Yard sale finds

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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.

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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.

 

The taste of a rodent

Children’s art is so endearing for its freshness and honesty and simple renderings. The sun is always a yellow ball with shaky lines extending out from it; the clouds are puffy and marshmallow-like; the stick figure families all look alike. But sometimes, children’s art is just plain weird. I spotted this gem on the walls of an elementary school; the assignment seemed to be Write a sensory poem. Did one student take the assignment a little too far?

Are you low impact?

No Impact Man is a documentary about a family that embarks on a year-long project to live without making an environmental impact. The movie evolved from the clever, informative blog No Impact Man written by a man who believes that efforts like reducing waste and eating sustainable food should not be about deprivation, but about making the world a better place to live, which will ultimately make us happier than all that stuff anyway. I found myself nodding in agreement throughout the entire movie.

It may be tricky to give up toilet paper, but it’s not so hard to bring your strawberry cartons back to the farmer’s market to reuse, or just to start shopping at a farmer’s market, or to eliminate household chemical cleaners, or just to think about each purchase.

Suffice it to say, there are about a million things you can do shrink your impact if you want. Here’s No Impact Man’s Top Ten Eco-Lifestyle Changes to get you started. Or you could just rent the movie for inspiration. It’s a balanced portrayal of the project (they have plenty of critics) and an honest profile of a marriage in the midst of a stressful experiment. Their 2-year-old daughter is perhaps the most natural environmentalist, comfy in her cloth diapers and squealing in delight at the worms in the compost. She didn’t complain about reading by candlelight and taking the stairs; she thought cleaning the laundry by stomping on it the in the bathtub was the most fun a girl could have. Perhaps, then, the key to being a good friend to the planet is to reclaim your 2-year-old self and find joy in the everyday. 

Articles on saving money annoy me

In today’s economy, articles about saving money abound. I’ve skimmed a few (you can’t ignore an article that tells you how to save a few bucks), and while I imagine they’re helpful to some people who have never thought to pack a lunch or skip that morning coffee at Starbucks, I find them kind of obvious. 

Call around for insurance quotes. Check.

Buy energy-saving everything. Yup.

Use the library. Right.

Shop around for internet service, cell phone plans, etc. Duh.

What’s bothered me lately about some of these articles though, is the emphasis on going out less (to dinner, to amusement parks), pulling the technology cord, and spending more quality family time at home. A fine idea. But when one writer describes how he “discovered” the joys of the backyard with his toddler, and another recommended playing board games with your kids, I was left to wonder: Aren’t you already playing with your kids in the backyard or playing a round of Candyland now and then? Did it really take an economic downturn to discover the value of play? I don’t think I’m the only kid that thought playing in a cardboard box was the most exciting thing ever.

Kids’ birthday parties: torture?

I was at the gym the other day when a line of parents walked by trailed by their progenies carrying balloons and presents. One of the little people was having a birthday party. In the gym. Now, it’s true there’s a kids room with toys and games, but still: it’s a gym.

I guess the good thing about having a 5-year-old is that they don’t realize that they’re celebrating their birthday at a place where people sweat. The bad thing about having a 5-year-old is that you have a 5-year-old. And you’re obligated to arrange a birthday party to entertain other 5-year-olds. And you think having it at the gym is a good idea. And you know what, it probably is, given that the alternatives are Chuck E. Cheese and your house full of breakable stuff.

Still, isn’t going to the gym bad enough?

Suspicious brownies

I was at a yard sale recently with a theme: Kids for Obama, and while I felt certain the kids were induced to sell their toys to make some money unaware that their profits would be mailed to a political campaign, I felt compelled to buy a brownie 1) because I love brownies, and 2) because if eating brownies can help Obama win the election, I will devour a pan full of chocolate goodness. I will not shirk my civic duty. Of course, the $2 price tag for a minuscule brownie square was a bit steep, but it was a fundraiser so I paid up and ate my rich, chocolatey brownie, thinking they must have used some high quality chocolate in these brownie, Scharffen Berger perhaps? They kids were, after all, elitist Democrats.

Buying brownies from these unwitting political pawns reminded me of an ex-boyfriend who was appalled that I once bought food from kids at a lemonade stand—kids who charged a reasonable 50 cents for their brownies and looked at the shiny quarters as better than chocolate. You don’t know what’s in those brownies, my ex said. I suppose you are taking a leap when you buy food from a stranger, but the likelihood that the kids or their families would spend time organizing a yard sale only to spike the brownies with arsenic seemed low. Plus, it would be easy enough to trace the suspicious goods back to the address and have the evildoers arrested. That being said, I have cooked with kids and know that the real danger is that they’re slobbering little germs apt to lick their fingers and stick them back in the bowl.