Friday, January 27, 2012

Just Crown Me Now

I've done few things of distinction in my life.  Other than marrying well and having amazing children, I don't have many accomplishments of which to brag.  My career years were unremarkable as far as achievements, and academically, I waited until late adulthood to become a serious student.

I'm not at all athletic.  I possess no amazing skills or technical know-how.  Almost anything I do know how to do, like sew, I do with a goal of acceptable mediocrity.

There is one exception:  I am a world-class bargain-hunter.

My shopping skills make one stop and say, "Egads, you're good."  Really, once, I was at an antique mall, and the cashier who tallied my purchases used the term "egads."  She counts as one.  I'd like to bring that phrase back, starting today.  Egads, it feels good to talk about something I do well.

The flip-side of this talent is that I have a tendency to brag endlessly and drop unasked-for information about item cost, original cost, coupons, expected savings, the price of the overpriced item someone else bought, etc., when describing my incredible deals, so that some people just say, "Egads" and walk away before I can finish my bragging. 

I'm prepared to demonstrate the truth of my amazing talent by taking you on a pictorial tour of my shopping treasures, complete with any particulars pertaining to price, savings, laws broken in the procurement of, etc.  Those of you who despise this kind of self-aggrandizing crap should bail right now.

And keep in mind, most of these aren't "restoration" projects (I have a ton of those, too).  These items went straight to work in my home with only minimal cleaning or repair.

I'll start with this beautiful chair.  Neighbors retiring to Florida just wanted to get rid of it.  It's a reproduction Rococo Revival with beautiful carving.  Toted it home for $35.

These counter-height chairs replaced standard stool which were not well-suited to Arnett body proportions.  We love these sturdy Windsor chairs, already painted black like my other kitchen accents, and unnamed family members usually leave them in the middle of the walkway rather than pushing them flush to the island - the better to admire them, I suppose.  A garage sale find for $10 for the set.

A couple of years ago, we began entertaining more, so I wanted to add more seating options to our porch and deck.  Our old black wrought-iron set only seats 4 and takes up lots of space.  Another neighborhood garage sale yielded this awesome lightweight set.  The table included an umbrella and stand, and there are 6 stacking chairs, so we got lots of seating which can be stored in the space of one chair.  The whole set sold for a measly $40!

We used to have a country hutch in this living room space, and stored liquor and glasses in it, but it was poorly suited to the task.  I prowled antique stores, flea markets and garage sales for two years, looking for the perfect replacement.  This retro Ethan Allen cabinet/bookshelf combo works perfectly!  It showed up at the Habitat for Humanity Restore, and with a handy coupon I netted this great piece for $35.

Now I know this isn't much to look at, but when you've got 4 visitors coming and you need more bedside storage, functionality trumps beauty.  Another retiree fleeing to Florida held an estate sale, and I got this heavy little guy for $10.

 The same estate sale had this beauty along with the matching china cabinet, table and 6 chairs for $1400 ("firm") the first day of the sale.  By the time I saw the set in person, someone had bought the table, chairs and cabinet (which I didn't need) and the buffet was priced at $400.  I had been looking for a piece like this since we moved into this house 5 years ago.  I went back twice over the weekend and his price steadily declined.  By Sunday morning he gave it to us for $100.  I probably love it a bit too much, since I've actually dreamed of carrying it out on my back during a house fire.

 This bread box is noteworthy because I was in need of a potato bin, but didn't have room for those big ones designed for potatoes and onions.  It slides in next to the dog food container on the floor of the pantry, holds 15 lbs. of potatoes, and set me back $3.

 This beautiful Tommy Hilfiger shirt is a garage sale find, and I knew when I saw it that Eric would look very dashing in it.  $4.

I don't wear heels.  In fact, when I do, accidents happen.  So I rarely shop for shoes like these.  But I happened to be at the St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store, (home of some of the best clothing bargains ever), and saw these White House | Black Market shoes last summer.  I needed a look like this to set off a sundress I was planning to wear to an event, and the $5 price tag convinced me they were worth the risk.  Score!  I actually danced in these shoes (another form of risky behavior I normally avoid) and no one was injured.  Hoping for the chance to wear them again (hint, hint, Eric).

A friend with four small children decided to convert her formal living room into a more family-friendly space.  Her redesign is so smart and funky and perfect, but I feel like the real winner, since she sold me these chairs I'd been admiring for years.  They are tucked into a corner of my bedroom, flanking my favorite antique table, an awesome bargain brass lamp and a unique bookshelf where my beloved Keurig resides.  Weekend mornings are so nice in our cozy reading nook.  The chairs, which actually harmonize beautifully with my bedding and other furniture, were a steal at $100.

Have I used up all your patience and good humor?  I could add more, but I won't because I'm kinda over this subject myself.  It's been fun reminiscing about great bargains of the past.  I feel like I just need a title or a plaque to feel complete.

Because I've been reading about queens and royalty for years, I feel almost like I know some of them personally.  Eleanor, Mathilda, Isabella, Elizabeth, Mary, Katerina, Anna, Victoria - I want to be part of their realm.  So just crown me "Queen of the Bargains" and we can put my ego to bed for a while.


  1. Egads I am fascinated by everything you write. I wish you didn't live so far away so I could go bargain hunting with you, but come see me. I'm trying to down size, but the only things I have of value are a Steinway Grand piano and a wind up Victrola "record player", circa 1925.

  2. You definitely have an eye for a bargain.