Saturday, October 30, 2010


“I bet you’re really happy it’s not raining,” called the woman hauling yard sale stuff onto her driveway as she looked at my open convertible.

“I bet you’re happy too!” I told her.

We had this conversation because earlier it had been pouring. We compared our dismay when we heard the rain at about 5:30 this morning. But by a little after 7:00 the rain had blown away, so we both went into action. By the time I reached her house I’d stopped at about four sales and figured the day was over. Hadn’t found a thing. But there on her table was one of the things on my list to look for.IMG_9594The lucite lamp I bought back in JulyIMG_7307had a wobbly shade, which turned out to be because it had no lamp harp. So I’ve been looking for one ever since. Kept thinking I’d find a fifty cent lamp I could steal the harp from, but this is even better. So hopefully I’ll have a working lamp soon, and I can have fun playing with a shade.

It’s been a rather lamp-y weekend. My husband wants to rewire the funny atomic-era lamps we bought recently, and while he’s at it figured he would do the floor lamp we got last year at the world’s junkiest estate sale.IMG_2844 This one needed some parts that weren’t at Home Depot, so we stopped in at a rather cool lighting store. Which is moving, so a lot of pieces are marked down. We fell in love with some sconces for the retirement house to replace the truly awful Southwestern-style pieces that are there. (If you love that style, my apologies, no offense intended. It’s just that they look ridiculous in a Midcentury Modern house. Stop by after we move in and we’ll give them to you.) So we went ahead and bought the sconces.IMG_9585Hard to tell from my picture—it’s a half-round of ribbed glass within a wrought iron frame. Buying things for a house I can’t go live in for a while yet makes me feel like a Victorian maiden with a hope chest, but hey, a sale is a sale.

The people at this place sent us somewhere else for the lamp parts, which is where we learned that the kind of shade with a big ring in the frame is called an uno shade. I love learning stuff like this. It’s why research is so much fun—you get hold of one fact (uno shade) and it leads you to the next (our lamp is a bridge lamp).

But back to our regularly scheduled programming…yard sales. The nice folks with the lamp harp are readers so we talked books for a while (after I declined to let them put boxes of them in my car for me). Then their cat strolled out. This is Klondike, who is about fifteen years old.IMG_9592 Turn out, he came with their house. The previous owners simply abandoned him. He is reportedly quite the chowhound.

I figured that was it for the day, but close to home I stopped at an estate sale where I picked up some CDs.IMG_9595 It was the first time I’ve ever been checking CDs at a sale and found something by someone I know. They had two  by Brother Yusef, a terrific local blues singer who sometimes does shows for kids at libraries. He performs regularly at Downtown Disney; don’t miss him if you’re in the area!

So that was this week’s adventure. Two bucks, some stuff I can use, and a handsome kitty. It was good.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Don’t you love it when a couple of your yard sale finds suddenly come together in your brain and you can make something of them? I’ve just spent the last 20 minutes (yeah, it was a huge project) putting these together.IMG_9568

The “pictures” are two little silver plated Hallmark ornaments that I picked up last December. Fifty cents for the pair, and the tarnish they wore was free. I’m a sucker for silhouette illustrations, but these were so small that they certainly didn’t work as Christmas ornaments. So they’ve been hanging around my office, unappreciated.


Then the other day I was looking for something else and ran across the little black frames. They are either the ones I bought for fifty cents in 2007, or the splurge I made in 2006—three small frames for a buck. In any case, a few minutes time, a little bit of blue paper for the background, and voila.

Anything looks amazing when it’s framed, doesn’t it? Now I just have to decide where to display them. At the moment they’re in my bathroom IMG_9577 tempting the Dansk cat.

Saturday, October 23, 2010


Tap. Tap. Tapity tap. Taptaptaptaptap.

Oh no. The dread sound of…rain! On Saturday morning! It wasn’t raining an hour earlier when I got up. And Google weather PROMISED me on my very own Google homepage that it would be no more than cloudy this morning.

Betrayed by Google!

But I am brave, I am philosophical. I pine not for the yard sales that are my weekly birthright. I know how to console myself when such a calamity befalls.

I’m baking cinnamon rolls. Real ones, not something from a can that you smash on the edge of your countertop. Yeast dough with mashed potato in it. I found the perfect sweet roll dough in my favorite baking book—The Fanny Farmer Baking Book by Marion Cunningham. If I could have only one baking book in my house, this would be the one. She is a terrific food writer, and everything I’ve made from this book has been fantastic. I notice there are a couple of very inexpensive copies on if you’re in the market.

(Digression: I once saw Marion Cunningham at a restaurant where I was lunching with friends, when I lived in San Mateo. I got all excited and said OMG look who just walked through to the kitchen, it’s Marion Cunningham! And of course they all looked at me blankly. All my celebrity sightings are like this. Okay, all two of them. The other was the time my husband and I were walking down a street in San Francisco, and I met the eyes of a man going the other way. It was the author Armistead Maupin. We smiled at each other as we passed, and I coolly waited about half a block before I grabbed Steven’s arm and said OMG did you see that guy, Armistead Maupin just smiled at me! He looked at me blankly too, not because he didn’t recognize the name, but because he hadn’t noticed anyone else on the sidewalk. We return now to sweet rolls.)

My dough is rising under this appropriate tea towel.IMG_9551 My mother sent me this set a while back; either she embroidered them or found them at a yard sale. The fabric is not absorbent enough to dry dishes well, but they’re perfect to cover bread as it rises.

Wish it would rise faster!

I may get the new cushions covered today that we bought for our Hans Olsen chairs.IMG_9561 It was very hard for the Queen of Fifty Cents to pay several times what the chairs cost for a couple of slabs of foam. But I remind myself that a) they are high quality slabs of foam and b) the chairs are worth more than a hundred times what I paid for them. They are still a bargain. And I just happen to have some fabric on hand that we will probably use. I actually bought it for slipcovers for our rattan set.

IMG_9553But now I think we’ll use it on the Olsen twins. The dilemma is, which side to use. The hubs likes this  IMG_9555 so of course I’m leaning toward the other side.IMG_9557 But I can live with either one. And there may be enough yardage to do it both ways. I toyed with perhaps making new covers for Lizzie’s favorite chairIMG_9559 but she and I are both awfully fond of the fabric that’s on there.

My sewing machine is out and ready to go. A few days ago I used the already-felted angora sweater that I found last summerIMG_8299to make bed socks (cannot sleep if feet are cold!).IMG_9564  The short sleeves were left over, so they became mitts.IMG_9567 My preparations for winter seem to be complete.

Let me leave you with something from my sister, Midcentury Marilyn, that cracked me up. This is from the email she sent me this morning: “Here's the craigslist winner of the week:   HUGE MULIT-FAMILY SALE  I'm trying to figure out of it's a multi family sale or a family with mullet haircuts, this IS Oklahoma, so it could be either!”

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Saturday, October 16, 2010


Yes, the Beverly Hillbillies were alive and well and shopping on Southern California driveways this morning. Here’s what my car looked like when I got home.IMG_9502All I lacked was some banjo music playing, though I can’t offhand think of any that would have expressed the right mid century vibe.

And that excited screaming you heard a few minutes past noon? That was me, when I figured out what I scored.

Until I hit the last couple of places it had been a low-key morning. Exchanged pleasantries a few places but no real conversations developed. There was a neighborhood sale with quite a few participants, but most of the sales were in the townhome part of that tract, where there is almost nowhere to park. And a couple of times when I did find a place to pull over, the sales were junky/too expensive/baby stuff—or all three. Headed on to the single-family-home part, where my big buys were some padded hangersIMG_9511a copy of Pleasantville, which I’ve been wanting to see again so I can drool over its Fifties decorIMG_9505and an unopened bag of color-coordinated M&Ms left over from someone’s recent party. (Digression: why in the world would you a) buy color coordinated M&Ms in the first place, and then b) not eat them yourself if you have some left?) I was ready for some chocolate by then, so I paid my quarter and took them with me. Besides, turquoise is the color of the year for 2010. ;o)IMG_9510When I finished this tract, I headed to another nearby sale I’d seen advertised in Craiglist. Two families who are leaving the country soon and selling everything. They did have quite a bit of stuff, and the first thing I noticed was a nice looking wooden daybed with a pull out trundle. It would work in one of our future guest rooms, so I asked the price. Ready? Five hundred bucks.

Okay, yes, it was a nice piece. I’m sure they paid a lot for it in some store, and it looked fairly new. But $500 on a driveway? Not.

I did find one thing there that I like, can’t wait to go through it. Is this not the perfect book for me?IMG_9506Every page looks like it has something interesting, and it’s all eye candy. The only text is a couple of pages of introduction.IMG_9508 IMG_9507By now some of you are asking, “Where’s the stuff that was in the car? And where are the DOGS?” I thought it was going to be a dogless morning, but finally came upon Opie.IMG_9488He’s a very fluffy long-haired dachshund. From the top is about the only way I can take a picture of these guys. I’m way too old to get down on the ground to catch a side view. Fortunately, this technique was not required for the other two dogs I met, Lucy and Shelbie. IMG_9489 IMG_9491Lucy, the brindle, has to be the tallest dog I have ever seen. Her back was at my waist. Her legs made me think she might be part giraffe. Her companion is only six months old, so no telling how tall she’ll be.

They were walking by the sale where I made my first furniture score. Yard sale activity ceased while we all met the dogs. When they continued their walk, I went back to buying this nice pair of teak mid century bedside tables.IMG_9514 They had three dressers that went with them, but I held myself to these two, knowing I’ll be able to use them—and that I could get them home. They fit nicely in the back seat of the convertible.The guy I bought them from had them all through his childhood, and his brother had them before him, and their sister had them first. I think a good polishing with lemon oil will shine them right up.

I was pretty satisfied once I found these and headed home. I almost didn’t pull over at the last sale I passed, but the parking was easy and there were a couple of chairs that looked interesting. More mid century. Not in perfect shape, and I could see that originally they would have had a seat cushion. I asked if they had the cushions for them but they didn’t. I almost didn’t buy them, I was afraid the finish on the arms might be damaged. But we negotiated a price of $7 for the pair, and I felt like I had to rescue them. They were unloved and forlorn. Somehow wrangled everything into the car, and I drove the rest of the way slowly so the trunk lid wouldn’t bang on the table I’d managed to stuff back there.

When I was taking the chairs out of the car, I spotted this on one. JK = Juul Kristensen of Denmark.

IMG_9523 So I knew at least that they are definitely Danish, and the wood looks like rosewood to me. I took a cloth and wiped a spot on the arm, and what I thought might be damaged finish is just dirt. Lots of dirt.

IMG_9524 Took them out on the patio to snap a few pics.

They’re in pretty darned good condition, considering the neglect they seem to have endured. Once I had their picture, I went online to see if I could figure out anything about them. Took about fifteen minutes (hey, I’m a librarian—we research) and when I realized what I have I started yelling. All the pets came rushing into my office. “Hans Olsen!” I shrieked. “They’re by Hans Olsen!” Lizzie and Edward looked at each other and shrugged. Okay, so dogs don’t get excited about vintage furniture designers. But when nearly every comparable piece you find online includes the word ‘rare’ in its description you get excited. I found one like mine on this blog. The closest match I found that’s for sale has simpler arms, and the price is $550. And I have two!

Woo hoo! Shopping on driveways is the best!

Sunday, October 10, 2010


The fun started on Friday with an email from my colleague Cathy. “thought of you today....saw two mid-century modern lamps for $10 at a yard sale in Fullerton. she said if they didn't sell she would email me. they had the double ringed type of shade in bark type fabric with a print, and some interesting metal rods coming down over a pink enamel ball of had to see it....If I hear back from her, will send you her email....”

Dang, I thought, they sound great and someone is sure to snatch them up. Oh well. But a while later this popped up in my inbox: “JUST GOT THIS FROM THEM......YOU CAN LOOK AT PHOTO AND CONTACT IF YOU WISH......GOOD LUCK”

And the picture?

vintage lamps How fast do you think I got in touch with them?! A couple of emails and a phone call later and the hubs and I were in the car, heading for Fullerton.

There is a whole world of subtext to the phrase “heading for Fullerton.” It involves getting to the 55 freeway, then Interstate 5, then the 57, then the 91…all of it in Friday afternoon rush hour traffic. If Steven hadn’t come along so we could use the car pool lane I think I might still be toiling along in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Even the car pool lane is bumper-to-bumper, but it usually moves a tad faster. Eventually we got there. Found the house, where the front door (no screen door) was standing wide open. Trusting people, I thought. I rang the door bell. No one came. Waited, rang again, no one came. A minute later a woman with a toddler came around the corner and saw us and called hi. She’d been out walking her grandson and said everyone else in the house must have ignored the bell. She took us in the garage to see the lamps, talking all the while. She was in her early to mid sixties, and said these lamps had belonged to her parents. “They had all that blond furniture, that’s what I grew up with,” she told us. “My dad tried to give us his dining room set but I didn’t have room for it, and it’s not my taste. I don’t know what he ever did with it. I think my brother in law took it. One of the grandsons wanted it, but he wanted to paint it black and it really was too good for that.”

At this point I am practically gasping with pain, imagining what was probably Heywood-Wakefield dining room furniture being shoved unloved to whoever would take it. She also described their sofa, which was probably one of the Hey-Wake models with an attached end table. But alas, all she took from her parents’ house was these lamps, which have languished for years in her garage. They are going to be moving to Texas when her husband retires, so her daughter convinced her it’s time to get rid of stuff like these old lamps. We were able to sincerely assure them the lamps will have a good home. We ended up yakking for probably close to an hour, and I’m sure I could take a test on their family history and make a good grade.

By the time we left there, and dived back onto the various freeways, it was dinner time. We ended up stopping at our favorite Indian place, so perhaps I should add the cost of dinner to the price tag for the lamps, since if we hadn’t gone after them I would have cooked dinner at home. But I prefer to think of that as just a celebratory dinner to gloat over this find. IMG_9446As soon as we got home, Steven plugged them in and turned them on. The shades take on a new life when they are lit. I love the pattern in the fiberglass.

IMG_9447 Can’t help looking at these things without grinning. The combination of pink ceramic spheres with gold flecksIMG_9448wire supports

IMG_9450 IMG_9449 and the atomic-motif balls under the pink partIMG_9453 just crack me up. I have no idea where they will end up in our retirement house, but wherever we put them I know they will be worthy conversation pieces.

So that was Friday’s big excitement. Saturday was even better (though no more midcentury finds) because…wait for it…I sold three copies of my book to people at their yards sales!

I know, how crazy is that? As one lady said, “This is the time I ever bought anything at my own yard sale!”

It came about just from chatting. No, I'm not yet walking around with copies of my novel, accosting strangers and forcing them to buy it. (Though I’m not saying I might not try that sometime. I do have a box of copies in the trunk of my car, just in case.) At the first place, this was the sequence: I asked the prices on a couple of items, and they were fifty cents. I mentioned my blog, since that’s my favorite price, and gave the two ladies having the sale my blog card. One of them said she liked the logoHen_Logoand I mentioned that I used it for my publishing company too, and that my first book has just come out. She very kindly asked what it’s about, and when I described it said she and a friend had just gotten back from a mystery conference, it’s her favorite kind of book. She bought two copies, one for herself and one for her friend. I even got to sign autographs. So thank you, Nancy, you really and truly made my day. Sure hope you like the book!

Further down the road, something similar happened. This time it started with a vintage bed, and I mentioned how I wished it were a pair of twin beds instead of a double since I need some for the retirement house, which led to describing how we plan to have writing and storytelling retreats there, and then to the book, and by gum they wanted a copy too. (Thank you, Marilyn!) There will probably be no living with me now. Actually, it’s really motivating me to finish the editing on the next book.

When I wasn’t taking in money, I managed to shell out a whole $7. I came home with 8 DVDs not in our collection.IMG_9475 IMG_9473A couple of them cost a buck, but most were 25 cents. I am willing to try most any movie for a quarter. We watched part of Dinotopia last night, and it’s a hoot. If you’re old enough to remember the old Spin & Marty TV show, this is like an update of that—with dinosaurs.

I found a darling vintage dessert plateIMG_9463 to fill the gap in our collection left by something getting broken a while back. We use these wooden racks for our platesIMG_9478 so that everything is accessible (every plate is different, and we get to choose at each meal which to use). It also keeps me from bringing home too many dishes, since I can only have 8 of each size. I looked up the logo on the back of this new one and found the company (Bishop & Stonier) used this particular logo from 1891 to 1936. So it’s definitely new only to me!

I’m hoping to resell this 60s-vintage Fisher Price clock.IMG_9472It’s been pre-loved, but still plays “My Grandfather’s Clock” when you wind it up.

Found some future door prizes, including a wooden puzzle for toddlersIMG_9460a cute bookmarkIMG_9459  and a Dakin giraffe puppet. IMG_9464 Lizzie really, really wanted the puppet for her own, but I resisted, since her intentions were to chew off the tips of the ears, remove the eyes, then open a seam so she can pull out the stuffing.IMG_9467I know this from past experience.

Picked up this box of soaps

 IMG_9455 IMG_9458 because I like having a variety of soaps to choose from, and I like chickens. Certainly would NEVER have paid the original price (this is for 4 small guest-size soaps!).IMG_9477And I can never resist images of reading, so I got a box of a dozen cards and envelopes.IMG_9461If I have a frame the right size in my stash I think I’ll hang up one of the cards. I looked up the artist, Nishan Akgulian. Click on the ‘bas bleu’ category for more of his reading images. I love them!

Speaking of love…yes, there were dogs this week! Lucy the chocolate LabIMG_9429 was described by her owner as ‘a very kind dog.’ Sweet little Coco Chanel is a Springer mix.IMG_9431 Poor baby was attacked by another dog not long after she was rescued at age two, but she recovered from some pretty awful damage. She still has a bit of a ‘hitch in her getalong’ (sounds so much better than ‘limp’!) but doesn’t seem to mind a bit. (Dogs are such good role models.)

Young Samantha they said is “a purebred Basset with the coat of a Springer.”IMG_9434She certainly wiggled like a Basset when she met some kids. And upholding the kitty end, we have Brashus.

IMG_9443That’s as close as I can get to her name, evidently bestowed by a four-year-old. She is definitely NOT Precious, since she alternates between being friendly and biting.

Let me end with showing you the thank you card I received for my library program last week. IMG_9480It was kind of heavy when I slid it out of the envelope.

IMG_9481See what a lucrative week it’s been? Three books sold at yard sales, and a fifty cent honorarium. Priceless!

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