Saturday, February 27, 2010


“It's raining,” my dog Edward told me this morning.
“I know.”
“And it's Saturday morning and there won't be any yard sales,” he went on.
“I know.” This time I growled it.
“Good, you can stay home with me,” he said, and settled down for a nap.

Dogs generally are philosophical about rain. I might as well be too.

Since it's a dark day outside, I have various lamps turned on in the house, and it made me realize how many of them were thrifted. We have two of these spiffy desk lamps, which we bought at a yard sale over ten years ago.
They were expensive, I think $15 for the pair (that’s expensive to me!) but since we’ve had them so long the Cost Per Wow has become quite reasonable. We originally used them for bedside lamps. When we moved to this house they were both on my husband’s desk until my little Ikea desk lamp died. So I stole one for my desk.

I blogged last fall about giving this lamp a new cover.
The lamp was free, and after much experimentation I used super-inexpensive vintage tea towels to recover it. It lives on the midcentury walnut dresser that we scored off Craiglist.

I love this stained glass lamp, especially since I moved it to the elderly drop-leaf desk in the dining room. Yes, of course the desk came from a garage sale—as did the picture above.

We’ve replaced all of the standard shades on the ceiling lights in our house with more interesting vintage models. This is in my husband’s study…
…in my home office…
…these are in the hallway…

…and this is in the guest room.

I think we have a few more pieces stashed away in the attic. Haven’t found any for a long time; most of the houses in this area are not of an age to yield interesting ceiling glass.

My favorite lamp is this amazing midcentury piece.

It’s made of decorated glass, I'm guessing Danish from the late Fifties, early Sixties. It was taller when I bought it—had a long metal neck piece, and came without a shade. I'm betting it originally sported one of those really tall cylindrical shades. We rewired it and gave it a shorter neck. When I found it at a yard sale, I was iffy about buying it because the price was something like ten bucks. I ended up offering five, they said sure, and I've never been sorry. The guy who sold it to me said it came from the home of a wealthy doctor and had originally cost $500. To myself I said yeah, sure it did, but I've come to believe he may have been close to the mark. I was thumbing through a catalog from Room & Board the other day (if you don’t know their stuff, it’s nice…but strikes me as very expensive Ikea) and noticed that their table lamps generally run from $300-500. (And there’s a desk lamp, not nearly as interesting as mine, for $375. Guess fifteen bucks for the pair wasn’t so bad.) The shade was found by a friend at another sale for a quarter. One of these days I may recover the shade with more interesting fabric. Meanwhile, every time I walk by the lamp I'm entranced anew by the wonderfully silly peacocks parading around the base.

Edward just came in to point out that it's raining even harder. He’s right, as usual. The perfect day to bake cinnamon rolls, turn on a lamp and hang out with the dogs and a novel. There might be something in this rain stuff after all.

Saturday, February 20, 2010


It was pouring rain at 6 o'clock. Heck, I told my dog Edward, no garaging today. By 7:15 it was clear and bright. ’Bye, I told Edward and took off.
First sale was not too far away. The ad on Craigslist gave an address, then said “look for the FOR RENT sign on the building without a number on the side.” As I said to the young man having the sale…made perfect sense when you got there!

Speaking of Craigslist ads…today was a treasure trove of goodies. One ad writer just pasted in the first sentence of his ad for the headline, or at least as much of it as would fit, which became the enigmatic MOVING LOTS OF STUFF NO SPACE TO TAKE WITH US WHATEVER YOU NEED WE PRO. There was another Hugh Moving Sale, which I've come to expect. The peripatetic Hugh—I wish he’d find someplace he likes and just settle down. But this ad was a first: HAIRCUT & YARD SALE - $10. Yup, the ad said the person is a licensed cosmetologist who would cut your hair at their yard sale. And here’s my real fave: BI GARAGE SALE (LAGUNA HILLS). I know, I know, it's probably just a typo and they meant to say big, but the ad goes on to promise “something for everyone” so I'm not entirely sure.

Back to the first sale. Nice young man who is moving to Long Beach (about 20 miles away) to a studio. He was serious about lightening his load; I really think he would have accepted any amount for anything in his garage. I found this Harley license frame that I thought Brother Bob might like…

…and asked how much. “Oh, a dollar, a quarter, fifty cents, I don’t care.” I ended up with 3 Harley items for a buck. (Like I said…nice guy!)

Don’t know about you, but I find it quite amusing that Hallmark sells Harley Davidson stuff.
He was also selling his childhood collection of marbles
which I did not buy, though now that I see them in the picture they look kind of cool. Oh well, hopefully some little kids got them who will have a great time playing marbles. There were also some teddy bears, but he said they had belonged to a girlfriend’s kids. “My teddy bears have petrified,” he told me. “The last time I saw them they had turned completely solid.” Which leads me to think we might want to explore the uses of baby drool as a building material. I may have discovered a new, very green and renewable resource!

This hat led to stories about his uncle.
“He was a bellhop at a fancy hotel for many years, and when people would go off and leave things, he’d take them home. And he’d take things home from other places too. When he died, his house was just totally full with little paths going from room to room.” It's good to hear these stories and be reminded not to take home everything you see on Saturday morning.

Admittedly, there was no chance I would buy this.
Yes, it's a leopard spotted glass pumpkin. He said he’d gotten it to give a friend as a gag gift. I think he chickened out.

Up the road I stopped at another sale being minded by a nice lady and her father in law, who claims to be known as Hot Bob. It was actually a rather frustrating encounter because we were all howling with laughter over our conversation, and I can't remember most of his really funny lines. He was determined to sell me something. I turned down a stack of Pyrex pie plates—especially when the deal was I buy the pie dish and then bake him a pie and bring it over. He pulled a vintage Tupperware cake carrier out of a box. “Here, you can bring it over in this.” I pointed out it was a cake carrier, not a pie carrier. He took off the lid to show me the shape of the bottom part—perfect for holding a pie. I took it from him and whacked him with it and said that’s what it was for. (By now his daughter in law was rolling.) “Oooh,” he said, “you do that for about ten minutes and then I'll be ready for you to stop.” He did actually succeed in selling me something, this sweet baking dish.

It's smaller than a normal cake pan, only 7” across, and I love the embossed design. Kind of wish it was on the inside of the plate instead of the outside. Can’t you see a layer of cake with a leaf and flower design baked into it?

Had a good time later talking to another nice lady and her mother, who live next door to each other; her son lives next door to his grandma. A little family compound. The older lady was wearing a North Carolina sweatshirt so I asked if she was from there, since we lived there for several years. She wasn’t, but they had a memorable vacation there, and we regaled each other with North Carolina stories. Somehow I got to talking about this old farmhouse we lived in for a while.
It was “the old Marshall family homeplace” and we always joked about how the Marshall family must all be short and wide, because the rooms had 7 foot ceilings and all the doors were about 4 feet wide. Sure enough, we found out later that pretty much described this tribe of Marshalls.

Only bought one other thing today, this bucket of some kind of building toy. (Anyone know what these are called?)

Bought these from Hot Bob’s daughter in law. I'll give them to one of my libraries, but first I get to play with them. Hot Bob watched me hand over a dollar for them and protested that I'd only given him fifty cents for his dish. “Yeah,” I agreed, “but she didn’t give me any hard sell.” He shook his head. “I'd hate to have to make my living as a salesman.”

Saturday, February 13, 2010


It's been an exciting week here at the Castle of Fifty Cents. On Wednesday I learned I'd been included in this list of
“10 Best Junk Collector Blogs” by Dianne Zweig. Talk about flattered—woo hoo! Then this morning I had an email from Shay of Quilting in My Pajamas letting me know that she has designated me her Blog of the Week. It’s even sweeter because this was her 100th post; I think it was awfully kind of her to share that post with me! Shay is in Australia, so now we see that I have a worldwide readership. I feel pride starting to swell my head…I'm a top junker with international appeal!

Speaking of pajamas, that was the attire of the woman running the first sale I stopped at. Yup, pajamas and bathrobe, uncombed hair, and a surly expression to boot. (Unlike Shay!) I was so glad she had nothing I was interested in. I think I met her sister across town. She wasn’t in her pajamas, but she was doing her best to sell a Hawaiian shirt that her husband kept saying he really loved. She told everyone in earshot that the shirt was too big for him and a Hawaiian shirt that’s too big just makes the person who wears it look terrible. He seemed like a nice guy, and I wanted to take him aside and tell him just to keep the darned shirt and wear it when she went to visit her mother.

Fortunately, the rest of the morning was full of nicer people. This cute guy had just sold a sofa and loveseat for twenty bucks.
His mom thought he should have gotten more, but he reminded her they had gotten the furniture for free and now they were twenty bucks richer. I always appreciate a pragmatist, especially one who will put on a red hat they’re trying to sell for a quarter.

Here’s another cute guy I met.
He tried to act all cool and standoffish, but all I had to say was, “Here, kitty kitty,” and he immediately forgot about being cool. (It’s that top international way I have with cats.)

His name is Scotch. Short for Butterscotch which they thought was too girly for a boy cat. His owner was raising funds to help African villages, and told me he was a very expensive kitty. She was in Africa a few months ago, and while she was gone one of her neighbors (she doesn't know which) turned Scotch in to the animal shelter. Even though he wears a collar and tag with her name and number, and was being cared for while she was gone. She got back and discovered where he was on his last day. Cost about $200 to bail him out, and another $300 to treat the kennel cough he came home with. She shook her head. “Five hundred dollars! That would buy enough seed to feed an entire African village for a year!” I hope the misguided neighbor at least came and bought some stuff at her yard sale.

Also met an awfully cute and unusual dog today. This is Katie.
She’s a chow/terrier mix. As soon as I got out my camera, Katie turned her back on me. She’d recently had a haircut, so maybe she wasn’t happy with her ‘do. I finally just held the camera down in front of her and snapped.
Katie almost never barks. The doorbell is the only thing she barks at, and when her family arrives home they vie to see who can get to the doorbell first so they can hear Katie bark.

Wish that would rub off on my guys. Lizzie is always protecting us from someone getting in their car eight houses down the street. She certainly barks at the doorbell—even if it's a doorbell in a movie.

I spent $4.50 this morning, half of it on stuff to give to my children’s librarians. Like this great frog:
These two dolphin thingies are meant to hold your keys and such at the beach.
This piece is a hoot.
Little faux fish cavorting in bubbles with changing color lights shining through. Should be a real hit for our Make a Splash summer reading program.

I admit I'm a sucker for anything that shows reading. Which is my only excuse for coming home with this rather over-the-top piece:
A reading Easter bunny snow globe music box. It plays “Here Comes Peter Cottontail.”
My husband was so appalled he didn’t even ask where I'm planning to put it, not wanting to imply that it was staying. I'm sure he’ll be happier with these bumpers and sliders.
I need to find something that needs moving to try out the sliders. The picture on the packaging isn’t very impressive—anyone over the age of three could move that chair, sliders or no.

This painted wooden tray is going to the office with me next week.
I've been wanting a tea tray; I'm always spilling things on my desk and it will look classier to spill on a nice tray instead. This one is already a bit beat up so I can spill with impunity.

I liked the rain design on these earrings.
Now I'll have to experiment to figure out if wearing them makes it rain (in which case they should never be worn on Saturday morning) or keeps rain away.

You didn’t know I was in charge of the weather, did you? But only locally. I am not responsible for all that snow back east!

Friday, February 5, 2010


Rain. All day today and tomorrow. So most likely no garaging this week. (A digression: have you noticed how accurate weather predictions have become? If the weather gadget on my google homepage says it's going to rain in two days, by gum it rains in two days.)

But last weekend I seemed to have so much to say that I had stuff left over. Wasn’t that fortuitous?

One of the leftover pieces has to do with dating vintage clothing. I knew it was cruel to mention that there’s a way to date clothing by the RN number on the tag and then not tell you how to do it. You can find quite a bit of information by googling something like ‘dating vintage clothing’ so I’m not going to give you all the history. Here’s the how-to:

RNs (Registered identification numbers) are issued by the FTC to clothing manufacturers. The first series ran from 1952 to 1959 and includes numbers 00101 to 04086. In 1959 they began with a new series of numbers starting with 13670. It's estimated that the average number of RNs issued per year is 2635. So here’s the math: subtract that first number (13670) from the RN on your piece of clothing, then divide by 2635 (the number per year issued). The result is the number of years after 1959 it was made. The RN on my sweater is 94209; so
94209-13670=80539; 80539 divided by 2635 = 30.56; 30 years after 1959 = 1989. Voila! I've used this formula with other pieces of vintage clothing and the results have always been close to what I estimated by the look and feel of the piece. So I think it works pretty well.

The other leftover piece from last week was the dogs I met. As I strolled up to a sale, these two little cuties were in the nose-sniffing stage of greeting a yellow lab.
Size matters not to dogs, it's all about attitude. Guess who was the dominant dog.
I petted them all. The lab was a rambunctious smoocher, and I had to explain to her that I do not French kiss dogs. Hardly ever. The Westie would have tried the same thing, but he was too short. The Scottie, Gwendolyn (sorry, forgot the others’ names) was a perfect lady. In a couple of minutes, off they went with their owners, continuing their walks.

A few blocks away I stopped at another sale and noticed another yellow lab being petted by a boy about 8 years old. Standing perfectly still and calm. Couldn’t be the same one I thought. But as soon as I got within petting reach, she just exploded with joy. More kissing. More leaping. It was indeed the same French kisser. Her owner kept saying something about her being so young still, which turned out to be two years old. Not exactly a pup. But that’s when I realized who she reminded me of…our dog Kate.
Kate was our second dog, after the Samoyed/pointer cross I brought to the marriage had left us. (There are worse dowries.) Kate was the most lovable maniac that ever lived. She was supposed to be mostly Springer, with a little Brittany thrown in; we never knew where she got her short hair. She loved everyone. LOVED everyone. People. Cats. Other dogs. Toads. An acquaintance with a crawling baby spent an evening with us once, and the whole time the baby crawled all over Kate. She sucked on Katie’s ears, and poked her eyes, and pulled her lips. The dog loved every second. The next day the mother called us and asked us to give her our dog for her child. We declined. More than once hunters tried to buy her from us, because she looked like she’d be the greatest hunting dog ever. And she did have the best nose, but the nose was all she cared about. She was the hardest dog to train I've ever encountered. At one point (after I realized dog training is something you can't necessarily learn from a book, which is a hard lesson for a librarian) I worked with a professional trainer to try to teach her to come, and the trainer said Kate was the hardest headed dog she’d ever seen.

But damn, that was one sweet dog. Everyone loved her back, and everyone kept telling us she’d settle down when she got a little older. Didn’t happen. She was as wildly enthusiastic at ten years as at ten months. It wasn’t until she was getting rather elderly, about twelve years old, that she finally slowed down a bit, and for her last two years she was really the perfect dog.
So I petted this yellow lab, and then she followed her owner down the street. And there they were at the next sale, and it was the same thing—an explosion of joy when she saw me. And it was just me. She wasn’t doing that with any of the other people around.

So I have to wonder, just a little bit, if my Katie got bored in heaven and came back as a sweet yellow lab. If she did, those people will have their hands full for about ten more years until she finally stops being a pup. But they’re going to enjoy every minute.

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