In my spare time


A typical week for me includes many activities and errands run with two small children in-tow. My 3-year old is in preschool 3 mornings a week, and I work in his class about once every two weeks. My 16-month old is home with me 24/7. I realize that this scenario, in the grand scheme of things, just isn’t that bad. But I manage to do my fair share of complaining about the emotional and physical exhaustion that can plague an introvert like me after being “on” — even with my own ridiculously adorable children — for a large percentage of my waking time.

One of the things that tends to kill me is running errands with both of them. Moms know the drill: take however long you think it should take to get everyone ready, and add half an hour. Then get them in the car, buckling two carseats. Get to the grocery or Target and unbuckle two carseats, carrying one and holding the other’s hand as you traipse through snow to get to the entrance. Shop, all the while saying things like, “No, we’re not buying that today,” and “I know this is taking a long time, we’ll be done soon,” and “Please don’t smash the bananas.” You go back to the car, loading children (buckling two carseats) and groceries, drive home, curse under your breath at random drivers (road rage? what road rage?), get home, unbuckle two carseats, unload two crying children, unload groceries, destroy the kitchen while hurriedly making a healthy lunch for the two starving children, and figure out you forgot something on your list. That thing that you needed to make tonight’s dinner.

All that to say — I do enjoy those rare mornings when I only have one child to take with me. Truly, it makes all the difference in the world. Especially when this particular child is the one who can’t yet talk.

So. Those mornings. The blessed, rare, one-child mornings when I don’t need to make a trip to the grocery or Target. What do I do? What could I possibly do with that time — the world is my oyster — I am primed for efficiency, ready to accomplish big things. I do what any sensible woman with limited time and a perpetually-growing to-do list would do: go to thrift stores.

I might have mentioned this new compulsion. I really don’t know how to explain it; although I know I come by the gene honestly — my sister runs a blog in Mississippi that’s completely devoted to thrift, salvage, consignment, and discount stores. In the time I’ve spent analyzing this new habit, I’ve figured out that it has something to do with being in Indiana, and having a few good thrift stores. To define that for you: a good thrift store is one where you can still actually find good things, for a good deal. With the rise of eBay, and now Goodwill’s online auction site, many thriftstores have gone downhill in quality — high-demand items are either sold at auction by the company itself, or the stores are swept by eBay-selling vultures who know what they’re looking for (I say this with a mixture of disdain and respect… I would probably be one of those vultures if I had the time). But — for some reason — in Indianapolis, there are a few thrift stores that don’t auction, and somehow are still flying under the radar of resellers (and no, I’m not naming them for you).

So, I go, walking straight to the section of kitchen goods, and search for hidden gems. Some of my recent finds include:

  • 2 Cuisinart ice cream makers, in perfect condition, for less than $5 each
  • A beautiful enameled cast-iron frying pan (my new cookware-of-choice)
  • a gallon-sized glass jar, perfect for a batch of kombucha
  • The Original West Bend Poppery: an old popcorn popper that can be rigged for use as a coffee roaster (if you ever find one of these, BUY IT, because it will sell on eBay for around $50), in perfect condition, for $2
  • A small Dansk enameled iron pot, perfect for melting butter
  • a vintage glass nut chopper (this, admittedly, was an eBay risk that won’t pay off — and no, it doesn’t chop nuts evenly)

As I’ve mentioned before, my ultimate goal is to find a good-quality food dehydrator on the cheap. But that’s just plain unrealistic, and is really a thinly-veiled excuse to walk in the doors. The days that I go and find something exciting, I get an adrenaline rush similar to the one I used to get in college when I actually made efforts to hit the after-Christmas sales; but even on the days I walk out with nothing, it doesn’t feel like I’ve wasted my time.

I suppose there are worse addictions. I could be addicted to a different kind of shopping: the kind where I’d rack up thousands of dollars in credit card bills, buying designer clothes and as-seen-on-tv gadgets. This one feels safe for now. I did have an inkling of a potentially hazardous future though, the other day, when I was going through my loot and realized that we’d be keeping it all (as opposed to selling some online, in pre-vulture for-profit activity). Where to put it? I have tons of space right now, but if we buy a smaller house (and we most likely will), what then? How many enameled cast-iron pans do I need before I begin to look like an episode of Hoarders? When I die, will my grandchildren be forced to sift through mountains of vintage kitchenwares that no one wanted for a reason?

Ah, tomorrow. I’ll save those worries for then. Meantime, I’ve got to price clothes for that kid’s consignment sale next month. They have such good deals there…

11 thoughts on “In my spare time

  1. CK, it totally reminds me of thrifting in Mississippi (in the old days, pre-eBay). I wonder if B’ham has too many folks sweeping the shelves that know what they’re looking for. Yet another reason you guys should try the Midwest…

    RM, if I find myself with too many to move, I’ll surely hold one with your name on it! Want an ice-cream maker while I’m at it?

  2. I hope you find that dehydrator someday. You really made some nice finds! Yesterday I did some thrifting (I’m not always in the mood) and I found 2 Vision pots with lids – but on Facebook I was told there is an exploding problem. I don’t know if I should risk using them. I also found 2 Grolsch bottles – each for 99 cents.

    Anyway, I’m jealous of your enameled pans! The day I find one of those, I will be a happy camper.

  3. Wardeh, if you have someone that’ll drink Grolsch (or use it on your hair), a 6-pack usually runs around 6 bucks, with the beer (I’ve seen people try to sell those bottles for truly ridiculous prices).

    Katy, I found a gorgeous dehydrator on craigslist, for $15 (Not an Excalibur, but the same sort of design, with adjustable thermostat).

    If there are still old-fashioned farm (estate) auctions where you can get to them, they are the best places to find amazing deals on vintage kitchen goodies, from cast iron to melmac to that dehydrator to canning jars. will find you auctions near you. I think I’m going to quit neglecting my own blog & write an article about auctions.

  4. Wow, those are great finds! I’ve never found big things at our local Goodwill, but I have scored on some smaller kitchen items…like an unopened Pampered Chef cake decorating kit for a dollar. I’m still waiting for the day that I walk in and find an a vitamix or a Champion juicer.:D

  5. Wardeh, I did the same thing about the Visions pots — I’ve seen them at the stores, but then read all these horror stories (though it makes me wonder, would they still be in production 30 years later if they exploded with regularity?). So now I’m holding out for some enameled saucepans, or maybe good stainless. Anything (maybe even risking Visions) to replace my Calphalon Anodized Aluminum!

    Jen, I couldn’t believe it when I saw them. My lucky day, indeed.

    Heather, that is a great resource (the farm auction link) — there are SO many farms around here, I’m definitely checking that out. Thanks! I’ve been scouring craigslist for dehydrators, and even found a small Excalibur once, but we couldn’t agree on price (i.e., I wasn’t backing down ; ).

    Leah, my friend actually found a Champion juicer at our local (unnamed) thrift store. It was labeled as a “meat grinder,” and sold for $12.

  6. Katy, I loved your description of shopping with the kids. I would just add “…while it’s snowing/raining…” Oh, and you put your keys in your right coat pocket, which is the same side you’re using to hold your 16 month old.
    The thrift stores around here are nothing to brag about, but we do have an excellent kid’s consignment sale twice a year. And I’ll be pricing right along with you today. My goal is always to make more than I spend. Never happens.

  7. LIZ!! Yes! I do the thing with the keys, too.
    I’m glad you realize that you’ll never make more than you spend at the consignment sale. My goal is to outfit my kids for a season, on the cheap.

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