collection obsession: vintage vacuum flasks

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I love thermoses and carafes — vacuum flasks as they’re technically known. Maybe it hearkens back to my Snoopy thermos in first grade, filled with perfectly piping hot tomato soup for lunch, or to my first date with my now husband, who poured me a sip of syrupy espresso from his trusty Nissan stainless thermos (still in action to this day). But now, I find myself snatching vintage thermoses up on every thrifting trip I’ve been on of late. I’m pretty choosy about which ones I buy, so I’m careful to inspect them for (1) gross odors (2) shattered or cracked glass liners (yes many of the vintage varieties were glass, which makes them fragile) and (3) the condition of the seals. Most of what I’ve bought has been pristine — hardly, if ever used — which helps seal the deal. If you’re willing to risk it, eBay is a treasure trove of vintage vacuum flasks: this beauty is $9.99, BIN (with returns accepted).

My favorite? That heavy, unbreakable stainless Uno-Vac in the back. That bad boy has seen some life — and is still, amazingly, spotless and funk-free inside. Later this week, Ol’ Ironsides (as I’ve dubbed it) will be filled with 24 oz. of something delicious (which, depending on the weather, will be either hot or cold) and brought along on our hike into the forest as part of our five year wedding anniversary celebration! — Megan B.

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everything you wanted to know about hammocks (but were afraid to ask)!

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When the dog days of summer hit, there is literally nothing that sounds better to me than lying in a shaded hammock, reading a magazine and sipping iced tea in a perfect summer breeze. Take a moment and picture it. Yep, it’s that good. Trust me… your midsummer naps will never be the same.

It’s not nearly as unattainable as it sounds. This is the modern age! No more are hammocks limited to those of us with plantation-style backyards, or two perfectly-spaced mature trees. Even the smallest of outdoor spaces, and virtually any budget, will set you up for total hammock nirvana.
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The easiest, of course, is the stand hammock. You’ll need a 15×8 area to set one up, and to allow room for swaying blissfully in the breeze (though 20×10 would be more comfortable). But if you have the space, the rest is child’s play. Get creative – use a side yard, ditch a dilapidated patio set, or repurpose a long front deck to house your hammock. The least expensive stands are metal, while wood is a pricier (but prettier) option. Metal also wins on durability, though; a wood version is more vulnerable to the elements. Be sure to check the assembled dimensions before you buy. And also check weight restrictions…if you want a two-person hammock, be sure your stand can handle it. Last, buy the stand separately from the hammock, and you’ll likely get a better quality version of both.

If you happen to have those two perfectly-spaced trees, of course, all you’ll need are a pair of hammock straps – webbed straps with carabiner attachments. You’ll see chain kits out there, but chains are very damaging to trees. The flat webbing is a much kinder option. You can also go with screw-in hooks, just make sure you’re using a hardwood tree like an oak or pine. Softer woods may not hold the screws over time, and being dropped on your backside does not make for good naps.
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The actual hammock is the next piece of the puzzle. Decide whether you want a two-seater or a single (I say, the more room, the merrier). Next, you’ll have a bevy of materials to choose from. Rope is the classic, of course. It’s also the least expensive and easiest to keep clean (since dirt and water can’t stick). It’s also the least comfortable. Cotton rope will yield more comfort, while polyester rope yields greater durability – it’s a toss-up. For my money, I prefer the quilted canvas versions. The colors do fade in the sun (though you can find versions in Sunbrella fabric that would reduce that considerably), and they have to be hosed off a few times a summer, but the comfy factor is unparalleled. Do yourself a favor and spring for the matching pillow.

If neither of those options work for you, don’t fear – no one goes hammock-less on my watch! Consider a hammock swing. Sure, it’s not the sexiest thing on the block, but there’s an excellent case to be made for function over form in this case. And you can hang them using either a stand or an eye hook drilled into your roof eaves or the ceiling on your porch. Enlist someone handy for an aerial installation – you want the hook installed into a stud so you don’t go flying! Again, I love the upholstered versions, and they happen to be much easier on the eyes than their rope counterparts. But they’re pricier as well – you can score a rope version for under $100. There are nylon versions out there too, but they’re so unfortunate-looking, I can’t even bring myself to show them to you.

A few final tips from a hammock old-timer: I recommend buying a couple of carabiners to attach your hammock to its stand or hooks – it makes it so much easier to attach and detach for shaking off and for storage. You can even install a large eye-hook in the ceiling of your garage or under your roof eaves and store the hammock there during the winter months, leaving the stand assembled and pushed out of the way. Also, be sure to double check length measurements of both the hammock and stand before you buy. Most are a standard size, but it’s always good to double-check.

And last, grab that magazine and iced tea before you settle in…once you’re in the hammock, you’ll be amazed at how quickly being anywhere else in the world sounds like too much work. — Becki S.

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neighborhood fun: sidewalk swings for summer

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One of the things that stood out to me when we moved to Portland was how, besides all the chicken coops,  all the neighborhoods had one common element: sidewalk tree swings. After growing up in New Jersey, and then living in DC and Denver as an adult, I have never seen the “median” space between the sidewalk and street used in such a playful way. Even our neighbors, who have no small children of their own, put up a tire swing and tether ball for the neighborhood kids to use. Sadly, we don’t have a tree out front to install our own swing. But if you do, here are a few easy-to-hang options:

• Disc swing from Wood Tree Swings, $55, includes a hanging kit that prevents rope from cutting into tree limbs and makes set-up a breeze.

• Sassaras Ladybug Rope Swing, $25.

• IKEA EKORRE hand rings, $10. Nope, not a swing. But the neighbor two doors down from us put this up, and it’s a magnet for older kids.

• And then there’s always the classic: a swing made from an old tire sitting in your garage.

Are sidewalk swings and play things a typical neighborhood feature where you live, or are we a bit of an anomaly out here in the Pacific Northwest? –Ginny F.

Yellow swing image by Flickr user Yume Photo

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ebay find: replogle globes

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I am not immune to the current globe and map trend. Quite the contrary, I love the idea. Finding a globe I like is another matter altogether. Any I’ve seen seem too bright (vivid blues) or too dark. I dug through my tearsheets, hoping to find inspiration and instead, realized the perfect globe was all in my head. It sat on my parent’s dresser for all of my childhood. It had an antique parchment finish and best of all, when you pulled the tiny chain, it lit the entire room in a warm amber glow. So I hopped on eBay and cue the chorus — found the Replogle lighted globe. The only problem? In the years since its production, boundaries and countries have changed and for the kid’s academic sake, I figured I should at least try and find a globe from this century. So I typed Replogle into eBay and it turns out they’re still being made in Chicago, just like they were all those years ago when my parent’s bought one. Find out more about Replogle at their site, view products and find a retailer near you. Also available online through Amazon. — Sarah L.

From our partners

summer loving our “new” vintage glider

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When we were looking to move from an apartment to a house, there was one thing we knew we wanted: a front porch. Now our porch has truly become the hang-out spot of our dreams thanks to a brand new “vintage” glider.

Even though wicker is big in our neighborhood, we knew we wanted something that suited our vintage mod style — and we did not want to sit still! After doing some reseplace online and in some salvage yards, we quickly learned that fine vintage metal furniture is hard to come by. Even the most rusty pieces were hundreds of dollars. We debated buying something that needed some TLC, but sanding and refinishing it ourselves would take a little more elbow grease than we had to spare. So, where does one buy a refurbished vintage glider? Why, at vintageglider.com of course! You can browse styles on the site (ours is called “pie crust”) and order the color of your choice. Six weeks later, the UPS truck arrives with a beautiful piece. Yes, the prices is higher than a rusty one, but it does include delivery. Now that ours in in place, we are gliding and smiling every day. — Angela M.

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