Sunday, February 28, 2010

Puppet on a string

Isn't this a cool thing on the wall? It's a very old marionette, not in the best condition, but it's found a spot hanging on the wall that separates the living room from the 'rest room'.

Notice my cool dog Dutch laying on the couch.

But I digress. The marionette was 1.99 at Goodwill.

I'm a sucker for odd home accents I've found at the thrifty thrift store. And I'm not alone.

There's an atmosphere at thrift stores that's intrinsically imbued with imagination. I like to overhear folks chatting with one another while they're finding big bargains, and it's so refreshing to hear people talking about the possibilities that an item they've found might hold. You don't hear that kind of conversation at Target.

Or at Costco. I took a day off from the thrifting today, had a lovely brunch with my friend Pammy, then went, somewhat reluctantly, to Costco. A woman's got to have coffee.

And while I was making a beeline for the items on my list, I overheard a 20-something woman talking with her mom about how she was going to decorate her apartment, and she said she was going to go to Goodwill to get her decorating needs met, not Costco.

I felt like a spy, listening in to their conversation.

Because I totally get where that woman was coming from. I've realized I like kind of subtly creepy things, like the puppet on a string. Here's something else from my house - I found the hook for a buck at ARC, and the ancient doll arms were 50 cents at an estate sale. The arms were obviously considered to be of little worth to the estate sale people, but I like how these two pieces have found their way to my wall:

So when it comes to finding cool home accents, I'm the puppet and ARC, Goodwill and the like are my puppet masters. I'm hooked.

And speaking of hooked, the Goodwill Outlet a la The Bins in Portland opens tomorrow! I won't have a chance to get over there until Wednesday or Thursday. No problem.

There are always treasures, everywhere.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

I loved this day.

So first, I'll start with a photo.

I got this totally cool lamp at Goodwill for 19.99, but to coin a phrase, to me, it's priceless. I love the irony - the fact that it isn't capable of throwing light. Mr. Fabulous and I did buy all the bits and pieces to make this lamp work, but its presence is just enough. You be the judge:

Isn't that cool?

So as for today....

I must blog. It's my personal duty. So here it is.

Mr. Fabulous and I had every intention of going to the art museum today. After a late start, we hit my route.

Goodwill on Broadway. Just a couple of things were found - Mr. Fab got a cool pan and an even more cool chair, which I intend to mount on a wall at some point. Most likely a wall in my basement, as I have no real area on my walls upstairs onto which to mount this chair. Yes, I intend to mount the chair on a wall, not on a floor. Photos will follow, once I find the ideal wall for the chair to land.

Then Neighborly Thrift. Nothing.

Then ARC. A couple of items, then we were out of there.

Then it was lunch time, apparently. Mr. Fab loves  the #5 at Bonnie Brae, so we had a tasty luncheon.

The art museum, at this point, was out of the question. It wasn't going to go away, we postulated. So we made dinner plans with our groovy pals, Phil and Christine, and did stuff between now and that point.

It involved more thrifting down Colfax, as well as some time spent at Twist and Shout. Albums were purchased.

I love spending time with Mr. Fabulous. We have so much fun together. So much laughter.

Then we met Phil and Christine, and her lovely mom, their kids. We wound up having some Thai and conversation. They're so cool.

Now we're relaxing.

I loved this day.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Relaxing at the eleventh frame lounge....

So I think the pin is done.

And the 'I think' part implies just a touch of uncertainty.

You be the judge:
My friend Linda suggested that I could always add other items later if I sensed she needed more splash. I never considered that this could be an open-ended process, and Linda's suggestion was very freeing.

Also freeing was deciding on her name. My friend Erin suggested Matilda. No longer being referred to simply as 'the bowling pin lady', she has a name. I think she looks like a Matilda, don't you? Here's another angle:

This is more of a side view. Not unlike myself, Matilda has a generous lower half, but my ... assets ... aren't quite so sparkly. One more photo shows the view from the back:

Matilda was my first bowling pin project. And I'll keep working on one pin idea or another, if I can keep a decent stock of broken jewelry. There was a time that big bags of jewelry were available cheaply and in profusion at thrift stores, and either the market's gotten hotter for such things or people aren't giving their old jewelry to Goodwill or ARC like they used to. It's rare to find a bag of old jewelry any more, and when I do, it's usually out of my price range.

So I may have to branch out. My friend Angel suggested a mermaid pin, using colorful painted seashells as decoration. Maybe a pin covered in broken plate bits.

And then we have the couples idea. I'm thinking an older couple.

Lots of ideas are brewing, and I already have an order for a Virgin Mary pin.

God knows I have the pins - four cases of them - in my garage.

The projects are lining up in my head like, well, bowling pins.

It feels good to create something sparkly, quirky and beautiful that's made completely out of discarded items.

Some folks may think the bowling pin lady's kind of gaudy, eccentric and tacky, but therein lies her charm.

Am I talking about the bowling pin lady or myself? Hmmm.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

I'm a loner, Dottie. A rebel.

So my sister and I got together today, in celebration of her birthday.

I love spending time with my sister. She has a very unique, clear vision of the world, and I like to be in her presence. And I like being with someone who's known me as long as I've been alive.

So of course she likes to thrift. It must be genetic.

And we did a bit of thrifting, in a part of town I rarely visit.

The thing is, I love to spend time with my sister. But if push came to shove, I'd have to admit that I prefer to thrift by myself.

My sister has her own take on the concept of time, and she goes at a speed that's a few notches slower than mine. So when we shop together, we operate at two different paces.

I'm not judging. And as I've mentioned, I love to spend time with my sister. So Kathy, if you read this, please don't take my comment as anything but a compliment to how much I love spending time with you. Our thrifty time is simply a vehicle with which to drive home my point.

Which is this:

It's wonderful to find someone with whom you share a certain symmetry when it comes to when it's time to leave.

I had that symmetry with my mom. And I have it with my friend Robin, although we don't get to test my theory enough. I never get to spend as much time with Robin as I'd like.

What I'm left to assume is this: I think I'm a loner. I love the intrinsic 'time spent together' aspect of shopping with someone else. But I think it's rare to connect on that symbiotic level with someone else.

And to be crystal clear, I'm putting my sister in the same basket I'd put anyone else. Once I do my surgical strike of a store, I like to leave. But when I go with someone else, I have to stay until they're done.

Sorry if that makes me sound all me-me-me.

 But back to today.

Of course my sister and I thrifted a bit. And we stopped by the new Goodwill Outlet, expecting to kick some tail, and we learned that it's not open until March 1. But I'll definitely go back! The front door was open for the construction crew, and we stayed long enough for me to realize that the Goodwill Outlet is just like the Bins in Portland! I can't wait until it opens!!!

And after thrifting, we went to a movie theater that offers a full menu, and I treated my sister to a very lovely and tasty lunch.

Would that the movie was as good as our tasty luncheon. Suffice it to say that I saw the third movie in the sucky trilogy of sucky movies I've seen at movie theaters lately.

It's Complicated. Shutter Island. And today, To Paris With Love. The triad of suck.

Thank God for Netflix.

But the suck is beside the point. I really loved spending time with my sister today, and I did find a couple of very cool items, as did she. She was particularly fond of the purse she bought. The purse with many compartments.

The good of the day far outweighed the bad.

But To Paris with Love really did suck.

And to draw today's content to my title, it's from Pee Wee Herman's Big Adventure. He was looking for his bike. I'm always on the prowl for a bargain.

Pee Wee and I have a lot in common.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

What time is it?

So as many of you know, I like making stuff out of something that has nothing to do with its original function.

Like the bowling pin lady.

And I was thinking about the congruity of incongruity today when I was sweeping the crunchy stuff off the floors, manipulating the broom around the clock table to snag the puffs of dog hair that had accumulated around the legs.

So here's the clock table.
As for the backstory, I bought the clock for next to nothing at a garage sale. As you can see, it tells military time. And it's made out of metal. And it's old. And it's cool.

But it wasn't very accurate.

Regardless of accuracy, I like how it looks, so it was on my wall for a few years, third hand spinning, little and big hands informing me - completely inaccurately - of the time.

I took it as a message from the universe to be a bit less attached to the idea of time.

My son thought the clock would make a cool table.

So he and I went scouting for an appropriate host onto which we'd make a clock table. We found a stool at a thrift store, took the cushion off the top, spray painted what remained a black tone that seemed to match the clock.

My dad took a peek at the clock works, and noticed that all the spinny wheels were made of metal. So he sprayed the works with WD-40, and the clock told accurate time. For a while.

Maybe it would have continued to tell time accurately had I been vigilant about the works' continued lubrication. But it's not a huge priority for me.

I like the fact that the red hand spins, and I like the ironic reality that the clock is one of the few things in our world that has no attachment to real time.

Aside from its lack of function as a clock, our clock table is a great place to rest a beverage or book.

So the clock table does have a function.

A couple of functions, really.

On its face, it's a quirky flat functional surface.

And it reminds me to be a bit less attached to time.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Just because you can doesn't mean you should.

So there's a tipping point with the thrifting, when you just don't need anything else.

It's hard to acknowledge when it happens, because it's just so hard to pass up great stuff at freaky-cheap prices.

But the point comes when your house is decorated, the closet is full and the kitchen is stocked with dishes and pans.

And it's a very powerful feeling to see something of value that costs almost nothing and pass it up.

Because there's a limit to the amount of stuff anyone needs.

That doesn't mean it's necessary to stop looking. It just means it's not necessary to buy anything. Save it for the next person who deserves a great deal.

How big do our houses need to be? How much space can we really occupy at one time? How many cars can you drive at once? How much does anyone really need? Really?

It's a tree falling in the forest conversation, really. There's no answer.

I don't attempt to hyper-philosophize the action and the great outcome of the thrifting.

But, just like the middle aged woman I saw one day who was dressed in a mini skirt, tall black boots and a shirt a few sizes too small, just because you can doesn't mean you should.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Spare time

I can't find any light bulbs, and I know there are at least two dead soldiers around the house that are darkening our evening. I bought a crap-ton of bulbs last year - those energy-saving kinds. You'd think they'd be conspicuous by their sheer volume, but I can't find them anywhere.

I need to figure out why I have yet to receive my renewed car registration. The grace period on my tags is wrapping up - and I mailed my money in weeks ago. I don't remember they're almost completely expired until I see a cop when I'm driving.

Piles have built up around the house, and I'd like to introduce the concept of flat surfaces into my world.

It's trash day tomorrow. And I should bring the trash to the curb tonight.

I'd like to spend some quality time with my kids this evening.

But what I really want to sink some time into tonight is this:

It's therapy. Slathering broken jewelry onto my bowling pin is my version of how my mom spent her spare time in the 1970s. She invested lots of time and energy into macrame, candle making and smoking Salems. I think she did those things partially to get away from her responsibilities.

To be honest, she didn't have very many responsibilities. She didn't have a job, she was married, her kids (me, for one) were fairly self-sufficient.

But who am I to keep score?

Maybe she just wanted an escape.

My bowling pin lady is my escape. I plug in the hot glue gun, set the ipod to shuffle my favorite music, strap on the headphones and get busy. I like the diversion, and I've come to the conclusion that the bowling pin project holds the same personal cache as gambling, thrifting or fishing (see previous post for all the details). The crafty craft of the pin is a beautiful, sparkly diversion.

 I already have some ideas for my next bowling pin lady swimming around in my head.

So tonight I'll forget my responsibilities for a few minutes and get going on the pin.

I mention my mom primarily because I miss her, and I wish she were here so I could ask her how she spent her spare time.

As for me, I'll think about my To Do list later.

Maybe tomorrow.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Are you sitting down? There doesn't seem to be a cure....

Treasure hunting is viral.

My friends and family have seen what I've been able to find, how I've decorated my house and what I resell, and a whole lot of folks have joined the thrifting world.

Mr. Fabulous has developed quite a keen eye. He has good taste by nature, and can easily spot quality. He  looks for things I'd never thought had value, and finds great stuff. He found a huge set of Norwegian flatware for ten cents a piece that I resold for a hundred bucks or so. He found some outdoorsman shirts for a few bucks that sold for a whole bunch.

He used to buy his clothes at regular stores, and now shops for his duds exclusively at thrift stores. He looks, well, fabulous in anything he wears, and that asset, combined with his eye for quality, means he'll never go back to the expensive places.

He came home yesterday after having gone sale-ing solo, and he'd found three pair of Levi's for 99 cents a pair. For less than a latte at Starbucks, he bought pants that would have cost him almost $100 new. So cool!

Sometimes he'll go thrifting while I'm working, and he'll call, all excited about something he found. Many times, he's tripped across something very worthy of buying. It's amazing what people give away.

And there's more....

My dad lives in a gated community, and his dump has a valet. He's found all kinds of great stuff at the dump, much of which he excitedly passes along to me. And of course he's found items he's integrated into his life - he has a perfectly functional recumbent bike in his garage that someone unloaded at his fancy dump.

My sister is very proud of a Lady of Guadalupe revolving lamp she got at ARC, and she should be. It's completely cool.

Shawn likes vintage clothes. Christine likes glassware and kid's clothes. Anne likes everything, as does her sister.

Lots of my friends are thrifting converts, and I'd like to think I had just a little to do with their conversions.

Oh! Let me add a photo here! I found this cool thing at the ARC on Broadway for 9.99, and it was essentially free to me, because I'd returned something and had store credit. It's an old gaming wheel from a county fair. It's been on my wall for years, and I know there's some information on the back side that gives this cool thing a history and origin, but I just like looking at it:

Isn't that cool?

Maybe it's items like this, if you're prone to finding coolness in the discards, that create thrifty converts. Lots of folks I know don't need to thrift. But I think they've seen, vicariously, how much fun and how much cheaper it can be to find things worth reviving among the castaways.

Not everyone feels the urge to avoid the splurge. But I'm glad I'm surrounded by people who think it's as much fun as I do. I'm pleased I found a man who loves my favorite pasttime as much as I do.

If there's a cure to this thrifty virus I and my people seem to have caught, I'll take a pass.

I think they will, too.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Just say no.

Sometimes I like to see how long I can go without spending any money.

Most of the time it's not long. I have two teenaged boys, for god's sake.

But there are periods when I can try to impose a moratorium on spending. That means sucking it up when I want to go thrifting, get some songs on itunes or go out to lunch with a friend. I have to talk myself down from the ledge when I assume I need to run to the grocery store.

Unlike our country, which has made it a practice to spend more than it makes, I only have so much money to spend. I have neither a printing press on which I can make crisp 20s, or a money tree or other foliage from which money grows.

Sure, one of my wishes in life is to find a bag of unmarked bills, but I'm not counting on it.

My reality, and the reality of most people, is that I can't spend money whenever I'd like on whatever I want. It's one of those reality lessons of adulthood that's good to learn, even though I'd rather not have to.

And in truth, I've realized that the act of spending money can be such a distraction from what I need to be doing. When I go out and browse, even if I come home empty-handed, I've successfully avoided what's staring me in the face - the closets that need to be cleaned, the book left unread, the floor that has a distinctive crunch.

Like food, alcohol and other diversions, spending money can be a way to escape from life's unpleasantries.

So it's a good personal test I like to take on occasion, to see how long I can go without whipping out the debit card.

Sometimes it's easier said than done. But I'm trying to live more consciously, and it would follow that introspection on my spending habits would fall under that "living more consciously" umbrella.

Sometimes the kid in me doesn't want to hear what the adult has to say.

It's hard to hear "no, you can't have that," especially when you're saying it to yourself.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Debunking the difficulty of dressing on the cheap

The most common comment I hear when I get in conversations with folks who don't generally shop for clothes at the thrift store is, "I never find anything good!" This is typically said in a kind of a frustrated whine.

I have a theory. I think people who say they 'never' find clothing at a thrift store don't shop at thrift stores very often.

These folks probably went to a Goodwill a while back, may have been overwhelmed by the diverse selection, and turned tail.

I'm sure the uniformity of FBR (full blown retail) stores is comforting to some people. Like flipping on the television at 5 pm  to watch the evening news, these stores have a distinctive comfort. They're usually all laid out the same way, and there's a certain predictability when entering a Kohl's, Target, Macy's or Nordstrom. Walk into a Dillard's in Denver and you may as well be walking into a Dillard's in Virginia. And for many, that similarity may be one aspect of the appeal.

And that's okay.

But there's a lot of cool clothing at thrift stores.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, I started shopping for clothes at thrift stores when I dropped a bunch of weight and was stunned at how expensive it was to dress myself during my descent.

Now I'm hooked.

I have my method when it comes to shopping for clothes.

I'm kind of a snob.

I used to work in retail advertising, and became accustomed to the benefits of branding. I like designer clothes, and I'm not ashamed to say it.

So I know the brands. That's an advantage, I think.

I also know which color palates appeal to me.

I shun color, so most of what I wear is in the brown/black family. Even though my skin tone and hair color doesn't correspond with what season the experts say I should be, I am, appropriately, a Winter.

So when I go thrifting for clothes, I look first for fabric and color, then for brand.

And it's amazing what I've found.

I could go on and on, but I found a Norwegian wool sweater at Neighborly Thrift a few years ago that would retail in the hundreds. Neighborly Thrift is run by a bunch of older women who live and die by all things 1957, including pricing, so I bought the sweater for $3.

Just the other day, I wandered into Porter Thrift. Same demographic in terms of sales staff. Porter Thrift was having a sale the day I stopped by, and I found a J. Jill shirt and a pair of J. Jill pants, just my size. Together, my brand new (to me) outfit cost less than $5. The shirt looked as though it had never been worn, and the pants had a tag attached that indicated they'd recently been dry cleaned, even though they didn't need to be.

If I were to have bought the ensemble in a J. Jill store, I'd have undoubtedly have paid well over $100.

So here's my advice, for those intrepid shoppers who want to become skilled in thrifting for clothes.

Look for fabric and color that you like.

Then check for the maker. I do believe higher end designers make better clothes. And there are lots of designer clothes to be had at thrift stores. Like crime and traffic accidents, someone's always cleaning out their closet.

Of course, check the size. Jeez.

If that set of criteria fits, then buy it, for god's sake.

You're going to pay a ton less than you would have if you'd have bought it new. And honestly, just like a new car when you drive it off the lot, new clothes have very little 'brand new' cache once you take off the tags.

No one will ever know that what you're wearing is a thrifty find.

No one but you.

And your bank balance.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Paper or plastic?

Oh, those little pieces of plastic. So convenient, so reliable.

I have a debit card I take with me everywhere. I buy almost everything with my debit card, considering checks are expensive, and cash doesn't stay in my wallet too long.

And in keeping with this debit card world I live in, it was somewhat disturbing to read that using a card at a thrift store could decrease my credit score.

Get a load of this. Apparently credit card companies look at where a cardholder shops, and they determine interest rates based on shopping history.

Some credit card companies are prone to tracking purchases made at bargain stores to determine if a potential cardholder may pose a credit risk - because of where they shop.

How crappy is that?

Credit card companies should be pleased that their current or potential cardholder shops at thrift stores. That means they're thrifty, for the love of god.

The action speaks to the attitude - that thrift store shoppers are financially incapable of paying full price for their merchandise. Ergo, they must be punished with a higher interest rate, or denial altogether.

That's just stupid.

I was originally going to write about credit cards and thrifting from a different perspective.

I'd heard a segment on the news that thrift stores wanted to encourage their customers to use cash or checks as opposed to credit cards, because the merchant pays a fee with every credit card purchase.

That got me steamed.

Because thrift stores are big business. They get their inventory for free, from donations. Many hide under the umbrella of a non-profit. Many members of their work force are working off some community service time, gratis to the thrift store. So the 3 percent give or take that they have to pay when I use my debit card is nothing to them. They, like all companies in these troubled times, should be grateful to have my business.

But then I got to thinking - maybe the thrift stores are encouraging customers to use cash or checks because they know their customers' credit scores may go down as a result of the record that's created by shopping thriftily.

I'd like to think the thrift stores have my back.

And I'll keep whipping out my card in deference to cash or check, because I really don't care. It's insane to think a credit card company may reject me because of where I spend my money.

But it's odd to think that companies have the capacity to pull at the credit score strings of my personal financial marionette.

Oh, these little pieces of plastic.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Going gangsta in suburbia

So I got my bowling pins today. Four boxes of ten.

It was kind of like a suburban mom drug deal. I met her at the Target parking lot. She told me she would be driving a white Lincoln Navigator.

She was easy to spot.

So I drove up right behind her. She was sitting in her car, and the transaction was completed in moments.

We loaded four boxes that contained ten bowling pins in each box into my car. I slipped her two Jacksons, and the deal was done.

Just like a good dealer, I'd done my homework. I'll need a few of the pins for myself, and I'd researched the market.

 I can sell the pins for about $15 each.

I call that profit.

And the best part is, she has 16 more cases at home, in her garage that houses her Lincoln Navigator. To her, she's unloading something that's taking up space. To me, I'm going to turn a profit, and I've got a supply of crafty product that is seemingly unending.


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Setting them up to knock them down

So I wanted some more bowling pins, seeing that I so enjoy decorating them (see previous post). I checked on ebay, and pins go for +/- 15 bucks.

A piece.

Decorating the pin is therapy to me; not major outlay of capital. I want to continue my crafty craft of decorating pins to look like fancy sparkly people. So I went to the only other source I could think of to get a pin fix.


There was a posting, about a week old, advertising bowling pins for sale. So I called, and apparently this woman inherited a crap-ton of regulation bowling pins from her kid's school's PTA, post-fundraiser. The PTA was going to throw them all out if she didn't take them. And as if the bowling pins were a litter of puppies, she felt attached and obliged, and now she has a gaggle of bowling pins boxed up in her garage.

And she's selling them for a buck a piece.

I'm picking up 40 of them tomorrow.

Call me crazy, but whatever pins I don't decorate, I can resell. For more than a buck a piece.

Ah, the crazy circle of life.

I'll have pins to spare. For a while. Maybe.


Monday, February 15, 2010

It's in the bag.

I think men design purses. And bras.

Because it's so hard to find a purse, or a bra for that matter, that meets my particular criteria.

In this forum, I'll focus on the purse conundrum. Taking the discussion of bras down to the annoying minutia may be indelicate to the more non-bra-wearing constituents of my audience.

In my discussion of purses, men who may be reading can insert the image of a toolbox and they'll probably be able to affiliate.

In my salad days, I'd buy a Coach or a Dooney for a couple hundred bucks without giving it a second thought. But times change, don't they?

But purses never seem to change. They can create a device that fits in the palm of my hand that has more technology than the Apollo space program yet they can't design a purse that makes it easy to find a pen.

There used to be purses that were advertised on tee vee that had ninety bajillion compartments, and were touted to be the only purse you'd ever want. Those purses may have been practical, but they were butt-ugly.

The Coaches and Dooneys are beautiful, and the ones I own have a longer life span than I do. They're worth the money, definitely, but those high-end bags sometimes look larger than they are in reality. So a Coach may look generously sized, but fill it with your stuff and you run out of room by the time you get to your sunglasses.

So there's size, compartmentalization capacity, color, shape, design - it makes the head spin, does it not?

Personally, I like a purse that opens in such a way so that I can see the bounty of my belongings. I hate a purse with a small opening that compels me to dig down to the bottom and extract other items to find my gum or keys.

So I went the ARC on Broadway one day, and strolled by the purses.

I found the one in the picture, above, and it met all of my criteria. It's made of leather, beautifully lined, with convenient zippered compartments and a place for my cell phone.

And it was 6.99.

I brought it to an improv class I was taking. Most of the people in my class were decades younger and eons hipper than me. Natalie took a look at my purse and, with a deep intake of breath and just a touch of envy, said, "You have a TOD'S?????"

I had no idea. To me, I had a purse that fit my criteria.

When I got home, I searched the internet for this style, and found my 6.99 Tod's purse retails for $1,300.


Thoughts ran through my head about the person who put this purse in the discard pile. I sounded like a Jewish mother in my head: What, that purse isn't good enough for you that you give it to the thrift store? You think you deserve, what, a purse made out of solid gold? That purse is worth good cash money, and you don't like it why? Because it's beige? Shlemiel.

The woman who owned the Tod's before I did may have received the purse as a gift, may have known its worth but didn't like its style.

But I love it. I bet a woman designed this purse, despite the red herring of being a Tod's. I love how I can open up the sides and see everything without digging. And best of all, it's not a knock-off! It's the real deal.

And what a deal it was.

I'm such a mensch.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

People, place or thing

Like the beautiful combination of friends and family who color my world so vibrantly, I love the interesting assortment of items in my home, many of which (home accents as well as friends) I've found in strange places.

I like my house and its eclectic blend of thrift store finds, ebay art and estate sale oddities. I can remember where I found everything I have, and who I was with. The attachment I have to those memories are more important and resonant than the items themselves. I'm not particularly connected to keeping stuff, but I love remembering where I found these things that surround me.

The photo in this posting is what's peppered on my wall and shelf that's by my front door. I got the light switch covers on ebay. The cast iron mailbox was obtained at this funky store downtown called Tallulah's. I have a big metal key with a hook that I found at a Goodwill for a buck. I can, when I remember, put my real keys by the door. I have a problem finding my keys, so this little item give me a conspicuous place to keep them. I remember to put my keys on the hook, sometimes.

The little piece of art was made by a woman I've bought several pieces from, on ebay. I love her mixed media art.

The funky old lady was found in a dumpster by my ex-husband several years ago. She's got a maniacal air, and she's very detailed - she kind of looks like a refugee dried apple person. The pot, in the far right of the photo, is some elephant ear handled vintage yellowware I can't identify, but I like it. All the items sit on a distressed metal shelf screwed into the wall. I found it for just a few bucks at Linda's Boutique, which I referenced a few blogs ago.

And the dog in the basket is my favorite thing.

I found the dog in Boulder. Had to have it. You can lift the dog's "back end" up and add an atmospheric votive candle, just for flair. How many folks can say they have a dog with a lit candle in its ass?

The basket originally was used at a swimming pool; a place to put your stuff while you were romping in the water. I found it at Three Green Boxes - a funky little store on Gaylord. I used the basket for several years to hold stationary and incidentals, until I found the dog.

They belong together. The dog's a whimsical sentry to welcome company, and the dog/basket combo is definitely a conversation piece.

I like how that wall's come together over the years.

But as I mentioned, this wall of incongruity is endearing not completely because of the contents. It's because of where and with whom I found each thing. My attachment is to the moment, not the thing.

That's not to say I invite the criminal element to come on in and take what they can cart away.

It's just that so much of the thrifting process, the finding of cool pieces to accent my home, is the process. The treasure hunt. The journey. The moment. The seeing something beautiful in an unlikely place.

Most of what I really value has little monetary worth. But the things that stay around a while, like the people with whom I'm lovingly surrounded, are in my life because their worth far exceeds explanation, logic or congruity.

That's what makes the people in my life beautiful, too.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Striking it rich.

So I bought this bowling pin in Portland, at The Bins, for three bucks. I used to make stuff out of broken jewelry, so I thought, what the heck? I'll slather this bowling pin with broken stuff.

She's not even close to being finished - I completely intend to cover the entire body, and maybe the face, too.

Like anyone who's not afraid to show the world exactly who she is, my bowling pin lady has been met with mixed reaction.

One friend of mine wanted me to make her one. Someone else said I could sell bowling pin ladies like the one I'm making for big bucks. Another person wondered what her function was - perhaps a doorstop?

Everyone's entitled to their opinion. But I love this bowling pin lady. I recently added her heart-shaped mouth, which gave her a bit more personality. I have yet to give her a name.

Everything about her was trash to someone before it got to me. The broken jewelry, the bowling pin, everything.

And, like so many things in life, there's beauty to be found - or created - in the most unlikely places, from the most unlikely things.

Like my bowling pin lady.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Skipping it.

And yet, I'm not.

I vow to blog every day. And today, I don't have much to say.

Day two of my two days off, I treated myself to skipping most of my responsibilities today, and I did - for the most part - what I felt like doing today.

I felt kind of guilty.

There are closets to clean, surfaces to scrape. There are floors that remain crunchy. I skipped the cleaning today. For the most part.

But there were some early accomplishments, like finding my youngest son's birth certificate. I thought it would take much longer than it did. Found it first thing, after having hunted extensively a few days ago.

Maybe skipping it all was my reward.

I did go to the post office.

I did grocery shop. And before grocery shopping, I did hit the Goodwill briefly, just before the grocery store. I did find a very cool piece of chalkware for two bucks that's probably worth some ching. We'll see.

And after I did the grocery store, at which I purchased Pledge, I did dust my furniture.

I did do some picking up and dropping off and picking up again of children.

And I did make dinner.

Oh. And I did work on my bowling pin lady. Photos to follow, maybe tomorrow.

So I guess it just felt like I was skipping it.

Back to working at the real job tomorrow.

But today, I enjoyed taking it easy.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Found a peanut.

As I've mentioned before, I find cool stuff and sell it on ebay. And I mail a whole lot of breakable stuff, so the triad of packing materials is important to me: bubble wrap, packing peanuts and boxes.

It really cuts into my profit margin when I actually have to pay for packing materials. Bubble wrap's expensive, but the cost of packing peanuts is outrageous. One bag of packing peanuts the size of a king-sized pillowcase can cost $10 to $15.

So I scrounge. Before my current packing materials coup, which I'll explain in a minute, I'd drive by the loading dock of my local Wild Oats (aka Whole Foods) like a stalker. I'd asked the shipping and receiving folks if, in the spirit of recycling, they could bag up their packing peanuts and set them out on the loading dock.

My little Wild Oats gradually withered, as super-sized Whole Foods stores sprung up throughout the city. My source of nuts died, too.

Or did it?

There's a happy ending to the packing peanut conundrum - a new, huge Whole Foods opened a mile or two away.

So a new relationship has been established, at a cavernous store that generates a constant stream of nuts.

Problem solved, but the frustrating periods when supply didn't match up with demand got me thinking.

If everyone who received packing peanuts in the mail kept them and resent them, would our world eventually no longer need to produce peanuts at all?

I'm no scientist or math genius, but I think we'd need to produce a whole lot less of those puffy styrofoam bits if people just passed them along to the next guy.

Using things more than once is a good thing.

And I recently learned that industrious folks all around the world benefit from items we think are worthy of the dumpster.

Apparently it works like this: You no longer like a shirt that's in your closet. You give it to Goodwill or Salvation Army or some other thrifty place. They try to sell the shirt, but no one buys it.

The thrift store's gotta move the merch. So it takes your shirt and tons of other stuff, and the thrift store in turn sell those items by the pound. Those buyers fill big containers compressed with tons of American thrift store discards and ship it to destinations all over the world.

Who knew your shirt, or Whole Foods packing peanuts, had such a butterfly effect? A 2007 article from the Seattle Times noted that, between 1999 and 2003, the U.S. exported nearly 7 billion pounds of used clothing and worn textiles. Items that would have wound up in a landfill.

Or packing peanuts that would have been tossed in the trash.

Almost everything has value to someone, somewhere.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Taking a breath.

I think, in hindsight, this is going to be a time in my life that I reflect on with crazy curiosity. I think, in the future, I'll look at this time and think to myself, "how did you DO that?"

It's happened before. When I moved to San Francisco when I was in my 20s - no job, no place to live; nothing but my friend, my dog and my car full of crap. That was a time that I reflect on now, and wonder how I did that. I certainly didn't do it elegantly. But I did it.

There are other examples that have stretched out on my mental couch and settled in as Defining Periods in my life. These times can be defined as insurmountably surmountable, in hindsight. My mom's death. The decision to get a divorce. There are more.

Like now.

I think that when I look back on this period in my life when I'm older, I'll see this time as another "how did I DO that?" episode.

I'm probably seeing it that way, tossing this time into the Salient Period basket, because I'm exhausted.

A rundown of today, which is typical:

Up at 4.45 am.


Made breakfast and lunch for myself and the kids while watching the previous night's Jon Stewart and Colbert. Took a shower, got my crap together for work.

First kid up at 6, out the door by 6.40.

Second kid up at 6.30, we're both out the door by 7.10 am.

Across town by 8 to my regular job. Done at 5 pm.

Tonight is was dinner at my sister's.

Home by 8 pm.

I have the next two days off. Tomorrow's basically a catch-up day - post office, doctor's appointment, blah blah blah.

And in the midst of trying to keep all the ends from unraveling, I need diversion from my obligations. Which is where the disconnection and escape and fascination of dropping by a thrift store comes in.

I can disengage from all the other stuff that awaits me, hop off the wheel and attempt to find a treasure.

I really don't enjoy playing the Whose Life is Harder game. Everyone's just doing what they need to do to keep their boat floating, and I really don't have anything to complain about.

But nights like this, when I'm completely exhausted, and I try to weigh the scales with what I want to do and what I have to do, I realize this is one of those periods that I'll look back on with amazement at what I've been capable of doing and creating and juggling all by myself.

And tonight, I'll disengage. Not with thoughts of thrift or my freakishly long To Do list. Not the grades I need to check on-line or piles of paperwork littering my desk. No bill-paying thoughts. No thoughts, tonight, of what I Should Be Doing.

I bought Season One of This American Life's Showtime series on itunes the other day. I've been watching it in spurts this past few days while walking briskly on my treadmill.

Tonight I'm getting off my treadmill. The one that's in my basement, the one that's in my head, the one I hop on every morning at 4.45. It's jammie time.

I'm giving myself permission to relax, thinking of nothing but other people's stories, disengaging with Ira Glass.

Two days off, lots to do. But I'm not going to think about that now.

As soon as I push the 'publish post' button on this blog, it's time to relax.

I'd like to think I do this crazy dance that is my life with just a touch of grace, but the mosh pit needs to turn into a tango.

Two days off.


Monday, February 8, 2010

Walter, the elf of all seasons.

I found Walter just before Christmas at the Goodwill on Broadway, for 9.99. Like many new relationships, I didn't need Walter, but I had to have him.

He looked so lonely and out of place, standing there at the Goodwill among other tallish things that had no other place to go, and I do think it was love at first sight.

Walter was a prominent holiday fixture in my living room, and I wasn't the only one who thought he was endearing, whimsical and adorable. Several of my holiday guests loved Walter too, and he had many offers to go home with other people.

But I was committed. So committed that, once the excitement of the holidays was over and we transitioned back into our routines, I couldn't quit him. I couldn't relegate Walter to the dreary recesses of my basement.  He'd become too important.

So when the tree was dismantled and the other holiday decorations were stashed away, Walter stayed. I hope you agree - he's just too endearing to ignore, what with the pointy leaf-shaped green feet, generously sized wings and mossy hair. What's not to love?

He's always smiling, always agrees with me, and welcomes me home with open arms.

Magical Walter.

He was only 9.99, but in my heart, he's priceless.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Deep discounts. Discuss.

I can't remember the last time I went to a FBR (Full Blown Retail) store. I think it was a few years ago, when the spritzy thing on my bottle of perfume broke, and I returned the bottle for a new one. Perfume is one thing on which I'd prefer not to compromise. Calvin Klein Euphoria is exactly that, regardless of cost.

So, in knowing that some folks comparison shop between Macy's and Nordstrom, it's worthy to note that other people comparison shop between ARC and Goodwill.

It's not just me.

A friend of mine recently told me that her sister only shops at Goodwill on half-price days, because Goodwill is getting kind of pricey.

I could completely relate. I know that every Saturday is half-price day at ARC, and I think Goodwill does the half-price thing more whimsically, but they do the half-off days, too. Fyi, ARC is more expensive, generally, than Goodwill.

I know that Unique Thrift is 20% off everything on Mondays.

I know how it sounds. How pathetic, that thrift stores are visited more or less frequently simply based on the added discount. A pair of jeans is five bucks without the sale, for god's sake.

But it's a bit of an added bonus when the $5 of jeans, for which someone originally paid $40, is now 2.50. That translates into one word: SCORE.

Because not only have you purchased a perfectly good pair of jeans for less than a latte at Starbucks; someone's worn them in for you.

It's one of life's lovely gifts.

I use jeans as an example of what awaits at the thrift store on half-off days.

And it might sound completely ridiculous to those who whip out the ching for something straight off the rack; the poking around for the prize in the box.

But there's a conspicuous pleasure in finding a Talbot's or a J. Jill or an April Cornell for a couple of bucks that looks like it's never been washed or worn. Joke's on you, I say to the FBR crowd.

Of course it helps to recognize quality, but like the grocery store, Applebees or the multi-plex, there's something for everybody at the thrift store.

So much the better if it's half off.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Everybody's happy.

In the past, when I've found items that I know are valuable and the seller doesn't, I felt guilty. I felt like I was pulling off a heist.

I don't feel that way any more.

I've determined that the seller is happy to receive the amount they're asking for their item. I'm happy because I purchased something of value for a fraction of actual worth. And when I resell the item at an astounding profit, the buyer is happy because they've found just what they were looking for, and are pleased to pay the price.

A few years ago, after dropping my son off at school, I walked to a garage sale right down the block. Almost immediately, I found a beautiful Van Briggle vase.

The person who owned the garage where the garage sale took place wanted fifty cents for the vase.

I dug some change out of my purse, and poof. The Van Briggle was mine.

I sold it for almost $300.

Recently, when we were in Oregon, Mr. Fabulous and I stopped at an indoor flea market. It was like a garage sale, with individuals who most likely purchased table space setting up their garage sale merch.

I struck up a conversation with a grandmotherly woman who was selling books, knick-knacks and her own home made fudge. I bought some chocolate fudge, four pieces for a dollar, and she told me all about how she'd won a cooking contest using this very fudge recipe, when she was in her 20s. She told me that when she tasted something, she could intuit the ingredients and replicate any recipe, just by her keen sense of taste.

The fudge was delicious.

While I was chatting with her, of course I was looking at the other items she was selling. She had a Julia Child Art of French Cooking cookbook in her pile of books, with a price tag of 7.50 slapped on the side. She said the book was nice but unnecessary in her world. It was clutter.

I asked her if she'd take $5. She agreed, and she was happy. So happy that, when I'd left her table, she offered her last bag of peanut butter fudge to me. Of course I took it. It's only polite.

When I got home, I sold the 1965 edition of The Art of French Cooking for $75.

The grandmotherly woman was happy to have cleaned out the cookbook shelf in her kitchen. I was happy to have met this memorable person, happy to have heard her endearing stories, happy to have eaten her delectable fudge, happy to have purchased a cookbook that, to her, was just taking up space.

And there are many other stories of mutual happiness. One in particular sticks with me - I went to a thrift store that's generally run on consignment. It had several pieces of pottery of which I was unfamiliar. It was Buffalo Pottery Deldareware, and there were a bunch of pieces.

I didn't know anything about Deldareware, and I took a total leap when I bought every piece for $50.

When I got home and did a bit of research, I realized I'd walked into what was, for me, a gold mine.

Long story short, I sold those pieces for a profit of somewhere around $2,000.

The store owner was most likely happy to have unloaded some items that day. The person who consigned the pieces was glad to have had the money I'd paid. And the people who bought the pieces from me were happy, because they bought pieces of American history.

So there's no need for me to feel guilty. Everyone got what they wanted. Every link in the chain of acquisition was happy.

Who could ask for more than that?

Friday, February 5, 2010

I put a spell on you....

A few years ago, the place where I work was the benefactor of a rich person's estate, which was organized into an estate sale of sorts. An empty store was overtaken with all of this Aspenite's stuff.

I went to the sale the first day, and among the delicate stemware, dustables and huge furniture (obviously designed for large rooms or custom made for a giant) was a very intriguing watercolor. Very large, beautifully framed, it was $75.

My kids were with me that day, and they were witness to the fact that I completely coveted the watercolor. As you'll see from the photo to follow, the picture shows a group of people standing near one another. I'm thinking they're waiting for a bus, as they don't seem to know each other. All but one figure is dressed in traditional clothing of some sort; what seems to be their country of origin - again, a mystery. The colors are muted.

And on the left in the image is a man only outlined in pencil, wearing what looks to be Western clothing. I don't know if the artist intended to finish this gentleman later, or if s/he intended to leave the one Americanized figure only in outline.

And as for the artist, there's no signature. I've thought of taking the image out of the frame to see if there's any indication of who created the piece, but it's framed so nicely, and it's been in my bathroom for years, exposed to years of steam. Obviously the previous owner valued the painting, based on how beautifully it was framed.

So the painting intrigued me, but I couldn't afford the $75. I'd heard that everything at the estate sale was going to be half off the next day.

So I put a hex on the painting. Nothing malicious or conspicuous. I just told my kids that I was hexing the painting so no one would want it but me.

And my white gal version of Santeria must have worked. The painting was one of the last things that remained when I returned on Day Two of the estate sale. And I bought it toot sweet, exhilarated.

The painting goes perfectly with the decor of my bathroom. In fact, as I recall, we chose the paint to correspond with the painting.

I don't know if my magic spell was the reason why the painting was still there on the second day. But the painting is magic to me, largely because of its intrigue, its subject, its artistry, and of course, the hex I tossed that day.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Okay, so it's new to me.

Ah ha! I figured out how to download a photo, and now there's no stopping me!

I got my ballerina lamp a few weeks ago. I'd received an email from an estate sale company that a sale was coming up, and one of the pictures they posted of the stuff they'd be selling at the estate sale was this lamp.

I loved it when I saw it on the email, but I figured it would be way out of my league price-wise. Plus, I figured the earlybirds who line up for estate sales would have snatched this lovely lady up right away.

Thank god for snowstorms.

The weather was awful that particular Thursday. We'd had a very icy/snowy night before, and the roads were like glass.

My sister came over to my house so that we could sale together, and she was late. She's late from time to time, but she was late that day because she'd been in a slight accident. Damned snow.

Or is it?

I drove downtown to the estate sale, and by the time we were on the road, the streets were melting. The sale wasn't particularly well attended, and I'm sure the roads were why.

But back to the lamp.

It was on the third floor of a very large Victorian house downtown. I was surprised at how BIG it is! The body itself, without the shade, is about 2 feet tall. Interestingly, the inscription N.Y. STATUARY 1951 is imprinted into the plaster.

I've done all kinds of searches for any information on NY Statuary, but haven't come up with a thing. It's not that I want to resell the lamp - I love it!! I just wanted to know a bit of its history.

With or without backstory, I love this lamp.

And now that I know how to do this picture thing, I'll be posting other priceless personal favorites and total scores I've found in my travels. Stay tuned!!

My new lamp.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Everyone's looking for something else.

So I have to rely on my little black book today.

And the first entry in my notes to myself?

Everyone's looking for something else.

Mary, who owns Linda's Boutique, is a true thrifting pioneer; a beautiful, elegant element on my way up the learning curve.

Linda's Boutique was once the premiere place to purchase wigs when wigs were the bomb.

Mary and Linda worked together. Linda eventually died. Mary's taken on the mantle of Linda's Boutique, whose primary focus in present day is to create wigs for people who are going through chemo.

I unfortunately have a friend who had a wig that was created by Mary. My friend is, thankfully, in remission. But I went to my friend's appointment with Mary, and Mary created a wig that was beautiful. My friend passed through her period with cancer looking very sassy.

In addition to wigs, Mary seasons her shop with items she sells that she's found at thrift stores and other thrifty places.

Mary and I did some thrifting together a bit ago. It's been a while, but Mary's education has remained, regardless of where I am. I'm at a thrift store, estate sale or specialty sale, and I invariably recall Mary's advice.

Everyone's looking for something else.

Mary initially invited me to a sale that her friend Suzy throws every so often.

Suzy's sales are notorious. She's developed not only an eye for what's beautiful, but a client list that's envious. Suzy attracts antique buyers, collectors, and even a national audience. Suzy's presentation of the items she finds makes thrifting so above all that - so appealing. One of the sales I attended was photographed for a major national magazine.

I personally purchased my mailbox and my cool bedside lamp from a Suzy sale.

The thing about Suzy sales is that people line up. They line up for no less than a day before the sale, just to get a number. The number gets them into the sale, based on the low number they've earned.

So Mary and I were late to a sale.

And Mary told me, when we were running late, "Everyone's looking for something else."

And it's so true.

I find some of the best stuff on Day Three of a 3-day estate sale. I've found great things when the garage sale has been cranking since Friday at 8 am, and I show up on Saturday at 3 pm.

It's a thing that's hard to understand, really. But I'm not questioning it.

It's a very good lesson, and it takes the pressure off for those of us who have a proclivity to get everywhere 10 minutes early.

Everyone's looking for something else.