Sunday, January 29, 2012

You know you’re a die-hard gardener when…

…you’re at an estate sale, and you look out the patio door to see if there are any yard items for sale, and your heart rate increases when you see…

a compost bin!


Yes, I’ve been looking for one of these. People who buy them tend to keep them, and my regular checks on Craigslist have been fruitless. So when I spotted this quite nice looking specimen on that patio, and the price was within my tolerance level (i.e. it cost less than 10% of the same product from a store, and I’ve got that much cash with me!), I knew this puppy was meant to be mine. And that’s when the fun started.

First I had to wrestle it through the sliders into the dining room. Piece of cake – except for all the people in the way looking at the items for sale. Then I had to get it through a regular sized doorway into the kitchen on my way to the garage which is where the sales table was set up. Not so cake-like. Just barely got it through the doorway, and that was after clearing my throat and saying excuse me several times to the folks intent on the kitchen wares. THEN there was the doorway into the garage, and the 7 or 8 ladies on their way IN, which of course took precedence over me and the bin getting OUT. Actually, this part was rather amusing, because each and every one of them did a major double take when they saw the big black hulk in their way. I had to wonder just what they thought it might be.

Finally got all the ladies in, and that’s when I discovered that the door into the garage was not quite as wide as the door into the kitchen had been. For a few moments I was really wondering just what I was going to do. Then I realized that the handle on the hatch where you take out the compost was getting in the way, so I slid the door off and sque-e-e-ezed through. Whew! Except now I’m in a single garage with tables of Stuff set up in the middle and on both sides, with about 15 more folks milling around shopping. So off we go again, apologizing all the way. Finally reached the driveway, where I told one of the guys working the sale that I was taking this, and asked if I could just pay him since I had correct change. But no. I had to go back into the garage and stand in line, though I was able to leave the bin outside. Fortunately the line wasn’t terribly long, though the ladies looking in the case where they had jewelry were more than a little in the way. (At least I wasn’t still holding the compost bin. Hmmm, maybe I could have popped it over one of them and only released her if she promised to Get Out Of My Way. But I’m way too polite for that. Stop laughing, Cathy and Marcia and Marilyn!)

Paid for at last, I started to schlepp it down the street to the car. A large compost bin is not terribly heavy, just awkward. But I turned it upside down (there’s no bottom, it just rests on the ground), put the hatch door inside, and made steady progress. I was driving our Civic hatchback, and reached it just as someone else coming to the sale drove up. He seemed to be waiting for my parking space, although there was room behind my car for him to park. I popped open the hatch, laid the back seats down, and inserted the bin – mostly! It was just a leeeeetle too big for the opening. I tried to squish it and got it in about another inch, and that was it. (After a while the guy waiting to park gave up.)

I wasn’t afraid of it falling out, but I felt reluctant to drive the 4 miles or so home with the door sticking straight up. I looked all over the car for something to tie it down with, but Steven keeps his car really clean. So please, don’t anyone tell him what I ended up using…this rubber doodad with little hooks on them out of his tire chains!

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Worked just fine, and no rubber doodads or little hooks were harmed in the making of this blog post. ;o)

Now we just have to figure out where in the yard to put this thing. A compost bin ideally should be convenient yet unobtrusive. We’ll see if we can pull that one off!

The compost bin was not my only purchase of the day. I’d stopped at another sale earlier and scored something else I’ve had an eye out for.


Haven’t had a wok for years, and this one came with a lid and a bamboo steamer.


I’ve already put a hold on a good wok cookbook at the library to inspire us. And it’s Steven’s week to cook, so I’m hoping he’ll feel quite inspired!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Devil is Beating His Wife!

Rain is falling (we have a metal roof, so I can gauge the amount of rain by the sound) and the sun just peeped out. Which is called a sunshower, and in some parts of the world when that happens folks say, “The devil is beating his wife.” I haven’t found an explanation of the phrase’s origins, but it’s said in various places all over the world. Some things are better without explanations, don’t you think?

It’s been a rather wild and wooly week, weatherwise. We started out with a few days of snow, and then got several days of serious rain. Lots of flooding in Salem, streets closed, some nearby towns were evacuated. I can tell you we were awfully glad we live near the top of a hill! Okay, a little less glad during the snow part, but hey, I’m retired – I don’t have to go anywhere! Not that I haven’t interacted with the weather. I’m still housebreaking a puppy, which means regular trips outside at all hours. I admit I’m going to be extremely happy when Zoe becomes more reliable!

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I did go out garaging on Saturday, there were 4 or 5 sales to check out. I bought one item for fifty cents, but it’s going to be a present for someone who reads my blog so I can’t say what it is yet. And I picked up one free thing, a somewhat battered cookie sheet that fits in my oven better than some we already own. Not a subject for an exciting photo shoot. Had one short conversation with a couple of ladies about how you can actually wash leather shoes in your washer, air dry them, then give them a good polish. They seemed happy to have the information.

In short, not the most exciting Saturday morning ever. Gosh, you’d think it was the middle of winter or something.

But I do actually have something I’ve been wanting to say:


Yes, a big ol’ thanks to all of you who read my blog, with an extra heaping of gratitude for you regulars. Just went and looked at my numbers, and I have 556 subscribers (people who get notified via their RSS reader when I post something) plus 378 followers – you can see them over in the right hand column. So far we’ve had over 256,000 views of this blog. I really appreciate every one of you who takes the time to stop by and see what I’ve been up to, and I love, love, love it when you leave comments. Besides becoming a conversation here on the blog, they arrive in my email box, and it’s such a treat to hear from folks near and far.

So rain or shine – or today rain AND shine - thanks for stopping by!

lucie attwell reader cr

Saturday, January 14, 2012

And to think I almost didn’t go out!

When I do my “Shopping on Driveways” workshop, one of the things I tell people is that to find great deals, you have to keep showing up. Okay, that’s true for lots of things, including writing. And there are people who seem to have the kind of luck that if they only go to one sale a year, they find everything they were looking for. But for most of us, luck is in persistence.

Which is probably what got me out of the house this morning. Even the Queen of Fifty Cents weakens when faced with gray skies, cold wind and the forecast of snow outside vs. a warm snuggly puppy inside. But hey, my husband really needed a warm snuggly (okay, make that wiggly) puppy to keep him company for a bit, so I made my list of sales, grabbed Gertrude Pemberton Smith (my GPS) and headed out.

A lady was leaving the first sale as I arrived and stopped on the sidewalk, clutching her estate-sale wok, and said hello. Then she said, “Um, I hope this doesn’t seem too weird, but are you the person who writes the Queen of Fifty Cents blog?”

Now, this is the kind of moment you dream of…a stranger recognizes you on the street from your blog! Maybe it happens thousands of times a day somewhere in the world. But I bet not.

So I agreed that I was, and she went on to introduce herself and say that she works at the Salem Library, and one of her colleagues is the person we bought our house from a couple of years ago who had told her about my blog. (Hi, Robin & Ann!) She said she recognized me from my picture on my blog and that she’s good at remembering names and faces. (How I envy that!) Not only that, my next-door-neighbor is her hairdresser. Salem is not a really large town!

We had a nice chat. She mentioned that her husband is usually the one who goes to sales but he was doing something else, then a few minutes later she noticed a guy coming up the sidewalk. “There’s my husband now,” she said, so I got to meet him too. His thing is to buy air conditioners at sales and refurbish them to resell. She’d already scoped out the one at this sale and we all thought the price was silly.

I was a little afraid that everything inside would be equally overpriced, but was glad to see things marked ten cents and a quarter. Not anything I wanted, unfortunately – until I reached a sunroom at the back of the house. Where I found (drum roll) puppy gates! Two of them! For…a quarter each!!


They need some cleaning up, but I know they are going to come in awfully handy while our little Zoe is in the not-yet-housebroken-and chewing-on-everything stage.

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I jury-rigged some barriers to keep her in the kitchen

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where the floors are tile and there are no cords to chew on. She’s learned to wiggle out of any gap she spies, so actual gates are going to be great. And fifty cents worth of gates is best of all.

That wasn’t my only score. Picked up a dog brush for Edward (Zoe’s grooming needs are going to be minimal)


and a pair of waterproof Gore-Tex Nikes for me.

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After I paid, I noticed a box with odds and ends which turned out to be free. So I scored these.

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On the way home I realized that now I have a new collection. You know how they say if you have three of something you’ve started a collection? This is my Little Red Wooden People Collection, along with my walking Pinocchio from a few weeks ago.


Total outlay: two bucks. 2012 is off to a good start!


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

All Good!

A new year! Time to add a new page to my thrifting spreadsheet, but before I do let’s look back at 2011. No matter what else happens, I can always look back at my garaging record and say without doubt that it was a very good year!


In case you’ve not yet started keeping records of your own finds, let me encourage you to begin. I can’t help it – I always get a thrill when I look over my spreadsheet and see how much I got for how little. The columns on mine include the date; item; how much I paid; the approximate retail value; a category to help me sort things; and a field for notes. If you buy to resell, you could also include a column for mileage, since you’ll need a record of that when you do your taxes.

Of course I can never help comparing the year just completed to previous years. One area I’m happy about this time is the Donations category – in other words things I bought that I decided not to keep. A perfect year would have none, but there were only 15 items in that category this year. Five years ago there were 95! Of course many of those were items I bought to resell that didn’t go, but I’m still happy to see how much I’ve improved. And nearly half of the donations were items I used for a while (like some pieces of clothing) that I ultimately decided not to keep.

“Household items” is always a huge category for me. Perhaps I need to break it down further in the future, since it includes kitchen items, furniture, office supplies, and even exercise equipment. It’s a category where I get a lot of bang for my buck – an average of almost $43 of bang for each dollar spent this year. Some lucky furniture finds really contributed to this great bottom line, notably the four Hans Wegner CH23 dining chairs I picked up for twenty bucks.


I didn’t know their provenance when I found them, just knew I liked them – and that’s the only reason to buy anything at a yard sale. Evidently they are quite desirable; it’s hard to find any online that don’t have ‘sold’ on them – but there’s a set in Sweden that’s priced at the equivalent of almost $3700. And even the ones with seats that need reweaving, as mine do, seem to be worth hundreds. And that was just one of my furniture finds. There was also the pair of vintage twin beds, which finally have wonderful mattresses courtesy of Craigslist and are gracing one of our guest rooms.


And the pouf of a stool that’s perfect with our Heywood-Wakefield vanity.


And the 8 foot long sofa made in 1964 – perfect for lying in front of a fire blazing in the fireplace with a good book – and all the pets, since there’s plenty of room.

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The “pet items” category had a good return this year too. Only bought three items, but those averaged over $46 bangs per dollar. The two pet carriers made getting our cats from California to Oregon possible – though it was still a long drive!


The “entertainment’ category shows a smaller return for each dollar spent, but doesn’t reflect the hours of enjoyment we’ve had from these finds. I picked up 17 books, 8 CDs, 28 movies, and 31 magazines for less than $53. That’s about the equivalent of three movies seen at a theatre for the two of us. We’ve already watched three of this year’s movie finds more than once on our home theatre (White Christmas, Last Chance Harvey, Danny Deckchair). We win!

I found some great gifts this year too. Spike the dog looks quite at home in front of the fireplace at my friend Diana’s house – and goes very well with their mini-dachshunds Sophie & Tootsie.


My SIL Linda enjoys seasonally decorating her dining table, so the gorgeous embroidered table runner was perfect for her – and it was free at an estate sale! (It went home with her before I got a picture.) And my BIL Biker Bob is still chuffed at the $2 brad nailer I found to use with his compressor.  Twenty- three gifts for an average of less than $1 each. And my children’s librarians got lots of cool door prizes as well, including a huge bag o’ Legos, bunches of hand puppets, and a Tomy gearation toy whose 23-second film is still my biggest hit on YouTube – 32,740 views so far!

My small career as a re-seller is still small, but the economy must be improving at least a bit since eBay sales have picked up again. I spent a total of $31.60 on sale items, and made a profit of nearly $500. Better than the money though is connecting nice people with cool stuff, like the college professor who now has a lovely vintage Bonnie Cashion Coach bag from the Sixties, or the gentleman who lives in the classy NYC brownstone who was able to replace the Dansk placemats he’d used for years with a set of new ones . Or one of my very own QoFC followers who’ll be using vintage Vera napkins in some of her tablescapes!


Finally, I found some great clothing and accessories for both my husband and me during the year. I’ll never be able to afford an Eileen Fisher shirt at Neiman Marcus, where the price tag would be over $250, but I love the $2 one in my closet!


Ditto the Pendleton shirt that’s helping Steven stay warm in this colder climate we’ve moved to,


or the blue cashmere sweater that I bought for fifty cents.


I admit I get a bit of a chuckle when I see him wearing that sweater, since I bought it intending to felt it and make sofa pillows or something!  I picked up 18 pieces of clothing that would have cost us at least $800 in stores – and I paid $22.75!

Now don’t you want to go start your own spreadsheet – not to mention go garaging?

So 2011 was terrific, and I’m betting fifty cents that 2012 will be too.

Of course the find of the year was not at a garage sale, but it did come from Craigslist! Yes, that adorable puppy.


Looks like her name is going to be Zoe. We’ve tried out several, but she likes Zoe best. And she is one seriously awesome puppy. Cuddly and funny and smart as she can be. She’s already coming when called and sits for her treat. Housebreaking is coming along (we were able to skip the 3 a.m. trip outside last night and I got to sleep till 5:30 – woo hoo!). She eats like a champ (has grown from 5 lb. 12 oz. to 7 lb. in less than two weeks) and is perfectly happy to have pieces of her regular food used for training treats. And she adores her big brother Edward.


They play and play and play. His tail is her favorite tug-o-war toy; he flings her about then gently removes her so the wrestling match can continue.

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He does a great job of wearing her out, and then she sleeps for hours.


Puppy heaven!


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