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Like anyone, I love a good bargain. But there’s something even better than a bargain, and that’s a bargain transformed.

During the summer, my boyfriend Tom and I spend most weekends out at his beautiful little house on Long Island, about two hours east of NYC. When we arrive on Friday evening, we pick up the local paper and it’s my job to find the most promising yard sales, then map out our Saturday route. In the morning, we’re off on the hunt. Sometimes we return dejected and empty handed (“What kind of sales were those? Who sells half empty paint cans?”) but now and then we suss out some sweet little finds.

On one of our first forays this summer, I picked up this little bird. He had a good, solid weight in my hand. Look at that feather and leg detail! He’s about five inches tall. I don’t mind his chipped beak.

Right away, I had a plan. By that afternoon, with the help of acrylic paint, he became bronze.

On the same outing, Tom found a beautiful stoneware lamp. The shade was unappealing and the color of the base didn’t match a thing in the house. Who cares? He snagged it.

I painted it off-white, glazed it in raw umber using damp cheesecloth, then spattered it in three colors. A new shade and bingo! Into the living room it went.

This is one of my best finds from last summer. Not a paint transformation, but just as satisfying.

This book is amazing: published in 1886, full of gorgeous full-color animal illustrations, not to mention wildly outdated ideas about animals. (“The Hippopotamus is a homely beast, with an exceedingly thick hide. The teeth of the Hippopotamus are whiter and more valuable than those of the elephant, and its tough skin is used for a variety of purposes.”) Yikes! Glad those days are over.

The color plates inside are rich and vibrant. This spread of bears has no hunters in it, but I’ve never seen a book of animal illustrations that included so many humans with guns running around in the background. Anyway, perfect for paper crafting on the picnic table. Hello, pencil cups.

I’ll keep my fingers crossed for more great finds. Last week I picked up a whole box of dress patterns from the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s for one dollar. They’ll make their way into the paper craft world any day now!

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