LESLEY'S LIST: Five Current Fixations That Prove I Am Secretly 80 Years Old

Who wants to be cool? I'll be over here crocheting and watching Antiques Roadshow.
Publish date:
October 4, 2013
shoppables, crochet, entertainment, old lady stuff

"Antiques Roadshow" on Netflix

Recently the 2012 season of "Antiques Roadshow" was added to Netflix, and weirdo old-stuff fancying people everywhere rejoiced.

If you’re not familiar with it, "Antiques Roadshow" is a PBS program that travels around the country (that’s the “roadshow” part) and sets up in some sort of convention-center-like space, where people bring their random household objects to be appraised by experts (and maybe, if their stuff is interesting enough, to be on TV). The roadshow generally keeps to smaller American cities, which means you get a spotlight on some little-represented areas of the country, and often even a cheery reminder that people really are more or less the same wherever you go.

It’s true that I have a thing for THINGS, particularly everyday things that have factored in multiple generations’ daily lives to the extent that they barely register as stuff that might have particular value to anyone else. I am fascinated by boring objects like teacups and handkerchiefs and ephemera like old magazines and advertisements.

That said, I’m less into fancy furniture or jewelry or rhino-horn cups (although if "Antiques Roadshow" has taught me anything, it’s that if you ever run into anything at a garage sale that looks even REMOTELY like a rhino-horn cup, you should BUY IT). So as much as I like the stuff they bring in, lots of the appeal of "Antiques Roadshow" for me is in the individuals who bring it -- they all have stories, and their stuff has stories too, and even if their stuff is technically worthless, most of the time it has meaning to them.

Things are just things, yes, and I hear those folks who prefer to own as little as possible to keep their lives simple. But things can also represent a lot more than the sum of their parts. They can have personalities and stories of their own (enough to spawn a roadshow spinoff, “Antiques Roadshow FYI,” that tracks the fate of certain items after their original profiling on the show).

Things are often the nearest link we have to history; I can’t travel back in time to the Civil War -- not that I would want to -- but I CAN hold a Union soldier’s uniform and imagine the man who wore it and what his individual experience must have been like. Because personal items originated with people, and while a whole war may be difficult to relate to, we can connect, on some level, with one person’s experience.

Long-dead historical figures aside, the participants who show up to Antiques Roadshow are also pretty fascinating, whether they’re everyday folks or self-styled antiques dilettantes. Antiques people, if you’ve met any, are a funny bunch, in the most interesting and passionate and quirky ways, but even the non-collectors who come often have great tales to tell, and what’s really surprising is the number of people who, having been told their stuff is worth way more money than they expected, quickly assert that they intend to keep it.

Because, y’know, money is a lot of things, but it isn’t everything. (I could do a whole piece on life lessons from "Antiques Roadshow," although I’m pretty sure nobody would read it.)

Certainly, you can watch "Antiques Roadshow" on TV on a weekly basis like a dinosaur, but I’ve found there’s something enormously satisfying about "Antiques Roadshow" in multi-hour binges. It is arguably the most soothing thing this side of "Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood." "Antiques Roadshow" is a rare TV series that doesn’t make fun of anyone, doesn’t have hidden agendas, doesn’t rely on conflict and strife to create drama. It’s just regular people and their stuff, and as a result it is a show wholly unique in the unscripted universe.


Years ago, I really tried to get into knitting. This was around the time that Debbie Stoller and Stitch ‘N Bitch were first making knitting hip, although I was only tangentially aware of that -- I mostly wanted to make lots of big scrunchy legwarmers. So I did what I usually did when starting a new craft: I obsessively bought a ridiculous amount of supplies before I really knew what I was doing and had the wherewithal to make sound decisions. Thus I wound up with way more needles than I needed and a ton of crappy yarn to play with.

And when I say “a ton” I am only slightly exaggerating. Before I knew what was happening, I’d accumulated a trash bag’s worth of “supplies,” mostly in the form of overpriced novelty acrylic that I would later realize I hated. (How much boucle does one human need? I aimed to find out.)

It turned out there was only one minor problem: I hated knitting. Hated it passionately. What I didn’t stitch too tight, I left too loose, and dropped stitches became design features because I was too angry and frustrated to properly fix them. I was also painfully, ploddingly slow, and given that my main craft background was in sewing -- an activity in which just a few hours of effort can produce a wearable garment -- I had no patience for it.

So I put the knitting supplies away. Somewhere. I can’t remember if I donated them. I suspect they are stuffed in the nearly inaccessible far back corner of the closet in my office, behind my sewing supplies (also largely abandoned, as nobody in this house has time for home crafts anymore) and my husband’s toy collection.

Now here’s the really absurd part: I spent those six months trying to knit, and hating it, after making a conscious decision to reject crochet. Because, for some reason, the fact that crochet uses one tool, a hook, versus knitting’s pointy pointy needles -- this seemed aesthetically displeasing. I don’t even know. I’m giving you a glimpse into my weirdo brain. That was how I thought about it.

Today, years later, I had an urge to play with yarn once again, and given that my feelings toward knitting have not changed, I thought what the hell? I’ll give crochet a shot.


It seems I get from crochet what some of my knitter friends have long gotten from their chosen art -- a sense of calm and alpha-state meditativeness on the task in front of me. I’ve crocheted whole skeins into smallish towel-sized sheets with no pattern, pulled the whole thing out, and started again, just because the repetition is so soothing.

Admittedly, I had to stop watching YouTube videos of instruction because the pros are so efficient and it was making me tense. And now that I am trying to actually make things, the inscrutable (and, might I add, WHOLLY UNNECESSARY) code of crochet patterns is really, REALLY irritating (leading to a lot of me griping that WE ARE NOT SETTING TYPE ANYMORE, WE DON’T NEED TO SAVE LETTERS, JUST WRITE OUT ALL THE WORDS YOU MEAN) but I guess that’s part of the crochet experience. Like hazing the new kids. Only with yarn.


I have this annoying seasonal routine when it comes to legwear. See, every summer I go around chopping the feet off my tights willy-nilly to make a kind of lightweight capri-leggings, because while bare legs are great, it rarely gets all that hot up here in Boston, and I miss my tights even during those brief summer months.

Then fall comes and I’m all WHY DID I DO THAT, I HAVE NO FULL-LENGTH TIGHTS NOW. LESLEY. So what’s my solution for that annoying gap between calf and foot come the fall? Socks. Lots and lots of socks.

I swear I bring up Sock Dreams. Every. Single. Year. But there’s a reason for that, and the reason is that Sock Dreams is GREAT. It’s also the only place I’ve ever reliably succeeded in finding socks not only to cover my feet and calves, but to go over the knee -- a look that I got into in the 90s and that I AM NEVER GIVING UP. The crew at Sock Dreams actually does an amazing thing -- they measure the max stretch of socks, and in most cases you can find it in the item’s description.

For someone like me, with 21-inch monster calves, this is unspeakably wonderful, and allows me to avoid a lot of sock-related heartbreak. They also have a specific collection of socks they’ve found to work for plus sizes, although in my experience it’s not exhaustive, and it’s still worth double-checking the item descriptions, because there are tights and other things in there that might accommodate a 16, but no larger, and that doesn’t really help me.

Anyway, if you’re interesting in pursuing a more intimate and fulfilling relationship with socks, I invite you to join me in obsessively compiling Sock Dreams wish lists and maybe you can afford to buy more of them than I can right now. (Although in the interest of full disclosure I did recently order a pair of these palm-patterned overknee socks and a pair of these diamond lattice overknee socks because TEXTURESSSS.)

At some point, I may get good enough at crochet to make my own socks, but for now the instant gratification is so good.

Kitten (Or Capybara!) Backpack

My backpack fixation began this summer, when I found a weirdly nostalgic shrunken floral backpack for $20 at Target.

Actually, on second thought, it might not have been intentionally small, as it did come with a “Design by Disney!” label and odds are pretty high that it was actually meant for children. But whatever. I liked it, I bought it, I carried it every day for weeks and weeks and suddenly remembered why backpacks are wonderful, in all their DGAF hands-free practicality.

But then a horrible thing happened -- I was leaving my tiny local farmers’ market with a bunch of corn and tomatoes in said bag, and it got caught on something on one of the tables. Not realizing this had transpired, I kept walking in my usual purposeful forceful way, and something had to give.

The backpack lost. I ripped one of the straps clean out of the seam, ruining both the strap and the structural integrity of the bag itself, and while it’s something I can hypothetically repair, without an industrial machine it’s never going to look as tidy or be as strong as it was. I mourned.

And then I bought a Cath Kidston shoulder bag and felt better for a bit. I am not a person who switches bags for every outfit -- I am rather a person who buys a bag and uses it until it becomes damaged and really worn out. This inevitably happens within three months, whether it's a pricey designer thing I got on sale at TJ Maxx or a cheap sack from Target. So when I buy a bag, I have to make sure it both goes with my entire wardrobe, and that I REALLY really like it.

Still, though, as much as I liked my new bag, I missed my backpack friend, affordable and cute as it was, so I took to Etsy in search of an inexpensive but equally special replacement for those days when keeping a bag on my shoulder is just irritating. There I found Catbird Creatures, a shop that screenprints a variety of animals onto simple canvas bags, and they had a backpack version. With a kitten on it. Which I immediately bought.

And then I realized they had a capybara print. Which, UGH, I need to buy soon. Because WORLD’S BIGGEST RODENT. Also a narwhal, unicorn of the sea! I mean what could be better? I can also report that the bag itself is very basic, but very nice, and will probably withstand my efforts to destroy it much better than the Target bag did.

Running Up That Hill

In conclusion, here is a Kate Bush song I’ve been listening to a lot lately, presented without further comment.

Have a relaxing and restorative weekend, y’all.