Tag Archives: Secondhand

Thrifty Living: The Pantry

12 Sep

In order to spread the love of thrift store shopping, I thought it might be kind of nice to give you a tour of my home in some of the small, simple ways I use secondhand items in my daily life.  While the Thrifted Home Tour featured ways of incorporating vintage decor into a modern home, I hope this series will show you how secondhand items can be both lovely and useful, something I try to emphasize in my shop, as well. It’s one thing to have a lot of vintage items in a home that looks like it was preserved from the 1950s, but what I’m after in my life is blending vintage with items I already own in a way that’s workable and lovely. I don’t think homes are meant to be museums, even if they are very lovely.

Some of my most useful finds are these two, in my actual pantry itself, the chrome napkin holder and the Japanese octagon-shaped vase.  Originally I was going to use the napkin holder for letters on my desk, but its so much more useful holding index cards in my pantry. I use them for quick grocery lists, or if friends are over and we need to make a food run, or to write down ideas as I have them, or sometimes I’ll just grab a card and a pencil while I’m cooking and hand them to Isobel for five minutes of toddler-free cooking. The vase is perfect for holding pens because it’s sturdy and because it’s a vase the sides are tall enough that it’s never fallen over. I like to keep sharpies on hand in this vase for labeling things that go in the freezer.

I love the vintage teardrop-shaped bowl of monkeypod wood and often use it to hold cherry tomatoes. It’s so pretty to use at parties. But what I really wanted to show you in this picture were the tins. I have several vintage Daher tins that I love because they are so beautiful. I keep my favorite teas on hand in the brown tin below (with the rest stashed away in a red tin that used to hold biscuits). The blue tin holds large variety of teas, including teas I’m really not fond of, and this is the tin I get down when I have friends over. It makes me feel like a stunningly capable hostess, and this way everyone gets their choice and is happy. 

I keep a number of vintage tins lying around the kitchen and use them for a rotating cast of uses: homemade croutons keep better in a tin than in a plastic bag, I have one currently holding Isobel’s alphabet magnets, and another filled with beans. I use vintage tins for storage all over the house, and I don’t predict I’ll stop singing their praises anytime soon.

I admit I bought these adorable salt and pepper shakers for looks more than anything else. Instead of shakers I use a salt cellar and two pepper grinders. But since I keep these on the toaster it occurs to me I could fill one with cinnamon and one with sugar for instant cinnamon toast.

This vintage viking jewelry box is actually my salt cellar. I think little ceramic boxes like these make the perfect salt cellars. Whenever I find one  for the shop I always suggests its use as a salt cellar. Mine does its job perfectly.

Over here are my two pepper grinders, one a vintage Peugeot and one from Ikea. My eventual plan is for one to hold regular black pepper and for the other to hold more exotic peppercorns. In front of them you’ll note The Fish, a vintage bottle opener that came from my late Papa and Nana. When we have groups of people over for dinner it’s not uncommon to hear people asking, “Where’s The Fish?” Everybody knows The Fish.

I originally bought this cheerful yellow scale for the shop, but I couldn’t part with it after accidentally setting it down in the pantry and seeing how lovely it looked in there.  Strange how that happens! Salter is a really trusted brand for scales, and I compared it to my digital one and it is right on the money.

I feel that soap dishes often get overlooked in thrift stores. I don’t have an actual need for soap dishes in my house because we use refillable liquid soap everywhere, but I’ve seen such truly gorgeous vintage dishes that they are worth buying and finding another use for. I use this milkglass soap dish to hold our sponge.

It’s lovely and a better alternative than buying something new. Soap dishes could also hold jewelry, business cards, or keys.

I have kind of a Thing for vintage utensils, and not just because many of them are better made than what you can find now (although that’s true), but because everything on this counter came from various members of my family. You could plot my whole family tree just by tracking down the original owners of things found in my kitchen cupboards. This is true.

Giving the utensil bin a cursory glace while thrifting is always worth it, because of the quality of many of the older goods. I’ve seen lovely, solidly built nutcrackers for 19 cents! And look at that potato masher. It doesn’t fuck around. It’s heavy. The only thing to watch out for is rust. You can salvage an item that has a bit of rust if you work out of it, but you never want rust to contaminate your food, so be careful.

I really want to make at least a brief mention of the bowls I keep on my counter here, although I probably should cover them in more detail in another post. Mostly because my sweet potato has sprouted it kind of horrifies my husband. Also the grapes are halfway to raisins and I’ve left all the bottles for my various medical conditions out. There it is, folks. Now you can see what it takes to keep me relatively healthy and in good enough health that I don’t have to bitch about it on the internet all the time. But all these bowls on the counter are thrifted and they play a vital role in my kitchen.

I am lucky enough to have a large counter with bar seating. This means I can stack my lovely thrifted bowls on the counter in a way that hospitably offers snacks of fruit and maybe some nuts to visitors and also keeps vegetables handy so I know what I have to cook with. This set up also encourages healthy snacking in my family.  I have two vintage wire bowls. I am all about these bowls. I had similar heart bowls that were in my shop for awhile.

Well, I think that covers the pantry. As you can see, I use vintage and secondhand items in my daily life all over the house. Not everything you find while thrifting is going to be a huge score, but you might find something that turns out to be so useful it’s worth what little you paid for it many times over.

Dreaming of Summer

16 Feb

Stir-Crazy Mess

We’ve had a few days of mild, spring-like weather, and even though it’s rainy again today I’ve started thinking about summer. I know I’m not the only one thinking warmer weather and playing outside: my twitter stream and blog feed are full of longing for winter to be over. Isobel asks every day if we can go outside and play bubbles.

In anticipation of spending hours and hours outside I’ve been thinking of a list of things we will need to get through the summer. Toys, specifically. I want to build a simple, inexpensive set of toys for the backyard. My goal is to find as many of these at thrift stores, yard sales, and dollar stores as possible.

Bowling set –  when we were growing up there was a disgusting drink called a SQUEEZE-IT.  Man, it tasted foul but it came in a cheap plastic soda-like bottle that made excellent bowling pins when stacked at the end of our long sidewalk. Our cats, ever curious, used to get in the way, and my Dad repurposed the game as “Bowling for Cats.”

Fishing poles – my sister and I each had a child’s fishing pole that we used for actual fishing a handful of times and ‘cat fishing’ the rest of the time. My dad would put weights and a large plastic tie at the end of our Snoopy fishing pole lines. We’d stand in the bed of his pickup and cast our lines across the lawn and every cat in the vicinity would chase the plastic tie as we reeled them in. Sometimes we wore our Snoopy life vests for extra realism.
Magnifying glass – for examining plants and bugs. I’m also thinking about finding some small binoculars or a spy glass for trips to the park.

Frisbee – my neighbors had an ingenious use for their Frisbee: when not in use as originally intended, they turned it over and filled it with bubbles. Wide, shallow, and perfect for bubble wands, it was not easy to spill and more than one kid could use it at once.

Water toys – Repurposed toys for a water table, bucket of water, or wading pool.

Obstacle course items – I’m having a hard time coming up with items for an obstacle course. Hula hoops? Jump ropes? Tunnels? Help me out on this one, internet.

Large paintbrushes – I heard about this idea somewhere a long time ago: get a bucket of water and a large paintbrush and your kid can ‘paint’ designs with water on the side of a house or a fence.

Kite – Anyone seen some cute ones online? If Isobel really enjoys kites, I’d spring for a nice one.

Balls – various sizes and kinds

Badminton set – Isobel’s too young still, but I’d use it.

Sand toys – buckets, shovels, and sand molds

Croquet set – I found one at a yard sale when Isobel was a newborn. Now all we need is a lawn to use it on.

Wading pool – we have one from last year, but I’m not sure if it will still inflate. And what about Slip ‘n Slides? Do they still make those?

Chalk – any creative uses for chalk out there? Or fun things for kids to draw?

I’d love to hear any ideas you have on toys for the backyard. What outdoor toys do you consider essential? What am I missing?

Thrifted Home Tour

23 Jul

A few weeks back my MIL Olivia watched Isobel for an afternoon while I tackled a project that just seemed too daunting with a baby around: photographing my house. I want to create a series of posts that featured thrifted goods throughout my home, some of them purchased for the shop and some of them that are mine. I’m proud of the fact that I’ve pretty much decorated my whole house with things found while thrifting and yardsaling and nothing would make me happier than to inspire people to do the same.

Right out of high school I had an awful roommate for about two years. Even though she reached out and asked me to live with her, she made it clear from the moment I unpacked my bags that I was not welcome in her house. I even heard her complain about me to her boyfriend when she thought I wasn’t around, saying, “She’s going to make this place look like a thrift store.” At the time I was totally caught off guard and I found it very hurtful, but you know what? Today I’m proud to have decorated my house from a thrift store. Damn straight. I think more people should decorate their home with thrifted goods. Here’s why:

CHARM & PERSONALITY: There is nothing cookie-cutter about the inside of my tract home even though most of our furniture came from Ikea. A thrifted home truly has some individuality; it’s not something that looks like came straight from the shelves of Target. I’m saying this as someone who has nothing against Target. In fact I like Target a little too much for my budget so I try not to visit very often. As much as I like Target there is something to be said about mixing up your design with less common items. I’m sure you’ve had the experience of being in someone’s home and seeing something that you saw in a store somewhere before, or maybe you’ve gone to somebody’s house and found the very same you bought on their mantel on display. Yeah. That.

FRUGALITY & VALUE: Not everything I find at a thrift store or yard sale is always cheap, and some times I pay a nice chunk of change for something vintage, but it’s often much cheaper than finding a comparable item new. And many times you can get great deals second hand and save a whole bunch of money. Case in point? Second hand frames. Have you checked the price of a custom frame job for artwork? Insane. If you have something that doesn’t fit nicely into a standard frame striaght from the store you are looking into paying a whole lot for buying a custom frame for that bad boy. Even if it does fit into a typical poster frame you then have all the drawbacks of a typical poster frame: it being cheap and ugly. Fortunately I have been able to find solid wood and glass frames secondhand. Sure sometimes I have to buy whatever crap work of art is already in the frame, but for five dollars I can have something I’m proud to hang in my living room. Also, don’t overlook the value of something. Vintage may not be the cheapest, but when you consider the fact that you are getting something gorgeous that you love that you can’t just find anywhere, it more than justifies the purchase.

ENVIRONMENTAL RESPONSIBILITY: Buying second hand is recycling at its most basic form: what could be greener than reusing an item that has already lived a useful life? How many times can you reuse an item to save resources? What is more sustainable than looking around you at items that already exist and choosing to purchase that item as opposed to one made by child labor at some big box store? Exactly. I knew you were the responsible sort.

SUPPORT A SMALL BUSINESS: Here’s where I post a shameless plug for my Etsy store and other purveyors of second hand goods. Often I shop at yard sales and estate sales but most often I go straight for thrift stores. All the second hand shops in my area support local causes: hospice care, the homeless, youth camps. My favorite thrift store forever and ever is run by the Catholic church and supports their charity. I’m not Catholic but I see the difference their outreach makes in the community. The stores I frequent are volunteer-run by the nicest people. I feel good about giving them my money because I know it is used to help others and keep the secondhand cycle going. And, *ahem* running my vintage shop through Etsy is a dream come true. Last month I bought some groceries with my Etsy earnings and I thought to myself, I did it! I’m a small business! That feels awesome. I’m not going to lie: every time I make a sale and I package that item up I think to myself, I can’t believe I’m letting this go. I truly love each and every item I find for my store, and I’m thrilled that you do, too.

Over a series of posts I’m going to be featuring a tour of my house and I’ll highlight all the thrifted goods and items to hopefully inspire others to look to second hand sources for their decorating projects. I’ll also be featuring some stuff in the photos that will end up in the Little Big Shop so you can see ideas of how they can be used. I hope it inspires you to reuse items in your design.