Friday, April 30, 2010


Looks like I won't be able to go out to yard sales this Saturday. Have to do something for work that starts at 10 a.m. I thought maybe I could go out for an hour or two but feeling pressed for time takes a lot of the joy out of it. So I'll probably spend a leisurely Saturday morning, instead of a harried one running around.

But I wanted to post something in here, and got to wondering about how many fun things I find that cost less than fifty cents. The thought was triggered by hanging out laundry the other day. My clothes pins came from yard sales (of course!) and include these that I bought for a dime.

That’s a dime for each card of 12—the proverbial dime a dozen! Every time I use them, I feel the same satisfaction as when I bought them—which is one of the reasons we all keep thrifting, right? I suppose it's possible to have that feeling for something you bought at retail, but I bet it's a lot rarer. In any case, my clips made me start wondering about how many things I've gotten for less than fifty cents. And because I’ve kept a spreadsheet of my finds for the past four years it was easy to find out!

The first thing that struck me was how many free things I've been given. Only a handful came from a free box. Many were items to pass along to my children’s librarians, including puppets, toys, and a fetching dolphin hat.

Lots of free magazines too. Who cares if Martha is current?
My memory told me that a dime is the least I ever pay for anything, but the spreadsheets tell another story. On a good day, on a good driveway, a nickel might bring you a silver plated lasagna server…
…a vintage tablecloth…
…or a lantern—complete with a new candle!
When you’re willing to spend ten cents, it's amazing what you’ll find. It could be a trivet with shells and acorns…
…or a sea otter magnet…
…or cute little toys…

…or vintage clothing…

…or even a magnificent bowl of cobalt cut glass.
Step up to a quarter, and now we’re in the big time. As I wrote back in January, my personal basic monetary unit is the twenty-five cent cashmere sweater. At the time I'd only found one of those, but earlier this month I found two more.

A quarter can buy a variety of mice…

…or a gift for a friend…
… a variety of vintage needlework…

…or even a moose!
So what’s at the other end of the spectrum? Apparently ten bucks is almost always my outer limit; only 7 times in five years have I gone over that for a single item. Most expensive was the $40 electric lawn mower, but hey, my husband was just about to buy a new one for five times that, and it came with a hedge trimmer and 150 feet of extension cord!
Thanks for strolling down memory lane with me. Of course, besides the knowledge of getting so much for so little, I've had the privilege of the stories that came with the bargains. The woman whose elderly cat was taken by a coyote in the middle of a Huntington Beach suburb; the guy who gave me the dolphin hat behind his wife’s back; the seller who told me with great intensity, “You do not know what you have here. Thees ees alpaca from Peru. Thees ees a wonderful sweater. Very expensive. You are stealing it, stealing it!”

Have fun this Saturday. Hope you find some steals!

Saturday, April 24, 2010


Today was Kitty Day on the yard sale trail. Which is good, because my friend Marcia was with me. She is currently kitty-less and can always use a dose of kitty petting. We started with 14 year old Gracie.
As we stood on Gracie’s driveway admiring her and talking about cats, the husband suddenly narrowed his eyes and said, “You came to our sale last year. Do you drive an Audi convertible?” It all came flooding back. That’s Marcia’s car, which she had parked in front of his house and they’d had a long conversation about it. The conversation meandered on, and before too long the wife was talking about how paralyzed she is by all the stuff in her garage, things they inherited from Uncle Bill and some of it is valuable and she’s afraid she’ll get rid of something she shouldn’t. Marcia and I and the other couple standing there offered advice on ways to part with belongings and encouragement to do so. And the more we talked the more familiar it all seemed. I'm about 90% sure we had the same conversation with the same woman on the same driveway about the same stuff a year ago.

I'm going to declutter something the instant I finish this post.

We continued on our way. Our slow way—we had conversations throughout the two neighborhoods we went to. If it wasn’t me striking up a conversation it was Marcia, or both of us. The first tract seemed to have a baby at practically every house. Marcia checked out a nice set of golf clubs at one of these. The young father selling them said they’re almost new. “We used them one day on the golf course, and once at the driving range, and then the kids started coming,” he said.

Should have taken a picture of the sofa that tempted me. Very modern and low slung. Upholstered in solid orange. We emailed my husband a picture of it, but we finally decided it’s not exactly what we’d like for the retirement house, and there’s still plenty of time to look for one we’ll really love. I would love to have gotten this beauty for my present house but a) I'm not putting stuff into this house and b) it wouldn’t fit.
A vintage O’Keefe & Meritt gas range, with the grill in the middle of the top. I was especially taken by the Grillevator.
We chatted for a while with these folks; the daughter is expecting her fourth baby in June. She told us she does sales regularly, and how much she enjoys talking to the people who come. “There was this one guy once, you could just tell he was really shy,” she said. “Wouldn’t make eye contact, everything about his body language said ‘don’t notice me.’ He started looking through a box of books and grabbed one. ‘I've been looking for this book for three years!’ he said. It was part of a series and he had the rest but couldn’t find this one.” Isn’t it great to know you’ve made someone’s day? And she was fifty cents richer into the bargain!

Around the corner I spotted this homemade CD.

The two ladies having the sale gave it to us. One of them put together this mix when she got divorced. We were all cracking up over her play list. What a wonderfully cathartic way to celebrate the end of a bad relationship.

We moved on to the next neighborhood. At one place we walked up just as an old lady had finished buying a small skillet, and she and the seller were laughing. “Sounds like you’re all set now,” said the seller, “for cooking or killing!” The old lady said something about being married for 55 years, and how some days it could go either way.

Across the street Marcia tried out this beauty.

“Doris Day would sit in one of these to talk to Rock Hudson,” she said. We both loved it but lack of room or the inclination to pay the asking price made us move on. Down the street we met another nice kitty.
I asked his name. “Oiler,” said his owner, and laughed at our expressions. “He came with that name, I just never changed it.” She had an absolutely beautiful flower garden. We smelled roses and talked about plants, and she said to go look at the back yard. Her granddaughter took us through, and it was as beautiful as anything I've seen on a garden tour.

Besides the wonderful flowers, she had chickens. Lucky woman.
There were also some large aviaries for canaries, and the granddaughter brought us her parrolet Sasha to pet.
It was hard to tear ourselves away, but there was another large sale across the street. Should have stayed in the garden! The first thing I noticed at this one was the strong hit of cigarette smoke I got as soon as I walked up. Don’t think I've ever ranted about cigarettes in here, and I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings…but I absolutely hate them. I'm extremely sensitive to cigarette smoke. By the time I left this place my lungs literally hurt. I kept trying to move upwind of the smoker while Marcia looked at things, but then she and her ciggie would move and I'd get another snootful. M was rather taken with a Seth Thomas mantel clock but ultimately decided that fixing it would be more expense than it was worth. As we left I saw the seller (still smoking) and the guy she’d been talking to (also smoking) rush over and start examining the clock, as though they thought we’d done something to it. I halfway expected them to chase us and demand restitution or something.

But they were really the only sour note of the morning. Around the corner we talked to a pair of transplanted New Yorkers. The wife made us smell her sweet peas.
These are Father Francis Cupani sweet peas, dating back to 1695. You can read about them here. The colors were absolutely stunning. And across the street we talked to a nice lady named Donna, who claimed that her front garden was terribly neglected as we gaze in awe. Japanese irises must thrive on neglect!
I loved this little white flower. I think it's a bulb. Anyone know what it is?

I did a little more buying this week than last, but was still pretty restrained—to the tune of $4.40. I know nothing about these movies except that they have some good actors in them.
Mary Engelbreit’s magazine is now defunct. I'll enjoy looking through these old ones.
I picked up some prizes for my children’s librarians—dolphins…
…and a bunch o’ finger puppets.
And this funny frog planter came from the New Yorkers.

Speaking of planters, I made good on last week’s ‘use it now’ criterion. I replanted this pot for a shady spot by the family room sliding doors
and then added my new funny little bird.
Much less serious now! And the water garden tub ended up on the patio outside my home office. I moved around several pots to create this vignette.
All three of the plants are growing, especially one of the water lilies.

As soon as the water closed over their heads you could practically hear them sigh with relief.

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