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If the Universe Didn’t Want Me to Buy It . . .

Back to our regularly scheduled content. . .

I’m glad y’all had a good laugh with me yesterday. My not real list of New Year’s Resolutions is providing blog fodder, at least. And the in the case of yesterday’s post, a Christmas Card photo? Heh, who am I kidding, I don’t send Christmas Cards. Aren’t you relieved.

I know I said I would stop buying unframed art until I framed the stack piling up in my studio. But. . . but. . .but surely original watercolors found at ridiculously low prices at the Goodwill shouldn’t count, right?  And how could I pass up this little thing, it had a green tag and green tags were 50% off. COME ON. . . Original Art + Deep Discount = Wende breaks her promise.

Sue me.

What tipped the scales (though, I was probably going to buy it anyhow) was that the back was inscribed with a title: Summerland Morning.  For those of you who don’t know it, Summerland is a little surfing town directly adjacent to Santa Barbara. Though we’ve not been home in 3 years, it’s never far from our thoughts. Palm trees and sunshine, these are the visions that keep us moving forward.

And Summerland is special. Like Gelson’s and Butterfly beach, it’s on our must do list whenever we make it home.  We have a favorite breakfast place there, a favorite burger joint, and we stop for coffee at the local art house cafe on our way out of town to take in the view, one last time before we journey north.

I miss home most in the winter. So, this was a little gift  from the Universe. Hey, even the Universe is a good shopper.

Original watercolor “Summerland Morning” by Sally Bailey.

When Sanity Smells Sweet

In February of 2002, Iz and I moved onto a Seminary campus with our 5 year old son. It was a move made out of necessity and when I’m honest about it, out of desperation. Iz had no job and prospects in his field dissipated after 9/11.  He went from having three promising opportunities with interviews scheduled  on the 10th to being told the jobs just didn’t exist any more. We were bleeding money and our reserves were gone and we were beginning to question how we could stay together.

So, when the Vice President of Admissions personally called to ask if I’d consider her school, I wasn’t in a position to say no. It was actually cheaper for us to go to graduate school in Marin than to stay in our expensive apartment in Dublin. A point she was keen to make. And did she. I’d toured the campus the previous spring so I had some sense of the housing situation. I just had no idea when I agreed to apply that I was going to sink my tiny family into a hell hole. 

You know that old addage, “Beggars can’t be choosers”? Well, that was us the winter of 2002.  We sold off what we could live without (we’re still replacing our entire music collection) and packed the remainder into storage. We said goodbye to our beloved cat (no cats allowed!) and our friends. We were being given the golden opportunity to live in 400 square feet—two rooms and a bath. As  beggars, we were supposed to be darn happy for the chance. 

Part of me was relieved. Seminary, and this pit of an apartment, gave our family a chance to stay together. It was a well known fact that the Seminary would let you build up debt without calling it in. You could live “rent free” until you could pay it off. We had no intention of abusing that system (nor did we!) but the rents alone made sense for us to take the offer.  We were on the brink of financial ruin and we’d already contacted friends who could house us separately if need be. IZ would find work–the boy and I would wait it out with his god-mother in Arizona. To this day, I weep at the thought of it.  

But part of me was devastated. We were moving into a filthy apartment that had no real kitchen! The “sink” was an RV sized thing that backed up when our upstairs neighbors decided to mop their floors. The oven was so tiny, I bought a kid’s play baking sheet so I could make scones and cookies–baked six at a time!  The non-working refrigerator still had a half gallon of rancid milk and the shelves had 3″ of grease build-up on the top of them that smelled faintly of curry mixed with chlorox. I don’t even want to discuss what was growing in the bathroom. And have you ever had to teach a bath loving 5 year old to take a shower? It’s a sad, sad affair, my friends. Wet and sad.  I’d never lived in such a dump and I was ashamed. When my child handed me a used razor blade he found on the floor and said, “Mom, this place is a pit.” I lost it. I sat down on the floor and openly wept.  

Two months prior a dear friend sent me a care-package filled with goodies from L’Occitane. She seemed to sense that my nerves were fraying and I could use some pampering. At the time I didn’t appreciate it. My mind was on making rent not buying expensive soap. As I surveyed the contents I couldn’t help but wonder, “What do I need with linen water?” Seriously? She sent me linen spray?

Who uses linen spray? I don’t iron my sheets. Heck, they’re rarely even folded—instead, fetched just in time from the dryer to make their appearance on my bed. “What, sweetie? You were going to bed? Oh yeah, I left the sheets in the dryer, just a sec. . . ”  I had no idea that linen spray would be my sanity in the coming months. 

It didn’t take me long, looking at rotting milk and left over trash, to get angry. And when I get angry, I clean. So I did the only thing I knew how to do—I began to make that pit our home.  

We’d decided that our child still needed a bedroom, so I deep cleaned that space for him. We set up his bed and unpacked his toys.  I lined shelves and scrubbed cupboards. We managed to move the dead refrigerator onto the “deck” and put our own in its place. I was so peeved I left the milk in it. Maintenance would eventually arrive to cart it off along with the rest of the trash left by the previous tenant.  IZ and I set up desks along one side of the front room. The other side had a tiny dining table and our futon/bed. I mounded our feather bed on top of the lumpy futon, made the bed with fresh sheets sprayed with the L’Occitane linen water that finally made sense. We fell into bed that first night with the knowledge we were together. It was 400 square feet of grime and misery. But our tiny child slept in his own room and we held hands in the night breathing in clean sheets. 

For six months linen water would be my sanity. I would get up each morning, spray my sheets with this ridiculously expensive linen water and then head off to classes and work. It was such a small reminder that my life was not without some luxuries. And each night, I would fall exhausted into bed but transported to another place. On the scent of linen spray, I escaped the pressure of balancing a job 50 miles away, a child not coping with change, a husband overwhelmed with making this work, and the never ending pages waiting to be read. Linen spray, misted on sheets was an embodiment of a simple truth: we were all still together. And together, we were going to be OK. 

That bottle of linen spray is long gone, accidently poured down the sink by a well meaning person during the next move. I no longer need it–but I still love using it. L’Occitane has long since discontinued the product—so, I make my own.  I thought I’d tell you how beneath the fold. Because, you just never know when you might need a reminder that your life is not without some luxuries. 

And take it from me: life seems better when you’re sleeping in sweet smelling sheets.

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That’s A Wrap

This has become my new favorite for wrapping gifts. My old favorite was butcher paper and I’m still a fan. But, like the old standby, vintage pattern paper is extremely versatile. Not to mention economy friendly!

I rescued this pattern for $.12–it was half price day on green tags at my local thrift store. You have to hunt around a bit and make sure you’re picking up patterns that haven’t really been used. The older the better. If you can find one in a French, ooh la la! But anything that hasn’t been too cut up will do–especially for smaller items.

You’ll want to separate out the directions and wrapper. Those can be recycled! And then give your piece of a paper a good press. I only press as much as I need at the moment, because you’ll just end up repressing it in the future. It attracts wrinkles like most tissue paper.

Then wrap your item like you would using any other paper. Except, you can be smug about it, knowing you didn’t spend but pennies to look this cool.

Then comes the fun! I’ve used scraps of paper and small things I’ve collected to wrap this same package 3 different ways. As you can see, it really is versatile. You’re only limited by your imagination!

When The Economy Gets Tough

The Tough go shopping thrifting.

Those would be practically brand new Italian made J.Crew flats. I’d tell you how much I paid for them, but you’d just call me a liar.

As Promised

I promised  you a little stroll with my mis-adventure in canine couture. And I’m delivering. It’s a first, I know, but there is no need for your mock fainting.

Liza Lee said in a comment, “I hope Sophie likes clothing more than Ruby.” The thing is, Sophie doesn’t have a choice. Here’s why:

A few months ago, I came home with a Polo T-shirt for the dog from a local store. I’ll admit, I bought it on a whim and it was a total fashion thing at the time. But, within days of wearing it, we began to notice that Sophie wasn’t tearing into her skin with quite the same intensity. I argued that the t-shirt made her feel safer. IZ suggested, my deft psychological analysis of the dog aside, the t-shirt probably just protected her from herself. I promptly went back to the store and dropped a bit of change on more dog couture.

Sure enough, Sophie has healed up and is actually sporting hair in places we didn’t know she could grow hair. She’s still allergic to everything on the planet, and she still scratches herself into a bloody mess if left alone–just not where the t-shirt covers her. If I could wrap her in jersey knit, I would.

The problem came a few weeks later. I began to notice that these little t-shirts weren’t holding up in the wash. What can you expect for $10 a piece? Right??? They probably never were intended to be worn quite the way my dog wears them. Since they were coming apart at the seams, I reinforced all the seams to keep them from unraveling completely. I won’t lie, there was a sense of satisfaction. I’m easily impressed by my own ingenuity.

Of course, I’d just put my finger in one hole of the wall only to encounter another. Soon enough, there were holes in the fabric everywhere, and not just in places where Sophie could scratch. Not to be out-done, I crafted up darling little appliqués of apples in vintage material to patch the holes. But soon, it became apparent that no amount of restitching and appliquéing was going to save these particular t-shirts.

And that’s when I had one of those regional TV Consumer Reports moments. You know, where some guy in a  cheap $300 suit and a bad comb-over suggests to you that dumping $3.50 a day into a latte out adds up to a chunk of change you’d be better investing in an espresso machine for your home. And where, despite his OBVIOUS lack of fashion sense, he makes a bit of fiscal sense? You hate to admit it, but he’s right and you’re throwing money away for no good reason. You get so angry, you click off the TV and swear to subscribe to cable. At least the talking heads on CNN know how to dress and don’t really make you think.

Yeah, and that’s when Wende realized she’d probably  made these very t-shirts several times over just trying to salvage them!  And it’s also when I realized that despite my dog’s scratching, these shirts should not have disintegrated after 6 washings. Sophie needed new t-shirts, but I’m in NO mood to be investing that much into shirts that will end up in the land fill in a month. So not cool.

I ended up cutting up the old shirts, crafting a crude pattern, and making up a shirt from remnant jersey I owned. When it worked, I found some inexpensive red jersey at a thrift store and set about making t-shirts en masse. But that fabric turned out to be too thin—so I cut out the cute iron-ons off these and appliquéd them to a new knit that has a touch of spandex in it. PERFECT.

As you can see, I’ve not finished the edges. I was in a hurry, my machine is going in for maintenance and I needed to be done. But, it seems pointless, really. These are dog t-shirts and not meant to last forever. They are already better constructed than the first set! When they do finally die, I think I’ll cut the cute iron-on off and appliqué them to next t-shirt.

So that’s it. I spent $3.50 on the iron-on decorations which were on deep discount at JoAnn’s. That should make 8 t-shirts assuming I never recycle them. I spent $2 on 3/4 yard of fabric that made 3 t-shirts. You do the math. I’m feeling ever so clever. The dog is offended. But I’m sorry, Sophie, I couldn’t find an iron-on that said, “Vermin Killah”.

I just wish my light-bulb moments weren’t so fashionably late.

15 Days in April

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First, let me say, I really appreciate all the compassion shown in the comments on yesterday’s post. It means a great deal to me. You all responded in ways that are uniquely you. I found myself laughing and then weeping and then laughing again, gulping for air.

As I was reading comments, I realized how much symbolism is wrapped up in such a simple object. It represents half of my life. Even now, as I look down at my hands, I do not recognize them. It will take some time to absorb the difference. In the meantime, I am holding on to YOUR hope. So, I just want to say, “Thank you. Thank you for hoping for me.”

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When I wasn’t hunting for treasure this weekend, I was sneezing! It’s a labor of love to work with Lavender, I’m so allergic to it. But sneezed I did, and sewed I did, and it’s all for a good cause. Achoo! I’ve been sitting on this little bit of information for months, months I tell you. But now I can spill the news. Here’s what’s up.

Thrifty Goodness turns ONE this month. It’s been an amazing year. I’m still learning how to do this “best”–but the tangible that I can clearly see as a gain, has been all the amazing connections I’ve made in the process. I’ve “virtually” met some really terrific people. Creative and compassionate and full of joy. It’s these relationships that I cherish most.

I’m keenly aware that not everyone can make such claims. Some of us know abuse first hand. We find ourselves in situations beyond our control and beyond our dreams and we need help. Which is why, I’m so excited to celebrate Thrifty Goodness’ Anniversary by holding a fund-raiser for the Women’s Resource Center here in Astoria. This organization makes a real difference in the lives of so many women and children. While I know Thrifty Goodness is a very small venture, it seems to me the best way to celebrate all the great connections I’ve made is by helping others make healthy connections too!

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So! For 15 days in April, beginning April 15 (see the trend) spend $15 at Thrifty Goodness and as a reader of Evidently, you will be getting a set (3) of these amazing Lavender sachets. In return, 20% of sales during that time will go to support the Women’s Resource Center.

For those of you with esty stores, why not join the fun? I know we all run at different profit margins, so I’m not going to set a limit for that—I’m leaving it to your generous hearts to do what’s best. But if you join in, I will post a link to your esty store on Thrifty Goodness as well as promote your store here on Evidently. I have an ad on Modish starting the 15th so that’s extra exposure for you! AND. AND!!! You will receive a super set (5) of these sachets designed specifically for you. So, let’s chat and do some good, ok?

Now, my mama always said I tend to take the long way around Jordan’s barn, so you should know these are not cookie-cutter sachets. Each set was individually co-ordinated and hand cut. No bulk cutting, no two sets are alike. They are unique, made from vintage muslin, linen, and feedsack cotton, as well as some Moda prints. These represent hours of work. Achoo! But it’s been such a joy to make them, knowing that each set was special and would be finding its way to someone equally special.

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Here’s the catch: You have to purchase between April 15 and April 29. You have to spend $15, but that includes shipping! AND, in the message to the seller during the check-out process you need to say, “I’m an Evidently reader!”

There are only 15 sets available, so this is a first come, first served situation. BUY EARLY. I can’t guarantee selection of colors, but let me know (Pink, Yellow, Red, or Lavender) your top two choices and I will certainly do my best to send you your heart’s desire.

You still with me? I know, lots of words. Here’s the last thing… but maybe the most important. If you don’t see anything in the store that you want you can always make a donation directly! Just let me know that you did, and I’ll send you a set of sachets as well.

So. That’s it. For today anyway.

Thursday

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What did you thrift today?

Can you believe it’s Thursday already? We’re 10 days into the new year, how are all of you doing on your New Year Resolutions?

In these parts, we skipped the traditional naming of resolutions. Like a lot of holiday traditions this year, it went by the wayside. I’m sure we’ll pick it up again next year, but this year, we were just relieved to see the calendar numbers flip, content to let 2007′s resolutions ride.

Last year’s resolutions included getting skinnier. Both in how much we consume and physically. (We also banned house-guests for the whole year. Oh, that was controversial. I lost a few friends who saw their free Bed and Breakfast close down. Personally, I’d like to be closed for business indefinitely!) I’m in no mood to chat about the weight loss stuff… as terms like BMI and the diabetes get me in a whole passel of trouble. Besides, you just have to know I have a REAL rant coming down the pike on that eventually. And without naming names, I’m won’t be pulling any punches either. Which might be the only New Year’s resolution I made, if you count the aftermath of December’s Debacle— no more mealy mouthed Wende. Some truths need to be said—malevolent lurkers be damned.

But that’s another day. Further afield, perspective in hand. Today, I can speak clearly about our reducing on the consumption side, specifically packaging. That’s been fun! Retail produces so much packaging, it’s shameful. There is only so much you can recycle—so a thrifting I have gone. Less retail, less in the landfill. It’s included so much Thrifting that somehow I started a small, not for profit (evidently, Oh!!Oh!!Oh!!), business that keeps me more distracted than I like. And again, another post.

The upside of all my thrifting is that it benefits my family in small ways. We are a family of three. Odd numbers are the Kabbalah of thrift stores; it’s why a lot of things get donated. Sets are missing members, fours become threes and in the process useless to bigger families. Their toss is my gain. I snatch up sets of three constantly—napkins, napkin rings, plates, cups. . . Holy Trinities of reusable goods.

We’ve used fabric napkins for ages. Down with paper, I say. I do have a stash of paper napkins—take-out refugees that I keep on hand for when masses of small children lay siege and demand sticky treats. But for family dinners, we use cloth. And to keep germs at bay, we keep our napkins marked with napkin rings. I picked up this little set of hand-carved wood rings for just 25 cents. A fish. A whale. A pig. We’ll argue about who has to be the pig later. When we’re done, we just tuck our napkins back into their markers and leave them in the yellow bowl. No fuss, no muss.

In the long term, it’s not a big deal, a small effort really. But as Mother Teresa once said, “We can do no great thing, but only small things with great love.”

Exposure

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November’s light is pale and fleeting. So, when the sun unexpectedly came out today, I snatched up my camera and ran to the only room with real light to try to photograph as much Thrifty Goodness merchandise as the limited light would allow. My bedroom now looks like a Thrift Store exploded in it! But, it was the only room with decent light and I’m not exactly in a place to be arguing. There is vintage on every surface and our bed is littered with items I’ve been listing. I wonder if IZ will notice the new “look”. What? Exploding Thrift Store isn’t the new Mid-Century Modern?

But now, I’m pooped! I don’t really want to put it all away–especially since I’m probably only a third of the way through listing the items I photographed today. I worked in a frenzy. Who knows how many of the 148 photographs I took will actually be used, but there is rain in the forecast and I have no idea when I’ll get another day of even limited sun again.

In addition to running an ad in the Poppytalk Handmade online street fair, I’ve been busy uploading merchandise into the etsy version of Thrifty Goodness. After serious debate with myself—most of which I did aloud while hanging out in thrift stores, much to the amusement of the other customers I’m sure—I’ve decided to make etsy my primary store front. I get more exposure and my vintage items are selling quickly there. (My handmade items are another story, and I think the writing might be on the wall with that. Evidently, I’m a better consumer than artist!) The shopping cart is easier to use and I can load more photographs–hence all my scrambling today.

However, I’m not abandoning the other site. In January, Thrifty Goodness. com will be getting a face lift! I intend to use the blogging feature to highlight new arrivals at the etsy store. Posts like this one, will also appear there—as Evidently has taken on a more narrative flavor and I’m finding it difficult to write about thrifting without feeling like I’m writing ad copy.

It will also have a SALE! category … or as we affectionately have been referring to it, “Where good vintage goes to die.” Oh. My. I’m not sure how, just yet, but I’m working on finding a way to offer a “rummage sale”… you know, the old “fill a bag for 5 bucks” model. I haven’t figured out the details, but it’s a thought!

As well, the original site will still feature the newer finds that etsy won’t allow me to list. This was the real reason behind not going with etsy in the first place. Not everything I find is vintage! So, there will still be treasure to be had on the original TG site, but it will be limited and newer in scope—the bulk of the store is moving to where it can get more exposure.

And exposure is a good thing. Except when it’s not. Which means, I should probably clean up this mess I’ve created in our bedroom—since I don’t think I could “sleep” with Santa watching. *grin*

It May Be Gray. . .

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But I’m attempting not to be gloomy! It’s a very rainy Saturday and I’m busy putting together the final touches on a Thrifty Goodness update. There is so much new stuff to see, but I’m really excited about the handcrafted items in the store. Go see!!

When I’m done, which will be as soon as I publish this little blurb, I’m going to put on my brightest coat and brave this gray day to do a little chocolate shopping for Miss Kimberly. I’m fairly convinced that chocolate is the antidote for gloom!

What are you doing on your gray Saturday? (If you write in and tell me it’s sunny where you are, I might cry! So lie to me, dear readers! M’kay?)

Happy Saturday

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No time for real words today.  I’m busy pricing scads of items on SALE over at Thrifty Goodness. Happy Saturday!

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