Tuesday, December 28, 2021

The Year on Driveways

Another thrifty year has come and gone – spreadsheet time! Although it felt like there were way fewer sales this year (and definitely fewer that made my heart go pitty-pat), my spreadsheet tells me I went out on a total of 35 days. They were unevenly spread through the year – some weekends I went out on consecutive days, then there would be weeks when it wasn’t worth taking the car out. Still, I managed to spend $256.55, which procured an estimated retail value of over $5000. I say phooey to retail – at least most of the time!

The total spent was about twice as much as last year, but 2020 should probably just be stricken from the books, right? One bright spot is that I brought home three items (total expenditure $4.50) that I resold for a profit of $100.88. So that paid for almost half of the year’s fun. There was a pair of Heath Ceramic dinner plates (they sold overnight, wish I’d priced them higher!), 

a rummage sale blouse of a pricey brand,

and a vintage Erica Wilson embroidery kit that turned fifty cents into $31+.

While I bought three splurges (all were art!), of the 168 things I brought home, 66 were fifty cents or less, and only 49 were over a dollar. I confess I'm astounded that I added that many items to my home. There were 27 pieces of clothing and (goodness!) 8 pairs of shoes. Sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? But the most I paid for anything was three bucks, and the total for all that was $54.25. Okay, I feel better now – especially when I see that some of the shoes are still available to buy retail – for $210 a pair.

My entertainment category had the highest number, 23 books, magazines and movies. Kitchen things were right behind with 22 – ranging from cute tiny plates to stainless steel skillets to a glass made specifically for drinking Canadian whiskey. Not just any whiskey, Canadian. That was worth the twenty-five cents just to learn that such a thing existed. But the Dansk bowls that match the mugs I already owned may be my favorite in this category.

Looks like my poor pets were a little neglected this year. I brought home only 2 things for them, and Millie managed to break the ceramic treat jar within a couple of days. However, the little quilt is still a fave of them all.

The ‘category of shame’, otherwise known as donations, was not terribly embarrassing this year – 21 items that totaled $19.55. And five of those were free. So that brings my total down to 147 items – doesn’t that sound better?

Probably the biggest thrill of the year was the only piece of furniture I bought – the vintage midcentury double bed with the amazing headboard. 

For five bucks. I'm still thrilled – and the vintage double sheets I bought for a buck apiece were the icing on the cake!

Actually, I have to amend that – the bed was the second biggest thrill. Best of all was reaching the millionth visitor milestone back in March. Wow. Thanks for coming along for the ride – now let’s see what 2022 will bring!

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Sneaking Out

It's been an interesting week here in the Castle of Fifty Cents.

Let us return for a moment to this past May. Springtime. Planting tomatoes in big pots, and moving them via wheelbarrow to their summer location on the front deck. See the big pot with the baby tomato plant unbalance and tip over. See the gray-haired old lady struggle it back into the wheelbarrow…and cry ouch as her back twerked. See the same old lady a couple of days later tackling a whole bunch o’ weeds with a scuffle hoe and ignoring what her back was telling her. See her trying to get out of bed the next morning - and yelping.

Fast forward six months (six months!!), past pills and doctors and x-rays and an MRI and physical therapy to this Tuesday. The old lady now has a neurosurgeon added to her medical team, and she takes her very well-scrubbed self to the local hospital where the neurosurgeon has his way with the ruptured disc in her neck.

Amazingly, you go home the same day. It seems I’m one of the lucky ones who came through a disc replacement procedure with very little pain afterward (so far anyway). I had someone around for a couple of days, but am having no trouble managing on my own. I do have to keep remembering that I am not allowed to bend, twist, move my head, or lift more than five pounds. It curtails a lot of daily activities, and I've spent the past couple of weeks weighing things so I'd know what I can pick up. Millie is 10 pounds, so she is staying at my ex’s for a bit. The dogs are willing to hop onto the sofa for treats, so I don’t have to bend over. I’m getting very good with a grabber – picked up a Q-tip from the floor with one yesterday. Unfortunately the results were not as positive with a couple of china bowls. Crash, smash. I covered up the shards with an old towel until someone came by and vacuumed them away.

So I've been reading and watching movies, and getting just a leeeetle bit bored. Why is it that being forbidden to drive makes me instantly want to hop into my car and go somewhere…preferably a really good sale?

I peeked at Craigslist Friday morning, and wouldn’t you know there was a moving sale listed that sounded great. So I tempted the ex with the vinyl albums advertised, and off we went (about a 10 minute drive, well within allowed limits). Maybe the yard sale gods thought I deserved a treat; I came away very happy. Two pairs of very comfy shoes (which I discovered retail at $150 & $200), 

a couple of pairs of knitted slacks (the cream pair are cotton and linen, yum),

a very nice planter. I'm planning to put some daffodil bulbs in it for next spring.

And a pair of Dansk bowls that match the six mugs in my cabinet! All for $15, woo hoo.

Their ad said Saturday would be half price, so I talked Steven into going back the next morning. Scored again! Two wool blankets – the cream one is already felted, 

and the other appears to be hand woven of linsey-woolsey (linen warp & wool weft). 

It was very loved by someone, who took the time to cut a strip off the side and hand stitch a rolled hem

to mend a series of holes, matching the woven pattern. (I emailed via Craigslist later to ask if they knew of its history. Turns out had been in the family forever. Family came from England and Wales, and the pattern is a combination of Cats Paw and Snails Trail. I’m guessing it’s from the 1800s!) 

Two more pairs of comfy pants. 

And three more pairs of practically new shoes – SAS, Nike, and one of my favorite brands, Naot from Israel. 

And the day's total? Ten bucks.

I feel like the garaging gods have patted me on the head and said, “You’ve been a very good girl. Now go home…and don’t bend, twist, or pick up more than five pounds!”

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 Zoƫ 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!


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