Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Totally 80’s Halloween Cartoon Craftacular!

The crisp air that begs for thrifted argyle sweaters. The horror movie marathons and mountains of miniature candy bars. Fall is my favorite time of year and my annual Halloween party is the highlight of the social calendar.

Now, I don't encourage guests spending big bucks on store-bought costumes. Instead, I encourage thrifty ideas and craft projects. Something like this, for instance.


Straight from the 80’s, it’s Rainbow Brite. Finding this DIY child's costume pattern, among other awesome miscellany to be documented later, was the start to a great day. And scoring this spectacular crafty find for a mere quarter got me thinking about the level of ambition I have reserved for that special night when you get to be someone else…someone who gets free candy.

And that someone I wanted to be for as long as I could remember was none other than Rainbow Brite. And while this thrift score is truly outrageous (Yeah, that was a Jem reference), last year I got my wish.

Halloween costumes 09

That’s right. At 25 years old, I was Rainbow Brite. And it was a heavy workload for a novice crafter. The final product was an estimated 20+ hours of cutting, sewing, gluing and stuffing by hand. My boyfriend and blog co-creator (pictured above) did a lot of the labor too, with both of us working up until the Halloween afternoon just hours before our big bash.

Dan was so involved with the process, in fact, he almost didn’t have time for his own costume. But lo and behold, one day before the party we decided, “Hey, why not stick with the 80’s cartoon theme?”

And so it was. With tattered punk clothes from the nearest Goodwill, a purple mohawk
(yes, a real one), matching shades, chains and a string of ammo…Dan transformed…

bebop pic resized

…into Bebop, one of the airhead villains of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon!  It should be noted that Dan did have a plastic gun that never make it into the picture. He also fashioned a large metal ring for his nose. But it was too uncomfortable to wear all night.

In the end, our 80’s inspired crafted cartoon costumes were a big hit at the party, and a personal triumph, I think.
This year we have also opted for a DIY couples' costume, something a little more contemporary. But I can’t say anything else until after the big night. Don’t want to ruin the surprise!

Now who else out there has thrifted ‘n’ crafted themselves something special this Halloween?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Finger Fun for Children: Teaching Scripture Truths One Inappropriate Gesture at a Time.

Way back, when this blog was just a twinkle in my eye, Joe, one of the co-creators-in-crime and myself took to the road for our first ever Thrift Trip together. And you better believe that after rummaging through nine different thrift stores over a span of six different townships, we hauled in some quality finds.

At first I had my doubts over how productive our trip would be. After all, I had lost twenty minutes to the start of our day stuck in Pennsylvania Turnpike traffic. The weather was a scorching 100 degrees and we were cruising around in a car without air conditioning. But when we made our first stop of the day at a Salvation Army on Bethlehem Pike, all concerns were replaced with unadulterated hilarity.

There was nothing out of the usual at first. A fair assortment of knick-knacks, a 50% reduction on blue colored tags and a few older shoppers milling about the aisles. After perusing the considerable collection of vintage-inspired dishware, I had decided to hit the books.

At first glance it was typical thrift store fare. Encyclopedias, microwave cookbooks and previous bestsellers.

But then I spotted it. The talisman that would charm our entire thrifting adventure.

Finger Fun Cover Resized
A rare 40 cent find that surely reserves a whole new level of Hell just for me.

I first spotted this gem because of the image on the cover. Now, I apologize in advance if this sounds lewd, crude or completely sacrilegious given the content…but what exactly is that picture!?  That poor child’s face has the expression of some sort of guilt-ridden blowup doll! And the finger gesturing. What is that?

I soon got my answer when my eyes found the title at the top of the cover. 202 Things To Do… okay, nothing wrong there.  At Home, Church, School. No, that makes sense.
Activities and Finger Fun for Children. Um. What…?

What in the name of Moses is “Finger Fun?” And why are we encouraging children to participate?
Well...remember that old “Here’s the Church. Here’s the steeple” bit?
Apparently that is just one of the 202 Finger Fun activities for idle-handed children.

Cute idea. Poor execution. Again, I’m sorry to offend. But this is en epic fail in terms of the title.

Finger Fun, really?

The description of the contents on the book’s back cover doesn’t lend any help either.

Finger Fun Back Cover Resized
Wrong. So very, very wrong.

I’m not even going to comment on the vulgarity in this. Sorry, sorry, sorry. I swear I don’t have a sick mind 99% of the time. If they didn’t call the damn book “Finger Fun,” I wouldn’t think this was anything else than a book with a strange cover.

But you know what they say when you judge a book by its cover, right? So, let’s take a peek at a few of those fun finger gestures, shall we?

Finger Fun Page Resized
These pinching and jerking motions sure are fun!

And to think, this was just the beginning of our Thrift Trip adventure. But still I wonder. With "over 100,000 in print" as the cover clearly states, are the other 99,999 owners of 202 Things to Do at Home, Church, School: Activities and Finger Fun for Children as amazed as I am that such a thing even exists?


Sunday, October 10, 2010

A 10/10/10 Special Edition: The Top Ten Things You’ll Find in Every Thrift Store

From the Salvation Army in the Bucks county suburbs to The Philly AIDS Thrift near South Street, regular thrift-goers know their territory. They know the sales, the days and times to beat the crowds and how to scout the store for hidden treasures.

Not every visit to the thrift is going to yield a cart full of 80’s toys, hipster clothes or super cool decor for your apartment. Those treasures are reserved for one day when the stars align and you just happen to find just what you were searching for. Or in the happily-ever-after version, you just stumble upon something so awesome that you weren’t even looking for and your pretentious roommates are beyond jealous of your find.

Now we don’t want to pump you full of false hopes. The sad truth is that fateful day might be a long time coming.

But in the meantime, we at Let’s Go Thrifting have something to tide you over. Actually we have ten somethings.

Next time you think your visit to thrift is a total bust, take a look around. We have. And we noticed a little pattern of repeats… items no thrift seems to lack.

We’ve noticed The Top Ten Things You’ll Find in Every Thrift Store:

  • Personalized picture frames. Usually pretty cheap to begin with, these presumably donated gifts never seem to sell, since they’re always on the shelves. You know the ones. Dear Sister, Father, Best Friend, Cousin, Husband, Dog. Nothing captures 1000 words quite like this hideous hunk of plastic that denotes our relationship.

  • Fundraiser tee shirts.  You are a true philanthropist, sir. Your support through the secondhand purchase of that Erectile Dysfunction Run ‘97 shirt is really raising the community awareness.

  • Poorly executed Designer Knock-off Handbags. Unless you are shopping consignment and are well-versed on textiles, don’t tread the designer route. Chances are your Prado bag won’t be on any catwalks.

Wicker Resized
Doesn't this make you want to have a picnic?

  • Wicker. Tons of it. In every shape and size. Mostly baskets. But sometimes you’ll find the occasional wicker hats, chairs, wall decor, desk organizers and crafts.

    This cross-stitched gentlemen was a buck.
  • Framed “Art.” Sure, these pieces weren't exactly in a national gallery. But the topic is still debatable in the thrift community. Some leisurely thrifters argue the validity of these framed portraits of depressed clowns and disproportionate fruit bowls. And we at Let’s Go Thrifting agree. Afterall, some of these artistic abominations are so awful, they’re in fact…pretty awesome.

  • Hilariously Outdated Computer Software Manuals.  Think 1995. At the time, those free AOL disks were a hot commodity. So were the the thousands, literally thousands, of how-to books for the software of the time. Now…they’re at the thrift store in record numbers. And they are utterly useless.

  • Trivial Pursuit. You would think this was the most despised game in the history of family entertainment, given its prevalence at every single thrift store on the face on the planet. We like to think that they were played so often, the trivia became common knowledge at parties and were passed on for future playing elsewhere. Still…there’s a lot of them out there. We counted seven of them the last time we hit the Goodwill!

Afghan Resized
Does your granny know you donated that afghan?

  • Afghans. Who knew so many people could crochet…and with so many different color combinations?

  • The King James Bible. How are thrift stores like motel rooms? The Bibles. There’s at least a few in every thrift. Are people straight-up abandoning Christianity? Or is the thrifty version of spreading the “Good News?”

Herb Alpert Resized
Is that shaving cream?

  • Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. This dude seriously sold like a grabillion copies of this album and became some kind of overnight sensation. We kid you not. How else do you explain every thrift store having the Herb Alpert vinyl discography? 

Don't believe us? Make a check-sheet from the above top-ten list and have a thrift seek and find. You won't be disappointed.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Thrift Fail: What NOT to Donate

"Why did I donate that? WHY?"

It’s a known fact that there are many people in this world who can find use even for the most trivial of items. Crafters are leading this very lifestyle. Laughing in the face of the capitalist consumer machine that tells us to constantly discard and replace, these resourceful ladies and gents save and refurnish for future projects.

Then there are those who are simply keen to green living. Minding the permanence of their own carbon footprint, these Earth-friendly folk reuse and recycle common household goods for the purpose of reducing waste.

Well, we at the Let’s Go Thrifting blog salute you. But…when it comes to the thrift store, we might need to discuss when to draw the line between potential donations and pure dreck.

Firstly, let’s think positive. Donating unwanted items to a nonprofit thrift store benefits the community. Your unwanted goods become low-cost stock for people who may not be able to afford otherwise. Or, conversely, people who choose to look for bargains and bizarre finds. Those sales then treat the sick and provide shelter to the poor. So, kudos to you for cleaning out your closet and sending it to to your local Goodwill.

But when you are digging through last season’s trends and bagging them for donation, there are certain items that just shouldn’t be sent to the thrift, EVER.
    • Used underwear
    • Used jockstraps
    • Soiled or stinky clothes
    • Garbage
Though secondhand briefs and other assorted undergarments do occasionally make it the sales floor, it’s doubtful there’s a high demand for them from even the most frugal of thrift customers. So send your skivvies to the landfill.

But let’s not be too hasty. There are many a good fashion find in your local thrift store. So imagine the disappointment when you come across the perfectly retro polyester shirt only to find a pair of big ol’ sweat stains under the sleeves. And this does happen. Thrift store staff either don’t notice or don’t care for the apparel’s appearance. But shoppers do. And donors should too. So, please, don’t insult secondhand shoppers with something stained or smelly. Just let the garment go to the garbage bin. We promise we’ll forgive that minimal  and necessary waste.

And speaking of garbage: the staff of the Salvation Army shouldn’t have to wade through it when they’re expecting donations. I’ve seen it happen. And really, no one likes going elbow-deep in trash when they’re expecting to unearth a customer’s potential treasure. Separate your trash and donations in two different bags, and be sure to drop the right one at the curb and the right one in the donation bin.

With that being said, go ahead. Drop off your unwanted items at the thrift store. Even those hideously tacky holiday sweaters. Even that decade-old Tom Clancy novel. I guarantee that someone will want ‘em. So long as they’re not stinky, stained, or draped in a old pair of Fruit of the Loom.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

These Doll Heads Are How Much?

While grazing the aisles of my local Goodwill in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, I can’t help but wonder the many intricacies of thrift store pricing. That bejeweled Golden Girls style sweater is $4. So is that 1992 edition of Monopoly, regardless it is missing more than a few plastic houses and hotels. So who is deciding the monetary value of these goods? Is there a pricing guide somewhere that calculates the cost? Or is this completely arbitrary?
The world may never know the mysteries of the thrift store stockroom. We certainly know little of the previous owners, short of the occasional initials or gift inscriptions. One thing we do know…know damn well… is a good find. That perfect item that strikes the  balance between our personal value in how much we’re willing to spend and the actual cost. It may be different for everyone. A limited edition comic book, a vintage Barbie, the perfect floral print grandma sweater. We all have our ‘This is it’ moment now and then.
I’ve had several. And I intend to share those moments here on Let’s Go Thrifting. But I have much more to offer than my thrift store acquisitions. I have my wit. My wisdom. My unique insight into the socioeconomic benefits and leisurely pursuits of secondhand shopping.
Also, doll heads.
Doll heads resized
I have photos of doll heads. Doll heads affordably priced at 97 cents, albeit. But doll heads. Arranged neatly in rows, no less. And this is a sight that begs several questions:
  • Who donated these and why?
  • Who is buying them?
  • For what purpose?
But this isn’t the end of my disembodied plastic encounter. Interestingly enough, two weeks later, at another Goodwill some 30 miles west of the prior thrift store, I stumbled upon these.
Doll Head 3 Dollars resized
More doll heads! Okay…so… discuss:
  • Is there some kind of donate-a-doll-head-pledge-drive that I didn’t hear about?
  • What exactly is the demand for thrifted doll heads?
  • And just how are these doll heads arbitrarily priced from $1.90 and $3.00, compared to the 97 cents from a neighboring Goodwill?
Ah, thrift stores. You house so many, many weird and wonderful artifacts. Your dutiful employees are so adept at pricing seemingly useless items that someone, somewhere will surely buy. Myself included.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Today's Episode is Brought to You by the Letter B

B is for Bargain.
Scantily clad Cabbage Patch dolls and teddy bears from Valentine's past prove no match to a plush member of the elite alphabet clan. Rescued from a Goodwill in Bensalem, PA for 90 cents, Bixil makes an excellent addition to any cuddly, kinda creepy, semi-educational stuffed collection.