Tuesday, February 12, 2019

The Joy of Old Books

This Saturday, Rajan and I decided to visit one of our favorite rainy day spots, an "alley" on 57th Street known by some as "Antique Alley", and by others, "57th Street Antique Row". Two rows of facing shops display a wealth of memory lane wares. Some are true antiques stores, others offer secondhand/nostalgia merchandise, and a fairly modern shop shows nature-inspired crafts, another modern furniture and some contemporary furniture and books. There is also a cafe that offers catering services — Evan's Kitchen, which gets many good reviews. But we go for the shops.

Browsing the shops used to be our favorite rainy day activity before time got away, filled with travel and other activities (photography, book signings, etc.). We realized it had been almost two years — yes, two years! — since our last visit. I am a true "bookaholic" and pictured above are three wonderful finds I came home with. In this photo they are on an old quilt of ours. (See? We love old things.)

We first went to the Picket Fence, where we once found an old painting that hangs in our living room.

You can see more of Picket Fence's wares HERE . 

The painting is so beautifully done, it's clear the artist had real mastery. We couldn't find a name, though. And we've both been afraid to take the frame apart to see if it is hidden out of sight, for fear of damaging it. But looking at it is one of our great pleasures in life.

We didn't find anything at Picket Fence this time, but we had a great browse. Then we browsed shops on the same side of the alley and discovered a shop called Design Alchemy HERE .  

Design Alchemy is where we found the wonderful Cast Iron Skillet Cookbook shown here on the left. Both Rajan and I like to cook, and we especially like our cast iron skillets (we have two in different sizes.) There is just something about food cooked on cast iron that has special flavor. And the recipes in this book are wonderful. I already cooked an oven baked ratatouille Sunday that I want to tweak a little the next time around. But it was delicious. The author, Ellen Brown, provides lovely photos of the dishes, and her step-by-step recipes are easy to follow. I'm eager to try the carrot and zucchini pancakes next. (We are vegetarian).

Next, it was onward across the alley to the main shop we like so much. It's like touring a museum. Dozens of alcoves inside, each a different shop. And if you like anything from vintage clothing, old books, Depression glassware, model cars, lamps, vintage toys, art deco shades, accent furniture pieces, well, 57th Street Mall is for you. It was  HERE — do go have a look — I found two other book treasures shown below:
These are two small books, both purse or pocket size. I showed them above next to the cookbook to give a sense of their size, as shown here they could be any size, you can't really tell.

What's special about these two books is that I can easily take them on the plane when we go to Spain. (We are traveling these days with carry-ons only, no checked baggage.) I've been studying Spanish for what seems like forever. But the little book on the left, Cuentos Faciles, is a jewel.

The lessons are little stories in front, a page or two at most (small pages at that) with exercises in the back and a glossary, so that you can check out new vocabulary. I've done two of them already — there are 30 altogether.

The book on the right, The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes, feeds my Sherlock addiction. This is the last of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's story collections about the great detective, and one I have not yet read. I'm especially interested, because I wrote an MG mystery starting Holmes and have another one on the back burner. I can never get enough of Sherlock Holmes's world.

Both these books are in pristine condition. Not a mark of any kind on either. Our Saturday sojourn into Antique Alley was not expensive at all, but I have to say it was soul-satisfying. I am probably going to wear these books out.

How about you? Do you like cookbooks? Have you tried to learn a second language? Are you a Sherlock fan? Do you like old books? If so, what kind? Do you like to hang around antique stores and secondhand shops? What is one of your most satisfying purchases?


Linda Covella said...

I love old books. One of my favorite things to look at in antique stores.

Elephant's Child said...

I have almost total sales resistance - except where books or plants are concerned.
I particularly love old books. I like the feel, the smell and to wonder who has read them before.
Have you come across Laurie R King's take on the Sherlock mysteries? Sherlock marries early in the series and we mostly see his world through his wife's eyes.

Elephant's Child said...

PS: One of my most satisfying purchases is a water-colour depicting a creek in the woods. Away for work, I was freezing one afternoon and went into an art gallery to warm up. I saw the painting and fell in love and brought it home (with considerable difficulty). It hangs in the bedroom and decades later I still love it.

Mark Noce said...

Neat! I'll have to check out 57th next time I'm up that way:)

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Hi, Linda, Me, too! I gravitate immediately to the bookshelves. I found some great old Nancy Drew mysteries that way one year, each for only $5, and all of them that I took in excellent condition.

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Elephant's Child, you pretty well summed up my feelings. Books and art — and art for my husband as well, although he isn't as hooked on used books as I am. I, too, like to wonder who had them before, and I like the feel of those old cloth hardbacks. As for your PS: well, we still love to look at the small painting we bought one year. It really makes us so happy! Thanks for stopping by.

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Hi, Mark, If you like old stuff, this little shopping alley is for you. I always feel like I'm browsing through a museum of sorts. Have a great day.

Rosi said...

I do love old books. And I also love your new painting! It is beautiful. Nice day for you and Rajan.

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Hi, Rosi, thanks for stopping by. I appreciate your comment about the painting. It's one of our favorite paintings ever.Re: old books. With all your new bookshelves, you would love a day in these stores!

Sandra Cox said...

Antique Alley sounds like a purrfect place for a stroll:)
Happy Valentine's Day.

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Hi, Sandra, Stroll, yes, but I always take my wallet, because there is no getting out of one of these shops for me without a book. :-), Have a great Valentine's Day.

Kate Larkindale said...

Sounds like somewhere right up my alley! I adore second-hand shopping whether it's for books or clothes or just stuff. Some of my best kitchenware comes from second-hand stores.

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Kate, you are the first person I've encountered who also buys kitchenware art secondhand stores. We love to shop for second had kitchenware. We have a couple frying pans, a set of dishes, some great wineglasses,a hard to find size mixing bowl that has come in handy for zucchini bread, and — the real treasure — an old fashioned egg beater that is much less bother than our mixer when it comes to beating eggs. Thanks for stopping by and brightening my day.

Donna K. Weaver said...

To me, cookbooks are like hats. I love them. I just hate to wear them. I don't like to cook. :D

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Hi, Donna. That was funny! I have an acquaintance who likes to find old recipe books in secondhand stores that were put together by groups. You know: a church group, a PTA group, a club, etc. She just collects them, but I don't think she cooks any of the recipes.