Monday, April 7, 2014

First Spree After a Thrift Store Fast

Wow! Have you ever had those times when it feels like everything is closing in on you at once? Well, that is how I've felt recently. What a hectic few weeks it has been! I've experienced unusual stress, and I've been nudged out of my comfort zone. But through it all God has given me a quiet peace about everything. I'm learning NOT to be so self sufficient, and to lean on God at all times. Whew! It's much easier that way, so why is it so hard to do this???  :)

This brings me to today's blog subject--after a few weeks of unusual and unrelenting stress, I had a small window of time to enjoy a spur of the moment trip to my local thrift shop. It was a beautiful spring like day. The kind of day that makes one feel optimistic simply by the soothing effects of its beauty. The birds were singing so much that they sounded like a symphony. A soft breeze wafted about, and the sun gave its light generously. As I enjoyed the drive home I had a sudden desire to swing by one of my usual stores. Due to out of the ordinary budget issues, I had been on a necessary "thrift store fast" for several weeks. However, I could no longer contain the urge to dig through the shelves! So, I bolted into the store and….

                                         I found some, wonderful things!

First, one of my most unique finds revealed itself to me as soon as I got in the store. No joke, I spotted this within 15 seconds. This store has its more unique items in a locked case. I always glance at the case, but have rarely found anything of interest. Today was different. Today I saw a large lithograph depicting a horse racing across the finish line. I'm a sucker for anything to do with horses, and I was immediately intrigued. Upon closer examination, I see the tittle. "Eddie Arcaro Triple Crown Winner Whirlaway 1941-Citation 1948! To many, this would be of little interests. But to a person who has loved horses as long as she can remember, I fixated on it immediately. I've included a few pictures below:

Eddie Arcaro's signature

This is on the back of the lithograph. It's a blurb about the print, and about the athlete it depicts. According to this, it was created in 1974! I will have to treat this with care, as it's now an antique!

Finally, the front of the lithograph:

This picture fails to show the scale. It's a fairly large piece and I love the way the artist captures the motion. Eddie Arcaro rode two legends to the Triple Crown title, Whirlaway and Citation. I read about these hoses as a child.  To walk into a thrift shop, and find THIS, was a blessing beyond belief! For an unplanned trip, on which I had no expectations to uncover anything of interest, this find can definitely be classified as one of the most unique I will find. It wasn't a wise time to buy it, as I'm on a strict budget right now. But on the other hand, how likely is it that I will run across another one of THESE?!?!?!?!  Budget or not, I had to look at it, so I asked one of the staff to open the case for me.

*Brief side note--something I've noticed about thrift stores. Whenever you have the case opened, it attracts a lot of attention! Shoppers swarm from every direction. This time, 3 other shoppers materialized at the case. 2 were interested in other items, but one man hovered about, showing too much interest in the lithograph to suit me. I sensed the competition and knew it was either get the lithograph, or lose it forever. Since it is the subject of this post, its obvious that I quickly staked my claim and secured my lithograph!

One bonus of thrift shopping is that the items prompt research. In the case of the lithograph I learned that Sports Illustrated commissioned a set of lithographs, featuring living sports legends. I also learned that 1500 lithographs were done and the plates destroyed after the production. Since these were done in 1974, I daresay there are less than 1500 of these now. Mine was number 894 off the production line.

As if this wasn't enough, I am about to tell you about find number two--That's right! A second treasure was about to appear surface among the discarded.

To understand the significance of this, I must first give a bit of background. As I've mentioned in my info, I am an avid shutterbug. I love photography as well as second-hand shopping. Today, I got to combine BOTH! I have a dear friend who has a birthday this weekend. She recently started quilting. Last week, I created a custom birthday card for her, using one of my photos. The front is a picture of a quilt in progress. The photo is quite ordinary, but it is perfect for my friend. I created this 5 days prior to this unexpected thrift store spree.

Birthday card I created using a photo of a quilt and antique scissors.

Flash forward to today--while galavanting through the store…RIGHT AFTER I secured the amazing lithograph, I come across this:

A print with a quilt theme, and a Bible verse at the bottom! Even though this is not unique like the lithograph, I was moved beyond words when I saw this! How neat is it, that 5 days prior, I made a birthday card with a quilt theme, and then, on my first spree after a hiatus from thrift shopping, I find this?!?! It is the perfect gift for my friend. AND the quilt theme continues!!!

I will conclude with a quick follow up. I gave the card and the picture to my friend. She loved them! I couldn't have planned a more perfect gift for her!  Just goes to show that things can sometimes go better when we stop trying to control all outcomes, and allow things to unfold.  

Saturday, February 1, 2014

An Ironclad Weekend

Hello again. I've had exciting times treasure hunting and can't wait to tell you about it. My last blog post focused on the moment my second hand shopping addiction sprang to life.  The,  "Aha!" moment happened when I found my first set of iron skillets at a thrift shop. That find shoved me from the retail kingdom,  into the dusty, messy, adventurous world of thrift store shopping.

The set of skillets that started it all. 

The weekend after posting 'Old School Tools And Memories',  a series of unexpected, and serendipitous events occurred. The result? I acquired FOUR additional pieces of iron cookware. 


    My 4 additions--3 WagnerWare and one Griswold (bottom right)

Last weekend's experience is the kind this thrift store addict dreams of. I always enjoy sifting through discarded "junk" for potential treasures, but weekend results like this are icing on the cake! These amazing finds came two days apart, and I didn't even set out with iron cookware in mind! For me, this is the allure of prowling through second hand stores. The majority of my life is scheduled, planned, predictable. With this hobby, I "float" along and "let" treasures present themselves to me. In my planned and ordered day to day routine, this is as close to spontaneity as I get.


Three of these are WagnerWare made in Sidney, OH.  Prior to this I never knew there was a Sidney, OH!  I got these by having the winning bid in a silent auction at a local Habitat for Humanity Home Store.  Since my first set is Wagner,  I'm very pleased to have gotten these older ones.  

This find prompted me to research iron cookware, and it is actually very interesting. The Wagner and Griswold brands date back to the 1800's. Throughout their history, they had several notable phases of manufacturing which can be identified by the logo design.  Eventually, I'd like to have a piece from each manufacturing era. This calls for a lot of time spent second hand shopping.   (yay) 

According to my research, this logo style indicates a manufacturing period anywhere from 1925-1959. We often hear the adage, "If walls could talk." I wonder what tales we'd hear if skillets could talk?  :)


The skillet pictured above is from my very first thrift store find. It was made sometime in the nineties.

I haven't used the most recently acquired Wagner skillets. Even though they look seasoned, I need to work on them. The pics show that the undersides have a bit of rust. Luckily, it's confined to the bottom, and I am optimistic that I can get these restored to good condition. 

Here you can see the rust--Luckily a small amount. 

The griddle pictured below also has some rust. I like the shape of it. In all of my thrift store shopping, I've never come across one like it.  Maybe because folks like them so well that they rarely part with them.

WagnerWare griddle

My ironclad adventure wasn't over. Two days after purchasing the WagnerWare,  I got a call from my favorite thrift store that routinely auctions its nicer items. The caller  informed  me that I was the winning bidder of a Griswold skillet! Unbelievable!!! This was quite a coup, because I never dreamed my bid would survive the competition. I've learned that Griswold is a big name for serious collectors. I've tried,  several times (unsuccessfully) to get Griswold pieces. But this time, my modest bid staved off the competition, and I now have my first Griswold!

This was made anywhere from 1939-1957. 

I'm pleased with the depth of this one. I've placed a small tupperware piece by the lip, in an attempt to demonstrate how deep this skillet is.   I'd describe it as having lots of room for delicious fried chicken like my grandma used to make. 

As you can see, it's in excellent condition. I will season it one time, then, like my mother, grandmother and great grandmother, I will use it. My cooking isn't nearly as good as theirs, but I can keep trying.

In the meantime, I look forward to my next adventure in second hand shopping. There is no telling what "treasure" will reveal itself.  Until then, I'll be researching how to get rust off of iron cookware.  :)

Bo sitting in the Griswold. This item is now Bo Cat approved.  :)


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Old School Tools And Memories

I don't know about you, but I tend to get stuck in a rut and stagnate. The demands of the daily grind sap all my focus and energy. As a result, expanding boundaries, and trying new things gets neglected.  Somewhere along the way, my idea of thrift stores had been "set", and in my daily dash to maintain the status quo, I failed to consider that my perceptions about them could be wrong. My "ruts" can rival the expanse of canyons, and it takes quite a stimulus for me to think of
digging out.  

My history with thrift stores had been a bad one. At the behest of a friend, I went into one…once. "Join me.", she said. "It will be fun.' she said.  That statement could not have been more wrong. My experience was perfectly awful! The store was chaotic. Merchandise of any and all types was strewn about so randomly, that I daresay even the likes of Einstein wouldn't be able to discern a pattern in it. I felt confused, claustrophobic, panicked. I fled, vowing never to go back to a second hand store again.

So, how on earth did I become I thrift shop-aholic? Remember that I said it takes a big stimulus to make me consider  leaving my comfort zone? In 2012, hubby and I decided to downsize and move into a smaller home. We moved BEFORE selling the first home. For  6 months we made two house payments.  Money was tight! That was a rut busting catalyst. Hounded by the stress of budgeting two mortgage payments, I had to find a way to cut expenses. So, I ventured into what I considered to be a circle of hell Dante neglected to mention in the 'Inferno'.  With the most martyr-like countenance I could muster, I went into (GASP!) a thrift store. 


I crossed the threshold, and felt sheer panic. But unlike my prior attempt,  budgetary realities barred me from fleeing. Trapped, I had to deal with the panic and make this work. I procured a cart and took safe haven on the perimeter to could get the "lay of the land".  I spotted a group of very loud, energetic children playing a raucous game of tag. At that time I believed myself to be in purgatory. My path was dictated by desperate attempts to avoid the tag playing kids. They advanced, I retreated. They zigged, I zagged. This spastic choreography eventually brought me to a quieter corner of the store. There, I noticed a woman whose cart  overflowed with amazing finds! Were we in the same store??? I looked about and saw nothing. But she reached into the heaps and drew forth treasure! How did she manage this? What manner of magic did she possess?  I decided to study her, and copy her technique. Unbeknownst to this master shopper, she had acquired an apprentice! Methodically, she searched the shelves from one end to the other, shuffling everything around. Her method obviously worked, so I adopted her system and was quickly rewarded. I found…(drum roll please)  a set of iron skillets!

iron skillets from Goodwill

Three iron skillets for $9! I could hardly believe my luck! Understand that I knew nothing about iron cookware at the time. I only knew that iron was a preferred cookware of many great cooks…. my grandmother being one. I knew I'd found a great deal. But the deal wasn't the only bonus. Holding the skillets made me feel nostalgic. Like the fabled magic carpet, memories transported me back to a time I hadn't thought of in ages. Mealtime with my grandparents. Perfect fried chicken, fried okra, cornbread and more. We ate in their small kitchen nook where we had a view of the garden my grandfather loved to tend. Supper time was special back then. Not rushed like today, and certainly NEVER eaten while watching TV.  Meals were sustenance yes, but more importantly, eating together was family time.  We shared laughs, talked about our hopes, dreams. and everything in-between.  My grandparents made sure mealtime was a time set aside for us to be together.  My grandmother's iron cookware was a key component in all of her meal prep. and therefore a part of my memories. I hadn't reflected on those childhood years in quite sometime. But there, amongst the wild children, and piles of random stuff, I'd found something that built a bridge between the adult me, and the child me. Quite unexpectedly, these iron skillets helped me feel a stronger connection to the past.
The underside of the large skillet. 

I was yanked from my reverie when two of the energetic children ran right into me. Apparently, the game of tag had been going strong while I'd been revisiting those Mississippi summers in my mind. An angry mother came around the corner to gather the kids, and I realized that was the perfect time to conclude my shopping. I'd had my first victory in the thrift store arena! The iron skillets were my big turning point. Just like that, I was a full fledged thrift shop-aholic.

Two years later, I am an avid thrift store shopper. Second-hand things  come with mystery, surprise AND an affordable price! That's a win, win, win in my book. I enjoy using these 'old school' tools like my grandparents did. With each use, I am reminded of the wonderful memories I have of them, and decades later, I appreciate my grandparents all the more.  No matter how many great finds I come across, these will be extra special to me. For they mark the day I learned to find treasures among the ordinary.


As you can see in the picture, they weren't well seasoned. I brought the goods home and commenced to researching how one goes about seasoning a skillet.

Just beginning.

I read on one site that the best way to season iron cookware is to use it. So I cooked bacon and saved the grease for future seasoning.

In progress----

Almost a year later. I'm very pleased with how this one has seasoned. And I love it all the more since I carefully brought the skillet to this state.

And below--some delicious homemade cornbread in my iron skillet…like Grandam used to make.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Old Books--The Addiction Begins

Hello. My name is Kim and I'm a recovering retail shopper. In other words, I'm a thrift-shop-aholic, and I'm absolutely okay with it.

I wasn't always this way. Second hand shopping is a recent addiction revealed to me by one of the best teachers around--necessity. Approximately two years ago, hubby and I decided to downsize and move into a smaller home. We chose the little house we wanted, and moved in. We did this BEFORE selling our other home (yes, it was a crazy thing to do).  As a result, we weathered 6 months of making two house payments. Precious little money was left over after paying all the bills. I wouldn't want to endure that again, but as is often the case, hardships can force us to see new things. During this time I discovered the thrill of thrift store shopping.

The addiction began when I had my first stellar day at a used book sale. Prior to this, I'd had nothing but terrible luck in second hand stores. They were the antithesis to the well organized displays I was accustomed to in retail establishments. I found thrift shops confusing, random, chaotic.  In my opinion, retail stores were the overture, and thrift stores were the cacophony. But, on that September day, my checking account verified that retail was not in the realm of possibility. I simply had to make sense of thrift store chaos, and failure was not an option.

I tested the "second hand" waters with a used book sale at the local library. It was $5 dollars per box. No matter how many books I could cram into a box, the cost was $5. How refreshing! I went from feeling as poor as the proverbial church mouse, to feeling like I had just won the lottery! Okay, maybe not the lottery, but it was really nice to feel like I could buy some things and stay in budget. To give you an idea, here is my take from that day.  Hmmm, suddenly, I wasn't missing the chain stores with their latte machines.  :)

My haul from that day. As you can see, I stuffed the box and stretched that $5. 

Below, you can see the oldest books I got at the sale.

The book at the top right, 'The Lady In Black" is from the late 1800s! The others are from the early 1900s! I was thrilled to find these.

But my favorite of the day…the book that officially awakened my love of collecting old books is this one. It's not the oldest one of the lot, however there is more to it than meets the eye.

Initially, the colors and artful illustration on the front cover stood out. In this photo it's difficult to get the full impact of the art, but I think it's clear that the cover has a distinct style and quality. The colors are vivid. The illustration very detailed. In short, this is a cut above the usual look of mass produced products today.

Here are some more examples of the beautiful illustration style of this book.

The artist's skill takes us into a moment. 

These illustrations are like looking at paintings!

Upon further examination, I discovered the most impacting aspect of this book:

"To Patsy From Daddy  Conference 1945"

If I had wavered before, seeing this sentiment generations later sold the book.  It sparked my imagination. This is  a child's book, so I would guess Patsy to have been  around 10-12 years of age. I can picture this Dad, searching for the perfect gift, then proudly presenting it to his daughter. This was an era untouched by smartphones, laptops, tablets, iPads, kindles and the like. In the absence of all this electronic "noise", I believe books were more revered in those days. Can you imagine her pleasure upon seeing her father's gift? Did she squeal with delight? Did she grin from ear to ear? Did she hug his neck? Perhaps she did all of these things. Perhaps bird watching was a hobby she and her Dad shared. This brief note of affection touched my heart. Surely this had been special to Patsy!  It was sad to see this token of love on a shelf, at a used book sale for a stranger to buy. How could this have ended up being donated to a sale? Was there no one at all who felt a connection to this book? I quickly realized the answer to my last question was a resounding NO! Being privy to this father/daughter moment, a full 67 years after the fact, tugged at my heartstrings. Therefore, I decided it would have a new home with me. By the way, when I got it  home, I discovered one more thing that made this book even more special. The author is Margeurite Henry! She was one of MY favorite childhood authors!  I loved her books! Patsy and I are generations apart, yet we share the same childhood author. Perhaps like me, she read 'Misty Of Chincoteague', and 'Stormy, Misty's Foal'.

Here is where I saw the author's name. And I love the sign the illustrator added over the door of the birdhouse.

Fast forward almost two years--'Birds At Home' still has a place on my bookshelf. I've amassed a lot more books since then. Each one interesting in its own way. But no matter how unique, no other book  I find can usurp this one. For this is the one that awakened my passion for collecting old books. It taught me that things with a history come with a wealth of mystery and surprise. It's my first treasure found among ordinary things. Whenever I look at it, I remember the experience of finding it, and I am reminded that Patsy and I can cherish the same book.