Sunday, September 28, 2008


Fog grayed the early sky on Saturday morning. Not scary, impenetrable fog that makes you imagine something is about to jump out from the side of the road. This was a veil that turned the trees into layered mysteries. One of the nice things about driving a convertible is your increased awareness of trees, both the sight and the sound. Did you know that different types of trees make different swishing sounds as you drive under them? As I started off, the harp and voice music on one of the last week’s fifty-cent CDs was perfect for the fog—you can play a sample here.

The still-gray morning seemed appropriate when a guy announced at one of my first stops that Paul Newman had died. Everyone started naming their favorite of his films. One man mentioned Sweet Bird of Youth; my own vote goes to Nobody’s Fool, which we've watched many times. It was Jessica Tandy’s last film, and the two of them together are wonderful.

The mood lightened as I left. One of the sellers hollered, “Hey, you can't leave without buying anything!” and I called back, “I sure can, just watch me!” I heard him laughing as I put the car in gear.

Another sale appeared to be a group’s fundraiser. One of the men put on a pair of white feathered angel wings, to much merriment.

His buddy said loudly, “There is something SO wrong about that!” But the real amusement came a little later, when he tried to take the wings off—and couldn’t. By now no one was paying attention to him, and he struggled to get the too-short elastic straps over his shoulders. Just as I offered to help, he managed to slip the first strap off. He looked quite relieved. Imagine having to wear white feathered wings to work on Monday. Though I suppose if he’s the church going type, he’d have been quite a hit on Sunday.

The same sale had the usual large pile of clothing for sale. A man was trying to get a lower price on a dress, and the seller kept telling him it was five dollars. He offered two, and she said no, it's five. He offered three, and she said no, it's five. Finally in an exasperated voice she said, “Here, this is the lady who donated this dress. Elaine, how much do you want to sell this for?”

Elaine said, “Five dollars.” That seemed to settle it.

Later I stopped at a sale run by two women. I asked the price of one or two items, then one of them said she might have seen me at another sale. I agreed this was likely. She said, “In fact I think you sold me a mouse.” This was over a year ago, but I remembered. We started laughing, and her friend gave us a questioning look. “There was this little wooden mouse that I saw at the first sale we stopped at, and I liked it, but I put it back,” the woman (her name turned out to be Nancy) said. “I was there at the same time,” I added, “and since she didn’t buy it, I did.” Nancy continued, “The whole morning I kept saying I should have bought that mouse, I should have bought that mouse. Then at the end of the morning, we got into conversation at another sale and started looking at what each other had bought, and there was my mouse!” So I sold it to her out of my trunk, and Nancy’s mouse now lives in her foyer, where she is happy to see it every time she comes home.

“This reminds me of my King Kong story,” I told them. It was about a month after the selling of the little wooden mouse that I found a framed movie poster of the original King Kong.
It was big—five or six feet tall, and I didn’t need it but I liked it. The price was something like five bucks, I offered three, they said yes, and King Kong went into the back seat of the convertible to enjoy riding around with me the rest of the morning. During which I started suffering buyer’s remorse. Why did I buy that? Where will I put it? Yes, it's cool, but I don’t need it—you know the drill. Late in the morning I pulled up in front of another sale, and a car stopped behind mine. Turned out the lady driving it had been following me. Where, she asked, had I gotten the King Kong poster? She was disappointed when I said from another yard sale. “My little grandson absolutely loves King Kong,” she said, “and for his fifth birthday we’re having a King Kong festival for him. The whole family is coming over and we’re going to watch movies, and I thought a poster like that would be perfect.” I could sell you this one, I told her. She didn’t blink when I said ten dollars. (These puppies are about $65 unframed, so it was still a steal.) We had to struggle a little to get KK into the back of her car (convertibles are so much easier!) but she was so happy as she drove home to get ready for their movie marathon.

Nancy and her friend seemed to enjoy this story, and we spent some time chatting. She’s as into garaging as I am and both our houses are full of our finds. I said my wardrobe comes from driveways too, and right away we were comparing my fifty cent Liz Claiborne crop pants with her dollar Abercrombie & Fitch jacket. I'm sure our paths will cross again. Sisters in thrift!

Remember the kumquats from last week? We went over on Friday to pick more. Since the tree’s owners, Beverly and Richard, are planning a major pruning soon, Richard lopped of some of the limbs. My husband went up the ladder to pick from the tree while the rest of us, along with a couple of neighbor children, picked the fruit from the downed limbs. I don’t have scales to weigh our loot, but here’s a picture of the bounty.

It took a while to get them cleaned and seeded, but should be worth it. You can rarely buy this kind of jam, and along with Meyer lemon marmalade it's about my husband’s favorite.

My Pooh nightlight is complete, though not without some effort. First, I couldn’t get the light fixture out of the ugly Christmas lamp I bought last week, and had to take a hammer to it. That worked just fine, actually. Took the fixture to work, fitted it into the Pooh piece, turned it on. It flickered once and the light bulb burned out. Went by the 99 Cent Store after work, bought replacement bulbs. Next day, Pooh and Piglet had light to read by!

BTW, I'll be on the other side of the sale table next weekend, so posting may be later than usual. I'm flying to Oklahoma on Wednesday to help my sister with an estate sale. Dad died about a year ago, Mom has moved to assisted living, and forty years worth of stuff has to go. So if you’re in the OKC area, check the listings in Craigslist for a sale in Bethany and come on over and buy, buy, buy!

My own buy, buy, buying amounted to $4 this week:

This little box will hold the butterfly pin I got last week for my mother.

When I said this shark puppet could go live in a library, the seller gave him to me. So he’ll be a door prize at the next meeting. I don’t think any kids are going to find his toothy grin too scary.

I bought these sweet little candle lanterns from Nancy-the-mouse-lady’s friend. We’ll hang them somewhere in the yard with these wrought iron hooks from another sale.

Best find of the day (the one I think my sister, Midcentury Marilyn, will be so jealous of!): gorgeous fifties china. Part of the fun is getting home and learning about what you’ve bought. This is Winfield pottery, a company that produced from 1929 to 1962, in their Desert Dawn pattern.

I have a gravy boat (is that not a fabulous shape?) and its underplate (who knew that gravy boats had underplates…), a divided veggie dish, a dinner plate, sugar bowl with lid, covered casserole, two sizes of serving platters, and a large casserole whose lid is broken. The seller had actually thrown this pair away, but asked if I wanted them. I figured why not, so she fetched it from the trash can. Heck, I can always plant something in it or have a really fancy water bowl for the dogs, right? I think the gravy boat might need to display some vintage buttons. Price for the set? Two bucks! Nancy’s friend offered me $10 when they were looking at my loot, but I had to look it up first. These are not hot sellers on eBay (what the heck is these days…) but the covered casserole and veggie dish sold for about $10 each recently. So I'll add the dinner plate to our current collection, display the rest for now, and feel quite elegant whenever I reflect that I own a gravy boat and underplate.

After I got home Saturday I glanced through the newspaper, ending up with my horoscope for the day: “You're not only meeting people and shooting the breeze for the fun of it, you're also looking for something, and you find it.” I'd say they got it exactly right. Wonder how the stars and planets knew that?

Sunday, September 21, 2008


When I dressed for garaging on Saturday and looked in the mirror, I just felt cute. Perhaps women my age aren’t supposed to feel cute. I admit it's not terribly dignified. But then I'm the person who wears fabric Mary Janes in public. Dignified does not seem to be my style.

My latest Curious George watch seemed to go really well with the fifty cent shirt I got a few weeks ago,

and Noll Baxter had thoughtfully provided me with some matching cat hair for my jeans.

It promised to be a gorgeous fall day. Even though the pickings have been slim the last few Saturdays I harbored the optimism that all gamblers feel as they start off. I just knew I would be a big winner today, in stories if not in stuff.

First stop, as always, was my local donut shop. This is partly for a pastry, but also to break a $20 bill from the ATM. (Wish those machines had a dial to let you choose the denominations of the bills; for garaging you want the lowest possible. It's embarrassing to bargain for something and then whip out a twenty and ask for change.) When I returned to the almost-empty parking lot, I saw an old man standing by his old Cadillac (late sixties model, I think), squeegee-ing off the night’s condensation. Not just the windows, the entire car. Those things are as big as a barge; his ministrations must have taken forever. I couldn’t help wondering how he’d ended up in this parking lot for the task. Did he forget to squeegee before he left home and only remembered as he passed my donut shop? Maybe his wife makes fun of him for the tender loving care he lavishes on his vintage car, and he squeegees in secret? Maybe he’s there every morning, drying off his car and then rewarding himself with a pastry and a friendly smile from my donut ladies, Mel and Kim. As with so many things in life, I'll never know the answer.

First sale I stopped at netted a couple of items. The things I didn’t buy included a dog crate with wall-to-wall carpeting (when I commented on it, the seller told me that they had bought their dog a crate big enough for him and his wife, and the dog gets the rest of the house) and this lovely yoga kit.

Honestly, yoga in a box. Yes, I am rolling my eyes. Om, indeed!

Next stop didn’t have anything to buy, but they did have Molly, an adorable Basset hound.

When I took her picture, her girl ran inside and came back out with another picture to show me of Molly in the snow. So Molly is a traveling dog, because I guarantee you that snow was not from around here.

I thought Molly might just be the highlight of the morning. Really, you have to go some to beat a Basset. But after a few more stops I came to one piled high with all kinds of stuff. As soon as I pulled up to the curb they were offering to help me fit an enormous shelf unit into my back seat. I countered by admitting I'm not allowed to bring home any more furniture (which is true—this house is plenty full and I do like to be able to walk from room to room). We chatted as I shopped, and as I was leaving I noticed a kumquat tree loaded with fruit. Oooooh, kumquats, I murmured. “I don’t like them,” the woman told me, “you want some?” Her son went into the garage, brought out a ladder and proceeded to pick a bag of fruit for me.

By the time I left she’d given me her phone number. We can go over and pick more. They’re going to prune the tree back soon, so if we can find the time we can rescue those kumquats and make a whole lot of marmalade.

I can stop garaging and go to the grocery store any time now, I thought. You just can't beat a kumquat story. But then there was a sign that said “Multi Family Lawn Sale” which I thought was charming. And a little boy, about 8 years old, who was evidently having one last fling with the toys his mom had put out for sale. He had a pair of plastic roller skates on his bare feet, red goggles over his eyes, and a plastic pirate hook in his hand. “You look ready for just about anything,” I told him. “I am,” he said.

I had one last sale on my list to check out. Two neighbors had set up items on their driveways. I walked up to the first and glanced into the garage. I saw a girl, a poodle, and a duck. I looked again. A real live duck. The mom came out of the house. “You have a duck,” I told her. She laughed and agreed, and starting telling me about him. “His name is Hector. We got him at the swap meet.” She and her daughter are both animal lovers, and they were going to get a bunny. They checked out the bunny rescue society and had picked one out, but her husband said don’t get an eight-five dollar bunny that’s already being taken care of, you should go to the swap meet and get a five dollar bunny that needs a home. So they went to the swap meet. Apparently there were a number of animals for sale and she said she was appalled at how they were treated—little cages in the hot sun, no water, no shade. (Yes, she is getting in touch with the humane society.) And even though they’d planned to get a bunny, she saw this baby duck. Before she knew what she was doing she handed over a five dollar bill and they Hector was theirs.

Hector follows the little girl everywhere, and sometimes goes to school with the mom, who is a 4th grade teacher. He hangs out and watches TV with the family. He’s so tame that when I whipped out my camera to take a picture he came hurrying up, those funny webbed feet slapping the cement garage floor. He’s about two months old now, just getting his grown up feathers. His wing feathers are still quite short though, and when he goes to sleep at night and tucks his head under his wing, half of his face sticks out. Hector is a very lucky duck—and definitely the highlight of my morning. Which is saying something. Not just anything can trump a Basset hound and free kumquats!

I spent $7.00 during the morning, and brought home:
Three CDs of supposedly Celtic music. Listened to one in the car and it's not a keeper, but I've gotten my fifty cents worth of enjoyment from it.

I had to reassure my husband that I did not buy this Christmas lamp to add to our holiday decorations.

I spent fifty cents on it solely for the light,

which I plan to use in the porcelain figure of Pooh reading to Piglet that I bought a while back. The light is missing from that, and I'm hoping this will fit. It's in my office at work, so will have to wait until Monday to find out.

A Laurel Burch butterfly pin for my mother.

A couple of books…

…a video…

…and some padded hangers. I've never owned any of these and thought at a dime apiece I'd give ‘em a try.

Two door prizes for children’s librarians.

And this wonderful little train assemblage, made of bits and pieces from inside a watch.

I'm still working on finding ways to use my garaging finds. Latest use for a felted sweater: fixing a gardening glove!

Sunday, September 14, 2008


It's a commonly held belief that we do not have weather in Southern California. This is not exactly true, though for the most part our weather is benign (not much in the way of thunderstorms, hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards...hmmm, it's sounding pretty good!). However, we do have seasons and while they are subtler than in many places you can definitely tell that fall has arrived. It's not so much a matter of temperature as of light—the angle and quality of sunlight, the shorter days, the sound of wind in the bamboo in my yard, all tell me that fall is here just as much as leaves turning red did in my Midwestern youth.

Another harbinger of fall is most likely peculiar to myself.

For the first time in months I had on long sleeves when I left the house Saturday to go garaging.

Didn’t leave my sweater on all morning, but it felt odd to start out in it. However, I have so many sweaters (thanks to thrifty shopping on people’s driveways over the years) that I'm always glad to have an opportunity to give the little darlings an outing.

As it has been the past couple of weeks, the pickings were slim once more. Even so, I kept reminding myself of my determination not to take things home that I won't use. I almost bought some of those socks that you make sock monkeys with, but stopped myself just before I handed over my fifty cents. I've always harbored a secret desire for a sock monkey, but it's more a “those are so darned cute” feeling than “I gotta get me one of these.” So I resisted, and when I got back to the car I made a note on my pad of addresses congratulating myself for being strong.

I did buy a couple of dresses to make over, and actually did the work today! I think they came out rather cute, but after several hours at the sewing machine I'm no longer sure. Just tired of sewing. One project started with this cute little dress and ended with this apron.

The other was I think a child’s pinafore style dress, and it's been apronized as well.

One sale I stopped at was in the parking lot of a church. The too-small tables piled high with clothing had a signs that said fifty cents, so I rummaged through and found three items:
A wool sweater that felted beautifully.

A pair of Vikki Vi gauchos in my size—they are perfect with that long black shirt I got back in July.

A wonderful shirt of heavy Tencel (in my size—woo hoo!) embroidered with flowers and little Japanese sandals. I'm thinking if this isn’t perfectly comfortable, I may use the fabric for another pair of Mary Janes…

Anyway, I took my three items up to pay for them, pulling out money while I stood in line. When it was my turn I handed the young woman a dollar and tried to give her two quarters, and was confused when she started to give me change. “Everything’s a quarter,” she told me. Even though the table said fifty cents? Yes. So I told her to keep the change. Sometimes you just have to live large, you know?

I spent a total of $6.25, and along with the items above came home with these 4 clear glass vases, or maybe they’re candle holders.

I was reading online recently about gluing stuff like this together to make yard art; you can see some examples on this page of photos (along with some other interesting pics!). Still trying to figure out how to secure the stack in the ground. Suggestions welcome!

I also picked up this fabbo jacket that I hope to sell.

I'm sure it's never been worn—absolutely pristine (well, except for the stray cat hairs that Noll kindly shared). It was laying on the ground and I didn’t see it until another woman picked it up to consider. I tried my Jedi mind powers—you don’t want that, put it down, you really don’t want that. She kept looking at it. (Okay, I never completed my Jedi training.) I kept checking out other useless stuff nearby, ready to pounce if she put it down. She hemmed and hawed. She asked the seller for the price again. Finally I broke. With a big smile I told her, “If you decide you don’t want that I'll take it.” She dithered some more, oblivious to the sound of my teeth grinding together. At last she sighed and said, “I keep buying things and never wearing them.” And handed me the jacket.

Maybe she’ll see it on eBay when I get it listed and decide she really needs it after all.

Sunday, September 7, 2008


Hey, I'm so glad you all are liking my fabric shoes! I'm actually looking forward to going back to work Tuesday (took the week off to recover from summer reading) so I can wear them.

Cathy asked about the pattern...I had to size up the pattern on the Mary Engelbreit site since I have large, wide feet. I printed out the pattern and then enlarged it on a photocopier. I made the sides a bit deeper on the second pair (large wide feet with high instep!). For the strap I made a fabric tube with a bit of elastic inside, which is sewn into the seam when you sew the top and lining together. A vintage button anchors the strap on the outside. I just sewed that down, since the elastic in the strap makes it easy to slip the shoe on and off.

When all the sewing was done, I hot glued the leather sole onto the outside. If you make some, please be aware that hot glue stays very hot on fabric! It doesn't cool off almost immediately like it does on hard surfaces, so be careful. You can really burn the crap out of your fingers. I glued about an inch at a time around the edge, pressing down with a table knife, though next time I think I'll use a bamboo skewer that I can throw away. Got pretty much all the glue off the knife; it's the kind of thing you don't really want to have to explain to your husband!


You know you’ve left the house a tad early looking for yard sales (and that you’re in California!) when one of the first things you see is a boy on a skateboard with signs under his arm to tack up on phone poles. I did find his sale, even without the signs put up yet, but there was nothing I wanted. Same thing at the next place, and the next…

Yes, we have reached the Yard Sale Doldrums, that time of year when dedicated thrifters start thinking bitter thoughts about how much gas we’re burning on this quest. The return for investment begins to look thin, and yet…I drove around in my very fun car, listened to wonderful music (French horn concerti), ate a luscious cream cheese croissant, got my errands done, petted dogs, and chatted with folks. Beats sitting in front of a TV!

The dogs included a pudgy little beagle who really likes to bark. I mentioned using a spray bottle as a training tool, and his owner perked right up. “I just started that a couple of days ago, and he’s already getting it,” she said. “Just a couple of spritzes and now he’s checking with me to see if he’s barked too much.” Which may not sound like such a big deal, but lots of dogs end up in shelters for reasons like ‘he barks too much.’ My friend Tina is a volunteer dog walker at a wonderful
shelter in Nevada and she’s the one who told me about the wonders of the squirt bottle. Click on Available Animals, and go adopt a dog from them! That Tink looks awfully sweet, and the videos of their dogs are fun. Don’t miss Terry kissing the coonhound!

Biggest dog on Saturday was this Great Dane, who looked fierce but turned out to be saying “Get over here and pet me!”

Ran across the lady who was following my car a few weeks ago (when the signs lied and there was no sale to be found). Instead of her usual garaging partner she was with the cutest young man. Her friend hadn’t been able to come out, so the friend’s grandson came in her place. He was all excited because he’d found a lamp for his new apartment. (He looked far too young to have an apartment, but I have to admit I'm getting old enough that a large segment of the population looks like babies to me!) He’d only been to yard sales once before, when he was about eight. I detected awe in his voice when he told me that he mentioned he was looking for a lamp, and the guy went inside and brought one out. Five bucks later he owned his first lamp. I think we may have a convert!

The errands included a trip over to the Fullerton Arboretum for their annual salvia sale. We’re in the throes of revamping our landscaping, and I wanted a few sages for the front yard. Cross your fingers that it turns out well. We’re at this point so far…

Anyway, when I got to the arboretum, first thing I encountered was a clearing next to a stream that was full of ducks. I paused to take a picture of a planting, and the ducks assumed I had stopped to feed them. (It’s how ducks think.) Before I knew it they were hot footing it my way, so I apologized to them for not having any treats (yes, I am a person who speaks to ducks) and headed on to the plant sale. I bought only three plants, but the most wonderful volunteer took me out to the landscaped beds to show me several types so I could see how they look in their mature sizes. She made sure I got just what I needed, and in return I gave her the salvia chart I had printed from another community college site.

As I left the sale, I passed again the clearing where I'd seen the ducks. They were still there, but had been herded to one side so that the cheerleading squad (arboretum is on a college campus) could have their pictures taken. It was a great scene—disgruntled ducks, cheerleaders with pom poms, and gardeners with hopeful plants cradled in their arms.

Saturday morning. You just have to love it.

I managed to spend $2, and brought home:
A couple of gardening books. Hoping for inspiration for that yard…

A drinking glass to replace one that got broken. It’s a little different from the rest of the set(yard sale glass is on the right) but close enough.

A Hall China bowl. Looks like the lid is missing, but I liked it .

Sweet little serving bowl. I looked it up when I got home, and this is Homer Laughlin’s Fluffy Rose pattern. I figure even if I don’t use it, it’s worth thirty-five cents to know there is such a thing as a Fluffy Rose pattern!

However, I am trying to move from just acquiring more and more stuff to actually using my finds. So I made something this week that I'm kind of jazzed about.


Yup. Two pairs of fabric Mary Janes (my favorite kind of shoes) with leather soles. The first are of fabric left over from turning a skirt into an apron, lined with felted cashmere.

The soles are from a black leather jacket I picked up last year (I think it was a dollar). I ran the jacket through the washing machine (since I knew anything I did with it would need to be washable) and it did fine. One sleeve had already been used for the soles of some slippers.

Here’s the second pair.

The fabric was a scrap from a bedspread I made with a roll of yard sale material (I lavished ten bucks on it since there was ten yards, but the original sales receipt was with it—almost $300!). The lining is from a bathrobe I got a few weeks ago. Insoles on both are felted sweaters, and I adapted the pattern from Mary Engelbreit. Don’t know about you, but I love ‘em!

[EDIT 1/14/12: Heck, looks like the link for the M.E. slipper pattern is dead. But I found an alternative here, a nice tutorial by the Creative Maven. I added the strap, which has elastic inside to keep it snug, when sewing the top piece and lining together. And instead of blanket-stitching wool felt to the soles, I used leather and hot-glued it on. Be careful with that hot glue, it stays hot a long time on fabric and leather!]
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