Sunday, November 30, 2008


In the spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday, the universe arranged to give me everything I'm most grateful for on a Saturday morning: unusual, thrifty finds and good stories. And there was no messing around—it started at the very first sale.

There was a lot of stuff on multiple tables on the driveway, more strewn down the sidewalk on tables and garment racks. The first thing I spotted was a plastic bag with an odd metal object in a basket of craft items. Luckily the original packaging was in the bag or I would never have known what it was:

A mat cutter, for picture frame matting. Woo hoo! And only a buck! If you’ve had anything framed recently you know how obscenely expensive it can be. We have a framed textile I bought last year (a whole saga in itself, which I will save for a later entry) that needed to be rematted, and just for the mat they quoted us a price of $50 at Michaels. Sometimes it makes sense to spend more fixing something up than you paid for it, but not fifty bucks for a piece of cardboard with a hole cut in it. So now we’ll be able to cut our own holes, and my new dream is to come across a yard sale with sheets and sheets of mat board for next to nothing. Hey, it could happen.

I met a couple of other Saturday morning regulars there, one after the other. The second, a lovely lady named Linda, endeared herself to me by saying how much she enjoys my blog. (Thank you, Linda, you really did make my day!) She’s part of an award winning singing group (you can listen to some snippets of their music here) and teaches music, which is no doubt why, when she saw this cool wrap I bought she said it looks like music notes.

I never would have thought of that! And it was Linda who spotted something colorful on top of the garment rack. She grabbed the purple objects and we began to giggle. One of the ladies having the sale came over to giggle with us. I assured her I wasn’t going to buy them, but had to get a picture, and since she had a matching purple thing on her head, she had to be in the picture too.

She said these are the perfect shoes for walking your dog. I said my husband is the dog walker in our house, and she said send him on over so he could try them on. And truth be told, he does actually wear high top basketball shoes and could probably negotiate these spikes better than I could! These had been great conversation starters all during their 2-day sale but she figured she’d actually keep them. Ooooh, I know, plant something in them, I said. Linda jumped in and showed her how to open the laces a bit and turn down a cuff. We all liked this idea, and I said if it were me I'd plant a single stipa tenuissima, one of my favorite grasses.

Then Linda spotted a little purse printed with Dorothy and company from the Wizard of Oz. The seller began to laugh anew. “I had a brain injury,” she said, “and my boss gave me that. He used to sing ‘If I Only Had a Brain’ too.” This was all the cue we needed. Linda and I launched into, “I would not be just a nuffin’, my head all full of stuffin’…” and by the end of the verse several people joined in. Then our purple lady showed us her necklace. “This is my Brain on a Chain,” she said, and sure enough she was wearing a sterling silver charm of a brain.

She told us she took a 35 foot fall last year. We assured her this is never a good idea. She agreed. She said she was out of work for seven months and was still dealing with memory problems, but she knew could have come out of it a quadriplegic. I went away awed at her cheerfulness, you couldn’t find anyone more upbeat. She’s a poster child for the truism that it's not what happens to us but how we take it that matters.

That was probably enough good deals and stories for one day, but the morning was still young. And at the very next sale I heard the seller reply to a question about price, “I have been looking for that for six months, and now here it is in your hand. I wonder what else my daughter has brought out here.” She went on to quote a price and sell whatever it was, so I guess she wasn’t too attached. Then a moment later she said, “Has anyone seen my glasses?” I said I hoped she hadn't sold them, and she laughed. “Could have, it's been that kind of day.” When I left I noticed a lady sitting on a chair at the end of the driveway and asked if she was demonstrating the merchandise. “I’m just watching that people don’t steal anything else,” she said. “It’s not even my sale, my daughter is over there looking at stuff, but they told me that several things were stolen already so I just thought I'd help keep an eye on things.” I suppose this could have been creepy, but it wasn’t. She was just being helpful. I agreed that stealing from a yard sale is pretty low, and told her that people also steal from libraries, where everything is free to use anyway, and how trashy is that.

Down the road I came across two sales next door to each other. At the first a young man was hanging up a long chiffon dress, and I told him he really should keep it, it was a good color for him. He laughed and said yeah, he’d worn it a couple of times but now he was tired of it. Then next door I met a lovely middle aged boxer dog named Ginger, who was quite agreeable to being petted. They said they got Ginger from boxer rescue several years ago, and she makes some little noises, but she has never barked.
Great tongue, huh?!

I was almost home when I spotted one more sale, and decided to turn around and check it out. A lucky decision, as it turned out. There was a Peter Rabbit puppet. A dollar, the seller said.

How about fifty cents, it's for a children’s librarian, I countered. (I know, I know, I can never resist.) She beamed. Just take it, we love libraries. I found some craft foam, and again she said if it's for the library, just take it. Then the two ladies having the sale looked at each other. “In fact, if there’s any more craft stuff you want for the library, you can have it.” Before I knew it they were gleefully filling bags and telling me which library they use. (Virginia, it was yours—you have some lovely patrons!) I can hardly wait for my next meeting so I can spread this largesse around.

My other purchases during the morning were a new package of sticky stuff for putting up posters or keeping candles upright; a cute little pin; and a book for my husband’s frog collection.

Not a huge haul, but I spent a total of $3.50 so not a huge outlay. And the stories? That’s right—priceless. And just for you, one more great quote: “Well, we managed to get the picnic table in the car, but my husband had to leave me and my daughter behind.”


  1. Your stories are priceless!! I'm amazed that there were so many yardsales where you live the weekend after Thanksgiving.

  2. I love your stories and how you weave them. I also am envious of how naturally comfortable with talking to everyone. It's a rare day when I strike up conversation despite the fact that I have many of them in my head. I just need to kick this shyness stuff.

  3. Great post as always. The purple boots are very cool!

  4. My Mom once bought a rocking chair at the thrift store and managed to stuff it into her teeny tiny little Subaru. She was so proud of herself, until she turned around and saw me standing there wondering how I was going to get home. Sometimes a baragin even makes up forget our family!!!!!

    Wonderful stories as always.

  5. Fantastic stories! What a score on the mat cutter too! How delightful that those women were willing to donate so many goodies to the library as well. What a great day :)

  6. Thirty. Five. Foot. Fall. My stars!

    And I am so wishing I knew where to find a brain on a chain too.

    --AlisonH at


I really love your comments. Thanks for coming along on my thrifty adventures!

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