Monday, December 24, 2012


I was awfully surprised – and chuffed! – to find a real live sale to go to Saturday. It’s been so long…a whole month since I went to the sale where I heard the gun-running peke-a-poo story. I nearly skipped this sale, since it appeared to be an estate sale run by one of the local sale companies, most of which charge prices over my tolerance level. And when I drove by the sale address, it was in a huge senior townhouse place. But I was there, so I drove in and started trying to find unit 27. Oh. My. Goodness. How do people ever find their way home in these places? Building after building, all looking exactly alike, winding driveways – I was wondering if I’d ever find my way out again. At least I had the dogs with me (we’d just been to the dog park) so I’d have company as I wandered lonely as a cloud for the rest of my life.

Except it didn’t come to that. I got lucky and saw a hand written Estate Sale sign and homed in on 27. Apparently the lady who had lived there has moved to an assisted living place where she can have a little more help when she needs it. I can tell you she did needlework, and either bought or was given any number of needlepoint kits that were never completed or even started. She has eclectic taste in books, and listens to classical music. Her feet are small (and she had more shoes than she needed!) but her clothing was largish. After you go through an estate sale you sometimes feel like you’d recognize the person if you met them on the street.

The first thing I saw that I wanted is most likely a relic from the Fifties –


though I’d like to claim it’s an avant-garde portrait of our Zoë.

Zoe, a year later

Most of these puppies were dachshund shaped; I’ve never seen one of a sitting dog before. She’s perfect to hang out with my Thurber dog.

IMG_6489 IMG_6490

As I continued into the living room, I saw there was a very large dog present. In a moment we were getting acquainted. The couple running the estate sale had brought him along, and as we chatted I realized I had met this dog before. Sure enough, it was Ruhmer the Weimeraner/Dane mix I met last summer. 

Ruhmer's nose

Just as the first time we met, I wanted to run away with this dog. Our Edward is the world’s best boy dog, but I think Ruhmer might be a close second.

So I found one last sale for 2012, and one last dog at a sale – and I even scored one last item I’ve been watching for. There’s a little corner in the back yard that’s going to need a small table and a couple of chairs next summer. And there it was. Table is metal mesh that rain can fall through (and fall and fall) and the chairs have metal frames.


One of the chairs needs to be rewoven, but since I re-did my dining chairs I have every confidence I can do something for this one. And at ten bucks, the price was right.


Since it’s the end of the year, I’m planning my annual review of my garaging spreadsheet soon. I don’t know why I get such a kick out of seeing what I found through the year, but it’s definitely an activity that makes me happy. Of course the best thing I found exactly a year ago wasn’t at a yard sale (though Craigslist played a part) – Miss Zoë. And now I have her portrait in wire!


[One year ago today!]

Sunday, December 16, 2012


Every year I find Christmas ornaments at garage sales, and add a few to my collection. Sometimes it seems there must be a law – probably a federal law since it seems to operate in every state – that you are REQUIRED to have ornaments at your sale. Unfortunately people are not required to have interesting or attractive or even tasteful ornaments for sale. Hence my purchase this year of The World’s Tackiest Christmas Ornament…Santa in the Outhouse.


Hey, it was in a box with several other pieces. I had NO idea I was buying something this crass!

We decided not to have a Christmas tree this year. Zoe, at 13 months old, is a pretty good pup, but there’s no way she would leave those tempting ornaments alone. In fact there are wooden shards under the bed where I can’t reach them, the remains of some small ornament she managed to snag and destroy. I hope it wasn’t one I really loved, but the pieces are too small to identify. I’m sure I won’t lose any sleep over it. But even without a floor-to-ceiling fir in the living room, we found plenty of spots to decorate. And because buying ornaments throughout the year (I picked up the first of this year’s back in April) means I’ve completely forgotten what I found by the time Christmas actually rolls around, it’s a lot of fun to rediscover my finds.

My Danish MCM glass lamp was the first piece to get Christmas-ized.


A bead garland was joined by vintage teardrop ornaments I found back in June, and some of the miniature Victorian tinsel that was originally came from the gift shop at a local historic mansion. My silly tree-topper cat was the finishing touch.


We used more of the mini-tinsel on the wire tree I splurged on (well, a splurge for me, though still under twenty bucks!) back in 2010, along with vintage balls I found at an estate sale this summer (and a bunch of earlier finds).


Some of you may remember the weathered root of a sweet gum I picked up back in August I figured we’d put it in the yard, but a few weeks ago we decided to show off its sculptural qualities on our mantel. So naturally it got the Christmas treatment too – a garland of glass beads and a handful of ornaments, including the two sweet little wood-shaving trees that came in the lovely box.


Actually, I lied…we do have a Christmas tree. It’s a small fake one I bought for fifty cents back in 2009. Lest you think I overpaid, let me assure you it came with several ornaments! We’re enjoy it on the kitchen counter this year, where it can hang out with freshly baked loaves of bread as they cool.


So even though there are no sales to speak of to go to this time of year, I’m thoroughly enjoying the fruits of my garaging. Of course I can’t help wondering what holiday pieces will become mine in the coming year. Sure hope I don’t end up with anything worse than that outhouse ornament!


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Warning: Shameless Self Promotion Ahead!

Outside of Southern California, December is NOT the season for garaging. They’ve been thin here in Oregon lately, very thin. But it is the season for a lot of non-driveway shopping. Which I would like to help you out with. Seriously. In that spirit, just want you to know I have several eBay auctions going this week, which include some items you may have seen and possibly even coveted on this very site. Some sneak peeks:

IMG_5641  IMG_5692  IMG_6186  IMG_6202  IMG_6213  IMG_6226  IMG_6238  IMG_6263  IMG_6288

And of course, there’s sure to be someone on your gift list who would love a cozy, funny mystery (or three) to read. (Maybe even you – and your local library!) Check out my Willow Falls series, available in both paperback and as an e-book for the Kindle and other e-readers.

FRONT COVER  dogsWeTrust front  Dog Prince Cover

A book is a gift you can open again and again!

Hope your holiday season is merry and bright.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Learning Curve

Isn’t learning to do something new such a pleasure? Next to heading out for a morning of garaging, a new skill ranks high on my list of pleasures. And when you can combine the fruits of your garaging adventures with your learning adventures…it’s a good day.

So here’s the story.

Back in March of 2007, I saw a sewing machine cabinet I liked at a sale in Huntington Beach. Kind of beat up, but a cool deco style (turns out it is Singer cabinet 42), and the price was five bucks. There was an old sewing machine inside, but I figured I could get rid of that and put the machine I already had in its place. So I handed over a fiver, got the thing in the back seat of the convertible (along with the two vintage dishtowels, 4 new cloth placemats, and 11 issues of Sew Beautiful that I found that morning – not a bad haul for March!), and headed home.

Only to find that the sewing machine I already owned did not fit into this cabinet. And to make it do so would necessitate sawing off bits of the cabinet, which made me nervous. And my husband was somewhat disparaging about the condition the cabinet was in, which I naively thought I could just paint black and it would look swell. So it looked like I had wasted my five bucks.

But before hauling it off to the thrift store, I decided to take a look at the machine in the cabinet. The instruction booklet in one of the drawers proclaimed it to be a Singer 201-2. Naturally I started researching that, and found website after website repeating that this is one of the best sewing machines ever made. Seamstresses all over raved about what a pleasure it is to sew on this model. Quiet and powerful, thanks to be gear driven. Hmmm. I went back and plugged in my new acquisition and tentatively pushed the foot pedal. With a quiet, satisfied purr, the needle started going up and down and the feed dogs pushing. Dang, sounded like it worked. I grabbed some thread and fabric, and found that all the raves were right. This is one dandy sewing machine. The only drawback I could see was buttonholes, since it’s a straight stitch machine. I barely registered a box in one of the drawers labeled buttonholer, since I figured I’d just keep my other machine around for the infrequent occasions I need to make a buttonhole.

And then we moved, and the moving van we rented wasn’t q-u-i-t-e big enough, and some inessential items got jettisoned – and that included the other sewing machine.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago. We still have no curtains in our family room


and we finally decided that the exuberant chintz I found at a sale a couple of years ago would work just fine down there.


I have a LOT of this fabric. It may rank as one of my best buys ever – 35 yards of expensive decorator fabric for…five bucks. Why yes, that is less than fifteen cents a yard.

 Didn’t want to do just a plain rod pocket at the top, and I don’t aspired to actual pleated drape making. Thought about using those big grommets that seem to be popular these days, but buying them would cost several times the price of the fabric, which would annoy me, however unreasonable that may be. Then I thought about the tab-header curtains from Ikea we used to have, something like this.

WERNA Pair of curtains IKEA Densely-woven fabric makes the curtains effective at blocking out light.

And then I thought, buttonholes! Seemed like they would be way easier than constructing all those tabs. That is, if I could learn to use the buttonholer that came with my 201-2.

So a few days ago I took the thing out of its box, and was struck by terror. There was no instruction manual, and this this is not, as they say, intuitive.


I turned it this way and that and had no idea how to attach it to my machine, let alone use it. I did some Internet searching, and eventually found a set of pdf’s of the instruction manual. Whew, I thought, until I started trying to follow the directions on attaching the buttonholer to the machine. I wish I had timed it, seemed like I had to fiddle with it for nearly an hour before everything was attached. Then I had to take it all off again to insert a bobbin. Buttonholer back on machine. Only took about fifteen minutes this time. Put a spool of thread on the spindle, threaded her up, and grabbed a remnant of the (yard sale) fabric I used to line my little refurbished train case. Presser foot down, push the foot control…and off she zoomed. A few seconds later I was staring at a perfect buttonhole.


Oh. My. Goodness. Just look at that. Who invented this thing? To make a zigzag buttonhole with a straight stitch machine, all you need to do is move the fabric from side to side. I’m sure those of you who have used one of these vintages buttonholers are snickering, but it seemed miraculous to me. All those carefully machined bits and pieces fit together into something that waggles fabric from side to side while advancing in tiny increments – and then turns a corner and does the whole thing backwards.

But wait. My curtain rods are bigger than this little buttonhole. Now what? Ah, View 4 of the instruction manual: “To Make Buttonholes Longer than 1 Inch.” Okay, let’s try that. Not quite so simple. In fact, a definite learning curve.


But learn I did. I tell you, I was so pleased with myself. Don’t you love that feeling of being smart enough to figure something out?


So I’m about ready to start making curtains. I’ll be glad to get the family room a step closer to feeling homey. And when the curtains are finished…well, there’s a whole box of other mysterious attachments that came with my 201!



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