Other People's Junk….

After the rains at the end of the week, the weekend’s sunshine made the whole world seem new. While still holding that autumn chill in the air, the sky was a promising shade of blue that beckoned to us to be outdoors and soak up some rays from the sun. Our kids were gone, staying with their other parents until Sunday afternoon. Mr. Wonderful and I were left to enjoy some peace and quiet, and do anything we wanted without having to worry about complaints from the kids. So what better way to spend a Sunday morning than to peruse the garages of other people’s homes, making their junk our treasures? Mr. Wonderful has been in the market for a certain piece of furniture. Last weekend it was antique stores. This weekend we thought we’d try our hand at garage sales.

We grabbed the newspaper and went out on our treasure hunt. The first house proved to be a bust. The one drawback of garage shopping on Sundays is that all the good stuff gets taken on Saturdays. We were left looking at old drinking glasses in the ugliest shade of green imaginable, and a lamp that made us question what they were thinking when they bought it brand new. We stayed for only 5 minutes before moving on to the next. This one happened to be located in a barn, and we were like kids in a candy store. Old chalk board? Sure! Cook books for a buck? I’ll take two! Tennis rackets and a vase? Absolutely! We walked out of there with our arms full and our wallets barely touched. But still, we hadn’t found what we had been searching for. So on we went to the final house. This one we only had to drive by to see that nothing was there. And we knew that we might not come across the desired piece today. But still, we were determined to at least find some more treasures out there to feed our shopping bug. Our last stop was the Goodwill.

I have a love/hate relationship with Thrift Stores. Plenty of people find joy in coming to Thrift Stores to get things much cheaper than they would if they got them new. And truth is, if you look carefully, there are plenty of barely used items that deserve a good home. Some things haven’t been used ever and still have their original price tags on them. There is an overabundance of good quality kitchenware that would have cost hundreds bought new, and are now selling for under $10. There are racks of shoes and clothes that, if weeded through properly, can produce treasures in your closet, or at least scraps for the quilt you’re making or for patches in those jeans with holes in the knees. There is a room dedicated to dressers and tables, TV stands and beds. The whole store is filled with diamonds in the rough, just waiting to be discovered. And I feel that after 10 minutes of perusing through other people’s castaways, getting caught up in the moment of discovering something that someone else didn’t see before me. But those first 10 minutes are filled with trepidation, the smell of musty clothes bringing on memories that aren’t so fond to me, a time when shopping at a thrift store was not done for fun, but out of necessity. It was back in my married days, a time that I often look at as if it were another life just to keep it seperate from where I am now.  Food was bought with a benefits card, something I would bring out discretely only to have the checker ask loudly, “Will this be Cash, or Food Aid?”.  The PG&E was shut off more times than I can count.  Dr’s visits were at crowded offices, waiting in a room filled with screaming and crying children for hours.  Dental exams were the same way, yet we were filed in and out like cattle, and not allowed to be by our young children’s side while they had their teeth examined.  School shopping was done at the Salvation Army with hope that some kid grew out of their clothes before they wore them out.  Being poor rendered us invisible and of a lower class.  And after my divorce, I worked as hard as possible to get out of that life.  When I walked away from poverty, I also walked away from “free” medical insurance, government aid, bounced checks, and Thrift Stores….and I never looked back.

Until this Sunday. It had been years since I had stepped into one of these stores. And the smell, no matter what, never changes. But this Goodwill had been kept up to impeccable standards. Everything was placed in an orderly fashion. Even the clothes were arranged by their type, and then sub-categorized by color. One quick glance around and I was quickly brought back to how fun “Thrifting” could be. The first thing I came across was a black suede jacket without a price tag. The fit was perfect, and exactly what I had been looking for to replace my own beat-up coat. I picked up glass after plate after cooking pan, imagining the possibilities with each as if shopping in a department store. I took in my fair share of eye candy before joining Mr. Wonderful in his quest.

And that’s when we saw it.

No, not the piece of furniture we were looking for. We had given up on that already. But a trivet for bread with glass Pyrex loaf pans. To be fair, Mr. Wonderful saw it first. But my eyes opened so wide and I swear he caught me drooling, and Mr. Wonderful lived up to his name. He told me he’d buy it for me on one condition. The evening before, I had been nearly impaled by a frozen banana that leapt out of his freezer and missed my head by inches. Mr. Wonderful’s son was not one for overripe bananas. Even one spot on them rendered them disgusting. So Mr. Wonderful froze the bananas and used them for banana bread. But his freezer was overflowing to the point that these frozen pieces of fruit were attacking anyone who opened the door. Mr. Wonderful promised me he would buy me the trivet, but only if I made him my own banana bread.

Consider it done.

My final bill came to around $13. I got three movies, the suede jacket (it was $7!), a fan, and some light bulbs. It was a steal! And the rest of the evening was spent over a hot oven to create only the best tasting banana bread. I used my favorite recipe that includes a secret ingredient (be sure to check the forums for the recipe). The result? Something I’m going to have a hard time keeping my hands off of while it exists in our home.

You’ve gotta love weekends.


Speaking of weekends, if you know of a family friendly event coming up, be sure to let me know so I can include it in my Weekend Family Fun blogs. And if you are looking for something to do over the weekend, every Friday I have a new list of fun and inexpensive things to do over the weekend.

And a reminder, this is the “Season of Giving”.  Thrift stores are a wonderful place to donate your gently used items for folks that could use them.  Food Banks have barrels to donate food at most grocery stores.  Secret Santa is being set up as an annual tradition by the Volunteer Center of Sonoma County to help brighten the holidays for families in need.  And if money or items are not possible for your family to donate, your time is just as valuable.  Please consider giving this season, and help those families in need.


5 thoughts on “Other People's Junk….

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  1. When I was a kid, back in the materialistic 80’s, I was dragged to thrift stores every time I needed new clothes. AND my mom was a hippie and couldn’t understand that the dark blue, brand-new boot-cut Levi jeans she insisted on me getting would earn me nothing but ridicule in an era of pegged pants bleached to the point of near non-existence. It wasn’t until I was in my non-conformist teens that I discovered for myself the joy of thrift stores. Since then, a lot of my super favorite clothing items have been the results of a gleeful grab from an otherwise uninspiring rack of outdated fashions (sometimes followed by a minor cat-fight with a shopping buddy over who would get to take the treasured item home). But for years before that re-discovery, I too swore off thrift stores…and definitely for as long as my mom was still choosing my clothes.

    And Mr. W’s son is totally right. As crazy as it sounds, once a banana acquires as much as a single brown spot…the flavor and texture change. Some people still like them after that point, or even prefer them a bit spotty, but as soon as the last bit of green is lost a banana goes from being firm and slightly tangy to slightly grainy in texture and bitter in flavor. I’m not a fan–if a banana begins to turn brown on me, it’s out on its ear.

  2. Once a week a friend and I go thrift shopping. So fun to be on the hunt while catching up with each other. Good times 🙂

  3. Yard sales and thrift shops are the greatest inventions ever, followed closely by Craig’s List and eBay. The pure, unadulterated joy I feel when I get a coveted object for pennies on the dollar is unlike any other joy.

    I have a wicker clothes hamper that would cost nearly $50 new at a store and I got it for $10 at the Goodwill about 4 years ago. It still looks awesome in my bedroom. I have a large set of Cranberry Visions glassware by Pyrex that is a combination of new buys and buys from thrift shops. I use that bakeware all the time. I found a $40 plate at the Salvation Army for $1.00. I guess they didn’t know it was a 1970s piece of modernist porcelain by a famous Swiss china company. I knew it. 🙂 Half my house is decorated with thrift store and yard sale finds and I no one would ever guess.

    As for banana bread, I have my own recipe and it calls for brown bananas. The browner they are, the more intense the flavor and pungent the odor which is good for bread. Barely ripe or just ripe ones don’t give off the same intensity of flavor or smell. Don’t throw away your brown bananas. Use them for bread or muffins.

  4. All banana bread should only be made with brown bananas! That’s why we freeze them, it makes them browner but they don’t go bad. When they’re thawed out, they are a wonderful banana-ey mush inside the peel, and the flavor is so much sweeter.

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