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A few years ago, we started buying wood furniture.

Vintage and second-hand, to be sure.

Rockefellers, we are not.

Buying at auctions and garage sales is good for the budget.  Plus, I like the hunt for old stuff, yes indeedy.  Usually, the more unloved, the better.

Rocking chairs with the rockers worn off?  Sign me up.

Cabinets, magazine racks, abandoned table at the side of the road?  I’m out of the car like a chubby magpie.

pink wardrobe and green magazine rack

Slowly, we have replaced any of the press-board, laminated stuff that we used to find at a certain lovely big box store.  (I still go there for the window shopping, tasty meatballs and $1 ice cream cone, of course.)

Forget grey hair:  the press-board-to-wood-conversion is a sure sign of advancing age.

Anyhoo.

The other part about buying used is that it lowers the guilt factor.

The guilt factor when I go about doing that thing that I always want to do.

You know–that thing that makes some people cringe or exclaim in horror.

(Insert Practical Man’s cringe and horror here.)

That would be painting.

Painting (say this in breathy, hushed tones):  Real Wood.

As in, our fireplace mantel (giant chunk of pine).

As in, our kitchen cupboards (giant room full of knotty pine).

As in, this china cabinet that used to belong to my Grandma Verna.

40s china cabinet - brown

It’s been “wood” coloured for as long as I can remember, including the last 20 years that it’s been in our house.  I think it hails from the 1940s or thereabouts.  Definitely vintage and lovely but, oh so browny-brown-brown.

Which is really only good if it’s made of chocolate, yes indeedy.

This fall, I could no longer let the china cabinet live in peace.

So, it went under the knife.

Rather, the brush, as the case may be.

Don’t be so dramatic, wood lovers!

All that wood was going away.  Even though some of it, on the underneath part, was cool vintage crate wood with retro advertising.

We kept that.

Bottom view of china cabinet - one half of the interior floor of the cabinet was made from an old crate

Practical Man did some considerable muttering under his breath.

It might have been because he always seems to end up finishing the painting that his paint-happy wife barely started.

Or, it may have been an apology chant to the wood–the wood which his callous wife had so gladly forsaken.

He and my dad are both woodworkers.  They make beautiful things which I have (cross my heart) never painted.

The struggle is real, my friends.

But, back to the china cabinet, which they Did. Not. Make.

Bye-bye brown!

40s cabinet with lattice-work door closed - painted cream

Hello, dreamiest cream and robin’s egg blue!

Oooh, how I love your new tra-la-la.

If you do too, check out more great ideas at Vintage Chic – A Room by Room Guide by Laura Preston.  I hope to feature her as a guest blogger here soon!

Cabinet painted cream outside with robins-egg blue interior on three interior shelves and walls

Now, the cabinet is just perfect to house fondue pots, vintage melamine and Pyrex galore.

None of it brown, as you might have guessed.

Today’s dilemma is this antique tea cart, with its original shade of woody-wood-wood.

antique tea cart with wheels - brown

Of course, I want to paint it.

Pinterest wants me to paint it.

What do you think?

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This is a post about a retro food joint.  But, it is not a post for foodies.

No, siree.

There are no whole foods or cheffy types here.  Can you smell the frying onions?  Can you hear the creaky floors?  You’re almost there, then:

Tra-la-la!

The Harmony Lunch in Waterloo, Ontario.

Sounds like an old-school country song, doesn’t it?  I’d like to write one.

Exterior of the Harmony Lunch restaurant

 

Never you mind the peeling paint because Harmony Lunch is proudly old-school and tatty around the edges.

This is not a place that LOOKS vintage.

This is a place that actually IS vintage.

Show some respect.

Harmony Lunch started in 1930 and is still running, not to mention something of an institution on my dad’s side of the family.  My Great-Uncle Fred (Grandpa Lou’s brother) was the die-hard regular:  he used to go there for lunch every Saturday.  When he and my Grandpa Lou opened the door, this is what they saw.  This is also what I saw last November, when I had lunch there with my aunt H:

Interior of the Harmony Lunch with counter, stools, cabinets

Fancy, hunh?

I bet you’re wishing you’d worn your cufflinks aren’t you?

I don’t blame you.

The very first thing you must do, upon entering, is line up some tunes on the jukebox in the corner.

A-wimoweh, A-wimoweh, A-wimoweh, A-wimoweh, The Lion Sleeps Tonight.

Love Me Tender, what a jukebox, it is!

Retro Jukebox

Then, you absolutely have to head quietly into the retro phone booth.

Sure, you have a cell phone but that won’t help you slip into your superhero costume, now, will it?

Vintage phone booth

Then, have a little wander into the vintage washrooms (it’s a cultural experience):

vintage washrooms

They’re located right next to the jukebox.

(There might have been a little dancing in the toilet stalls.)

Then, finally, finally, settle yourself on one of these authentic vintage diner stools.  Just ignore the modern-day ATM machine over there and focus on the way your feet come gently to rest on the bar at the base of the counter.

Aaaaaaah.  Now you’re feeling it.

Retro diner stools at a counter

Since we’re sitting comfortably, let me ask:

When was the last time you had a real-for-true, made-with-full-fat-actual-ice-cream, milkshake?  Not one of those edible oil products you get at the fast food joints.

Uh huh.

Behold the chest of ice-cream-lovers’ dreams (complete with handy bottle cap opener on the front):

Ice cream coolers at the Harmony Lunch

And, when was the last time you had a real-for-true, made-on-an-old-fashioned-milkshake-machine milkshake?

The kind where they scoop the ice cream from the–I say it again–chest of ice-cream-lovers’ dreams into a metal milkshake container thingy (I’m pretty sure that’s its official name), add milk and real chocolate sauce and then whip it into a chocolatey, bubbly, ice-creamy frenzy of joy?

Vintage pistachio-green coloured milkshake maker

 

P.S.  I also love, love, love the colour of the machine.

Feel free to swoon over it, as you should.  I’ll just be over here reminiscing about my lovely milkshake and super fun day with my aunt H.

MMMmmmmmmmm.

Me and my chocolate milkshake

 

Now, seated on the vintage lunch counter stool, sipping your milkshake from heaven, you survey the menu, in all its plastic-y glory and humble words:

Wall menu, lit up

The hamburgers, dear readers, are not made from grass-fed beef, nor do they come with chevre, foie gras or any other kind of french-ified condiment.  These are made with plain old pork.  They are also flat, flat, flat, having been squished on the flattop that stands out in the open where those at the lunch counter can watch everything being made.

THE HARMONY LUNCH LEGEND

When I was a child and my father and grandfather took us to Harmony Lunch when we were in Waterloo visiting our grandparents, there was an old, old man who staffed the grill and kept the fried onions cooking on Saturdays.  My dad told us, in a hushed voice, that the same man had been staffing the grill since he was a boy.   My grandfather then told us, in a gravelly, hushed voice, that the same man had been staffing the grill since HE was a boy.  The old man at the grill and the fried onions were the stuff of Harmony Lunch legend.

I think they were also what made our mom usually wrinkle up her nose and decline our lunch invitation.

And, even though there was an old man my aunt H and I could see “in the back” but not at the grill this time, I’m pretty sure that the same old man is still responsible for the quintessential Harmony Lunch experience.  Because, after all, it was Saturday, our family Harmony Lunch day, the day of memories and legends!  And, you haven’t really been to the Harmony Lunch until you and your clothes and hair and coat and earlobes SMELL like the Harmony Lunch; that is, like the old man’s frying onions.

Heap of frying onions and burgers on a flattop

And no, we’re not talking fancy, modern, caramelized onions with a touch of balsamic.  These are plain old fried onions.

So there.

Don’t fool yourself into thinking you can sneak over to the Harmony Lunch for some plain old fried onions on a burger and come home to your resident foodie, all innocent-like.

That smell lasts for days, trust me.

For the true Harmony Lunch experience, aunt H had the flat, flat hamburger (with fried onions, of course!) and a side of french fries with gravy (for sharing).

hamburger loaded with fried onions; french fries with gravy

It’s also important when you’re eating at the Harmony Lunch to sample and share the onion rings.

Well, okay then.

And, check out that shiny Arborite counter!

Cheeseburger, onion rings, chocolate shake

For dessert, you could choose a slice of classic diner pie (probably coconut cream) and/or opt for one of the vintage candy treasures to be found by the cash register.

Double Bubble!

Popeye’s (candy) cigarettes!

Rockets!

Cracker Jack!

And, of course, that not retro but quite necessary after-lunch-at-the-Harmony-Lunch favourite:  TUMS.

retro candy:  double bubble, popeye cigarettes etc.

Let’s face it.  Not everyone is brave enough or will deign to eat at the classic landmark that is the Harmony Lunch.

But, those of us who do, get the pleasure of visiting a by-gone era, not to mention by-gone and current loved ones like:

Uncle Fred and Grandpa Lou

Aunt H and my dad,

and of course,

that old man who has been there since I was a kid, frying the onions.

Tra-la-la.

Harmony Lunch wall sign:  Harmony Lunch est. 1930

 

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Copyright Christine Fader, 2015.  Did you enjoy this post from A Vintage Life?    Share on Facebook       Tweet