Thursday, November 20, 2014

Thrifty Thursday: Kid Stuff

For this week's thrift store adventure, I went to Goodwill.  Goodwill has been around for, like, ever, but in the past couple years, the stores have undergone a huge upgrade.  They are bright and organized, with amenities like electric car charging-stations out in front.

In preparation for the holidays, I noticed the shelving had been rearranged to spotlight the new, in-the-box, toys donated by Target.  

 Notice the sad little orange clearance stickers half-covered by Goodwill's price tags?  I guess Angry Birds GO Telepods weren't such a hot seller and Target had to dump them somewhere.  Fortunately, my kids think they are the greatest things ever, and have been wanting to collect the whole set.  

I'm not crazy about bringing more dumb little plastic toys into our house, but I figure if we already have a designated storage box for our Angry Birds stuff, what's a few more?

Punky spotted this Hello Kitty miniature garden set, and I agreed that it was the perfect scale to integrate into our dollhouses.  

They had fun all afternoon playing with their new, super-cheap toys.

I got a few other things:  a wooden salad bowl I'm going to clean up and use for storage, another Angry Birds toy to keep hidden until Christmas morning, and a couple movies.  We'll probably keep the movies around a few months and re-donate them so they don't clutter up the house.  It's still cheaper than Netflix or Redbox, and don't even get me started on buying brand new DVDs.

The best find of the day goes to Punky, who spotted something pink and ruffly in the kids' racks.  I checked the tag and saw it was Crewcuts, so we nabbed it.  Why would anyone donate a perfectly good silk Crewcuts dress?  Probably because it requires 15 minutes of tedious ironing after every wash.  Still, it's a lot of fun and has already inspired a lot of twirling, dancing, and make-believe.

Angry Birds toy 1.99
Angry Birds toy .99
Hello Kitty toy 1.99
Wooden bowl 1.99
DVD 1.99
VHS .20
Crewcuts dress 2.99

Total price $12.14
Time spent in store 30 minutes

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Thrifty Thursday: Decent Things You Can Get The Dollar Store

Hey, Friends.  I haven't been thrifting this week, but I wanted to talk about my secret obsession with the local dollar store.  I hadn't set foot in one until a few years ago, because a lot of what you find there is weird plastic, breakable tchotchkes made in China.  But there are a few surprises, some of them the exact same things you'd pay extra for at your usual store.

First off, the dollar store is always stocked with decor for whatever holiday is coming next.  Most of it is pretty tacky, but there are sometimes a few things that could pass for something more elegant.  For example, I found these felt cut-outs that would look really cute hanging from the ceiling or as a table runner,  

I don't buy a lot of greeting cards.  And when I do, I walk away with sticker shock for what is essentially a pretty piece of paper.  If it's truly the thought that counts, I say save your cash and get your greeting cards here.

Plastic tablecloths have so many uses.  I like to use them as drop clothes for painting and a floor protector under the litter box.  Or, you know, use them as tablecloths for a party.  They come in dozens of colors and patterns.  And every one has paper plates and napkins to match.

A 2-pack of brand name tape.  Score!

I like to stock up on tissue paper.  Especially with with the holidays coming up.  This is a perfect example of something where quality just doesn't matter and you can go as cheap as possible.

When I have one of the kids with me, and they're bugging me for a toy, I divert them to the craft aisle.  Sticks, beads, glue, paint: you can find them all.  Even these chenille stems, which were called pipe cleaners back in my day.  

There is a variety of classroom supplies, mostly decorative, but sometimes you can find some good teaching tools and wipe-off calendars.

I'm not too picky about pens because I lose them quickly, but most of the usual name brands are here, even Sharpie markers.

This is crazy.  I found nail wraps!  And they're the good ones!

OK, so I think these styles may have been discontinued because of how ugly they are and that's how they ended up here at the dollar store.  Still, a fun find.

 Super cute houndstooth wrapping paper!  They also have Christmas paper with every popular cartoon character.  Not normally my style, but Punky was excited to see it.

I love using parchment paper for baking, and I love it even more when it's only a dollar.  They sell wax paper, foil, etc. here too.

What kid doesn't love getting a bunch of helium balloons for their birthday?  They last forever and, let's face it, some kids would rather run around with a balloon than play with a fancy new toy.

Of course, there is always a dark side to the dollar store.  Some things are better left on the shelf, such as...

Nasty migraine-inducing, chemically-scented candles.  I hate even walking past them.

Cheap plastic stuff for babies and children (especially the sippy cups and eating utensils that go in their mouths).  Are you kidding me?

Plastic cooking utensils that could melt or leech chemicals while they touch your hot food.

So, while the dollar store is not necessarily the best place to buy a gift for a loved one, or outfit your entire house, I like to peruse the aisles once in a while to see what kind of stuff it makes sense to buy here.  My philosophy is that even Target sells some cheap disposable crap, so I might as well buy it where I can get it for much less.  

Friday, November 7, 2014

Thrifty Thursday: If You Want To Destroy My Sweater

For this week's Thrifty Thursday, I scoured the sweater racks at Savers in Bloomington and came across a beautiful wool shawl-collared cardigan from J. Crew.  I have to admit, I was a little annoyed at the 12.99 price tag.  Even for a J. Crew sweater in excellent condition, come on, it's Savers, and it's been who-knows-where.

But it had so much going for it.  I love a shawl collar.  I love a sweater with a little structure that could be worn as a jacket.  I love that it has some silver sparkle in the yarn (holidays, here we come!).  And it's so soft and cuddly, it's like wearing a baby blanket.

Oh, yeah, and it's Dry Clean.

Now, if I was working outside the home, with a wardrobe that required regular dry cleaning, it wouldn't be such a big deal to drop off the sweater with the rest of the clothes.  But to make a separate trip, and shell out even more money right away, doesn't seem cool to me. 

The sweater smelled and looked clean, and I don't believe wool needs to be cleaned much at all, but you never know where it's been or what the last owner did to it.  So I decided to throw the wool sweater in the wash.  

 Woolite was the gentlest detergent I had on hand.

I let the washer fill with cool water and Woolite .

Then I gently submerged the sweater.  Gulp.  Point of no return.

I hear there are fancy new washers that have settings for washing wool.  Mine is about as old-school as they come so I had to move the dial manually, to do what I wanted.  First, I let the sweater soak for about 30 minutes, with the lid of the washer open, so it wouldn't agitate.  Agitating, along with heat, turns a pretty knitted item into a shrunken piece of felt.  As soon as the wool is wet, you want to move it and touch it as little as possible so you don't mess up the fibers.  The same is true for curly hair, except when curly hair gets frizzy you can condition and reshape it all over again.  Ruining a wool sweater is forever.  

I moved the dial straight to the spin to drain the soapy water.  Then I moved it back to the beginning to let it refill for the rinse, let it sit for a few minutes, then set it to spin again.  

While the washer was spinning, I set up a drying area for the sweater.  I know there are special mesh racks for drying sweaters, but I don't have room to stash something like that.  I used a laundry basket turned on its side with a towel for a clean drying surface.

I gently laid the damp sweater flat on the towel with the sleeves up off the floor.  

Then, because I wanted it to hurry up and dry already, I set up a fan (not pictured) and both my dehumidifiers.  After a few hours I removed the towel, which was damp, and set the fan in the opening of the basket so air would move through the holes to the sweater.  

By evening the sweater was mostly dry, and it looked great.  No pilling or fuzziness.  It honestly didn't look (or smell) differently than it had before, but now I had peace of mind knowing it was clean.

This was the best picture I could get in my badly-lit house.  I stood directly under a light to show off some of the sparkle.  

Total price $12.99
The cashier at Savers told me that if I had brought a donation, they would have given me a 20% off coupon.  Also, next Monday there's a 50% off sale on all clothing and shoes.  I could have put the sweater back and gambled on it still being on the rack Monday to get it half price.  But I liked it enough not to chance it, and I had to consider that the time it would take to go back, and the gas it would take to drive there, would make it less of a good deal.  

I did start a punch card, which will get me a discount in the future if I continue to shop there.

Total time in store 45 minutes
 (much of which was spent negotiating in the toy section with Miss Punky)

Monday, November 3, 2014

Monday Morning Roundup 11.3.14

Ugggh.  It's November.  It's cold.  And we just had one of those sleep-depriving, kid-confusing time changes.  I was up at 4:30 this morning, watching my kids play video games while my eyelid developed that twitchy thing it does when I'm stressed.

The early birds get the pannekoeken.

Here are some links:

Good advice for parents (even ones like me who despair when the house is a mess and the kids sometimes only get cheese and crackers for lunch): Applying the 80/20 Rule.

This blog is funny and helpful: Adulting

The front of my house needs something, and I'm not quite ready to go all out with the Christmas decor yet.  Maybe one of these fall wreaths?

Unexpected views of historic moments.  I got chills from more than a few of these pictures.

I started a gratitude journal before, but didn't keep up with it.  Now there's this app called Happier, I think I'll try.

Have a great week!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Thrifty Thursday: Fall Wardrobe Staples

I've been having a pretty good streak of luck at the area thrift stores lately.  So good, in fact, that I've decided to make my thrifting finds a weekly blog post starting with my haul from Arc's Value Village this morning.  Excuse the blurry dressing room selfies (and my bizarre facial expressions).

 The first thing I tried on this morning was this Garnet Hill blouse that gave me flashbacks to the "puffy shirt" episode of Seinfeld.  Granted, I only tried it on because of the label.  I'm not a fan of this pumpkin spice color and 3/4-length sleeves with elastic never, ever look right on me.

Luckily, the rest of the items worked out better.

Next up was this over-sized Eileen Fisher merino wool sweater.  Again, I grabbed it because of the label, but I like this shade of purple and it seems like an easy top to wear with jeans, skirts, and maybe even leggings. 

Here's an Old Navy knit dress.  It's not too exciting, but it's one of those wardrobe staples because it's comfortable (hello, elastic waist), neutral, and has a flattering cowl neckline.  It could be dressed up with a statement necklace, tights, and boots, or dressed down with Chuck Taylors and a jean jacket.  

 The last thing I tried on was this navy corduroy jacket from Land's End.  I don't own a lot of jackets right now so I've been keeping my eyes on the outerwear racks.  I think it's perfect for a chilly fall day when I'm not ready to get out my winter coat, but want something other than my stand-by denim jacket.  

I like it a lot better unbuttoned.  It has some stretch to it so it's super comfortable and easy to move around in.  Perfect for playing outside with the kids, while managing to look somewhat pulled-together.  

The register is where the real magic happened.  Here's how everything added up:

Eileen Fisher sweater 12.99
Old Navy dress 6.99
Land's End jacket 12.99
a pair of Baby Gap jeans (for Punky) 3.99

30% off Chinook Book coupon -11.09
(one thing I love about Arc is that the discounts are easy to come by)

Total price $15.87
Total time spent in the store: 45 minutes

Monday, October 27, 2014

Monday Morning Roundup 10.27.14

Happy Monday, Friends!  Got your Halloween costumes ready to go?

We went to the first Halloween party of the year on Saturday.  Our hosts, who are renovating an old mansion, went all-out with the spooky decor, including a ghostly talking book with a quill pen that seemed to move on its own.  The kids thought it was the best thing ever!  

Have you seen this Ikea commercial that parodies The Shining?

Having accidentally bought two large bags of potatoes the other week, I'm excited to try this recipe for the Crispiest Oven Fries.

From the New Yorker, The Minecraft Parent.  Disclosure: as I'm putting together these links, my daughter is dying sheep pink and purple and making them bounce around on the dancefloor in her castle.  

I was in line at the grocery store smiling and waving at the cute baby in the cart in front of me, and his dad suddenly asked, "are you listening to cereal?"  Huh?  He gestured at the MPR shirt I was wearing and said, "Serial? The new podcast by the producers of This American Life?" Oh.  That makes more sense.  I said I wasn't yet, and he proceeded to tell me that it was amazing and I had to get ready to commit, because it was going to suck me in.  It does sound interesting.  Are any of you listening to it?

Finally, Holly Golightly's townhouse from Breakfast at Tiffany's is for sale.  A cool 8 mil can make your real estate fantasy come true.  (The article doesn't mention if there is room in the mailbox for your lipstick and perfume).

That's it.  Have a great week!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Monday Morning Round-up 9.22.14

Happy Monday, people.  

When searching for a fun photo for my usual link round-up, I found this weird one of my kids at Franconia Sculpture Park this weekend.  Taken out of context, it's so bizarre it makes me laugh.  If these two ever form a prog-rock band in the future, I will insist that this be their first album cover.  

Here are some links:

Rush hour in the Netherlands This could be us someday, right?

It's Like They Know Us Funniest Tumblr I've laid eyes on in awhile.

When's The Last Time You Ate at McDonalds?  This is the weirdest post, written by a respected blogger, and sponsored by McDonald's.  See what you think.

25 Ways To Ask Your Kids How School Was because they won't tell you ANYTHING!

The Sentimentalist's Guide to Dealing with Childrens' School Papers (although I think the school could save a forest and just send everything electronically)

That's it.  Have a great day!