Sunday, August 31, 2008


Three-day holiday weekends usually mean a radical drop in the number of yard sales around here, and that was certainly the case this time. I bought two items at the first place I stopped and that was it. If only I were more psychic...I've got a cold and it would have been nice to head home after buying those two things. Which of course I could have done, psychic or not, but those of you who are thrifters will understand the thrill of the chase. It's my form of gambling. You just know you’ll get a big hit if you keep going. And of course you’re way more likely to do that if you’re gambling on garage sales and not in Las Vegas!

I had a meeting with two of my new children’s librarians on Thursday and they asked me how to get started going to garage sales. Neither of them had ever been before, which seemed strange to me, but then my mother took me to sales as a child. (I think it's equally strange that there are people who do not go to their public library—all that great stuff to use for free!) So I gave them a quick tutorial on getting started on their garaging careers, while warning them that pickings on a holiday weekend might be slim. I guess it could be daunting to walk up to a stranger’s house and start looking at their stuff. I just hope they didn’t run into anyone like the grumpy woman I heard saying to her daughter, “These shoes have a $40 price tag on them! Why didn’t you take them back to the store and get the $40 back?” I glanced over in time to see her take them away from the lady who wanted them and refuse to sell them to her. Got in my car and left. I try never to spend any money at sales with a nasty vibe!

Had one other weird moment. There was a sale strewn down a sidewalk, and a guy walking a dog had just come up. The woman running the sale started cooing at the dog, and mentioned she was dog-sitting at the house where the sale was. Then she said since the neighbors had put up signs for their sale, she’d decided to pull some stuff out to sell too. Now, I can't help wondering…if she was the pet sitter and it wasn’t her house, was it her stuff she was selling, or the people’s she was sitting for?

I spent $1.50, and brought home these two fine items:

M.E. cup and saucer. I liked the ‘have tea with the Queen’ bit.

Cup warmer. I was doing interviews with a couple of colleagues last week and something was said about these, and one of them had never heard of such a thing. Hope she didn’t rush off to Target to buy one, since I plan to send her this!

You may remember that a couple of weeks ago I got some clip art disks sans one of the books of thumbnails. I started going through them and have found some pretty fun pictures. The ones I like best I'm just saving to my computer, like:

This is the new wallpaper on my computer!

Next weekend is one of the four per year that folks can legally have yard sales in the town I live in. (Luckily none of the other towns around have that rule!) So I look forward to more sales being available to me—not to mention renewed vigor in my health. Summer colds—bah, humbug!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Curious George: He's on track and on time!

Thank you so much to all of you who helped me with my watch! I took every suggestion and tried them out. Nothing worked. The watch was clearly running, but it simply would not set. No amount of button poking made any difference.

So a few minutes ago I took George out to the toolbox in the garage. My thought was to remove the battery and reinstall it, thinking that would make it go back to setting mode. But when I opened the back, the whole inside slipped out, not just the back to reveal the battery. I picked it up and saw some little metal flanges on the side. Aha, I said (probably out loud, since I do talk to myself), those are the points that make contact when you push the buttons. So I tried pushing them with a tiny screwdriver. Lo and behold, in a couple of minutes I had set the time and the date (which must be what the 1721 was for, though I'm not too sure what month would correspond to 17). And the :00 was for seconds, which are now ticking merrily away.

I think perhaps what happened was, when I put it together after installing the battery I probably got it slightly whopperjawed in the case, so the buttons weren't hitting the flanges quite right. It's a theory, anyway. Or maybe it's just a dud watch that no one has ever been able to set. After all, I only paid fifty cents for it! At least I've now had the opportunity to use the words "whopperjawed" and "flanges" in the same sentence.

That's got to be worth something!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Blogging is SO educational!

I really, really love the comments I get from you all. Reminds me of the amazing way the Internet is both personal and impersonal. We can be anywhere in the world, and come together like this. And good heavens, I am learning so much from you! Catherine tells me that one of last weekend's vintage linens is decorated with coronation cord, which hasn't been made since the 20s!

I'd never heard of it before. What do you want to bet I'll start spotting it, now that it's come to my attention? (I hope!) And I think Cathy's right about the other embroidery being more Deco than Victorian. You guys are so smart!

So I have a question and I really, really hope someone has the answer! The Curious George digital watch I got a couple of weeks ago now has a new battery and is merrily ticking away. But I cannot for the life of me figure out how to set the time on it! It has one knob on the side that can be pressed, and the little depression thingy that you press with a paperclip or some such. Can't find an instruction manual online anywhere. Somehow I managed to get some numbers on it, but they're not the ones I want. It's 5:38 pm and the watch says 9:13, or if I press the knob once 1721, or twice it goes to :00. Doesn't seem to make any difference when I press the indent. Any ideas? I'm dying to wear my new watch, but I'm too math challenged to add what, 3 hours and 35 minutes to know what time it is...

Sunday, August 24, 2008


The through-line in Saturday’s garaging seemed to be dealing with the stuff that our elderly parents leave behind. It's certainly an issue in my own family right now. My mother has moved into assisted living, and as many before her have discovered, you cannot move forty years of stuff from a three bedroom house into a two room apartment. She was already amazed at what she found when she started going through my father’s desk after he died. I don’t know how he got it all into the relatively small space of a desk and a file cabinet, but there were financial records and receipts going back to the forties. She wore out a shredder and then took bags of stuff to a commercial shredding place. The scary thing is, he wasn’t known as the packrat of the family. You can imagine what’s left to be gone through! Kind of like the little scene I witnessed yesterday at a sale that had miscellaneous items strewn from the driveway all across the front yard. A young man stood by a single table of odds and ends, talking to a buddy. I heard him say, “This [pointing to his table] is my stuff. That [sweeping his arm to indicate everything else] is mom’s.”

In our case it's my sister who’s having to deal, since she lives about 1300 miles closer. I revere her! Go by her website sometime, maybe you’ll find a vintage item you can't live without. (Don’t miss the picture logo I made for her site!)

It seemed like about every third sale yesterday was stuff from elderly parents. At one, two ladies were talking about just this topic. One was moaning about the decades of detritus in her parents’ house. The other said her mother had taken a different tack. As she got older, she started giving stuff away. To anyone. If the gardener did a good job mowing the lawn, she gifted him with something from her house. The woman telling the story seemed glad she’d had less to go through, but she also said, “Some of it was stuff you wish she hadn’t given away!”

The sale I most enjoyed yesterday was just one of these situations. The middle aged daughter had a huge amount of stuff for sale, and she said it was just a sample. She’s planning another sale in two weeks, and she said her mother (who’s still living in her own home) doesn’t even realize this stuff is gone from her house because there’s so much more still there. Evidently her mother was a notable seamstress who had a huge sewing room. I found a number of vintage sixties dresses that she'd made. I bought one in hopes the stains will come out). There were vintage linens and fabrics and tablecloths. Another shopper picked up an old alarm clock, the wind-up type with the bells on top, and asked if it were vintage. “Well, it's from the seventies, I had it in my room in high school,” the seller replied. “I guess that could be vintage. Or an antique. Guess I'm the antique.”

I know a lot of us who love to go thrifting can be suckers for a good deal. The amount of stuff we have can get scary. My house is relatively uncluttered, except for my home office, which at times is stuffed to the gills. When I need to declutter, I remember what William Morris said: “If you want a golden rule that will fit everything, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” That might just say it all.

But even William Morris can't stop me on a Saturday morning, though I hope he slows me down a bit. For $9.25 I came home with these things that I hope are useful and/or beautiful:

A set of farmyard hand puppets for a door prize. Useful for storytimes!

Some prizes for my Summer Reading Program—embroidered bag (useful for carrying a book or two around!)

box of cute candles

vintage embroidered cloth

and a “Gnome garden” complete with three inch tall gnome, imitation grass, a garden background, and a book about gnomes. Okay, William might not like this one. I think maybe we need to add to his quote: “Or things that make you laugh.”

A couple of pieces of clothing to sell

A velveteen patchwork rabbit

And these are from the seamstress’s sale, pretty stained and somewhat battered, but with a little care I think I can coax back some beauty:

Vintage tablecloth, I'm guessing from the 60s

Embroidered tablecloth—looks like 20s vintage to me

A couple of embroidered cloths, a very old one embroidered in silk, with insets of handmade netting (what do you think, Victorian period??) and a linen one that uses an unusual thick-and-thin braid which is couched into the design

Seven yards of vintage rayon fabric (for 50 cents!!). I may use this as the center of a bedspread, with some solid color borders to make it big enough.

This is the handmade dress. The front yoke and bands are cut in a single piece. This woman could sew!

And my favorite piece, this fabulous vintage apron. Looks like it was a kit, you can see the lines to embroider over in a couple of places. Don’t think this has ever been used.

Favorite quote of the day came from a man who said, “When I get ready to take my nap, everything that’s left is going in that dumpster.” Sure enough, there was a dumpster by the curb. My guess is his heirs won’t have a lot of clutter to deal with!

Saturday, August 16, 2008


I suspect a lot of us look for omens as we go through our days. If the next light is green, Bobby Jim will call me tonight—that sort of thing. I had a colleague once who told me that she believed the image on her dog-a-day calendar was an omen for what that day would be like.

I started thinking about this because I realized as I headed out this morning looking for yard sales that I've come to regard the first piece I hear on the classical radio station as an omen for the kind of morning it will be. (I never said it makes any sense!) A few Saturdays ago it was “The Tick Tock Clock” which sounded humorous. Last week it was Ravel’s “Bolero,” which I love and which strikes me as both exuberant and relentless. And yes, I can embody both those qualities on Saturday! But today nothing I heard felt like the musical omen I was looking for, and that was probably appropriate. I found some stuff to buy, but it was not a big day for stories or overheard conversations. Guess you can't have it all every week. Sometimes you get stories, sometimes you get stuff, sometimes you get both. And sometimes you get nothing—but not often enough to discourage you from going out again next Saturday!

I did speak to a few people. One was the couple whose neon green paper signs blazed the trail to their sale. I told them how great the signs were. The woman beamed and said her daughter did them. Her daughter could give lessons in the design and placement of sale sign. Even more importantly than getting me there, they also led the way back out!

At another stop I talked to a cute red-haired teenager, and he mentioned they’d had a sale the week before. Then he said something about his dad having died, and I realized this was one of the “two nineteen year old kids whose father just died and their mother is angry.” I said I was sorry about his father, and he said he’d died two years ago and they’d been dealing with probate. That story gets more cryptic all the time. Has the mother been angry for two years? She must be exhausted.

Another exhausted lady was part of a family having a humungous sale, spreading from the front yard, around the side and all across the back yard. I asked her if it was a group’s fund raiser and she said no, it had all belong to a bunch of crazy people who shopped constantly. They just bought stuff to be buying and put it in boxes and the entire house and garage and storage shed had been full. She said they’d had to go through everything because among all the stuff was actual money, and they didn’t want to just throw it away. Makes you wonder how much cash ends up in the landfill, doesn’t it? One of the other relatives told me they’d set up the sale yesterday, and she and her daughters had camped out in the yard last night to keep an eye on things. When the newspaper carrier drove by this morning she sat up to see who it was, and scared the guy half to death—he nearly ran into a parked car.

So I guess I did get a story or two after all!

Along with the story, I spent $10.50 and brought home:
Another apron-to-be.

The inevitable buttons—love the thistle design and there are eight of them.

A Curious George digital watch. I keep a supply of watch batteries on hand (found an online supplier that sells them for about forty cents each!) and wouldn’t you know that none of the six sizes in my stash are the right one? But George is reading a book on the watch face, so I've ordered yet another set of batteries. Hope that’s all it takes!

I've been wanting a container for my bathroom to put ibuprofen in (the bottle’s ugly and I get tired of childproof lids), so I got this little enameled-tin container.

Some DVDs that we either didn’t have, or to replace videotapes.

A sweater shaver. I've always wanted to try one of these—pills on sweaters annoy me. And now for fifty cents I can give it a whirl.

And this semi-nifty set of clip art on CDs.

I say semi because I managed to pick up only volume 2 of the user’s guide and visual catalog that has thumbnails of all the images. But keep your fingers crossed—I remembered where the sale was, checked on Craigslist to see if they’d advertised this morning, which they had, so I emailed them to ask if they still have volume one. Maybe I can pick it up next Saturday!

Thursday, August 14, 2008


I had no idea before I started this blog of all the tagging that goes on. No, not a bratty teen with a can of spray paint writing inscrutable (they hope) symbols over my prose. This is one of those tags that says ‘I like you.’ Melody over at My Little Blue Cottage has tagged me with a “Tree of Happiness” award, and I think her most sincerely for the honor!

I'm to regale you with six things that make me happy. Of course I can't do that until I've mused first. Somewhere in the world is a blogger who started this Tree of Happiness thing, and they decided that six was the perfect number of happy things. I wonder why six? I do like the number six. I was born on the sixth day of the month, and I was six when I learned to read, which—gosh!—is one of the things that has given me the most happiness in my life, not to mention a profession. Perhaps the originator was influenced by the Ingrid Bergman film The Inn of the Sixth Happiness. I got this recently from Netflix and thoroughly enjoyed it, despite the inauthentic casting. Turns out that though it is set in China, it was actually filmed in Britain and Wales, which would perhaps explain using Robert Donat as the Chinese mandarin.

There’s also the scene from Alice in Wonderland, when Alice tells the Queen that one can't believe impossible things. "I daresay you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."

Maybe the Tree of Happiness originator was a Kipling fan: “I keep six honest serving-men (They taught me all I knew); Their names are What and Why and When And How and Where and Who.” Or perhaps they trust this anonymous quote, as I do: “Our five senses are incomplete without the sixth - a sense of humor.”

All right, enough pontificating. You already know that reading makes me happy, and you can probably guess how much I love, love, love getting up on Saturday mornings and finding cool stuff on people’s driveways that I can buy for practically nothing while they tell me their life stories and then I get to rush home and write about it. The value added on this happiness is your comments—talk about the icing on the cake!

My home contains a lot of happiness too. That sweet man I've been married to for over 35 years (yes, of course I was a child bride!) and the furry folk we live with. (He’d probably rather not have his picture here, but I know that Lizzie, Edward, Noll and Mrs. Wilberforce won’t mind.) What do people do for laughs if they don’t have pets? And how the heck would you keep the kitchen floor clean?

This will mark me as terribly shallow but…my swimming pool makes me very happy. I never in my life thought I would have my own pool. I think it's beautiful, and it means I never have to be hot when I'm home. I just hate being hot!

Oh lord. This is even shallower. (At least the pool has a deep end!) But what can I tell you—my car makes me happy indeed. I never get in it, crank down the top, and take off that I don’t feel sixteen again and terribly cool.

But let me try to redeem myself a little. I'm very happy to work in a worthy profession with wonderful people. My friend Marcia runs our literacy program that has taught hundreds and hundreds of adults to read, and changed their lives. I hobnob every day with thirty fabulous women who work so hard to connect every child they meet with the fun and information to be found in public libraries. Jeez, am I lucky or what—all that and garage sales on Saturday too!
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