Sunday, May 18, 2008


Saturday morning was already hot by about eight. Why, you’d think we were in Southern California or something! The sunny side of the street may be where you want to direct your feet most of the time, but when that’s where your garage sale is, your sunscreen had better be SPF 563 or thereabouts. One sale I stopped at was evidently the product of several friends who had pooled their stuff, and one of the sellers was very concerned that she hadn’t worn a tank top. But hey, no problem—she just rummaged through the clothes her friend had brought, found a tank top, and went off to change.

Petted the usual variety of dogs—poodle, golden retriever, small mop-like creature—and the unusual tortoise. Her name was Michelle, she is 12 years old, and the family having the yard sale have had her since she was palm-sized. They put her into hibernation every winter, and said she is the easiest pet they have (others include dogs, ferrets, and bunnies). For a reptile, she was pretty darned charming! (Not that I have anything against reptiles. Bugs, yes; reptiles no.) In fact I was so charmed I never thought of taking her picture until I had driven away (my general modus operandi with a camera, which is why we have almost no vacation pictures).

I'd have needed a video camera to capture the scene at another sale. It appeared to be the efforts of an extended family, lots of stuff, lots of people. I was headed back to my car when a raised voice stopped me. A middle-aged woman jerked a white lace dress off the ground and said loudly, “What are you thinking! Your communion dress? It's a sin!” I loved the pragmatic comeback from another family member: “But when was the last time you wore it?”

My last stop was fun. It was a few blocks away from what struck me as one of the best intersections I've ever encountered: the corner of Suburbia and Theseus.

The sale was at a house with a narrow front yard filled with blooms: roses, Jupiter’s beard, evening primrose, sage, coreopsis. I complimented the people having the sale on their lovely yard, who seemed delighted. They immediately offered me cake and we talked plants while I looked around their sale. One of the two women asked me in a slight German accent if I knew what a particular plant was (the Jupiter’s beard--Centranthus ruber). And when I admired a particular geranium she grabbed some clippers and started giving me cuttings. I ended up with 2 or 3 ger
aniums and a couple of salvias—hope they take root! If I could remember where her house is, I should take her some of the coleus I got a few years ago at another sale. I was admiring it and the homeowner broke off a couple of pieces, and it has proved to be a great garden-workhorse. It looks different depending on where it's growing, and even blooms in long bright-blue spikes.
Hmmm. I bet I could find her house again. It's near the corner of Suburbia and Theseus.

I spent a total of $9.35, and this is what I got:

A Beatrix Potter bowl, from the family with the teenage boy and the poodle. The mom told me she’d decorated her son’s room totally in Beatrix Potter when he was a baby. He looked a little abashed to have anyone know this.

A small vintage Japanese plate, and a not-so-vintage dinner plate with a cheerful design of oranges.

A couple of nearly-new washcloths with roses, and a dishtowel of colors I like. (I have green tile counters in my kitchen, and this will look good with them.) And this vintage embroidered towel—how could I pass up something that says ‘Saturday’? I'm may try to take a picture of it for a blog header.

These fun paper cutouts—the German lady said when she was a child all the kids collected these.

Some silly/fun dangly earrings, which will be perfect with a dress I thrifted last summer.

A door prize for a future meeting with my children’s librarians, a fun metal picture frame.

And some things to sell (which, BTW, if ever you see something here you’re interested in, send me a message; I'd be perfectly happy not to have to list it on eBay!):

A Sigred Olsen tank top…

Adorable dress from Talbot’s, printed with tiny little veggies!

And this terrific Coach bag. Not sure why anyone would get rid of a Coach bag, because they basically last forever, but garagers don’t ask those questions, we just quietly (well, pretty quietly!) pay and head down the trail to the next sale.

Speaking of heading down the trail…I'll be in Oregon next Saturday. I'll try to go garaging up there but don’t know if that will happen, so I may miss a week blogging. But I'll be back soon!

Sunday, May 11, 2008


Part of my fascination with garage sales is the sheer eclecticism of a morning’s shopping. When you shop in stores, you generally know what you’ll come out with: groceries from the grocery store, clothes from a mall, plants from a nursery. But when you shop on people’s driveways there’s no limit. More than once I've seen things for sale and had no idea what they were (like shrink-wrapped hard drives)—and sometimes the seller didn’t know either. It puts new meaning into the phrase “mystery shopper.” Usually I carry the mystery within me—I start on the treasure hunt not knowing what I'm looking for. But I know it when I see it!

Yesterday I spent $7.50 on this amazingly varied loot:

A rather graceful gold and white teapot. Now that I have three or four of them I can display them together as a collection, right? (For some fun viewing, take a look over at Flickr at pictures of people’s vintage collections.)

A handmade glass vase, bright spring green inside clear glass, with a stripe of white and a thin blue line on each side.

An original piece of art (a leaping frog, in case it's hard to tell!)that looks to be watercolors on an embossed shape. The signature may be G. Jeinya, but Google didn’t turn up anything likely on that name (at least not in any language that I can read).

A large (three quarters of a pound!) bar of daffodil scented soap. I have never seen daffodil scented soap before, and I look forward to smelling like spring.

A vintage-looking Raggedy Ann doll, with an attached hang tag describing the farm the maker lives on and how she and her daughter use old fabrics to make their dolls. I’m not sure why she has a wooden number 5 attached to one hand! Maybe I'll sell her (appears to be pretty collectible) or perhaps she can hang out with the Fall Fairy I got at another sale a couple of years ago (she has silk leaves for wings, and a paintbrush to color the fall foliage, but it was her little beanie hat that endeared her to me).

A pair of cat candles, which seem to belong with this little Halloween box…

…and from the same sale a key ring that I bought for the beaded fob. I've been wanting something fun to hang from the zipper pull on my garaging fanny pack. This one has a snake and a heart and some blue beads, so I should be protected from all kinds of evil. I took it off the key ring to attach it to my bag, and noticed in very small, Gothic lettering engraved on the ring the word “Harley.” Guess my Harley-riding brother-in-law will get another (small!) gift.

Two decorative bookmarks (the silver one dangles four tiny keys with the letters L.O.V.E.). These will be prizes in the summer reading program I run for staff each year.

Finally, a brass gong.
I've always wanted a gong, and this is the first one I've seen at a garage sale. I admit I would rather have one without “Tsingtao Beer” on it, but hey, it cost fifty cents. I figure I can either try some paint remover, or just let it weather outside. And it makes a great sound. (Now that I've found a gong, I wonder if another longtime desire will turn up—wind chimes in a very low bass range. The ones I like cost over $500 new—like that’s ever going to happen!)

The little wooden toy from a few weeks ago is now exploring his bear-ness with some garage-sale miniatures. He really gets around.

Favorite overheard conversation yesterday: A young guy, probably in his twenties, asked how much they wanted for a box of ping pong balls. Before the seller could answer, another guy said, “You play ping pong? Are you any good?” The first guy replied modestly that he was. “Here’s my card,” said the other. “I'm going to Vegas tomorrow, but call me when I get back and we’ll play.”

Hope they each found a new best friend.

Sunday, May 4, 2008


A large pickup truck was rumbling by the curb of my first stop on Saturday, spewing out nasty fumes. I figured it belonged to someone else inspecting this garage sale. Some people simply get out of their vehicles and leave them running, I suppose to facilitate their rushing off to the next sale. It seems counter-productive to me to waste the gas, but perhaps they’re trying to asphyxiate the other garagers and thus keep all the good stuff for themselves.

In this case, however, the truck belonged to the man of the house, and he was letting it run because it is a clunky old truck with an engine that needed warming up. As he drove away I ventured a humorous remark about the ‘stinky truck’ to the lady having the sale. She laughed and shook her head. “I have been trying to get him to recycle that truck for years,” she told me, “but he just won’t hear it.” She seemed to like the phrase “stinky truck,” for I heard her repeating it to her friend as I drove off.

A couple of sales later I fell into conversation with a good looking guy in his late thirties, who told me about growing up in Iowa in a large family. He’s now a detective with the local police. He was selling some Harley parts so I brought my brother in law the Harley rider into the conversation. The detective told me a really good gift to give Bob is to buy a gift certificate to some Harley dealer located miles away from where he lives, so he has to take a long ride to redeem it. I love it—a gift giving dilemma solved on a driveway by an ex-marine Harley riding detective. (Don’t tell Bob what one of his future gifts is going to be.)

One sale I stopped at was serious about getting rid of things. They were offering a free gift for stopping by, no purchase required. I mentioned this at the other two sales on that block; at the first, they said they’d better go see what the neighbors had that they wanted. At the other, where we’d been talking about dogs, they were inspired to offer me a stuffed toy for my pets. (Which I had to decline; Lizzie guards toys ferociously, then takes them apart and flings stuffing around the house.)

I met two very nice pit bulls. The second was deaf, but sweet and smart, and she responds to hand signals. And one of the highlights of the morning was a two year old beagle, Cammy, reclining in the shade at the feet of the two ladies minding the sale. They told me they had adopted her on Thursday, from a pet store that goes to the shelter and rescues two dogs at a time from death row and finds homes for them. Cammy had the air of a dog who has been through a lot in her short life, and is grateful for her new home. And her ears are as soft as butter.

One of the last sales I stopped at was at the home of a woman trying to get rid of the stuff her grown children have left behind. “I started out with a four bedroom house,” she said. “Now I've got one bedroom and three storerooms. My goal is to have at least two bedrooms!”
She also told me how much she hates to shop. Really hates it, especially for clothes.

“If you go to the grocery store one of these days and see a naked woman,” she assured me, “that will be me.”

For $7.75, I brought home:

A bag of 15 fresh-picked Meyer lemons. I'm making marmalade with them. There are some things about Southern California I will miss after I leave this place!

Some future eBay items—wonderful shirt and vest by CP Shades (they won’t be wrinkled in their eBay pictures!) and a warm, crunchy wool sweater that was worn all of once.

Warm wool sweaters are not a necessity in SoCal.

Some door prizes for children’s librarians—a bell stick and this wonderful mitt with a dog on each finger—and tails in the back!

A box of Wizard of Oz note cards…

A couple of craft magazines, and a sheet of iron-on butterflies. My mother likes butterflies so this will accompany her Mother’s Day card next week. (And lest anyone is horrified at someone who would give her mother something from a garage sale as a gift—at whose knee do you think I learned this?)

A lovely gift wrap set with paper, ribbon and cards…

…snowman socks to make my feet happy next Christmas, and my ‘free gift for stopping by’ pack o’ napkins.

An unusual vase of plate glass & aluminum (it really does hold water!)…

…and a dress of heavy cotton that I plan to remake into a spiffy apron.

I completed an apron earlier this week, made from a long, jazzy skirt and the sleeve from a Jones New York silk blouse. Yes, I cut up a JNY shirt, but when you only pay fifty cents for something it gives you the freedom to do whatever you can think of with it. And, I must confess, it makes me feel like a very wealthy woman to be able to do that!

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