Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thrift Store Conventions: Addendum to Entertain

Mr. Golightly and I worked a marathon photo shoot last Saturday to document items for The previous Thrift Store Conventions: Entertain post featuring items readily found in thrift stores. Two things happened today: 1) we realized we forgot a few items and 2) I hit the thrift stores and scored. For your viewing pleasure and thrift enlightenment we offer an addendum to the initial post on Entertaining a la thrift.

These "snack sets" are a must for entertaining either at a cocktail party, a dessert party, a luncheon or a book group meeting. I bought this set of four for $2. They are still in their original box that reads “This snack set of four plates~four cups in sparking crystal glass for quick attractive service.” I love that.

Let’s grow that exponentially. You could serve, say 16 guests for $8. Consider the cost of paper plates and cups, make them pretty and sturdy. Hmm, you’re going to need more than $8 to cover that. Plus, paper plates are outright wasteful. So why not go to the thrift store, stock up on these “hospitality snack sets” and never buy a paper plate again? Have more refinement for a better environment and save money. The Elegant Thrifter writes, "I always keep odd dinner and salad plates on hand to give a guest a little something to take home. That way, they don't have to worry about returning the plate. They are also great for baked-goods gifts for the same reason. I love to say to someone who wants to return a plate, 'Why, just keep it!'"

Plate stands, like pedestals are great for entertaining. Like Louis Sullivan, they build up to add more content to the table without sacrificing real estate, $3.

All this for $1.90! I was feeling frivolous. Imagine that, frivolous for $1.90. That’s less that a latte and I get to keep the silver. If you are a connoisseur of fine dining, you may have noticed that my $4.61 place setting was missing a dainty butter knife. Bump that cost per setting to $4.71 for I hit silver plate pay dirt at the Salvation Army today! Note the dainty butter knives in my booty.

I also picked up this darling teaspoon set I just wanted to share. It was $4 and will make a lovely gift. Yes, it’s used but would you be offended to receive it? Might it not bring a smile to your face each time you measure Vanilla or Almond extract? Sonya, over at Dime Store Thrift doesn't have a hang-up with reused gifts either. She wrote a post about it today.

I must thank Mr. Golightly for humoring me tonight and snapping these extra photos. But he was pleased with this 1908 Keuffel & Esser slide rule that I picked up for $7 in it’s original case. It’s gorgeous. It’s art. It’s not planned obsolescence. It’s built to last like the old refrigerator in my grandparent’s basement that’s been running as a spare for 50 years unlike the many replacements that have come and gone from their kitchen. Currently, Mr. Golightly and I are in a tug of war over that slide rule. He wants it in his office but I want it on display in the living room.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Thrift Store Conventions: Entertain, $4.61 per placesetting

When most Americans think of entertaining, they think of racking up purchases at department stores or discount retailers. To put on a full spread for twelve guests for one swank occasion could spend $500 on the china alone!

But there is an alternative that few consider. The thrift store is the smart entertainer’s choice. Thrift stores routinely have all the accoutrements: punch bowls, domes and pedestals, linens. The host can save hundreds of dollars buying these items thrift.

The above photo features one of my treasured finds, an L. Bernardaud $ Co. Limoges antique covered dish bought at Goodwill for $5. LIMOGES at Goodwill! Well not so surprising, I found a sage Wedgwood cake stand for $4 at ARC Thrift. You can ask my grandmother about that. She loves it. The photos in this post have been added to the Thrifty Chicks Thrift Catalog featuring well over 200 items purchased from thrift stores; some new, others gently-used, some antique, all unique.

My favorite spot to save big is the $0.49 per item shelves a la Goodwill stacked with plates, bowls and glasses; both tumblers and stemware. That’s right $0.49 per item. Sure some of its Corelle, but some of it can be Alfred Meakin Tea Leaf Ironstone, or crystal.

The above photo serves testimony. Not certain if it’s apparent in the photo but the water goblets are new, with sticker still affixed. They were $0.49 apiece, the heavy crystal tumblers $0.49 per item too. When buying china from the $0.49 shelves, stick with a simple dinner plate for the foundation of the pacesetting. These $.0.49 apiece plates have a simple gold rim and fit well with most china patterns. Now, I confess my grandmother pulled the green glass salad plates and gold bread plates (I think) out of her giant grandmother’s purse that also serves as a weapon in a pinch. But similar items can easily be found on Goodwill’s $0.49 shelves. Okay, my grandmother found them at estate sales and they didn’t put a dent into her checking account. But they could fit in that purse.

Wait. It gets even better. Silver plate flatware shows up in thrift stores for $0.10 apiece. The flatware in this setting is a mix of estate sale and thrift. We use it daily. Sure, it’s not sterling but I prefer the vintage patina that silver-plate earns. Sterling can be 100 years old and polish up looking new. There are advantages to that, but I don’t want to pay the price for a set of sterling flatware.

Adding this up per place setting we have:
three plates $1.50,
two glasses $1.00,
seven pieces of silver-plate flatware $0.70,
individual salt and pepper shakers $0.41,
tea cup and saucer (not in photo) $1.
The entire placesetting totals $4.61.

That’s a tiny fraction of one plate in the conventional retail market. There is but one catch, place settings as such are built over time. A few months should do it.

Add simple glass votives and candles purchased at thrift stores and moss terrariums will save on fresh flowers and won’t be obstacles to conversation.
Mix and match silver-plate flatware with wild abandon, just about any combination looks cool. The more patterns, the more eclectic the look.

Buffets can be arranged with thrift. The silver covered dish was purchased at Denver La Cache’s annual sidewalk sale for $5. One would never know it based on the quality of merchandise but La Cache is the white elephant for Denver’s Children’s Hospital. The crystal jars with silver lids and footed bases were $15 for the three. All candles and candle holders are thrift. The runner was $3 at Goodwill.

Punch bowls are easy finds at thrift stores and can usually be purchased with cups for about $7. Always wise to buy two, one for virgin and one for alcohol. All candles and candle holders came from Goodwill for pennies on the dollar. Vintage books, for one to two dollars a piece, are a lovely way to raise items. The buffet was purchased at a yard sale for $80. I refinished it and transformed it entirely.

This B Rogers silver, footed ice bucket has an attached lid that swivels back, purchased at Goodwill for $4. This product sells for $20 minimum online. The Six Baccarat Tumblers I wrote of from my great grandmother rest nicely on this mirrored tray from Goodwill, $7. The decanter was purchased at a 50% off Saturday at Goodwill, $3.50. Champagne is served on an aluminum pedestal, $4. French lemonade bottles may be reused to serve water or purchased at thrift stores for around a dollar. Marbles can be purchased for about a dollar a bag and to ensure you never lose your marbles, store them in apothecary jars for a dollar apiece and lift them on a pedestal for $4. Don’t want to lose those marbles, especially after a glass of champagne. Thriftfully Modern Mommie and I prefer, Gosset Champagne Grand Rose.

Glass pedestals and domes are musts for entertaining and are easy finds that run from $7 to $12. We don’t need bother to compare these prices to conventional retail the difference is laughable.

To the left, decanter $3.50 and cordials off that wonderful $0.49 shelf again that mirrored tray comes in handy, $7. Total ensemble, not including brandy was $13.50.

Entertaining doesn't need to hurt. And, my guests do not flip a dinner plate over to see what they are dining off of. Golightly's guests are not that rude.

If you are a new visitor to this blog, be certain to scroll back up and pull up the Thrift Catalog slide show featuring over 200 items from thrift stores to give you an idea of what could be waiting for you.

Please see the addendum to this post.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Thrifty Chicks leak thrift store deals before Black Friday

Reports are out that the giants of conventional retail are leaking deals early, before Black Friday that infamous shopping day after Thanksgiving, to entice shoppers to get ahead in 2009’s retail home stretch. But, they’re talking $598 television sets. Call me crazy but $598 for one gift is not a deal and I think most Americans, given this economic climate, would agree. I don’t believe I'll spend anything close to that this holiday season. But I certainly won’t feel cheated.

We thought it wise to leak thrift store deals in turn. In the left column there is a Picasa Slide Show titled “Thrift Catalog” of over 200 items we have thrifted for pennies on the dollar. I believe the most expensive item is an antique gilt mirror for $30. The vast majority of items range from $3-$9 and don't compromise quality, most of them are originals, some brand new.

We tried to assemble a catalog that would appeal to most everyone from brand new items still in the box or store tags still attached to gently used to vintage to antique. Yes, even in this rough economic climate, people are tossing brand new items over to thrift stores. How could we?

I understand that many people have hangups with the idea of giving a used object as a gift. Funny to think that just a few generations ago, a used item would be accepted with gratitude, appreciation and grace; ahh - the days before planned obsolescence.

News flash - if you shop EBay chances are you’re buying a used object – that’s where I go to learn about many of the products I find in thrift stores. I also learn that I pay a lot less than the EBay list price and don’t pay shipping. For example, I purchased a beautiful silver plate ice bucket for $4 at Goodwill. The same bucket had a starting bid of $20 on Ebay before shipping.

I don't wish to knock EBay, it's a fantastic venue for the reuse market, which in turn is better for our economy and environment. And if you prefer not to thrift, please feed EBay buckets of money. I just find it amusing that people who so readily peruse EBay listings say “eww” to thrift.

A funny thing happened the other day while Thriftfully Modern Mommie and I were checking out a boutique in Denver’s upscale mall. This store was a mix of new and vintage items, some of which I’d seen on the shelves at Goodwill a few days before only now at a 300% to 400% markup from the thrift store price. There was a fur stole on the rack and I noted to Modern Mommie that I had just seen this fur stole at the ARC Thrift just a few days prior. A customer glared at me like I’d said something blasphemous. We had a giggle over that. Where else would the buyers find vintage inventory? Do customers think these buyers have a time machine that transports them back to the 1920’s fur shop to buy the stole fresh off the rack or better yet, from a French trapper? If I had a time machine, I’d certainly do something other than retrieve new old items before they are used.

There is much to the thrift store mystique that needs some clearing up. Once converted, most people rarely go back to conventional retail.

Please take a few minutes and double-click on the left column in the box marked “Thrift Catalog”. I recommend you run it full screen, to really see the products. I am certain there will be enough items to inspire you to thrift. We will continue to add to this slide show as we post photos to our weekly post, Thrift Store Conventions, on how to incorporate thrift into your life.

Please enjoy the show. I’ve learned so much more about products and quality since I’ve been thrifting. I’ve an eight-year-old daughter who can spot cashmere in a ten-foot long rack of sweaters. I think that's pretty darn notable.

Should you not go holiday tree chopping at in certain programs sponsored by National Forest Rangers on Black Friday like Thriftfully Modern Mommie and I will do, I hope your Black Friday leaves you in the black and not the red.

The items below were prepped for shipping at the end of the summer. The total cost of these items was $129. To peek what's inside, click Here. But remember that ultimately The true gift is to be known and understood and that's something money cannot buy.

You're mission, should you choose to accept it, its to relax and enjoy your time this holiday season. Being an adrenaline junkie for nearly two months is not what I call fun.

The next post will show you how to create a gorgeous table for entertaining at $4.61 per place-setting.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

In lieu of shopping, go chopping!

Thrift store regulars are a fortunate lot during the holidays. Since they’ve been planning and shopping all year, they can take a reprieve during the national retail nightmare.

Reported as news, the final two months of the year play an abnormally large role in the American economy. Is it profit procrastination to hope all falls in line in the last two months of the last fiscal quarter? Does this create an economic bubble that is bound to pop?

Should shoppers dare to follow our January 1st post of 2009, Thrift Shopping a New Year's Resolution Revolution, retailers will have to change if we remain steadfast and Shop Like Pioneers and seek out the holiday gifts, which we know we're going to give, year round. When we have more time to shop, we just might actually find something worth giving and redefine the Art of Giving on terms with what the recipient needs or likes.

Must we really all race like lemmings to the stores at 5AM the day after Thanksgiving and trample to death the store guard? I’ve never been able to figure how shoppers can do that after feasting on L-Tryptophan-laced turkey not even 12 hours prior.

"This looming Black Friday, I urge people to
replace shopping with chopping!"

For over decade my family scores a $10 permit from the National Forest Service to wander a designated area near the quaint town of Buffalo Creek and hunt for our holiday tree. This particular program helps remove forest fire fuel and helps set the terrain straight, as Mother Nature would have it be. Smokey the Bear makes an annual appearance at this event.

We bring our sleds and Thanksgiving leftovers to the hunt. Sometimes it snows, making it idyllic. We drive home with a tree on the roof of the car, hot cocoa, and holiday tunes on the stereo.

Our trees are fresh, just a few hours from the forest so they go up early. Who knows how long it’s been since the trees in the parking lot bid farewell to their roots? Harvested in Oregon or North Carolina, they can cost over $100.

I suggest people to take Thanksgiving leftovers to the forest as a picnic for a holiday tree hunt. Permits are up for grabs now, often in limited numbers and sell fast. Any Internet search engine will list local options. Typical time frames for chopping are in late November to mid December. If you are along along the Front Range in Colorado, you can contact The South Platte Ranger Station for information regarding this program. Perhaps living in Colorado makes me a bit spoiled because National Forests spread far and wide. So, I apologize the options are few to none. (I guess there wouldn’t be that many options in El Paso or Palm Springs unless cacti are available.) A quick Internet search will reveal what programs are available in your area.

One bit of tree hunting advice; the forest provides a different perspective. A big tree can look really, really small, when dwarfed by giant trees and set against a panorama of mountain ridge lines. Our first experience resulted in 15-foot tree we thought was only a baby, so we had a bit more sawing to do one we arrived home. But, we did make good use of the extra greenery.

Now, I must get back to wrapping gifts to mail. Doing this now saves me from the killer lines at the US Post Office and saves money. I ship ground, not Priority or worse, Next Day Air. Some people think I’m nuts, but come mid December they’re nuts and I’m playing dominoes while sipping cocoa and mackin’ on cupcakes

We've come to find that the best trees come with their own decorations of Douglas Fir pine cones and a wee bird's nest from time to time.

Happy chopping!