Friday, December 27, 2013

The First Bang for the Buck Awards, Finale

We return from our second intermission to give out the final awards for items from 2012. In keeping with the season, let’s start with the Christmas category. If you go to many sales you know that there are endless opportunities to augment your ornament collection (if you have one). Of course, most of these opportunities are ones you’re just as glad to let slip by. You can certainly find both the best and the worst, like this sweet vintage putz house from Germany covered with mica glitter (in the ‘best’ category)  CHRISTMAS BEST & WORSTand the infamous Santa in the Outhouse ornament (about 20 cents each, so at least the price was right) with its annoying mosquito-like medley of carols. Definitely the worst!

2012 wasn’t a huge year for ornament finds, but I love what I brought home, like the silly cat tree topper ($1), the vintage wood-shaving trees (50 cents)


and the old hand painted glass balls ($5).VINTAGE CHRISTMAS BALLS

I’m a bit surprised at the Bang for the Buck winner – two cans of “Victorian Christmas Tinsel” ($3). It doesn’t look like much when you take it out of the can, but somehow it picks up whatever light there is and gives little shimmering streaks through the tree.

Victorian tinsel


We don’t use lights on our tree (seems safer with rambunctious pets) so this gives a nice bit of glitz. I found another can of it this year, so I’m hopeful it will keep turning up on driveways and I’ll be able to amass quite a collection.

Next we have the Garden awards. Nominees include the compost bin ($20) and under-sink collecting bucket (50 cents), the non-exploding frog sprinkler ($1), and the weathered one-eyed cat bamboo wind chimes (out of a free box).

GARDEN COLLAGEAgain, we have a tie in this category. The $5 patio umbrella was an amazing find that has made our upstairs deck so comfortable for two summers now. And I found the first of several deck-rail planters in 2012 ($1 each) which let me grow herbs and all kinds of flowers for months. We live on that deck as soon as it warms up in the Spring to as late as possible in Autumn.Garden winners

Our last category of merchandise would be Things Bought to Resell. I’ve cut way back on this, because it’s actually a fair amount of work for the return, but it’s also exciting to test your picking acumen. I spent $55 on stock and made a profit (after all fees) of about $310. The shirt (10 cents!) that to me was just a pretty decent plaid shirt had a Jesse James label made over $30. (Yes, I’d love to find more of those!) The adorable embroidered pillow cases cost $2 and earned $6, the Bitossi-style ram figurine was 50 cents and made over $7 (if it had been a real Bitossi I would have kept it!).


But the deal of the year was the wooden dollhouse. Bought it because it reminded me of our house, cleaned it up and played with it for several months, then sold it via Craigslist at Christmastime for $95 – and believe me when I say that was a good deal and the mom who bought it was delighted. 

Now there’s one more category dear to my heart, and that’s the stories that go with garaging. I spent a couple of days reading through 2012’s posts with a smile on my face, remembering various encounters. We learned why it pays to buy good sunglasses, how and why our favorite rug was made, and what happens when a short-legged person (me!) is on the carousel horse that stops at its highest position.

But no story could top the tale of the gun-running Peke-a-poo. For sheer amazement I may never surpass that one…but I’ll certainly be out on the driveways of America with my ears flapping, hoping to hear something even better.

Gun-running dog flies to South America cr

Monday, December 23, 2013

Santa at the Grocery Store

I just had the nicest encounter! Had to buy groceries (and being in any kind of store on Christmas Eve eve is not something I ever want to do!) so I headed to our local big-box grocery store. One of those places where you do your own bagging in return for the best prices in town.

I was headed for the yams and saw a couple of guys wearing Santa hats near them, and our eyes met. I knew they looked familiar and at first thought they worked there. No…then I thought, dog park? Then the shorter of the two said, “Hey, here’s a lady who shops at our sales.”

So then I knew – they handle estate sales and I have indeed been to several of them. “That’s right, and the Christmas tablecloth in my dining room right now is from one of your sales,” I told them. Then I asked what they were up to.

“We’re being Secret Santas,” the taller guy said. “We’re looking for folks who seem like they could use some help and we’re giving out money.” And off they went on their mission.

Just two guys, as far as I could tell didn’t represent any service club or agency, out having a good time making someone’s day brighter.

I really like this town.


Sunday, December 22, 2013

The First Bang for the Buck Awards, Part 2

Back after a brief intermission, we continue looking back at last year’s spreadsheet to discover what purchases have stood the test of time. The first category – Gifts – was a shoo-in, since the recipient has told me he often uses it. And that would be the “Songs for the Open Highway” CD I found for BIL Biker Bob. Evidently it is exactly as perfect as I thought it would be to climb on that Harley and take off with these songs playing. Score!


In a way, the Pets category is a mixed bag, in that some of the nominees are for the pets’ delight, and some are for us to use with the pets. The baby gates are an example of the latter (found 3 during the year for a total of fifty cents!).


The bag of whiffle balls ($1) and the cute squeaky toy (25 cents) are the former. They delighted Zoe completely for the very short period of time it took her to destroy them. (Toys bought in stores last no longer, so I might as well make her happy without spending much.) Her Duke basketball (from a free box) made it from March to December.

b-ball 1

But for my money, the deal of the year was the blanket/pad thingie ($2) that is perfect in the back of the Civic to protect it from wet and muddy dogs on our daily dog park trips.

After the dog park 

This is clearly an after-park view of Zoe!

Moving on into the kitchen, we have many worthy candidates. In fact, I found 37 kitchen items through the year that in my conservative estimate would have cost well over $500 retail! A few favorites included the red-handled Italian strainer (50 cents), a large wok with lid and steamer basket ($2), a brand-new scrub brush that holds dish soap (75 cents), two Yorkshire pudding pans ($1) that have made many delicious little tarts, and a gorgeous blue Dansk fondue pot and stand ($6).


For sheer good looks and midcentury credentials, we’d have to make the fondue pot the winner. But kitchenware is essentially a practical category, and I must confess that I don’t make fondue all that often. So the coveted Bang for the Buck for Kitchenware goes to this unassuming little tea kettle that boils the water for my husband’s coffee every day

tea kettle

and whistles very loudly when the water is hot.

We’ll finish today with another practical category, which for lack of a better word I’ve always called “Household.” If you were to go garaging for no other reason, the wonderful tools you can find to help with daily life would be enough. Here’s where you can really save some money, too. The 41 items in this category would have cost close to $1200 in stores. Seriously. You just can’t beat deals like a $150 ladder for five bucks! Other favorites ranged from a terrific vintage Electrolux ($10, and it still keeps up with four furry pets) to a space heater ($3) to a vintage stamped pillowcase that enticed me to take up embroidery after who knows how long (free!) to a lifetime supply of safety pins.


Hard to choose a favorite, but I did: the wool rug made many years ago from colorful recycled strips of cloth sewn into a thick round. Better than any gel pad to stand on and cook – at least when the pets don’t get there before me.


One more round of awards is coming, leading up to my favorite category of all: The Story of the Year. I think I know which was the best story I was told in 2012…but if you have a fave, I’d love to know what it was!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The First (possibly) Annual Bang for the Buck Awards (Part One)

As I go through my days handling items I’ve bought on driveways, I’m often struck by how much use I get from things that usually cost so little. Of course there are also items that end up in the donation box going to the kitty thrift store, the ones that make me smack my forehead and cry, “What in the world was I thinking?” So I’ve decided to do my own awards ceremony, looking back over the previous calendar year (2012 in this case) and picking out the best – and worst – of my finds.

(This is born partly out of the frustration of now living in a climate where winter severely curtails garaging. Though on Friday we did manage to find a few vintage hats for Judy to try on.)


Wonder why there’s still a tag on this one…do suppose no one ever was brave enough to wear it?!

IMG_7430 IMG_7433 IMG_7434

I figure the Academy Awards also look at the previous year’s oeuvre; it takes a little time to know which items are going to prove themselves worthy. And just as with the Academy Awards, these choices are purely personal. They must be, or else how could Braveheart ever have been selected Best Picture instead of Babe?

Let’s get the category of Worst Choices Made on Driveways in 2012 out of the way. Yes, the forehead smackers. Nominees include the Lands End barn coat ($5) that I never wore; the Hall China cookie jar ($2) which had a crack I didn’t notice until I got home; and a Conair hair straightening wand thingie ($1) to try on my hair that’s only about two inches long and doesn’t really need straightening (did I suddenly channel my 14-year-old self who actually tried ironing her hair once because heaven forbid that it not be perfectly straight? Gosh, weren’t the Sixties FUN?). I seem to have come to my senses as soon as I got home that day, because I didn’t even take a picture of this thing.


All worthy nominees, but the What the Hell Was I Thinking Award goes to the Betty Boop bottle opener.

Oh, Betty! 

At least she only cost a dime.

Let’s move on so I can stop hanging my head in shame. Though that position does stretch out those stiff neck muscles we get sitting at our computers for too long!

In the Clothing category, we had to disqualify the pink paisley rain boots. Although no one else at the dog park had pink paisley boots, they failed monumentally on one important quality. They leaked. I tried fixing the leak. Wouldn’t fix. Finally threw them away. Sigh.

Much more successful were the black corduroy shirt (25 cents); the ($1) Nike gore-tex shoes (that don’t leak, so I’m still wearing them to the park); and the LL Bean lambswool sweater ($1) that only took about three months to get the dryer-sheet smell out of.


But as for bang for the buck (or the 50 cents in this case) I’m giving the award to the knit shirt I bought to use the cuffs on a jacket I already owned.

Fifty cent cuffs

The jacket is now much more comfortable, and the rest of the shirt became the lining for Zoe’s sweater coat that she wears to the park. And I used the scraps left from that for something else that I can’t remember at the moment.


And speaking of making things, let’s look at the Craft category, the things I buy thinking I will make something with them. Sometimes I actually carry through, so nominees include the toy xylophones ($1.50 for two) and fishing line (25 cents) that became three sets of wind chimes; the set of cream horn molds (free!) that became part of a whirligig (after I tried making cream horns with them); and the lovely blouse ($3) that became a classy sofa pillow cover until Zoe ate it.

crafts collage

But my favorite in this category has to be the 50 cent remnant of fabric that became the new lining for my vintage train case.

train case collage

Furniture is a small category, for even though our house is pretty large, it’s also pretty full of furniture! But I still found room for a vintage lab stool (($3); a coffee table we use in our home theatre ($5); and a vintage end table ($1) that still awaits refinishing.

furniture collage 1

I’m going to have to give the award as a tie to two midcentury pieces. The more valuable is the Bruksbo teak wall unit ($8, and apparently much rarer than the Cado units). But this guy is still awaiting mounting on the wall. So he ties with the pole lamp ($10) that we actually have standing in the family room, thanks to a clever extension my husband devised to accommodate a too-tall ceiling.

furniture collage 2

Decor is another small category, though sometimes it’s hard to decide whether an item should land here or in household goods. And decor that turns out not to be loved ends up in donations. So it’s hard to choose a Best-of. I still really like the funky wire art on black velvet ($1); the two little red wooden people (free); the Fisher Price chime ball ($1); and the wire dog letter holder ($1).

decor collage

But let’s give the coveted Bang for the Buck award to the vintage handmade divided wooden box because a) it was free, and b) it became a shelf that hold the wire dog and a number of other puppy pieces.

Box becomes shelf

In the interest of this post not being so darned long no one will finish reading, we end part one. Stay tuned for more Bang for the Buck awards soon!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

When Life Gives You Snowflakes…

I was SO excited Friday morning to head out with 4 or 5 estate sale addresses programmed into my GPS. When I picked Judy up she was just as jazzed – that many sales in December is a bonanza in these parts.

So what if a flake or two of snow was starting to fall! It was nothing. Of course, by the time we reached the first address, it was more than a flake or two, but the streets were still clear and dry. We were a little surprised to see a small sale set up by the sidewalk though. “When the house across the street is having an estate sale, it’s a good time to set up your own!” the lady told us. “Of course I wasn’t expecting snow.” We chatted for a few minutes as we perused her wares. “I think the mosquito repellant bands are going to be a hard sell this morning,” I told her, brushing snow off the package.

The estate sale house is one Judy and I have driven by many times and we always exclaim over how much we like it.

If anyone is in the market for a beautiful home with lots of built in storage and cool nooks and crannies, let me know and I’ll point you in the right direction! And it’s only about 4 blocks from the governor’s mansion, so you know it must be a nice neighborhood. (And no, those bushes were not blooming when we were there!)

Estate sales can tell a lot about the people who lived in a house. I think this was a very creative couple from the things we saw. She liked to sew, among other things, and had quite a stash of fabric and patterns. The ladies running the sale had arranged the fabric by color.     fabric stashThere was a good sized box of vintage patterns. This was our favorite.

three hats and a curler bag

He liked to make things too. I picked up a box of leather scraps for my BIL, Biker Bob, who’s been making some cool biker accessories and asked me to keep an eye out for leather. The box was taped up to keep everything together, so I had to wait until I got home to see what was there. It’s hard to resist a grab bag, isn’t it? Turns out there are all kinds of leather scraps.

leather stash

Green, anyone? Or purple?

green leatherpurple leather

There are practice pieces of tooling.

tooling leather

I probably will toss the random bit of string

green cord

but the lacing and needles will no doubt be useful.

leather lacingsleather needles

He was also a wood carver. I’d never seen a pipe before it was a pipe!

pipe carvingbefore carvingafter carving

Must have been heartbreaking when this beautiful piece of wood cracked.

oh no, it cracked!

The biggest (literally and figuratively) surprise was the 35- inch-long tanned snakeskin!

snakeskinsnakesking detail

This appears to have come from an alligator farm in Florida that Ross Allen ran from 1929 to 1969. So it must be at least 45 years old. Besides wrestling alligators and tanning skins, Ross also was a stunt double for Johnny Weissmuller in a Tarzan movie. Thrifting is SO educational!

Ross Allen snakeskin

My other purchase was an old tied baby quilt.

Zoe likes her quilt

Not fancy, but isn’t that flannel fabric adorable? And the batting inside appears to be wool.

lambs in flannel wool batt

You pick it up and all you can think is “cozy.” Zoe loves it. It was only a dollar because of its condition, but I’ve been wanting some kind of throw to cover the leather cushion of my vintage Siesta Chair

my chair

which is Zoe’s favorite sleeping spot. If Edward gets in it, she barks at him until he climbs out again.


We probably spent at least an hour at the sale, enjoying the details of the house as much as shopping. Down in the basement (wonderful vintage rec room) we heard some guys laughing as they came out of the laundry room. “They must have had to build the house around that thing!” one of them exclaimed.

I think they may be right. Biggest darned freezer I’ve ever seen in a home.

BIG freezervintage Beall freezer logo

When we emerged from the sale, we spontaneously began to sing “Winter Wonderland” for the snow had been busy. Had to scrape at least an inch off the car windows, and when we started around the corner and down the hill, braking got very interesting as I approached the stop sign. It only took us a couple of blocks to realize there was no way we were going to be able to go to any more sales. Just about broke our hearts, but we didn’t have long to think about it, because right away we had to concentrate on getting home.

The snow wasn’t terribly deep yet, but it was the kind that packs down and gets slick as soon as the first car drives on it…and we both live up a pretty steep hill. Fortunately I zigzag through our neighborhood often and know it quite well, and I was able to choose some of the less steep blocks for our ascent. Traffic was almost nonexistent once I was off the main street, so I took it slow and managed not to use my brakes until I got to Judy’s house. She seemed to be willing to hop out without my stopping, but I didn’t think that was necessary!

Made the few blocks from her house to mine just fine, and carefully backed into the carport with a sigh of relief. You know, no matter how old you get, life still hands you new experiences: I’ve never been garaging in a snowstorm before!

snow in the garden

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