Sunday, May 28, 2017


So I'm in a thrift store and suddenly notice that something near me smells weird. It kind of smells like burning, and then when you think about it, it kinda smells like poop, too.

The only person near me is an old lady, looking at yarn. "OK," I think. "Obviously she needs to change her diapers or something."

But as she moves off, and I continue through the store, I still occasionally smell it. "Must be something in this area like plastics that are reacting to other plastics," I decide.

But on my way home, I smell it again!

Now I know it's something to do with me. Freshly showered, fresh clothes, and I'm sure I didn't step in anything. Is there something wrong with my sense of smell? Being a scientist's daughter, I immediately start a medical run-down. Could be epilepsy! Some epileptics experience weird smells just before they go into seizures.

But that's not likely.

What else has changed? Is it my breath?

I cup a hand in front of my mouth. Nope, not my breath.

Wait a moment. I'm wearing a brand new necklace.

I pull the beads up. They don't smell funny. I turn the necklace around to the artsy wooden clasp, sniff the clasp, and almost pass out.

It's me. The woman who hugged everyone at church this morning.

I'm The Flaming Poo.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Reupholstering Scam

I'm currently taking a class in reupholstering and my guinea pig is a very old family chair passed down for generations.

It's been reupholstered at least three times before this one. Given that each upholstery job has a lifetime of 35-40 years, this chair is a minimum of 105 years old. It has the wounds to show for it. The wood underneath is brittle and pockmarked from all the nails, tacks and staples from past jobs.

Sadly, it is a beautiful, ornately carved mahogany piece that my grandmother refinished in an antique style cream finish in the late 70s/early 80s. I am now facing the decision to either repaint it and do the same antiquing again, or to strip it and completely refinish it.

But in the meantime, I've been carefully deconstructing it.

First step: Turn the chair over and see what's underneath.

This was a very bad sign. It meant that at least the very last reupholsterers were crooks. This webbing is probably original to the piece, although it may have gone back to the prior upholstery job in the late 50s to early 60s. It was dry rotted and appeared that the more recent reupholsterers (circa 70s/80s) just tacked a black fabric over it to conceal their laziness, instead of removing and replacing it.

Upon removing that webbing, I saw:

The original springs, which did not appear to have been retied. To add to my suspicions, once I turned the chair over and continued gutting it, I found the seat still had fabric underneath it that was from an upholstery prior to the 50s/60s job, which I knew was a deep rose velvet.

Here's a swatch of it: It's a nice silk fabric in a shade halfway between turquoise and robin's egg blue. It's possible it's the original upholstery. Because it was covered over, instead of removed, the color was preserved and it's in great condition:

I happen to know, from old family photos, that this chair was  originally a rich, dark mahogany. The blue would look lovely with it, though it would also look great with a cream finish.

I already purchased other upholstery to go with it, so at this time I won't try to find a similar upholstery. However, the laziness of others has created a time capsule that allows me to see how my wealthy great aunt decorated many, many years ago.

The lesson to take away from this: IF you hire someone else to reupholster a piece for you, you must insist on photos taken throughout the process. It's the only way to ensure you're getting what you paid for.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

A Rose by Any Other...Printing

This artwork is fascinating to me, from a marketing standpoint. 

It's meant to subconsciously evoke nostalgia for the 60s/70s, a time when rose, almond, and lilac scents were the rage. 

At that time, printing mistakes were very common. Standards had lowered, more things were mass produced. Printers at that time ran a very real risk of mistakes because there were no computers to make sure each printing run was precise. 

There would be an initial run to place only the background color (rose), then the next primary color (beige) and finally the outline of the rose (black). 

If things weren't properly aligned, the outline would fall way off the parameters of where the rose would be. In order to keep things as inexpensive as possible, they would still release the item, because it was costly to do yet another run.

For more about shampoos/conditioners of the 60s/70s, please see Shampoos of Ages Past.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Garage Sale Tips & Thoughts

My daughter and I just finished a garage sale. In Florida, you're pretty crazy to have one from May through mid-October ...and if you do, more power to you and pass the Gatorade! So the next one we'll have will be in late November/early December.

Everyone in Florida knows that as the host of the garage sale, you remain in the shade with a fan going (unless it's the dead of winter) so we escaped a great deal of the heat.

But the sun reaches its apex in Florida at 2, and as we were breaking down the sale we had to keep going inside to recover, drink fluids, and, in my daughter's case, lay on the cold, hard terrazzo like a dead fish. I lay on a bench, staring at the ceiling, feeling the cool wall masonry against my hot flesh as we discussed the badly concealed crack in the ceiling.

But we had a chance to sit together, make money, visit, laugh, and eat junk food. It was a wonderful bonding experience, and I wouldn't have missed it for the world. I learned more about my daughter's strong work ethic, enjoyed her sense of humor, and heard the little things that we sometimes forget to share with each other when we're in a rush.

We've had garage sales off and on since the kids were little, and each time I learned a little bit more. My daughter and I discussed what makes them easier, and I'm going to share some of these tips with you.

1. If you can, label everything in advance. Do this at night when you're watching TV. Marker fades in the sun, but permanent marker is a bit better. You can make paper tags by cutting strips of brightly colored paper, threading it around a handle, and stapling it. They also sell garage sale stickers at the Dollar Tree. And you can use printer labels - just cut them in half.

2. Clean, paint and repair everything before you put it out. Would you want to buy a stranger's rusted wine rack? A chair encrusted with cat hair? A cracked end table? The item's condition usually makes all the difference in a sale - we found this out through trial and error.

3. Costume jewelry is a big crowd draw. NEVER put the good stuff out. Shoplifters come to garage sales, just as they go to department stores. Put out the stuff you're OK with going missing. If in doubt, make sure you look in all possible places for marks. Anything marked with a precious metals mark shouldn't go out. And if you have a piece of costume jewelry with a name printed on the back, look up similar pieces to see if it's smarter to sell it on Ebay. Instead of throwing them in a basket, take the time to buy those tiny pill bags they sell at CVS (for people who take a lot of vitamins or meds daily) and bag each one individually and pin it to a cork board. It allows for more table room and the display makes it easier to look over.

4. Reasonably priced furniture is also a big attention-getter. People see it as a bigger, more important sale and worth stopping for if they see you have big, important looking pieces. As with the jewelry, research it if it's old before you put it out. Craigslist is a good alternative for older, more expensive pieces. Put out the stuff that would be great for college kids or someone with a starter home. Pieces that sold well for us:
  • An old cream leather recliner with pen marks on the side from an overly creative kid ($40).
  • A bistro wooden table with two matching chairs ($45).
  • A small solid wood, dark mahogany colored end table originally purchased from Target with a cracked seam (obvious but repaired) for $5.
  • A mission style coffee table reproduction, metal feet and rack underneath it, in faux hammered distressed... $8.
5. Things that don't sell well:
  • Lamps
  • Most electronics (new or old)
  • Collectibles: You have to find that person who collects the particular item you're selling. Everyone else will think you're crazy for charging what you're charging.
  • Glassware, such as goblets, tea cups, etc. There are exceptions here, and matched sets sell better than unmatched ones.
  • Office supplies.
  • Wicker baskets (every thrift store is awash in them) unless it's collectible wicker (and then you should be selling it on Ebay).
  • Silk flower arrangements.
6. Things that sell moderately well:
  • Old tools (even rusted).
  • Kitchen items like pots/pans, mixing bowl sets, casserole dishes.
  • Linens and patchwork quilts that are still in their packaging or are in excellent condition.
  • Sports items like hand weights.
  • Things that can be used 'on the run' because of our busy lifestyle (like insulated beverage holders).
  • Adornments for the home, such as curtains.
  • Craft items.
  • Inexpensive accessories like scarves and purses.
  • Got lots of makeup bags from your Ispy subscription? They sell like crazy at $1 each. But don't put out anything that doesn't weather the sun well - no cosmetics, unless it's in powder form and unused (they go fast).
7. Make sure you post on Craigslist and/or your local Facebook garage sale group each day you have it. I took down the Craigslist post the next day and reposted it to stay at the top of the feed. Write a listing of the better things in the body of the post, and take lots of pictures (you're allowed up to 24). I'll post some photos below which really got great responses. Don't have them reply to your email. Put your cell phone number in there and say that texts and calls are OK. I got a lot of interest from people who otherwise wouldn't have driven by the neighborhood.

8. Ask friends and neighbors to donate tables to the cause, and invite them to sell their stuff at your sale. This is a great way to expand the sale, you can truthfully write "Multi-Family Garage Sale" in your Craigslist posting, and your neighbors will be much happier with all the traffic coming in and out of the neighborhood.

9. Consider putting out a large, clean cooler with ice and drinks. You can buy the drinks inexpensively in bulk from Costco or Sam's Club, and resell them to thirsty customers at a profit.

10. People are jerks. Be resigned to the fact that you WILL have that one woman who wants a $100 item for $1. Just politely say no or negotiate. As my daughter put it, someone will always be butt-hurt that you didn't give them what they wanted. So what.

11. But some people can be awesome. One man walked up to us and said "Who's in charge here?" My daughter and I pointed to each other. "OK, I pick YOU," he said to me. "Now. This is labeled $2." I resignedly waited for the rest. But instead he said " about I give you $2 for it?" We all had a chuckle and thanked him and his wife for stopping by. 

12. The general rule here in our area is: Price it reasonably. Put the price on it that YOU would pay for it if you were the customer. The old fashioned way is to overprice it and expect everyone to dicker with you. Unless you live in an area with a large immigrant population, don't do it. Americans don't like to dicker - we see it as rude. 

13. Take care of yourself. Wear sunscreen, sit in the shade as much as possible, have lots of electrolyte infused beverages on hand, and make sure you have a fan. Agree in advance to protect your home. Don't let anyone in there for any reason - whether it's to use the bathroom or get a drink of water. You don't know these people - they could be predators casing out your home. Be wary of people who ask too much personal information.

14. If they ask if you have something additional which wasn't put out: YOU. DON'T. HAVE. IT. Why? Because if it wasn't put out, you're not sure you want to sell it yet. Don't be pressured into making a rash last minute decision. ALSO: You don't want people knowing what is in your home that they might be interested in.

And, of course, it's always better if you have someone next to you who can laugh for hours afterwards about the woman who brought up a couple pricey items and then imperiously demanded that you accept only $2 for both of them.

Friday, May 05, 2017

Beware of Mom

So Mom and Dad show up on my doorstep this morning. "We were just making sure you're not dead," says Mom dramatically. "I've been calling and texting you for over a DAY and you haven't answered."
"Give me your phone," I say. Mom hands it over. "Well THERE'S your problem, Mom," I say. "You've been texting my old work cellphone."
Somewhere there's the man who replaced me, hiding under his desk in fear and trembling in the dark, trying to understand why he's getting death threats from someone he doesn't know.

Metal Scrappers

Yesterday I advertised on Craigslist: "Two huge metal sheds for scrap: You supply the labor." This was taking a risk, of course. Most people know what a metal scrapper is like.

Within minutes, my phone was blowing up. First come/first served, so I immediately took the ad down once John responded that he would be there in less than 2 hours.

Sure enough, he arrived within two hours, girlfriend in tow. At 10 AM, booze was wafting out of her very pores and both looked like they'd lived under a tree in the hot sun for many years. They drove a rattletrap car.

My daughter advised me to keep an eye on them throughout the entire process, so I put on gloves and waded right in, helping to clear out debris and haul off metal.

He put his wallet and things, including a ring box with a solid gold Marines ring, on an outdoor window sill. I opened the box at one point, thinking it had come out of the shed. "Oh thet's MINE," he said. "I brung it with me."

"Were you in the Marines?" I asked. "My brother was! That looks like HIS ring." He waffled around and said he was dishonorably discharged. I was quite certain he'd never seen the inside of a barracks. (Yes, I'm sure that wasn't my brother's ring - in case you're wondering).

During the day, John alluded to my customized bike (I've had three neck fusions so it's rather odd looking). "Got a need fer thet?" he asked. "Yes," I said firmly, explaining why.

Later he asked about my lawnmower and something else of value.

Putting two and two together, I knew they were (at the very least) opportunistic scavengers. And his constant inquiries about what he could take had me on edge.

Last night I locked the gate in front of them.

Today they came back to finish the job. As they were getting ready to dig in again, I said casually "OH, by the way: If you see a cop car, don't freak out. My boyfriend's a cop and he may just stop by for a minute."

You've never seen white trash move so fast.

I consider that a creative prank and not a downright lie.