Yard sale finds


A few weeks ago I bought a pine tree. Just a small one–an indoor Norfolk pine. Someone had bought the other one or I would have gone home with a pair. Just as well. My house is turning into a jungle. Better to collect plants now and stock up on oxygen before Boston goes all Beijing. Anyway, it’s doing well after transitioning from a pampered home where it was probably fed fancy fertilizer. Here, it just gets water. It seems to like looking out the window though.

pine tree

For the record, I went to this other house sale with the cool door back in August, but no one answered the knocking fox. I even tried the door, but it was big and heavy and stuck or locked. I bet they had good stuff. 

Yard sale finds


How cute is the print from The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Boook Art? Answer: super cute. Also, a museum dedicated to picture book art? Amazing–and apparently two hours from my house. Yes, the elderly caterpillar may be a bit creepy, but I choose to think of them as a colorful, spunky duo with excellent eyesight. I bought it from an older woman and her 30-something daughter who said it had been hers–I assumed when she was a kid.

“Don’t tell anyone I don’t have kids,” I told her.

“That’s great!” they agreed.

“Would you like a minute to say goodbye?” I asked.

“It’s OK. We’re glad it’s going to such a good home.”

Which made me wonder why they assumed it was going to a good home. I could be a collector-turned-destroyer of picture book art. I could banish it to the basement. I could despise caterpillars and torch the print.

More likely, I will find a good spot for it on the staircase or in the bathroom, because every bathroom needs a whimsical caterpillar print.

At home, I noticed the exhibit was in 2004, nine years ago. I quickly did the math (well, not that quickly) and realized that the previous owner–let’s say she was 30–must have also bought it as an adult. How interesting.

Yard sale finds

Can you be mildly obsessed with something? If so, I’m mildly obsesses with Pinterest. I see the line and I’m not stepping over it. Nope. I saw these painted oars in stylish designs on Pinterest and decided I needed one even though I don’t have a log cabin or canoe.

painted oar

Todd Farm is an antique / flea market on the North Shore that I’ve been meaning to go to for years, so naturally I picked a rainy weekend to visit when the vendors were sparse but the bargains were plentiful. I’m sure they were even more plentiful if I were out there at dawn with a flashlight among the hardcore bargain hunters, but there’s no need for that.

I scored this vintage oar for $20 and am torn between its patina and sprucing it up with some color. I’m also torn between hanging it above my living room mirror or along the staircase as a decorative bannister. My indecision will probably paralyze me until spring. Cat appears for scale or because she’s hoping to be a model.


Yard sale finds

At a raucous yard sale with kids and dogs milling around the merch, I ask an old woman how much she’d like for her vintage olive suitcase.

“Can’t take any money for it, dear,” she says. “I can’t remember the lock combination.”

I test it out and confirm that yes, the suitcase is locked, but since I intend to use it on my stack-of-suitcases nightstand, it hardly matters. Though it does feel strange to buy something you can’t open or use for its intended purpose. It also feels wrong to take it for free.


“Wait, is there drug money in there?” I ask.

“I should think not! It’s empty.”

I offer her some money, but she won’t hear of it, so I head home with a small suitcase that a stranger tells me is empty, but that makes me wonder, especially when my cat sniffs it all over. If you are a retired spy and know how to bust open a locked suitcase, let me know.

In addition to the mysterious suitcase, I also score a couple of necklaces and tops before something compels me to buy this kitschy fisherman needlepoint from a woman who says it was her mother-in-law’s, and who perhaps isn’t sorry to see it go. I add it to my wall of eclectic art.




Yard sale finds


If you ever shopped at the original Filene’s Basement in Boston, you know if you saw something you coveted  you had to grab it, despite who was holding on to it at the other end. Bargains are strangers to politeness. At a yard sale today, I spied an antique wooden toolbox that another shopper had her grimy hands on. Not one to actually take it out of her hands, I waited until she walked away, debating the $20 price and what she would do with it. No debate necessary from my point of view; I got it for $15. It was my only find, aside from a $3 bag of potting soil that a guy nicely hosed down for me (you can keep the slugs, thanks) and put in my car. The soil will go right in the toolbox, which I plan to use as a planter, while the other woman berates herself for walking away. But given the sad state of my plants after the heat wave, she’ll probably get the last laugh.


Note to the child selling lemonade: people do not like when you act as a personal shopper and follow them around, asking them if there’s anything they’re looking for and would you like to buy some lemonade? No, no I wouldn’t, because I’ve seen kids in the kitchen and you’re . . . germy. But I’m a sucker for an articulate kid who seemed disappointed that “nothing was too my liking” and gave him a quarter for his icky Crystal Light. Kid’s gonna be a salesman. At least when he’s older I can hang up on him.


Sleeping in a field of flowers

I bought this dog bed that we’re going to pretend is a cat bed at the yard sale of a pet store owner in Marblehead who used it in her shop as a bed for the store’s dog. You’d expect a used dog bed to be a lot furrier, but it turns out the shop’s dog was a giant stuffed animal. The pillow was much poufier, so I replaced it with a more cat-friendly pillow in hopes of keeping my couch fur-free.

I paid five bucks for the bed, originally $115 from bowhausnyc, so I figure I saved $110. But at what cost? I worry Maple may get a complex from sleeping on a dog bed, but then she does make occasional barking noises and fetch things.

Yard sale finds

If your grandmother left you a necklace of darling green beads, you might restring it to suit your taste, but I bet you wouldn’t sell it at a yard sale.

You would? Heartless.

But would you sell it for 50 cents as if it’s costume jewelry you picked up at the mall on a whim?

That’s just a slap in the face to grandma.

I rescued the necklace from the traitorous adult granddaughter and was pleased to find it goes with a remarkable number of outfits. That’s grandma for you; she had style.

At another stop, I scored a pair of woven chairs for $7, which are tucked under my table, happy in their new home. But not as happy as I, given that they sold for $75 each at Ikea (which seems a bit steep for IKEA, no?) and work well with my table and pared-down style. While the mom took some toys off one chair so I could put it in my car, her daughter kept putting dolls on the other one, propping them up as if to say, They come as a set. I didn’t take the dolls, but I found a couple tops and a funky belt.

And rest assured unknown grandma: I will never sell your necklace at a yard sale.






Yard sale finds

Everyone’s on vacation this week, leaving me with a smattering of sales. Outrageous. But I manage to find a couple of things: some pale pink Sperry topsiders that I refuse to pay $100 for when I only occasionally want to look like I belong on a boat, but $3? It’s a deal.

I also find this weird No Pets sign for a quarter, which makes me wonder what it was used for (a store?). I ask the woman selling it, but she has no idea. I determine she’s a mean SOB because who bans pets, especially cute black dogs with alert stances? I plan to add it to a wall collage of other interesting finds, like Bert.

Yard sale finds

For just shy of $20, I snapped up two tops and a dress from a woman my size, herbs from a garden club sale (basil, thyme and chives), a stout owl figurine, and a miniature tin memento holder that’s meant to display a special trinket on the wall.

“I’m glad you understand that this is meant for something special,” the seller tells me as she hands me my change for the little display case. With that, the pressure is on. Nothing comes immediately to mind and I suspect the thing will sit in a corner until I’m able to decide what to display.

And then yesterday, I saw a chipmunk. I love chipmunks, their compact, striped bodies and puffy cheeks; what’s not to love? I recalled my childhood desire to have a pet chipmunk.


I will capture a chipmunk and put him in the display case. The box is small, so I’d have to fold him in there, but it could work. Like a lepidopterist with his pinned butterflies, I will have my prized chipmunk, even if I have to jam him in there and close the door quickly.

My friend pointed out that the chipmunk would wither and die in there, but I don’t think we need to focus on that . . .

Yard sale haul

Maple sniffed today’s Crayola-colored finds like it was a pile of tuna fresh from the ocean. Oh, the scent of strangers! I had barely washed, dried, and folded the clothes before she was back in the laundry basket; secondhand smells and fabric softener all intriguing, apparently. Life is composed of small pleasures, so I let her do her thing but insisted she rate every outfit I tried on. Two paws up, though I could tell she was iffy on the green sweater.

Some neighbors around the corner were having a yard sale while also trying to move a couch out the door. I tried to help and explained that I was a neighbor, not a yard sale freak ready to sue them for a back injury. They didn’t need me, but I needed their black leather jacket that I bought for a cool 5 bucks, channeling Lisbeth Salander. I bought a studded belt too because she would have. Still working on the chest tattoo.

Today’s haul: two pairs of colored denim, two bright cardigans, a striped green sweater, one flouncy red dress, a leather jacket, studded belt, and a James Taylor CD, which I find it hard to believe I didn’t own before now, all for $20.

Yard sale haul

Another weekend of me looking for stuff and the people of Marblehead delivering. An older man seemed to be selling off most of his home and was even giving a lot of his belongings away; when your house is perched on the ocean, do you really need money?

I’ve been looking for a bold print and this man delivered. For free. “Take it and get a new frame,” he said. It doesn’t need a new frame, but I suppose if I had a house on the ocean, I would have to get it suitably reframed.

I also scored a hose for $1 and a brass planter with ceramic handles from him for $2.

Favorite purchase, however, was an electronic hamster that I bought for Maple. It’s got a tamagotchi quality about it with it’s squeaking and sighing noises that I expect I’ll tire of shortly. But what cat wouldn’t want to chase a (faux) hamster? This one, apparently. She owes me a quarter.

Yard sale haul

Last week’s yard sale haul, scored in the rain, was exactly one item—one coveted item that I’ve been trolling Craigslist for for weeks where the prices range from $40-$100. In Marblehead, it was mine for $15. I like the way it looks on the bookcase, but I’m hoping to give it a tune-up too and see if it will crank out some good prose, albeit at a glacial pace. Back in the day, I wrote my first short stories on one of these bad boys, sticking keys, correction tape and all. Ding!

This week, I got a cheesy spa kit (made in China! Surprise!) but I like the glass apothecary jars and they came with soap, so I’ll be refilling those suckers ($4); a black and gray zipper dress that promises to be entirely too short, but I can’t resist a zipper anything, especially for 50 cents; a stack of Real Simple magazines, and a funky, colorful necklace for two bucks. Cat not included.

Yard sale haul

While my mom was visiting from Virginia, we hit the yard sales in Cambridge and Newton straight from the airport. Dedicated recyclers, we are. While she didn’t find much that could fit in her suitcase, I found well, too much: a tackle box-turned-toolbox to replace the cardboard box I’ve carried my tools around in for a decade. (“Make sure it doesn’t smell like fish,” my mom warns. Oddly ,it doesn’t) for 3 bucks; shoes that are so cute I can’t understand how the woman never wore them ($3 each); the new Paul Simon and Fleet Foxes CD ($1 each—take that, iTunes), a planter ($2); some cute tops and a dress that would be more appropriate as a top given that you could see London and France when I tried it on, and ceramic dish, book, and garden topiary thingy that was wrapped in twinkly lights that I now see was a mistake because while it was $1, it has a European plug, which I’ll need to buy a converter for, i.e., not so much of a bargain, but twinkly nonetheless.


You know that IKEA commercial where the woman is at the register, looks at her receipt, and then hustles out of the store, yelling “Start the car! Start the car!” to her husband waiting in the car? It kind of feels like she’s shoplifting because the prices are so good? Brilliant ad. The stuff of Mad Men. I had a moment like that today.

I’ve been on the hunt for a spring jacket (to replace my fleece) and a nice handbag (to replace my backpack and not-big-enough purse). I’ve looked everywhere—and I’m picky. And while I’m not into designer bags (do you have any idea how much a Coach bag is? Holy…), I was prepared to pay good money for the perfect bag: satchel-like and big enough to hold a book and shoes for work. 

At Macy’s, I was stunned to see shelves and shelves of bags. Colorful canvas bags from $29.99 to buttery leather bags upwards or $300. I gravitated to the soft, buttery bags (surprise) that were way out of my range until I finally stumbled upon a random forest green bag with a little shimmer. Oh, it was heavenly. And not another bag like it, which was problematic when I realized I had chosen the one bag without a tag. I looked into the pockets (look at all the pockets! pockets for gadgets I don’t even own) and brought it to the register to see if the saleswoman could look it up.

“I can’t sell this to you because there’s no price,” she said. 

Cut to me, crestfallen.

“You can’t look it up?”

“We don’t even sell this brand anymore. They have it at the Cambridge store. We can call them if you want to leave your name and number,” she said.

Couldn’t she just call them now, I must have wondered aloud.

“It’ll take 24 hours,” she said.

To make a phone call?? Aren’t we in a recession that demands superior customer service? I wrote down my name and number but was convinced she would lose 1 )the bag or 2) my number. I can’t say I’d blame her. I’m an annoying customer who oh, I don’t know, just wants to buy the merchandise that’s on the floor.

“Wait,” she said. “There’s a tag in the pocket. It’s a return.” How we had both missed the tag, I have no idea, but I noticed it didn’t include a price. She scanned the barcode.

“Four-fifty,” she said. I was fairly convinced she didn’t mean $450, but I thought maybe $45 or $40.50.

“Four-fifty,” she repeated.

“Four dollars and fifty cents?” I exclaimed. A friend had once told me never to question good news. “I’ll take it.”

Then, sliding over my credit card, I remembered I had a gift card, making the item free. The perfect bag for free. And, in finding this tiny, grainy image of it (click on it for better views; you know you want it), I discovered that it’s a $78 bag on sale for $58. Suckers.


Hello, satchel

So, on the advice of my mother who always says, “Never go home when you’re on a good shopping roll,” I forged on to the jackets. It was trenchtastic. Trenches everywhere. Except, I don’t really get the appeal of trench coats. Sure, they’re classic, but they don’t look good when you’re short. They’re all nude London Foggy numbers. Blah. 

But then I found a super-cute white Tommy Hilfigger one with black polka dots. My love of polka dots trumps my dislike of trenches, so I snapped it up. I’m more of a color girl though, so I tried on a bunch more and loved this teal blue one too.


The teal trench: a steal.

The teal trench: a steal.

At $160 and $120, I’d only keep one but decided to buy both so I could think it over at home. I brought them to the register (different woman who was a pistol!) ready to pay full price, because while the entire store seemed to be on sale, these coats weren’t. 

“Honey, you got the last two of these,” she told me. “Adorable!”

“I’m excellent at that,” I said.

“Let’s see what we can do here,” she said.

Do? Is haggling now allowed at Macy’s? Turns out they were on sale. And she scanned a flyer (I never remember those annoying coupons) and told me I was gonna like this.

“That’s $142,” she said.

I did like this.

“That’s with your Macy’s card.”

“Uh, I don’t have a Macy’s card,” I said.

“Oh, honey. Well, let’s see if I can work some magic.”

I was eager to watch her work some magic.

“Look! It’s better. $135.”

Yup, the price of one coat alone. I knew the drill and slid my card over and booked it out of there. Hello, shopportunity. So, there. I’ve done my part to stimulate the economy—and my wardrobe.