Garage Sailing Serendipity


Before I start out today, I must say that the header is one of the best garage sale signs I’ve ever seen. The colors, the printing, everything. Ok maybe you have to be an artist to appreciate it…. So now, on to the post of the day, about, you guessed it, garage sailing.

When we set out on a Saturday morning to go “garage sailing” as I like to call it or “thrifting” as apparently others call it, we never know just what we’ll find. It’s not like any other kind of shopping. You know, the kind where you go shopping for a certain needed thing like a new pair of pants, or a new chair or lawn mower. Whatever, it’s not at all like that.

Oh sure, sometimes we do go out with a mental list of stuff to look for like a new garden hose, well, new to us, that is, or a Wind up Radio for our Earthquake Kit ( which I wrote about recently) And yes, last week we actually found one, with a flashlight yet. Bonus!


But we don’t set out with a rigid plan or list. Garage sailing requires an open mind. That is, a mind that is open to the possibilities of whatever you may come across.

Sometimes people at sales even ask us what we are looking for, and we just say, nothing in particular. Personally, I find it hilarious that anyone would even ask. I mean, if, as I said we’re looking for a garden hose and you didn’t have one at the sale you are having, would we just zoom on by? But no, that’s not what happens. We browse, we consider, we enjoy. Garage sailing is a serendipitous occupation. I like to call it Creative Shopping. We are open to finding anything that may be useful, interesting, inspiring or fun.

Oh yes we’ve run across those focused characters that fly through garage sales, looking only for certain things, like fishing gear for instance. That’s all they want to see and if you haven’t got it, well, they move on pretty quickly. And I must admit to a bit of “Drive-by viewing” myself. Like if it’s all kids stuff, well, we’ll probably not even get out of the car. Although that’s changing because now we’re looking for good books for our grandson Andrew. I cannot resist a Mercer Mayer. Or some good illustration like in the Bear book. And Little Toot, too good to pass up at 25 cents each.


When I say Creative shopping, well, sometimes it’s more finding stuff to be creative with. Got quite lucky lately with these lovely red plates that may work their way into a mosaic.


And these canvasses, still wrapped up, that I got for a fraction, a very small fraction, of what they would be in the art supply store.


Or this lovely oak frame which may be the perfect finishing touch for my next painting on board. I collect old frames just for that purpose and Bill cuts me boards to paint on, sized to fit. This week we even found a batch of glass for framed prints, always useful to use in all those old frames I’ve collected. Did I tell you I once found an old Mat cutter for free? Yup. Free is always the right price.








Some thoughts on a Green and Abundant Christmas


Way back in April when I started this blog I wrote about abundance in a recession. And today, thinking about Christmas, my fave time of year, I’m reminded of abundance. Our Christmases are full of abundance! As I always love to say the world is an abundant place as long as you like second hand.

Just the other day I was again reminded of groups of people taking a pledge not to buy anything new for a year. And I even looked at a few web sites and blogs about it. And although I applaud the enthusiasm, I also noted how difficult they made it for themselves. No bending allowed on the pledge. And it seemed as though the pledge was abandoned after the year was up in a few cases. Everyone tired of the sacrifice, maybe?

This is just not the way we approach it. What started as way to survive tough times as students in the 60’s and to get us through other bouts of tough economic times, has now become a way of life. But it’s really not difficult for us, it’s fun and easy. I really believe that anything we do to be a little greener is helpful. So every effort counts. If we absolutely need to get something new, and after trying to find it used, well ok, buy it. No guilt. But this is so offset with all that we buy used, we feel ok with it. And anyway, part of our plan is to buy new stuff from artists and others who produce hand made and original when we can, as well.

Which brings me to Christmas. The cost of Christmas, the news is full of it, credit cards maxed, too many presents, worry over money and all that that entails. But why not resolve to have some of your Christmas recycled and reused?

So I thought as well as sharing my obviously “abundant” collection of thrift store, garage sale Santas I’d also share some of the other things we have in abundance for the season. And one of the best is music. We have a huge collection of music mostly because we still have our turntable, and our tape deck as well as a couple of used CD players. So we can buy all the good old stuff and now we’ve amassed a pretty eclectic and funky collection of Christmas music. At the top of this post is a great selection from Johnny Mathis, Nat King Cole and Gene Autry, all actually a gift from our great friend Hart.  Don’t you just love that Gene Autry album cover? And as I bake for Christmas I love to play the oldies from my childhood like Perry Como, Bing Crosby which we heard always for Christmas. Would you believe most of these records and tapes we bought for anywhere from 25cents to just over $2?


How much more eclectic can you get than this selection of Loreena McKennet  “a Winter Garden”, “A Very Special Christmas” which has the most wonderful piece by Sting, “Gabriel’s Message”,   The Masterworks Dinner Album and even Connie Francis who has “Christmas in My Heart”?


And we’ve got some odd stuff too that we’ve found over the years like “A Reggae Christmas”. Always good to listen to while baking Christmas goodies.


And then for those classical moments we’ve got Luciano Pavarotti with a boys choir with my favourite Panis Angelicus. A real treasure found at the local second hand store was Christmas in Venice, full of just gorgeous classical favourites.


We always find CD’s when we’re out garage sailing and all of our collection is used. And then there are the ones I’ve collected just for fun like “Christmas at Liberace’s”, Or the “Doris Day Christmas Album”. Then a real fave is Boney M Christmas Album with Feliz Navidad to really get dancin’. So far my all time fave CD is World Christmas which has not only the Gypsy Kings on it, and Deep Forest but also Papa Wemba and Mono Cinelu.


So what am I saying here really? Christmas can be about abundance with out spending lots of money. And boy have we got an abundance of music! And it’s all used, recycled and we’re feelin’ green too.


The Repotting of the Bonsai Tree

Last year, for my birthday, Eric gave me a Bonsai tree, a really cute little Ficus. Growing Bonsai was something entirely new for me. Everything about growing a Bonsai is quite contrary to my experience with houseplants.  My aim with houseplants is to get them to grow as large as possible, have lots of leaves, and live in ever larger pots.

Bonsai, on the other hand, are meant to live in small pots, get pruned a lot and stay small. Hmm. I have problems pruning bushes and trees outside. I’ve lived most of my life in Alberta, where you stand back and cheer if things grow and you hardly ever have to, in my opinion, prune. Now here I had a plant that you actually had to not only prune stems but also roots! I have to admit that to me it seemed cruel and nasty, unnatural, sort of like foot binding. But having one of my own, has made me start to appreciate the “art of Bonsai”. That is creating the look of a large tree in a small pot, a vignette so to speak, of a larger natural beauty.

But the time came when I realized that Bonsai or not this little plant needed a bigger pot or needed to have it’s roots pruned. My way of doing anything new is to look up everything at the library. So off we went and back we came with lots of books on Bonsai, care of and growing, pruning, training, etc.


Now this poor little plant was so root bound that my method of checking to see if it was watered enough was just to pick up the plant, roots and all, out of the pot and check.


Between the three of us, Eric, Will and I, it was decided after much studying of various books, that rather than attempting to prune roots, that it would be better to move it into a larger bonsai pot. Luckily, as garage sailors, we had a little supply of recycled bonsai pots. After a bit of consideration, one was chosen.

Eric, took on the task of loosening the old dirt from the roots with a little bamboo skewer, amidst worried remarks from me admonishing him not to tear the roots or hurt the poor thing. Eventually it was ready to re-pot.

Eric also trimmed the roots from a little lower root that would become a root feature near the bottom of the trunk. Following instructions from our many books, the scissors had been sterilized with alcohol.


At the Glendale Garden Show, on one of my many jaunts around the other exhibitors, I‘d picked up a bag of Bonsai mix at a Bonsai Garden Exhibit. This was basically a mixture of bark mulch, turface (still don’t know what that is), sand, gravel, grit, vermiculite and perlite. To this I added a bit of regular bagged houseplant dirt. This was added carefully around our little plant in the new pot.


Then our little plant was watered and the new dirt gently tamped down around it. It has, for the last few weeks, resided happily in it’s new pot on the sideboard in the living room. I’m happy to report that it survived the move to the new pot very well.


New leaves are coming and only one leaf was lost. And doesn’t it look very very Japanese with it’s display of Japanese coasters, also a garage sale find, set prettily but minimally, of course, in front?


Burning Daylight


Now having said this I have to admit that we’re not like some of those people that are derisively called “early birds” that a lot of ads warn against. No, we’re not that intense. We know that garage sailing is like fishing, sometimes you catch something, sometimes you’ve just had a nice outing. In fact, we find that there seems to be an odd way that one week you’ll finds lots of good stuff and the next, just a few little things. That was yesterday. Just a few little things, a nice thermometer for the greenhouse for 25 cents. An amber glass globe that I’m hoping to use in the garden somehow as some part of a sculpture.

Plant sale
Plant sale

But we did all right on the plants. This sale is never really advertised and but somehow we manage to find it every year. There’s always a good selection of plants to choose from.

Potential garden art

We had a few misses. Things that we liked but were not in the budget. Like these clothing forms that Will had such great plans for. We never expected that they were such distinguished ones, from the 40’s, the seller said, and worth $35 and $45. They were almost going to become garden sculptures with very unique heads created for them. Ah well.

A winsome smile

Then there was the little lamp base that had such a wonderful expression that I had to take a photo, but didn’t really want to own. The photo would suffice.

We always try to work in a park, an ocean fix or garden either for our coffee break or at the end of the morning. Today it was Finnerty Gardens at UVic. This garden is known for it’s collection of Rhododendrons, all apparently started from seed. This is Rhodo time and we almost missed it. Luckily there were still quite a few in all their glory.

Finnerty Gardens
A path lined with Rhodos
Rhodos in the sunlight
Rhodos in the sunlight
Monstera bloom
Monstera bloom
Dove tree blossoms
Dove tree blossoms
A stand of bamboo
A stand of bamboo
Yes, the bamboo really is this tall.

The garden has the most wonderful stand of bamboo. It’s huge, tall, and just gorgeous. I wish we could fit it in our garden.

All in all, the gardens were a lovely and serene wrap-up to our to our busy morning of garage sailing.

Will next weekend be the alternate weekend, the weekend when we find lots of good stuff? Who knows?


Room to Create

The other day I looked into my studio and thought what a mess! I’ve been working on a couple of things that are taking some time. And with being busy with so many other things I’ve let it get just a little too messy.

Stacks of plates

Now, I can live with messy but when it gets to “knee deep’, I know I need to do something. Just put a few things away, take out garbage, sweep up. Now I’ve got surfaces to work on again. Ah, bliss.

Bountiful Buddhas

My studio is filled to the brim. I like to say it’s abundant. It’s full of ornaments, lots and lots of dishes usually organized by color or pattern, lots of houseplants. Best of all, I have music. All kinds of music from Music of World to jazz to old rock to opera. We have a huge collection of music what with the hundreds of old LP’s to the all the tapes and CD’s Will and I have found and collected from garage sales and thrifting. I tend to need music to work by. If I can’t understand the words, that’s ok too, it allows my thoughts to roam.

Recycled salad containers make great storage
Recycled salad containers make great storage

When I have mosaic students,I tell them there are no rules, but of course I have just a couple. You absolutely need a place to work. And you need music to work by. I’m lucky with a room in the house dedicated to being a studio. I can make a mess and then close the door. Of course our house is sort of a studio everywhere. Sometimes I might sculpt a small piece or string a new bracelet of found beads while watching TV or a movie on the living room couch. So of course the coffee table is covered with a bag of clay, a board with a sculpture on it and boxes of beads. We don’t designate a particular area. The dining room has our office and computer equipment in it as well as another desk for Will to work on collage pieces.

Bits and pieces
Bits and pieces

Our ultimate dream is to live in a huge studio. A great generous space to work in with a area for eating, sleeping and the necessities of living tucked into one area of the space. I am always shocked by home designs. Homes are designed it seems, to sit and do nothing. You see home plans with living rooms and family rooms. Builders and designers never seem to make room for creative pursuits. These days if you factor in the cost of square footage on your mortgage or rent as the case may be, it seems that you really should be looking at how well your home will work for you or allow you to work preferably on something creative.

It’s important to me to find a space somewhere to work in. I think too often it’s easy to say what you need is not important, but to me happiness is something that comes from being creative. If I’m happy so is everyone else, trust me. The same goes for Will and Eric. We all need to be creative to be happy. So we decided that happiness is more important than having a guest room or a dining room. And we tend to use pretty well every room in the place to create in.

Ornaments waiting to be placed in a mosaic
Ornaments waiting to be placed in a mosaic

Some of my students have gotten really creative making a space to work. One lived in a tiny basement suite, with two small dogs. She made her coffee table into her studio work table. To avoid bits of broken dishes littering the rugs creating a hazard for the pups, she broke all her dishes inside a box, so no shards could fly around the rug. Another, created a space in a garage, in front of a window and brought in a CD player. A good friend, who had wanted to write a book with the words floating around in her head for ages, got the idea to put her computer in a closet and create a writing space. The book was written in weeks!

It takes a bit of creativity to make a work space sometimes or just a rethinking of what you want your home to be. A place to sit or a place to get happy and creative in.


A Bit of Magic

Today, a bit of magic happened. I was out walking, with my little digital camera in my bag, getting some exercise. I’m sorely in need of exercise and walking is my favorite.

I like to take photos of whatever catches my eye as I walk. Today it was a little grouping of daffodils and polyanthus in a front yard. As I was bent down framing the shot I heard someone singing in Italian. I looked up and on the roof were three roofers, one, the singer, a young man in a hoody and baseball cap was singing in the most beautiful tenor in Italian, as he handed the tiles to the other fellow who was nailing tiles down. I stood and listened until he finished the song. It was beautiful! I applauded when he was done and he bowed to me from the roof and said “Thank you”.polyanthus

I walked on and thought how wonderful, what a gift I had been given on my walk.
As I continued further around the corner from the roofers, I found, all nicely stacked, a group of long twigs, cuttings from someone’s pruning. Perfect for making obelisks to hold the garden plantings we are planning. We have little room left and we want to grow things like melon and squash and have decided to grow up instead of letting them sprawl all over the lawn this year. I had just thought of needing some good supports and here they were, stacked and ready for recycling pickup by the municipality. Free for the taking!

So now that I am home again, with my cup of Typhoo tea, I need a bit more Italian music so I’m listening to Andrea Bocelli, a lucky CD find at a garage sale last summer. Italian is such a wonderful language, musical already. I wish now I’d said “Bella, bella” to the singing roofer.

I feel lucky today and rich. I’m rich with all the things I find on my wanderings and our summers garage sailing. The digital camera was a $20 find, actually the second one we found at garage sales. I love digital cameras! No longer bound by running out of film or the cost of developing, I am now free to take photos of whatever I fancy. I now have a photo journal of walks. I like the idea of recycling and finding everything I could possibly need at a fraction of the price and very often free. The world is an abundant place I tell everyone, as long as you don’t mind second hand.

And now, accompanied by Adrea Bocelli, I am about to start a new sculpture. I’ve been inspired by plant life and especially grape leaves. I’m planning an architectural detail that I will sculpt and then have my son Eric cast it in cast stone. And today, thanks to the singing roofer, I’m feeling lucky and inspired and abundant!