simple living

If you’ve been with me for awhile, then you know I love cooking, baking, gardening and the dump!

Yes, the dump.

Well, it’s not actually the dump, it’s actually a transfer station, but I lovingly (though incorrectly) refer to it as the dump. It’s just what I call it.

It’s where I take my trash and recyclables. I’ve lived in a few areas (and states) where residents can choose to use a service or take care of their own trash, meaning, go to the transfer station (dump) themselves.  I’ve always opted for the later. Why?

Well, first off, it’s free, secondly, it’s no big deal for me to take care of myself (and my trash, which, by the way is quite minimal…) and usually, there is an area for ‘free’ items.  It’s an area where residents can leave unwanted, yet good items, for others to take and enjoy…what’s not brilliant about that? My town has such a place.

I call it the ‘freebie barn’. I love it. Lots of residents do. I have found countless items there…toys, shoes, dishes, beach toys, chairs, tables, televisions, radios, rugs, silver ware (real silver), glasses, fabric, grills, telephones, old cameras … the list goes on and on – sometimes I look around my house and think, ‘Wow, I’ve scored so much cool stuff, for free!’ I love the dump.

It’s second hand stuff, without the price tag. Squeamish about second hand? Well, if you’ve ever eaten at a restaurant or slept in a hotel – you’ve experienced, ‘second hand’… get over it.

More areas need this resource. There are too many things being wasted. Lots of people would just love to have what others are ‘throwing away’ – too many good things (and well made things) get ‘tossed’ simply because another tires of it…thankfully, where I live, good things don’t go to waste.

So, the next time your driving down the road and see a table or chair on the side of the road and it’s got great lines, is well built and could use a good clean or a fresh coat of paint – don’t think twice. Pick it up. Fix it up. And enjoy it.

Why not? You’ll not only save yourself some money, (while adding to or changing your living space), but you’ve repurposed a completely good and useful piece of furniture or whatever it may be, that someone else simply tired of...don’t let well made items go to waste. Use them and enjoy them!

Here’s a look at a few things I’ve recently scored for free from my local transfer station…

fisher price elevatorVintage toys are always fun to find. This piece is great. All parts work, the bell dings (without batteries!) while the elevator moves up (and down) and it’s great fun for Finn to push his cars up and down the ramps while allowing ‘passengers’ on and off the elevator.

beach chairsWhen you live near the beach, one can never have too many beach chairs. I love how low these are – perfect for sitting at the waters edge…cocktails anyone?


I have scored such a variety of glasses from the dump and here’s a few more I’ve added to my never ending collection…one can never have too many glasses either…I love entertaining and having a plethora of glassware to choose from – and if one breaks (which, they inevitably do), I don’t fret…I will always find more…again, cocktails anyone?

his and hisNow, these were a fabulous (and serendipitous) find. Finn has been enamored with mowing the lawn (and we have a BIG lawn to take care of)…though, he’s only 3, so no real mowers, for a long time…though he’s been asking for a toy mower (his own mower)… most are plastic and I didn’t want to buy plastic (there’s too much plastic as it is, without consuming it, new!) so when we found this one (above) – he and I were so happy! He, because he finally had his mower and I, because we’ve recycled it (despite it being plastic), and we will recycle it, again. The red mower in the back, I also picked up! It needed a new spark plug and that’s it – it started right up – $200 mower, free. Love it!

mower + wheelbarrowHere’s the real mower again and the wheelbarrow in the back, was also, you guessed it, free.

tool tray

This (plastic – I know) tool tray we also picked up with these fun tools (below)! I know, more plastic (frightening!), but at least it’s being re-used – even the drills (below) still had (good) batteries in them! What?


Now, I much prefer wooden toys (that is all I choose to buy) so when I spotted all these (below), I had to pick them up! Great additions for play dough play…not only does Finn enjoy working with play dough, but he also enjoys helping me make it! It’s very simple (and fun) to do, see here.

wooden toys

So while second hand may not be for everyone, it is for me.

It’s great for the planet and great for my wallet. You don’t have to spend a lot, to have a lot.

Do you love second hand things as much as I do? If so, I’d love to hear from you!

Share your thoughts, finds and most favorite ‘scores’ below.


do I hear $25, $50, $100? SOLD to the highest bidder…

I like objects with a story, a history – items that are different, funky, unusual…items well made. I’ve talked a lot about my dump finds, but not about my other love – auctions.  I love auctions. They get my heart pounding and my legs jumping.  Auctions are great places to find all sorts of things – all sorts of things, old and well made; antique bird cages, dress makers busts, mechanic chests (amazing small wooden chest, 2-3′ in height, with a number of very thin drawers), wooden trunks (with ornate hardware or no hardware), pottery, well made furniture, leather bound books, iron gates, vintage water dispensers, all sorts of Americana, printers’ drawers, lighting, bronze urns, architectural ornaments, iron beds, chandeliers, silver, jewelry, hand-woven rugs, art, antique linens, nautical objects…the list goes on and on, it all depends what your into…I’ve always been drawn to utilitarian objects. The simpleness and usefulness of these objects is what exudes beauty to me. Not to mention, quality. A pile of linens, old silverware, chipped enamel ware – items which are practical, yet aesthetically pleasing offer an unpretentious, relaxed look and are still useful today…not to mention the fact you are reusing, repurposing and/or recycling.

old grain sacks – $25 each

old silver – $1 ‘box lot’ (box of odd’s and ends – this silver was in it)

dressmakers bust – $75 – went as low as $14…I finally ‘won’ at $75 – steal! 

Picking up bargains at an auction is not always easy, though it is worth the try. If you’ve never been to one, but have wanted to – just go. Check it out. Make notes on what items sell for and what the opening bid was. Try bidding on something inexpensive, just to see how it feels. I was intimidated at first  – everyone seemed so confident and it all happens so quickly – one slight hesitation and the piece your after is gone! Or worse, you get so caught up in the bidding (and the ‘want’) that you lose sight of what it’s going to cost you. Remember, 10-15% (or more) will be added on to the purchase price for the auction house profit. You’ll be reminded of this when you go to pay for your items – it can add up.

My advice is always attend the preview. This is held prior to the actual auction.  A preview may be held the day before or an hour or two before the actual auction. Look items over carefully – open and close drawers, look on the underside of furniture/paintings, inspect what it is your after; everything is sold as is…also, if it is a larger item (one that won’t fit in your car), find out about storage fees in advance – if it’s going to cost you an additional $30 for the auction house to ‘store it’ for you, then maybe it’s not such a great deal or maybe it is?  Lastly, don’t forget to check out the ‘box lots’. These are boxes filled with an odd assortment of items. They may be related objects or random.  I found this bust in a box lot of random items which cost me $1.

Also, while your attending the preview, be sure to make notes on the pieces that ‘pull’ you (interest you) and then keep a ‘highest’ price in your mind – and on paper – better enabling you not to get ‘caught up in the moment’ and over bid. Over bidding is just as bad as not bidding…

If you find yourself getting ‘hooked’ (I did) and auctions become a part of your weekly routine, you will start to notice regular buyers (and what they bid on) as well as what things go for. Meaning, you will start to know a good deal when you see one. A good deal depends on the market value of the item at the time of the auction and who else is bidding against you (antique dealer, buyer, collector). For example, one auction I used to attend regularly had a buyer who would always bid on all lighting fixtures, regardless of condition; lamps, chandeliers, etc., he owned an antique lighting store. He had the capital and the reassurance in knowing he would (eventually) make his money back plus a profit, thus he was willing bid higher than most, almost always guarantying himself a great buy. One day, he was not there. I was so excited. There was a chandelier up for auction and I had been looking for one. I was able to score this incredibly beautiful bronze chandelier for $7! Yes, you read that right – $7.00.

Just the crystals alone are worth over $100.  If he had been there, I’m sure we would have gotten into a ‘bidding war’, and he most likely, would have won.

Most importantly have fun, get your number up there and keep track of what your spending. Not only for each item, but your running total, and remember to include the ‘buyers premium’ (10% +). Spend within your budget.  For me, the best part of attending any auction (there are a lot of different types of auctions) is the energy – the blase attitude of the seasoned buyers, the speed of the auctioneers voice and the fact that you just scored a great deal on a piece that most likely no one else will ever have.

Butterfly assemblage from Rio – $7. I removed original frame and placed in shadowbox, total cost $10.

Large wicker laundry basket, with handles – $5.
Cake dome – $3, found in box lot. Base I picked up at Salvation Army – $2. Total cost $5.

Printers tray – $14. Shells, priceless. Collected on travels.

S – O – L – D  – that is music to my ears, especially when it’s under $10.


growing and growing

The baby’s are growing up – the baby plants that is…the basil is becoming so incredibly fragrant (and big), the tomato plants have that wonderful green tomato smell which reminds me so much of summer, the parsley leaves are a good inch across, the sunflowers are getting taller, the marigolds are growing steadily, cilantro is just starting to take off and the cucumber seeds were just planted yesterday…Outside things are really taking off too – not at all like indoors, but seedlings are finally beginning to appear (I was beginning to worry…) the swiss chard is just popping it’s crimson head through the soil, the kale seedlings each have two leaves, the lettuce is really beginning to look like lettuce allowing me to know for sure, they aren’t just weeds growing, the beets are also pushing through…oh I love beets – homegrown roasted beet, goat cheese and walnut salad – YUM!

OK, I love most vegetables – roasted fennel, green beans slightly steamed and then topped with lemon butter (fennel + green beans planted when warmer), swiss chard sauteed with caramelized onions topped with ricotta on puff pastry, kale and potato soup, spinach with nearly everything, freshly picked corn on the cob, vine ripened fresh from the garden (not the stuff trucked across America) tomatoes sliced and sprinkled with just a bit of sea salt – WOW – or even better – the classic, thickly sliced just picked tomato topped with thinly sliced fresh mozzarella (not the shredded stuff) and then ribbons of basil tossed on top with a drizzle of balsamic and olive oil – divine – this is why I grow vegetables – it’s a labor of love – plant seeds, tend them, eat, be happy.

Baby basil then…

Baby basil now…

I use recycled cardboard egg cartons topped with plastic wrap (I re-use plastic wrap for additional plantings) to start the seedlings, then I transplant into plastic pots which I picked up at my local transfer station for free – recycling at its best. Even the plastic boxes holding all the individual boxes were recycled, as were the wooden crates I use to house other fledgling plants until the are ready to move outdoors…

I thoroughly wash each pot after each season and store away to use for the next season…even my garden shovel, wheelbarrow, hose and nozzle, the gate to the entrance of my garden and the posts on either side and some of my fencing have been free via my local swap shop…if you buy potted plants, give the plastic pots to someone who grows their own or try and re-use them yourself or ask the garden center when you purchase, if they recycle pots…get creative.