We are three sisters united in our search for the divine - in food, libation, literature, art, and nature. This blog will capture the true, sometimes decadent, at times humorous, and every so often transcendent adventures of the Salvation Sisters.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Accidental Thrifter and Michelle's Chicken Teriyaki

The Memory Keepers by Juliette

Looking through a jeweler's loop helps to magnify and identify a manufacturer's mark.

What you know about rocking a wolf on your noggin?
What you knowing about wearing a fur fox skin?
I'm digging, I'm digging, I'm searching right through that luggage
One man's trash, that's another man's come up
Thank your granddad for donating that plaid button-up shirt
Cause right now, I'm up in here stuntin'
I'm at the Goodwill, you can find me in the bins
I'm not, I'm not stuck on searchin' in that section (Mens)
Your grammy, your aunty, your momma, your mammy
I'll take those flannel zebra jammies, second hand and I'll rock that.
~Thrift Shop by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis

Island inspired fashion is always in style.
My son Paul grew up going to thrift stores with me. Paul is all grown up now and has two little boys of his own, but back when Paul was a kid of about 10, he wrote this less than enthusiastic account of a typical outing for salvage finds with his "thrifty mom". This salvaging relates directly to why we call ourselves the Salvation Sisters. What follows is Paul's hilarious description (minus a 10-year-old's misspellings) of the seemingly endless day spent with me that he wrote for a school assignment:

   I was in paradise nothing but blue skies and shady palm trees. The sand nice and toasty against my stomach. A gentle breeze blowing overhead through my hair. Strangers having a conversation with me while I am wondering who they are and how they know my name. Then while I am listening to them in the middle of the sentence they just start saying, "Paul. Paul." I say back to them "What?" Then my voice gets louder and angrier. Then one of them says very harsh, "Paul!!!" I instantly wake from the paradise I've been in for the last nine hours. I find out it is my mom saying, "It's time to get up now, Paul."
   "But why mom? It's the weekend, " I say in a tired and whiney voice. She says back to me, "Because we're going to Sierra Vista today."
   I'm so depressed I cannot get back to sleep. Because when my Mom says Sierra Vista it's a code word used around my house meaning going to the thrift shops. My sisters are familiar with the code word Sierra Vista also. When they hear it they hide in fear.

The daily deal at the Salvation Army on Oracle in Tucson.
I have "Spidey-Senses" for fine wools from Scotland.
   As we get pulled in our brown '88 Aerostar my sisters and I begin to pray. I ask my mother about halfway to Sierra Vista, "Where are we going first?" But in the back of my head I know she's going to say the speech I hate the most. "Paul... you know this is my job. This is what puts the food on the table." Then in a whiney voice I say, "Then why can't you get a different one?"
   "There are not many jobs in Bisbee," she says. I try to beg her to not stay long. She says, "I'll try, Paul, I really will."

Vavoom! My daughter Sonora has me to thank for finding this hidden gem.
   As we park in the middle of the Salvation Army parking lot I take a glance at the hours "9 to 5". I say the hours out loud, in again a whiney voice. As we walk in through the glass windowed door the thrift shop smell washes over my body and enters my nose. Thrift shops all have the same smell it seems like. As I walk over to the TV, which is the only entertainment, my sisters zoom past me to take control of the TV. The station that catches their eye is of course the Disney channel. As they sit on the floor sucked in the TV I can see that they enjoy coming. When I try to sit down on a chair by the TV a worker comes up to me and says, "You can't sit on the furniture." As if my day has not gone bad enough now I can't sit on the furniture. Soon I find myself sitting on the floor along side my sisters.

The condiment set was scrutinized under the loop and underwent the sniff test.
We liked the insect motif, but it was a pass due to a small chip.
I suspect that this working mini spinning wheel is worth some money.
   Since I am not into Timon and Pumbaa, I start to watch my mom. She has not even gone through one row and it's been an hour. She mostly looks out for the flashy clothes that catches her eye. Once she finds a dress or shirt she looks at it very closely looking for the tiniest stains or holes. If she doesn't find it at the time she will when she double checks before she pays. When three hours have gone by she is almost done. I can see her in the last row arms and shoulders filled with brightly colored vintage clothing. She looks like a peacock.
   Finally she says, "Ok kids, time to go." I am so bored. I am not happy. Then as I walk through the door she says, "Paul, I could use some help here." When I turn around I see five big black trash bags laying at her feet. My mom picks up one of them, her purse and walks out the door. As I stand there looking at the four garbage bags laying beside my feet begin thinking should I carry all four on the same trip or take two. I'm standing there thinking like a zombie. I see my mom walking back in to  the store. But she didn't come back to help me with the bags but to get her receipt. So I am stuck there with the bags. As I walked through the parking lot with the bags all over me like I'm dressed up for Halloween as a black ghost, I notice the sun is going down. I throw the bags into the back of the car.

No more Disney Channel for Sonora and Avalon. They love "thrifting" 
now… stretches those college dollars.
   While we pull out of the parking lot we stop because of a red light. She says, "What do you want to do now?" Since being in the thrift shops for so long I worked up an appetite so we go to Taco Bell. After I order a number one with an extra soft taco, my mom says, "Paul, find a seat." Quickly my sisters race off to find a seat. When I look at the seat they found it is covered with beans, cheese, salsa and tomatoes. I say to my sisters, "Why don't you find one without food already on the table!" They run around Taco Bell trying to find a clean one. Finally they find one in the corner. When my mom comes to the table with the food she sits down and takes a look at the receipt.
   She asks me, "How many tacos do we have?"
   "They charged us for six."
   "It's only a sixty-five cents difference." But she is already at the counter trying to get a taco or her money back.

My daughters Avalon and Sonora in pursuit of  fashionable finds at an affordable price.

The girls follow my quick measuring tip - if the waist fits around the neck, go ahead and try them on.
   Once we are done eating we go over to Big 5 to get me some shoes. When we walk in I say, "Finally." When we walk to the back of the store where the shoes are kept I see the shoes I saw in the ad in the paper that I've been wanting to get. Quickly I grab them and ask the clerk if they have the shoes in a size ten. Then the clerk went into the back room and came out about thirty seconds later and said, "No. I'm sorry we don't have it in that size." Then my mom butts into the conversation with the clerk and I, and says to him, "Are you sure?"
   The clerk says he'll try again. This time he spent around two minutes in the back room and still came out with nothing. My mom asks me if there is any other shoe I would like. At this point I'm mad since I came up here for nothing but since I was there I would take a look at the shoes. So I strolled up and down the aisle looking for anything that catches my eye with bright colors. But the only shoes that did were for girls. I look to my mom and say, "There are no shoes here that I'm interested in."

Casa de los Niños is a department-style thrift store located at Mountain and Prince in Tucson.

   As we begin to leave the store my mom says, "Well I guess it's not your day, Paul."
   "I guess it's not," I mumble back.
   By now the time is around 8:30 and my mom says to me, "Paul the girls are getting cranky and sleepy. We should go home. I say, "OK."
   So me and my mom hop in the front while my sisters crowd into the back of the old brown van which is now trashed because of the fast food and snacks we had eaten in it through the boring day in beautiful Sierra Vista.
The End
P.S.: Paul received an "A" from his teacher.

It seemed as if this maker's marked violin should be priced for more than $80.00.
When flicked on its rim crystal will ring like a clear bell whereas glass does not.
The inertia of objects is deceptive. The inanimate world appears static, "dead," to humans only because of our neuromuscular chauvinism. We are so enamored of our own activity range that we blind ourselves to the fact that most of the action in the universe is unfolding outside our range, occurring at speeds so much slower or faster than our own that it is hidden from us as if by a... a veil. We regard the objects that polka-dot our daily lives as if they were rigid, totally predictable solids, frozen inferiorly in time and space. Yet, how can we be so sure that we know what things are doing when we aren't looking at them? When our eyesight is inadequate to truly look at them?
       ~ Tom Robbins, Skinny Legs And All

   I have a strange relationship with inanimate objects. I can feel them calling to me sometimes. I know this sounds crazy, but it has played out often enough to not be only coincidence. One morning I was drinking my coffee and felt the sudden need to go to the thrift shop in Douglas, which is nearly a thirty mile drive. I had other things on my agenda that day so I didn't pay it much attention. It persisted. Go to Douglas! Go to Douglas! So, since making a good part of my living at that time was dependent on things I bought and resold, I rescheduled my day and decided to follow my inner voice and make a quick trip to Douglas.
   I found a few things, but nothing to justify the Son of Sam voices in my head. I walked toward the front of the store to buy my goodies, a bit disappointed that I hadn't found anything to justify the trip. Then, I could almost hear something say, "Wait! I'm over here!"
   I decided to make another loop around the store to see if there was something I missed. I found them, in a corner, on a shelf, hidden behind a horrible fluffy prom gown: a pair of women's Tony Lama extra fancy cowboy boots. Two tone beauties with elaborate designs in black and white leather, red accents, and some fancy stitching. Some slight scuffing on the soles was the only evidence that they had ever been worn. They were a jaw dropping $15.00 dollars. I sold them three days later for $175.00, which was still a smoking deal for the buyer since these kick ass boots would have retailed new for around $800.00. Definitely worth the trip!  

We can probably all agree that sheep skin is more appropriate 
for a floor covering than a Yeti-inspired coat.
My niece Maddie searching for "appropriate attire" for her part-time hosting gig.
    Another day I was driving home and there was a yard sale sign in front of a little shack of a house. I normally stop at all yard sales and thrift shops, but this day I was tired and hungry. I drove past even though a little bell started ding-donging in my head. By the time I had turned the corner and was a few blocks from my house that bell in my head started sounding like an alarm. I'm here, I'm here, come find me!!! I do what I always do. I turned the van around and went back. Walking into the carport I was greeted by piles of well worn Rustler jeans, Tupperware that had seen better days, children's toys (dirty and broken), dollar store jewelry piled in a basket, plastic planters, and every other kind of undesirable junk imaginable.

Don't overlook the book section; you never know what 
author signed first edition might be hiding in the mix.
   I walked through slowly, but did not see anything I could to resell in my wildest dreams. I walked out but before I could get to the car it came upon me again... I'm here! I'm here! I turned around and went back through. This time I stopped to inspect the basket of dollar store jewelry more closely. There was a plastic bag of necklaces sitting on top of more junky looking jewelry that was loose on the bottom of the basket. I moved the bag to the side and there it was. A heavy, old, hand wrought sterling watchband set with Bisbee Blue turquoise. "How much?" I asked, trying to conceal my delight.
"Is two dollars too much?" the woman replied. "No, two dollars is great", I answered. I wore that watch band for many, many years but since I stopped wearing a watch several years ago, I recently sold it for $400.00.
   I can tell you a lot of stories like that. I sometimes just "feel" it when there is something good waiting to be discovered. Thank heaven for the gift, wherever it comes from, because it has helped me support my family over the past 20 years.

I have a myriad of uses for knitting needles including 
employing one as a makeshift hair pick.
    My thrift sop addiction started in the mid nineties after birthing two baby girls in less than one year. I lacked the energy, time, space and inspiration to create the art work that had supported me and my son Paul for years. I started shopping at the area thrift shops and yard sales because I could no longer afford even discount retailers such as Ross and Marshall's. While shopping for clothes I would often come across wonderful vintage clothing pieces that were too small for me. I would pull them off the rack, admire the tailoring, put them back reluctantly, and move on in search of something I could actually wear.
   When we became a bit more financially stable I started buying some of the gowns, gloves, scarves, hats, jewelry and other unique vintage pieces I cam across thinking that some day my girls might be able to wear them to a future prom or formal event. I stored everything in a large antique trunk. A few years later when the trunk was packed full to overflowing, a friend of mine suggested that we host a "beautiful clothing" sale at her home. She was an avid thrift shopper as well, but drawn to more contemporary clothing in linen, cotton, and silk.
   My friend thought our items would work well together. By then it was obvious that my girls, even at their tender ages, had their own ideas about fashion, and there was no guarantee that the clothes I had been saving would fit their future sizes of sensibilities. We had the sale and we made close to $4,000.00 in one afternoon. As Oprah would say, it was my "ah-ha" moment. I realized that there were not only money to be saved by shopping second-hand, but more importantly, there was money to be made.

In to the cart go favorite clothes hangers along with a hand 
painted plate made in Mexico.
Yes, I love my Dansko clogs, but no, I don't recognize a need for one wooden 
Heineken clog.... but wait... perhaps Michelle could use it to make a flower 
arrangement in it for the annual Oktoberfest party?
   I loved thrifting because I could take the children along with me while I searched for treasures. They did not share my enthusiasm. Understanding that a good defense requires a good offense I would often bribe my offspring with a trip to Dairy Queen or McDonald's in exchange for good behavior. Around this time I got a job working at a local antique store on the weekends when my then husband could be home with the children. My purchases rapidly expanded from clothing to any and all items antique, collectible, or vintage. I soon had a booth in the antique store and worked in exchange for my rent. It was fun, interesting, got me out of the house and more importantly it helped pay the bills.
   I was certain that my children would never set foot in a thrift shop after all their years of involuntary attendance. I am pleased to report that is not the case. I stopped into the local thrift shop a few weeks ago and turned a corner to see Paul and both of his boys sorting through the toy section. You could have knocked me over with a feather! Sonora and Avalon now shop for their clothes almost exclusively at the many thrift shops in Tucson, and we often go together when I am visiting. They have a good eye and look fabulous in their finds. You would never know their clothes, shoes, jewelry are second-hand, but when complimented, they are proud to point that out. Everything comes full circle.

Hmmmmm... the only use that sprang to mind was trying to incorporate into a Halloween costume.
Additional Tips:
   Feel free to negotiate the price of the item if it is damaged, or the price seems ridiculously high. The worst that can happen is that they will say no. Ask for a manager. Be polite. Smile. Use your kindest voice, and ask if it might be possible to get a discount on the item, and state why you feel that might be justified. This works about half the time.
   Inspect any item you might be interested in BRIEFLY for cracks, tears, or damage. Put it in your cart and move along. You can always put it back but chances are if you decide it is something that you want and go back for it, it will be gone. You snooze, you lose!

   At the end of my shopping I find a table or sofa near a window or in a well lit place where I can inspect all items more closely at leisure. For glassware and ceramics I visually inspect the items for cracks and nicks. Your fingers are more reliable than your eyes, so also run a finger around rims and bases. If you feel a rough place it usually indicates a chip or a place that has been repaired.

Really? Someone donated this collector's item? Quick check the value on Google.
   For clothing, I hold the item open to a window or a light. Holes and tears will show up much easier this way. Inspect wool items with extra care as they often have moth damage that can be hard to spot. I find many stains on the clothing are easy to remove. For oil and greasy stains I use Original Goop Hand Cleaner. For other stains a simple washing with a Mexican soap such as Corona, which has a higher lye content will do the trick! There are many web-sites devoted to stain removal if you have a stubborn one.

Record aficionados are able to search for great finds in vinyl at thrift stores.
   On vintage clothing check the seams for dry rot. I once had a vintage dress split wide open down my back side while I was wearing it... embarrassing. Yup, I'm pretty sure I know where that word originated from now!
   I do not like to use the dressing rooms as they are sometimes disgusting, and heaven knows what goes on in there. Goodwill dressing rooms (at least here) are generally clean, well lit, and have a nice mirror that does not distort to make me appear as Andre The Giant. Bring a tape measure - and know what the size of your clothing looks like on a hanger. Ask what the return policy is prior to purchase if you think you might need to bring it back.

Although this hand beaded sweater from the 1940s is adorable, it was 
begrudgingly rejected due to small moth holes.
  Watch your cart! Unfortunately in most thrift shops the isles are set-up ridiculously close together. There is barely room for two people to pass, let alone a cart so I usually leave it at the end of the isle. Because of this I have had items taken from my cart and after having to hot foot it after the thief I have learned the best way to deter this is to find a really awful piece of clothing and drape it across the top of the cart so the good stuff is concealed! One time, even though I had the "camouflage" item on top, I found a woman dumping the entire contents of my cart onto the floor under a rack of robes because she needed a cart and didn't want to be bothered with walking across the store to get her own. Sheesh! It bears repeating: watch your cart!

These items were a yes and a yes. The black embroidered 
sheer jacket was probably the find of the day.
Michelle and I both adored the 60's inspired handmade linen wedding dress with detachable train.
    Resist the temptation to buy something just because it is really inexpensive. I ask myself: is this something I actually need? Where will I put it? Will I actually wear it? Is there someone I know that can use it? I often find pristine children sized clothes (my favorite is Oshkosh overalls which I often find for $1 or less) or shoes that I will often buy for my friends with small children. Although I have reached maximum capacity at home with cast iron pans of all shapes and sizes, I still buy them for my children's growing collection. It helps to watch an episode of Hoarder's occasionally.... there is great stuff out there, but just because it is great doesn't mean you actually need it.
Whaddya know? Genuine Wedgewood made in England for the low, 
low price of five dollars. But, do I need it?
    As you wander through the thrift shop, try not to look at the big picture. Thrift shops can be daunting because there is so much junk everywhere. Usually there are only a few real gems hiding among the mountains of crap. Just take it one shelf, or rack at a time. It sometimes takes time to develop "the eye" as we in the trade call it, but practice makes perfect. I usually do my best to avoid eye contact with other shoppers as muttering screwballs abound. It is a good time to pop in the ear buds and listen to your iPod.

Additional Notes:
   Most thrift shops offer some sort of sale or discount on miscellaneous items each day. For example,    Goodwill offers half off on a certain tag color every day. There is a sign posted with the color of the day and if you can't find it then ask one of the clerks. A senior citizen discount applies one day a week. It is Tuesday in Southern Arizona but may vary in different areas.
   Salvation Army has a date on the tag of each item. Usually at two weeks past the date on the tag all items are 50% off. The discount date will be posted on a dry erase board as you enter. The stores usually offer other items that have been discounted for that day: linens, bric-à-brac , shoes, etc.
   The good news is senior citizens and military personnel receive discounts. The bad news is the half-off discount cannot be combined with the senior citizen or military discounts. It is a very good idea to sort your items by discount before check-out or it can really slow things down. For some reason the Salvation Army stores do not have the ability to sort items by discount in one transaction, at least not at my local store. Therefore, I have to pay twice. Once for items that are half off and again for items where a senior citizen discount is applied. I should note that I am not technically a senior citizen yet, but if they assume by my rapidly graying hair that I am, I do not correct them. Discount always supersedes vanity in my book!

Juliette gave this $150.00 Persian-style rug due consideration but determined, 
ruefully, that it's too big for her living room.
   One of the women who is regularly working the register at one of my regular haunts asked me once if I was a senior citizen and I said no. When I checked my receipt later I found that she gave me the discount anyway and continues to do so to this day. Being nice to the help is always a good idea! For those of you who can't make it to the store before the 5 p.m. closing, they have midnight sales once every couple of months with great discounts. Ask to be put on their e-mail list to get notifications of special sales and weekly discounts.
   St. Vincent de Paul also has selected discounts available on a daily basis, as do most of the other thrift shops. If there is no sign posted, just ask what discounts are available.

Reuniting with my puppy Val at the end of the day. Yes, that is a tongue slurping my nose.
At the end of the day, it is time for dinner with the family at Michelle's house...

Homemade Teriyaki Sauce keeps for nearly a month in the refrigerator.
Chicken Teriyaki (Traditional and Gluten-Free)
Blog Photos and Recipe Introduction by Michelle

   Even before I was gluten-free I chose Tamari over regular soy sauce because it has a smoother and more complex flavor profile. Look for Tamari that is labeled wheat-free if your goal is to make a gluten-free sauce. Homemade low-sodium chicken broth (or vegetable broth) is the way to go here, but I've also experienced great results with various organic and gluten-free preparations available at grocery stores. You absolutely need to select low sodium Tamari and low sodium chicken broth because this is a reduced sauce. The salty flavor will become more pronounced as the liquid evaporates.
   Also, be mindful to seek out a good quality mirin by reading the label. Authentic mirin is brewed from rice and the ingredients list should not under any circumstances include corn syrup.
   In my opinion, as long as you have the available time, it is just as easy to double this recipe as it is to make one batch, so you might as well have sauce stored in the refrigerator ready for an easy weeknight meal. Just be forewarned that a double batch will take longer to reduce, about an hour over medium heat. I typically multi-task and have the sauce reducing while I complete kitchen chores or other meals. The sauce mellows and improves with age and can be refrigerated for up to one month.
   Finally, this is a great make ahead dish when you are looking for an alternative to the convenience of a meal prepared in a slower cooker. I grill the chicken a day before I plan serving. I make the sauce up to one month ahead and store in the refrigerator. All I need to do for a quick dinner is to slice the chicken, toss with enough sauce to coat and gently reheat on the stovetop or in the oven while the rice is cooking in a rice cooker. Serve with a carrot salad tossed with an Asian vinaigrette. An alternative, but still quick cooking method is to slice the raw chicken into long, thin bite-size pieces and stir fry in a non-stick skillet. When the chicken is cooked, toss with the teriyaki sauce until evenly coated and serve over rice. By the way, if you use vegetable broth, the sauce would also be excellent drizzled over salmon.
   For this post, I adapted a recipe created by Nobu Matsuhisa published in the January 2012 issue of Food and Wine Magazine.

2 cups low-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth (verify it is gluten-free, if needed)
2/3 cup low-sodium tamari, such as San-J brand (wheat free for gluten-free)
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup Eden® Organic mirin (rice cooking wine)
1/4 cup sake
6 quarter size coins unpeeled freshly sliced ginger
6 garlic cloves peeled and smashed
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
high heat oil for frying, if needed, such as ghee or safflower oil
seasoned and grilled boneless chicken breasts
Serve with:
prepared rice
toasted black or white sesame seeds

There is no need to peel the ginger, but you should definitely peel and smash the garlic cloves.

1. In a medium saucepan, combine the low-sodium chicken stock with the low-sodium soy sauce (or low-sodium tamari), sugar, mirin, sake, ginger and garlic and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat to moderate and simmer until the teriyaki sauce is reduced to one cup and syrupy, about 30 to 40 minutes. Strain and discard the solids. Cool to room temperature and then refrigerate in an impeccably clean container, preferably glass with a tight fitting lid, such as a large Working Glass.
2a. Meanwhile, slice raw chicken into long bite-size strips. In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of high-heat oil. Add the chicken and cook over moderately high heat, stirring as needed, until browned all over and cooked through, 8 to 9 minutes. Toss the cooked chicken with enough teriyaki sauce to coat the chicken and heat through.
2b. Alternatively, grill chicken breasts, cool and  refrigerate. When ready to serve, slice the chicken into bite-sized strips. When ready to serve, gently reheat chicken in a non-stick skillet. Coat the chicken with sauce and toss well.
3. Serve immediately with prepared rice and a fresh carrot or green salad.


  1. I love this post. Inspired me to go out thrifting with my daughter, since it's been awhile. Great tips too. And definitely doing that menu - yum!

  2. Julie doesn't have room enough in her living room for that nice big rug ? Time to get a bigger livingroom


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