Bazaar-o-Rama 2017

Every November, I embark on Bazaar-o-Rama, my annual tour of church bazaars. If you haven’t been to a bazaar, you’re missing out. You can find cheap gifts, form friendships with women named Beatrice and Irene, and buy percolated coffee for next to nothing.

Here are my four weeks of bazaar finds. Some of cute. Some are scary. All of them them are, well, interesting in their own special way. I go backwards in time, starting with the last week. If only we could go backwards in time in real life. Sigh. 

WEEK 4

Well, here we are, the fourth and final week of Bazaar-0-Rama 2017. I have family coming next Saturday, so I can't go bazaaring. (I think Mother is staging an intervention.) Thanks to all of you who stuck it out to the end. I know it's been an emotional journey.

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Spaghetti Stick. I never know how much spaghetti to put in the pot, let alone how much Ragu to heat up. But no more, thanks to this spaghetti measurer. Portions range from “Child 5 YR” to “Man or Teenager” to “3 Adults.” I suppose some men might be inclined to use this to measure their cannelloni, but please reconsider. Sometimes, it’s better to believe the fantasy that you’re an “3 Adults” size. This was 15 cents.

Marshmallow Squares. I have a hard time passing up anything pink and soft. These marshmallow squares hit all the right spots. They were light, fluffy and infused with maraschino cherry flavour. Can someone please make these squares into a mattress? Thanks. They were four dollars.

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Audrey Cup. The next time someone comes into my office and says, “Brian, I need you to–," I’m going to wag my index finger, take a long sip of my General Mills Suisse Mocha International Coffee and gently, but sternly, say, “No, no. Today, I’m Audrey.”

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Decorative Kleenex Box Cover. Pull out this beautiful hand-crafted box for the next guest who sneezes all over your holiday JELL-O mold. This was one dollar. Kleenex not included. You can’t have everything for a buck.

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Bran Muffin. Every Bazaar-o-Rama, I break for a bran muffin. Mainly for regularity. (See Salt Dough Wreath below.) This muffin was $1.75, which was a bit expensive, but it was pretty good. Well, as good as a bran muffin can be. Added bonus: raisins.

Elegant Bath Sponge. It never ceases to amaze me what people will put on a bazaar table to sell. Based on this woman’s hairdo, this sponge is from 1977. What kind of desperate weirdo would pay money for a sponge that old? Never mind. I just answered my own question. This was 25 cents. 

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Old Timey Coasters. Now I’ll have a place to rest my Tom Collins. These Ontario Department of Travel & Publicity coasters, featuring imprints of a Trillium and a beaver (of course), are from 1956. I paid 25 cents for the set. That’s 6.25 cents each. Which is probably what they cost in 1956.

Flyer Swatter Cover. Let’s face it. There’s nothing worse than a bug-gut-splattered swatter sitting next to you at the dinner table. With this decorative cover, hide the carnage from view and keep the flies off your chicken. This was two dollars. Added bonus: the fly swatter.

Shortbread cookies. I’m at the end of Bazaar-o-Rama and I aren’t had one shortbread cookie with a maraschino cherry on top. I picked these up, even though they had Smarties. Everyone has to compromise at times. Look how perfect and uniform they are. No doubt a Martha Stewartson type made them. They were three bucks.

Canadian Short Stories Book. Every now and then, I take a break from watching Ronco videos on YouTube and give reading a whirl. This collection, from 1968, has stories from Margaret Laurence, Mordecai Richler and some lady named Alice Munro. It was 35 cents.

Treasured Recipes cookbook. When I bought this, the senior lady behind the table took a second look. "I like seeing where these books come from,” she said. "Me, too,” I said. (This one’s from a retirement residence called Van Del Manor in Scarborough, Ontario.) “I like old cookbooks,” the lady said. “They have good recipes.” “I agree,” I said. “I enjoy reading them,” she said. “All the people’s names." “Me, too,” I said. "You should bake something and come back next year to sell it,” she said. “Be careful what you ask for,” I said.

Inside the cookbook, there was a handwritten recipe for carrot muffins. I hope the person didn’t make these because there was an important ingredient missing: carrots. Well, we all have our forgetful...er, what was I talking about again?

WEEK 3

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Snowman and Santa. Whenever I see imperfect ornaments, I can’t help but buy them. Sure, Santa is missing a hand and the snowman is missing an eye. But look how happy they are to have found one another. It’s an Island of Misfit Toys reunion. These were 10 cents each.

Charles and Diana Tin. I recently read that Charles and Diana were the same height. Which means this tin is evidence of some serious sexist bullshit. Just look at the way he's pushing down on her shoulders. If I were Diana, I would’ve worn my cork platforms and said, “No, you slouch down, Chuck.” This was three dollars.

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Napkin Holder. Christmas is a special time for my family. We upgrade from paper towels to paper napkins. Look how nice this holder is. Added bonus: it came with a supply of napkins. Mother's chin will be so clean this year. This was 50 cents. 

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Irish Soda Bread. This is my third – and last – time buying Irish Soda Bread. It’s gross and dry as sawdust. Am I supposed to do something other than eat it? Scour off callouses? Wash my car? If you know, please leave a comment. This was two dollars down the drain.

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Artisanal Santa Candles. These will add an air of sophistication to my Caker Christmas dinner table. The only problem with artisanal candles is that you can’t light them or else they’re gone forever. Also, a reminder it’s pronounced ar-tis-in-al. Not artist-anal. Those are different kinds of candles.

Corn Husk Ornament. Everyone made corn husk dolls in the early ‘80s. Then there was that rash of corn husk doll demonic possessions and no one even goes near one today. Which explains why this was only 10 cents. I’m keeping a close eye on it. If the head spins, I’ll gift it to an annoying co-worker. 

Old Timey Garland. There were two strands piled in a heap. “Can I see them?” I asked the lady behind the table. “Sure, you can,” she said. Three hours later, she finally had them untangled. Imagine the death stare I would've gotten if I’d said, “I'll pass.” They were two dollars.

Here's a close-up of one of the Santas. He looks shell-shocked. I think he's surprised to be out of his box in the attic. The world has changed a lot since 1951.

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Squares. I’m having serious concerns about the spatial skills of church women. (See Bounty Bars below.) I mean, the piece at the bottom centre is a frickin’ crumb. I’m not sure what kind of squares these were. But they had coconut, chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk. Like that narrows it down. These were three dollars.

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Stay Strait. I tried to in the early '90s. Really I did. Then "Groove Is in the Heart" was released.

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That's some warranty, by the way. This was 50 cents.

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Macramé Water Bottle Holder. Never underestimate a church woman’s knack for capitalizing on trends. Here’s a great way to make a boring old plastic water bottle more fashionable. It also holds gin bottles. This was three dollars. 

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Face Mask. Winter is cold, but I won’t feel the chill, thanks to my new knit face mask. No doubt I’ll make quite the impression when I pair it with my Joan Collins sunglasses and go carolling. This was seven dollars, which is a bit rich, but a lot less cheaper than a set of new lips to replace your frostbitten ones. This mask is also good if you’ve had a face lift but you want to remain inconspicuous.

WEEK 2

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Wok with Yan Cookbook. "Wok with Yan” was a popular cooking show on CBC in the ‘80s. In every episode, host Stephen Yan wore an apron with a different “wok” saying. This apron seems to promote pooping. I’m not sure it’s the best choice for a cookbook cover. This was 50 cents.

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The cookbook also includes fan poetry. I suggest you read this out loud to appreciate its rhythmic majesty.

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Mincemeat Tarts. I have a complicated relationship with mincemeat. I don’t really like it, but I still eat it. I’m not sure what that says about me. These were one dollar.

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The Gripper. I’m not sure why this is called The Gripper or what it’s used for. But believe me, I’m having fun trying to figure it out. This was one dollar. 

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Cabbage Rolls. I go nuts for the smell of cabbage rolls. For me, it’s like the Love’s Baby Soft of the food world. I tried making them once. There were so many toothpicks sticking out, they looked like porcupines. These were two bucks a roll and tasted like heaven. 

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Cleveland Salt & Pepper Shakers. Who knew Cleveland Ohio was such a fancy place? I’m going to powder my wig and head there soon. This pair was one dollar.

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Reindeer Spoon. Just look at this homemade reindeer, fashioned out of a plastic spoon! As if this craftsmanship wasn’t enough, there’s a Tootsie Pop taped to the other side. He looks angry, though. Maybe he’s self-conscious that his red nose is off to the side. This was 50 cents.

Appe-Teasers Cookbook. Maybe I’ll tell you what recipes are inside, but maybe I won’t. (See what I did there?) Anyways, this contains a recipe for Pickled Wieners. ‘Nuf said. It was 50 cents.

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Socks. Sometimes I go to a senior’s centre bazaar in my area. It’s always a bit depressing. It’s never that busy and the tables are piled with handmade knit stuff that isn’t in fashion these days. While I was perusing, an elderly woman approached me. “I have some men’s socks at my table,” she said. So we walked over. She had a half dozen pairs on display. But they were 20 bucks a pop! “These are really nice,” I said. There was no way I was going to pay that much, handmade or not. “I just hope I sell a pair today,” the woman said softly. Cut to me owning the most expensive socks I’ve ever purchased. 

WEEK 1

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Genital cleanser. Today’s kids don’t realize that, in the 70s, many of us didn’t have indoor plumbing. (“Who’s got the bucket?” was a question often heard in my house.) But that didn’t mean we weren’t hygienic. I’m pretty sure this is a genital cleanser from the ‘70s. Note the brush and the squeezable bottle which would be filled with soapy water, bleach or vinegar (balsamic if it was your wedding anniversary). This was 10 cents.

Salt Dough Wreath. Look at the artistry of this salt dough wreath! Mother Nature couldn’t have created a more beautiful rose. A word of caution – don’t eat anything made of salt dough. Firstly, it’s really salty. Secondly, it’s extremely difficult to pass. I’m speaking from experience. This was 50 cents.

Petro Canada Wine Glasses. I bought these wine glasses to go with my Petro Canada champagne flutes. Just think how elegant they’ll look once they’re filled to the rim with blush wine. These were 10 cents each. 

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Credit Card Holder Thingie. I think this is a credit card holder. I bought it because I couldn’t make out what it said. Is it “I Am 2003 Ottawa?” Or is it “Ian 2003 Ottawa?” Or is it “Ottaha?” And what’s on the reverse?

An umbrella? What does that have to do with Ian or Ottaha or 2003? I’m so confused. I guess these are the mysteries that artists leave behind. This was 50 cents.

Bounty Bars. I’ve never seen Bounty Bars before, so I snapped these up. They were basically coconut with condensed milk covered in chocolate. They tasted okay, but I was a little disturbed by the inconsistences in the shapes. Laura Secord, you have nothing to worry about. These were $2.25.

Wife Dice. This must be a game that wives play with their husbands. They roll the dice and whatever shows up the wife gets to do. The sides read “A night out with the girls,” “I get to sleep late” and “I shop ‘til I drop.” Too bad one of the sides doesn’t read “See a marriage counsellor.” This was 10 cents. 

But wait! There's more. If you can't get enough Bazaar-o-Rama. I suggest two things. Number one, try to get out more. And number two, check out my previous tours from 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2016. Also check out my bazaar tips