desk shot with portuguese thrifted mugThis is my new favorite mug, and like most things I own, it was thrifted. But unlike most of the things I’ve found thrifting, this mug was dug from the recesses of the bins at the Goodwill Outlets.

I was pretty intimidated by the idea of going to the Goodwill Outlets. For those who aren’t familiar, the Outlets are where all the things that don’t sell at the usual thrift stores end up. They’re filled with big bins, and nothing is organized — you just dig and dig through piles hoping to find a gem. Periodically, staff will take away the picked-over bins and bring out new ones. Shoppers can get pretty territorial, swarming like vultures over the new bins, vying to be the first to go through the piles. (I didn’t take any pictures while I was there, because I didn’t want to invade anyone’s privacy. But you can go on YouTube and find lots of videos of people walking you through the experience.)

Thankfully, my friend Anulfo, a veteran shopper at the Boston Goodwill Outlet, offered to go with me for my first trip. And it wasn’t as intimidating as I thought it would be, but I was still glad I had someone to show me the ropes.

I went to the outlet with high hopes that I’d find a few gems– but I really expected to have to sort through piles of relatively worthless stuff. Instead, the truly worn-out pieces are rarer than completely wearable clothing. It took a little bit of hunting, but I found beautiful items from Anthropologie, Boden, and Banana Republic that I couldn’t believe had been ignored at the usual thrift stores.

desk shot with portuguese thrifted mug
There were far more clothes than housewares, but even in the housewares bins I came away with some great things: lots of Christmas decorations, which I’m excited to repurpose come winter; some vintage souvenirs; and the aforementioned mug. It was made in Portugual, owned and discarded in Boston, and has now made its way to my desk in Philly.

The main thing that struck me about this experience was the vastness of how much we discard. All of these items were on their last chance to be claimed by a new owner, and yet the majority of them were still perfectly usable and useful. It was hard for me to walk away from items I didn’t need, out of the knowledge that they’d likely end up in a landfill. If I was flagging on my resolve to buy nothing new for a whole year, one look at the outlet’s bounty reminded me how unnecessary it is to buy anything brand new.

My advice for visiting the Goodwill Outlet:

  1. Come Prepared: Bring gloves if you’d rather not dig through items bare-handed, and bring a bottle of water. I like to wear a cross-body bag when thrifting so it’s easier to keep my hands free, and I was especially glad I did so at the outlet.
  2. Be Patient: Come ready to spend a good chunk of time at the outlet. Take your time hunting, because there are good things to be found, although it might not seem like much at first glance. Like with all thrifting, remember to have some imagination — think about what items will look like when cleaned, pressed, and styled.
  3. Be Persistent: Don’t be afraid to look back through bins you’ve already been through, because other people’s digging will bring new items to the surface. I thought I’d already seen everything in one bin when I found my best find of the day: a gorgeous 1970’s wedding dress that almost made me wish I hadn’t already gotten married.
  4. Come Opened Minded: I usually recommend having a bit of a shopping list when going thrift shopping, because it helps keep you focused, but at the outlet I found it better to just be open to finding anything. You never know what you might find in the bins, and that’s part of the fun!
  5. Be Friendly and Polite: Some people can get pretty aggressive, but it doesn’t seem worth it to me to fight for first dibs on all the bins. As Anulfo pointed out to me, not everyone is looking for the same items — case in point, the wedding dress that was like a holy grail to me had already been passed over by several people. And in any case, there’s plenty to go around.

If you’re looking for your local Goodwill Outlet, you can find the one nearest you on their website.

Have you ever been to one of the Goodwill Outlets? What advice would you give?

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 I started writing this post a few days ago, and kept walking away from it because it’s been so hard to find the right words to say about what happened last weekend. I debated whether or not to post anything at all, because I don’t want to simply add to the noise. Other people have already eloquently said what I believe this horrible tragedy means politically. This post is, instead, an examination of grief, as experienced by one queer, light-skinned Xicana living in Philadelphia.

Sunday

4 am: I couldn’t sleep. As I usually do during bouts of insomnia, I checked twitter and facebook, but somehow avoided news about the shooting in Orlando. I eventually fell back asleep.

10:30 am: My mom sent me a series of text messages that read like a riddle. She was upset and concerned about me and Crystal. I called her, thinking maybe something bad had happened to someone in our family. If I had to hear about what happened, I was grateful to hear it coming from my mother’s voice.

11:00 am: I went to church, where my wife was giving her first Sunday sermon. The multifaceted import of that Sunday was coincidental, or maybe God-ordained: Crystal was preaching about Pride, and a prayer for victims of gun violence had already been planned, and the bishop was visiting.

I had heard Crystal’s sermon earlier that morning, before I knew that dozens of LGBT people had been killed in Orlando. Even though I knew what she was going to say, they were words I desperately needed to hear said again.

After she spoke, the Bishop praised her sermon. Then he said something I don’t think I’ll ever forget: how our church, Christ Church, was a political force back in 1776, and it hasn’t stopped, and that we couldn’t and shouldn’t stop.

I felt so lucky to have a place where all of my selves– my political self, my religious self, my queer self– are recognized and celebrated and needed.

1:00 pm: Crystal and I went to the Pride festival at Penn’s Landing, where our church had a table. Far more people than usual stopped to talk to us. We hugged friends, both old and new, and for one of the first times since I’ve lived in Philadelphia I felt truly part of the queer community here.

Being at Pride that day was proof that mourning can be celebration and celebration can be mourning and both can be an act of resistance.

6:00 pm: I read posts on Facebook reminding bisexuals that they are enough, that they count as LGBT, and that this is their tragedy too, and I wondered: what about me, as a light-skinned, half-Latina? Do I count? Am I enough? Is it fair that I feel so personally affected by this tragedy?

I reflected on my Xicana identity, and how often it seems to deepen in moments of anger and pain rather than joy and hope. Will there ever be a time when I feel drawn close to my people out of an emotion other than anger and sadness?

8:00 pm: I watched the Tony awards. Lin-Manuel Miranda read his sonnet, and I cried.

Monday

4:00 pm: I looked down at my skin, and noticed that after the hours I had spent in the sun the day before, my skin had grown as dark as my mother’s.

6:30 pm: Church bells across Philadelphia rang to mark the beginning of the vigil at City Hall. We climbed into the bell tower at Christ Church and helped to count the peals of the bells.

​From inside the bell tower, you can hear the soft echoes of the bells as they ring. Where words failed me, that sound seemed to capture everything. It was a soft wail of mourning; it was hope. I closed my eyes and imagined the path the sound was taking beyond the place where we were standing.

7:00 pm: I walked over to the vigil at City Hall.

Despite the sea of people, I kept running into people I knew — many of the same people I had seen at Pride the day before.

We marched in a circle around City Hall, and I turned to my left to offer to light the candle of the stranger next to me. Only it turned out she wasn’t a stranger, but someone I had lived with in college and hadn’t seen in years. We talked softly as we marched, and I left the vigil wondering if anyone is really a stranger at all.

Tuesday

6:00 pm: I channeled my emotions into making gazpacho. I made it hotter than I could stand, throwing in whole peppers with all their seeds, making a soup that tasted like grief and anger.

Friday

7:00 pm: Tonight, Crystal and I are attending a performance of a Requiem composed in honor of the victims of the shooting in Charleston. These tragedies have begun to feel so common that they make up the very fabric and rhythm of life. When will it end?

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Every year, I make a list of books I’m going to read over the summer, and every year, I tend to make only a small dent. This summer, I tried to keep the list short, but I’ll also be working on my MA thesis, so this list is really a fraction of the reading I’ll be doing. But I have to relax sometimes, right?

In keeping with my pledge to buy nothing new in 2016, all of these books are books that I borrowed, bought used, or was given. I used to be fastidious about my books, trying to keep them in pristine condition and keeping them forever. But my attitude towards books has changed, and with a few favorite exceptions, I don’t feel the need to hold onto them forever. I love reading books that are beat up, dog-eared, and show the signs of being read and loved before. I’m also looking forward to passing on some of these books to friends or leaving them around the city with BookCrossing.

  1. Elena Ferrante – My Brilliant FriendAm I the last one to read this book? I borrowed it from a friend months ago and I really need to read it so I can give it back to her. I bought the second book in the series already, because I’m expecting to be hooked. I hope my expectations aren’t too high.
  2. Alina Bronsky – Broken Glass ParkI read Bronsky’s second book, The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisineearlier this year, and devoured all of it in a single sitting. It was hilarious and had some of the most complex female characters I had read in a long time. I was really excited to find Broken Glass Park at The Spiral Bookcase in Manyaunk, and I can’t wait to finally read it.
  3. Ruth Ozeki – A Tale for the Time BeingI started reading this book a couple years ago on Kindle, and discovered that it’s one of the few books you really need to read on paper to appreciate the flow appropriately (there are a lot of footnotes that are integral to the narrative.) I absolutely loved the first 20-30 pages I read, and I’ve been dying to read the rest.
  4. Karen Kelsky – The Professor is InThis book is about the realities of being on the job market with a PhD. I received this book from Blogging for Books and haven’t read it yet, mostly because it intimidates me to face my potential future as a current grad student. But I’ve heard great things about it, and I know that I’ll gain a lot from having read it.
  5. Patti Smith – M TrainI absolutely adored reading Just Kids, so I’m excited to read this. From the look of the book, I’m pretty sure I’m going to finish this one and feel that it was far too short.
  6. Meg Wolitzer – the InterestingsThis is the only book on my list that’s a reread. I read The Interestings for the first time while on a sleeper train across Poland (mentioned in my last post), and it just reminds me of summer. I can’t wait to escape back into the world of the Interestings.
  7. Jennifer Egan – A Visit from the Goon SquadI rescued this book from the bottom of a bin at the Goodwill Outlet in Boston, and it’s been vaguely on my list of “books I’d like to read” for a long time.
  8. Orhan Pamuk – A Strangeness in My MindI bought this book at the Spiral Bookcase along with Broken Glass Park, and it’s the only book on this list that I’ve started so far. It’s long, but so far it’s been a quick read — not quite a page turner, but one of those books that just draws you in and keeps you reading.

What are you planning on reading this summer? Are you a book hoarder, or do you like to let books go?

Note: Amazon links in this post are affiliate links.

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30th Birthday Candles

Almost a week ago, I turned 30.

I didn’t wake up feeling any different, the way I did when I woke up on my tenth birthday and suddenly felt very Grown Up. Instead, I gradually adjusted to the idea over the last few months that my 20’s were coming to an end. I’ll be honest: the last few years of my life have been pretty tough, so I’m excited for this opportunity to start fresh with a new decade.

Several years years ago, on my old blog, I started a 30 before 30 list. I changed it around some as time went on and I realized some of my goals and priorities had shifted. I didn’t complete everything, but I made quite a dent. Here’s that list again, complete with annotations: [click to continue…]

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Blue and White Gingham Crop Top

One of my goals before I turned 30 was to focus more time on my Etsy shop. I’ve been spending some time over the past few weeks stocking it, with vintage patterns, ephemera, gorgeous vintage dresses and a few housewares. (Every item truly Found in Philadelphia.)

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My vision for my Etsy shop matches the vision I have for my blog: to translate vintage treasures into pieces that can easily find a home in a modern life. That means decor pieces that can be styled alongside modern finds, vintage clothes that can easily be worn with contemporary pieces, and vintage craft supplies that can be used for very modern DIYs. In the future, I’m planning to feature more DIY process posts on this blog, and offer a limited number of vintage supplies for completing these projects on my shop. My end goal is for my Etsy store to become a natural extension of this blog.

Vintage Pattern Simplicity 7749

Vintage brides, take note: Further down the road I’m planning to start sourcing vintage items in large enough quantities for weddings, including vintage postcard guestbook kits, vintage stamps for mailing invitations, milk glass tablescapes, and more. (If you have any requests in the meantime, let me know!)

A few of my favorite items in the shop right now, featured in this post from top to bottom:

  • This 1960’s vintage pattern (Simplicity 7749): If I were to make this, I think I’d pick the middle view with the high neck. What I really adore about this pattern is the interesting construction of the sleeves. Perfect for color blocking, or integrating a small amount of a knockout vintage print.

I have big plans in store for both the blog and the shop, so I hope you’ll come along for the ride! If you take a look around my Etsy shop, I’d love to hear your feedback!

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