Saturday mornings throughout November, I roll out of bed early, put on my Tilley hat, fire up the Chevette, and head out to Christmas bazaars. If you’ve never been to a bazaar, you’re missing out on one of life’s richest experiences. Bazaars are free, you can find great deals, and, if you’re under 50, you’ll feel like the youngest person there.
Here’s a round-up of all the treasures I snagged during my bazaar tour this past November. Try not to turn green with envy, but if you do, put on a red hat and you’ll look very festive.
I know fine art when I see it. This little cutie is made with a real walnut and a hazelnut, so if you get hungry, you can eat it. Don’t try cracking the nuts against your forehead. I’m speaking from experience. This would not make a good gift for anyone with a nut allergy. This was 25 cents. Speaking of nuts…
That reindeer head is a peanut! Do not put this tag on a gift for anyone with a nut allergy. This was 10 cents.
If I had a cat that knew Shakespeare, I’d be on the phone to Ellen’s producers faster than you could say, “M’lady, whereforeart thou Tender Vittles?” I’d also make sure that cat got its own YouTube channel, an Elizabethan pet clothing line and a 2017 commemorative calendar. I paid 50 cents each for these books. That's pretty cheap for quality literature.
We had these Tupperware salt and pepper shakers when I was a kid. I’m going tell you a Francis family secret: I never once saw my mother replace the pepper. I’m not kidding. There was pepper in our shaker older than me. I’ve been forbidden from using these in my house because I’m married to an Italian who gets “schkeeved” by old Tupperware, even though these look pretty new to me. Still, I know which battles to pick. Which are usually none. The pair was 50 cents.
When I asked how much this painting was, the woman behind the table said that Don, the artist, was a member of their congregation. “How much would you give me for it?” she asked. “How about 10 dollars?” I said. Then she paused for the longest time. Seriously, Christmas came, Easter, the Earth did a rotation. But I knew what was going through her head. “If Don finds out I sold it for 10 bucks, will he be pleased or pissed?” Finally, she said it was a deal. I have no idea how Don feels about it. For me, the tree stump is a symbol of emasculated isolation.
The woman who sold me this had a big shoebox of assorted buttons. “These here are all collector’s items,” she said. She was full of it. Who wants an Ontario Lung Association button from the 80s? Anyway, I sorted through them and, after doing considerable damage to my fingertips, settled on this button. Not because my mother is cool but because I'm pretty sure it's from Mother’s Pizza. I used to wait tables there. To this day, whenever I see a Tiffany lampshade, I smell peppeoni. This was one dollar. Because it's a "collector's item."
I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve felt self-conscious on the subway reading my well-worn copy of Flowers in the Attic or The Cat Who Knew Shakespeare. Now everyone will assume I’m reading important literary works with my handy Good Story book cover! It even comes with a bookmark. Best of all, carry your book around like an attaché case and pretend like you're a successful business person. This was two dollars.
I got these tea biscuits at a Royal Canadian Legion bazaar. There were just like the ones my mom used to make: dry as sawdust and hard as hockey pucks. That said, there’s nothing a smear of Imperial margarine and a cup of jam can’t fix. These were two bucks.
I bought these knitted skate thingies for 10 cents. When was the last time you paid 10 cents for anything? Oh, right. That peanut reindeer gift tag. I’d like to point out that the blades are paper clips. (Drops mic.)
The best part about going to multiple bazaars is that you can mix and match things you find. I found these bowling shot glasses at one bazaar and the rocks glasses at another. I can’t wait to serve shots of Kahlua or White Russians to my teammates after a sweaty game of five pin. The shot glasses were four dollars and the rocks glasses were three for one dollar.
These mincemeat tarts had no meat in them! Hashtag WTF? That’s false advertising and I had a good mind to return them. But I reconsidered since I really bought these because of the handwriting. Just look at that spindly script! Like the paper says, these were three dollars.
It's a fact: church ladies read uplifting books. These were 50 cents each.
Sooner or later, time craps on all of us. Case in point: I recently had to get eyeglasses. When I saw these fashion-forward clip-on sunglasses for only 50 cents, I couldn’t pass them up. Here I am, serving some George Michael put-your-tiny-hand-in-mine Father Figure realness. Everyone calm down. There’s plenty of me to go around.
I picked up this Tupperware pitcher for one dollar. Now I finally have something to serve Tang in. If only I were allowed to use it. See the Tupperware salt and pepper shakers for a reminder. Hashtag FML.
We had these same Christmas candles when I was growing up. I always wondered what the plastic netting was for. Décor or safety? If it’s for safety, it must be to stop the exploding glass from going into people’s eyes. I’ll light these for my annual Caker Christmas party and ask that everyone stand 10 feet away. The woman charged me five dollars for the pair, which seemed a bit steep, but I’m not the arguing type.
This jam was delicious. Also, wasn’t Cherry ’16 the name of an 80’s rock band? This was four dollars. A little dear, but I guess non-maraschino cherries aren't cheap.
When I first saw this, I thought it was for…well, never mind what I thought. Turns out it’s a luggage tag! Trust me, no one else at the airport will have a pair of neon-green fuzzy balls attached to their suitcase. Which, I guess, is precisely the point. This was one dollar.
I bought this cookbook because my annual Caker Christmas party is around the corner and my guests always need help sourcing recipes. Some highlights from the Beta Sigma Phi gals include Turkey in a Bag, Zippy Tomato Drink and Baked Deviled Egg Casserole. I have a feeling we'll be doing Peptol Bismol shooters at the end of the night.
The woman who sold me this trio of ornaments said they were 15 cents each. I gave her a loonie and said it was fine. “I can't,” she said. "Just give me 50 cents.” Bazaars are the only places where the seller insists on the buyer paying less.
I have an issue with people who skimp on maraschino cherries on top of shortbread cookies. There should always be at least half a maraschino cherry. Not a scissor-cut sliver. Some of these were a little skimpy in the cherry department, but I bought them anyway. They were two dollars.
Your eyes aren’t deceiving you. This is a Wonder Woman made with elastic bands. Just look at that craftswomanship! The cuffs! The lasso! The blue panties! The woman selling these called herself the Elastic Band Lady and she had all kinds of creations on display. The Simpsons, Star Wars characters and more. This was five dollars. Invisible jet not included.
On my last day of bazaaring, I was on my way home and thought I’d take a chance and see if one of my favourite churches was having its annual bazaar. It’s an old Anglican church in my neighbourhood. I have a soft spot for it because it was one of the first bazaars I ever visited but I somehow miss it every year. Sure enough, the church bazaar was on that day. I took it as a sign, and, given that it’d be my last stop of the year, I was certain I’d find something amazing. So I was a little disappointed when I didn’t walk away with much. But on my way out, I noticed a memorial plaque on a table that stopped me dead in my tracks.
Joyce Sparks is the name of the protagonist in my novel, Natural Order. She’s a church woman of a certain generation who is unable to accept her gay son. On the other side of this table, against the far wall, hung a rainbow flag. My fiction world met the real one. All I could think was that this was Joyce’s way of telling me, “We’re good, kid.”
Turns out I found something amazing, after all.