Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Goodwill Hunting

Last Saturday, Doug and I decided to do one of our Goodwill loops.  GW has a number of stores in our area, and the last one is just about a mile from one of our favorite Mexican restaurants, so we end the tour with lunch.

Goodwill stores aren't quite as much fun as antique stores and junk shops, but they're much safer on the checkbook. They don't harbor $300 antique cameras or $65 vintage coolers.

And they do offer up that same "you never know what you might find" excitement that treasure hunters feel every time they arrive at a garage sale or enter a thrift store.

Last Saturday's trip didn't yield much, but it was fun, and we did go home with a couple of good things. I found this cute little Pyrex casserole for $2.  It doesn't have a lid, but maybe some day I'll find one on another GW shelf.

I also found two nice vintage glasses. They were marked $1, but when I went to hand the cashier two dollar bills, she took only one of them--turned out it was $1 for the set. Even better.

After lunch, because the GW pickings had been kind of slim, we succumbed to the urge to stop at a junk shop nearby. I spotted what I thought was a vintage picnic basket up on a shelf, but when the cashier got it down for me, it turned out to be a Hawkeye pie basket.  For $20, it was mine, and we were on our way home.

It was a fun day for $23 plus the cost of lunch. And who knows what we might find the next time we do the GW loop?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Cosco Kitchen Stool Makeover

One of the best things about finding vintage stuff is learning more about it after you drag it home. Doug and I recently bought a 1950s Cosco kitchen step stool at an estate sale. It was paint speckled, dented, and rusty, but it was my favorite color (red), and it was only $10.
We probably watch too much renovation and DIY TV because I immediately had visions of this well-used old stool looking new again the way it would if Rick Dale of American Renovation worked on it. Doug doesn't have access to facilities for body work, spray painting, and re-chroming, but for about $15, he did an awesome job of fixing it up--including installing new rivets and other hardware, wire brushing the rust off the chrome, and priming and painting the seat, back, and trim.
When it was all done and installed in my sewing room (there's no room for it in our kitchen), I decided to search for images to see what other colors these multifunctional stools came in and how much they cost.

The old ads provided a window into not only the economics of the past but also the culture. I don't think I'll be using my Cosco step stool wearing pearls, heels, and a dress any time soon.

And as much as everyone says Doug looks like Santa, I don't think he would dare buy me something for Christmas that was advertised as a tool to lighten my work. But one thing about the Christmas ad is right:  the Cosco stool does brighten our house.

Watch out, Rick Dale.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Street Junk

You never know what you're going to find in the street when you live in a college town--recliners, sofas, desks, mattresses, lawn chairs...  A lot of it is beat, but sometimes there are gems among the junk.

One Sunday morning last June, I left the house to go running.  When I turned the corner, I couldn't believe the stash of "trash"in front of me. Half of the next block was lined with boxes, bags, and discarded items from mops and brooms to an artificial Christmas tree and a wooden clothes drying rack.

Anyone who knows me knows that I hate to stop in the middle of a run almost as much as I love to pick up junk.  It was only 6:00 a.m., so I figured I would run my 4 miles and come back.

Maybe not. Just as I started to take off, a van pulled up along the curb.... Another early-morning Dumpster diver.  We would have to share, and there would be no waiting until later.

It was worth it.  I ended up with an almost-new Cuisinart blender:
A set of heavy Ikea bistro glasses:
and an interesting stainless steel container that turned out to be the perfect holder for two rolls of toilet paper in our upstairs bathroom:
I also snagged some Ikea storage containers, a baby quilt that I donated to a local animal shelter, an Oxo colander, and some other kitchen utensils.

I love thrift store bargains and yard sale deals.  But free is the best.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sixty Isn't So Bad

There's something about having your age begin with a "6" that's kind of scary. But here's what the first four days of being 60 brought me:

A two-day junking trip with my wonderful husband that yielded some new picnic tins for my sewing room:

A message in the sand from my crazy daughter who is living in New Zealand for four months:

A stained glass window from fantastic friends who pay attention when I comment on something I like in an antiques store:

A beautiful cake and dinner with friends at a nice restaurant:

Plus, calls and texts from my son and his girlfriend in California, cards from friends and family, and Facebook wishes from more than 50 people....

And an order for plants to make a cottage garden from other great friends--let's hope I can post a picture of a colorful garden a few months from now.

Not to mention that I'm now in a new running age group...

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

It's All in the Presentation

One of Doug's favorite sweet treats is homemade molasses cookies, so I decided to make him a batch for Valentine's Day. I found a beautiful blue Pyrex bowl with a white band around the rim in an antiques store a couple of days before the holiday, so I snapped it up--his favorite color is blue. In another shop, I rummaged through baskets of vintage kitchen utensils and found a set of tin measuring spoons and a heart-shaped cookie cutter. One more stop, at a party store, and I had a big cellophane bag and some curling ribbon to make the perfect package.

I baked the cookies while he was out on a long walk, packaged everything up, and left for work with my masterpiece carefully arranged on a red placement on the kitchen counter.

A few minutes after I got to work, he texted me to thank me for the cookies.

As for the bowl?  What bowl? He was in such a hurry to get to the cookies that he never noticed the bowl.

Yeah right, it's all in the presentation..... But at least the cookies were a big hit.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Traveling Stained Glass Window

Old stuff has stories--we wonder about who used things before we bought them, where they were made, how old they are.

Sometimes we add to those stories when we go to extreme measures to track down an old item or bring one home.

Last summer, Doug and I spent 5 days on Nantucket visiting my 22-year-old daughter, who had a seasonal job on the island. One day, as we were exploring the beautiful historic town, we discovered a hospital thrift store on a side street--an entire old house filled from basement to attic with books, clothing, dishes, lamps, kitchen tools, and other treasures.

We made our best find in the basement--a stained glass window that we knew would look beautiful hanging in front of the frosted window in our bathroom.  At $47, it was a bargain--we had paid more than $100 each for the two we already had in our house. And this one was on Nantucket. We were pretty sure it had come out of a Nantucket building--who would bring a window from the mainland to an island to dispose of it at a thrift store?

But we had a problem--we didn't have our car, and we couldn't exactly bring a huge window on a plane as carry-on luggage. But my daughter told us to go ahead and buy it, as she could bring it home with her at the end of the summer. So we scavenged string from a drawer at our B&B and day-old newspapers from the lounge, carefully wrapped the window up, and left it with Christine.

But the best-laid plans don't always work out. She ended up flying home rather than getting a ride, and as she was finalizing her plans for leaving the island at the end of the season, we were desperately trying to figure out a way to get the window home.

When a friend of hers heard about the situation--and learned that it would cost $75 to ship the window--she offered to drop it off on her way home to Mississippi.

We ended up with our window and a new friend who spent the night at our little house on her long drive south from Massachusetts to Mississippi.

And our window has a new installment in its history.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Lost and Found

A small emergency earlier this week caused me and Doug to do some serious ransacking of our carefully decorated house.

Our 18-year-old cat, Casey, is a pampered house pet with no front claws or survival skills. When I got back from swimming laps at the Y Tuesday morning, she was nowhere to be found, although I had seen her when I left at about 6:00. She seldom leaves the couch, where she sleeps on her little fleece baby blanket.

Doug and I looked under every radiator, bed, and piece of furniture in our little house.  We took flashlights to the basement and searched the crawl space, under the stairs, in the washer and dryer, and under all the tables and workbenches.  

We even searched the yard and the neighbor's yards on the off-chance that she had gotten out--which we doubted, but when you can't find her in the house, you start looking outside.  

Late in the afternoon, exhausted from crying and searching, I left to attend a work-related event on campus.  

A little while later, Doug went up to our loft to check his email. When he came back down, Casey was sitting on the living room rug looking at him like “What’s the problem?”

We still have absolutely NO idea of where she could have been for 10 hours.  But we sure know where all the dust hides out in our house. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Getting Scooped

Doug and I have a fairly extensive collection of ice cream scoops--about 40 at last count. As a machinist, he’s fascinated by the variety of mechanisms that make them work. As the resident decorator, I’m far more interested in what color the handles are.

Ice cream scoops aren't the easiest things to display, but a few years ago, I found a large glass jar at a Goodwill store for $3 that turned out to be the perfect home for my colored-handle scoops.

We have scoops with orange, red, yellow, green, black, and pink handles. No blue. We have a cute new blue one that a dear friend gave us, which we alternate with the pig scoop when we actually serve ice cream.  But no vintage blue ones....

I know they were made because I’ve seen them on eBay.  But there’s something about buying vintage stuff on eBay that just doesn’t work for me.  I like hunting for things on dusty shelves at junk stores and in cardboard boxes at yard sales.

I know there’s a blue-handled vintage ice cream scoop somewhere out there with my name on it. 

It’s probably on a shelf next to that blue plaid picnic tin I’ve been looking for.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Leave the List Home

Rule #1 of shopping at thrift stores, junk shops, and antique malls--do not go looking for a specific item or even a category of item. If you go looking for a blue plaid picnic tin, you will find a rusty green plaid picnic tin with a flower on it.  But you will NOT find a blue plaid one.

However, you might find a syrup container with an aqua top to go with the red and yellow ones you already have.

Or your husband might have a lot of fun examining stuff in the yard behind the antique store where all the architectural salvage is stored.

Or you might even get to "go shopping" when you get home and find out that your husband already has a cool vintage Stanley folding ruler like the one you were admiring in the store.

That's the best kind of treasure of all--free.

Thanks, Doug.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Map My Junk

My husband is a packrat.

For 30 years, he worked as a machinist for academic researchers, and his shop was filled with stacks of empty plastic yogurt cups, drawers full of springs and screws and other hardware, stacks of lumber, and piles of acrylic and sheet metal. 

When he retired, he came home at the end of his last day with a huge green duffel bag filled with junk—an old tennis racquet, moth-eaten jackets, pocketknives, pencils, a stained coffee mug, and a pair of dusty rollerblades.

But he also brought home a treasure—an assortment of road maps from the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. He had found them in his drawer, left behind by his predecessor.

I was fascinated.  I’ve always loved maps anyway, and this was a treasure trove of Americana.  The front flaps featured pictures of cars no longer made, oil companies no longer in business, and people wearing clothes from another era.

After spending a couple of hours examining them and carefully folding them back to their original orientation, I decided they deserved a better fate than being shoved into a drawer for another 30 years. I stacked them up, tied them with a piece of white twine, and propped them on a shelf with some of my other vintage treasures.

Sometimes it’s good to be married to a packrat.