Monday, January 9, 2017


Three happy women, out for a good time on a Friday morning. Wearing three different hats, but all in shades of purple. (What are the odds…) Three - yes three! – January estate sales, woo hoo. And would you believe I bought three things and spent three dollars?
If three is an auspicious number then 2017 is off to a good start.

The sales were spread across Salem, in three different neighborhoods. In the summer we’re more likely to stick close to home since there are  more sales than we can get to, but winter sales give us a chance to see neighborhoods we otherwise would never visit. At the first sale the vendor told us this was the second of three sales she is having to liquidate this estate. I would never have guessed she’d already sold a weekend’s worth last month, there was so much stuff. Must have been a daunting task when she first started. It was a rather odd conglomeration of items (lots of dishes, not much other stuff), and the only thing that appealed to me was this vintage Melmac sugar bowl.

It joins the other three on my bathroom counter (including its twin in turquoise) and is going to shelter the cotton balls. (So that threesome is now a quartet.)

Back to the car, drive drive drive, second sale. Found a pair of red earrings among the jewelry scattered on the coffee table in the living room.

I realized I didn’t have any in red, and really, everyone needs red earrings, right? After all, think how fun they will be with my red glasses. (I also have blue, green. brown, caramel, and mauve glasses. Yes, I went hogwild last year after I found these new-old-stock frames on Etsy. You should get some too.)

Then KK picked something up and turned to me with a smile. “Isn’t this cute?” she said, and handed me a small plate.

Exactly like my favorite dessert plate that I found at another estate sale last February. So now I have two. When will I find number three?

Back to the car, drive drive drive, over the river if not through the woods to the third sale. Where I struck out, but wasn’t surprised. It was stuff that had belonged to an antique mall owner and not your usual estate sale fodder. But two out of three isn’t bad, right?

Can't remember what all Judy found, but KK spotted something pretty darned good. I may have mentioned that she is a painter and adept at recognizing real art. I think it was the middle sale where she picked up a framed picture almost as soon as we walked in the house. I asked if it was original and she said, “Ohhhh, yes.” Four dollars later it was hers. Later in the day Judy & I received an email from her.
You know the $4.00 painting I got from the one estate sale? It's an original oil on board by American artist S. Jerome Hoxie 1895 - 1981. He did most of his living in Mystic Connecticut. Ebay has one of his landscapes for $299.00. Wow! I don't want to sell it, I love it! 

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Stats for 2016

Every year I amuse myself by how much I look forward to writing this post. There’s something so darned satisfying in playing with my garaging spreadsheet. Sorting by categories, by how much I paid, or by how much I estimate various items would have cost in a store, and then comparing this year to others…I just love it! Back when I was first learning to use Excel I would never have guessed what a fun toy it could be.

This year’s bottom line? I spent $595 on items I estimated would cost a retail shopper almost $11,000. A bit more than last year, but only about half of 2014’s total.

Ouch, you might be saying, almost $600 on a hobby! Isn’t that a chunk of change? I suppose it depends on how you look at it. Spread out over the year, that’s about $50 a month that bought me a heckuva lot of fun. I’m trying to think of some other weekly activity my friends and I could do and what it might cost. A weekly movie? At least ten bucks each and we won't talk about what they charge for refreshments in those places. A regular girls’ night out for drinks or dinner? You know that would add up, especially the drinks part!

But you could say my year’s worth of fun cost me only about $25. That’s because I resold items to the tune of $570 in profit. Most were pretty small sales, though if you look at percentages some were impressive. Like the 50¢ pair of poodle pillowcases

that cleared almost $24 – about a 5000% profit!

The biggest sale this year was the Hudson Bay Company blanket that so many of you loved. (As did our Zoe.) 

It cleared nearly $200, and went to a lady in Virginia who was thrilled to get it (and considered it a good bargain to boot). It's so nice when everyone goes away happy.
Going back to the spreadsheet, I see that one of my big categories of spending this year was fodder for upcycling. I bought 37 pieces for about $29. Keeping the individual prices that low encourages me to be bold in how I use things. And it’s so much fun to just play! I love this ruana made from a dollar fabric score and a pair of Brazil Roxx jeans I was given. 

Another almost-finished piece is a black boiled wool vest I got back in May 

that I've combined with a shirt KK found at the Goodwill bins. 

(Keep an eye out for my upcoming Etsy shop, which will have upcycles I've made and no doubt a few choice vintage items. I'll keep you posted on that venture!)

Clothing was by far the most lucrative category in 2016. For every dollar I spent on clothing for me and the hubster, I would have spent over $45 in a store. The big winners were those cashmere sweaters from the church rummage sale that I discovered had retailed for about $500 each. 

They are wonderful sweaters, cozy and very well made. Worth $500 each? That’s really hard for me to imagine…but well worth the $2 each I splurged on them. I think it would be safe to say that if you only shopped on driveways for one thing, clothing would be a worthwhile choice. Which is a little ironic, because for years I never looked at yard sale clothing. I'm not an average size and I assumed I would never find anything that fit. Boy, was I wrong about that! And now, with upcycling, I can embiggen or smallify and make even more stuff fit.

A close second would be household goods. All that practical stuff that we use every day. It's lovely to have high quality items that you can use without worry because the price was so good. Real linen tea towels and napkins, hand embroidered pillow cases, 

a lead crystal bottle stopper that doubles as a citrus juicer. I brought home 53 items ranging from fireplace matches to a vintage light fixture from a funeral home for a total of $82, and another 33 kitchen items for $36. The fifty-cent Dansk wine decanter is worth more that I paid for everything.

The knife steel gets used every day. And the item I never hope to use but I'm glad I found? Those really good bandaids I paid a quarter for!

I was darned restrained in the décor department – only 17 pieces that cost $33. (Okay, okay, there might have been a few more that ended up in the donations pile…) I still feel a huge smile on my face whenever I look at the Steinbach music box with the zither player and ankle-slapping folk dancer.

Oddly, my favorite piece of décor this year did not make it into the blog when I bought it. I found it at the same sale as the Hudson Bay blanket, for a similarly astonishing price. A big bundle of heavily embroidered fabric encased in one of those zippered bags that bedspreads come in. “Oh, that’s a kimono,” the lady told me. “It’s in pieces. I never got around to the project I had planned for it, and by now I know I never will.” We agreed on $7, and off I went with the kimono pieces and the blanket. This was just days before I left on a 10-day trip with a friend. I was so busy getting ready I did not even open the kimono’s bag and look at what I had bought. It was close to a month later before I got around to it, and I was astonished.

Instead of being cut up or in a dozen pieces as I had imagined, all that had been done was to detach the sleeves and undo the hem. I think it is a wedding kimono, uchikake (but if anyone can tell me more, please do!). My husband fell in love with it, and it was a straightforward repair job (albeit all by hand) to sew the pieces back together. Now it hangs magnificently on our living room wall.

I mentioned the donations pile. Sigh. Every year I hope to see the donations category absolutely empty, that I had chosen so well all year long I was able to keep everything. Alas, 2016 was not that year. Thirty nine items went off to the thrift store, a total expenditure of $31.95. Most of it was movies I didn’t want to watch again, clothes that turned out not to fit, upcycling fodder I changed my mind about. The most expensive item was $5. 

Five dollars! Oh wait, that’s not a terribly large sum. Less than a lunch. And the donations all went to the thrift store that supports the kitty rescue from which we got Millie. Okay, I feel better now!

As always happens when I look at my spreadsheet, it triggers so many happy memories from the year – and from years past. Hanging out with good friends, talking to interesting people, seeing homes and neighborhoods we would never otherwise get to visit. It was a very good year. 

In fact, they all are!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Sidestep Interview

If you have a few minutes, bop on over to Lisa Haselton’s Reviews & Interviews for an interview with…moi! I’m sure you’ll want to find out how my writing career began, among other things.

And stay tuned: my end of the year statistics are on the way!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Lost and Found

I was vexed on Sunday to realize I had lost a hand knit glove at the dog park. And have no more of the yarn to make a replacement. Grrrr. Then on Monday morning, I lost an earring. I never wear earrings to the park, but I was going to breakfast with KK and Judy and was trying to be efficient, getting dressed for that before I took the dogs out.

Normally I would just shrug and say oh, well over a lost earring, but this was one of the pair that was my sole souvenir from my trip to Chicago. A vintage piece from a thrift store, and way more spendy than the rest of my earrings.

When I got to breakfast I grumbled about losing it, and KK offered to help look. “I'm good at spotting things,” she said. Off to the park we went. When we got there, I remembered she had never seen Minto Brown Park before. Here’s a satellite view.

Yup, that first field is a quarter of a mile long, and we had been all over it. Looking for one earring was worse than a needle in a haystack. At least they stack the hay! So we tried, but had to give up.

The next day I made a Lost Earring sign to pin on the notice board down there. When I put it up, I glanced at the other items there (mostly lost name tags) – and there was my earring! Someone had found it and pinned it up! I could hardly believe it.

So I took down the Lost sign, and the next day returned with a Thank You sign. As I was pinning that one up, I glanced over – and there was my lost glove! Wet and muddy, but nothing a little bath wouldn’t fix. Too wet to put in my pocket though, so I took it back to the car – and right beside my car I found a dollar bill. (And no, I did not pin it on the board, because what are the chances its previous owner would be the one to remove it?)

It's always fun to find money. I admit there’s a bigger thrill in finding, say, a twenty, but we are thrifters, right? One dollar can buy us amazing things. I decided to go back through my spreadsheet of garaging finds to see some of the stuff I've bought for a buck over the years. The list was overwhelming! This year alone I've purchased 76 items for a dollar each, with an estimated retail value of $1120. Some favorites are these earrings 

a delightful dessert plate AND mug 

and the hedgehog dryer balls I gave to Judy. 

But my spreadsheet goes back for years, to 2006 in fact. What am I still using that cost a buck ten years ago? Hands down, best thing I bought that year was my apple peeler. It was from a newly-retired kindergarten teacher, who had used if for ages in her classroom every September for her Johnny Appleseed unit. Still peels and slices like a dream, and we use it year round. (A new one will run you about twenty bucks.)

Some others that have stood the test of time include my favorite dog figurine

a piece of ceramic art by Karen Howell (I found another tile by her a few years later, also for a dollar...and I see that a similar tray sold on eBay in September for $130, and had 26 bids!)

a set of bunny pot feet (you'd think I like bunnies or something)

and the vintage Pendleton that became Zoë’s favorite coat.

My favorite line from the movie Pecker came from the mother, who runs a thrift store. “We know how to make a dollar holler here at the Bargain Barn,” she says. I can hardly wait to make my found dollar holler, someday soon!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Winners Are...

I remember now why I don't do giveaways more often...I want EVERYONE to win! Seriously, I loved your comments. I was cracking up over how many of us made little triangle scarves back in the Sixties to match our mini skirts. And also over how some other kitties lost their whiskers (ahem).

But alas, there are only four Veras seeking new homes at the moment. (Not the triangle of bees - at least not yet - and definitely not my Millie!) And here are the winners:

Scarf number one goes to Jamie, who plans to wear it to work at her library. How could I resist a fellow librarian?

Number to goes to pailsofpearls, a new addition to our readers. Hope you'll hang around with us for a while!

Number three is for Linda @ alacarte, who loves pink and wears her scarf knotted to the side. I'm picturing her as very dashing in this beauty.

And mod number four will go to sveltestuff, who collects Vera...but has never seen any of these designs. Seriously, don't you wonder if Vera ever slept? 

I have sent emails to the four of you, but if for some reason you don't get it I need your names and addresses so I can send these.

Thanks so much to everyone for entering. And just in case you're wondering, Millie's missing eye whiskers are starting to grow back in!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Happy Places

It's really ridiculous how happy it makes me to have not one, not two, but THREE estate sales to go to this time of year. Add in that at least two of them were run by family, not companies, and my day is made.

The first sale had something I really, really wanted but couldn’t have…because it was part of the house. A greenhouse, and not some flimsy little thing but a serious extension to the house. Here’s a snip from Google Map’s drive by.

I admit I was having an enjoyable fantasy while we were there. Some of our family plan to move to Salem one of these days, and this house would be perfect for them. So in my fantasy they bought the house, and I got to play in the greenhouse whenever I wanted. But alas, the place seems to be sold already. Dang it!

I was so glad we went to this sale first. Partly because all but one of the annoying dealers we try to avoid started with the others, so we didn’t have to put up with them. And also because of the stuff I found. Most of the prices were amazing. I did splash out a bit – ten bucks for a seriously nice jacket. Sorry, no picture. It's hard to take an exciting picture of black wool clothing! But it's a wonderfully drapey merino piece from the 80s, which I can state with some assurance, because if clothing is a size medium and fits me, that’s when it was made.

But I made out like a bandit back in the sewing room. This block of beeswax will be a gift,

and you have to admit the price was right!

This little brayer was a dime, and it looks like it was never used.

Spent a whole fifty cents on this kitty yard decoration but if you’ve been following Millie’s adventures you will understand the appeal of a cat that SITS STILL.

I may have mentioned a while back that one of her misadventures was pushing my pretty china pin dish off the desk and breaking it. (Bad girl, Millie!) Now I have a replacement, and a vintage one at that (at least if you consider the 80s vintage!).

Apparently they stuck a piece of tape on it and then wrote the price, so it is now incised forever into the plastic. Oh well! I'm never sorry to remember I got something for a dime.

A bag of rotary cutters was three bucks.

There was even some good free stuff, including this rather interesting book.

Some of the projects are quite creative.

Of course what I really love are the little sheep and their turtleneck sweaters!

Standing in line to pay I noticed a tray with jewelry, and picked out these fused glass earrings.

I was bemused that the gentleman helping with check out looked very much like Eric Carle, the picture book artist. When his wife called him Eric, I got a teensy bit excited, and actually asked if that’s who he was. He said no and seemed to have no idea who Eric Carle is, but the lady in front of me in line did, and she agreed that’s who he looks like!

We headed across the river to a fabulous midcentury modern house in West Salem. Another family sale, and another house already on its way to being sold. (On an acre with a fabulous view, for nearly half a million, which is very pricey for these parts. But a really terrific house.) KK and I ooh’d and ahh’d our way throughout.

We got there about an hour after the sale started, and the usual horde of dealers had clearly been through. But I was happy to find a big bag of interfacing for a buck (not the kind of thing to interest a dealer, but nice if you sew!)

and a lovely vintage linen towel. I'm getting quite a collection of these, but hey, it was fifty cents.

I must have used up all my powers of observation by the time we hit the third sale, because I didn’t buy anything there, and the only thing I really remember is that someone had spilled some perfume in the bathroom and the place absolutely reeked. We were both glad to get out into the fresh air and on to our favorite Thai place for lunch. But still, I was glad there were three sales!

This time of year I approach each weekend with trepidation, fearing there won't be a single sale to go to. But so far, so good!

A reminder that you still have time to enter my giveaway! Four vintage Vera silk scarves are going to four new homes. I’ll even extend the deadline a bit – leave a comment on last week’s post by noon tomorrow, Monday December 5, 2016, and I’ll add your name to the hat!
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