Monday, January 19, 2015

The Recalcitrant Red Chair

Oh joy, an estate sale on Friday! You thrifters know that feeling, when it’s winter and raining (or maybe snowing where you are) and there just are no sales to go to…and then there is one. Whew! This one was in Albany (about half an hour away) and my cohort Judy was vacationing in Bend so I was on my own, but I was going. So there.

And it did not disappoint. The house was one of those large 1890s numbers that someone with imagination had lived in. I wanted to steal the handles off the corner cupboards in the dining room.

Acorn drawer handle

Upstairs was decorated with some amazing wallpaper.

Wallpaper roses

The master bedroom had its own sitting room.

Great wallpaper & a red chair

See the red chair? We’ll return to the red chair in a bit.

I made my way through the upstairs, then the basement (which appeared to have been updated in the Fifties with a rumpus room), then the main floor (the kitchen had cabinets from the Twenties and a peninsula counter from the Fifties), gathering up some goodies and wishing Judy was with me to try on all the hats. This one was hand constructed by ‘Sherman’ and had a matching handbag.

Vintage hat by Sherman

I went to pay. The cashier was probably in her fifties and had very short mottled blue hair. Smurf blue. I admit this is a fashion that I do not want to participate in (you won’t see me in one of those long jersey dresses with the bold stripes either) but it was a cheerful blue and she was quite pleasant. I commended her and her helper on their pricing (very reasonable even by my standards!) and she said, “It does not help the estate if no one buys anything.” I wish more estate sale folks shared her philosophy.

While I was paying there was conversation about the woman buying “the chair” and if she had paid for it. Someone stepped outside to check and came back and reported she was just loading the chair into her car and would be back in a minute to pay for that and some other things. They kept watching from the window and commenting on the progress of getting the chair into the car and what kind of car it was (a Toyota) and was it a hatchback and couldn’t she lay down the back seats and get it in that way but no, they don’t work like that in that car, and it looks like she’s just about got it in. I took my change and bag of goodies, and headed out the front door.

The woman with the chair was taking a breather. I stopped to ask if she could use a little help. Oh no, she was fine she said, but she was gasping for breath and sweat was literally running down her face. She had gotten a lot of the chair into the passenger seat, but a goodly hunk was still sticking out. And although she kept saying she could do it, she also leaned over with her hands on her knees and muttered something about feeling like she was going to throw up. Just breathe, I told her, slow breaths, in, out…and holding my own breath hoping very hard that no throwing up would ensue.

Which it did not. Hallelujah. In a few minutes we tackled the chair again. Ooched and pushed. I went around and pulled from the other side. We talked as we ooched and I learned she’s a writer, Therese. (Turns out I’m familiar with her blog.) Meanwhile people are coming and going and while one or two made humorous comments no one else stopped to lend a hand.

(Which I don’t get. Aren’t we here to help each other? And it goes both ways – when someone does offer help, how often do we say oh no, I’m fine, don’t you worry about me.)

We got the chair further into the car, but not enough. Door won’t close. Chair has turned into something like my cat Mrs. Wilberforce when she has to go into a traveling case. Her legs go out sideways (how does she do that?) and she will NOT fit through the door. I think Chair was simply refusing to get in the car. No! I live here and I’m not leaving! Chair was thinking.

A large young man carrying a toy frog came out of the sale. He looked strong. I accosted him for further aid. He didn’t think he could do anything, but by golly we ooched it some more. He turned around and butted Chair further in. And that was it. Chair was in as far as she would go. Door was still a couple of inches from closing, but nice young man with frog fetched a bungee cord from his truck and we wrapped it to the back door and hoped no cops would notice.

Mr. Frog & a red chair

Which I guess they didn’t, as you can see from Therese’s account of the story. I think this is the first time I’ve gotten to read the other side!

My own purchases were easy to fling into my car and head home, and it was $8.50 well spent. The bulk of it went for this completely frivolous find.

Lady & cat pull toy

I think I have a new collection: Odd Wooden Toys. Everyone who sees this one is reminded of the flying nun. I love the jaunty angle of her hat brim.

Wooden pull toy  Girl in cart from back

Then they marvel at the gigantic (almost heraldic) cat.

Cat pull toy

I went looking online and found nothing remotely like it. Maybe it was a prototype, and the toy company owner looked at it and told the designer, nope. That will never sell.

In one of the upstairs rooms there were vintage bags and gloves. When I picked these up

Cashmere & wool gloves

my hands told my brain, ooooh, cashmere. I thought they had an owie (which I knew I could repair)

Wool & cashmere gloves

but it was just holding the tag confirming what my hands already knew.

Cashmere gloves tag

There was a stack of vintage linens with really amazing prices. I’m pretty sure these are placemats, not towels.

Handwoven placematsHandwoven placemats closeup

When I saw this tag, I knew they were coming home with me.

Handwoven placemats tag

More lovely handwork. Currently in their oxy soak; hopefully the age stains will go away.

Swedish weaving towelSwedish weavingEmboidered towelTowel embroidery

Picked up some sets of napkins, and my hands told my brain, oooooh, linen.

purple Dansk napkins   blue Dansk NapkinsI’m about 95% sure these are vintage Dansk pieces from the Sixties.

Dansk napkin purpleDansk napkin blue

The weaving and feel remind me very much of a never-used set I sold on eBay for something like $80.

Dansk linens by Ritva Puotila

I’m trying them out on our dining table as a runner.

Dansk linens

There was only one disappointment, and it was my own fault. This is good tea, and certainly the price was reasonable

Tea Forte

but I should have looked inside the box before I bought it.  Tea Forte a little  Only two…and I don’t like Earl Grey!

you can keep the Earl Gray

Monday, January 12, 2015


I saw ads on Craigslist for a couple of estate sales last weekend, but with my partner in crime fun Judy out of town I couldn’t get motivated to drive for miles in the rain. So I stayed home warm and dry and enjoyed some of the fruits of last summer’s garaging.

I noticed something the other day that was an absolute thrill…

African violets 1

The African violets I found last summer are starting to bloom! African violets 2

I have never gotten African violets to rebloom. Not even when I tried the tough-love approach reported in this post. I’ve bought them in the past blooming their little heads off, and tried to do everything you’re supposed to for them, but once the initial blooms faded I never saw another. So this is a big deal for me.African violets 3

Picked up two of them, and the second has budded as well.

African violets bud

Maybe they like the company they’re keeping – the yard sale aloe that Judy plucked out of a free box, and two begonias from a church rummage sale.

yard sale plants

The begonias were sporting some lovely but modest sprays of pink blooms a few weeks ago. They all live in yard sale pots on the yard sale wicker stand in a corner of the dining room, near the yard sale bench. Yes, I practice what I preach!

yard sale plant stand

And even though I didn’t go to any sales this weekend, I found a surprise in my camera from the last time I went out. When I downloaded the violet pictures, this one showed up as well. (I can never resist a good misspelling.)

InFred heater 

I bet Fred was surprised!

Friday, January 2, 2015


I’d say it was a very good year, that 2014. Lots of Fun Fridays with Judy, Saturday garaging with Toni or by myself, estate sales, church rummage sales, and bargains galore. Of course I did buy the single most expensive thing I’ve ever bought on a driveway

Zoe likes the Ekornes sofa 

but it was well worth it. Not only did I get the most comfortable sofa in the world for a fraction of its retail price, but I’m still getting happy eggs from Ann who I met at that sale!

happy eggs

When I looked back over the year I found that Judy had tried on lots of hats.

P1040130 Judy olé! P1050047 P1050048

She definitely gets the Good Sport Award for modeling them all. We had a lot of fun holding her moving sale back in April.


The low point of the year – literally! – was the Saturday I did a downhill face-plant onto asphalt on my way to an estate sale.


Ouch! But miraculously I only had minor injuries and bounced right back, though I still think it’s unfair that I landed right on my eye and never got a shiner.

As I do at the end of each year, I played with my spreadsheet to tabulate what I spent, in what categories, and what my return on investment was. It’s worth the few minutes time each week to keep a record if for no other reason than to see that bottom line! So how did 2014 work out?

Well, the category with the most spent was of course furniture. That sofa, you know. There were also a couple of office chairs (one was free!) and two small tables. Estimated return on investment (i.e. for every dollar I spent on a driveway, how much I would have had to spend retail): $5.93.

Christmas decor was next; not a huge category with only 8 items bought. ROI: $7.31. Favorite item was that vintage Santa with the lightbulb nose.

Vintage wooden Santa

Items to resell: bought a total of 39, which is a lot for a year I didn’t really intend to do any reselling! But it got fun again, and I reaped $7.44 reward for every dollar invested. (Way better than my savings accounts!) Best increases were the twenty-five cent tea towel that reaped $11 profit

Irish Cabin linen tea towel

and the fifty-cent Bitossi-style horse that made $28.

vintage Bitossi style horse

I was amazed to see that I picked up 26 yard-related items, with a ROI of $8.70. Best finds were the lovely Arias wind chimes,

Arias windchimes 

pair of vintage Homecrest chairs,


and that antique wheelbarrow with the iron patch.

antique wheelbarrow all metal

Can’t remember if I told you that patch is so darned good that the wheelbarrow holds water!

Bought a lot of household items, which is kind of a catch-all category. They ranged from an elliptical to napkins and tablecloths to umbrellas. (Still love the raining cats and dogs umbrella!). ROI: $9.70. Favorites: the handmade quilted runner,


the $3 Rowenta iron,

Rowenta iron

and the $3 French tablecloth.

French tablecloth

I’ve never bought so many crafting items before, but then before this year I hadn’t picked up knitting as a constant companion. So constant in fact that I’ve given myself a repetitive stress owie and have to stop for a while! I’ve got to get healed so I can get back to work on that yarn stash. Besides all the yarn

Yarn stash

I found some great vintage buttons

vintage buttons

and several nice pieces of fabric. ROI for crafts: $14.16.

 hummingbird fabric

We do a lot of cooking and baking around here, and I found some great equipment this year with a ROI of $14.86. Love the Le Creuset baking pan


the 25¢ silicone pastry mat

silicone rolling sheet

and the clip on spoon holder (also a quarter).


It would be awfully hard to go garaging without picking up some decorative items. Fortunately they are spendy in stores but cheap on driveways, so the ROI was about $19.62. Still love the French skittles clown


and the wooden bunny

Ulbricht Bunny cute!

and (of all things) the crystal water buffalo!

Crystal water buffalo

Lots of entertainment available on driveways, and I brought a lot of it home. 192 items, good grief! But in several cases that was a whole bunch of magazines at a time, which adds up.

Vogue knitting magazines

Found lots of great movies and CDs too. And the ROI was $20.42.

more DVDs

Okay, let’s get what I think of as the category of shame out of the way – the things I bought that I ended up donating. The mistakes…and there were plenty this year! Over $30 worth. But some were items I thought would resell, and didn’t; some music and movies that weren’t worth keeping. And the snowglobe with the oversized beaver ready to eat the Oregon State Capitol.


But I think I got my money’s worth in laughs out of that one.

Would you believe I gifted 30 driveway items this year, with a ROI of $26.51? Some pretty nice stuff too, like an Eileen Fisher jacket that retails for $325, and a Blue Willi’s sweater that probably originated in the $200-300 range. And Xanadu still loves her squeaky squirrel!

Gimme that squirrel!

Our pets were not neglected either. ROI in this category was $31.80, and the best deal was the folding dog ramp that I’m happy to say Edward does not yet need. But he’s 12 years old, and not getting any younger, so I’m prepared.

We’re nearing the top of the ROI scale, and I was interested to see the three highest categories were clothing and accessories. Clothes for me had an ROI of $38.79 and the handful of accessories were $42.04. I wear the German shoes

brown Waldlaufers

and the Scottish muffler a lot these days,

William Brunton Scarf

and never fail to get compliments on the pashmina shawl.

pashmina shawl

The Hobo International billfold goes with me everywhere


and is still riding around in the Vera Bradley bag

Vera Bradley bag

that I thought was rather large but it’s so lightweight and comfortable I keep using it.

The highest return on investment for 2014 turned out to be in the category of clothes for my husband. He made out like a bandit with an ROI of $55.23! He got a bunch of new shirts, including a 25¢ Carhartt, but the faves are the vintage Pendletons that cost a buck apiece.

Vintage Pendleton shirts

The bottom line? Went garaging all but 9 weekends in 2014, spent $1412.20, and ended up with about $15,367 worth of merchandise. It was a very good year…now bring on 2015!

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