Saturday, January 30, 2010


I like to gamble. I like to fish. I like to thrift.

I think all three of these past times have a commonality.

Each takes me out of my head, which is a fairly busy place.

Each has an unpredictable outcome. When I gamble, fish or thift, I never know what I'm going to get. Is it going to be a jackpot, a big fat trout or a priceless artifact?

Or is it going to be a bust - a day when more money goes out than comes back; an afternoon when multiple lines were cast with no yield; a shop filled to the rafters with dross?

That's the chance you take.

What is life but a game of chance?

That's where the fun is. That element of chance, when you might come out ahead, is what keeps me coming back.

I don't have the capital to do much gambling. I don't have the capacity either to kill or catch and release to fish, unless I'm with someone with a strong constitution. I like to do the thrifty thrift, alone or with someone of like mind, almost always.

I walk away from my obligations, my life, my world, for a brief time.

All three pursuits have their advantages and their deficits. Of the three, I've found a common link and a singular fascination - I'd pick thrifting. There's more potential for a positive outcome, based purely on my knowledge base. That's the tipping point.

Add to that the potential for financial ruin when gambling is top choice, and the fact that weather, combined with the fickle nature of fish, makes fishing more of an occasional choice than something you do every day, and treasure hunting is the obvious front-runner.

Regardless, I find all three activities fascinating, primarily because each takes me away.

I love my life, but who doesn't like to get away?

Friday, January 29, 2010

Some days are diamonds.

There are some days when I'm just not into it.

Today I took a day off from the thrifting. I went to my regular job, though.

The days when I'm not interested in looking at thrift somewhat correspond with when I'm not feeling that engaged in much of anything.

The facts:

Got up at 3.45 am. That, in and of itself, isn't the recipe for a stellar, energy-filled day. I did the math, and I slept as long as I normally sleep - I just went to bed earlier than normal last night.

I worked at my real job, got home in time to see the kids off as they went to their dad's for the weekend, welcomed my man, went to dinner. Then he and I spent the equivalent of 1.25 months' worth of netflix movies watching the interminable, manipualtive, self-indulgent, gratuitous and very long It's Complicated.

It just may have been my mood. I should have liked that movie. There were a few scenes that had merit, and the movie had a freaking stellar cast. It just wasn't my style.

But this blog isn't about movie reviews. It's about thrifting. Just like going to movies, some days you're receptive, and you find good stuff in what you see. And there are days like today, when I just wasn't into it; the thrifting, the search, the hunt, the mystery.

Some days, you just want the good stuff handed to you.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

A Regal day.

A morning with my Anne, an afternoon with Shawn. A beautiful day.

Anne and I chatted at my house. Shawn and I had lunch at our regular place, Pasquini's, and after a lovely catch-up-chat, we did a bit of thrifting. Shawn was looking for a dress. I was looking for anything.

First stop after lunch: ARC on Broadway. Neither of us found anything.

Then we headed to a very cool little store I'd never been to before - Regal Vintage - down the street on Broadway. The owner/designer, James, is an interesting man. Most likely in his early 30s, he's found his ken. What other job can you have while sporting a plate-sized flower on your shirt, multiple piercings and a goatee accented with colorful beads?

His store is very cool, stuffed to bursting with vintage clothes and retro items. I found a Lane end table that would completely match the 1960s Lane swing-out coffee table that Mr. Fabulous and I found at the Highland Ranch Goodwill for $20 (we found the exact same table at a store in Portland for $625). I didn't buy the end table, but did purchase a fabulous chair for 40 bones. It's from the '50s - very cool upholstery, accented on the arms and base with lines of wood. I love it. Mr. Fabulous and I are picking it up tomorrow.

The new-to-me chair is replacing a piece that my dumbass dog Einstein chewed beyond recognition. Over the course of his 4-year life, he's consumed three sofas, a gross of pens and many pair of shoes. Einstein is so unlike his namesake, and frankly, he's lucky to be alive.

I think he's through his chewing stage, though. I fully intend to place a spiky item on my new chair so that Einstein's not provoked to chew in my absence.

I want my chair to stay safe. Because I'll always think of this day when I glance at the chair, and I'm convicted that it will retain its coolness, sans Einstein chew.

I love my friends. Time with Anne and Shawn were the complete takeaway from this day. And every time I sit in my new-to-me chair, I'll think of where I found it and who I was with. My lovely friend Shawn.

I like referencing the items in my house with the event, the place or the person I was with when I found it. I wonder if that association is common with folks who get their stuff at Kohls or Target.

You may remember, but did you have such a memorable sales associate? I don't think so.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Taking a pass.

Where does the time go?

I had today off. Went to Logan's Recognition Assembly at school, which was great to see - he has yet to get anything by As in middle school, and he was recognized for being the smarty-pants that he is at the assembly.

I had an appointment at the Apple store, with a genius at the genius bar, at 11.30. So I made a quick pass at the Highlands Ranch Goodwill before my appointment. Nothing worth buying.

Then it was off to the Apple store. My personal genius, Josh, was quite helpful. Genius, even.

I have an ipod touch, as do both of my kids. They got theirs way after I got mine. Mine works perfectly.

Both of theirs didn't. Until today.

Long and short, I hung around Aspen Grove until 1 pm until Josh and other like-minded Apple geniuses supplied me with two brand new ipod touches for my kids. Thank god for warranties.

I was homeward bound after that. Although I did stop by Savers on the way home - found some killer Eames-era Franciscan Duet pieces, and two Longaberger Paprika coffee mugs.

Time off is so precious, and poof, before I turned around, it was 3 pm.

Tomorrow I'm walking with my friend Anne, lunching with my friend Shawn. I can't think of a better way to spend a day off before the work wheel starts spinning again. So I'll be taking a pass on the estate sale.

Some things are so much more precious.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Estate of mind.

I got an email from an estate sale company I’m hooked up with that there’s an estate sale this Thursday. I can’t decide if I’ll go – it would be so nice to NOT go anywhere for a day. But that might not happen. Because I like to go to the occasional estate sale.

Estate sales are a creepy, voyeuristic endeavor that I really enjoy.

Usually, estate sales take place after someone either goes to a nursing home or dies. An estate sale company typically conducts the sale so the family doesn’t have to wade through grandma’s underwear drawer.

It’s so interesting on so many levels, the estate sale. I always feel somewhat reverent when I’m wandering through the collected artifacts of a person’s life. Every house has a different vibe, and I can usually tell a lot about a person by looking through what they chose to surround themselves with. The Depends, the walkers, the chairs that let you sit when you’re in the shower – those say a lot about a person’s age, don’t you think?

And there are the hoarders. Some people show their hoarding nature to the world after they die. These folks had probably hidden their weakness for accumulation to their peers, friends and family. “Sure, aunt Joan, I’ll have lunch,” they may have said. “Let’s meet at Denny’s.”

And then they die, and the cat’s out of the very full bag.

I went to a sale at a house that was packed with all manner of dolls and toys. Every flat surface was stacked. Dolls were on the beds in each bedroom, laying three or four deep. Dolls and toys were pouring out of boxes in the back yard, and the person who did all of this collecting had purchased a huge trailer that was on the property, again filled with – you guessed it – dolls and toys.

Another estate sale was remarkable because of the vast quantity of clothing that was virtually everywhere. The basement was ringed with racks, and every rack was stuffed with clothes from every possible era, every conceivable style.

That kind of super-crazy collecting makes for an interesting estate sale.

A house’s vibe can be interesting, too. I went to one estate sale that just had bad mojo. Whoever lived in that house was either very sad, or they were very mad at the world.

Most houses’ vibes are good, though. And lots of people like to wander through other people’s houses. It’s sanctioned, even encouraged, to poke into closets and dig through drawers in a house that’s not your own when you go to an estate sale.

Personally, I have a certain approach I tend to take when I go to estate sales. First, I don’t get there as soon as it starts. I hate to stand in lines, and die-hard salers queue up way before the front door opens for business at estate sales.

My first stop is usually the basement or garage. Cool stuff is usually ferreted away in the deep recesses of a house.

Next stop, the kitchen. I like kitchen stuff.

Then I look everywhere else. Kind of randomly.

I’ve found that the quality and condition of most things is better at estate sales. Most items at thrift stores are there because they weren’t wanted any more, and that definitely can’t be said of estate sale fare.

There’s a lot more to be said about the whole estate sale topic – I’ll have to revisit it some day.

And as for Thursday, it couldn’t hurt just to stop by that estate sale for a few minutes, could it? There might be something cool in the basement…..

Monday, January 25, 2010

Something borrowed.

First, I have to apologize for a couple of wacky sentences that were posted in the past two blogs. It was Bring Your Laptop to Work Day the past two days, and I was writing when I wasn't busy with my job.

My job is not unlike a paper-pushing version of working at McDonalds. When it's busy, you have many tasks. When it's not busy, you do things to make it look like you're busy.

So I blogged a bit yesterday, in between the busy times. That explains the sentences that weren't read and edited before they were posted.

And today I'm listing.

That means I sell stuff that I find. On ebay. As I mentioned before, I'm a single mom of two teenaged boys. I don't think I need to get out the full orchestra - that one violin will do.

What's fun about the ebay? It's my cottage industry. It's my education, sans tuition. It's my hobby.

It's really less about ebay itself, and more about the process of ebay that's interesting.

In the beginning, I found that, in order to do well, I needed to get completely up to speed on what I was interested in; namely early American pottery. I have no idea how I fell into that niche - I think I found some dinner plates that were interesting to look at, researched them, sold them for a profit and thought it was a good idea. And poof. The die were cast.

Looking for stuff and researching what I find is really the most interesting part of the process. I'm not fond of scrounging for packing materials. I don't like to dig in dumpsters for cardboard boxes.

But there is a bit of a thrill about knowing that virtually everything I touch when it comes to my cottage industry is borrowed or found. I borrow the boxes, bubble wrap and packing peanuts from the last person who found use in their function, and then I pass them on. I borrow the knowledge I glean from finding something cool and pass it to the next thing I sell. I find these cool things and, for the most part, I pass them along to someone who was searching for just that item.

And of course, some cool things are just too hard to resist keeping for myself.

So it's listing day. I did a whole lot of listing today. I'm all about the inventory control, and inventory's up.

I have a high appreciation for - but a very low attachment to - the items I find. So it's time to list, to divest myself of some of the things I've found. They're fun to look at, but once someone else sees their value, it's easy to see them leave.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The beauty of adaptation.

First off, last night's yin and yang of shopping fun was productive and fun! We hit the salad place first, then took a chunk out of Costco (the cashier was very affable, I must say). We bought stuff that was essential, which justifies going to that big cavern. Then we went to ARC, and it was half price day on everything but the stuff you want to buy, dang it. I did manage to find a pair of fantastic Doc Martens Oxfords that are just perfect - actually they're the same style as the black pair of Doc Martens I wear almost constantly, but this new pair is poop brown. They look like there were worn once or twice, maybe. And I paid 3.50 for them! I call that a score of more than pedestrian measure!

I think my man would leak from somewhere if I wore a pair of sassy sandals or stiletto spikes.

But he likes the look. And thankfully, he likes the thrifting.

I guess if you're reading this and you didn't know me, you'd think I was born in the back of a thrift store. But that's not what happened. I came to this strange place very circuitously.

After I graduated from college with a degree in journalism, I worked as an assistant editor at a glossy magazine that catered to the rich and socially driven people in my city. That was the during the '80s, when the economy had the similar pooh-smell as our current situation. So the magazine folded, but not before I got some exposure to very fine things at photo shoots and interviews. I interviewed Paloma Picasso when she wandered through town to promote her perfume, and she signed a bottle of the scent for me, in gold pen.

After the magazine, I turned my attention to retail advertising, writing first at a high-end chain. Over the course of a few years and a few adult ADD diversions, I moved to different retail chains, becoming the copy chief at two other chains that taught me all about deadlines, fashion, labels and adjectives.

Skip ahead 10 years or so.

I had two kids, no career, and I gained a ton of weight. I finally had enough of my fat self, so I became determined to lose weight. I lost it quickly, and it only took purchasing a few pair of $50 pants that I got too small to wear to point me in the direction of cheap clothes.

Before that time, I thought thrift stores were dank, pitiful places filled with sad, poor people. Man, was I wrong.

And in addition to wandering into a world I'd never known existed, I found great clothes, amazing labels, in fabulous condition.

So why stop at clothes?

Over the years, I became a willing, curious historian of a particular niche or two, and I'd have learned none of what I know now if I hadn't wandered through thrift stores garage sales and estate sales. It's a pasttime I never thought I'd have found, but now I'm here.

I'm no longer a retail snob. In fact, I can't imagine spending shopping in earnest at a mall.

Some folks like to wade through racks of many things that are all the same; I'm partial to looking for the diamond ring in the treasure chest filled with dime store rhinestones.

There are a lot more diamonds to find than you might think.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

A study in contrasts.

This afternoon Mr. Fabulous and I are going to go to Costco. I need coffee, and my heart hurts a little every time I buy beans at the grocery store. Why pay $7 to$10 for a bag of beans the size of a wee gnome's pillow when you can get three pounds of drippy oily dark beans at Costco for $12?

There's a Goodwill on the way to Costco, so Mr. Fabulous and I would be doing ourselves a disservice if we didn't stop by. And there's and ARC close by as well. If it sounds like this is a familiar route to us, it is.

Some people spend Saturday nights going to hotspots and swanky night clubs. We go to the Costco, then the thrift store. Maybe we'll stop by Sweet Tomatoes for dinner. I have a coupon.

This embarrassment of extremity isn't lost on us. Walk into Costco, and as we all know, quantity is surpassed only by row after row of identical products. Sure, the prices are great. And strolling through the cavernous aisles of Costco sates the hunter/gatherer gene.

It's a contrast to the offerings at any thrift store, where almost everything is completely different.

Including the employees.

I can drop a Franklin at Costco without making a full lap around the store, and there have been times that the cashier doesn't look me in the eye, or thank me. Sometimes the cashiers have a bit of a conversation amongst themselves.

It's not just Costco employees who have this Ignore the Customer credo. Lots of other FBR (full blown retail) stores have this common vibe.

Interestingly, I've rarely, if ever, had a similar experience while thrifting. More often than not, and most definitely more frequently than the FBR stores, employees at a thrift bend over backwards to connect to their customers. Thrift store employees generally seem happier, kinder.

I don't know why this seems to be the Way Things Are. And I may be wrong.

We'll see tonight when we have our night of extremes. A full report will follow.

Friday, January 22, 2010

What I did today.

First, I went to my job, from 8 am to 1 pm. After I became untethered (a term I'll be using liberally in relation to my job), there was a decision to make.

Do I go home, and deal with the laundry, the mess left yet to have been dealt with after a weekend away? Or do I hit a thrift store?

The choice is clear.

After I decided I owed it to myself to do a bit of sale-ing, then the decision was where I'd point my vehicle.

Go one way and hit the Unique Thrift, and you kind of have to hit the Goodwill right down the street if you commit to going Unique. Go another way and stop by a place that was recently inventoried. Or go close to the house, on the way home, hopefully getting home in time not only to thrift, but to clean.

I like to multi-task. I like to mentally eliminate items from the mental To-Do list. So I went to the Englewood Goodwill, so I could do a bit of thrifting, get home in time to start a load of laundry and clean the bathroom. all before 4 pm.

And write this too, of course.

So I went in the obvious direction. The Englewood Goodwill.

I'm not particularly partial to this Goodwill. I've found a couple of really great things at this place, but getting anything good is rare. I'll post what I've found at this location at a later date - the whimsical holiday elf we call Walter, the very cool "shabby chic" table with the fringy dangly things hanging off the handles of the drawers.

I used to like this Goodwill because of the people. The cashier who had back issues. But she never really complained. It took time and familiarity to draw her out. She seemed to be a woman who compromised her potential for her family; a feature with which I could relate. She was affable, comfortable, somewhere in her '50s, smart in an intuitive kind of way. The kind of person who would be happy if you said nothing when you went through her line, and pleased if you gave a little bit of yourself she could take away.

She retired.

There's another person at this particular Goodwill I really enjoy - he's got some developmental issues, although every time I see him he tells me about a poker tournament he's been in the midst of. He's also somewhere in his '50s, I'm thinking, with big satellite-dish glasses, huge eyes and a perpetual smile. His voice is monotone, even when he talks about his passion, which is poker, of course. Sometimes he shows me the certificates he's received from winning or placing in a match.

The former endearing Goodwill employee obviously wasn't there today. She retired. The latter wasn't working today. He was probably playing poker.

So I was on my own today. And it had to be fast. My boys were coming home before they left for the weekend. My man was expected shortly after.

So I perused. I quickly found a great collection of very heavy, very cool Cambridge flatware. No spoons. But at 10 cents a piece, I couldn't really pass them up. Mr. Fabulous (my man) had found some flatware we'd sold for a whole lot of money, and this was similar, so I snagged what was available.

I found a 1997 Starbucks Colorado travel mug. Perfect condition. What's the history there? Someone got it as a gift and, after over a decade, decided to relinquish it to Goodwill?

I found a cast iron corn stick maker. USA and B on the back. I need to do a bit of research, but I think it may be worth a bit of ching. My son (Logan, the cook) suggested we fill each of the seven areas with meaty items, which wouldn't show the corn pattern imprinted into the cast iron, but would be cool.

Did I mention that I sell stuff on line? Ebay, particularly? I'm a single mom, for god's sake. I need extra income. Why not tap into my love of the thrift and make a few extra bucks?

But that's yet to be revealed.

Today was good. It was nice to get away a bit after my untethering, and although there were no Goodwill folk to entertain or update me, I was in my own head for a few minutes. I hit the ground running when I got home, getting set for seeing one set of my loved ones leave and welcoming another.

Everyone has their place to disengage, to get away, to be around many while being alone. I got a slice of that world today, on my way home from work.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Thrifting it up a notch.

It's been quite some time since either Miriam or I posted anything on our bloggy blog, and now it's time to get cracking in earnest.

Why now? Why not? Shifting paradigms is always a good thing, and my paradigm needs to refocus itself on what's important.

And when it comes to living life fully, what's really important?


An odd, twisty, Alice in Wonderland meets Wizard of Oz road has led me to where I am presently, which is somewhere between a paralyzing stasis and a bungee jump. And the path keeps leading to one conspicuous conclusion: I need to follow my passion.

And what's my passion?

It's definitely not working at a desk job, which is what I do now. My soul needs a nap when I think of what I do for a living. As time passes, I realize the tires are squealing near the dead end that has become my current career choice.

So it's established that my current job is definitely freakishly far from where I saw myself at this age.

But there's an upside.

I've developed this knack for finding cool stuff. So I intend to share my story, show my treasures, delve into the minutia of treasure hunting.

As for the gap between when I last posted and now, nothing's really changed in my world, save for the persistent nagging between my left brain and my right brain when it comes to following my passion.

Those two sides can be quite loud, and perhaps the right brain's pulled ahead in the race for realizing that passion is a beautiful thing. And it's even more sparkly and magical when you know what your passion is, and you decide that the trail of passion dust that kicks up under the feet of the passionate creates an infectious joy that's hard to suppress.

I have a passion for finding beauty in the discarded. I like to write. So this forum is my personal paradigm shift, and paradigm thrift, as the name of this tome would indicate. This space will be my manifesto to passion, in whatever form it takes. For me, it's discarding what's stale in my life and finding a place to rest that's a comfortable manifestation of the elements of life that I enjoy. Like finding something for a dollar that's absolutely priceless.

That happens a lot, actually.

As a case in point, my man and I visited Portland this past weekend. On our way to the coast we stopped by an indoor flea market, which was more like an indoor garage sale. Garage sales this time of year may be in short supply in Oregon, because it rains almost constantly this time of year. I found a copper statue on a table that indicated everything was a dollar. So I bought the statue. Someone painted it with layers and layers of white paint. The paint remover is at the ready, and I'll take before and after pictures that I'll post later.

Posting photos on my blog has been my nemesis, so as soon as I figure out how to do it, I'll give you a "before" shot.

The statue may really only be worth a dollar. But on that rainy Oregon afternoon, an arm's length away from the man who has my heart and surrounded by interesting people selling their discarded treasures, the statue and the memories I have from the day I found it are priceless.