Friday, December 31, 2010

The last day

I can't believe that the last day of 2010 is here! Happy New Year's Eve to everyone! This of course means that my year long experiment is coming to its formal close. Do I anticipate going on a shopping spree tomorrow, or Sunday when stores are actually open? No. I actually don't anticipate much changing from the shopping patterns I've developed over the past year. I've developed a strong second hand habit. It's still more fun to go pick through second hand stores looking for treasures than it is to pop into Fred Meyer or any big box store. I am going to allow myself the option to go into any store I want on my quest to find pants that fit, though.Of all the things that I wasn't allowed to buy new this year, pants were the most frustrating item! I bet I could have finally found some that fit if I had taken a full day and tried on every pair of pants at all the second hand shops in town. Of course that was never going to happen - there are too many chores and other activities to squeeze into my weekends!

This was one of the two big lessons I got out of the year - second hand shopping is easy if you don't have a strict time line. Nothing was more frustrating than seeing something I really needed (dustpan) at every shop (and even some gas stations) but not being able to buy it until I finally spotted one at Goodwill! My other big lesson, which played very much off of the first, was that the things I thought I really needed often weren't as necessary as I believed! The act of waiting to buy certain items gave me more clarity regarding if I did actually need them.Often I was able to make substitutions with items that were already floating around my house. Or I'd stumble upon a free item somewhere and it would lend itself to use in place of something on my list. My example is when I found a spoon rest shaped like a fish in someones free pile. I decided it would work as a soap dish and despite the fact that it strongly resembles the Jesus fish people plaster on the back of their cars, it's doing a fine job of holding soap.

Some friends asked me the best thing about this project. I'd have to say it's all the neat forwards and articles that people have sent me! I love reading about the creativity people use to avoid buying new, or even just to make gifts that come from the heart as opposed to the store. As I close and get ready to head up to Portland to see some of my BFFs from the Linfield days, here are the latest links I received.

Links from my colleague Mary Martin:
Art made from recylcled audio and video tapes and books . I love this stuff! So creative!

Some of the coolest chocolate treats ever: Chocolate Mice!

Crafty projects that you could do with kids! From the UK! How international!

And from Shannon Hennig (a fellow grover who lives abroad) a great TED lecture all about Collaborative Consumption!!!

Great! Great! Great!

See you in the new year!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Oops I did it again

Late November canning brought me with the need for more jelly jars for the treats I've been making for Christmas gifts. I was lucky to receive a few from colleagues and I bought all the jars of appropriate size from Goodwill, The OSU Folk Thrift Store, Cat's Meow and The Arc (every second hand store in town). Unfortunately, I still needed more jars. I hemmed and hawed about it for a day and then broke down and went to BiMart and bought two flats of the jars I'll need for the rest of my seasonal canning. Carrying those jars to the checkout gave me gut wrenching anxiety. It was so much easier to buy batteries since there is really no way to get around buying batteries if you need them. With the jars I just kept thinking, "What if I could have looked more places?" and "Maybe I should have visited Albany and looked in their thrift shops!" But I realized that I was tired of spending my time searching for used jars in town and had no desire to involve my car and fossil fuels in searching for jars at neighboring communities.

New items I purchased directly for a store in 2010.
When I got home I laid out all that I have purchased new over the past year and took a photo. Three items! What makes me amused is that if I hadn't taken the master food preserver class, I wouldn't have needed to purchase jars. Oh well. I guess it's a good lesson in the fact that you can't always plan for everything.
Second hand items purchased or found in 2010.

As a comparison I decided to pull a sample of the items I've found second hand this year and photograph those. It might seem like a lot, but I made a point to really think whether or not the item I was buying was something I actually needed. It worked in most cases, except when I saw something cool like an antique wooden bowl for $5 which I decided was a must have! Since It's a bit hard to see, here are the contents of the photo: a North Face down jacket (need), dustpan and brush (need- this was on my list for months!), cast iron fryer (need), Christmas lights (need) Irish cook book (want), dish towel (need), hair dryer that actually gets hot (need), clear Christmas ornaments (need - for crafty gift), wooden bowl (want), blue zinc lid canning jar (want), coffee burr grinder (needed by SteadyJ), backgammon game board (need so I can get good and win my friend HotDish), stone mortar and pestle (need), cute high heels (needed for job interview). 

I've just got 21 days left of my project and have got to make it through the final hump of a major holiday that involves finding gifts for nieces and nephews and putting together a cool gift for our family gift exchange. I'll admit it - it is getting difficult. Mostly because I have to be at work every day and second hand shopping takes a lot of time! I've been able to find some cool used stuff online though which has taken care of a lot of the big things on my list. I'll be sure to share how the Beg Barter Borrow holidays went in a few weeks!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Give it the old Reuse!

While I love finding things second hand, even better is when I can reuse something that I've had for a while in an entirely new way. Halloween generally allows all sorts of creative reuses of items. The old riding boots that I salvaged from my grandpa's closet after he died have worked wonders with several costumes. Hell, those boots fit right in with today's boot obsessed look. Probably not what my grandpa thought during his years of wearing them at the race track.

Don't worry - it was washed. Twice!
Anyway, I've been excited by several good examples of reuse that I've seen lately. First and foremost is the cute Halloween costume worn by the almost one year old son of my friends Sarah and JB. Doesn't he look cute like a cute crocodile? Well he should. He's in a an old Halloween costume worn by their chocolate lab during the pre-children years of their marriage. Yes, that's right. That baby is in a dog outfit. LOVE IT. Share and share alike, I say!

For me?!!?
A potentially less cute but more hilarious reuse was Steady J's costume consisting of a sport coat, slacks, sunglasses and a strategically placed wrapped gift. Cost? Nothing. He reused everything he already had. Curious to what he was? Here you go. Just remember, I had nothing to do with it.

And finally, totally unrelated to Halloween but still one of the coolest things I've seen: Wrapagain! It's a square of pretty fabric that has ribbon strategically placed so that you can fold the fabric around an item, tie it, and have a beautifully wrapped gift! The fabric wrap can be reused as many times as you want and it even has a tracking number sewn in so you can see how far your fabric has traveled as it has been reused. Too cool!  Taking it a bit further, it would be really easy to make these out of scrap fabric and old ribbon. Don't have fabric or ribbon? I find a ton of it at second hand stores. Goodwill always has lots of spools of ribbon and some of it is quite nice. Or cut up some of your old table cloths or runners. Or even those old t-shirts! These wrappings look so much classier than the paper I salvaged from the recycling at work and the bows I made from holiday candy wrappers last year. Guess it might be time to take it up a notch!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Bite the battery

You know that Weezer blue album song with the lines, "My name is Wakefield, Gotta box full of your toys. They're fresh out of batteries. But they're still makin' noise, makin' noise." I love this song! It's been stuck in my head for days - ever since I had to break down and buy batteries.Yes. Yes. I. bought. batteries. I never thought in the world that it would be batteries that would demolish my plan to buy nothing new for a year. You'd think I would have gone for something more interesting!

Sadly, batteries are some of those weird little things you can't really do without in some situations. What got me was my need for a bright headlamp when I'm riding my bike after dark, which is pretty much every day on my way home from work and most weekends on the way home from Squirrels! My batteries finally gave up the ghost after two years and neither Steady J or I had any AAA size. He and I co-purchased an 8 pack of Energizer Re-chargeable batteries to share - I already had a charger. (Side note: Energizer Rechargeable batteries hold a charge for way longer than the Sanyo batteries that came with my charger.) So now my headlamp is super bright and safe which is great, but I had to buy something new and that felt incredibly weird!!! 

I'm just not sure what to think. Really, I have not interest in buying anything else new any time soon. I sort of enjoy all this money saving and thrift store shopping. I've lately had some quite serendipitous second hand shopping experiences - last week I was looking on for a used down coat because I'm tired of wearing my wool coat out in the woods when it is cold, but of course there was nothing used listed. A half hour later I walked into Second Glance, my favorite consignment shop in Corvallis and there was a used North Face Down Jacket in my size. It's $199 new. I got it for $80.Score! I had a similar situation on the weekend of thinking about how I needed a bottle crowner to put the cap on my bottles of hard cider and then I found one for $3 at the OSU Folk Thrift Store. Another awesome occurrence! I'm looking forward to seeing what else I run across. Perhaps some pants that actually fit will work their way into my life!

I went to Denmark.....

And all I got were these photos. For real! And have a history of searching for the perfect souvenirs so this was quite a stretch for me!

Actually, Steady J and I went to Sweden as well. The reason for the hop over the ocean was to visit my good friends Jenny (aka Hot Dish) and Jacob (aka The Dane) who live in Copenhagen. Our good buddy Party Jon was also Copenhagen bound so we had a mini reunion of Corvallis in Copenhagen. Very nice!

Below is a brief synopsis of our trip in 11 photos.

We took our bikes on the S-train and headed for the 'burbs to the Dyre Haven (Deer Park) which was the royal hunting grounds. It was sunny and warm! We saw lots of bikes, deer and dogs!
Party Jon and Hot Dish soak up the rays at the beach. That's the Baltic sea - the bridge to Sweden is in the background.
We rode bikes around Christiania, the hippie settlement in the center of Copenhagen.

Commentary in Christiania.

Visited the elephants at the Carlsberg brewery in Copenhagen.
Learned Kubb, a viking game (apparently) from Party Jon.

Bikes, Beers, Kubb and Friends in the park.
This is Sweden, on the island of Vrango outside of Gothenburg (birthplace to Volvo).
This is the Vrango baguette and it was delicious (lobster, shrimp and assorted seafood salad with dill). The Fanta was also amazing.

Outside of the duty free shop in the Copenhagen airport on the way home.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

East Coast part II

As I previously mentioned, Steady J and I stayed in New Hampshire with his cousin Ian. Shortly after we arrived, Ian and I started to talk about my blog and not buying stuff in general. Ian's a bit of a minimalist. We stayed in his living room, which is a room he doesn't actually use. He's basically set up his living area to consist of his bedroom, bathroom and kitchen/dining area. That area is cozy enough for him, making the living room just a repository of furniture and antiques that their uncle keeps hoisting on him, some of which are amazing examples of New England craftsmanship. If Ian was into furniture, he'd be set for life!

Instead of dreaming of a big house to fill with family heirlooms, Ian's planning to go in the other direction. He introduced me to The Small House Book, by Jay Shafer. The author designs and builds tiny houses, some of which are less than 100 square feet. All are adorable! Beyond the individual plans for all the small dwellings made by the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company, the book contains interesting commentary about urban sprawl, and sheds light on all sorts of ridiculousness like land use laws requiring that houses be a minimum square footage (get around this by building your tiny house on a trailer bed).

The book is fascinating! The whole time I read through it and looked at the photos I wondered if I could ever live in something that small. Probably. But two people? I think that could get interesting! In the book, Shafer talks about planning your house to fit your needs, and in turn, reflecting on what it is that you actually need as opposed to want for the sake of convenience. To balance the idea of living with nothing, he also talks about the importance of keeping yourself comfortable. No need to give up your laptop - just make sure your tiny house has a place to store it when it isn't being used.

I was in Sweden last month and passed by a neighborhood of tiny houses. If the Swedes can do it, why can't these go big in the US? They have much more character than Katrina Cottages which were lauded as the answer to the FEMA trailer disaster that occurred in Louisiana post hurricane. I'd buy one (if I were buying new things).

Saturday, October 2, 2010

East Coast part 1

The RockSteady and I recently took a holiday to the East Coast to see his old stomping grounds. You see, Steady J is a Mass Hole. That means that he is from Massachusetts. Get him with his people and the Rs start dropping, and everything becomes "wicked", (except it sounds more like "wikid".) Worcester becomes "Woosta", you go fishing in the "habaaaahhh" (harbor) and the Red Sox play in Fenway - home of the Green "Monstaaaaaaaa". And let me tell  you about driving. Massachusetts drivers are the most defensive I've ever seen, looking for any excuse to treat the turnpike like the Autobahn. In Oregon, Steady J rarely drives, and if he does, it is so slow that I sometimes wonder if he has spent so much time on a bike that he forgot how to use a car. But put Steady J in Massachusetts and he drives like a bean town native, too fast for me to take photos of town signs for places like Leominister ("Lemonster") and Redding ("Reading") or Athol ("Athall"- which sounds a lot like another word that I think is funny).

Anyway, while back east we attended the lovely wedding of Justin's childhood friend Chris to his lady fan Ashley in the college town of Keene, New Hampshire. To save ourselves the drive back to Massachusetts that evening, we stayed with Justin's cousin Ian who lives in Westmoreland, NH in a cool above garage apartment on a farm. 
Ian's front yard

On Sunday morning Steady J and Ian worked on Ian's bike and I wandered down the road to an art studio in an old New England farm house that we had passed earlier that day. What I found was the gallery of Arthur R. Herrick (1897 -1970), a painter who had focused on painting landscapes and farmhouses around Westmoreland during the 1950 and 1960s. I looked at the painting and stumbled upon a cutout of a newspaper article from the previous week explaining that the paintings were being sold by Anne Herrick, the painters grand daughter and that there are hundreds of them up for sale and auction! Correction: I heard back from Anne and she said that none of the paintings went to auction - each one was sold locally. As of today (October 18, 2010) she has only 12 paintings left - the rest found new homes. 

As I looked through the paintings, I started to notice that the people coming to view and buy the paintings were often members of the community - they knew the names of everyone else and were eager to search for paintings of their homes. On two occasions elderly farmers came in, blue coveralls and all, and went through the paintings explaining the farms they recognized and the family names of who lived there for generations. One old farmer looked at a painting and recognizing the road commented, "that farm house was where my wife was born and raised". Another pointed out that the pastoral farmhouse scene in another painting was actually the county poor farm. It was so fascinating to hear their stories of which families lived where and how the village had changed.

Eventually I made my way over to the woman I assumed to be Anne and I asked her about the selling of her grandfather's work. She explained that the farmhouse belonged to her family, and when her grandfather died in 1970, her parents opened a gallery of his works on their property. Anne recently inherited the house and gallery from her parents, but she lives and works as an architect in Seattle (funny to find another Pacific Northwest resident on a country road in New Hampshire) so she is preparing the house and gallery/studio space to be sold. All of her grandfather's paintings need to go, except of course, the paintings that she decided to keep for herself. The fact that there are hundreds of paintings means that this is an incredible undertaking which will take months.  

As I walked back to reunite with the gents, I reflected on the accumulation of stuff, especially art. I come from an artistic household and I understand the habit of keeping the pieces you really like, and also needing to keep a large amount of art as inventory if you are receiving your livelihood from sales. But what happens later, after you are gone from this world and there is still a house full of your creativity and hand rendered records of your experiences? Without the context provided by the artist, how would anyone understand the true meaning of the piece and why it was held onto? Maybe the answer is just to disperse your art as much as possible? Seeing the excitement of the community to own artistic renderings was interesting - would they have been equally excited to have owned the pieces fifty years ago when they were painted? Maybe. It's hard to tell! I would assume that long ago they had the opportunity - perhaps the wealth to buy art just wasn't there at that time? In any case, I'm thinking now about the art I have, the art I make and the art I hold on to. I'm also thinking that I want to know more about the art that my mom has in her house. What pieces does she love? Why? What would she want to keep in the family, and what could be offered to others?

It's been a good exercise in thought.