out from the middle - it's the only old pic I had on my computer. Wouldn't you know my scanner isn't functioning!
Yes, when "beautiful" is in short supply, "useful" does just fine. More than fine sometimes. There is a certain delight there...and maybe that's what takes me on Saturday junk excursions with a longing to unearth treasure and wonder from the discards of another's intriguing life. Today I continue to look for something to connect me to moments as meaningful as those I discovered at Aunt Vernie's house in Michigan where I sang pork and bean jingles with abandon outside on her porch. I was loving life and discovering treasure in "all the little things that make you smile and glow".

Not much has changed.

Perhaps you'll understand, then, why sometimes the junk I cram into the back seat of my car, or for which I sort through grungy boxes, is often rather unremarkable at first glance, utilitarian in fact, and useful rather than glorious and glamorous.

Yep, I'm still a simple girl at heart, and I'm pretty sure that I have Van Camps and my visit to Aunt Vernie's to thank for it.

I'll be sharing this at:

Motivate Me Monday @ Keeping it Simple
Saturday Show & Tell @ Cherrios & Lattes
Potpourri Friday @ 2805
Inspiration Friday @ At the Picket Fence
Treasure Hunt Thursday @ FMFPTY
Open House Party @ No Minimalist Here
Live, Laugh, Linky @ Live, Laugh, Rowe
Time Travel Thursday @ The Brambleberry Cottage
Share Your Cup Thursday @ Have A Daily Cup of Mrs. Olson
Your Whims Wednesday @ My Girlish Whims
Share the Love Wednesdays @ Very Merry Vintage Style
Wow Us Wednesdays @ Savvy Southern Style
Time to Shine @ A Diamond in the Stuff
Be Inspired @ Elizabeth & Co.
Cowgirl Up @ Cedar Hill Ranch
Open Call Tuesday @ Salt Life
Terrific Tuesdays @ Adventures of DIY Mom
Nifty Thrifty Tuesday @ Coastal Charm
Show Me What You Got @ Our Delightful Home
Cure for the Common Monday @ Lines Across
Metamorphosis Monday @ BNOTP
Mod Mix Monday @ Mod Vintage Life
Manic Monday @ Serendipity & Spice
Inspire Me Monday @ Create With Joy

Mop it Up Mondays @ I Should be Mopping the Floor
Show & Tell Saturday @ Be Different Act Normal
Sunday Show Off @ Twigg Studios
Sunday Stop @ joy 2 journey
Get Schooled Saturday @ Too Much Time
Hodgepodge Friday @ It's a Hodgepodge Life
Fridays Unfolded @ Stuff & Nonsense 
Tickled Pink @ 504 Main


  1. I just spent about an hour researching your question about BJ Thomas. First let me say that that must have been only a "jingle" and not a "song" because it doesn't exist anywhere. The only place it came up was when two other bloggers were talking about the commercial. BJ Thomas had huge hits about four years before that commercial was made, and although that does sound similar to him, my guess would be no. Because back then it wasn't cool or "in" for stars to do commercials like they do now. But who really knows?

  2. Thanks for following! I enjoyed your post. I remember the jingle quite well. Your story reminds me of visits to my Aunt's home, and my Grandmother's too. I can conjure up the smell of my Grandmother's house. She always had a large mill, and was an excellent cook. Thanks for jogging delightful memories! Have a fun junking weekend. I plan to!

  3. What a 'delightful' post...that was for your Aunt :). Simple pleasures are the best and you certainly have a way of appreciating them. What a sweet post.

  4. I love your sentimental soul. Thanks for stopping by and following me today. I am following you too! Loved your sweet post.


  5. Howdy there, my wordy friend!
    Oh how I loved this post. While I don't remember that commercial (I wish I did, because as I played felt familiar!) I do remember others. I remember the importance they played in our lives... simpler times for sure.
    And, while I do not have an Aunt Vernie... I had a Granny Jo. Oh my, I could write a book about the influences that she had on me... and I blame her solely for my own appreciation for any trinket that could perhaps be useful later; and must stay in the box for just the right moment. I blame her for my creative bent... yes, for seeing something not for what it is, but for what it will become. I blame her for life at it's simplest...making believe,tasting good, and being fun!


  6. I wish I had an Aunt Vernie!!

    Thanks so much for the sweet comment on my blog, following back :)

    xo, jersey Girl

  7. Now you have the Oscar Meyer weiner song running through my head and then too I remember that as a young mother that only CHOOSY mothers chose Jif ...( LOL I still buy that brand to this day! :)

  8. Oh, that is such a dear sweet post. I too like the simple things. i find it amazing the hand tools and ways of time in the past. It is cute how Van Camps made such a huge impact on your life. And your dear Aunt Vernie helped you with such a colorful bunch of memories. Thanks for your story. I enjoyed it a lot!

  9. I just loved the Campbell Pork and Bean commercial. It made me laugh and yes it did sound like Bj Thomas! Everyone needs an Aunt Vernie :) My someone special was my "Babi". Thank you so much for sharing this with us at The "Sunday Stop". I loved reading this just for the joy of reading :)

  10. Your reminiscences about your Aunt and her home were every sweet. It is amazing what impresses us as children and stays with us all our lives.
    I don't remember this bean commercial. The one that sticks in my head is the "Chock Full of Nuts is that heavenly coffee, heavenly coffee, Chock Full of Nuts is that heavenly coffee, better coffee and millionaire's money can't buy."

  11. I agree with Pat - some impressions we have re: life when we are younger stay with us a very long time! I love it when a smell or a tune, etc brings back certain memories which enthral - especially if it's to do with something we have not thought about in years.

    Whilst out for a drive in the country a few weeks ago, an old air force shed jogged my memory of my dad and where he worked when he was alive. I could picture him in my mind's eye sliding open the huge doors (not so huge now but certainly seemed like it when I was a kid) and watching him inspect the machinery/vehicles, etc... all the sights and smells of diesel, and such came flooding back.

    This post 'reminds' me of such.

    Hope you have a great week and thanks for stopping by "Encourage One Another".

  12. Liz what a wonderful story. I love that you have so many memories of times with your Aunt Vernie.

    PS I think you will like my new Giveaway from Royal Design Stencils..

    Art by Karena

  13. Love all your finds! the tubs/pail would have come home with me too!

  14. Great story Liz! BTW, I just nominated you for versatile blogger award. Check it out.. Just a simple recognition of how much I enjoy visiting your blog.

  15. What a fabulous post! I love the name "Aunt Vernie" probably because my name is Verna (don't come across to many people with that name). Thanks for visiting me and I hope you will visit again. I am following now. I could tell from the first couple of photos that we like the same kind of junk!

  16. I am stuck on Band Aid, cause Band Aid is stuck on me..
    That is mine!
    Such a great post and a sweet stroll down memory lane.

  17. What a great story and love the special relationship with Aunt Vernie!!

  18. You sure do have a way with this post. Your Aunt Vernie sounds like such a fun lady and she obviously had a huge impact on you. The memories of the basement made me think of my Aunt Ginnie's basement and how I was scared to death to dare walk down those stairs; I thought they'd swallow me up. Did you really get that fabulous cabinet in your back seat?

  19. Lovely post! It's great when the stuff we're drawn to and find brings back wonderful memories of family and good times.
    Mary Alice

  20. I did so enjoy your trip down memory lane..we all have our stories, our histor and no one share the exact memory even those along with you --your view was unique and no one can tell it for you. I recall a Williams contact on the net who encouraged me to share my story [ies] Your's may not go as far back..only 'vintage' where mine is closer to 'antique' but it is still uniquely yours...please keep sharing as you recall these times, places and special ppl..

    We are working [that means TP is working] on my Wisteria Hideaway Project..can't wait for the finish it will fill sooooooooo much blog space-you'll love it too.

  21. what awesome awesome finds - we DO like the same junk (errr I mean treasures!) don't we?

  22. Love your post! It's amazing how a can of beans can trigger memories and your wonderful relationship with your aunt!

  23. This post was such a delight! Loved seeing your treasures and hearing about your Aunt Vernie!!
    Thanks so much for stopping by and for your kind wrods!


  24. Liz, I love this post. I too grew up singing along to commercials. Plop, plop fizz fizz and such. In fact, the name of my blog was inspired by Mrs. Olson's Folgers commercials. Love her accent! Your Aunt Vernie was a delight. My mom always said cockamamie and other quirky words. Wonder what exactly is a cockamamie? lol! Thanks for sharing with Share Your Cup.

  25. Great post! I would love to invite you to share this on Saturday Show and Tell: ( I know that my readers would appreciate this and some of your other posts. Thanks and have a great weekend.

  26. Everything is better with a sweet memory attached!


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