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Recently my friend Vannessa and I had the rare opportunity, courtesy of my dad, to meet former President George W. Bush at The Olde Farm in Bristol, Virginia. The event was a fundraiser for two schools in Grundy, Virginia: The Appalachian School of Law and The Appalachian College of Pharmacy.


Securing a spot for the evening was, uh, a little pricey, but supporting two great schools and hob-knobbing with a former President was well worth it. No matter your politics, hearing George W speak only a few feet away was the opportunity of a lifetime.

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Did I mention the security clearance was no small feat? Social Security numbers, birthdates, deceased pets' names and bra sizes all required. A wave of relief came over us when we got word we had been cleared (apparently the Secret Service had failed to look into our activities of the '80s).

The evening began with cocktails and music in the clubhouse. Luckily I happened to be standing near the door when who should walk in but the President himself! I was star-struck! My heart skipped a beat a minute later when, in front of the crowd, my dad introduced me to him as his daughter...do you think he will remember me if there is a next time?!?

As part of the experience, we were all allowed "one click of the camera per person" with W. Somehow I managed to get two clicks while Secret Service was having a donut break. Up-close and personal, Mr. President was charming, handsome and looking slightly tanned (all the stresses of his former job clearly a distant memory). Vannessa and I almost drooled on his Hickey Freeman suit. He put his arms around us like we were old friends. Vannessa even managed to talk to him for a minute about their similarities, one of which is having reared twin girls.

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As if that weren't enough, George W's talk after our Kobe beef dinner was even better (and in case you are wondering, George drank O'Doul's throughout the evening). Vannessa, my cousin David and I sat in awe for nearly two hours. He was down-to-earth, refreshing and real. He talked about Laura (referring to her as "baby") and his girls, the Oval Office (Laura designed a rug for the office with a sun on it for his tenure...we taxpayers now own it), what he misses most (the White House pastry chef and being the most pampered person in the world), and his parents. During his first days as President, his dad was visiting him in the White House when a few men came out of his closet (literally; whether figuratively is for another blog post). George W asked Senior what that was all about and he replied that they were his valets. W said, "valets? We're from Texas! We don't need guys for that!" To which his dad replied, "trust me, son, you'll get used to it!" And he did.


He gave us a "tour" of the Oval Office. Each President may pick a portrait of a former President to hang in the office during his tenure. After careful consideration, Bush chose his father "in his heart" and Abraham Lincoln to hang on the wall (W read over 15 biographies of Lincoln while he was in office). And rather than use a new desk for the Oval Office, W chose one that had been used by both FDR and JFK. Interestingly, the desk had originally been open in the front but FDR added a door so as to hide the fact that he was in a wheelchair (which most Americans of that time did not know, in an age before media). Most of us will remember seeing a picture of John John poking his head out that same door when his dad was President.


On a more somber note, he talked about his immediate reactions upon learning about the events of 9/11. He had none right away; like most of us, he sat in shocked silence.


The evening wrapped with W spending about an hour answering questions. My question to him was how had he shielded his daughters from the media and constant pressures. He answered by saying that that had always been a top priority for his family and he felt the media had been gracious in handling Jenna and Barbara.


I can't wait to read his new book, Decision Points, available November 9th.

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One final story to illustrate just how approachable the former President is. A friend of ours had played golf with him that day at The Olde Farm and had worried for a week or more over what attire would be appropriate in such company (even more interesting, the friend is a guy). Solid or striped shirt? Shorts or pants? Boxers or briefs? After much debate with his wife, he finally showed up for the game only to find W in cargo shorts and an untucked shirt (snipers on the hill notwithstanding). It just goes to show that President or not, we all just want to be comfy!

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Memories of the King of Pop

First Ed McMahon, then Farrah Fawcett, followed by Michael Jackson. But to have it topped off with the OxyClean guy (Billy Mays)? That's just too much to take in one seven-day period.

The sad turn of events has made me nostalgic (even more so than usual), and my memories took me back to seeing the Jacksons on their Victorytour back in the '80s. Was there any chance I could have saved my ticket stubs? Anyone who knows me would have bet the farm on my having kept them.

Most of my ticket stubs and other travel memorabilia went into a scrapbook that with a thick marker I aptly titled "Scrapbook". I excitedly dug it out and flipped through the pages with anticipation. And there they were, in between tickets to Knotts Berry Farm and the local Putt-Putt...

My ticket to see the Jacksons (ignore, if possible, the misplaced apostrophe on the stub) at Texas Stadium in Dallas on July 14, 1984. My cousin Laura and I saw the concert from a box at the stadium, home to the Dallas Cowboys until this year. What a way to see a concert...windows open, all-you-can-eat/drink and Michael Jackson singing "Billy Jean" just a few yards away.

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Less than one month later I saw the group a little closer to home at The University of Tennessee's Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, although I must confess I don't remember much about that show. It's interesting that the show started at "dusk." That's a pretty broad definition, don't you think?!?

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I'm also lucky enough to have an autographed photo of Michael Jackson, but sadly it is in a box deep in my garage at the moment. In 1986 my dad's company owned a charter airplane and the King of Pop hired it for five months during his Bad tour. In the picture he is sitting in the cockpit. I was just chatting with the pilot the other day and he said what a nice guy Michael Jackson was. I can't wait to hear more stories and find my photo (I'm not worried since I never throw anything away...).

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Just a few pages away in my "Scrapbook" was this little gem. My friends Angie & Vannessa and I saw Elvis in concert with our moms, just six months (almost to the day) before he died.

I'm sure there are those who will profess that the King of Rock 'n Roll and the King of Pop are now together, secretly hiding out as the world mourns their deaths.

I will just be happy if their ticket stubs can live on side by side in my "Scrapbook."

Sue Whitney at Round Top

One of the highlights of my trip to Round Top was meeting Sue Whitney, junk connoisseur and founder of Junk Market Style, her brand that revolves around-you guessed it-junk. Just my kind of gal!

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Sue was there signing copies of the new book she co-authored, Junk Beautiful: Outdoor Edition. Of course, I scooped up my copy right away and asked for her Jane Hancock. I can't wait to implement some of her wonderfully creative ideas! She has co-authored other fabulous books, including Junk Beautiful: Room by Room Makeovers and Decorating Junk Market Style. Just the other day she appeared on the Today Show with Kathie Lee and Hoda.

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Sue's booth was totally inspiring. Items from the antiques market were pulled together into a stunning vignette and sold. Proceeds went to Houston's Habitat for Humanity. Next time you want to throw something away, just remember that even junk can be charitable.

One man's trash truly is another's treasure.

Antique Roadshow's Ken Farmer

Exciting happenings for me last Thursday...I met Ken Farmer from PBS' Antiques Roadshow! Not only that but I had a one-on-one chat with him and asked him to look at an interesting artifact from our corporate museum.

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My hometown's library, the Bristol Public Library, brought Mr. Farmer here as part of its 2009 Discovery Series and I was fortunate enough to be invited to a wine and cheese reception at a friend's house prior to the public gathering. Later that evening, the library was hosting Mr. Farmer (who hails from Radford, Virginia, where my grandmother graduated from college...an anomaly for a woman born in 1914, but I digress...) and anyone could come and bring one item that they wanted him to look at and give a quick appraisal. Knowing that I couldn't attend that event I decided to be rather bold and seize the moment during the wine and cheese. Of course, my husband tried to talk me out of taking anything into this private reception, and of course, I didn't listen.

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I did sort of hate to impose, but...Mr. Farmer (is it ok if I call you Ken?) was so cordial and approachable that it seemed perfectly fine. Plus the other guests were interested in what he had to say, and after all, it was a private "showing!"

The item I brought was one ledger of a set of several from the early 19th century. Our company inherited the ledgers from a company we had purchased back in the 1980s that was located in Orange, Virginia, about 25 miles from Charlottesville.

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The set of ledgers itself is extraordinary, and details the accounts of customers who traded with the company almost 200 years ago. The covers of the ledgers practically turn to dust if you simply look at them; they are so fragile. One particular ledger itemizes the account of Thomas Jefferson from 1823. It shows various "merchandise" and "sundries" he purchased for the sum of $114.38 (the account on the following page, for the Porte Republic Store, shows purchases of $9092.79, an astronomical amount for the era).

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At first there was some question among our group as to whether Thomas Jefferson was still alive in 1823 (so we're not history experts, or even novices, it appears!). Was this even the same Thomas Jefferson? It was the same time frame and geographic area. Through modern technology Mr. Farmer was able to surf the internet with his Blackberry and discover that Jefferson was in fact alive and well in 1823 and did not pass away until 1826. The ledger with President Jefferson's account has quite a bit of value, according to the Antiques Roadshow guru, although the value would have skyrocketed with T.J.'s signature.

That's one John Hancock we don't have.

Shopping at Scott's with Eddie Ross

On Sunday my mom and I were thrilled to meet Eddie Ross and his partner Jaithan Kochar when we signed up for one of their exciting shopping trips at the Scott Antique Market in Atlanta. Eddie, a former senior style editor at Martha Stewart Living and former contestant on Bravo's Top Design, was incredibly gracious and helpful as he led us through the myriad of vendors at the market. Eddie and Jaithan may be New Yorkers, but you'd swear they were home-grown in the south because of their down-home friendliness.

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Unbeknownst to everyone, Scott's didn't open until 10:00 am on Sunday, so we were all there a little early. The security guard wouldn't even let us in the front door at first. We were a tad chilly! Mom and I had arrived by taxi so we were at the mercy of everyone else to find warmth. Two sweet Atlantans invited us to sit in their car (each of us promised the other we were not axe murderers!). Come to find out later that we were with southern fiction author Mary Kay Andrews (of Hissy Fit and Savannah Blues fame) and her daughter, Katie! Such nice people and great timing.


A little later mom and I actually ended up sitting in Eddie and Jaithan's car for a while. Talk about being in the right place at the right time!

Several other bloggers shopped as well, including The Newlywed DiariesBetter TogetherLayers of Meaning and Southern Hospitality. Eddie was so nice to give me a little plug on his blog in his post about the Scott's junket!

The great thing about Scott's not opening earlier was that we all got to spend extra time with Eddie as he told us about his vast work experiences and gave us tips on everything from decorating to making good finds at a flea market. There was even someone there from Daily Candy (one of my daily reads!) chronicling the adventure!

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We learned so much from Eddie about tables, chairs, linens, china, sterling...the list goes on and on! I spotted a big green wine bottle and Eddie immediately knew that it would be perfect for a lamp and even told me how to go about doing it

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I actually ended up buying a clear wine bottle that's pictured on the left in the photo below, since I don't have much green in my house (although it would have made a great statement). Watch for my post later on the lamp-creating process!

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View this video to hear a little tip from Eddie on purchasing antique furniture.

Check out and subscribe to Eddie's blog. He has fantastic ideas and is always an inspiration. And such a nice guy on top of everything! Expect great things from him in the future!