Monday, March 30, 2009


Today the Queen of Fifty Cents is one year old. The blog, that is. The human part of the enterprise is considerably older than that. Though here is what I looked like when I was about a year old:

Elegant little thing, wasn’t I?

Before I started this blog, I thought about it for a long time. I kept putting it off. I was afraid. I was afraid no one would read it, and I was afraid the wrong kind of people would read it. (I'm good at holding multiple mutually incompatible fears at the same time.) I was afraid it would prove to be too much work, and that I would get bored and drop it. And then one day (just a little over a year ago) the sensible voice in my head said, so what if no one reads your blog. Or what if they do read it and you get weird or nasty comments. They can't do anything to you. And if you get bored, you can stop.

So once I gave myself permission to stop, I was able to start.

Contradictory little thing, aren’t I?

Perhaps predictably, the fears were unfounded. At first, no one did read my blog. But it grew. In the last year, my blog has been visited 28,029 times by 20,254 people. Over 8100 have stopped by more than once. I have so enjoyed your comments and camaraderie. Sometimes it feels like getting fan mail, and people have shared that I actually made a difference in their lives. Some have felt more free to talk to people when they’re out garaging, and have gotten good stories in return. Some have thought of me when they found a great bargain. I even have friends that I first met at yard sales. You just never know what you’ll find on Saturday morning!

So on my first blog birthday, I want to say thank you for stopping by to share my Saturday fun, and especially for your comments. I have saved them all and if ever I need a lift I go read a few. Wow!

As if to celebrate, a package arrived in today’s mail. It came from the Thrifty Chicks, who sent an email a few days ago saying that the person who had won one of their giveaways had never claimed her prize, so they drew again, and my name came up. You can bet I responded right away! So today my blog got a birthday present—these adorable vintage egg cups:

As I told them, this is not the first time I've benefitted from being second. When I graduated from library school and got my first job as a children’s librarian, one of my new colleagues just had to make sure I knew that I had not been first choice for the job, that someone else had turned it down. Well, I was number two, but I said yes, so there! And about eight years ago, we were looking for a kitten after our sweet Buster cat had died. We went to the humane society and saw the sweetest baby kitty and fell in love. Her litter mates were all asleep, but this one was wide awake and walking around on the others, sticking her little paw out of the cage and saying, “Pick me! Pick me!” But a note on the cage said there was a hold on her, so we couldn’t have her. I went back a few days later to see if any new kittens had arrived, and she was still there—the other people never came back for her. So Mrs. Wilberforce went home with us.
Mrs. W then:
Mrs. W now:
She actually is an elegant thing!

So the Queen of Fifty Cents begins her second year. Hope you’ll come along!

Saturday, March 28, 2009


What a special day—the first Saturday of the year with more neighborhood yard sales that I could get around to! Of course, in one of life’s little ironies, there didn’t seem to be much worth taking home (though I still managed to spend a few bucks). But the journey is more important than the destination, and what I did find was choice!

My friend Marcia was with me again this week, and we took turns exclaiming over the beauty of the day. Sunny and warm with a bit of a breeze, and everywhere lots of blooms on trees, shrubs and perennials. Roses everywhere…well, everywhere but my yard. I like roses, but I don’t do roses. So it's nice to get to admire them at other people’s houses. We were leaving one sale, making the curve around the end of the cul de sac, and we noticed the landscaping on the end house was just wonderful, with a curved path disappearing between beds of roses and other flowers. The lady who lived there was in her yard, so we called out how beautiful it was. She came over to the car and said she just couldn’t wait until her roses “really started blooming.” She said she comes out every day to see what’s happening in her flowers. Me too! Made me think about one of my favorite books, Return to Gone Away by Elizabeth Enright, where old Mrs. Minnehaha Cheever is talking about spring: “Think of how beautiful it will be…all the reeds of Gone Away tipping and swishing, and the redwings calling, and the bullfrogs grumping, and the roses just— Oh, I declare I can hardly wait for it myself! No matter how old a person gets, he’s never old in the spring!”

Met up with other Saturday morning regulars. There was Nancy, whom I wrote about last September, and Linda and Shelley (Linda and I play music together sometimes—but we met on a driveway!). Linda was jazzed because she had found the dining room table she’s been looking for, as well as two oak bookcases. And the guy even delivered the bookcases. Such a deal! There was even someone having a sale that I remember from last year. At least, I remembered her after I said hello and asked if she was having fun. Turns out she’s pretty deaf and I had to repeat myself much more loudly (“Are you having a fun morning?” loses a lot of its jauntiness when you have to up the volume), and when she baldly answered “No”—well, that’s when I remembered her!

I spent $9.25, and $5 of it went for one purchase. Can you believe the Queen of Fifty Cents has been doing these major splurges? Five dollars here, ten for a set of patio furniture a couple of weeks ago…don’t know what the world is coming to! But that fiver went for something useful—this brand new pair of shoes. I tried them on at the sale and they felt fine, and I put them on when I got home and have worn them now for several hours and they fit perfectly.

The next biggest category was door prizes. I found a large, soft stuffed dog who can help advertise the pet books, and will let kids read to him for hours, and a purple cow hand puppet.

And for our baseball summer reading program, I scored these trophies which will make fun decorations or even prizes. The teenage girl who had won them was decluttering her room, and she said she’d taken all the engravings off her trophies and is going to frame those bits together. So she’ll have a nice memento and we get the trophies and everybody wins.

This little midcentury Melmac sugar bowl is now the repository of the ibuprofen in my bathroom.
A small Christmas tree that will look lots better when I've cleaned off the old tinsel and coaxed it into a nicer shape.
I didn’t even notice the little ornaments when I picked it up (just the fifty cent price tag!) but some of them are fun.

I picked up some stuff to read (if you haven’t read Fannie Flagg’s books—do!).
And something I've always wanted to try—pie weights.
I've been making pies for at least 45 years, and I finally get to try out pie weights. I tell you, a little patience and fifty cents will get you just about anything your heart desires!

Sunday, March 22, 2009


The fun started with the yard sale ads on Craigslist. One was dubbed the “Can’t Stand My Neighbor Garage Sale” and the ad encouraged you to “come and see how my neighbor continuously takes pictures as I have my huge garage sale.” Another billed itself as the “Garage Sale of the Year” and promised both a bounce house for the kids and hundreds of adult videos “for any fetish.” Now, there’s an appealing combo! Gosh, somehow we managed to miss both those sales, wonder how that happened…

I had companionship on Saturday—my friends Marcia and Jan. Jan had asked if she could apprentice herself to me for a morning; she’s stopped at sales before but said she’d never gone garaging on purpose. She’s planning to do a sale for her parents this summer to help them declutter, so she was doing market research.

We were greeted at our first stop by this handsome tiger, ready to hop onto a bike or skateboard.

The lady having the sale didn’t seem to be quite so ready. At least twice we picked up sweaters and when we asked the price, she said she didn’t really want to sell that and took it away. Of course she also told me she had worked until 3:30 in the morning, then come home and set up for their sale. Probably the lack of sleep talking.

Next we headed for the first neighborhood sale of the year, where we met this guy.
He said he just loves going to sales, so his family made him this shirt for Christmas. He lives in Long Beach (about 20 miles away) but thinks the sales are better where we are, so he comes down each weekend. But he always gets lost. I get lost all the time too, but these days I don’t say I'm lost, I claim to be taking a mini vacation.

Our favorite overheard conversation was at the sale where the guy was trying to move some old Avon hair tonic. Bottle was shaped like a dune buggy, and as we walked up he was taking off the cap to demonstrate that the contents were still good. Well, perhaps not good—but certainly potent! As soon as the lid was off that smell hit us like a brick, and we were several feet away. His price was a dollar, and I offered him a dollar not to take the cap off again. He was trying to sell it to a man who had a boy about twelve years old with him, and we heard the kid ask his dad what it was. “It's hair tonic,” dad answered.

“What’s hair tonic?” asked the boy.

We all agreed that some of this week’s sales were just “too proud of their stuff” as Marcia says, with prices higher than any of us thought reasonable. But there were enough real bargains to make us all happy. Jan’s finds included fresh picked avocadoes and brand new artist designed linens. Marcia walked away with a wedding gift food processor that had never been used and a wonderful hand woven wrap, among other goodies.

I spent $12 for:

Door prizes for the next meeting with my children’s librarians, some baseball items for our Summer Reading Program

and an unusual hat.
A vintage mohair sweater I hope to resell

Fun bowl to replace the one I keep at work that I broke recently, boo hoo
Two felted wool baskets
A couple of papercraft tools
A caftanish garment to wear over my bathing suit this summer
Satin brocade cloth with tasseled corners. Marcia said it would make a good Christmas tree skirt, so that’s what I'm planning for it. I figure eight months to cut a slit, hem the edges and add a tie or two is about right.

This was originally a candle holder, but my husband has repurposed it as his bathroom glass.

Here’s my big ticket (three bucks!) gamble for the week: a mosquito inhibitor. It uses a pack of scented stuff that supposedly keeps the mosquitoes from being able to find you, and the guy said it keeps flies away as well. We had such a fly problem last year (and mosquitoes arrive in droves to feast upon me, while totally ignoring my husband) that I thought I'd give it a try. I want to be able to get my ten-bucks-worth of enjoyment from the patio furniture we bought last week!

And lastly, four brand new mouth blown glasses.
I love the little bubbles in the glass (the name on the tag is Ruby Fizz)
and I really love getting them at a 95% discount from the store price!

My favorite item that I didn’t buy this week:

Sunday, March 15, 2009


I had a surprise companion for garaging this week—my husband! In years past we always went out together on Saturday, but getting up early is way harder for him than for me. (Are all couples composed of one morning person and one night person?) Over time we’ve developed other routines. Nowadays he gets up after I leave and does the grocery run to the farmer’s market and Trader Joe’s. I hit the regular grocery store on my way home, so by noon on Saturday those errands are finished.

But this week he set the clock, got up early with no fuss, and even fixed us a great breakfast. It was fun to have him along, and I was extra glad he came because of one of our finds—didn’t have to wonder if he’d like it or would be asking me, “Where do you plan to put it?”

It started out as a doggy morning. First stop we met this cute Buster:

Don't you want a face like that hanging out at your house? Got into a movie conversation at this sale—seems we’ve all been on a documentary kick with our Netflix viewing. We recommended Man on Wire and Abel Raises Cain to them, and their recent fave was one called Coma.

The next place had a little yap dog yapping at us through the back yard gate. I noticed they were selling a magazine on bulldogs and commented that that was no bulldog back there. The lady promptly went in and got Bailey!
She said everyone always thinks Bailey is a boy (not!) and her friend helping with the sale said, “Well, yeah, ‘cause she’s so ugly.” “She is not!” I returned, and told Bailey not to listen to her. Somehow we got to talking about dogs shedding fur; her owner said that Bailey’s coat must have at least 10 layers, each one a different color. I asked if she’d ever used the Furminator tool and she started to laugh. “Oh yes,” she said. “The back yard looks like a fur bomb hit it when I use that.”

We continued on our way, and as we turned into the next tract on my list I commented to my husband that this was the first time I'd ever turned here. I've been garaging over 7 years in this area and had never seen a sale in this spot. Turned out to be 4 sales on the same block, and number three held the jackpot. As we walked up I noticed a pretty nice set of patio furniture—wicker settee, two chairs, glass topped table—and we both liked the look of them, but I said they would likely be pretty spendy. So as we were looking at the other odds and ends for sale, and I casually asked how much the furniture was.

“Ten bucks,” the guy said.

Picture me checking my ears, since I couldn’t believe I'd heard him right. “Um, did you say ten bucks?” That’s right, he said. Two seconds later Steven was sitting in one of the chairs and I was trying out the settee. Our eyes met for a brief moment. I pulled out my billfold and handed over two fives. Deal! Or I guess I should say, steal!

Of course then we had to figure out how to get them home. We loaded one chair in the back seat of my convertible and promised to be back for the rest asap. Made a few more stops on the way home (the folks at the next sale were suitable impressed when they commented on our chair and we told them what we'd paid for the set). When we got back to the house we tried putting the chair in the back of Steven’s Civic; didn’t go all the way in but with the hatch left open it would work. We caravanned back to the rest of our furniture, loaded the chair and table in his car and the settee in mine (yes, I did look like the Beverly Hillbillies, all I lacked was some banjo music playing) and headed home again. The cushions are a bit faded, but I can make slipcovers for them. We feel very posh sitting out there now; feel like we need to invite people over for margaritas.
We spent $21.25, and of course half of that was the patio furniture. The rest went for:

Two CDs

Four DVDs

A puppet for a door prize

Seeds—I'm hoping my cats will go for this grass and leave my ornamental grasses alone.

A dozen candles for the lanterns in the yard

Van Gogh notecards

Four nice kitchen towels.
I'm rather bemused by the tags on the beige ones. Thank heavens they were carefully woven.

And a cookbook. This was only a quarter, and I figure at that price I can cut out the few recipes I want to keep and let the rest of the book go.
I bought the seed packets at my last stop. This lady’s mother has Alzheimer’s and keeps buying seeds at Walmart that she can't use, and forgets and buys more in a few days. She does the same things with cards, which was the other thing for sale. We talked for a while about aging parents and failing memories and hard times—she also was laid off her job recently. I mentioned that I've always found something good comes out of our bad times. She grinned and told me that once before she’d been laid off, and finally found a new job. The first day she was being introduced to people, and one of the guys recognized her from high school, and they ended up getting married. Just shows ya!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Glass in the Gardens

Everyone who left comments on my last post telling me that the Dale Chihuly glass exhibit at the Phoenix botanical garden would be fantastic really knew what they were talking about. And your comments about taking pictures…well, I did an interim download to my husband’s laptop that we took with us, and I had over 250 pictures at that point! For you to be properly amazed you must know that I rarely remember to take pictures. We’ve taken whole vacations and never removed the camera from the car. But this time I practically wore out my pocket taking the camera out. (And I'm going to apologize in advance for the sideways pictures below. Blogger keeps turning them and I can't figure out how to fix it.)

Saturday morning was perfect—clear blue sky, warm but not hot, nice breeze. We started with breakfast at Butterfield’s Pancake House (we recommend it!) where they have very tasteful—make that tasty—light fixtures:

When we got to the garden, I got excited before we even entered the place.

Once inside, the first piece was this depiction of the sun:
I had been a little afraid before we got there that there wouldn’t be enough pieces to make the trip feel worthwhile. In fact it took us about 4 hours to see everything! Here are just a few of the pieces:

This work, called Saffron Tower, is visible from the entry road, and we noticed when we got close that it is in fact a neon piece.
So on Sunday evening (after a truly fabulous dinner at Ristorante Arrivaderci, also highly recommended) we drove back over to the garden hoping to see the neon lit up. It was amazing, I'm sure I was squealing and bouncing up and down in the car (I have a very sophisticated reaction to art, you know).

It was about 40 minutes before they closed, and people were leaving in droves, so we strolled in to see a few things again in the dark. It may have been even more wonderful at night.

On Sunday my companions went to a baseball game (spring training is in full swing). I opted to have some time to myself, and was driving back toward our hotel when I spotted—you guessed it—a yard sale sign. It was now Sunday afternoon and I figured there would be nothing left, but I went to check it out anyway. Didn’t buy anything but had a lovely conversation with a nice lady named Ann, who gifted me with a bag of lemons from her tree and some hollyhock seeds. She also told me there was a craft fair going on not far away, so I headed over there. As I got in the car, I noticed something we don’t see on the streets of the OC too much:
Haven’t been to a craft fair for a long time (garaging takes care of all my desire for shopping) and I was amazed at how huge this thing was. I bet there were over 100 vendors, it went on and on. I didn’t buy anything (you know I’ll see a lot of it on a driveway someday for fifty cents!) but I had a great time talking to an artist named Linda Gill who makes these incredible art dolls.

We had one of those conversations that started off with her telling me how she makes the dough she sculpts with out of Wonder bread and glue, then she gave me a hunk of it to play with, then we moved on to lord knows what, until about 40 minutes later I knew all about her kids and their shenanigans and she knows all about my blog. I’m hoping she’ll start her own blog about her dolls, because she told me by the time she finishes making each one she knows all about that character’s life, and what their kitchen looks like, and the plants in their garden. I'm betting it will be fun to read each one’s story, and will even help sell her art!

So the whole trip was pretty darned wonderful. And I'm wondering what effect it will have when I head out garaging this weekend. Will I be expecting fabulous art on the driveways of Orange County—and will I find it?

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