Monday, November 25, 2013

Better than frugal? That would be FREE!

I have a thank-you for all my readers coming up later this week. When you’re a writer, having readers is a VERY big deal! I so appreciate your stopping by to check out the blog, and reading my books. So, for five days starting on Thanksgiving, I’ll be giving away the ebook of my first novel, Sleeping Dogs Lie, absolutely free!


Here’s the deal:

  • The Sleeping Dogs Lie ebook is available for free download from Amazon November 28 to December 2, 2013.
  • Available only for the Kindle
  • Don’t have a Kindle? You can get a free Kindle app and read this fun book on your computer, tablet, etc.
  • Sequels In Dogs We Trust & The Dog Prince are available for $2.99 as ebooks.
  • Paperbacks of all titles are still just $15.
  • Yes, please do tell your friends, put it on your Facebook page, and tweet away!

Not familiar with my books? They are funny, cozy mysteries – with dogs!

If you’re giving someone a Kindle for Christmas, this is a great opportunity to add a fun book to the gift. And yes, of course we’re hoping that you’ll love Sleeping Dogs Lie and go back to buy the next two books. (I’m working on book number four.)

For those who don’t have an e-reader…we’re planning a special sale of paperbacks soon, so stay tuned.

Remember, starting this Thursday! Go! Fetch! Read!


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Vintage…with two bullets!

Oh, how the sales do dwindle with the coming of winter! It was cold but sunny this weekend. Only a few ads on Craigslist. But something is better than nothing, yes? So Friday morning, Judy and I took off as usual on our treasure hunt.

We headed to the north part of town again (are they hardier up there than in South Salem??). Grace, my GPS, announced we had arrived at our first destination and we both said, “What?” What was advertised as an estate sale looked more like a junk yard behind a chain link fence. If I’d been alone I’m sure I’d never have stopped, but we figured we could protect each other. After all, Judy is almost 5’1” tall!

Turns out the “estate sale” was the leftovers from a junk shop the guy is closing down. I think there should be some appropriate punishment for people who claim they’re having an estate sale when they’re not. Ideas, anyone? Nothing that will land us in jail but will provide a sense of irate satisfaction.

We wandered around for a bit, and another shopper came by, a middle aged guy. He pointed to a rusty tool near me and asked me what it was. “It’s not my sale, I’m just shopping like you,” I told him. Didn’t faze him at all. “Yeah, but what is it?” I looked at the item in question – a short rusted blade thingie on a wooden handle. “It’s some kind of logging tool,” I said as though I actually knew. Hey, this is Oregon, and logging is the local industry.

The guy running the sale came in and the other shopper asked him about the tool. “It’s some kind of logging tool,” he said.

Never doubt a librarian when she makes something up. It could very well be true.

We went to the next sale on the list. Nothing to buy, but a nice couple to chat with. Somehow we got onto senior discounts. The husband had gray hair but evidently was in his early fifties, but he agreed that if someone wants to give a discount, take it.

One last address was in the GPS, but when we got there it was a little strip mall. “What the heck?” I said, but then Judy noticed the name on one of the stores. “That’s the name of the store that first guy said he was closing!” Now we really were peeved at him. If I were the person leaving notes about sales on Craigslist, this guy’s ears would be burning!

There was a thrift store across the street, so we bopped around there for a bit. Nada, and everything overpriced. We decided to check out the humane society thrift store, which has better prices and very friendly workers. I spotted a couple of record albums that I figured would give my husband pause if I were to bring them home and was holding my camera aloft to get them both in a picture. “You could put them somewhere lower,” suggested one of the volunteer ladies, “or maybe I could bring you a stepladder!” We both cracked up.

Oh, Barbra!Not in my house

Judy found a couple of things, including a $5 ceiling light fixture for the kitchen of the rental house they’re fixing up. I was empty handed until I took a look on the checkout counter, where I spied an old piece of embroidery. I think it may have been a pocket on a departed garment.

antique embroidery

Once I picked it up and looked at the wonderful stitchery I found I couldn’t put it down again.

fine stichery on the back

At first I thought it was the letter N, but finally decided it’s the initials A.H. It’s definitely old, I’m guessing at least from the Twenties and maybe older. When I got home I gave it a careful pressing


and framed it with a sheet of handmade mulberry paper behind it. (Having a stash of frames comes in handy!)

 antique monogram               

I love it.

Saturday morning the sun was still shining. The only sale on my list was an estate sale (a real one this time!) two blocks from home, so I walked over. Got there a few minutes early and chatted with other attendees as we shivered and waited for the door to open. In the carport I spotted a planter I liked, but no price tag was visible. Figured it might be spendy since it was a mid century bullet shaped planter in a stand (clay, rather than the fiberglass you usually see – which go for about $150). As soon as I got in the door I asked about it. “Five bucks,” they said. “Mine,” I said. (Hey, Cathy G., do you remember your challenge a while back about finding a bullet planter? Score!)

bullet plantervintage planter

It was bullet morning, because the next thing I found was a bullet lamp!

bullet light

Gold aluminum or brass, push button switch. Shoots light straight up and works great. Tag inside says it’s a Prescolite, which I think are still made – though not in this style.

old prescolite label

In the kitchen I picked up a stack of heavy cotton napkins, seven of them for a dollar.

cotton napkins

(Yes, Zoe is still the scourge of cloth napkins, though we are getting better at keeping them out of her reach!). Underneath I found a darling embroidered tea towel.

vintage tea towelFriday puppies

Definitely needs an oxy soak, but should clean up well. And underneath that, there it was…THE CUTEST embroidered object ever. Ever, I tell you!

Sunday setter

A potholder, with wonderful vintage flannel on the back.

vintage flannel

Isn’t that fabulous? The “Home Sweet Home” on the wall, “Sunday” on a scroll, the blue apron and the paws up on a hassock…I swoon.

Rocker pup

It was waiting for me to find it. And I did.

Sunday, November 17, 2013


It’s getting late in the year (do you realize there are only 7 weekends left in 2013? Yikes!) and sales are dwindling. We are entering the season of the estate sale. There were only half a dozen sales on my list to check out over the two days. Who knew that this would end up being the weekend I’d spend over fifty bucks?
Yes, for me that is a major splurge! And half of it was for one item. A sudden fit of passion was all it took!
Judy and I headed out Friday for sales that were miles apart. There was still a short line waiting to get into the first estate sale, but we decided to wait. Everyone was chatting and having a nice time. I got into conversation with the lady behind us, and Judy suddenly left the line to talk to a gentleman 4 or 5 places back. When we got inside she explained he was her ex-brother in law! This happens all the time with her, the woman runs into someone she knows just about everywhere we go. Didn’t find anything I wanted to here, so we hopped back in the car and headed to the north end of town. (Chattering all the way – we never run out of conversation.)
This sale was better – I actually started picking up a few things. A pair of black angora gloves, a white Italian wool muffler that looks like it’s never been used (I like it with that black coat I got
 a can of mini Victorian twisted tinsel, just like I found at another sale last year.
 Could not resist this vintage wire letter holder – it looks too much like our friend Xanadu!

 A box held pieces of fabric of various sizes, and for one single dollar I scored this lovely, heavy silk. The front & back are completely different.
It’s only 36” wide but there’s over 3 yards of it. Any suggestions on how I should use it?

Then we walked into the living room, where we saw a mid century cabinet in one corner. Judy wondered what it was, and I said I bet it was a record player. The price wasn't marked, so we asked. Twenty-five bucks. Does it work? No one knew. Another shopper asked if it had a radio in it, and we all stood around inspecting it. Then one of the worker guys grabbed an album off the pile that was for sale, put it on the turntable, and gently lifted the needle onto the record.

Nat King Cole began to sing “Unforgettable.” Everyone in the room paused in what they were doing. And a moment later, over the lush music, I heard a voice saying, “Mine. It’s mine. I’ll take it.”
Yeah. My voice. What can I say…the sound was to die for; I could hardly believe the clarity. An RCA Victor Total Sound Stereophonic record player. It’s a wonderful piece of furniture, just the right period for my house. 
I love the legs, the font on the control panel.
Look at the embossed emblem on the arm. 
 Nipper, the RCA dog, always reminds me of our Zoe. Or vice versa.
These puppies were the bomb, back in the day.
 And yes, I bought the Nat King Cole album too, plus another blast from the past.
Luckily I was driving the Civic (knew it was too cold and rainy to put the top down on my convertible) and the RCA fit nicely into the back. We headed on to our last estate sale, where the first thing I saw was a piano. I have my weaknesses; I can never pass a wind chime without hearing what it sounds like, and I’m the same with a piano. So I stood and played it for a couple of minutes (that folk-sounding tune that Ken Burns used in his Civil War documentary). A nice looking piano but the sound left something to be desired. Left it to look at the stack of record albums (now that I have to collect them again!) and when I asked how much the records were, the lady said, “They’re a dollar each, and you get a free one because you played the piano!” First time I've ever been rewarded for my piano playing, which is at a pretty primitive level!

Saturday started with an estate sale with nothing for me, then a couple of moving sales. When I arrived at the first, they were loading the biggest Christmas wreath I've ever seen into the trunk of a car as a cute little dog watched. I went inside to shop, and a few minutes later the guy came in laughing. “While we loading that thing,” he told his wife, “Al climbed into the front seat of her car and was ready for a ride.” Al was the dog. He spends his days in a second grade classroom. Lucky kids!
There were some wine glasses for sale, and okay, that’s another sound I can’t resist. I never buy a wine glass without pinging it, and if it doesn't sound right I don’t buy it. These sounded fine.
When I got them home I noticed a brand name etched on the base and looked them up. 
Riedel. OMG. Did you know that just one of their best wine glasses can cost over $200? I imagine these two are from a less fancy line, but even the least expensive ones are over twenty bucks each. I’d say a buck for the pair is a win for me – and just think how good my pinot noir will taste!

My last stop was more downscale, but a nice family, getting ready to move. I noticed a little glass topped patio table and four chairs; they need repainting but hey, for $15 I can do that. And the chairs are fabulous. 
I discovered they were made by Homecrest, most likely in the early Sixties. I’ll be keeping an eye out for something like a heavy vinyl tablecloth to use for recovering the seats. This set will live on our downstairs deck. Any votes on what color to paint them?

So that’s the story of my third biggest splurge of 2013. Number two was the weekend that included a weight bench set for fifty bucks, which my husband uses regularly. (Better than monthly gym fees!) And the really biggie was back in May when I scored 31 items of quality clothing for a little over $70 – or about the price of just one of the Hawaiian shirts it included.

Seven more weekends…wonder if there are any more treasures out there waiting for me this year?
When I wrote that last paragraph on Saturday evening, I figured that was the end of the story. But every time I woke up in the night I found I was thinking about something I’d seen at the first sale on Saturday, and I knew I had to go back.

For a bonsai.

This estate sale included a big collection of bonsai. I have to admit I can take or leave the usual evergreens, but these were mostly deciduous trees. Maples, a mimosa, a contorted filbert. 
I was tempted but resisted their price…but knew that Sunday would be half-price day. I admit I was kind of antsy driving over there, afraid they’d all be gone. I kept reminding myself of my belief that if we’re supposed to have something, we will. When I arrived at the house I hurried downstairs and out onto the patio – where there were two bonsai left. An evergreen, and an elm.

Of all the bonsai in the group picture, I do think this is about the prettiest! I love the double trunk. And when I got home I started reading about its care, and apparently the Chinese elm is considered perfect for beginners. (Whew!) And you know what? I bet my little tree will just love Nat King Cole.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

MCM Eye Candy

As you may know, the home we retired to in Oregon is a Mid Century Modern post-and-beam house, built in 1957.

Google drive by 4-12

Since we bought it I’ve had lots of fun looking for furniture and accessories from the Fifties, and have really come to love the modern architecture of the period. In fact, we’re working on starting a social group for local MCM homeowners and aficionados. Turns out my neighborhood is just full of amazing houses.

But what I want to share with you is not my neighborhood – it’s a bunch of MCM architecture mostly from the Seattle area. Rambling around online I came across the University of Washington Library’s photographic collections, particularly the Dearborn – Massar collection. They were a husband and wife team who took pictures of Pacific Northwest architecture from the Forties into the mid-Sixties. Mostly houses but also schools, medical buildings, offices, churches.

I love the house pictures! I’m sure we all see interior decoration all the time, but these are from the period the houses were built. I’ve been struck over and over at the simplicity of kitchens then. And the wonderful furniture I drool over is often in living rooms that by today’s standards are quite bare, with just a few pieces in them. Every once in a while I see something in a picture that I actually own – a teapot, my dining chairs. Maybe I’ll run into my new/old Ben Seibel creamer in someone’s kitchen.

Iroquois china Ben Seibel creamer

There are over 1300 pictures in the collection, all in black and white. Yes, color might be nice, but in grayscale I think you are more aware of shapes. Some of the pictures seem to be repeats, but even so there’s a ton to look at.

Overturf residence interior showing kitchen, Seattle, 1954

I’ve been pinning some of them to my Pinterest board. So far nothing I’ve pinned has been pinned by anyone else, and given the ubiquity of Pinterest these days, that tells me that not enough people know about these photos. So if you’re a Madmen fan who’s been enjoying their sets, or grew up in the Fifties and have fond memories, or just like MCM architecture, go take a look. A lot of time and effort went into scanning all these pictures, they deserve to be enjoyed!

Sunday, November 10, 2013


Someone has started posting ads on our local Craigslist reviewing the various sales they go to. Okay, not so much reviewing as taking the ones they don’t like to task. I’ve seen several where they tell you that such-and-such sale is full of crap, or that it’s supposed to be an estate sale but obviously is not. Or that somebody running a sale is really rude. Having been to some of the sales they’ve critiqued, I have to admit they were spot on, though sometimes harsher than I thought necessary.

For instance, there was a sale in town this weekend that said it was a fund raiser. Their photos on the Craigslist ad showed lots of stuff, so I headed over there. Wasn’t as fabulous as the pics made me hope, but I found a couple of things and the folks were nice. But the Yard Sale Reviewer criticized them on C’list for not identifying who or what they were raising funds for. I had the impression it was a church group, and didn’t care anyway. After all, for five bucks I took away this nice pot

embossed cache pot

for my new cyclamen that I picked up at Trader Joe’s this week. (The lady in front of me in the checkout line said the one she got last winter bloomed for eight months, so I thought I’d give it a try.)

Bloomis for winter

Plus a mint Erzgebirge nutcracker.

Erzgebirge SantaIf Santa were a soldier

Did you ever see such a militaristic Santa? I fell in love with his hat with the wooden pompom.

Santa's Ergebirge hat

Plus, a warm overcoat in my size. The fabric felt so nice when I picked it up I had to hunt for the content label. Sure enough – wool and cashmere, in perfect condition.

Wool & cashmere overcoat

I can hardly wait for real winter weather. Okay, yes I can, but I’ll be ready for it. the brand is one sold at Nordstrom's, so the original owner probably paid a pretty penny.

Kristen Blake label

And if it turns out I don’t use the coat much, Noll Baxter assures me he’d love to have it for a cat bed.

Cashmere makes a nice cat bed

So the YSR may have been overly cranky here. But I thought they had a point with another of their critiques about an estate sale down the hill from my house: 

This is a family sale that was picked over before and the leftovers are ridiculously priced. Worse than that, they lied in their posting. They listed jewelry and I sat there for three hours waiting for the sale to open...only to discover that there is no jewelry. I hate liars, misrepresenters, and overpricers. Don't waste your time with this hard to get to sale.

It was definitely hard to get to. When I arrived I had to park a block or so away, and met some people coming down the quite steep lane to the sale. They told me the sellers were only letting in eight people at a time and there was a really long line, so I left and went back later. It was indeed an estate sale being run by the family, and the daughter of the house didn’t really want to part with anything. I don’t know about the jewelry, but overpriced, for sure. Even though it was in a pretty cool mid-century modern house (original appliances in the kitchen, ceiling tiles printed with starburst designs, light fixtures that would look SO much better in my MCM house!)

MCM kitchen lightMCM dining room light

the people running the sale had such attitude that I was decidedly cranky when I left. No, I did not write that ad. But you know that because you know I’d never wait three hours to look at some jewelry!

Personally I think the YSR missed the boat on the weirdest sale out there. I admit their ad was clear that it was the second weekend of their sale but promised they had brought in many more items. If I had remembered exactly which place it was from the week before I’d never have returned. But I did.

Both times, the supposed houseful of items was a couple of pieces of furniture inside (where grandma was making her breakfast as people trooped through the kitchen) and some framed art prints. Out in the crowded garage people asked the middle age woman taking money about prices on the mostly-unmarked items. She quickly became flustered and her language quite peppered with four-letter words (pretty unusual around here – at least in public). Another woman and I exchanged glances over the tatty vases and used clothing. “I don’t think I’d put her in charge of the money,” she murmured.

I was mentally kicking myself for returning as soon as I headed up their driveway and realized where I was. But I was there, so I looked around. Maybe they did bring in more stuff, but if anything their prices had gone up from the week before. Another shopper said something to me about being sorry for the ruckus she had raised, which I had missed. She thought the price marked on an old doll was fifty cents – and it was supposed to be fifty bucks. I guess the cashier had been pretty snippy.

There was a nice kitty demonstrating the linens

 Handsome neighbor kitty 

but it wasn’t even their cat and had wandered over from a neighbor’s house. I was on my way out when I spotted a little midcentury cream pitcher and picked it up.

Iroquois leaf creamer

Of all their overpriced merchandise, this was the only really cool piece there – and it was marked twenty-five cents.

Iroquois china Ben Seibel creamerCreamer label          

So now it’s mine. And I’m never going back to their house again!

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