Saturday, May 9, 2020

A Fine Surprise

I received a surprise yesterday, and unlike some that have come down the pike recently (yes, I’m talking pandemic) this one was quite nice.

When I went outside to water plants in pots, I found this box on my porch.

I had no recollection of ordering anything from them, and my subscription to the magazine does not arrive in a box. I continued to be mystified as I looked through the contents. A jug of liquid fertilizer, a cure for poison ivy rash. Some plant catalogs…At last I unearthed a  postcard that said “Thanks for signing up for our 2020 Garden Vision Newsletter!”

I had no recollection of signing up for this, but I do voluntarily receive some of their email newsletters so I'm sure I opted for this one. I had to go online to find out that the first 250 people who signed up would get a prize box worth $150. Which jogged my memory a little. I get their emails early in the morning, so I figured I might have a shot of being among the first 250, and who wouldn’t want some garden-related loot?

It's actually a pretty good prize. I got a $50 gift certificate from Bluestone Perennials, $25 for Oakes Daylilies, a BOGO for a Proven Winners shrub, plus the fertilizer and poison ivy wash.

Plus a lovely box. A nice box is always a good thing.

I'm certainly looking forward to using my gift cards for more plants, though I must admit I am a bit planted-out. Since March 18 I have planted 109 plants (and yes, I know some of you have planted much more, and I'm suitably impressed). A fair number were used in containers, including my new window boxes that friend Lonna’s sweetie ‘Dick’ll-do-it’ made for my house, but many went into the ground. But it will be fun to find some more perfect plants to add. Right now I just want to watch things grow for a while.

I figure now that I have stuff to wash off poison ivy I'll probably never encounter it again. Which is fine by me; horrible stuff. I have to say, I'm intrigued by the pictures on the box. Where did they find this poor kid with poison ivy rash on his face? 

Was there some national contest – “Send us your child’s picture with poison ivy rash and if you are the winner, you will receive $1500 cash, residuals for the life of the child, and 144 tubes of our product!” I can just imagine the mama encouraging her son to go play in the woods. Or maybe it's the work of a talented makeup artist?

There was one aspect of my prize box that I put into use immediately. For some reason they had included a handful or two of that crinkly brown paper packing material, which seems a bit silly since everything in the box was paper. 

But as it happens, it was exactly what I needed to refresh the carved wooden cattails in a bowl I found last fall. 

Millie has enjoyed removing these paper shreds that cover up the block of florist’s foam holding the cattails. Thanks to Fine Gardening, it’s all fluffy again!

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

A Tiny Splurge

Strange times we are living in, right? Went to two sales on Friday, with no idea that these may be the last ones for a while, since we are all supposed to stay away from each for the foreseeable future. My own life is much the same as usual – I live alone and occasionally see other people, mostly at the dog park or the grocery store. But no more crowded estate sales for some time!

Friday’s first sale was for some folks who have moved over to the coast, and were selling the leftovers they weren’t taking. I spent a total of $2 and happily carried off a Pyrex pie dish 

(to replace the lovely vintage one that spontaneously shattered in storage – I could hardly believe my eyes when I opened that drawer!), 

a package of “cushion grip” push pins, 

two little spice jars, 

and a new bowl for Millie (who pushes her dish off the counter from time to time and breaks it, so a quarter is the most I want to spend!).

Then I headed to the estate sale, which was indeed crowded – both with stuff and shoppers. Didn’t find anything I wanted in the house, but out in the backyard I had more luck. I really liked the wrought iron sculpture of cattails and leaves, about 4 feet tall, but the price tag was twenty-five bucks. I just couldn’t do it; plants are a higher priority in my re-landscaping project and I need quite a few (my lot is just under a quarter of an acre). So I sighed and passed up the art. But a few feet away were some rather beat-up metal bell-shaped flowers stuck in the ground. 

They were priced at two bucks each, and when I looked at them I had An Idea. So I picked out three, and when I went to pay the guy taking money was happy with a fiver for the trio.

When I got home I located sandpaper in my untidy garage and scoured out the inside of each one, as well as rubbing off any rust on the stakes. Then I decided they might as well get really clean, so I loaded them in the dishwasher. They looked even rougher when I took them out! 

But not for long – I masked the edges on the backside, 

nestled them into a cardboard box, and sprayed the inner surfaces with copper metallic spray paint that I had on hand.

Wow, what a difference! I love them, and I think the copper surface makes them look quite upscale. 

My little splurge looks like it must have been a much bigger splurge than it was…my favorite kind of splurge of all!

Monday, March 9, 2020

Slim Pickings!

Every weekend I keep thinking that sales will start to pick up.

So far, I've been wrong!

I went to two estate sales on Friday. At the first, I picked up a large Silpat (silicone baking sheet) for a buck, because my ex had recently asked me to keep an eye out for one. This is one of those items I almost never see at sales, so I was amazed to run across one only days after we talked about it. For another fifty cents, I scored a woven basket.

 I've been looking for a wastebasket for my garage near the washer and dryer. For almost two years now I've thrown away lint from the dyer into an old paper grocery bag. 

I'm thrilled to finally upgrade to something so much nicer! This classic basket is beautifully made of split bamboo. My lint is going to feel so upscale from now on!

 Found nothing at the second sale, but had a nice chat with the ladies running it. They were the same folks who ran that once-in-a-lifetime sale three years ago where I got all the cashmeres. (Not surprisingly, I was actually wearing a cashmere sweater and a cashmere muffler from that sale on Friday.) There was so much stuff the sale ran for two weekends (and they said there was still a ton left at the end). The first weekend I spent $48 and brought home 55 items, including a Pendleton blanket that I sold on eBay for quite a lot more than I paid. (For everything, not just the blanket!) The second weekend (when prices were marked to half) I spent another $40 for 75 items, including more cashmere sweaters and several pairs of Pendleton wool slacks. It was so nice to be able to tell the ladies who ran that sale how much it meant to me and my posse. In fact, we get together every year to toast the lady whose things they were. She has come to feel like a favorite aunt whom we still miss, but so appreciate what she left us!

Last weekend I drove up to Seattle to attend the Northwest Garden Show. Lots of gorgeous stuff to see and lots and lots of people (“masses of asses” as KK so succinctly puts it). There was wonderful eye candy but the prices were not tempting. In fact, my only souvenir of the trip was a little cashmere cardigan I found at the Goodwill bins in Olympia, which are conveniently located just off the freeway. This is where they sell leftovers by the pound; the only thing my rummaging turned up that I liked was this sweater - which cost a measly 59. It was quite small, but no matter – I cut off the sleeves to make arm warmers (which I call ‘sleevie wonders’),

and the body of the sweater became a long pair of bed socks.

Just the kind of travel souvenirs I like – warm, soft and thrifty!

Friday, January 31, 2020

The Queen of Fifty…Crepes!

The “huge moving sale, everything goes!” on the west side of town this morning…wasn’t. Oh, I'm not disputing that the guy is moving. And what I saw might actually have been his idea of “everything.”

Huge, it was not.

Oh well.

But the estate sale not far from my house was much better. (Whew.) The lady the sale was for is 93 and moving in with her daughter. She was a wood carver and also did that Norwegian style of painting called rosemåling, which I admire but have never wanted to collect. There was a large free standing wooden cabinet with painted doors that I could have fallen in love with though, if 1) I had room for it and b) it had not been $150. 

Fortunately there were some things more in my price range.

It seemed that she had a special love for carving wooden Santas, and they were flying out the door. One lady showed me the adorable one she was getting of Santa carrying a little Noah’s ark and holding up a red umbrella. We stood there and chuckled at it. I didn’t get a Santa, but I did select this fun snowman.

I love his twig arms, though they may need replacing from time to time. But twigs should not be that hard to come by.

I picked up some tomato cages (which look exactly like every other metal tomato cage you’ve ever seen). This time of year I need something to remind me that winter will not last forever. I also got this piece of yard art,

and a little metal chickadee like the ones I always admire at garden shows.

This kitty plate is tiny, but I think it will be just right to hold a tea bag. On the bottom it says it was made in Thailand, so even though it's a black kitty, it must be a Siamese cat, right?

So, a fun morning though a short outing. But last Saturday Judy and KK and I went to a couple of sales, and I had one really great score.

The backstory starts about 4 years ago, when KK found a large round electric griddle at an estate sale. She gambled four bucks on it, hoping it still worked, and when she got it home and researched found it's actually a crepe griddle. For making the big crepes like you get in a crepe restaurant. I was suitably jealous (especially when she would tell me of some fabulous crepes they had for dinner) and told her the next one we saw had to be mine.

So imagine the thrill when she emerged from the basement of the house we were in clutching an identical crepe griddle! She handed it over with a grin as I wept in delight. (Well, almost.) I did have the presence of mind to plug the thing in to make sure it would heat up. My heart would have been broken if it hadn’t worked, but hooray, it did.

Ironically, both griddles came from estate sales run by the same company.

I have been in crepe making heaven! Lunches, dinners, desserts. Okay, yes, breakfast too. I keep a container of crepe batter in the fridge and have been playing French chef with practically every ingredient in my house. So far they’ve all been good. I don't usually pause to take a picture, but this dessert crepe that included chocolate ganache, lemon curd, brandied cherry sauce and some whipped cream was the bomb.

My posse is joining me tomorrow night for a crepe party.


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!

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