Saturday, October 9, 2021

It IS a Small World After All

Lately I've been having small-world encounters. You know, like when you’re at a large conference with people from all over the country and you get to talking with the person next to you who is from another state, and after a bit you figure out her daughter is your next door neighbor. (Yup, that actually happened, but it was years ago, so it doesn’t count for now.)

A few weeks ago I got to talking to a good old boy at a sale, and we discovered we were both from Missouri, though he was a recent transplant to Oregon and I left Kansas City at the age of 10. We had a nice chat; he seemed a bit homesick but willing to give Oregon a chance because his wife likes it here. My favorite part was when he said, “You know what I really miss about Missouri?” There was a pause as a myriad of possibilities raced through my mind…the rolling hills? Sweet German wines? The Ozarks? Grasshoppers? Fields of corn? “No, what?” I encouraged.

“Red potatoes,” he said. “We never have red potatoes any more.”

I managed not to laugh, wondering if his wife prefers Yukon Golds and has convinced him it's all she can find here. “Ummm, that’s my favorite too, and most grocery stores have them.” He looked pleased and we went on our ways. I've wondered since if his wife has relented and fed him red potatoes, but I'll never know.

My latest example actually happened at the grocery store, and came about because I was wearing my favorite jacket, which came from a yard sale (of course). I remember the sale where I found it, but not the year; had to be between 2001 when I moved to Orange County, and 2005 when I started my garaging spreadsheet (it's not on even the earliest pages). It's a floral print barn jacket from now-defunct Smith & Hawken, who purveyed rather upscale gardening tools, clothes, and household goods. 

Made of a heavy cotton fabric; originally the collar and cuffs were dark red corduroy, but I covered them with some scraps of silk I had in my stash.

It's one of those season-spanning garments that you wear and wear and wear, and the mix of colors means it goes with just about everything. I remember paying $3 for it. I cherish the memory of wearing it at another sale where a woman declaimed loudly, “That’s the exact same fabric I have on my sofa!” Everyone shopping on her driveway slewed around to stare at what well-dressed sofas were wearing.

Anyway, I love this jacket. And so did another grocery shopper yesterday, who came up to me in the bulk foods aisle to tell me so. A compliment can be a great ice breaker, and before we knew it we were talking and laughing and comparing yard sale notes. We kept talking as we both headed to the bins of nuts, and both started to get bags of pecans. I said something like, “Aha, another pecan lover,” and she said, “Well, I’m from Oklahoma and that’s where they’re from.” I stopped dishing nuts. “I don't believe this – I'm from Oklahoma!” (It's where my family moved when we left Missouri.) We quickly ascertained we had lived in the same city, and since she was about my age I asked where she went to high school.

And would you believe that in a grocery store in Salem, Oregon, nearly 2000 miles and over 50 years away, we found we’d both graduated from the same school. Not the same year, she was there a bit before me, but she only went to that school for a year and a half, and I was there only for my senior year. Goodness, what are the odds?!

We talked and talked; it was wonderful. This is probably what I've missed most during the pandemic, just talking to people. We had to keep moving out of the way of folks who were trying to get to various bins. I'm sure they thought we were long lost sisters or something.

I've reaped many benefits over the years by thrifting; it's a habit that contributed enormously to my finances. But much more important than the stuff has been meeting so many interesting and entertaining people, both in person and through this blog.

Even at the grocery store!

Sunday, September 12, 2021

The New Blanket

Zoe’s been needing a new blanket. I know you know that when I say new, I mean new-to-us, not new-new. She likes something portable that she can dig and arrange and create a nest. She’s been using one made of two layers of fleece with the edges cut into strips and tied together. The fabric is cute and she’s gotten a lot of use from it, but…it’s made of polyester.

The more I read of the pollution in the ocean caused by laundering polyester textiles, the more bothered I've become about it. There is almost no polyester in my clothing and household goods (you know me and cotton and linen and cashmere!) but here was this blanket. Which, being used entirely by dogs who drag it around and sleep on it, definitely needs laundering fairly often. So I decided to look for a replacement made of cotton. I figured I'd see one of those loosely woven cotton throws before too long (which I haven’t).

But I think I found something better – a thick small sized quilt that apparently was originally from World Market or the like. Spotted it at a sale in my old neighborhood on Friday, with a price tag of two bucks. As it turned out it was the only find of the day, but that’s fine, because it's been a total hit.

I threw it into the washer as soon as I got home. Washed and dried beautifully. It's thick, hand quilted with what appears to be a cotton batting. 

I took it into the house and laid it on the bed to admire, and two seconds later saw this.

A couple minutes passed and....

All three of my girls love this thing! Right now it’s covering their side of the bed. I keep finding them hanging out on it during the day, 

and at bedtime they line up down its length and snooze all night. The size is perfect both for the bed and for the sofa during the day, especially as it gets cooler. I haven’t told the girls yet, but I really like this thing too. We may have to work out some kind of time share agreement so I can get cozy under it too.

It almost makes me look forward to winter. I see myself snuggled into my red sofa, sipping a cup of tea, reading a good book, quilted throw over my legs, Millie on my lap, Fannie holding down one side and Zoë the other.

The furnace will not be needed, and there will be absolutely no chance of me falling off the sofa!

Sunday, August 29, 2021

That’ll Be $5.50 Please

When you do the same activity over and over, it’s always interesting when a new detail appears in all the sameness. I've gone to a gazillion sales over the years, and in the time I've been blogging, some standout moments were the day I bought and sold King Kong, the time young Maggie danced for me, the Saturday morning I brought home an eight foot long sofa in a Honda Civic. Or this past Friday, when Lysa and I encountered the first campfire-in-a-garage I've ever seen. 

Which, while charming (as flickering flames generally are) struck careful old me as possibly a bit rash – with the bowl standing on a wooden stool, and - before I gently commented on it - a box full of various aerosol cans and a roll of paper towels right beside.

A couple of weeks ago, I went to three sales and when I got home and totted up my buys, I realized I had spent the same amount at each sale: $5.50. I'm pretty sure that has never happened before. My friend Marcia’s reaction to this news was an incredulous, “You spent $16.50  in one weekend?” (She’s known me a long time!) Well, yes, but I got some good stuff!

One sale netted 5 movies – 3 Blu-ray and 2 DVDs. (Have you ever seen G-Force? Superhero guinea pigs…hilarious.) 

Another had something I was just about to resort to buying new: a wheelbarrow to replace the one I've about worn out. 

The fifty cents went for a white long-sleeve t-shirt (I know you can provide your own image!), always a useful item.

And the third sale provided a pair of minty green crop pants, 

another t-shirt, 

a festive boiled wool vest, 

and three pairs of adorably cute shoes.

I was going to be semi sensible and only get the red and blue shoes (two bucks a pair) but then the nice lady threw in the black ones for free. How could I say no?

Segue to this weekend. I didn’t buy a lot, but I was amused to realize when I got home that I had spent…that’s right, $5.50. The fifty cents this time went for a lovely plate that I suspect is pretty old. 

And the $5 went for a treasure.

I've been watching for linen tablecloths, because I have a yen to try out linen sheets and I figure I can easily repurpose tablecloths. (Actual linen sheets are hideously expensive.) I was planning to sew two or three together with flat overlapped seams, but it's been ages since I've found even smaller ones for a decent price. Or at all.  I'd started to wonder if I've already bought every piece of linen in Salem.

Lysa and I had almost finished perusing a sale with a lot of vintage ‘collectibles’ when I walked by a couple of young women pulling things out of a box and exclaiming over them. When I realized it was vintage textiles they were looking at, I moved closer. We all admired the lace curtain panels, and the long dresser scarf of tatted lace. None of them had ever heard of tatting (sheesh, I am getting old!) so I explained about the tatting shuttle and fine thread and how when your grandma tries to teach you to tat you get all tangled up in that thread and cut off the circulation to all your fingers. (Maybe that’s just me.) Then one of them picked up something white in a plastic case, glanced at it, said, “Oh, Irish linen,” and put it back in the box.

My trembling hand reached out for it, trying not to appear too eager. A new-in-package Irish linen tablecloth, a big one, and when I asked, the price was five bucks. Mine, mine, mine! 

This has to be one of the best things I'll find this summer. Besides the price and the fact that it's 100% linen, it's the largest size the company made for the consumer market, 144 x 72 inches. Actually bigger than a king size sheet (though not quite as wide). When I looked up the company name of the maker, I found it has a long and interesting history behind it. The William Ewart linen company started in 1814, and the William Liddell company in 1866; the two companies merged in 1973. Their linens were sold all over the world, I think mainly to hotels and other commercial venues. The Liddell factory provided the linens for the Titanic! Liddell still exists, but it appears that now they weave cotton, not linen, and focus on the luxury hotel market (not my usual home away from home!).

So my tablecloth was made sometime since 1973, and given the feel and appearance of its plastic wrapper, I'm guessing mid-70s to early 80s. I haven’t yet taken my treasure out of the plastic cocoon. Feels like it should be done ceremonially, and I'm working out the proper rites for its emergence into light and air.

I looked on eBay to see if it has any resale value, and it sure does. A similar one (same packaging etc.), also unused but smaller, recently sold for almost $120. Others are listed but unsold yet at closer to $200, and none are as big as mine. But I'm going to stick to my sheet plan. I will really enjoy knowing I'm sleeping on a $200 sheet. It will make me feel like I'm staying at one of those luxury hotels!


Friday, August 6, 2021


Today I'm turning seventy and start a decade new.

I've spent a lifetime learning all the things I should not do.

Do not enter, do not exit, and do not watch the clock.

Do not think that you know best nor wear a shoe without a sock.


You must eat what you are given and always clean your plate.

Never be conspicuous and don't let yourself be late.

Leave those cookies on the shelf, do not put them in your cart.

Never belch in public and for god’s sake never fart.


Don't be loud, don't be messy, never let them see you cry,

Don't be nosy or too cosy, and don't be asking why.

You must not cuss in public, no that would never do

For you will shock the young folks if your language is too blue.


You must be seen as busy or they will call you lazy

Don't talk out loud to only you or they will call you crazy.

Don't drive faster than the sign says but it's worse to drive too slow

Don't be silly and don't giggle, it's not dignified you know.


Don't be boastful, don't be petty, never cut in line,

Don't interrupt, don't talk too much, don't dribble when you dine.

You must really never do this, and that is really awful.

And you’re way too old for cannabis even though it now is lawful.


Don't forget to ask permission. No running in the hall!

Yes, today I'm turning seventy…and I plan to do them all.


Monday, July 26, 2021

The Sheety Weekend

Am I becoming more discriminating in my old age? Or maybe it's a side effect of mostly garaging alone these days – I'm not distracted by the fun of hanging out with friends? Or I'm picking the wrong sales off of Craigslist? Whatever it is, it just seems like there are far too many I Don’t Know Why They Bothered sales this summer. But then again, if you just keep showing up, something is bound to appear.

Like sheets.

When I moved my queen size bed into the guest room and put the new-to-me double bed in my bedroom, I assured myself I'd soon find sheets to fit it.

I've had to redefine soon to include sooner or later.

So I've been making do with queen size sheets for several weeks now. Ironically, my queen size sheets were resized from king size, and the twin size sets for beds I no longer own were cut down from doubles, since at the time I couldn’t find any twins. 

I started to wonder if I bought all the doubles a few years ago (“Woman Singlehandedly Corners Market on Used Double Sheets” is the headline I'm seeing). But on Friday morning I wandered into the back bedroom in an old house and discovered who had really cornered the market.

This sale was advertised as a hoarder’s estate sale, and it certainly was packed. But to me a real hoarder is indiscriminating in what they acquire, and often store things quite haphazardly. This lady had sets of things – blue glassware, cranberry glassware, music books and many more. The row of half a dozen vintage accordians appeared to be well loved. In fact, I heard that the lady who had collected everything had taught piano in that house for many years, and in her younger days played in bands, including Lawrence Welk’s. Hence the accordions. The lady running the sale told me they found many items wrapped in tissue paper, as though they had been purchased as gifts and were waiting for the right occasion.

The back bedroom was chock full of textiles. Several vintage chenille bedspreads, wool blankets, maybe a dozen bed pillows…and a whole bunch of sheets. Which I quickly discovered were all the size I've been looking for. And the price for most was a dollar, though some sets were a little higher. There was just one catch – I could see by looking that some were cotton/polyester blend, and others seemed to be all cotton.

I love natural fibers, and I really cannot sleep on (or wear) polyester. Just can't. So I started looking at the sheets for all cotton.

Didn’t take too long to find a set, white with purple polka dots. That’s the serendipity of secondhand – you end up loving things you might never have looked at. Like purple polka dotted sheets. I checked a few more sheets, but you have never seen sheets more perfectly folded, and every single one wrapped around with masking tape. Unwrapping, unfolding, searching for tags, refolding…it was late in the morning, I was hungry. I gave up the search.

The next morning I was out running errands, and started to wonder if that estate sale was having half-price day. Which I'm happy to report they were, so now sheets were fifty cents apiece. I headed for the back bedroom and began to dig. Since the sheets were all folded so beautifully I did my best to return them to that state after I searched for fiber tags. The sale lady stopped by and said they were all doubles, so I explained I was looking for all cotton. She was a kindred spirit, we had quite a conversation about natural fibers and she didn’t seem to mind a bit that I was rumpling the sheets. I also complimented her on the incredible folding, and it turned out she herself had folded them all.

I soon realized there was another issue. A lot of sheets predated the era of fabric content tags. Which probably meant they were all cotton, but not a guarantee. However, I did a burn test when I got home on little snips from the unmarked ones and indeed all was well.

So now I am well stocked with double sheets. Besides the polka dots, I have two whites, a purple, a lavender, and a pink striped. My bed will be dressed in varying combinations, and neither it nor I will care when sheets don't match each other.

I left the sale with my $2.50 stack of sheets as music floated out behind me. Someone was playing a sweet version of Roll Out the Barrel on one of the vintage accordions. All those sheets and live music too. You gotta love thrifting.

Sunday, June 6, 2021


I saw there were some sales over in my old neighborhood this weekend, which is not far from the dog park I take Zoë to every morning. 

So I drove up the hill to check out the sales on my way home. And they were terrible sales. Way overpriced ($20 for a used laundry basket? I don't think so.) and nothing I'd want anyway. Pooh.

But on a brighter note, I found out more about one of my last acquisitions that had me smiling. I've really been enjoying the two pieces of art I got a couple of weeks ago; hung them in my bedroom and admire them both every time I see them. I especially like the woodcut, and finally got around to googling the saying depicted, “When the world wearies and ceases to satisfy, there is always the garden.”

In moments I found the source, an English poet named Minnie Aumonier, though not much about her. Then with an image search I found this actual woodcut, which is when it got good. It seems that my woodcut was made by a Vermont artist named Mary Azarian – and I have admired her work since my early days as a children’s librarian, when she published a lovely picture book called A Farmer’s Alphabet.

Apparently she is still in Vermont, still making art. Her website says these prints are made by hand from her original woodcut, then she hand paints them. My copy has also been framed, and if you’ve had anything professionally framed recently you know it can be pricey. So I’m feeling pretty good about the price I paid at the estate sale. I also learned that the former owner of the piece was one of the founders of a local garden conservancy, which my friend Lysa is involved with.

I'm sure it's obvious how much I love finding a great deal. But through the years more than half the fun I've gotten from thrifting has been learning more about what I've found. And while objects come and go in our lives, the knowledge is forever mine to cherish.

Saturday, May 8, 2021


Between iffy weather, lack of sales and gardening chores, my garaging efforts have definitely been sporadic of late. Then of course there is the truism that the older you get, the less you need to buy – and living in a house 1/3 the size of my last one definitely affects what I can bring home! The creek right outside my back door makes up for it though, and this is the season of baby birds. We’ve had three sets of goslings on our section of creek, and last week 10 brand new baby ducks paraded by. There’s also a robin’s nest in my birch tree, which is exciting but not as up-close as the nest they built last year. That one was on top of the light fixture on my front deck! We only used the back door while the babies were being hatched and fledged, and I got to watch the whole thing from my kitchen window. Unlike newly hatched ducks and geese, baby robins are naked and primitive, looking more like baby dinosaurs than birds.

I did turn my (aching!) back on the weeding and planting on my to-do list this morning and went out to a few sales. At the first one I met up with friends Robin and Ken, though between masks and hairstyles that have changed while we all stayed home it took a moment to recognize them! Didn’t find anything there (I think Ken made off with all the good stuff!), and the next stop was both picked over and overpriced.

Next stop was the second day of an estate sale, so a lot had already left the house. But it was in a beautiful older neighborhood near downtown (same neighborhood the governor’s mansion is in) and was supposed to have a lot of art. And art was indeed what I came home with – a couple of pieces for my growing collection. (Will she run out of wall space one of these days? Not yet, but stay tuned…) If it hadn’t been half-price day I wouldn’t even have considered these, though I do think having so many fewer sales to go to makes me feel I can splurge a little more on something I love. And love them I do – a framed applique 

(I'm a sucker for things acorn-related) 

and a gardening woodcut.

I also picked up some gardening magazines 

and a cute little handmade-paper accordion book that opens out into a Christmas banner. It's the sort of ornament I can use since I can hang it out of Millie’s reach. 

(That cat! You would never know she’s such a scamp when you see her like this!)

Made two more stops and found nothing, but I really enjoyed the fun conversation with the young lady about to leave for grad school in New York. She’s getting a master’s in public administration, and I'm sure I was chatting with a future city manager.

So today’s adventures were mild, but after the past year of being home alone so much it’s enjoyable just to be out and about. Now that we are fully vaccinated, my friend Lysa and I have had to laugh at ourselves for our excitement over a couple of trips to nurseries - In the same car! Without our masks! Whee!

Sunday, March 28, 2021

The Mysteries of Spring

Ooooh, it was a big weekend folks – went out on two days and spent ten whole dollars. This alone would tell me Spring is here – the blooming daffodils and forsythias and cherry trees are just the icing on the cake. (Of course, the icing often is my favorite part of cake!)

I stopped at a moving sale on Friday and picked up some DVDs. My 600+ movie collection has gotten a workout over the past year. 

Then I met up with my friend Lysa at an estate sale down the street from her house. It was billed as ‘huge’…and wasn’t. But I went away happy. It was a family run sale, and we were ably assisted by an adorable girl about 12 years old. She was friendly and helpful and clearly very proud of her grandmother who had lived there (she’s now moved to Seattle). Wish I knew her name – I'd certainly vote for her when she’s ready to run the world in a few years!

I love books on paper sculpture and all their books were free.

I can't say I was looking for solar lighted house numbers, but I was willing to gamble a dollar. It's still charging so I don't know if it works yet. Fingers crossed.

But I have been looking for some shelves to put in my carport next to the potting bench, to hold pots and such. I had saved a search on Craigslist, and just as with beds, there are a lot of ugly and overpriced ones out there. But there it was – exactly what I was looking for. 

And it's even cute.

Finally, I bought a couple of original paintings. One was by the lady who had lived there (there were several of hers), an Oregon seascape.

I hung it on the wall underneath another very Oregon scene, a little study of tree tops. As I did, I thought now all I need is a valley picture.

I really love the other painting from that sale. When I rearranged my guest room I ended up with a blank wall where a bookcase had been and hoped I'd find something big to put there. And I did. I'm a sucker for wheat, I think it's just beautiful and for years had a bouquet of some I picked when I lived up in Wenatchee, Washington. And here was the wheat I love, along with a nest of robin eggs to remind me of the baby robins that were hatched on top of the light fixture on my deck last summer. It's a really textured oil, signed and dated ’72 and clearly from that period. 

The style reminds me of Brian Wildsmith’s art, like these.

On Saturday, KK and I went out for an hour or so. Some of you may recall I some pictures of a sale back in February of a house jam packed with collections, mostly china. Well, they unearthed another 1500 boxes of stuff from the basement and had a second sale. We were there on the second morning and there were still a zillion pieces. 

It’s a big old house and every room had shelving on all the walls and tables down the middle and all were jam packed, mostly with china lamps and figurines and teapots. I didn’t even bother to go down into the basement. Actually, I thought this box was the cutest item in the place.

Didn’t think there was a single thing I wanted, but on our way out through the back yard I spotted a wind chime. I've never passed a wind chime without making it ring, and this one was surprisingly mellow. And only a couple of bucks (probably the least expensive thing there), probably because it appears to be homemade. Some rusty wire, 

an old funnel and three pipes, 

some kind of game ball as a ringer 

and an embossed piece of tile for the sail 

and voila, you have a wind chime.

We checked out a couple more places. The first was the kind of sale where you roll your eyes as your leave thinking why on earth did they bother? – and I don't say that very often! But our last stop netted a mini jackpot. I've been looking for something to hold my silicone lids to free up space in the potholder drawer, and there in a free box was an adjustable rack to hold a roast that seemed worth trying. (I don't need it for its original use since I've been a vegetarian for almost 50 years.) Looks like it will work.

This odd Japanese utensil was marked a quarter and I thought I can use it to scrape stuck-on stuff from pans before they go in the dishwasher. Guess its intended use is in cooking rice, so maybe it will be dual duty.

And then on another table I spotted a small framed painting, also priced at a quarter. Original signed art…and here’s my Oregon valley scene I was thinking I needed!

Even better, when I went up to pay my fifty cents, she said, “Oh, just take them.” I told her she’d just made my day. I think I made hers by taking the Japanese mystery utensil!

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