Acts of Salvage explores what the contemporary city compels us to cling to or discard.

Acts of Salvage is curated by Amy Lavender Harris, Geographer, Torontonian, dumpster diver and author of Imagining Toronto (Mansfield Press, 2010), which was shortlisted for the Gabrielle Roy Prize in Canadian literary criticism and won the 2011 Heritage Toronto Award of Merit.

alharris [at] gmail [dot] com.

Pink Passion

PyrexpinkButterprint_1000pxI almost didn’t buy this casserole dish. Pink’s not my colour, and as mentioned in an earlier post, I’m not really all that fond of Butterprint either. But buy it I did, thinking it would be nice to bring out at Valentine’s Day, and save for my pink-loving little girl to have when she grows up.

Glad I did: it turns out this is a somewhat hard-to-find dish, and seems reliably to sell online (at least recently) in the $40+ range. It’s a pink Butterprint 473 1 quart casserole — the perfect size for a side dish. Think I’ll tuck this one inside my 400-series pink mixing bowls.

variousfinds_1_18Oct2013_1000pxThese other pieces represent the bulk of my finds this week. Five wheat-themed drinking glasses which are marked “D” but match the Libby pitcher I picked up during the summer and use every day. A Butterfly Gold 441 I’m going to take across the street as soon as I finish this post. A Verde divided dish in a style I’ve seen occasionally but never bought because the condition was poor or the price too high. A beautiful serving platter printed with blowing leaves (marked “Duraline” / Super Vitrified / Grindley Hotelware co. / England / 6-69). And the aforementioned pink Butterprint casserole dish.

NativitySetmusicalJapan_1_18Oct2013_1000pxMy favourite find of the week, though, is this made in Japan nativity set, which I found in its original box this afternoon at the local Goodwill. It’s rather large: the standing Kings are about eight inches tall, and the creche is a foot tall and nearly 20 inches wide. The pieces are made of plaster, I think, or possibly papier mache, and appear to be hand-painted. I’d guess this set is from the seventies. Mine has the remnants of a price tag from Eaton’s, that once-venerable but now almost forgotten Canadian retail establishment.

The best thing about this set is that it’s musical, and plays “Silent Night.” I didn’t at all expect it to work, but it does perfectly — mainly because it’s a simple metal wind-up music box attached to the side of the creche. Another advantage of vintage objects that don’t have clumsily soldered wires that break or broken battery cases with evidence of long-ago chemical leaks.

Despite my Protestant upbringing and our family’s non-religious approach to Christmas, I love nativity sets. I have two smaller ones, and several sets of vintage creche figures, which my husband tolerates, probably because they usually end up as decorative backdrops to holiday cookies. I myself am ambivalent about the alleged divinity of Christ, and have never been much of a worshiper of Mary, but to me nativity scenes also symbolize in a more general way the miracle of birth, the omnipresence of the divine (however one defines it), the human proximity to nature, and our collective duty toward charity. In this way it seems to me they can be somewhat ecumenical. And at the very least, they are sweet seasonal playthings for children, and useful teaching tools –regardless of one’s orientation toward faith.

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Fall Forward

I’ve been shifting gears lately, propelled toward new projects by the sense of something turning, something pulling me along. Perhaps it’s the season: things accelerate, change, end, begin. The Imagining Toronto project began in the fall, almost (almost) as if by accident: events converged, and there it was, conceived as clearly as if it had been waiting for someone to notice and engage with it.

While plugging away at Acts of Salvage, another story — or more precisely a set of ideas — has begun to make itself manifest. For the moment I am sitting on that set of ideas, letting it percolate and produce steam. Perhaps in the winter there will be time to develop it into its formal form. It’s an urban project, of course; on a subject I’ve written about before: the curious relationships people in cities have with wildlife. Animals, of course, including raccoons and pigeons, but also wasps and bees and weeds and coyotes and trees. I’ve begun outlining, and talking to a few people, and made a few tentative stabs toward writing. And it feels good. It feels … proper. It feels like the natural next step. And so. And so I have begun walking down the long road to writing another book.

What does this mean for Acts of Salvage, which I’ve already promised to a publisher who will, if it works well enough, presumably put into print? Lately I have begun to see them as parallel projects, ideas spinning around similar orbits. There’s a fourth book, too, one I do not yet feel ready to write. But I trust in the ideas. I trust they will wait.


We’ve been inordinately busy since the beginning of term. Between us we’re teaching four days of the week: a challenge given our other business responsibilities and the daily need to shepherd our daughter to kindergarten and home again less than three hours later. But there has still been time for thrifting, if only in rushed visits to Value Village on the ride downtown.

PureHoney_1_12Oct2013_1000pxThis tin honey canister didn’t come from Value Village. It’s actually from A Changing Nest, a home furnishings and antiques store that opened up on Annette Street a couple of years ago. I’ve stopped in occasionally but never seen anything that really grabbed me (and/or was within my thrift-store budget) until this past week, when this canister called to me from atop an artfully arranged stack of whitewashed suitcases.

I’m not sure how old it is; perhaps from the fifties, or perhaps the late forties. I love, love, love the orange colour and the bright graphics, and especially the little bees. My impression is that the design, which is painted (or maybe lithographed?) on the can, was one of a dozen or so common honey tin designs that various apiaries could customize for their purposes. Here, for example (via, is an illustrated 1920s catalogue of honey labels.

This canister, which comes with its original lid, is probably going to displace some Pyrex on the shelf over my kitchen sink. It’s also an apt accompaniment to something I’ve begun writing about urban bees.

vintagefinds_1_12Oct2013_1000pxShown at right are some things I’ve picked up in the past week. The two old sealer jars came from a garage sale just yesterday morning. They’re marked Perfect Seal / Wide Mouth Adjustable / Made in Canada. On the bottom are embossed the letters SDM within a diamond. I have no idea how old they are, but suspect they pre-date my glass-topped Crown sealers with the screw-on lids (and those date to the twenties and thirties).

Beside them is a green glass pitcher I passed over twice at Value Village this week because it appeared to be (dishwasher?) etched at its neck and spout. On the third visit it glowed under the fluorescent lights and I bought it despite this apparent shortcoming. Before going to bed I set it in a sink filled with hot, soapy water, and on Saturday morning it emerged perfectly clean, its beautiful glass unmarred. I’m guessing now that what had looked like etching was actually a thick skin of accumulated kitchen grime.

At left are two Swanky Swigs I picked up at the Junction Flea on Saturday morning. Both have animals embossed on them: a cat with kitten, an elephant and calf, duck and duckling, and rabbit and kit. Very sweet. I got these for my daughter, who didn’t see me put them in the wagon and received them as a surprise when we returned home.

The Spring Blossom 441 is an unexpected find. It’s in near-mint condition and is the first example of this pattern I recall seeing in the wild. I’ve thought I preferred the other (later?) version of this pattern, but this is a very pretty bowl in person.

The Made in Japan lotus bowl brings my decade-long collection of such bowls to about twenty. I see them fairly often, but almost always the flower points are chipped. I (of course) like the avocado green of this one. And the little owl toothpick holder was something I could not resist. There’s a charming little mushroom also, on the outside of the bowl.

The tray holding these treasures was a Value Village find. It’s older, and made of thick tin. The flowered pattern is in very good shape, and I was attracted to the green edging. I’d love to find another one or three, to use as outdoor lunch trays next summer.

SnowflakeGarlandbutterdish_1_12Oct2013_1000pxSnowflake Garland is not my favourite Pyrex pattern, but I’ve never seen this style of butter dish in the wild and couldn’t pass it up. It’s nestled with my 401-403 Snowflake Garland bowls at the moment, which I haven’t decided whether to keep or pass on.

Ditto my Butterprint 401-403 set. I like the white-on-blue theme of the cinderella bowls, but the blue-on-white pieces leave me a bit cold. [Except Horizon Blue, which I really like -- maybe because it's a more substantial pattern, faintly Byzantine, a perversely filigreed yet modernist design.]

Anyone local want to trade? I’d be happy to pass on my Butterprint 401-403s and/or Snowflake Garland dishes for something a bit better suited to my decor. [Or for Christmas-themed dishes/bowls: I'd love to have that red Christmasy 404, or that poinsettia-printed 045, or a golden pine (think that's what it's called) space saver, and could trade the above dishes or sweeten the pot with my spare Balloons 441 ...]

HazelAtlaspunchset_1_30Sept2013_1000pxSpeaking of Christmas, I bought this Christmas-themed Hazel Atlas punch bowl set online about a month ago, and just love it, mainly because it evokes holiday cheer without shouting it, like the Tom & Jerry punch bowl I bought last winter.

Not sure what will go in it: I’m ambivalent about egg nog — so much so that when Peter buys a litre of it at the No Frills, as he does every December, I try a taste before remembering how horrid it is, and recoiling every time someone opens the fridge for the next week. Something about raw egg. Not really into making alcohol-based punch either with a curious kid around, although a bit of Baileys might go a long way.

Pyrexmiscfinds_1_30Sept2013_1000pxShown at left is some Pyrex, Fire King, etc. I’ve picked up recently. The Golden Acorn is a duplicate, but it’s a pattern I love. Now that I actually bake, I might fill it with cookies and make a gift of it.

The Town & Country is a duplicate, but I like the pattern and find the 045 2 1/2 quart size ideal for roasting things in the oven. This casserole has become a utility dish, one I can use every day without worrying so much about it developing a baked-on patina.

The Fire King mug looked slightly dishwasher-damaged when I bought it (for 49 cents), but it scrubbed up brightly, though — I’m guessing dishwashers (I’ve never had or used one and therefore cannot speak from experience) sometimes leave a residue instead of removing the pattern.

The tiny custard dish is in the Blue Heaven / Fire King pattern. I’ve passed this pattern up occasionally, although with subsequent regret, as the pattern has grown on me. The turquoise-printed oval serving plates are marked Vandesca — they were made in 1965 by the Canadian subsidiary of American-based Syracuse China.

Not shown: a beautiful sage green Medallion 443 I picked up via Cragislist (a duplicate, but both bowls are almost always filled with fruit), alongside another Snowflake divided dish, an Autumn Harvest 401, and a sage green Heinz promotional, which makes an excellent utilitarian dish for things like beans and asparagus.

owlfallcandleset_1_30Seot2013_1000pxThis owl candle holder is not at all vintage — it’s originally from Pier 1 or Pottery Barn or some such similar place — but was too cute to pass up at Value Village. It’s become part of my Thanksgiving / Hallowe’en tableware, along with some little deer salt-and-pepper shakers I picked up at a garage sale and the gourd-covered cake stand shown in the background at right.

We’ll get a chance to really enjoy it this evening, because of course it’s Canadian Thanksgiving today/tomorrow. As much as I vicariously enjoy the excess of American Thanksgiving, I think I prefer the more relaxed (and earlier) form of the holiday in Canada. We’ve had such a gentle fall here in Toronto — lovely, mild sunny days, leaves gently drifting to the sidewalks — that it’s just nice to have the doors and windows open while we overeat.

vintagefinds_1_24Sept2013_1000pxBrowsing through photo folders, I’ve just noticed this collection of vintage finds from September. The lidded Butterfly Gold casserole (043, I think) was a gift for my Pyrex-loving neighbour. It was in new condition and cheap. The Friendship and Barbed Wire dishes both await lids, and possibly new homes. The four turquoise-y fern glasses are just beautiful. Don’t know if they’re old — can’t remember if they are stamped ‘D’ on the bottom — but they go so beautifully with the little hoard of turquoise dishes I’ve amassed in the downstairs kitchen.

vintagesuitcase_1_19Sept2013_1000pxAbout a month ago I noticed this beautiful green vintage suitcase at the local Goodwill. It happened to be sale day on luggage and similar things, and so I bought it for about four dollars. I just love it — the colour, the design, the interior. This isn’t going to be used for storage: I’m going to actually use it as a suitcase for road-trips, as a replacement (or addition) to the soft-sided Gap weekender bag I’ve been using for the last fifteen years.

vintagesuitcase_2_19Sept2013_1000pxHere’s what the interior looks like: beautiful. The elastic is stretchy, the satin-y lining is in great shape, and all the straps have their little buckles. I have no idea how to date suitcases, but am guessing from the colour and shape this one is of fifties or early sixties vintage.

Now I need only to find a beautiful green shoulder bag large enough to take on trips. Value Village, are you listening?

vintagefinds_1_19Sept2013_1000pxOops: more miscellaneous vintage finds, this time from mid-September or perhaps a little earlier. A green vase, a green art glass dish, four wonderful green goblets, a pink chip-and-dip set I’m probably going to pass on as a gift, a Town and Country casserole dish I think I might have mentioned in an earlier post — went back and got it a week later — and a Federal bowl printed with images from Johnny Hart’s ‘BC Comics,’ a series syndicated in the 1970s. I believe these bowls (there was also a larger serving bowl) were gas station promotions from 1973 or so.

Hmm. I see I have some more images of a few more finds, but think I’ll save them for a future post. Have a full day of holiday cooking ahead. Thanks for reading, and happy Thanksgiving to the Canadians among us!

[Connecting with Sir Thrift-a-Lot's Thriftasaurus link-up.]

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Autumn Harvest

AutumnHarvestcasserole_1_15Sept2013_1000pxAutumn Harvest is, of course, the name of a well-known vintage Pyrex design, an example of which is shown in the image at right. This beautiful casserole dish, a duplicate but one of my favourites (475-B / 2.5 quart), showed up at the thrift store this week priced at six dollars (with lid!), and I couldn’t shove it into my bag fast enough.

Autumn harvest also describes my mood during these crisp September days. I love the promise of spring and the fullness of summer, but there is something about fall — that sense of gathering, maybe — that makes it my favourite season.

I’m not Jewish, and have pretty much given up introducing my daughter to the formal aspects of her Atheist-Israeli father’s cultural heritage, but I love Rosh Hashana for other reasons. Among other things, the Jewish New Year celebrates the anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve with the sounding of horns (the beautiful shofar) and the eating of sweet fruits, especially apples and honey. One of the things I admire about Judaism, at least as I understand it, is that it has a sense of humour and … perspective … largely lacking in Christianity.

Take the story of Adam and Eve, for example. In Christianity we lament Eve’s eating of the apple and the consequent fall from Grace. Women’s suffering during childbirth (well; not mine: I had the best emergency C-section evar…!) is seen as one necessary kind of contrition, as are various other forms of purgation and penitence.

At the same time, Eve’s eating of the apple also symbolizes an opening to awareness. It is a transcendent moment in which the human capacity for thought first took shape and began to flower. And if choice and consequence have their down-side, I cannot help but think that it would have been a very boring Creation had a serpent never appeared with that fateful apple. In short; Einstein was wrong: God does play dice with the universe. And thank, er, God that He does.

In first year undergrad I encountered this anonymous fifteenth century lyric in the now greatly dog-eared Norton Anthology of Poetry I still keep beside my desk:

Adam lay-i-bounden, bounden in a bond;
Foure thousand winter thought he not too long.
And all was for an apple, an apple that he took,
As clerkes finden written in theire book.

Ne hadde the apple take been, the apple taken been,
Ne hadde never our Lady aye been Heaven’s queen.
Blessed be the time that apple taken was,
Therefore we may singen, “Deo gratias.”

Overtly Catholic, it suggests we should celebrate the Fall because it led to the birth of Christ (and the annointing of his mother Mary as “Our Lady”) as well as our ability to be grateful to God for creation.

But there’s a sly subtext to this poem — which I have always read as a paean to knowledge for its own sake — that makes me think it could easily have been written by a fifteenth century Jew with a subtle sense of humour.

[I do hope I haven't offended anybody of any (or no) faith, and apologise sincerely if I have done so.]


SnowflakePyrex_1_14Sept2013_1000pxMoving forward a season, I came across two of these Snowflake Blue / Snowflake Garland bowls this week. I’ve had the 401 for many years and, really, have never been especially fond of it. It has simply sat in a stack of Primary Blue and Delphite 401s, coming out occasionally to have eggs whisked in it.

And then this week I spied the blue-on-white 402 for cheap, and picked it up somewhat ambivalently. I wasn’t sure whether it was worth making room for another bowl in a pattern I don’t especially care for.

Good thing I did, because two days later the 403 showed up, and I grabbed that, too, making a stack I’m far less ambivalent about. I like them together: there’s a certain elegance to them. And worst case scenario, they’ll make a lovely Christmas present for someone needing a bit of Pyrex in their life.


Pyrexfinds_1_14Sept2013_1000pxI passed on most of the other Pyrex I saw this week (including one small Town & Country casserole I now kind of regret leaving), but did pick up the pieces shown here at right: a Woodland 404 that will be a surprise gift for a newly Pyrex-loving neighbour who collects Woodland), a slightly dishwasher-damaged Fire King cereal bowl I couldn’t resist, a Town & Country 444 cinderella bowl (a duplicate, but I put my 444s to daily use and am happy to have a back-up), the Autumn Harvest casserole discussed above, and the beautiful sunset-hued 403 shown atop it. This last bowl is sometimes described as “Flame Glow,” but I have no idea what its formal name is called. My mother has a set of three (401, 402 and 403), and I’m happy to add this to my other autumn-themed bowls and baking dishes.


JunctionFleafinds_1_8Sept2013_1000pxAt the Junction Flea last weekend, I bought the gorgeous ‘Cakes’ tin pictured at left, alongside another Fire King Jadeite mixing bowl and a copy of The Male Mystique.

The ‘Cakes’ tin was made by Tala (UK) reportedly in the 1940s (my guess is a little later, given how deeply rationed metals were during the War, but it could be of late-forties vintage). I just love everything about it — the weathered lid, the separated tiers, the colour — and find it fits perfectly in my upstairs kitchen. While doing some research online I learned that the tin originally had three sections — and, um, found myself buying another, complete one, which  I may combine with this one to create a five-tier cake tin.

The Male Mystique: Men’s Magazine Ads of the 1960s and ’70s (Jacques Boyreau / the always-engaging Chronicle Books / 2004) is a fascinating, appalling compilation of testosterone-laced imagery responding (or so it seems, by the repeated references to ‘women’s libbers’) to social changes in the post-War period. Ironically, of course, much of this uber-masculinity is undone by the jump-suits and porn-staches. It’s an amazing document.


seashelljewelbox_1_13Sept2013_1000pxPicked up this amazing shell-covered jewellery music box at the local Goodwill for $3.03. It was meant to be a Christmas present for my little daughter but, as you can see from the image at right, she discovered it before I remembered to hide it away.

The box was made by Reuge (a well-known maker of music boxes and mechanical musical movements for other pieces), probably in the 1970s. Three shells have come off, but two are in the box and the other (a cowrie) is probably replaceable. It’s a beautiful piece in perfect working condition, although the shells will need some gluing and a delicate going-over with a damp cloth. It plays a movement from Strauss’ ‘Die Fledermaus.’


The Barnbook_1_14Sept2013_1000pxI’ve wanted a copy of Eric Arthur and Dudley Witney’s  The Barn: A Vanishing Landmark in North America (McLelland and Stewart, 1972) for many years, but have never found it in the right condition at the right price.

The copy shown at left is wrapped in mylar and cost only $2. Score. It’s a beautiful book, produced in the era of gorgeous and thoughtful coffee table books, and is richly illustrated with images of barns, farming practices and architectural embellishments. SO happy to add this to my library.

Eric Arthur (1989-1982) is well known in Canada as an architecture writer and professor whose book Toronto: No Mean City (1964) is reissued every decade or so to new generations of urbanists and architects. That he also wrote so meaningfully about rural culture and architecture is testament to the breadth of his intellect.


tablecloth_1_15Sept2013_1000pxI suppose I’ll end with an image of the beautiful green-and-turquoise cotton tablecloth I picked up this week. It was terribly stained when I brought it home, but a soak in an oxygen-activated cleaner and a good wash has left it nearly stain-free. I’ll try another soak, a wash and an afternoon in the sun. It measures about four feet square, and would probably once have made a very lovely bridge table cover.

[Also: hello literary folk who have begun checking in. Yes, this is me when I'm not writing. Since most of these posts amount to book research, I've wondered if my Pyrex purchases count as business expenses. Sadly, my accountant will not allow it.]

[Also 2: Connecting with Sir Thrift-a-Lot's Thriftasaurus Link-up.]

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Farewell Friendship


Friendship is one Pyrex design I really like but cannot house easily, as it does not coordinate well with my avocado-orange-and-yellow-themed kitchen (neither does all the turquoise I’ve got in the downstairs kitchen, nor the pink 400-series mixing bowls lurking in the cupboard, but that’s another post).

A few weeks ago, while planning my great Pyrex purge, I thought of adding my Friendship pieces to the garage sale pile, but at the last minute pulled the cinderella bowls pictured above. I did end up selling two Friendship casserole dishes and two red fridgies that might have been from either the Friendship or Primary set, but the rest of my Friendship pieces remained inside.

It’s a good thing, because my friend Kerry Clare, who co-coordinates well-known online Canadian book resource the 49th Shelf,  blogs at Pickle Me This, writes, reviews and does all nature of other literary things, has a beautiful red Kitchen-Aid mixer, a red toaster, and a general affection for the colour red. If anyone deserves my Friendship cinderella bowls (and friendship more generally), it is Kerry — whose kitchen is a far better home for the set than mine was.

I didn’t give Kerry all my Friendship, though: I’ve kept two 401s and a 403 from the nesting bowl set, as well as two lidded casserole dishes, a definitely-Friendship fridgie dish and a divided dish. I still like the pattern quite a lot, and would like to retain a few pieces for Valentine’s Day baking. But other than that, it’s nice to know any other Friendship pieces I find at local thrift stores will have a happy home in Kerry’s kitchen.


PyrexWoodland_1_6Sept2013_1000pxPyrex seems to remain a recurring theme in my life: the other day (on my way downtown with Kerry’s Friendship bowls, in fact), I couldn’t help stopping in at Value Village, where I found the Woodland 404 bowl to complete the set shown here.

Woodland is an oddly under-appreciated Pyrex pattern, given that the stylized leaves in the design are among the company’s very best. Perhaps it’s the brown and beige that put people off — although to me they signal cocoa and brown sugar, two staples of winter baking.

The Woodland 400-series bowls are another rescue from my garage sale pile; like the Friendship cinderella bowls, they resonated strongly enough to make it back to the ‘keep’ pile. I’m really glad they did, because I love them. It’s so nice to see the whole set together.

Pyrextomatosiennabowls_1_6Sept2013_1000pxAt the same pit stop, I also picked up these two nesting bowls: one a tomato red 401 that is a perfect or near-perfect match to the Autumn Harvest dishes, and a burnt umber 402 that seems to coordinate with it. They seem to be from the same set, as both showed up together and are in the same (new or nearly new) condition. I haven’t the faintest idea what set that is, although I’d love to know. Any Pyrex folks have an idea?

Not having a set to associate these with, I’ve matched them up with my Verde 400-series bowls (of which, at present, I have only the 401 and 403). They all work together as if they were made to do so, and although I’m not much into fall decorating (apart from twine-bound ears of Indian corn that the raccoons inevitably tear off the front door), I can totally see the tomato, burnt umber and verde bowls lined up on the front steps, filled with ant-attracting gourds.

[Not shown: another Autumn Harvest 403, Autumn Harvest being the one pattern, other than Verde, of which I cannot ever get enough.]

GardensOldandNew_2_6Sept2013_1000pxI grew up reading Country Life magazine, which meant I had no trouble recognising the layout, artwork and writing style of Gardens Old and New: The Country House & Its Garden Environment when I saw it at the downtown Salvation Army store.

Published about 1900 before eventually spawning two further volumes in about 1908 and 1916, Gardens Old and New explores the late-Victorian gardens of several dozen British estates. It’s a beautiful period piece, and I bought it out of nostalgia when the store staff, who initially priced the book at ten dollars, told me I could have it for five.

Good thing, too, because the book is priced online at upwards of $400 — far too rich for my tastes, even out of nostalgia for the oh-so-English style of Country Life.

FederalCircus_1_6Sept2013_1000pxThese Federal ‘circus’ bowls were one indulgence paid for out of my Pyrex garage sale proceeds (more such indulgences in a future post or two). I’ve liked the Circus set ever since seeing it pictured on Sir Thrift-a-Lot‘s blog, but have never seen any of the bowls ‘in the wild.’

Fortunately, living in Canada is for once an advantage when shopping online, because nearly all the Federal ‘circus’ bowls I’ve seen for sale are listed in Canada (did Federal Glass market or otherwise distribute them primarily in Canada and, if so, to what promotion or product were they attached?), which makes both price and shipping much more reasonable. I bought these bowls from three different vendors, and am just delighted to have them. My favourite is, of course, the clown riding a bicycle.

vintagesuitcases_1_6Sept2013_1000pxI simply could not pass up these vintage flowered suitcases at Value Village, although I have no pressing use for them. Sure, they might hold scarves, or perhaps replace my daughter’s hideous Hello Kitty rolling case, or store out-of-season clothing, or perform some yet-to-be-determined function, but in all truth I bought them because they are so pretty.

They fit perfectly atop a tall, narrow bookcase that holds jeans, shoes and bags in the bedroom and — aha: will be perfect for holding my growing collection of hats! All three cases are in new condition; two made in Korea; one in Taiwan. I don’t think they were ever used.

greencanisters_1_6Sept2013_1000pxSpeaking of objects for which I have no pre-determined use, here is a lovely set of four seventies-ish plastic canisters I picked up at the Salvation Army.

Also in new or nearly-new condition, they’ve probably spent the past 35 years in a closet. I’m not sure where these are going to see use, and at this point I’m developing a back-log of canisters seeking homes. They do suit my little office, which needs some vintage charm to offset the claustrophobia-inducing qualities of the Imagining Toronto library, which presently fills every square inch of bookshelf space.

Canapeknives_1_7Sept2013_1000pxI have an enduring affection for Little Forks, which are teeny cocktail accessories, most likely from the early sixties.

Early in the summer I was fortunate to find two full sets of twelve forks, which first saw use at my daughter’s Flower Fairy-themed birthday party. And then, just today at the local Goodwill, I saw these two packages of canape knives in that instantly recognisable little box.

They had been cast unceremoniously on the shelf, and I had to scrabble on the floor for a couple of missing knives, but I was happy to rescue them and bring them home, and now they nestle snugly in a drawer beside my treasured Little Forks.

vintagegreenpitcher_1_7Sept2013_1000pxFinal find of the week, also today at the local Goodwill, was this glass sixties-or-seventies green glass pitcher, almost certainly made by Anchor-Hocking. It’s my second such pitcher; the first, also Anchor-Hocking, has a different but complimentary pattern. I’ve seen glasses to match both pitchers, and suppose the next time I see any (if ever — given that vintage objects I’ve seen a hundred times have a tendency to disappear just when I start wanting them) should start picking them up.

My next-door  neighbour, also a vintage hound, loves amber glass and has an impressive collection of glassware, ashtrays, serving bowls and art glass. I like amber glass too, but my real affection is for the green stuff. This pitcher cost only $2.02, which suggests someone in the pricing room was off his game. Which makes up for the six silver plate forks in the display case marked $50.05.

Fondueforks_1_7Sept2013_1000pxOops: one forgotten addition: two stainless steel / made in Japan fondue fork sets. One is long and notable for the metal casing on the handles, imprinted with braille-like dots to distinguish them. The other is a set of teak-handled hors d’oeuvre forks. Also one contemporary fondue cookbook with some very nice recipes in it (a weakness of the old fondue cookbooks — despite their hilarious pictures of porn-mustachioed men in jump suits and peasant-striped women whose long hair is about to contaminate the hand-thrown pottery —  is that the recipes / ingredients are exceedingly banal by contemporary standards).

I cannot, of course, pass up vintage fondue accessories — although I have no plans to add to the five fondue sets already holding down the cupboards on the first floor. I might trade sets if something really beautiful comes along, however. Sometime this winter, at long last, we really are going to host a fondue party.

That’s all for this week. Next week the teaching term starts, and after that point both pickings and posts will be peripatetic. I’ll still do my best to stop in at the various thrift stores arrayed along my ride downtown, however, and am looking forward to whatever the thrift gods cast up.

[Connecting with Sir Thrift-a-Lot's Thriftasaurus Link-up.]

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Oops; I did it again


I’m coming rapidly to the conclusion that Pyrex is governed by some natural rhythm, like tides or cycles of the moon.  Because only days after having sold off so many extraneous pieces, new Pyrex has crept steadily into my life.

Some of these acquisitions were deliberate: on Sunday I put some of the garage sale spoils toward rare pieces I’d love to have but that are not likely to show up on thrift store shelves [stay tuned for pictures in a week or two.]

Others were more serendipitous: a few days after last week’s Pyrex garage sale, a local collector offered me the opportunity to preview some Pyrex she was planning to sell. From images of her vast and wonderful hoard, I picked out two Square Flowers casseroles, and arranged to bike over for a look.


My self-restraint may need some fine-tuning, as I came home with everything pictured here: the aforementioned Square Flowers casserole dishes (the bottom one is a lovely burnt sienna shade I’ve never seen before), an Autumn Harvest 442 cinderella bowl, a Town and Country 2.5 quart casserole (lurking at back left), a black snowflake divided dish, two yellow fridgies (I’m still not all that fond of fridgies and don’t regret selling most of mine on Saturday, but am happy to add these to my little store of yellow and green ones), one Verde ‘pixie’ dish (front left), one yellow Hostess dish with lid (in superb condition!), and a new-in-box set of Autumn Harvest salt-and-pepper shakers (inside the one on the right is a receipt from the Corningware Factory Store in Corning, NY, from 1983).

Each one of these pieces has nestled nicely into its new home, and I’m looking forward to baking something rich and tomato-infused in that burnt-sienna Square Flowers casserole dish. Thank you DLR!



Pyrexpinkbowls_1_31August2013_1000pxFriday morning while out running errands, we stopped in at Value Village. After a quick tour through the kitchenwares produced nothing but JAJ, dishwasher-damaged mixing bowls and one lovely but lidless Horizon Blue casserole dish, we headed for the toys. On the way out we went back for one more quick look, passed a cart bringing out fresh merchandise — and scored these three pink bowls!

They are in near-perfect shape, with only a few tiny scratches among the three bowls. They’re duplicates (I already have the 400 series, including the 404), but were far too nice to pass up, and can go into semi-regular rotation (well, at least around Valentine’s Day) without too much worry about breakage.

Not shown: one lid for a small-sized fridgie dish [I bought both lid and dish, but left the utterly dishwashered dish -- which might once have been red -- at the cash].

greendotcanisters_1_31August2013_1000pxThe week’s other notable score (at a garage sale just this morning) was this set of vintage canisters that match my New Dots Pyrex perfectly. At $2 for the set these were impossible to leave behind. I just love them! [There were other wonderful canister sets and three cinderella bowls, but I managed to show some restraint.]

Next to Pyrex, Federal glass, Fire King, etc. (and hand tools like egg beaters, green-handled mashers, rolling pins, etc.) my favourite kitcheny things are old canister sets. The two sets shown here (the green dots and the mushroom-themed Ransburg canisters) are probably my favourites — although I did some trolling online today and noticed some other sets I’d love to come across.

kitchenshelf_1_31August2013_1000pxShown at left is an updated picture of the shelves over the sink in the second-floor kitchen, showing how well the new canisters match my treasured New Dots set (I’ve given up on displaying them as a stack because it makes the bowls impossible to get down to use).

I love these shelves — built last summer as part of a vintage kitchen project intended to make room for more Pyrex — because they look so cheerful, and because they make me want to put on a frilly flowered apron and bake!


[And one final update:]

TheWhiteDressIngwersenprint_1_31August2013_1000pxStopped in at the local Goodwill to pick up this large print of James Jay Ingwersen’s The White Dress. It’s an arresting painting, at least to me, because the little girl looks so much like my lovely little daughter.

I’ve watched this print at the store for at least a month, not willing to pay the marked price but managing not to stop by whenever artwork was on sale. Today I managed to do so and was so glad to see the print was still there.

It’s not only the girl and her expression that appeal to me; it’s also the shades of green in the painting. We’ve put off seriously decorating our daughter’s room (a former office), partly due to busy schedules, sloth, and uncertainty about what colours to ‘do’ her room in. I wasn’t sure I could manage the pinks and purples that dominate the bedrooms of almost every girl she knows — it would be nice for her to have something she can grow into. This painting provides the answer: pale greens, which she loves, and which will go well with the violets and golds she also loves, and which will also coordinate with the other rooms in the house. Not sure when we’ll get to this final decorating task — but this work sure provides positive impetus!

[Connecting with Sir Thrift-a-Lot's Thriftasaurus Linkup.]

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Clean Sweep

Thanks in part to some passionate Pyrex collectors who helped ensure my Craigslist ad received the widest possible distribution, today’s garage / Pyrex sale was a smashing great success. The, er, hordes descended at nine o’clock, and ten minutes later the tables were half empty and I had a purse full of twenties and tens. By late morning there were only a few pieces left — which will soon return to the thrift store shelves from which they came.

One highlight of the sale was talking Pyrex and the state of publishing with literary friends who wandered over for ten a.m. wine and cupcakes.

Another highlight was knowing I’m not going to miss any of the pieces I sold (about fifty). Well, maybe the Fire King swirl bowls. And the Verde 024. And the Federal red dots. And, well …

… which leads me to mention the consolations of a successful garage sale, which for me include sparer shelves and an indulgent afternoon spent ordering vintage pieces I’d love to have but am unlikely ever to find ‘in the wild.’ There’s not much more Pyrex I crave, so I’m looking forward to ticking off a few final ‘wish list’ items.


mapleleafvintagetablecloth_1_24August2013_1000pxI haven’t been out thrifting all that much lately, but did pick up a few things this past week. First up is this beautiful vintage linen tablecloth garlanded with maple leaves.

I love maple leaves anyway, but this tablecloth’s design makes the leaves appear to bend and twirl in three dimensions — just beautiful. I just love the colours and think it’s a perfect domestic accompaniment to the season. Of the dozen or so vintage tablecloths I’ve bought this year — a bug picked up from the Thrifter Sisters, whose wonderful collections of linens I can only dream of emulating — this one is easily the favourite.

When I bought this tablecloth, it was rather badly stained and I bought it on a gamble, but an hour of soaking in an oxygen-activated stain remover cleaned it up beautifully before a swirl in the washing machine and an afternoon spent hanging in sunlight. Wish this approach worked so well on clothes …

Vintagefinds_1_24August2013_1000pxMy other major find of the week was the large Fire King mixing bowl pictured at right. It’s wide and deep and has a spout, and I guess would hold four quarts. I’ve never seen the pattern before, and assume it was designed to go with a stand mixer. I do not (yet) have a stand mixer, but the bowl is a winner for me because for some time I’ve needed a large splash-proof bowl for use with an egg beater or my electric hand-mixer. If someone has a green vintage stand mixer that can accommodate this bowl, please colour me interested.

Also shown are four Culver glasses with a beautiful tree pattern, four orange citrus-themed glasses, and one gorgeous glass with an Arts and Crafts-ish design on it patterned in gilt-edged flowers and leaves. It’s marked ‘D’ on the bottom — I can’t remember which company used this mark. I’d just love to find more, but haven’t had any luck sourcing them online.

That’s it for this week. Next week I’ll be doing a thrift-run with a neighbour who’s caught the Pyrex bug and who also likes to bike, but after that it’s going to be hit and miss. My little girl starts senior kindergarten in just over a week, and then we start teaching a few days later — and once the university term starts it’s a long endurance race until spring. The good thing is that I’ll still be able to commute by bike, meaning it will hopefully be possible to pass by a couple of thrifts a week on the way downtown. Pity the downtown Goodwill has recently closed, and the Parliament Street Salvation Army is so up and down with its offerings. At least there’s always Value Village!

[Connecting with Sir-Thrift-a-Lot's Thriftasaurus Link-up.]

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Summer Hues in Greens and Blues

Pyrexfinds_1_9August2013_1000pxThere is a long post in my ‘drafts’ folder describing in ever-increasing detail my second-hand finds of the summer, but in the interests of brevity, here are last week’s finds.

As discussed at length in an upcoming post, I’ve reached my semi-annual capacity to accommodate clutter, and am in the process of purging quite a lot of Pyrex. Rather than accumulate pieces wholesale, I’ve decided to focus more surgically on patterns and styles I really like — which tend to be the greens (e.g., Verde, which I love and use everyday) and oranges (especially Autumn Harvest but also Daisy) and some of the blues and turquoises). I actually made this decision many months ago — but had not quite gotten around to sorting out and eliminating the sets that didn’t make the cut.

My decision to downsize in a serious way was motivated by two occurrences.

First, one afternoon last week I was preparing dinner and noted with a certain sadness that the bowl I really wanted to use (I like to coordinate mixing / salad bowls and casseroles with the food they will hold) was essentially inaccessible in a pile of Pyrex, Federal glass and Fire King swirl bowls filling an entire shelf in the kitchen. After a moment of thought, I pulled out all the bowls I have collected for the sake of collecting them, and was left with a perfectly manageable stack of bowls I can access and use easily. I don’t miss the other bowls at all — which are currently piled on a big table in the downstairs kitchen, awaiting their ultimate disposition.

The second factor influencing my decision to downsize was joining two Facebook groups dedicated to the sport of Pyrex collecting. All the gentle collegiality and mutual well-wishing I’ve encountered on Pyrex-focused blogs is largely absent in these groups, whose members brag about ‘hiding’ Pyrex in thrift stores and ‘beating’ other collectors to the punch, and who admit freely to buying every piece of Pyrex they see in order to shut out other would-be collectors. The single-minded avarice took me aback, as did photos showing tables, cabinets and even entire rooms groaning under the weight of Pyrex collections that have achieved unsustainable magnitude. I found myself simultaneously fascinated and repelled at the level of obsession. [To be clear: I love seeing people's well-curated collections, but random excess reminds me why hoarding-related television shoes are so popular on North American television.]

For me, collecting Pyrex has been the natural extension of a longstanding affection for forties-onward kitchen wares. I’ve really enjoyed discovering, in an ad-hoc way, the range of colours and styles available in Pyrex (which I’ve really only collected with any intent for the past year), and have enjoyed imagining how they would have looked and been used in mid-century homes. As someone who grew up in the era of Third Wave feminism, I am curious about domestic life in the pre-Feminine Mystique era, and vintage kitchenwares provide an interesting window into this period.

Unfortunately, these days when I venture into second-hand stores, I am surrounded mainly by pickers and dealers, feverishly attached to smart phones they use to gauge the profitability of the wares on the shelves — or by collector-hoarders snatching at vintage treasures they accumulate but do not appear to enjoy. Even worse is when these categories overlap, with collector-hoarders buying and selling convulsively in a manner that reminds me of nothing so much as addicts seeking their next fix.

It’s not that I see myself as inherently different — it’s hard to resist the pull of Pyrex — but I have come to know my limits.

Many years ago, when I first began accumulating books in a serious way, I had a half-articulated desire to own every published work of Canadian literature. Even beyond that, I had a voracious appetite for scholarly works on environment, Canadian culture, urban affairs and related subjects that saw our collection grow by a thousand volumes a year. When I began to have trouble finding the books I needed for research because they were stacked behind impenetrable stacks of books that spilled out onto floors and tables and chairs, I began downsizing my library. We now probably have no more than about 5,000 books and hopefully fewer — large by many standards but more-or-less within the capacity of our bookshelves (although we do have a closet under the eaves filled with boxes of European and American literature awaiting a bookshelf we have yet to build in). And it is with a perverse pleasure that I go over the shelves periodically, pulling out books to donate or set out in a box: four or five at a time; volumes we’ll never read or no longer have any use for.

I have begun to do essentially the same thing with Pyrex — weed out pieces and patterns I don’t absolutely love in order to keep the cupboards tidy and enjoy the pieces I do use. At the moment, going are Shenandoah, Butterfly Gold and probably Woodland (which I do really like; or at least the dark brown bowls); possibly Forest Fancies (which I like very much, but not as much as some of the other patterns and colours). I’ve even begun eyeing my Friendship bowls / casseroles speculatively, thinking their shelf space could be better used by other pieces.

To be truthful, I will keep some sets I don’t use but bought primarily to pass on to my daughter (chiefly the fifties-era pink and turquoise mixing bowls, which I don’t think will be available by the time she’s an adult). I’ll also keep the Butterprint mixing and cinderella bowls for now, although it’s not a pattern I care for especially).

Which brings me somewhat hypocritically to this past week’s finds, most of which are from the two stores I visited on a single day of thrifting. I wasn’t even looking for Pyrex — although of course I always visit the kitchenwares first thing when I enter a second-hand store [in fairness, these days I leave almost all of it behind]. The sage-coloured Green Scroll 1.5 quart casserole is a dish I’ve wanted for months but never seen at a price I was willing to pay. This one, which lacks its lid, was $3.99 at Value Village. It has one tiny scratch in the paint but is otherwise in immaculate condition, and I am delighted to have it. The same casserole also comes in a larger size, and I’m in the process of tracking one down (also an un-patterned clear lid for the smaller one). It”s such a lovely colour and, as a bonus, coordinates with my small but growing collection of (Fire King) jadeite.

Sitting underneath the Green Scroll is a butter yellow 2.5 quart Golden Classic promotional with a scroll-patterned lid. I wasn’t certain I wanted this casserole until I saw the price: $3.03 — and grabbed it. Surprisingly, it’s the perfect size to hold a meal’s worth of corn-on-the-cob, and it stacks innocuously with my much-loved Golden Acorn lidded dishes.

In front at left is a blue Rainbow Stripes bowl — a pattern I had never before seen ‘in the wild.’ I paid nearly ten dollars for this bowl, but figured it was a bargain even at that price. I have since acquired a pink bowl in the same pattern. I’m not sure if there’s a yellow (there is a beige, about which I say: meh), but if there is, I’d like to find that too.

At rear on the right are two Verde nesting bowls — the 401 and 403. I left a badly dishwasher-damaged 402 behind: presumably it was the part of the set that saw use (the 401 and 403 are pristine). I love Verde, and use it virtually every day — especially the cinderella bowls, which are wonderful for summer salads and pastas.

At front is a jadeite platter that looks like Fire King but is unmarked. I have no idea whether it is ‘old’ or a reproduction, and at $2.52 am not likely to care either way. I’ve seen a couple of identical (and similarly unmarked) platters listed online for very high prices, but I’m not sure mine or theirs are the real ‘Jane Ray.’

Also at front are two lovely Federal bowls with green flowers on them whose presence in my cupboards is owed to Valerie of Vonlipi’s Favourites, who agreed to sell them to me. In the past couple of months I’ve picked up more than a dozen clear Mod Flowers Federal glasses, another cereal bowl (with orange flowers, I think), a punch bowl and the coffee mug shown here. I just love the happy geometry of the flowers, and have put them all into heavy rotation. [Thank you again, Valerie: I just love them!]

Finally, one Fire King cereal bowl, which has joined a stack of similar cereal bowls in a variety of patterns, all which see regular use on a rotating basis.

As for the rest of my collection and the several dozen pieces I’d like to unload, I’m torn between holding a vintage garage sale (something I’d planned earlier in the summer before other commitments intervened) or selling it all locally via Craigslist. Perhaps I’ll try a hybrid strategy: in any event, local Pyrex collectors can look forward to some cheap Pyrex for sale in the near future.


Cornerbookcase_1_5August2013_1000pxIn other news: we found this amazing corner bookshelf at curbside nearly a week ago. It had just been hauled out of a Victorian rowhouse under renovation a couple of blocks away. The house looked so narrow I have a hard time imagining where this piece could possible have fit.

Peter hauled out the roof rack and we brought it home on the car, not certain we even had a place for it, but knowing it was too wonderful to pass up. After considering and rejecting every corner in the house as a potential home, Peter said: “what about replacing the bookcase in the spare bedroom?”

I had loved that bookcase, and felt it suited the space perfectly.

But this was even better.

[The old bookcase -- one of the few pieces of furniture I have ever bought new -- has since found a home behind the door in one of the other bedrooms where it holds jeans, jewellery, and my ever-growing collection of scarves.]

Connecting with Sir-Thrift-a-Lot’s Thriftasaurus Link-up.


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Vintage Goodness

JunctionFleafinds_1_9June2013_1000pxThis past week started at the Junction Flea, where I found the lovely items pictured here: two tall canning jars (one Ball and one Corona), a set of five cute green metal canisters, and the Pyrex Embroidery 443 cinderella bowl.

I have several dozen Crown canning jars, including a couple I’ve had since childhood and still use for cotton balls and the like. Three or four years ago my mother gave me an old wooden crate filled with small and standard-sized Crown jars (many dating to the thirties and including some blue-tinted ones) which I use for rice and other dry goods.

The Ball jar shown here appears to be from 1923-1933; The Corona jar is Canadian. I like them because they are taller than most of my other canning jars, and wish I’d bought the whole lot at the Flea.

The green metal spice-sized jars have mod square-circles on them, and wooden lids. I have no idea where or by whom they were made. I’m guessing they are of late sixties / early seventies vintage. They are a perfect match to the green wooden spice rack I’ve been meaning to hang in the upstairs kitchen for nearly a year.

The Embroidery bowl is reportedly a 1958 promotional, and came originally with a warmer tray and lid in an amazing space-age design.

Vintageamberchipdipset_1_11June2013_1000pxThis new-in-box (including elusive clip!) Anchor Hocking amber glass chip and dip set cost $3.03 at the local Goodwill. Not sure whether to keep it or pass it on to someone as a gift. It’s my third seventies-era chip-and-dip set, after all, and when people come over we tend to serve vegetables on a platter rather than chips — but perhaps it will come out at a garden party. It does have a certain retro je ne sais quoi.

Metalcanisters_1_11June2013_1000pxI bought this set of metal canisters at the local Goodwill at half-price. “What: another canister set?” you ask. The colour suits a number of rooms in our home (the downstairs kitchen, my office and my daughter’s play room to name three — they look like leather on a wooden bookshelf) and I love the type-face on the labels.

I use two canister sets to hold dry goods, but they are also the ideal size to hold office supplies, crayons, small toys and gardening tools and seeds. These ones will probably end up holding my daughter’s large and diverse collection of regular, glitter, fairy and pencil crayons in a bookshelf on the third floor.

FireKingswirlbowlswhite_1_11June2013_1000pxOccasionally I see Fire King swirl bowls at second-hand stores and, after picking them up haphazardly, now have a full (?) set of white ones. I’ve had the two smaller bowls shown here for several months; the largest sat on the shelf at the local Goodwill for a week before I brought it home.

I love the swirl-patterned Fire King bowls and casseroles, and would love to find the rest of the set to accompany the large Jadeite bowl I bought at a garage sale for $3 in the late nineties — the bowl that, indirectly, gave rise to my interest in Pyrex. I did see a Jadeite swirl bowl at the Junction Flea last week, but it was in marginal condition and priced at twenty-five dollars.

Pyrexfinds_1_15June2013_1000pxSome Pyrex this week, although as noted previously I’ve largely completed my wish list (except for a few items unlikely to appear ‘in the wild’) and as a result am no longer collecting it actively. I am actually looking to condense my collection, and since our garage sale plans went out the window (we are simply too busy to organize one, as well as too lazy — Saturdays have become pretty sacrosanct relaxing days in our little universe), I might advertise a few sets on Craigslist.

Two Friendship casseroles which were simply too pretty to leave behind. One is lacking a lid, but since lids show up online regularly, I may simply order a match.

The Butterprint refrigerator dish with lid showed up at the local Goodwill a few days ago. I walked in as a cart rolled out of the processing room and picked this up as it rolled past — disappointing the reseller who had walked in behind me. One of the reasons I no longer frequent the local Goodwill as I used to is because pickers, resellers and dealers camp out in the aisles waiting for carts to roll out of the processing room [they do so at Value Village as well, but perhaps because the space is larger the density seems lower). It's become a tragedy of the commons situation -- a shared resource plundered -- but occasionally due to timing and luck it is possible to pick up treasures.

[I'm not really a fan of Butterprint -- or 'fridgies' either -- but will repurpose the lid on another dish. I should also add that I don't dislike pickers and resellers as a class: just those who camp out and push and grab and follow folks like me around the store, hoping either to intimidate us into giving up our scores or grab them from our carts when our backs are turned -- and yes: I've stopped people from doing this very thing at both the local Goodwill and the Bloor-Lansdowne Value Village.]

I don’t collect Colonial Mist (it elicits in me the same reaction Old Orchard does — a shudder) but couldn’t resist this ‘mint’-condition 401, which I’ve added to my stack of blue Primaries, Delhites, etc.. Ditto the Forest Fancies 441, which now sits atop the two large casseroles I have in this pattern.  [Am currently ambivalent about keeping the Forest Fancies casseroles, which make great utility dishes but cannot compete with the Verde, Friendship, Daisy and Autumn Harvest I love and use much more regularly.]

garagesalescores_1_15June2013_1000pxThe week closed with a gorgeous morning spent garage saling. At eight o’clock I wheeled out of the garage into a still and gloriously sunny morning to an early garage sale we’d seen advertised on a post the night before. I didn’t find much there (other than a little Christmas fairy for my daughter) and nearly went home, figuring it was too early for other sales.

Good thing I kept riding, because I stumbled across a street sale three blocks from our home, where I bought the beautiful wrought metal stool shown here (it will go in my daughter’s room, which we’ll be decorating this summer) and the brand new Pier 1 planter (shown holding books; more about which anon). For fifty cents I bought the circa 2002 Martha Stewart volume Good Things from Tag Sales and Flea Markets as well as one of her eponymous decorating guides. I was never a big admirer of Stewart, but did enjoy her pale, spare interiors and the patronizing yet encouraging tone of her instructions. At another sale around the corner I spotted this green glass fruit bowl (fifty cents), which has joined an assortment of coloured glass set out on an old sewing machine table in our front entry. Not pictured: a vat of old-school Lego, which I grabbed for $5!

Later in the morning my daughter and I trundled off to the grocery store and walked the long way home, stopping in at garage sales along the way. At a sale on High Park Avenue I saw the books shown here in the planter: four volumes from the uTOpia series published by Canadian icon Coach House Books. I have the entire series at home but for a dollar apiece could not resist picking up duplicates — especially since I wrote or co-wrote essays for two of them.

Come to think of it, the Acts of Salvage project has its origins in an essay called “Acts of Salvage” my husband and I co-wrote for the GreenTOpia: Toward a Sustainable Toronto book in 2007, focusing on the aesthetics, economics and ecology of dumpster diving. You can still read an excerpt here, which was published in Eye Weekly (now The Grid) that fall.

Finally, we returned to the street sale I’d passed through earlier, and for $2 I bought a beautiful crewelwork piece I’d admired earlier. I hadn’t been willing to pay the five dollar asking price, but two hours later the host seemed open to an offer. This last piece — my favourite find of the week — will hang in the spare bedroom on the third floor.

[Connecting with Sir Thrift-a-Lot's Thriftasaurus Linkup.]

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Visions in Green and Blue

PyrexHorizonBlueetc_1_8June2013_1000pxI no longer think of myself as looking for Pyrex, but it’s clearly looking for me! This week lovely pieces positively leapt off second-hand store shelves and into my basket, including this complete and seemingly new set of Horizon Blue cinderella bowls. How could I possibly say no? These were not cheap at Value Village (the biggest one was marked $12.99!), but I got the set at 30% off because I had a full stamp card, and figured it was still an excellent deal.

The blue Primary 401 on the left is probably my sixth or seventh such bowl. I keep them stacked together with the Primary set, and figure there’s no harm in accumulating them because they take up so little room. I’m always drawn to them because they are such a lovely shade of robin’s egg blue, and because one of these bowls was among my first true Pyrex pieces.

The turquoise bowl at front centre appears to be Hazel Atlas (it has an H with a tiny A within it on the bottom). It’s very sweet, and I’ve stored it with the 400-series turquoise Pyrex mixing bowl set I’m keeping for my little daughter.

The tall cobalt blue decanter is something I’ve had for years, although it has narrowly missed being purged on a number of occasions because until this week it lacked a stopper. Fortunately, while browsing at the local Goodwill a few days ago I found two such stoppers — one blue and the other green — and recognised and grabbed them immediately for about a buck apiece. I have a feeling that a some point a stopper-less green decanter will show up cheaply to complete my collection. I also have an amber glass decanter of similar design.

As I understand it, at least anecdotally, various versions of these Italian-made coloured and textured glass decanters were common decor accessories in the sixties or perhaps early seventies. My mother used to pick them up regularly at garage sales, and was told once that they’d been given away for free with purchase at a furniture store. At some point, at least for a time, they became desired collectibles. I like them because they add height and colour and diffuse light beautifully when placed in a window.

The little devotional Mary figure cost a dollar at the local Goodwill. I’m not a Catholic (Protestants aren’t much into Mary), but figured she needed a good home and would be happy anchoring a Nativity scene at Christmas. She is made of inexpensive plastic and is marked “Hartland Molded / Hartland, Wisc.” P.S. Highly recommended accompanying reading: Diane Schoemperlen’s Our Lady of the Lost and Found!

PyrexSpringBlossom_1_8June2013_1000pxHere in green are a Spring Blossom 443 and 401. I see the 401s all the time, but they’re almost always badly dishwasher-damaged. This one is bright and cheery, as is the 443 (which will go well with my two 441s).

I like Spring Blossom (this version of it, anyway) and am happy to have it in my kitchen. It’s good for everyday use because it’s a common pattern, easy to find and replace.

Shown here also is the green stopper to the sixties or seventies-era decanters described above. I do hope some lidless green decanter knows I have a nice lid just waiting for it!

PyrexGoldenHearts_1_7June2013_1000pxAround Valentine’s Day several Pyrex bloggers published posts showing off their Golden Hearts casserole dishes. I coveted one immediately, but couldn’t quite bring myself to buy one online, and figured there was a chance one would show up at a second-hand store before the next Valentine’s Day.

Sure enough, one did this past week, and of course I grabbed it. Although the picture doesn’t show it to best advantage, this dish is shiny and glossy despite having been in use since 1958. Reportedly it came originally with a metal warmer tray, but none was present when I bought my dish. This dish cost $6.06 at the local Goodwill — a surprise find, given how intensely the store is picked over by resellers.

PyrexGoldenAcorn_1_7June2013_1000pxAs if this wasn’t enough, I also picked up a 1 1/2 quart Gold Acorn casserole to add to my set. It’s the one shown on top here: the others (a divided dish and the 2 1/2 quart casserole) joined my Pyrex collection sometime during the fall or winter. Sadly, this dish (which is in otherwise excellent condition) lacks a lid. I do see lids in this style all the time, however — hopefully a match will show up again sometime soon.

I really love the Gold Acorn dishes. They make great holiday serving dishes because they are seasonal and yet inherently non-denominational — no red/green evocative too strongly of Christmas — and therefore are equally suited to Hanukkah feasts. Although the image does not show them to best advantage (it’s a challenge to photograph gold leaf on opal!), these bowl are in nearly pristine condition.

frogstitcherypair_1_8June2013_1000pxMy mother collects frogs but has instructed us quite strictly not to send her any more as gifts, so this kitchy pair of seventies-era crewel-work bathing frog scenes is going to hang in our third floor bathroom. They are well done, nicely framed, and cost $2 at a nearby street sale I happened upon while out biking this morning.

My husband hasn’t seen these yet and is almost certainly going to give me a huge eye-roll. But he’ll like them when they’re in place … I think! He’s put up quite wonderfully with the very large owl macrame hanging in the stairwell, so the odds are pretty good.

Lighthousestitcherykit_1_8June2013_1000pxSpeaking of crewelwork, I couldn’t resist this lighthouse scene, although in all truth I wonder if there’s even a remote chance of me ever actually stitching it together.

I keep coming across crewelwork, macrame and rug-hooking kits at second-hand stores, and some unfulfilled creative impulse strikes me whenever I see them. Because such kits usually date to the seventies, they are charmingly kitchy, and some part of me evidently wishes I was the sort of person who could sit down and put these sorts of projects together. Sadly, in reality I am the sort of person who prefers to exhaust herself into a meditative state, meaning I prefer biking to yoga and building things to needlework, so until I end up bedridden and particularly bored (or stuck on another long international flight in the near future), this set is likely to remain in its package.

stampbook_1_8June2013_1000pxWhen I was nine or ten, after I’d found a circa 1980 Canada Post guide to collecting stamps, my mother bought me a paperback stamp album and gave me some duplicates of the War-era and mid-century stamps she had collected as a child. I maintained my collection for several years, adding to it regularly by collecting stamps from the mail and buying stamp sets and grab bags at hobby stores, but eventually set it aside.

My collection would not, at the time, have been considered special or valuable — but I have a feeling many of those older stamps from my mother, and the ones I accumulated (especially from formerly colonies and Soviet satellite states that have now achieved independence and changed (or recovered) their names) might be quite a lot more collectible these days.

stampbook_2_8June2013_1000pxI no longer collect stamps in any active way, but twice I have managed to expand my collection substantially by picking up stamp albums at garage sales. The first was in the mid eighties when I was about fifteen, and bought a large mid-seventies binder-style stamp album at a garage sale and more than doubled my existing collection. The second was this morning, when for eight dollars I bought a circa 1966 album, not so full this time but with many much older stamps in it. Shown here is a page of United States stamps — stamps that, oddly enough, are almost absent from my childhood collection.

I doubt there are any treasures in any of these albums, and am not sure I have enough time or interest to find out. It’s also unlikely my daughter will express any serious interest in stamps. But at some point it’s likely we’ll pore over these books together, and consider how greatly the world has changed in the decades since these stamps made their way from one country to another.

amberglassrooster_1_8June2013_1000pxFinally, today at an estate sale held in my mother-in-law’s building, I bought this rather proud-looking rooster decanter. It is marked “Jeffery Snyder” and copyrighted 1973. It now sits in our front hall amid a collection of coloured vintage glass.

I rarely attend estate sales and never do so by design, mainly because they are chaotic, crowded with dealers and rarely seem worth the trouble for casual collectors like me. Once, years ago, my husband and I stumbled into one, not realizing it was not a regular yard sale, and felt the frenzy around us as dealers fought over furniture and housewares and tools and linens. It struck me as … unseemly … this pushing and fighting over the detritus of someone’s life. Would a corpse laid out in the middle of the living room moderate the tone, I wonder — or would it become just another obstacle to push past on the way to the barware?

[Connecting with Sir Thrift-a-Lot's Thriftasaurus Linkup.]

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Objects of Desire: Blue Mountain Pottery, Pyrex and Little Forks

BlueMountaiPotterydipset_1_1June2013_1000pxBlue Mountain Pottery, produced from the 1950s until 2004/2005, is such a Canadian icon that it seems odd not to have been featured in either volume of Douglas Coupland’s Souvenir of Canada series. When I was a little child it was a ubiquitous element of living room decor, and by the eighties and nineties outdated pieces — particularly in that infamous green drip glaze — were present at nearly every garage sale. For no more than fifty cents or a dollar one could pick up vases, ash trays and animals, all cast in glazed clay.

Sometime in the past decade or so, however, Blue Mountain Pottery has attained considerable cachet among collectors, who seek out rarer designs decorated with the less common glazes. The perception of their value has spread far enough that I have seen chipped Blue Mountain ash trays priced as high as ten dollars even at the local Goodwill. Having said that, I continue to see Blue Mountain vases, cats and, yes, ash trays at every second or third yard sale, meaning there’s no real need to overpay, for most pieces at least, at thrift stores or online.

BlueMountainmarking_1_1June2013_1000pxStill, until this week, I had never seen a Blue Mountain vegetable platter set, let alone in a glaze other than green. This set — which consists of three vegetable / cracker platters designed to circle a dip bowl — was at the local Goodwill. It was trussed up with packing tape, which I peeled back gingerly, expecting to see at least one big chip. And was surprised to see none: this set looks absolutely brand new, without even a hint of grime on the unglazed edge of the base.

According to the folks at the Blue Mountain Pottery Collectors’ Club, pieces glazed in Harvest Gold were produced from 1968 until 1982/1984. This set definitely evokes that era, and goes wonderfully with the avocado and autumn hues that dominate my dishes and other serving pieces. I’m looking forward to bringing this out for guests.

Pyrexassortment_2_1June2013_1000pxWhat thrift update would be complete without a few pieces of Pyrex? Shown here is an Autumn Harvest 402 in immaculate condition, and a Spring Blossom 441, also in excellent shape. Autumn Harvest is one of my favorite Pyrex patterns, and I especially love the deep tomato shade on the 402. The Spring Blossom 441 is also the second I have in this size / pattern — very useful for cut-up fruit and fresh berries, as well as individual salad servings.

The Terra casserole has a few utensil marks but is otherwise in very good condition given its matte finish. I’ve shelved it atop the large Terra casserole (the one with a stand and candle-warmer) I bought a month or two ago. [It occurs to me now that the clear lid cannot be original to this casserole; pity, as I'm not sure a Terra replacement will be easy to find.]

The (Primary? Friendship?) refrigerator dish is also in very good condition, and was a surprise find — especially for $2.99! — at Value Village. It is sitting in a Fire King baking dish in the Golden Wheat pattern. Apparently these baking dishes also came in a larger size — one I’d love to find — as I love the pattern, which perfectly complements the wonderful Federal Glass mixing bowl in a similar wheat pattern I picked up at a tiny thrift store sometime during the winter.

At rear is a set of eight Fire King bowls / casseroles in Peach Lustre. Peach Lustre isn’t a style I collect, but these were priced cheaply at Value Village, and I bought them to pass on to someone I know who does collect Lustre-ware. Then, after bringing them home, I found them attractive enough to keep. They seem to scream out for sorbet, and I have a feeling they’ll come in handy at some little girl tea party my daughter will undoubtedly host one of these days. I’ve stored these in the downstairs kitchen with a large stack of fifties-era Japanese fluted dessert bowls I’m also saving for my daughter to have when she’s a little older.

LittleForks_1_1June2013_1000pxEver since Jill at A Little Bit of Everything (one of my very favourite blogs) mentioned Little Forks, I have coveted a set for myself. And a week or two ago, I found a set at Value Village, ‘new’ and in their original box. I grabbed them (at $1.99 how could anyone refuse!), and now covet more, as I think they will work wonderfully at the Flower Fairy-themed birthday party I’m planning for my little daughter late in the summer [as might, it occurs to me now, those Peach Lustre bowls]. Fortunately, they seem common on eBay and Etsy, and perhaps I’ll order another set. Or two. Such dainty little forks: they make me happy just looking at them.

Woodenflowerstoragecanisters_1_1June2013_1000pxI have seen these wooden flower-themed storage containers before, most recently at the downtown Goodwill — where two boxes, one missing a lid, were priced at $6.06 or some similarly ridiculous amount. I looked and looked for the missing lid but never found it, and even despite the obscene overpricing was disappointed to leave the boxes behind.

This past week I found this set — complete and probably in better condition — at the local Goodwill. I grabbed it for $4.04 because I love the daisies, even though I do not need another storage canister set and really have no idea where to put these ones. They come with removable plastic liners, however, which makes me think they might work well either as planters or in the garage holding seeds and other gardening supplies. The big box is large enough to hold gloves and/or trowels.

In front is a green wire pineapple-shaped napkin holder. I’m not sure it’s vintage (although the colour and weight of the wire make me think it might be), but I really like it and have already put it to use holding our daily napkins. [Speaking of which: I rarely see nice vintage (cloth) napkins. Did they even make them, or was this the era of disposable paper ones?]

HeinzTomatoKetchupcookbook_1_1June2013_1000pxThis Heinz Tomato Ketchup Cookbook (Ten Speed Press, 2008) is not at all vintage, but I couldn’t help but buy it at a neighbour’s garage sale. I am highly unlikely ever to use any of the recipes in it — and it seems more of a novelty item than a serious cookbook — but have to admit having regularly added ketchup to savory dishes to give them a little extra sweetness. [My ketchup-addict husband will probably suggest trying out some of the recipes, though -- will provide updates if that ever happens!]

Not shown at the moment (will post pictures when I take them): a 1986-edition My Little Pony lunchbox in great condition, which I bought for my daughter (for $1.99, I think), and a vintage cardboard cut-out nativity set. Also: a complete set (service for 12) of the same LBL Italy silverplate I bought a month or two ago. It was priced $34.99 and happened to be sitting atop the showcase, and I grabbed it because I had a 30% off card — and now have nearly complete service for 24!

The two vintage tablecloths shown in the images above are recent finds from the past week or two. The top one is cotton; the bottom linen. They are draped across a round table but are in fact rectangular, and are in wonderful condition (the poppy cloth had a stain along the folded crease, which came out in the wash). At some point I’m going to have to stop bringing home vintage tablecloths — but not for a while yet.

[Connecting with Sir Thrift-a-Lot's Thriftasuarus Linkup.]

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