Three Little Words:

Chanel earrings at Peregrine GalleriesVintage Chanel Jewelry

Susan Caba
The Resale Evangelista

Do not miss this: Chanel Vintage Jewelry show, Aug. 9, 2014, 5:30-7:30 p.m.

Marlene Vitanza, owner of Peregrine Galleries, is celebrating the gallery’s 30th anniversary with an exhibit and sale of vintage Chanel jewelry. The collection was  originally owned by a long-time employee of the fashion house.

The tiny Peregrine Galleries, in Montecito, CA (home to Oprah, as well as other celebrities) is a destination for anyone interested in fine vintage jewelry, especially designer pieces by Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel and Miriam Haskell. Marlene is also nationally known for her premier collections of silver jewelry by Georg Jensen,  William Spratling, Hector Aguilar, Antonio, Margot, and Los Castillo, as well as paintings by masters of California plein air painting.

But for this big anniversary, she is pulling out a never-before-seen collection of Chanel pieces, the likes of which Mademoiselle Coco herself would be proud. In addition to hard-to-find and limited edition runway jewelry, the collection includes several couture Chanel jackets. The collector worked for Chanel in the 1970s, loved the jewelry and amassed many rare pieces.

Beyonce & Beyond: Everyone loves Chanel
Beyonce & her Chanel birdcage earrings

Beyonce Knowles, wearing Chanel earrings.

Looking for the iconic Chanel birdcage earrings with Chanel’s CC logo dangling inside, designed in the 1980s for a runway show? You can find them–or could, when I was there recently–at Peregrine Galleries. Mother-of-pearl earrings the size of a quarter, trimmed in gold-tone metal to look like turtles? They are there in the case, along with ropes of Chanel pearls and gold chains embellished with variations of the Chanel logo or Coco’s favorite lion’s head motif (she was a Leo). Or maybe the cuff with poured glass beads will make your hands tremble and your heart palpitate.

Marlene has been buying Chanel jewelry for about 20 years–and only regrets that she didn’t buy more early on. “I can’t tell you how many pieces I passed up that I would be thrilled to find now,” she says.

Fashion fades, only style remains the same…Coco Chanel

Marlene divides her Chanel collectors into three groups: Those who want original Chanel, but nothing visibly sporting a Chanel logo; those who want original Chanel, but only pieces with subtle logos; and the group–many young and many celebrities–who want biggest and most visible logos possible.

Coco Chanel gained fame not only for her iconic knit jackets, with chain trim and demure pockets, but also for popularizing the suntan, wearing costume jewelry as a means of self expression, and articulating a philosophy of authenticity, rather than pretension.

Many of Mademoiselle Chanel’s thoughts (my thanks to Brainy Quotes) are as relevant today as the day she uttered them:

  • “Fashion has to do with ideas the way we live, what is happening.”
  • “Hard times arouse an instinctive desire for authenticity.”
  • “Luxury must be comfortable, otherwise it is not luxury.”

And a personal favorite of The Resale Evangelista:”Elegance does not consist of putting on a new dress.”


Peregrine Galleries in Montecito features vintage Chanel jewelry
Marlene Vitanza, owner of Peregrine Galleries in Montecito, CA.

I’m going to write a lot more about Marlene in later posts. I’ve been visiting both her gallery in Montecito and the one her late husband had in Santa Barbara for many years. I was first attracted by the mid-Century plein air landscapes by California artists. But Marlene is known nationwide as an important dealer in Taxco Mexican silver jewelry and Native American jewelry and as an early and prolific collector of Bakelite. And she’s just fun to talk with, full of information and generous with her time. I’m so sorry I won’t be in Santa Barbara for the Aug. 9 opening celebration of Peregrine’s anniversary. If you are anywhere in the vicinity, either that evening–or for that matter, any time–stop in an browse.

About Peregrine Galleries


Flea market fanatics flock to…

What Cheer, Iowa

Croquet, anyone?

Susan Caba
The Resale Evangelista

Took this picture at a flea market in Iowa. Oh, wait. It wasn’t just any flea market. It was the What Cheer flea market, in What Cheer, Iowa, renowned in years gone by for the What Cheer Opera House, which still stands.

I just like saying “What Cheer”–it’s a great name for a nearly deserted little burg that comes alive three times a year, when the old fairgrounds fill with the trucks, trailers, tents and the decrepit cars of vendors.

Discarded Babydoll

The What Cheer Flea Market takes place three times a year. The biggest–and often muddiest–is in the spring, in early May. It’s quite the scene, with dealers getting there early and picking over each other’s treasures.

There’s a lot of trash and, depending on your mood and tastes, probably a lot of treasure. Mostly there’s just a lot.

I’ve gone as a spectator and a vendor. Both experiences were, well, intense. I had fun, but then I blend into crowds.

If you want the best bargains, go late Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning, when the dealers are anxious to pack up and go home. Setting up a booth is bad enough; breaking one down after two nights sleeping in your car is hell. The less a dealer has to take home, the better he/she feels.

Rental of a 20×20 outdoor booth is $45. Electricity is a few dollars extra. There’s a kinda camp-like chowhouse that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. There are bathrooms. Don’t count on getting a hotel room in What Cheer–there aren’t any. A lot of the vendors bring campers, or simply sleep in their booths or cars–it’s that kind of place.

The next dates are: Aug. 1-3 and Oct. 3-5. The gates open at 7 a.m. Admission is $1, a dollar extra for early birds on the market’s first day.

Resale Evangelista is dedicated (mostly) to simplifying, reducing clutter and creating a focused, artful life.

Basil Martinis

Day One, Vodka & Basil

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m on a self-improvement kick. Meditation, better nutrition, rewiring my brain–the usual. Oh, yeah and a 10-day menu of “green” smoothies. The promise is dewier skin, clear eyes and youthful energy.

My friend Lee Carey is visiting from Minneapolis, so she’s in on it with me. We transitioned into the cleanse with calamari at Brophy Brothers Seafood at the harbor, then got serious with nutritious “green” martinis–basil picked from the pot, lemons from the tree and sliced peaches. And organic vodka, naturally.

I already feel more youthful and dewy.


Reinventing Self

Joy of Life

Joy of Life

“There is no answer. Pursue it lovingly.”

Resale Evangelista

I just placed an order with Amazon. Within two business days, I will receive these items:

  • The 10-Day Green Smoothie Diet, which promises me clearer eyes, more energy, dewier skin, reduced cravings and improved intestinal health within 10 days–not to mention a substantial weight loss.
  • Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm and Confidence. The benefits are spelled out right in the title.
  • Meditations to Change Your Brain, a 3-CD set of instructions for implementing the lessons of Hardwiring Happiness. When I’m finished listening, I will have mastered specific practices for making positive changes in my body and mind, strengthened my meditative abilities, and healed and nourished my relationships. I will have increased my capacity for joy, love and spiritual bliss.

In 10 days (all right, maybe as long as two weeks), I will be able to report that I am dewier, more blissful, slimmer and living with a newly energized sense of serenity. The cost? A mere $55, with free shipping.

I am a sucker for self-help books. When it comes to self-improvement, I want a road map–a guide, a course or a workbook–to get me to my goal of the moment.

My current project is to redefine myself, to myself. That’s a pretty fuzzy aspiration. The parameters are still evolving. As I wrote in a post last week, I didn’t start with a clearly articulated goal other than discovering a permanent place to live. But my thoughts are starting to gel along the lines of creating a sense of belonging for myself.

So I sold my house in St. Louis and embarked on a year of serial house sitting. In the course of this odyssey of restlessness, I would “change my story, change my brain and change my life.” But how? I needed a workbook, which is why I turned to Amazon.

(I would have gone to an independent bookstore, because Amazon is currently holding its own customers hostage as pawns in a business battle with the Hachette Book group. But I had an Amazon gift card. So much for values.)

As it happens, one of my favorite websites––led with an article this week titled: The Psychology of Your Future Self and How Your Present Illusions Hinder Your Future Happiness, about a Ted Talk by Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert. He’s the author of the 2006 book “Stumbling on Happiness.”

In his Ted Talk, Gilbert says: “Human beings are works in progress that mistakenly think they’re finished. The person you are right now is as transient, as fleeting and as temporary as all the people you’re ever been. The one constant in our lives is change.”

By following links on the page, I came to Maria Popova’s list of 7 Essential Books on the Art and Science of Happiness. The me of grandiose ambitions would announce a study group that would read these books to glean their wisdom. Ain’t gonna happen–that much I know. But even just reading the synopsis of each book raised interesting, difficult questions about our sense of self and happiness.

There are TED Talks embedded in the list. They, too, are provocative–and, at times,, funny. I recommend two of them. I’m not going to attempt to summarize them, because that would trivialize their rather profound messages.

The first is by French scientist-turned-Buddhist monk Mattieu Ricard, talking about the habits of happiness. Ricard is the author of Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life’s Most Important Skill. (Hey! I just knew there was a guide out there someplace!)

My favorite was Brené Brown, talking about the power of vulnerability. Brown’s books include The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are and Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. Both were New York Times’ bestsellers. Her TED Talk is one of the most popular ever, with more than 15 million views.

Despite titles that imply pop-culture psychology, these books–and these people–are exploring the common aspiration of humans: The pursuit of well-being and the end of suffering. Most of us don’t have the time, or don’t take the time, to pursue these questions are our own. I’m grateful for the guidance and that I do have the time, at least for the moment.

In the meantime, I’ll let you know in a couple of weeks whether I’m slimmer, dewier, more serene, more energetic, healed, nourished, content and calm. Let’s hope so!

The Resale Evangelista is on a quest for clarity and simplicity, in order to create a more focused, creative life.

More animal talk

Goat Milker Wanted (I kid you not)

Okay, I promised myself I wouldn’t write any more posts about the animals that house sitters are asked to care for. But then I saw this ad on–and I couldn’t resist. I’m just going to post it verbatim. The property is north of London, near the eastern seaboard of England.

Goat milker (we can teach!) + animal lover to look after menagerie

We live up a country lane with no close neighbours. Surrounded by fields, yet a short walk down the track to the village. The assignment MAY be suitable for children comfortable with being around animals, although 2 of the dogs do not like being cuddled (but love playing ball) so I would say best suited for older children. We have a double spare room for your stay. We have a blog (search Grandpa Southwellski) if you wish to see more.

Animal list:
  • 2 goats: Simone and Ashia
  • 4 small terrier dogs: Monty, Blossom, Scarlett and Sanya
  • 2 cats: Jarvis and KC
  • 2 drakes: Flappy and Ballerina (don’t ask!)
  • 2 guinea pigs: Hearty and Chubby
  • Many chickens (including roosters)
  • Goldfish (only fed once in a blue moon)
What responsibilities are required of house sitter?

Milking Simone (our British Alpine) every morning. She is very obliging and knows the routine. Feeding the dogs (this may be as simple as just chucking out some raw bones in the garden for them). Feeding the cats; guinea pigs; chickens; and goldfish. Depending on the season/weather there may be some watering to do in the garden.

Features of the property and location

We have wi-fi and an acre of land, some of which is landscaped gardens with a summerhouse (electricity and wifi) and hammock. We don’t have close neighbours and the garden is completely private. We are near to Thetford Forest; Brandon Country Park; Elveden Centre Parcs and a multitude of forest tracks. The village has a butchers shop, post office, pubs serving food and a newsagent.

Grandpa Southwellski’s Garden

Actually, this could be a fun holiday for the right family.

I looked up Grandpa Southwellski’s garden blog, which he writes with his granddaughter, Coco. Grandpa is in his fifties, with longish gray-white hair and beard that give him the look of a sailor. If I didn’t know he lives in England, I’d peg him for a beach guy from Southern California. His other blog, Grandpa Southwellski’s Workshop, is about small household and woodworking projects.

“We live not far from the seaside town of Hunstanton, a popular holiday destination for thousands of people each year,” Grandpa writes. “Known locally as Sunny Hunny, it has long sandy beaches perfect for a spot of sand castle building or kite flying or in winter freezing your what nots off as the wind comes from Siberia direct

He goes on to describe a recent visit to Sunny Hunny with Coco.

“The first day was lovely and warm and the second was warm enough for Coco and I to spend 3 hours in the outdoor pool.
Then on the third day it rained like it was never going to stop. Coco and I ventured onto the beach for a little while … it was blowing a hoolie and not surprisingly we were alone.

“We did meet another hardened dog walker almost dragging a reluctant pooch onto the beach as we were coming back. A few minutes later the same dog overtook us on it’s homeward bound journey, followed some 50 yards behind by a red faced and puffing owner.”

If you have grandchildren, you might want to stop and visit Grandpa Southwellski–if only on his blog.


3 /
3 / 4Goat milker (we can teach!) + animal lover to look after menagerie.


Tiny houses, travel & defining home

 What does it mean to be un-moored from any specific place?

Resale Evangelista

Today, I’m writing from a hillside house in Santa Barbara. The scarlet bougainvillea —attended by hummingbirds—competes for sunlight with lavender blooms of jacaranda trees and spikey purple agapanthas in the garden. I walked outside in my robe this morning to have coffee by the pool overlooking dun-colored hills.

The Pacific is an indigo wedge on the horizon. I’ll swim a few lengths of the pool—no suit needed—before showering in a spa-like master bath with heated floors. For these two months, I’m driving a vintage white Mercedes dubbed “The Sugar Cube.”

In a way, house-sitting is an idyllic life. But I know the ultimate goal of my year of living restlessly is to find a place that feels permanent. Actually, I’ve come to realize that’s been a goal of mine my entire life. I’m also getting inklings that what I’m looking for is less a place than a sense–a sense of belonging. So far, I have only vague ideas–maybe daydreams, maybe delusions–of what that sense of belonging would look or feel like.

I started musing along these lines after coming across a couple of essays by San Francisco blogger Cheri Lucas Rowlands. She and her husband, another writer, have sold most of their stuff, rented their loft and are in the process of completing a tiny house–20 feet long, 8 feet wide, 131 square feet–on wheels. (They bought a partially completed model from the Tumbleweed Tiny House Co.)

Like me, Rowlands and her husband decided that finding their place in life required stripping down to the core.

“We want a physical home we can call our own — one we really do own, with no mortgage, excessive bills, or superfluous possessions to weigh us down. Escaping a mortgage and living more simply will free up money, which will free up time,” Rowlands wrote, describing the birth of her Tiny House Travelers journey.

But Rowlands and her husband, Nick, are looking at their decision to downsize and detach from any one location from a perspective beyond mere housing:

“As travelers…trying out different locations for size; as a couple exploring our relationship to our shared space and to each other; and as writers deeply interested in the evolution of space, place and home, and in people’s ties to physical objects and locations in a world where the boundaries between the ideas of the digital and the physical are becoming increasingly blurred.”

I’ve embarked on a similar adventure, through serial house-sitting. I hadn’t really articulated what I hoped to discover, other than a permanent place to live. My thoughts started to gel along the lines of “a sense of belonging” after reading Rowlands’ essay.

A few weeks back, I wrote about my friend Doreen Carvajal  unraveling mysteries about her family’s history that had been quietly churning in the back of her mind for decades. I started the post by asking, “What is the burning question in your life?”

“I’m asking” I wrote, “because I think the search for an answer–whatever the question–creates a sense of passion and purpose in life. I’m envious of those who not only have such a question (and recognize it) but summon the will, the energy and the resources to pursue the answer. In the process, those people experience a deep sense of satisfaction and, I think, come to know some fundamental truths about themselves.”

I haven’t been able to fully shape my burning question yet. But I think it’s related to finding that sense of belonging. And, as I wrote that last sentence, it occurred to me that instead of using the word “finding,” I should have written “creating.” As in creating that sense of belonging.

In a New York Times article about her quest to uncover family secrets, Doreen wrote: “We can change the story we tell about ourselves and, by doing that, change our future.”

Coincidentally, I had been thinking that the subtext of my year of living restlessly is, “Change my story, change my brain, change my life.” I’m a believer in the science that says we can “rewire” our brains by over-riding the stories about ourselves that we grew up believing.

That’s why I said I should have written “creating” a sense of belonging rather than “finding” a sense of belonging. Apparently, I have control over whether I belong or not. Now that’s a scary realization!

I’ll finish with one more thought from another of Rowlands’ essays, What it means to write about travel.”

“Traveling can simply mean exploring–whatever your world, whatever your reality–and is often less about place and more about time, change and one’s relationship to a moment.”

In that sense, I’m traveling…aren’t we all?





Featured Image -- 3853

The art of graduation

Susan at Resale Evangelista:

Son Graduates, Mother Proud

I’m not sure I’ve “fixed” this post or not. What I wanted to say was that the blog, The Global Art Junkie, recently feature various depictions of graduations. That, of course, gave me the perfect excuse to post this picture of my son, Max Banerjee.

He graduated June 14 from Santa Clara University and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army the same day. He’s on his way now to Fort Sill, OK, for training in his branch, Field Artillery. And he’ll kill me when he sees this post but a mother has to brag once in a while!

New 2L Max Banerjee and his mother, Susan Caba

New 2L Max Banerjee and his mother, Susan Caba


Originally posted on Global Art Junkie:


Our family has been happily preoccupied for the last month with a college graduation, and the travel it involved.  I’ve been reflecting on the fun – and the sanctity – of graduation, which brought to mind best-selling author Neil Gaiman’s viral commencement address at the University of the Arts . He told graduates to “go, and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules.” Most of all, he told them, “make good art.”  I’m for that. (Above: Sonia Villiers, Cambridge Graduation Day)

View original 191 more words

Tick Tock

Keeping track of time

Susan Caba
The Resale Evangelista

Miniature Clocks at TimeKeepers

Watches are sooo last century. When was the last time you saw anyone under the age of 40 wearing a wristwatch? (Hmmm, wonder how many under-twenties have seen one?)

Which I frankly don’t understand, since turning my wrist a fraction and glancing down to see what time it is seems so much more convenient than digging my phone out of my purse or a pocket. And a watch, particularly a vintage watch, can be such a distinctive way of expressing your personality, or even your mood.

Once, during a tumultuous life episode, I was visiting TimeKeepers in Clayton and took a liking to a clean-lined Hamilton wristwatch with a beveled-edge crystal, priced at $200. I didn’t need a watch so, believe it or not, I resisted temptation.

But a few days later, I was harrumphing about my circumstances and telling myself it was “time to move on.” Inspiration struck. I bought the watch and had that phrase engraved on the back. As you may have guessed, I have little trouble rationalizing unnecessary purchases.

Semyon Ilyashov and his daughter, Ella Ilyashov

A quality wristwatch is Number Two on my evolving list of 10 Things You Should Always Buy Resale. (Unless, like my Batman watch, dating from the first movie, you buy it from a street vendor in Manhattan for $25. Then you ask the vendor if it comes with any kind of guarantee. “Lady,” he says, “it’s a $25 watch from the street.” “Oh,” I reply.)

My favorite place for vintage watches—and I don’t mean just my favorite place in St. Louis, I mean my favorite place anywhere—is TimeKeepers. Owner Semyon  Ilyashov and his daughters, Ella and Rachel, specialize in the repair and restoration of fine timepieces, clocks and music boxes. They also carry fine estate jewelry.

Semyon, the son of a Russian watchmaker, has been in business in St. Louis since 1979. He rarely comes to the counter, though I’ve sometimes seen him,watchmaker’s lenses perched on his nose, talking a customer who is obviously a collector—as in collecting watches costing tens of thousands of dollars. I usually talk to Ella, who is very kind in letting me look at watches when, with the exception of the “Time to Move On” watch, I haven’t purchased anything.

TimeKeepers does have sweet deals on pre-owned watches. A gold, 20-year-old Rolex Presidential was $7,500 the last time I visited, compared to $18,000 for a new version. A Patek Phillippe—among the crème de la crème of name-brand watches—was $4,500. Patek Phillippes start around $10,000 new, with prices rocketing into the stratosphere. I fell in love with a platinum ladies Hamilton from the 1930s, tastefully encrusted with 8 karats of diamonds for $9,500. Maybe I should have thought of the slogan “Tiime to Sparkle,” to justify that watch!

All watches at TimeKeepers come with a one-year guarantee and all repair work is done right there. There is a second TimeKeepers on Olive Boulevard.


A rare music-making machine at TimeKeepers

The Clayton store is worth a visit just to see Semyon’s vast collection of clocks and music boxes, ranging from tiny enameled bedside clocks to large music boxes that open to reveal ensembles of mechanical performers. Don’t even ask for prices—once Semyon gets his hands on a clock, he’s not very willing to let it go. The reason there are so many pieces displayed in the store, said Ella, is that there isn’t anymore room in his home.

Semyon did make an exception to his hold-on-to-it philosophy. When Ella had her first child, a boy, Semyon gave her an antique clock (she covets them as much as her father). A few years later, she wanted another one and Semyon told her, “You’ll get another one with the next child.”

“That’s not going to happen,” Ella told me at the time. I relayed that information to Semyon, who chuckled. “She’ll have another one,” he said. “She really loves the clocks.”

Ella’s daughter is now 10 years old.

Timekeepers Olivette · 9495 Olive Blvd Olivette MO 63132 · (314)991-0994
Timekeepers Clayton · 17 N Meramec Clayton MO 63105 · (314)721-4548 ·

Tomorrow: Tips for buying vintage watches


The thing about peonies…

 Lush, blowsy, sensual…and fleeting

Susan Caba
The Resale Evangelista

“The flowers bend their bright bodies, and tip their fragrance to the air, and rise, their red stems holding all that dampness and recklessness gladly and lightly, and there it is again…beauty, the brave, the exemplary, blazing open….

“Do you also hurry, half-dressed and barefoot, into the garden and softly, and exclaiming of their dearness, fill your arms with the white and pink flowers, with their honeyed heaviness, their lush trembling, their eagerness to be wild and perfect for a moment, before they are nothing, forever?”

From “Peonies,” a poem by Mary Oliver

Peonies in bloom

Peonies are the flowers closest to my true heart. Not for me the strait-laced daffodils and simple tulips. I crave the peony and its unkempt beauty.

Big and bold, sensual and messy, sturdy enough to keep coming back in the garden for decades–but fleeting in their bloom time, best picked and savored when their buds are the size of fists. Bring them inside and they burst open like fireworks. Yes, sometimes they bring in ants. So what? Life has ants. Get over it.

Delicious and blowsy, the white blossoms are tipped with scarlet–the scarlet letter? The pinks are sugarplum fairies, a little girl’s dream. And the scarlet blooms? They unfold wantonly, revealing gaudy yellow pistils. Only their scent is subtle, a  soft and romantic fragrance that whispers intimacies.

It’s June and the peonies are blooming. When I lived in St. Louis, I would occasionally slip into the darkness of a June night with scissors, looting the neglected peony bushes of neighbors. They might be content to let the flowers bloom and wither without gathering them, but I was greedy. I wanted more peonies, even, than my own shrubs produced.

Peonies don’t grow in Santa Barbara–not for them a gentle climate; they need a harsh winter to produce their bounty. But the universe was generous. Trader Joe’s was awash in peonies, buds not yet burst, when I stopped in for groceries. True to my greedy self, I gathered an armload, then augmented them with ferns and geranium leaves cut from the gardens around the house into two billowing bouquets.

What, you may be asking, does this paeon to peonies (which, by the way, are named for Paean, physician to the gods of Greek mythology) have to do with a simplified, artful life–or with buying resale.

It’s simple, really. I’ve made physical and emotional room in my life to enjoy the beauty of the peonies,  and to take time to tell you why I love them. Could any pursuit be more luxurious? I think not.