Category Archives: Emily

Meet Lulu (or: a gratuitous pug photo)

All three of us overdid it a little last night, so rather than craft a discourse on secondhand shopping, here’s a gratuitous photo of my puppy. I know, I know … you’re welcome.

I’ve been sorting through and jettisoning lots of my (mostly thrifted) junk over the past few weeks. The color grouping on the couch was entirely accidental, then Lulu hopped up and completed the picture. You’ll see more of her here–she’s a garage-sale companion extraordinaire.

  • Ballerina paint by numbers – $2.98 each, Delano DAV
  • Clock radio – $2, YWCA Treasure Chest
  • American Modern saucers – estate auction (price forgotten)
  • Lulu’s collar – free at the multi-family garage sale I participated in earlier this summer.

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Thrift Obsessions: Vintage recipe pamphlets

No surprise: I’m an enormous Mad Men fan. One of the most compelling elements of the show is the portrayal of how the advertising industry commodified family life in order to sell products. Recipe pamphlets from the ’50’s, ’60’s, and ’70’s are a prime example. I love them for many reasons: because I love food and recipes in general, for the vernacular design and typography, for the frequent embrace of  “convenience foods.” 

A couple of months ago we went to an estate sale on Fairview where the garage was packed full of (literally) thousands of cookbooks and recipe pamphlets. Perhaps the family was in the restaurant business; I have a dim memory of getting some background, but I no longer recall. Anyway, we left with a boxful of books, pamphlets, and a couple of scrapbooks full of clippings. Here are a few of my favorites:
The culinary art perfected to pleasing certainty
The Culinary Art Perfected to Pleasing Certainty , Geo. D. Roper Corporation

Though the typography is pretty fabulous, the title is my favorite ingredient in this pamphlet. It sounds like something Peggy Olson might write, no?

Sample copy: “When the dessert course appears, the successful hostess uses care to make it the most unusual and colorful of all served. This acts as the climax of the entire dinner” (from “Correct Table Service,” p. 32).
Meat recipe rally
Meat Recipe Rally, “A service of National Livestock and Meat Board – Home Economics Department”

Key adjective: “Bohemian,” as in “Pot Roast-Bohemian Style” and “Bohemian Beef Dinner.”

Sample recipe: “Meat Salad Hideaways”:

1 can (12 ounces) canned luncheon meat, finely chopped
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/2 cup chopped stuffed olives
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
2 hard-cooked eggs, chopped
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
3 tablespoons catchup
12 frankfurter buns

Combine meat, cheese, olives, onion, eggs, mayonnaise and catchup. Mix well. Spread each bun with approximately 1/3 cup mixture. Wrap in foil and bake in a hot oven (400 F.) for 10 minutes. Yield: 12 sandwiches.

Microwave magic
Microwave Magic, “Recipes from Your Oklahoma Peanut Commission”

The mere existence of this publication makes me happy. Recipes include peanut butter and jam cake, chocolate peanut pie, mushroom-bacon pate, “Mexinut Dip,” and “Autumn Mini-Chip Ring.” Who knew there were so many desserts you can prepare in the microwave, and with peanuts to boot? I’m overwhelmed with curiosity and will undoubtably try at least one recipe from the bunch.
Cooking with a surprising difference
Cooking with a Surprising Difference, the Carnation Company (1966)

I’ll have to scan some of the interior pages of this pamphlet, which is chock full of amazing photos in addition to its breathy copy. One example: 

Make it easy on yourself with Carnation cooking! You can pop pork chops or chicken into the oven to cook themselves (and neither one will become dry or tasteless!). You can glamorize a plain hamburger (that is always juice right through cooking), serve an off-the-shelf Shrimp Rarebit, Tuna Chinese Style or a salad and a cool drink … in minutes.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t figure out what the dessert pictured on the front cover is supposed to be. And it looks so appetizing, too….

Let's season with a reason
Herbs and Spices: Let’s Season for a Reason, Cooperative Extension Service, Kansas State University (December 1974)

“Homemakers find time today for a new hobby,” writes Elsie Lee Miller, extension specialist in food science and meal management. The new hobby is growing herbs, and Ms. Miller guides the curious housewife through their many uses. Sample copy:

As an adventure in seasoning, it is most important to consider every seasoning as a potential flavor developer. Learn its use by adding only a soupcon [sic], as an angel scatters stardust.


Time to leave the world of “Oriental” recipes, stroganoff/romanoff, and food in the shape of logs behind. 

Until next time–happy thrifting.


Filed under Emily, Thrift Obsessions

Junking (and a history lesson) in Palominas, Arizona

My fiance’s family moved to the Sierra Vista, Ariz., area when he was twelve years old, and every time we go back he’s full of notes about what’s changed: the roads that have been paved, the wide open spaces that have been sliced into individual plots of land, the chain stores (almost nonexistent in the early 80’s) that have moved in.Snake in the road
We saw the snake right outside Brian’s parents’ property on our way to check out the junk scene in Palominas, one of the small towns (population 1200) in Cochise County. I’m not super spooked by snakes, but I did stay in the truck while Brian took its picture.
Brian’s mom had seen an item in the Sierra Vista Herald about a new thrift shop in Palominas, which was the impetus of the trip. But first we spied this building, which oxymoronically advertised a “yard sale inside.”

The goods weren’t spectacular or especially well priced, but I did find a few things, among them a slew of vintage buttons for $1.
Vintage buttons
I took few pictures inside because the power was out when we arrived, but I did try to get a shot of the shopkeeper’s parrot. I should have taken her up on the offer to move outside for the photo.

I wasn’t as nosy as I should have been, but I got the impression that Parrot Lady had just purchased or inherited the building and was trying to decide what to do with it. I overheard her tell another patron that someone had suggested a weekly farmer’s market.

The “thrift store” we were searching for is located at the corner of Healing Way and East Ghost Riders Lane, which (as far as I’m concerned) is as good a reason as any to stop by. It used to house the old Palominas Country Store; the new owners are keeping the name, as they sell milk, ice, candy bars, snacks, and soda along with secondhand items. The gas pumps remain but no longer dispense gas (there’s a newer gas station up the street with an attached mini-mart).
The store is across the street from the abandoned Miracle Valley Bible College, founded in 1958 by alcoholic Pentecostal faith healer A.A. Allen. The Palominas Country Store is likely the same gas station built in the 50’s by the for-profit arm of Allen’s organization. In 1978, Chicago native Frances Thomas, an ordained alumna of the Bible college, purchased  land north of the school and established Christ Miracle Healing Center and Church, an all-black faith community.

The church’s history in Miracle Valley was marked by racial tension and conflict between church members and local law enforcement. In 1982, a fight broke out when sheriff’s deputies attempted to serve traffic warrants to several residents. Two church members died in the event known as the shootout at Miracle Valley. Church members vowed to leave the area, and two years later settled a case against the county for $500,000.

The shootout happened more than 25 years ago and the Bible college is riddled with broken windows, but Palominas is still an odd place. Brian says he always had the sense that its residents were people seeking isolation, who would rather stay close to home. Approximately 30 businesses are located there, so residents can avoid the 15-minute drive to Sierra Vista if they so desire.
We shopped in the dark here, too, so I only have a few crappy flash photos of the merchandise. Almost everything was $1 or less.
The aqua rotary phone was one exception ($4). Awfully tempting, but I passed.

We left with a vintage shot glass ($1), a Smokey the Bear mug by Glassbake (fifty cents), an unusual tin canister set for Melissa ($3), and a giant antique safety pin ($1).

The verdict on Palominas junking: well worth it. But then I’m always more drawn to places stocked with dusty goods and strange pets over the hyper-organized thrift experience. Maybe it’s just me.


Filed under Emily, Shopping Trips

The thrifting news roundup, August 13 2009

Lately I’ve been seeking out news about thrift shops, garage sales, and secondhand shopping culture. These stories are rare: junk stores don’t send out press releases, and the pages of  local business sections mostly highlight the larger local players alongside small businesses that cater to the middle class.

Which means when thrifting hits the news, the content is usually surprising. Herewith, a summary of notable secondhand shopping news from the past couple of weeks:

  • 6a00d83451be3369e2011570e88984970c-piMagazine devoted to ‘Flea Market Style’ to debut next spring (Minneapolis Star-Tribune): Shelter magazines have been hit the hardest in this soft market, but it seems like new publications are popping up all over anyway. Ki Nassauer of Junk Revolution and lifestyle author Matthew Mead will be co-editors; the creative team will include Heather Bullard, Linda MacDonald of Restyled Home and the guy who hosts Cash in the Attic. I’m wearying of seeing flowery vintage/junk style everywhere; here’s hoping for more diverse content. And “the best things to collect” (from the cover mock-up) sounds obnoxiously prescriptive, but perhaps it will be more like the “Collecting” feature that Martha Stewart Living used to produce.
  • Woman solves her own burglary at a yard sale, Annapolis, Md. (UPI). I’d love to report and write a longer version of this story: It seems emblematic of these economic times (the burgled house had been foreclosed on), and I imagine more fascinating details would come to light. My favorite part: The robbery victim caught on when she noticed that the neighbor holding the yard sale was wearing one of her stolen t-shirts. The most salient detail: Police suspect he stole more than $25,000 in goods.
  • l304268-1Thrift shop says ‘yes’ to defunct store’s old letters, Tuscon (Arizona Daily Star): Yes Thrift in Tuscon recycled a handful of letters from Mervyn’s old signs when the department store went out of business. The owner reports that the enormous bright blue letters–which now decorate two sides of their sign as well as the side of their building–have attracted increased business since the beginning of the year. The best part: Mervyn’s was going to crush and dispose of the letters.
  • Mad Men set decorator searches for period furniture in Pasadena-area stores (Los Angeles Times): Great story that follows Amy Wells around on one of her vintage shopping trips–mostly to antique shops, but she hits the Salvation Army for accessories, too. (And I can’t resist a Mad Men mention.)

We’ll keep an eye out for more interesting junking news. In the meantime, happy thrifting!

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‘Champions don’t give junk’


We picked up this flyer at the AGH Auxiliary Thrift Store in Artesia, N.M. I saved it because I loved the little lecture (“Don’t ask the volunteers to do your dirty work”), but disposing of unsaleable crap is a major problem for almost every thrift shop.

A recent article in the Birmingham (Ala.) News discusses the problem:

Worn-out chairs, soiled mattresses and torn couches are often illegally disposed outside Goodwill by people trying to get rid of their garbage without going to a landfill.

“Every morning when we come in, there is stuff dumped out front,” said Caroline Thomas, a spokeswoman for the nonprofit organization that provides education, training and career services for disadvantaged and disabled people.

The chief operating officer of an Alabama-based chain of thrift stores is quoted as saying his organization spends about $1 million a year in landfill costs to get rid of donated junk. Like many thrift shops, they cut down on disposal costs by donating excess goods to less picky charities, some overseas.

I’m ashamed to say I’ve undoubtably donated sub-par stuff to thrift shops before. Next time I’ll make a better effort to make sure everything is clean and in working order. Meanwhile, perhaps I’ll think twice before acquiring junk destined to be a thrift-shop donation. (Maybe.)

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Garage sale signs: their greatest hits

Thad's early-bird sign

Running across interesting signage is one of my favorite parts of garage-sale shopping. No matter what this crankypants thinks, I love the color they add to the urban landscape every summer weekend.

Thad made the above sign for his garage sale last weekend, which highly amused everyone who came to help out. (It worked: No one knocked on the front door before 8 a.m.) Here are some of the best garage-and-yard-sale signs culled from around the web.


[yard sale signs by Captain_Glitterpants]

These signs discouraging earlybirds may be the most creative I’ve seen. My favorite: “Johnny Cochran says … ‘If it’s not 8, you must wait!’

Doubletake-worthy content

[X-Wife Yard Sale, originally uploaded by eraut.]

My researched turned up a few different garage-sale signs in this general vein. They range from defiant to sad.

[Day 15/365 – Best Yard Sale sign Ever!, originally uploaded by Racergirl1313.]

Honesty really is the best policy, don’t you think? I love that “yard sale” is in parentheses, just in case a wandering stable owner misconstrued the sign as an offer of free manure.

Pop-Culture References

Not sure which I like better about this sign: the message, or the design’s homage to the Clash’s first album. Found at World Famous Design Junkies, along with a Sex Pistols-inspired sign.

Best. Yard Sale. Ever.

[Best.Yard.Sale.Ever., originally uploaded by BrittneyBush]

Find many bargains, you will.  Hmmmmmm. (Full disclosure: I’m not a Star Wars expert, so I relied on the Yoda-Speak Generator to come up with that sentence. For all your Yoda translation needs, check it out.)


[Seattle Yard Sale Sign, originally uploaded by mindfulbreath]

Okay, this sale may have taken place in Seattle, but I can hear my Bostonian uncle say it in his hometown accent.

I couldn’t post this Flickr photo, but it’s my favorite example of a regional sign. From Hollywood, Calif.:  “Help Fiance [sic] My Films.”

I found so many bizarre, pretty, and funny signs I started a Flickr group to collect them. So stay tuned for the greatest hits, vol. 2.

Until next time, happy thrifting!


Filed under Emily

Friend Fridays: Chandra’s summer dresses


Our friend Chandra has one of the best-developed personal styles of almost anyone I know. She’s been impressing me with her thrift-shopping capabilities ever since we first met five years ago, and (even better) almost all of the thrifted dresses I own came into my life via Chandra’s closet. She’ll soon graduate with an MFA in poetry from Wichita State, but I think Chandra should start a thrift-store personal shopping service on the side. I know I’d be a client.

Chandra purchased the above red-and-white flowered dress at a $10 bag sale at the Salvation Army on Seneca and 31st Street South. (“The friends I was with weren’t that impressed at the time. Some people have no imagination.”) The gray vintage purse is from the YWCA Treasure Chest on one of their 50% off days ($1.48).


Chandra selected this demure green-and-white dress to wear last Easter. Personally, I’m jealous of the amazing print ($3, the Salvation Army in Lawrence, Kansas).

As the $10 clothing bag queen, Chandra has graciously agreed to expound at length on the topic in the future. For now, here’s her basic advice for buying thrifted clothing:

  • Check for stains.
  • Make sure all zippers and seams are in decent shape.
  • Don’t be afraid to try everything on.
  • If you read fashion magazines, tear out looks you like, then keep an eye out when you’re thrifting. Chandra carries her favorite clippings in her wallet.

Many thanks to Chandra for sharing her finds. And thanks also to Jack, the photogenic puggle pictured alongside Chandra.

Until next time, happy thrifting!

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