Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Can Lady

I'll admit it. I'm obsessed. And shameless. About aluminum cans.

The recycling center currently pays 55 cents a pound for aluminum. It takes approximately 32 cans to make pound. That means that each can is worth 1.71875 cents at the moment (aluminum prices have ranged over the last few years between 30 and 85 cents a pound). Today my three trash bags of cans brought me $7.70 .

The price board at the recycling center.
You pick up pennies when you see them on the ground, don't you? Ok, maybe you do it for the luck more than the monetary
value but you still do it!

And how often have you heard someone say, "If I had a penny for every _____, I'd be rich!"?  So, cans are worth a penny and a HALF -- almost three-quarters! Which makes them even more valuable than pennies. And they are EVERYWHERE -- just laying there waiting to be picked up and recycled! And they give me MONEY for that! Where else can you just pick things up and get money for doing so that 's not stealing? So, if I had a penny and almost-three-quarters for every can I see laying on the street... Imagine the possibilities! That adds up!

Ok, so it's not THAT much money. My average trip to the recycling center with a couple of trash bags of cans nets about $5. But that's $5 I didn't have before. I certainly wouldn't refuse if someone wanted to GIVE me $5!

I once picked up 154 cans at one truck stop. At the time, aluminum was up to 80 cents a pound so that little walk around the truck stop paid $3.80. Most of the time I walk for free (and for my health). It's kind of nice to earn a little money in the process!

Lately I see cans everywhere I go! At nearly every street corner they get my attention as they shine in the sunlight. Almost every time I park in a parking lot I see one conveniently pre-flattened into a shiny silver square. When it's convenient and not too horrifying to my children, I pick them up and toss them in a bag I keep in my car.

When I drive on the highway I refrain from stopping to pick up cans. It's just not efficient. But I will admit there have been times that I watch them go by from the passenger seat and I pretend to reach out and snatch them up! Just to soothe my soul. And to drive Mark crazy!

I 've come to think of abandoned aluminum cans as mine. I've come to view them as gifts just for me. God may not have granted me the winning lottery ticket, but He gives me these little gifts everywhere I go. And they add up. And they remind me to count little blessings. I'm probably the only person I know that sees a can on the ground and thinks, "Oh!  Wow!  For ME?  Thanks God!"

By leisurely recycling cans, over the course of the last year or so, I have made $80 for my FreeSourceFull house budget. In the beginning, I fretted about how I might be able to make a little bit of money for this project to pay for the things I can't find.  I LOVE having this slow, steady, ongoing accumulation that is one of the sources that goes toward that end.  Every single day a can or two or more go into my stash. 

I heard on the news recently about a couple who paid for their $2800 honeymoon by recycling cans. Of course, they cheated -- they had the whole town involved and piled like a million donated cans and their front yard and, at the end of their month-long campaign, they had to have a front-end loader come and scoop up the cans into dump trucks. That's cheating BUT it shows the power of cans. BTW, if you want to donate your cans to my cause, feel free!

And I'll confess. I DO pull cans out of the trash at work. Doesn't hurt anything except maybe my pride. Or my reputation. Which I would hope would be "green" rather than "cheap and trashy"!

My can stash in the garage is my little next egg (ok, VERY little, like hummingbird eggs... or pennies!). But I get comfort knowing it's there. There have been times when I was completely broke and overdrawn and had already emptied the coin jars so I cashed in the cans and put the resulting $5 or so toward food or gasoline. So I know that having cans in the garage means that I will, in an emergency, have enough gas to pick the girls up from school or buy milk and eggs or whatever little thing will get us through a pinch.

Now, there ARE a few hazards to picking up cans. One could get hit by a car. One could encounter a snake while tromping through tall grass to retrieve a shiny cylindrical prize. Sometimes cans still have liquid in them which is gross (I was going to say "usually quite gross" but it's basically always gross). And I suppose there is a slight risk of cutting oneself on a jagged edge of a torn can. However, unlike my daughter fears, you cannot get AIDS from aluminum cans. Just for the record.

A carload of cans!
But there is one more hazard to gathering cans. Many cans discarded on the side of the road are beer cans. And they are discarded on the side of the road because of open container laws. "Finish that beer and throw the evidence out the car window before you get pulled over and charged with open container and before any suspicion about your blood alcohol content arises!" is the drinker-and-driver's mentality! So the beer cans are on the side of the road. And, when I pick them up, I have all these open containers in MY vehicle! I am greatly amused by this because I am a freak of nature and I have never been drunk. And it would be particularly amusing to be charged with open container for recycling. Frankly, I would welcome the opportunity to go round and round with a law enforcement officer about how my environmentally-responsible recycling differs drastically from being under the influence. Just let them try to lock me up! I am so incredibly, perpetually innocent! Hmmm... maybe I shouldn't have had that poppy seed bagel for lunch either!

Snakes and Ducklings

 My ex-husband is Native American (Seminole, Kiowa, Creek, Cherokee, Mescalero Apache, and Chiricahua Apache, to be exact).  My children, obviously, are half Native American.  We once lived outside of Tahlequah, Oklahoma, the capital of the Cherokee Nation, where the street signs are in English AND Cherokee and elders still give diapproving looks to the white girl married to the Indian guy.  During our marriage, we participated in pow wows and stomp dances.  We sprinkled the handful of Seminole words we knew into our household vocabulary to try to keep them alive.  We sprinkled special, blessed "Indian salt" for health and fertility blessings.  We went to the family medicine man for cleansings and blessings when we felt the need. 

Influenced by all this, I chose the snake as my personal "totem animal".  Snakes are a symbol of transformation and re-birth.  They shed an old, worn skin to reveal the shiny new one underneath (that was, incidentally, there, in some form or another, all along). 

This totem image becomes more and more meaningful to me as the years go by because I am a huge believer in the power of transformation.  I can see the good in ANYONE.  I renovated houses.  I stage houses.  I reuse treasures from dumpsters and curbside.  It's all about seeing the value in someone or something by looking just a little deeper and keeping an eye open to the possibilities. 

I guess I have a passion for Before and After photos because they visually capture this phenomenon.  So, here's my latest set of them!

Alas, these chairs aren't for 419 S. Taylor (though I wish they were).  They're for a curb appeal makeover I'm doing in Fayetteville.  But I wanted to show them to you because they dramatically illustrate my fervent believe that almost anything can be transformed!

I staked out Big Lots for a very long time a few summers ago to get these chairs (that came unassembled in boxes) on clearance for $20 each (a phenomenal price).  They have sat outside at the cabin ever since -- long enough to get a massive, nearly-terminal case of the uglies! 

I've been needing a punch of red for this curb appeal makeover and these chairs kept dancing in my head. 

Yesterday I went to the City of Fayetteville's hazardous waste collection center.  This is the place where you can drop off old paint and chemicals that shouldn't go into the regular trash and, thereafter, into the landfill.  Fayetteville has a wonderful system, a great facility, a staff of extremely pleasant employees, and they take green to another level by offering any of the dropped off paint and chemicals that are usable for FREE!  Clearly my kind of place! 

So I found a mostly-full gallon of "Fabulous Red" indoor/outdoor latex and, three coats later, the chairs are transformed!  They prove that there's hope for even the uglist duckling!

I may never buy paint again! 

I'm wishing my daughter Emily still had her ball python, "Stella", because I would certainly have put posed her (the snake, though my daughter is definitely gorgeous and photo-worthy) on the chair for the photo for drama and symbolism purposes!  Or maybe ducklings?  Or both -- let's mix the metaphors!  On second thought, that could get ugly -- dinnertime for snakey!  Never mind...

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Switchplate Lament

The original hardward in 419 S. Taylor is amazing.  I'll lay in bed and look at the door knob and ponder.  What did it look like the day it was put in?  Was it considered stylish at the time?  Were there even other choices available in 1915 in Enid, Oklahoma?  I'd post photos but I'm in Fayetteville at the moment so I can't take any.  Darn!  Stay tuned for a future post!

Most of the hardware (door knobs and door hinges mainly) in the house is black from age.  Underneath, I figured, was bronze or brass, perhaps. 

One day I got curious and took salt and orange juice (because that's what I had on hand) and about an hour worth of soaking and elbow grease to the switchplate from the front bedroom.  It was totally black and kinda almost-gummy on top of tarnish.  I just HAD to see what it had looked like once upon a time when it was just a run-of-the-mill ordinary switch plate and not an almost-antique (you have to be 100 years old to be and antique and it's only 95)! 

A glimmer of metal here and there kept me going until finally I had it all shined up!  And here is the finished product!  And I just love the mother-of-pearl topped  push-button switches too!

I was really looking forward to the before and after photos (because, you know, I just LIVE for before and after photos!).  I had planned to take a "before" picture of one of the other switchplates in the house when I was done. Only after I finished stripping 95 years of history off did I realize that this was the ONLY switchplate of it's kind in the house! ARGH! But it did come out kinda pretty. And there's no turning back unless I have 95 years to wait. After all this, I DO think I'll refrain from messing with the door knobs and leave them their long-earned patina because I kind of DO regret it. Kind of.

Free Stuff That Amazes Me!

You truly never know what you will find in a dumpster!

I think I've proven to family, friends, and creditors alike that I am completely postal-challenged.  I just can't seem to pull envelope, stamp, and post office together.  And if there's a box needed in the mix, forget it! I don't know why it's so hard for me.  I think I have some sort of short-circuit in my brain!   But the dumpster gods must be trying to help me out a bit as they gave me 20 stamps! 

True, they are 29 cent stamps, which date from between 1991 and 1995, but they're still valid. I'll have to double up but, nontheless, TEN whole envelopes will get mailed because of this! The total value of twenty 29 cent stamps is $5.80 which is nothing to be scoffed at -- that's about the take home pay (after taxes) for an hour's work at a minimum wage job.
I'll probably use them to mail hard copies of my blog post to my birthmother who is an old-fashioned pen-an-ink writer and not a computer person. So she gets hard copies in the mail.

I also found this FREE flower, a beautiful real live pink hydrangea, actually IN a dumpster.  And, separately, found a free vase to put it in.  And, as you can see, a beautiful flower is great contrast to a dreary day and a drab windowsill!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


This is what we call "the middle bedroom" at 419 S. Taylor.  It's between the front bedroom and the back sunporch master bedroom.  This middle bedroom has probably been used as the master bedroom for most of the house's history because the front bedroom has french doors onto the living room and the sunporch is plumbed to be the laundry room (which, if you as me, is a complete waste of the best room in the house!).

In this photo, the walls look like they might be a nice warm yellow.  They're not.  They're a bland, cheap-looking, antiqued white panelling (you can see this a little better off to the side in one of the lower photos).  The carpet is sculptured blue with rust stains.  Pretty.

I found a can of paint in the garage that was left by previous occupants.  It turned out to be a really wonderful shade of orange -- probably better than I could have chosen myself! 

First I used it on the wainscotting in the little hallway between the bedrooms and the bathroom.  Here's a picture of some cute guy helping me!  And a picture of the finished product (I'm still playing with the wreath form hanging on the wall.  Someday it will be something.  For now it's just sculptural!). 

They say to put rich colors up against dark woods and this certainly proves the validity of that premise to me!  The wonderful, rich, 95-year-old woodwork just comes to life next to this warm, vibrant color!

Mark went to a garage sale one Saturday morning and bought a box containing five old radios and two old adding machines for $4 (for everything - including mud dobber wasp nests and dust!).  Mark's mother and brothers throught he was nuts and asked why he would buy all that junk. After that he was a little reluctant to show them to me but I TOTALLY get it!  I think they are completely COOL!  And I knew exactly what to do with them! 

The middle bedroom had been giving me fits! I had absolutely no vision for it. Until the radios came! I had known something would come to inspire me and I'd been waiting for the epiphany to happen.! And there was that can of orange paint still lurking around. And there's that cutting from a Pottery Barn catalog that I keep propped up so I can look at it as often as possible (you can tell because it's well-worn and water spotted!).  And it call came together!

The far wall went orange.  Forgive the mess in the rest of the photo, this was just my photo to carry around with me to admire the orange! 

There were two more of those shutter bi-fold doors that I used for shelves in the living room. I had several sets of wooden shelf brackets (which still need to be painted orange to match the wall). The radios went up and we just LOVE it!  I swear the pale blue radio on the bottom right was in Mike and Carole Brady's room on The Brady Bunch.  Can't you just see it?  The second one from the right on the top shelf has been known to play Harry Truman speeches late at night...

Three more radios have joined the collection.  The 1954(?) Philco on the top left came out of a dumpster.  Can you believe it?  Who cares that it doesn't work, it just COOL!  The one to the right of that was the radio I had in my room in high school.  The radio at the top right has a leather case (that you can't rally see) and also came from a dumpster.  I had one of those psychic moments:  After much prowling, I said to Mark, "I'm done."  As the words left my mouth I knew I wasn't.  I knew that I was about to find something good.  Then I moved a piece of newspaper and there was my radio just waiting for me! 

The two adding machines found their home atop this cabinet that came from the curb beside a neighbor's house.  Previously a built-in, it looks MUCH better with new knobs but is still patiently awaiting a real top and some paint on the sides.  I like the chippy paint on the front so it will probably stay.

Mark and I talk frequently about how we just love to look at the older adding machine (which we can see from bed). And we marvel that it even came with rolls of replacement paper! Now that I look at the picture, I can see the perfect spot up there by the adding machines for the vintage metal "Radar O-Reilly" (from MASH) desk lamp that I have lurking around!

I'll tell you about the other side of the room soon!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Dining Room Tables

Scroll back to" The Dining Room Before" if you want to see the original, raw state of the dining room. It's looking a bit better now, I think. But I still have lots of plans for it! Like the free piano I have yet to haul in, paint black, plant in the dining room, and devise ways to fascilitate secondary use of as a serving buffet. And some creative lighting. Oh, and Mark sold 4 of my chairs with an RV so I have to get more chairs (no, HE DOES!). Anyway, let me tell you about the dining table!

Tables are actually pretty easy to come by. I have passed up several including one very nice pedestal table that I didn't get back with the truck in time to snag! They're also pretty easy to create: doors can be great table tops, a tablecloth can hide an improvised tabletop. And I've always wanted to build a vintage-looking farm table out of old, chippy, white boards. I'll do that one of these days! And I'll tell you about it when I do!  I was planning to build one for this house until I came upon this table in the parking lot at the thrift store one day.

It just has SO much character!  I say it's 100 years old.  I don't know but I know it's OLD!  I also say that great grandpa built it out of boards from the wagon from the land run (this part of Oklahoma was founded with the running of the Cherokee Strip Land Run on September 16, 1893.  Mark and I both had great grandparents who ran in the land run -- wouldn't it be cool if there were some family connection to THIS table over the decades?).  It really COULD be that old.  If I were selling it in a flea market I'd start at $400-600.  When I found it at the thrift store it didn't have a price on it.  They said "$30".  I said "SOLD!".  And then the supervisor came along and raised the price to $50 (because it is clearly a find) which I gladly paid (with only a small wince at the big ding in my FreeSourceFull budget).

By the way, below is a Pottery Barn table that is very similar.  It is priced at $1500!

The chairs came one at a time from curbside.  Windsor-back dining chairs are plentiful.  Often they need a little wood glue or a screw for reinforcement but they are easy to find.  So I found four of those.  And two other vintage dining chairs.  And painted them all black for uniformity.  After this photo was taken (at Christmas -- BTW, the free, dumpster Christmas tree is gorgeous, high-quality, pre-lit, and would have cost $250 to $300 if I'd bought it at Lowe's!) I found two more chairs and had seating for eight -- both of us plus all five of our children plus a friend! 

My favorite story about the chairs:  Mark met one of the neighbors before I did and, when Mark mentioned me, the neighbor said, "Oh, I know who your wife is!  She's the one who was spray painting chairs in the front yard at 1 a.m.!"  Guilty. 

The office chair seen peeking into the photo at right is awaiting it's transformation.  One day it will be metallic chrome with a black and white toile fabric seat.  That wall is where the piano will go.

Another wonderful old dining table belongs to my friend John.  It was free!  He likes to photograph old abandoned farm houses.  One day, as he was prowling around taking pictures, one of the neighbors stopped by.  John told him not to worry, that he was just taking pictures.  As the two chatted, John told the man that he was worried about this wonderful old table because the ceiling was about to come in on it and it would be ruined by rain in no time at all after surviving all these decades.  The neighbor told him he should take it, helped him load it up, and said he would explain to the owner of the property if anyone ever had an issue about it. 

I think it has wonderful patina! That's Lacey the Great Pyrenees underneath, by the way! And DO admire part of John's mug collection in the background! I hated mugs with a passion until John's eye for them gave me a new appreciation. He favors vintage diner mugs and others with obvious history. That "persimmon" orange Fiesta one on the left side was a gift from ME!
Back in MY dining room:. The shelves along the dining room wall are old shutter bi-fold doors that I hung on L-brackets.  I saw them on the curb and screeched on the brakes.  They're great because they're very narrow and, therefore, not too imposing. 

Other dining room stuff:  Mark found the curtain in the doorway to the kitchen in a dumpster.  It ties in with the butternut dining room and the green tones in the dining room and the living room (which you haven't seen yet!).  The vintage-looking lace window scarf was $1.96 at the thrift store. 

The green Haegar vases on the dining table were $2, $2.99, and $.99 at the thrift store.  I've collected white matte-finish Haegar vases for years.  I always hated the green.  But so do lots of other people so the green is cheap!  Because it's in my price range and because I saw it used to perfection in a magazine (see below), I decided to give it another chance.  And I have come to love it!  Expect more pieces to come!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Free Money!

Here are a couple of examples of free stuff that I've sold to earn the little smidge of money that's in the FreeSourceFull budget. This money is for supplies and thrift store purchases. Supplies are things like paint, paint brushes, a new belt for the free vaccuum cleaner, stuff like that. Thrift store purchases are most often fabric. I try to shop the 25 cent section at the thrift stores as much as possible but every once in a great while I'll splurge on a $17 set of china or a $4 sewing machine or, my biggest splurge of all, a 100-year-old dining table for $50 (that I almost got for $30 - darn it!). See post to come.

This antique bed is just gorgeous. I found it with the junk behind the furniture store. One of our local furniture stores delivers and will remove your old mattress, sofa, chair, table, etc. for free. They dump the old stuff in a pile behind the store and let us vultures pick through it. That way, when they haul the residual off to the dump every couple of months, there is just the bare minimum, the true dregs, to dispose of. The only thing wrong with the bed was a broken connection between one of the rails and the footboard. A $2 brace from Lowe's would easily fix it. In a flea market, I would price this bed at $150. Price on the corner: $75.

This kitchen table has a fun story. My neighbors had a dumpster in front of their house while they were doing some improvements on their house. One day I saw one leg and the corner of a tabletop sticking out of the debris. I wasn't at all sure the table was complete or in good condition. I waited until my neighbors were gone and climbed in. It took me over an hour to dig it out. In the process, a couple were were neighbors (that I didn't know previously) wandered by and started asking me questions. He ended up climbing into the dumpster with me and helping me dig for the fourth table leg (that we weren't sure would be there in the first place). She cheered from the sidelines. In the end, I had a table with FOUR legs and we all had a bonding experience!

So, that's how $105.00 came about in the FreeSourceFull budget/game!

I have boxes of stuff that I culled from dumpsters and curbside all ready to sell at an upcoming garage sale. I'm hoping to make $200 so I can put slate tiles on the floor of the enclosed front porch. That's the plan! The last garage sale I had was small but I made $55 selling free stuff at that one!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Evolution of the Stove

Let's just admit it. This stove is UGLY! (I use that word alot on this blog, don't I?) Ok, so it's a little retro kitchy but not very. It's mainly just ugly. This kitchen is dim and dingy and depressing and dated and dinky and certainly not the least bit appetizing!

And the wall paper isn't doing the stove or anything else in the room any favors. I understand it's cheerful intent. But I just plain hate it.
Below is an ugly mid-stage of the kitchen that's not much better. I took the cabinet doors off and really like the open shelving but it's a long way from finished. The dumpster anemone lamp is purely for light, I assure you. It has already moved on to other seas!

I found four pieces of corrogated tin beside the dumpster at the mini storage and asked the manager if they were for a project or up for grabs. He almost begged me to take them! It wasn't fun to cut them to size but I LOVE the way they look behind the stove! Now, if I can only remember to secure them a little better so they wall paper doesn't peak through! But I think things are finally starting to come together and the stove wall is looking MUCH better! Sorry I don't have a better, more-expansive picture but I'll add one in when I can!

I also love this little still-life! On the stove are some small dumpster items that I gathered together: a glass luncheon plate (once a staple in ladies' world that no one ever uses anymore -- in my hometown, chicken potato chip salad was the most likely topper!) , a glass sugar bowl, metal salt and pepper shakers, a glass vinegar bottle, another glass bottle, and a milk glass container the perfect size for toothpicks. I LOVE this little gathering. I always recommend coralling small items on a tray of some sort. It just looks exponentially BETTER! It transforms "clutter" into "still-life"! And here it can hold useful cooking supplies like salt, pepper, vinegar, olive oil, sugar, and toothpicks.

The "2" and "3" seem to be cake pans or molds or cake cutters or something along those lines. I paid $2.99 each for them (which is a lot out of the freesourcefull budget) because numbers and letters are just good graphically.

Stay tuned. I have LOTS more plans for the kitchen! And you've only seen one wall!

Free Dishes!

My great idea to find everything for this house for FREE has some drawbacks. I knew from the beginning that certain things would not be easy to come by.

I was wrong about some things: tools, tape, scissors, extensions cords, surprisingly, have been plentiful!

Dishes, glasses, and silverware have proven to be as difficult as I expected. We've been getting by on 8 plastic plates that I really hate and a bunch of mismatched dumpster glasses.

So, you can image my delight when I saw on the curb one day a box proudly proclaiming "FREE DISHES" scrawled in marker across it's side! And you can probably also imagine my trepidation! What kind of dishes? How many? How mismatched? How chipped and cracked? How UGLY?

Much to our delight, the box contained good quanties of matching plates and mugs in good condition in a pattern that we really LIKE (an atomic pattern called "Cathay" made by Taylor-Smith and Taylor circa late 1060's to mid 1970's, to be exact)! Kinda retro hip but fun and in good colors.

There were 14 plates and 10 mugs so we can have lots of people over as long as we are careful not to serve anything requiring soup bowls or salad plates.

And we get the additional fun of getting to look for more pieces (alas, probably in thrift stores where you actually have to PAY for stuff, but fun nonetheless)!

Coincidentally, the free dishes coordinate with and were made by the same company as our "Anniversary China" that Mark gave me for our second anniversary last month. I adore them and we found the whole set (service for 8-11 depending on the piece - there ARE 8 plates even through it only looks like 6) for $17! It will also be a great victory to find additional pieces and serving pieces for this set as we prowl thrift stores and dumpsters in the future. I already had a sugar bowl and three saucers in this pattern ("Heritage Green") that came from dumpsters so I know they're out there!

And Mark found a set of my very favorite glasses (that have used for YEARS at home in Fayetteville) at a garage sale and paid 10 cents each for them (9 for 90 cents!). Then I found the tenth one in a dumpster! Hooray! Ten matching glasses for under a dollar! And I love having so many that MATCH!

And then there's silverware. I DO have a set of real wedding-type silverware in a wooden case and everything that I did find for free in the back of a cabinet of a house I was cleaning out. But they don't really count because I DID own the house, the silverware WAS left by my renters, and, even through I evicted them and they owe me thousands of dollars, I don't have the heart NOT to return their wedding silver (even through they are divorced and he's in prison -- long, sad story).
So... it will be fun to get to tell you how it happened when I finally find a set of free silverware!

Bon Appetit!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Pressure Washers

At the top of the list of "Things That Are Unlikely To Be Found In A Dumpster" (and I HAVE thought this through in advance) is a pressure washer.

So, guess what I found not actually IN a dumpster but sitting quietly beside one (which counts!)? You guessed it! A pressure washer! Husky brand. In a zippy shade of red! All shiny and beautiful. 1800psi and everything! Retail value: around $200.

The power cord had been cut at the plug end so I leapt onto the presumption that this was the only problem with it and took it home.

I stole a plug from my ex-husband (though I DO have one that come out of a dumpster but it wasn't handy at that moment and I was impatient), wrestled with the rewiring for awhile (it put up a small fight), plugged it in, pushed the ON button, and WHIRRRRRRRR! What a satisfying sound! IT WORKS!

So I pressure washed the universe this weekend! For FREE!