Down the Garden Path

(An occasional sale of unusual curiosities)
111 S. 22nd St., La Crosse, Wis.

Thursday, Oct. 3, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 4, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 5,  from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

It’s time to wander down the garden path again, but be careful you don’t stumble over a funnel planted with mums, a  laundry tub full of geraniums, or a  chicken feeder that’s spilling over with stonecrop. Vintage table cloths will be flapping in the breeze, and the jack-o’-lanterns will be getting up to all kinds of mischief. There will be angels, Santas,snowmen and boxes full of vintage glass ornaments. We’ve got enamelware, tables of every size and shape and even one that features a map of Europe. We’ve got glassware, kitchenalia, rusty primitives, a couple of trunks and lots of metal buckets. We’ve got jars of thread and buttons and other sewing paraphernalia. You can pack one of our bags with all your treasures because we’ve also got vintage suitcases. Find a dresser scarf, a bandana or an old-fashioned hanky. If you’ve imagined it, you’ll likely find it here.

And if you haven’t imagined it, we probably have that, too.

I am being strong and resisting one last auction today simply because the house, the garage and the yard are bursting at the seams and I’ve got to stop acquiring and start merchandising.

Oh, if I had house enough to keep it all, I would. But my modest abode is bursting at the seams so this stuff has to go. I’m hoping your houses are just a tad bit less crowded than mine and you can make room for some of these treasures.

How crowded is my house? I haven’t even pulled out my Halloween decorations yet because I have so much stuff I have to clear out. And I usually get my Halloween decorations up at the end of August.

.So stop raking leaves and hop in the car. We’re waiting for you on 22nd Street.

Glass merchant


It was late afternoon on the Friday of my vintage sale and the drizzle had stopped. I had just set my sister loose to attend a sale a few blocks away and was tending our treasure trove of get-this-out-of-here merchandise on my own when two college guys drove up.

After admiring the suitcase with legs and the trunk it sat on, they were drawn to a bucket full of bottles selling three for a dollar. They brought up three and I asked them what they were going to do with them.

“Make drinking glasses,” said one with a grin.

“Ow! You’ll cut yourself,” I said with motherly concern, envisioning a trip to the emergency room where glass slivers would be removed.

No, it seems they have this friend who posted a technique on Pinterest for bottle-to-drinking-glass conversion and it really works.

OK, I don’t know what’s more surprising — that there’s a technique for turning bottles into drinking glasses on Pinterest, or that two UW-L rec majors were hanging out reading pins on Pinterest when they could have been playing volleyball or football.

The process, in a nutshell, is that they soak cotton string in nail polish remover, wrap it around the bottle, set it on fire, and then pop the bottle in two. A little sanding and their bottles are now homemade glasses perfect for swigging milk or other libations.

I know. I wouldn’t do it, either.  But they said they’d done it before and it was perfectly safe.

So I looked it up online and there is a technique like the one they described.

That’s probably not the oddest thing anyone’s done with something they purchased from me, but offhand I can’t think of anything kookier. And even though I have a lot of bottles left, I have not been tempted to light any of them on fire.

But I am having another sale next weekend, so stay tuned for details and maybe you can devise something else kooky to do with my auction finds. Or better yet, buy the rest of my bottles and set them on fire.



Home again, home again

I spent a long weekend in the Twin Cities sitting in the rain while my sister and I held a flea market in her yard. Now I’m glad to be back home.

There’s just something about the Twin Cities that spells trial and tribulation for me. I don’t like the traffic, I’m away from home (which I don’t like), and it’s too hard to rally a crowd of people.

In La Crosse, the mere mention of a sale sends the ravening hordes out to pillage and plunder neatly displayed second-hand treasures. I really did find the home of my heart when I landed in La Crosse because rummaging is hardwired into my DNA.  There’s just something about an item with a past life that speaks to me. Not for me the shiny bright and new. I much prefer tarnish and patina and lots of rust. Good thing because all that age is pretty darned affordable.

I was so tired when I got home I didn’t even unpack my car. I just strolled the garden, seeing what surprises awaited and then caught up on reading the paper.

Now, I’m heading out to the garage to sort and stack and toss out so that I can get ready for my own sale the first weekend in October. More on that later.

I’m in the process of unbuilding an old Singer sewing machine cabinet. There are many great parts to these old cabinets, including the legs which can be transformed into a mighty fine table. But I also like the drawers and some of the interesting metal parts. So onward to tinkering.

I hope your day includes a little junk, a lot of joy and some rummaging around. Mine will include all three.


Rain, rain, stay around

It is raining.

Let’s pause for a moment and let that soak in … rain.

Actually, it could more accurately be described as dripping. Still, after weeks of nothing but dry, dry, dry, you can practically hear the crunchy brown lawns and dried up gardens sucking up the moisture with thirsty abandon.

Every once in a while I open the door so I can watch the drip and then I sniff. Yes, that smells  like rain.

I thought I smelled rain last week when I followed the street sweeper down 23rd Street. He left a slightly moist trail you could smell, but it just smelled wet, not rainy.

My poor garden. This was the year I decided nature would supply most of the moisture. I did break down occasionally and water an especially dry patch of garden, but not enough to give me the garden I wanted. I swear that next year I will not be such an environmentalist. I will provide what Mother Nature will not.

But for now, I will watch the paperboy amble slowly through the drip as he heads home after morning delivery, I’ll take another deep breath of damp air, and be glad.




Testing, one, two ….

I have never liked being tested, probably because I’m not a great test taker. I always feel I’m being tested for what I don’t know,  not what I know.

But at least in school, I knew the rules. I was presented with the material, I could study for it (or over study in my case), show up with a sharp pencil, and go to work.

In college, the one class that was meant to weed out those unworthy of journalism was Mr. Polk’s Editing class. Among the tortures he inflicted was a spelling test and the only way you could study was by reading the dictionary. Since the dictionary is one of my favorite books, this is one test I never worried about. So when it came time for the 25 word test, I jokingly said, “I wish we could have 50 words.”

“Since Ms. Parlin requested it, we will have 50 words today,” Polk intoned in the voice that informed us we were all failures just waiting to be caught in our inadequacies.

The photojournalism major sitting next to me punched me in the arm. I still feel  ghost tingles to this day.

You’d think that would have cured me of any and all jocularity, but it didn’t.

When Polk passed back our midterms,”I got a “D,” I crowed with great pride to my friend Mare.

“Ms. Parlin, I wouldn’t be bragging about a ‘D’,” said Polk, who happened to be hovering behind me.

“You would if it was the high grade in the room,”  I said, pointing to all the “F”s around me.

Once you leave school, the tests change. Can you blend into the culture at work? Can you get up to a 6 a.m. alarm? Can you work quietly?

I never passed that last test. In my first year evaluation, my boss told me I was a hard worker, I never made the same mistake twice, and I was reliable. Then he glared at me and said, “If there’s fun in the room, you find it. And if there isn’t, you create it.”

I promised I would try to do better, but in 36 years I never did. In evaluation after evaluation, the subject of my extremely loud laugh, my loud telephone voice, and my inappropriate joyfulness at work was mentioned again and again. It got so bad that I installed the Parlin Wall — A plywood form covered in cotton batting and calico to muffle the happiness coming from my corner of the newsroom.

Now that I am the master of all I survey, I’m still being tested.  This time by my sleep patterns. I have never been a great sleeper. If I can grab six solid hours, that is joy. And because I often start fading at 10:30 p.m., that means I’m often up at 4:30 a.m.

I don’t want to be up at 4:30 a.m.

So when my sister Therese called today at 6:45 a .m. on her way to work,  as she does every day, I was bubbling with enthusiasm. “I just woke up five minutes ago.”

“That’s fabulous,” she said. “What time did you go to sleep?”

Since I nodded off around 11:30 p.m., that means I slept for seven hours.

And I didn’t even have to study.

Cooking up a storm


I was going to write about my great improvement in the world of technology until I failed in my attempt to attach a picture to this post. Obviously, I have made no advancement in that area, so instead I will talk about my improved cooking skills.

Now, I’m no Julia Child. I’m not even Julia Child of God from “Nunsense.” But I have learned how to use chicken stock, cream cheese and all sorts of other fattening cheeses while cooking.

I blame it all on Facebook. In the last year or so, Facebook friends post things that start out, “You won’t believe how easy this is …” Or, “This is so delicious and easy to make.”

You’d think after nearly six decades on this planet I wouldn’t need easy when I cook, but that’s exactly what I’m looking for and that’s exactly what I’m finding on Facebook.

My latest adventure was potato soup. You have to love anything whose first ingredient is frozen hashbrowns. Of even more import, this called for the use of a crockpot which I used for the very first time. I got one at an auction years ago but had never taken it out for a test drive, mostly because I could not think at 7:30 a.m. what I might like to be eating at 6 p.m. It was difficult enough to pour my morning cereal without throwing things in a crockpot.

But in retirement, I have a more slow paced attack on life and have plenty of time to ponder dinner. So I put together this crockpot soup and it was tasty and I was just thinking how I’d be willing to make it again when I dropped the crockpot lid on the kitchen floor. The floor is maple,so, yes, the lid shattered.

Don’t worry, crockpot fanatics, because the lidless crockpot did not prove to be a recipe for a disaster. I went digging through my auction stash and found a lid for a casserole dish that fits just fine.

The moral of the story: I’m improving as a cook but I will always be a klutz.


Work, work, work

Mostly I try to avoid politics. I guess it’s 36 years of having to keep my opinion to myself as a reporter.

So mostly I don’t rant about the poor, the hungry, the homeless, the underpaid, although I feel strongly about all those things. But today is Labor Day and I just can’t keep myself from thinking and writing about unions.

I come from a working class family. We grew up on the American dream — work hard and you  can better your own circumstances. That’s what my dad did and that’s the gift he gave his children and he was able to do it because he was brave enough to organize a union in the backshop at the newspaper where he worked. His boss asked him how he was going to feed all those children at home. He organized the union anyway and for the rest of his career as a printer he was active in making sure all workers were treated fairly.

My dad worked in the backshop where all the big printing presses and headline machines lived. Back then it was hot metal and my dad had burn marks on his arm from coming into contact with molten lead. You had to pay attention when you worked in the backshop.

I’ve since been told that it is politically incorrect to refer to his workplace as a backshop, as if I was demoting his work to less than my own as a reporter.

But I never had a backshop guy tell me that. Back when we still had backshop guys at the La Crosse Tribune, I clicked with the printers much more easily than I did with the other reporters. That’s likely because I looked at every one of them as a substitute dad. And it didn’t take long for all of them to learn who my dad was and that I was a union supporter.

So when management set about busting the union at the Tribune, I was the only reporter any of the backshop guys would talk to. I was so obviously on their side that I used to get into shouting matches with other reporters gathered in bars to talk about what was happening in the backshop. That’s when one uppity reporter on her way into management land told me it was disrespectful to refer to that part of the Tribune as the backshop. I told her it was much more disrespectful to bust printers down to $10 an hour if they wanted to keep their jobs. She seemed to think it was a fair deal. To me, it felt like a death sentence being delivered to my dad.

Watching Governor  Walker bust the teachers unions with the same amount of disrespect brought those sad days back to me. It’s one of the saddest, sorriest episodes in Wisconsin’s progressive history and it makes me glad that the many teachers in my family all work in Minnesota.

I know many people who read this are likely not supporters of unions and that’s OK, as long as you know what it is you’re not supporting. You’ve likely got this Labor Day as a paid day off. Maybe you don’t work weekends and maybe you have to be paid time and a half whenever you work past 40 hours.

That’s great. But you should find a union guy and give him a hug because he’s the reason why the rest of us get all those benefits. We didn’t earn them and we didn’t get them because of the kindness of our employers. My dad and other backshop guys in a lot of industries earned them for us.

Thanks, Dad. I’m sending a hug your way.