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Archive for the ‘Green Living’ Category

One of many hand-knit items for sale in our shop. Don’t worry, it’s only a little pot! HA!

My mother and I have started a tiny business. Sarobi Interiors, which will one day be a thriving, full service home decorating firm, is, for now, a booth of goods in a corner of the Mill 77 Trading Company in Amesbury, MA.

Why did we decide to embark on this when my mother is a full time R.N./Nursing Supervisor and I have two jobs already plus two kids under the age of six? It’s been a dream of ours for some time now. Both being design enthusiasts and avid amateur decorators, we elected to take the plunge and hopefully parlay our booth into something more.

But secretly, I was driven by a deeper purpose: the fear that I was about to be evicted from the United States for being a hippe-pinko-socialist. “Love it or leave it!” an angry mob would cry as they wrapped me in a “Don’t Tread on Me” flag and dumped me into Boston Harbor. And who could blame them? A vegan atheist who made her own Obama banner and drives a Prius bearing the bumper sticker “Got science?” Man, I was one composting toilet away from a one way ticket to Sweden. But no more! Now, I can be venerated as the heart and soul of this nation, a driver of the economy, an All-American striver for life liberty and money.

Our business is a small one to be sure. So exceedingly small that it can fit in a 15′ x 5′ half room we rent from someone else. But we’ve got pluck. And dedication. And a naysaying in-house lawyer/husband/son-in-law who sternly advises things like LLC status and a close read of the Massachusetts income tax statutes. Killjoy.

So if you’re in the neighborhood, stop by and check the place out. Even better, buy something! It’s salvaged, repurposed, and retrofitted goods, so we’re green friendly (hippie-pinko-socialist tendencies die hard), but capitalist all the way! So support our small business this holiday season, and wish us luck, dear readers! To find our booth, take a right upon entering Mill 77 on Route 110 in Amesbury, and look for the last room on the right. Our tags bear the dealer code DBPEA. Let us know what you think if you do stop by!

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The modest haul from Fairfield Antiques Mall.

The per capita density of thrift stores in the greater Waterville area must be tops in the universe. While my mom and I have been hitting the clothes stores in downtown Waterville for a few years now, we only just discovered the riches of antiques alley in Fairfield and Hinckley, Maine (site of the unnerving and wondrous LC Bates Museum of my last post). As we left that museum and were headed home, we could not resist the allure of the massive Fairfield Antiques Mall, a sprawling and dilapidated barn/house? filled to the rafters with stuff. We got pulled down this rabbit hole, becoming completely disoriented between its multiple floors, half floors and basements. And we never even made it to the “annex” or the outdoor merchandise. What makes this place so surreal is its location at the edge of a field in a place where even the owners admit there is no there there. It is: “on the way to many of Maine’s tourists destinations.  Visit us on your trip to Bar Harbor, Acadia National Park or Downeast Maine.  We are on the way to Baxter State Park, and Exit 133 from I-95 is used by vacationers headed to the Northwoods on rafting and fishing expeditions.  We’re on the way to major Snowmobile and Skiing areas.  Route 201 is also a Major access route to the Province of Quebec Canada.” 

This place is on everyone’s route, but at no one’s destination. And it is massive. We had the boys with us, so we couldn’t linger as we might have. While Malcolm is a dedicated picker, yard saler and thrift store frequenter, Simon does a lot of rolling around in the aisles and licking things. He did find one captivating creature who caught his eye though:


I showed great restraint and bought only a couple toys to buy my sons’ cooperation, a few old timer glass linament bottles and a 1960 edition of Niko Tinbergen’s classic work “The Herring Gull’s World.” My mother had her eye on a plastic lady’s torso that is illuminated from within via a plug. She inexplicably passed on it, much to my surprise, and we left the strange shop on the road wondering if it had all been a dream. How unnerving then, to find that my printed receipt read “There are No Returns.”
It turns out, however, that there are. My mother couldn’t stop thinking of the lighted lady torso, and the next morning, before she embarked on the drive back down to Massachusetts, she drove 40 minutes back up to Fairfield to retrieve her prize. And she reports that the shop was indeed there, and was no shimmering mirage.

We visited several thrift stores during our two weeks in Maine, all of which had their particular wonders. But I would be deeply remiss if I did not single out Madlyn’sin Waterville. This is a consignment shop with an exceedingly well edited collection, plenty of inventory, and excellent prices. The shop moved to a new, larger location last year, and now houses men’s, children’s, and a hilarious vintage collection on the lower level, in addition to the entire upper floor of things for the ladies. I got a sack of great stuff for thirty bucks, but the find of the day was a handmade, three piece tweed collection consisting of sleeveless dress, flared skirt, and jacket. They fit as if they were made for me, and since I am practically child size, this was a welcome, but inexplicable surprise.

Sixteen dollars for the lot.

In the vintage corner, I found a bright yellow pair of pumps in a wide width for my frog paddle feet! (The portrait I am painting of myself here is growing progressively less flattering, I realize.) There’s even a $1 rack where I got a blazer for, well, a dollar. If you’re ever in the area, stop in. The owner is absolutely delightful, and her shop is a thrifter’s dream.

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Last summer, Malcolm picked up a very beat up blue Sesame Street plastic lunchbox circa 1987 with someone else’s name on it at a thrift store. He used it as it was all year long, and now, with kindergarten looming in the fall, it seemed time to give this thing a makeover. We’ve used the insulated types of lunchbox, but the lining always peels away and you can never really get them to stop smelling like rotten broccoli and cheese. But these old school, simple, uninsulated lunch boxes are easily cleaned and clearly very durable, so we were willing to invest a little time in bringing this one back.

Sesame Street appears to be suffering some urban blight on this lunchbox.

Sometime in 2009, I tore a few pages out of one of my Audubon magazines and saved them for an unknown future project. The images were of dozens and dozens of different beetle species arrayed against a white background. (The photographer, Christopher Marley, does amazing things with beetles, and you should check out his article and photos.) I dug these beetle pics out of my desk, and set to work on the lunchbox.

I intended this post to be more of a how-to, and less of a gloaty, show-offy before and after, but I forgot to take pictures in the middle. Still, it’s a very simple project that anyone can do. First, you peel off whatever’s left of the old picture on the lunchbox, and clean the surface with soap and water. Let it dry. Then, cut out a picture, or make a whole collage if you like, to fit in the rectangular depression on the front of the lunchbox. I used Mod Podge to affix the magazine pages. The key is to smooth out the pictures so that no bubbles or folds remain. If you use thick paper, you can use a ruler to smooth the surface. If you’re using something thin, like magazine pages, be a bit more delicate in your handling. I used my fingers to smooth out the pictures.

Once everything is stuck in place, let it dry completely. I added a “The Beetles” logo I printed off the interwebs. If you do this, make sure the ink is totally dry before you glue it in place or you will get a smeary mess. After it’s all dried, you can use the rectangular depression to your advantage: I poured a whole bunch of Mod Podge right on top of the picture and just smeared it around like cake frosting (or what I imagine cake frosting would be like if I had EVER made a cake.) Then, let it dry. It starts out alarmingly opaque, and will take several hours to fully dry to a translucent finish (at least it did in the swampy humidity here in New England that makes me want to die.)

Then, voila! A brand new, kinda hipster, kinda cute, revamped 80s lunchbox for your 2000s kid! Or for you. I confess to coveting this thing. The Mod Podge is a pretty durable finish too, so you can wash the lunchbox thoroughly. I wouldn’t recommend the dishwasher, but that’s a small price to pay for a one of a kind item like this one.

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I went clothes shopping this week. This is a rare event for me since I am minimally interested in fashion and am, perhaps as a result, exceedingly frugal about clothing. Ten dollars for a shirt? Highway robbery! Which leaves me with few options, most of them falling into the thrift store or yard sale categories. Fortunately, one of those thrift store options is the Salvation Army Family Store. I shop thrift stores heavily and have since childhood, and I tell you, no one beats the Salvation Army for prices, inventory, and sheer diversity of product. The best couch and chair set I ever had, emerald green in some sort of crushed velvet, came from the Sally. A pair of 70s era patchwork vests I wore as an 8th grader until they disintegrated? The Sally.

Pretty, pretty rainbow: the “organizational system” at the Salvation Army Store.

Stuff at the Sally is unbelievably cheap. Cheaper than Goodwill, cheaper than Savers (another large format thrift store), cheaper than your adorably, fastidiously curated thrift store in the yuppie section of town. The reason for these amazing prices is in the completely unintelligible way in which the store is organized. At your up market thrift store, you can head directly to a rack of pants in your size, or cardigans, or tshirts. The Sally utilizes no such system. It is organized the way a preschooler or a lunatic would do it. Mostly, it’s organized by color. In the red shirts department, for instance, you will find everything from a tank top bearing a truck stop’s logo to a silk blouse to a Christmas themed fleece with sledding penguins on it. Sizes are unpredictable; a 2XL will hang right next to a petite small. So unless you have very specific color guidelines you’re following (“Today, I shall buy only chartreuse pants! Size doesn’t matter!”), you’re looking at a long session of flipping through about 800 yards of racks filled with stuff you mostly hate. There are gems amidst the detritus, but it took me 2 hours to comb through just the pants, skirts and shirts. I didn’t even tackle the sweaters, which are ludicrously housed under a sign reading “Unisex,” as no effort whatsoever has been made to separate men’s from women’s in that broad swath of the store.

House centipede (photo: wikimedia commons)

Stuff from the Sally has a distinctive smell. I have shopped at locations all over New England, and the smell is always the same. It’s not unpleasant, just…weird. Also, since Sallys are generally not located in the finest real estate, sometimes you make a startling discovery. As I shopped at the one in Haverhill, MA, which is in a rather old building, the undulating body of a house centipede appeared on the shoulder of a Christmas themed sledding penguin fleece just above my eye level. House centipedes are harmless, but rather striking in appearance. The first time I saw one, it was crossing the floor of a Little Caesar’s pizza place. I was rooted to the spot, mesmerized, and unable to speak. This time, I recovered quickly and the centipede and I parted ways amicably. Apparently not all ladies are so lucky, as in 1902, C.L. Marlatt, an entomologist with the United States Department of Agriculture wrote in Circular #48 – The House Centipede, “It may often be seen darting across floors with very great speed, occasionally stopping suddenly and remaining absolutely motionless, presently to resume its rapid movements, often darting directly at inmates of the house, particularly women, evidently with a desire to conceal itself beneath their dresses, and thus creating much consternation.” Indeed.

All this for $44! And I probably could have gotten the house centipede too.

House centipedes, odd smells, and a pared down atmosphere (no mirrors in the tiny stalls used as dressing rooms, e.g.) aside, you can get some serious deals if you persevere. I got three pairs of pants, including a sweet pair of mustard yellow J. Crew corduroys, two blazers, 10 shirts, and a really shrunken wool jacket that I’m going to make a pillow out of. So if you wake up some morning feeling intrepid, bold, and desirous of adventure, I recommend your local Sally. It’s the green and socially responsible option too, since you’re saving these items from a landfill and choosing not to have brand new clothes made for you by the tiny fingers of children in Eritrea.

It may be harrowing while you’re in the midst of all those rainbow racks and entomological surprises, but you won’t get a better deal on brand name merchandise, and after you run it all through the washing machine (several times) it’ll be as good as new (to you)!

 

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