Friday, June 3, 2011

Curbside Shopping: We Live on "Free Stuff" Street!

Okay, I'm not sure how it works where you guys live, but in Seattle, it's possible to furnish a 3-bedroom house for free in one afternoon.  Really!  Just drive down your street, or an arterial in nearly any neighborhood, and you will see anything from a dresser to a set of matching (or not) patio chairs, and even some really hideous artwork.  That's my mom's favorite - she's an artist, and recycles the canvas.  I'm partial to anything with drawers that can fit up our narrow staircase, because just my socks and leg warmers take up a wide, 3-drawer secretary.  Don't even ask about my underwear fetish.

So, you're in your car - your biggest car.  We used to have a Land Rover, until I rolled it down a mountain with my daughter on board.  Being a Land Rover, we walked out without a scratch.  Anyway, that's another story for another day.  So, we never replaced the Rover (Salty Bob), so we're left with my VW Cabrio (convertible). If it's not a rainy day, and we spot a set of redwood deck chairs, we just put the top down and toss them in.  Tip: Carry a thick blanket or furniture pad in the trunk, so you don't muck up the leather.

Okay, so, back in the car.  Keep your eyes peeled on both sides of the street - strike that - have a spotter.  Shopping and driving do not work well together.  Every street that I have lived on since moving to Seattle 11 years ago has been chock-full of "Free" signs on unwanted home and garden items.  We occasionally hit random neighborhoods, exploring.  I've found that the best stuff is not in the really nice neighborhood, because they can afford to pay someone to take the stuff to the dump.

So, for anyone interested in getting into curbside shopping, here are a few tips:

1. Start in your own neighborhood.  Expand to neighboring communities once you've made a haul or two in your own 'hood.  Once you're confident in branching out farther, pick a middle-class area.  You'll find nice, well-cared for furniture.  Too ghetto will only end in scary, brown and beige plaid sofas and particle board shelving with chunks missing from a shootout.

2. Find a free swap event, like the Renton Stop and Swap.  I'm sure other cities have these.  Ours is tomorrow.  Have a plan and a wish list before you start, and divide and conquer to snag that lime green ottoman you never knew you needed until you saw it being unloaded from the back of a '74 Chevy pickup.

3. Be picky.  Remember the VW commercial about the smelly chair?  There might be a good reason that someone put it on the sidewalk.  Always do a sniff test.

4. Craigslist.  Love it, live it.  The "free" section is full of wonderful bits and bobs.  If you can't find a set of decent dining room chairs there, you can find them for $5 in the "furniture" page.

5. Never pick up a free mattress on the side of the road.  Do I even have to explain why?

6. Never pick anything up if it's rained recently.  I've made that mistake.

7. Mondays.  Mondays are the best day to go on a furniture safari.  Think about it: garage sales are usually on the weekend.  What do they do with the stuff that didn't sell?  You got it - right out on that sidewalk.

I hope this helps you collect free stuff with confidence.  Go forth and rummage.

Ess, bench, sei a mensch.


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Scram, bitch, I'm on a break.

Recent Meals

  • Grilled (in the rain) marinated top sirloin w/my Steak Frite and London Pub Sauce
  • Fried chayote
  • Roasted aubergine, zucchini, and yellow squash
  • Soft garlic sandwich rolls, and we made meatball sandwiches
  • Sirloin rubbed with cardamom-laced Turkish coffee
  • Chocolate truffles w/rum and bourbon
  • Petit fours
  • Florentine cookies drizzled with chocolate
  • 13-Bean soup w/parmesan rind and leftover ham
  • Apple spice cardamom muffins
  • Guinnes-injected pot roast
  • Cran-blueberry corn muffins
  • Spaghetti and meatballs - basic, but always a hit in this house
  • Hummus w/roasted garlic, olive, red pepper, and smoked paprika
  • Veggie stirfry w/julienned baby carrots, green peppers, garlic, chickpeas, and balsamic, served over Chinese Black Forbidden Rice
  • Ginger-carrot cake
  • Ginger cranberry mojito
  • Lime-cranberry-mint-strawberry seltzer
  • Lavender-mint iced tea
  • Trip to Beirut: Shish taouk, shish kebab, halvah, garlic naan, rice pilaf w/figs, raisins, and pecans, w/my famous lemon-mint-garlic Lebanese potatoes
  • London Broil w/a wilted spinach and mustard green salad with a bacon, balsamic, and mustard dressing
  • Sweet and red potato pancakes w/zucchini and peppers w/chicken apple sausage
  • Italian wedding soup w/homemade croutons and meatballs
  • "Rock the Casbah" Cardamom, Ginger, Apple Pork Roast w/Armadillo Rice (for you fans of The Clash who remember the cover of Combat Rock)
  • Individual Quiche Lorraine
  • Prosciutto-wrapped beef cubes w/mustard pan sauce
  • Chicken Sausage w/garlic naan and dijon mustard - Lou and I were really drunk.
  • Salt potatoes, mixed fingerlings, lightly mashed, with lot of butter
  • Focaccia w/garlic, onions, mozarella and cherry tomatoes
  • Rosemary and lavender bread
  • Spicy greens and spinach salad w/fresh mozzarella pearls, strawberries, and a strawberry vinegarette
  • Polenta casserole w/cheese and squash baked IN acorn squash halves