Monday, January 6, 2020

It’s Spreadsheet Time!

Yessiree, let’s head for that annual thrifty roundup! Maintaining my garaging spreadsheet has been a really satisfying habit. Would you believe it goes back 15 years now? I can’t tell you how many times I've had occasion to look up when I bought something or how much I paid, and it's always a trip down memory lane. So many of the entries plunge me into the day of the sale where I found the item, who I was with, the conversations I had. All that personal history, neatly lined up in rows and columns.

Okay, so I love my spreadsheet. We already knew what a strange person I am!

I was a darned frugal thrifter this year, in fact the only year I've spent less was 2005, and that total was within a dollar of this year. The total outlay for 2019 was $342.40, with an estimated retail value of $5,568. The category with the best return on investment was clothing, where I spent $28 on 22 items worth nearly $1400. Of course it's hard to go wrong in a category that includes $1 shoes, brands like Dansko and Keen. And I had the fun of upcycling the one pair that was a bit beat up.

 The next most lucrative category was garden items. Only bought 6 for $36, but the average worth was around $40. If you’ve purchased any large pots or plants for retail prices you’ll know I got bargains! 

I may be fondest of the $1 pitchfork I found at an estate sale. It's old and a bit beat up, but it's the perfect tool for loading wood chips into the wheelbarrow. And since I got the power company’s tree trimmers to give me a free load of chips (about 7 cubic yards worth!) that is going to be a dollar well spent.

Another top category was accessories – 9 purchased for $10, and worth nearly $300. I especially love these polished wood earrings inlaid with silver.

In spite of my telling myself “No décor! No projects!” I brought home plenty in both areas. Spent a little over $80 on 27 décor items, mostly art for my walls. It's all stuff that I love, like the vintage Danish swan poster, 

and the framed three-dimensional rainbow of linen and beads. 

I think it's interesting to note that when I look at the oldest spreadsheet from 2005, the things I still own and love fall into the décor category. Well, except perhaps the Curious George flashlight – what could be more practical than a Curious George flashlight?

In the area of projects, I brought home supplies for makery – fabric, sewing notions, bits and bobs. One of the pieces of fabric came in handy recently when I made reversible button-on covers for my dining chairs – a project actually completed!

Looking at the column of prices spent, I found 13 items that were free, worth over $200. I would actually have bought the dancing fairy switch plate cover, but I love it even more for being free.

Most expensive purchase of the year? The set of vintage dishes from Germany that I use and love every day. 

Well worth the $50 I spent, even if the set only included three of the cool bowls.

All these treasures, and a new knee as well – it was a very good year!

Monday, December 16, 2019

Unexpected Treasures

Wasn’t going out on Friday, only two estate sales in town that looked meh and Judy and I both decided housework could take precedence. Then KK ended up with Friday off, so she and I checked out the estate sales. Which turned out to be…meh. And both involved climbing stairs, and both houses were, um, somewhat smelly. The first had been inhabited by smokers (lovely collection of ashtrays for sale in the garage), the second by mildew and infrequently changed cat boxes.

And I admit that stairs are not my favorite thing. The new knee is doing just fine, but we're still slow on stairs. I really appreciated the lady going up in front of me who commented, "You know, I have always hated climbing stairs!" Someone who understands me!

I managed to spend four bucks at the first sale. The family was probably Swedish; among other things there were numerous Christmas ornaments made of the traditional straw. I was a bit tempted, but my rambunctious cat Millie would have made short work of them. But I loved this hand embroidered (all in chain stitch) bell pull, 

and Millie highly approves of the bunny tea cloth I brought home.

I love the bunnies, don't they look like they are conversing?

On Saturday, KK and I headed off to Portland. We were lunching with Linda, then getting KK’s car serviced at the dealer. When we reached Linda’s house we found she had ducked out to run a quick errand that of course took longer than expected, but we had seen an ‘estate sale’ sign around the corner so of course we had to check it out. Turned out to be further away than expected, but on the way to our lunch spot.

Everyone else in Portland must have been at a mall, because this very nice estate sale was practically deserted. And luckily Linda soon texted, and joined us. KK found several things (sorry, can't remember what!) and Linda went back the next day to buy the mirror she fell in love with – at
half price.

I hit the jackpot before I even went in the house – found a large Japanese aralia (fatsia japonica) for only ten bucks. (If you buy plants you know that’s a steal!) It was one possibility I've been considering for a part of my yard I'm developing because of its imposing appearance and shade tolerance.

 Inside I picked up a pair of fifty cent earrings,

two lovely blue ramekins (fifty cents each),

and a handmade tote bag that I just love.

Needs a bit of mending, but hey, I like to mend!

Out in the garage I found another holiday bell pull, this one of Swedish hardanger embroidery on linen.

I guess it was Swedish weekend, since we had to go by IKEA while we were in Portland as well. But the little glow we felt from finding this completely unexpected estate sale carried us through the retail encounter. Which on a Saturday afternoon, ten days before Christmas, we certainly needed!

Monday, December 9, 2019


Last summer, when my friend Marcia was here and we were waiting for my knee replacement surgery to happen, we naturally did a bit of garaging. We stopped at an estate sale in my old neighborhood, and it was a treasure trove. We had a great time on their driveway, chatting and roasting in the August heat and digging through the many boxes. The sale was lady’s parents’ belongings, and her mother was an extremely creative (and collecting!) person. Marcia came away with an armload of CDs, and I bought music and movies and craft supplies and whimsical doodads. I remember walking away with my arms full for a total of five bucks.

One of my favorite whimsies that day was this tiny vintage piece.

So you may only imagine how excited I was to see that they were having another sale this weekend. I don't usually go back to one I've already seen, but I knew they had only scratched the surface of the parents’ belongings.

Marcia is back in California now, so I took my friend Lonna along to see what we could see. Alas, her luck was not running well – she found a book she wanted that turned out wasn’t for sale. Then she saw something else she liked and had a somewhat unpleasant encounter with one of the pushy guys I think is a local dealer. (There are a handful of these folks who are consistently rude, and I generally try to arrive at sales when I think they will have left.) So sorry, Lonna, it’s not usually like that!

I fared better. On our way into the house we walked by a large Christmas wreath. I noticed it had a price tag. One dollar. Now mine. It's just faux greenery but you can't beat that price. I think I'll refurbish it for next year, but for now it's the total of my seasonal decorating.

The first thing I found inside was this trio of one-inch tall angels. Some of their wings have gotten broken, but I still love them.

My next find was a large framed embroidery for my studio.

You may remember that my focus word for this year is “Mend” – this seemed a perfect reminder. When I got home, I noticed a tag on the back from the framing shop. Imagine my surprise when I saw it was framed in Oklahoma City where I grew up!

Turns out the framers are still in business, and one of their shops is only a few blocks from where I lived. I'm sure I'll never know who the embroiderer was, but I wonder if our paths ever crossed? Whoever she was, the frame was carefully selected to color blend with the embroidery.

I found some cute cupcake papers. At three for a penny, home they came.

In one of the back bedrooms, I found this big (about 2’ tall) papier-mâché bunny who now resides at my house. He was one of the things the creative mother made.

In the other back bedroom, I noticed a really nice switch plate cover, and asked if it might be for sale. The answer was yes, in fact I could just have it, if a screw driver could be located to remove it from the wall. Alas, no screwdriver appeared. I first tried a dime (too big) and then the tip of a table knife (also too big) then they did locate some odd multi-purpose tool but it was too awkward to turn the screws. But I really loved it. So later in the day I went back – with my own screwdriver! Had it off the wall in no time, and made sure that the folks having the sale knew how much I love it.

Of course since I was there again I had to shop again. It was amazing how much had left the house in two or three hours, but much remained. I picked up some movies

including one that might be in Chinese.

I found a very small Yixing tea pot, too small to be practical for use. But a) it was only fifty cents, and b) it looks good with my other Yixing pots. ‘Nuff said.

My last find was another papier-mâché bunny, much smaller than the first. 

I absolutely fell for his hand painted face.

So sometimes you can go home again – even if it's to someone else’s home! Even better, they told me another sale is planned in January, because they hadn’t even started on clearing the garage.

I can hardly wait.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019


I've done a fair amount of mending over the years, perhaps especially this year, since “Mend” has been my special focus. Sorry to say I haven’t mended everything I meant to (yet!) – there is a basket of items needing attention in my studio thumbing its nose at me whenever I walk by.

And today I helped mend something I've never dreamed of tackling before…a concrete garden fountain!

My friend Lysa recently bought a garden fountain she’s had her eye on for a while. When they got it home and lifted it out of the car, one corner of the top broke off. Moisture had penetrated partway along the break line, so clearly it had been cracked for a while. Very disappointing! But gardeners are an intrepid lot. She headed off to the hardware store for epoxy that claims to glue concrete, rounded up a couple of long clamps, and we tackled the job this morning.

I apologize for no pictures, but neither of us has done anything like this before, and there was no way I was getting my camera anywhere near brown, gooey epoxy! (I have a bad track record for messiness.) We mixed the two parts of the glue, donned plastic gloves, smeared and fitted and clamped, and then crossed our fingers. The repair is still drying so no final results are in, but we have high hopes that the mend will prove functional, though probably not invisible. But that’s okay, “visible mending” is something of a movement these days. Try that phrase on Google or Pinterest.

It’s too bad we didn’t have gold epoxy though, we could have mended it kintsugi style.

A concrete fountain is not the only odd thing I've ever mended. I think the previous record was held by the traveling dog crate ripped by an exuberant young Golden retriever. It's not terribly elegant, but it was patched it well enough for Higgs to travel 1500 miles or so home in it.

Millie was a lot of help with that mend!

Since the weather has been cold and damp here, I'm quite pleased with the other mend I recently completed. Back in May, Judy and I went to an outdoor rummage sale on a really cold and rainy morning. The weather probably influenced me to buy this Norwegian sweater. 

When I got home, I looked up the brand and discovered that you can still buy this exact same sweater. Of course a new one will set you back $220. Mine cost $1. But it had holes!

One should never let a hole or two (or five or six) get in the way of a lovely wool sweater. Some red cashmere scraps and a bit of embroidery thread to the rescue.

And wouldn’t you know it – I like it much better now than when it was just black and white!

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