19 March 2013

Estate Sale Finds & Homemade Baked Ziti

Last month I was kind of jonesing for a thrift fix. Since the thrift stores around here have gotten out of hand, Tag and estate sales can be much better price-wise, plus you get to wander through some amazing homes (and get decor ideas!) So we found two in quite wealthy neighborhoods (I always look at the "better" neighborhoods, better stuff!) and set out. We purposely set out late -- with these kinds of sales, the dealers are vultures lined up hours before the sale starts and usually choose the things I'm not interested in anyway. They also are such hoarders that they miss a good deal of fantastic finds. The later you arrive, the better the price gets as they want it cleared out with as little to deal with at the end of the day as possible.

First sale was pretty empty, not much of interest until I spotted a silk Armani cape ( poncho?) They tried to raise the price, but that don't cut it with me, its marked, I'll either try to talk you down if I think its not worth that, or pay the asking price. It was $10, and will look amazing layered or even as a swim coverup as its quite long on me.

This is the Armani cape/ poncho thingie. Its actually quite sheer, made out of silk scarf-type fabric. (Yeah, it'll get ironed with the rest when I get motivated!)
The second sale was STUFFED even though there was only a little more than an hour left to the sale. They were world travelers, so loads of interesting books, knick knacks, and I counted at least 20 fur coats! I spotted one fur immediately that I lusted after... 1960s silver fox. Price was way too much for my blood but a great deal for a coat in that condition (used they sell pretty high, as this particular style seems to be in demand.) Wandered through this great old Tudor style house (drooled over their vintage kitchen cabinets), found little doodads. A really cool vintage set of two decks of playing cards (sealed and in their original case!) from a South American cruise line that will be gifts. My husband found a complete series of first edition books by Winston Churchill that we found out are worth quite a bit (one volume alone is selling on abe.com for almost 2 grand with a poorer condition dust jacket! Okay so maybe those won't be kept in the book hoard!) If they really are worth that much then they'll have to go to a real auction house, it may be just that volume that is worth that much, the rest as a collection may pull the same price; but he wants to enjoy them first!

In the room filled with linens, I found a gorgeous Hanae Mori silk scarf, and a so-so Vera scarf (colours not what I normally go for but a lovely print, so may gift it.) Then I spotted a set of 4 linen napkins and placemats by Vera, and then a second unused set! The patterns and colours on these are beautiful and I have a few pieces I use all the time as they really brighten a table. For those of you in the UK Vera Neuman was quite a prolific artist and lent her designs to be produced as linens and scarves, mostly in very bright colours, geometrics, and flowers throughout the 60's and 70s. She actually lived near me (only found out recently) and some of her designs sell quite high. It's getting harder to find things by her as she's become "trendy". Ew. I've been collecting the scarves since the 80s and have a lovely collection. The linens are harder to come by, I guess they got used so much they got stained and people tossed them. Shame, I make stories up about stains on vintage linens about the meals eaten on them! (Of course our own stories get added...)

I just love the colour of this, it's actually very pink, not red like it looks on my screen.
Pretty design, but the colours are eh.

The Vera items that have the ladybird are the ones most covetable.

Blogger is giving me trouble adding captions to the photos, so here's the descriptions of the linens. The first is the blue set bought at the estate sale, never used. The second, yellow was also found at the estate sale, but had been used (again, I haven't ironed after laundering everything, I need a new set up for ironing, drives me crazy now!) The round butterfly napkins I've had for some time, and the red set below was a first anniversary gift, never used, still in the shrink wrap. I've been using them for over 20 years and they still stay vibrant after countless launderings! As you can see, they each have the ladybird, usually in a colour to match the piece. 

Lastly I was still thinking about that coat. I knew I couldn't nor wouldn't pay the asking price, but they were closing up. So I bit the bullet tried it on -- perfect fit for tiny me! I asked their best price, talked them into doing the whole lot of everything for a very reduced price. Score!

Here she is! My blue fox jacket. Warm as toast for these old bones!

It's pieced together with leather inserts, you can see on the left where the pocket is.
I thought some of you might get a kick out of the hanger. I've had this and others from hotels all over the US for over 20 years, found in my hallway when we lived in Brooklyn Heights. I think they're from the 60s.
The moral of this story: don't always be first to estate and tag sales, always bring everything together as one bunch that you plan to buy, and always make an offer -- the worst they can do is say no, and usually they want rid of it so will say yes!

On another note, an estate sale I happened upon two weeks ago was crazy, and not in a good way. I wish I had taken pics, the house gave me the distinct impression that someone mentally ill lived there, as there had been no cleaning for decades and items were in multiples. Kind of sad actually. The house itself should have been condemned! Seriously, I've been to some pretty rickety old houses but this one took the prize. As tiny as I am I was scared to climb any stairs inside because they looked so dicey. But my curiosity got the better of me. If there was one of an item, you could be sure to find at least two more. There was a bathtub filled with never worn tee shirts still in shrink wrap. A pile of mostly new mens clothes that went from the floor piled up about 6 feet tall, and about as wide. A pile of never worn Addias sneakers four feet high, again about as wide. Stuff crammed in every corner that I wondered how someone had actually lived there. The place was completely filthy, the floors, the walls, ceilings, everywhere. I spotted a vintage serving dish in a kitchen cabinet but when I went to fish it out the filth caked on the inside of the cabinets completely grossed me out! How does the inside of a cabinet get that filthy? I have only encountered that sort of thing when younger and exploring abandoned houses. I was out of there pretty fast, anything I might've wanted would've given me the heebie-jeebies to bring home! I actually came home, threw all my clothes (including my jacket) into the washer, and took a shower I felt so disgusting after being there. You never know what to encounter, but I'm sure glad they put a disclaimer about wearing old clothes, I didn't even bring in my handbag, just some cash in my pocket, thank goodness!

Now on to some yummy comfort food!

I had a request from both my husband and daughter for my homemade baked ziti. I haven't made it in awhile, and they had the ingredients on sale, so this was Monday night's supper.

Baked ziti is basically the same ingredients as lasagna (switching out lasagna for ziti), but much quicker and all jumbled together so no pretty layers, but same tastes.

I took 32 oz Ricotta cheese, 16 oz Mozzarella cheese (shredded finely) and one egg, and mixed together with some Italian seasonings, always with extra garlic! (Powdered garlic is fine for this, remember this is to be quick so don't faff about with fresh.) Save enough of the mozzarella to sprinkle over the top.

This is all the cheese, egg and seasoning mixed together. Don't forget to save some mozzarella for the top!
While you're mixing the cheese, set your pasta to boil. You want it a little less done than al dente because it will cook more when you put it in the oven. Drain when done and dump in a roasting pan, then mix your sauce. Again, don't make homemade sauce, use a good jar (I used Trader Joe's Organic Marinara, 25 oz) and reserve some sauce to spread on top.
A pound of Ziti Rigati (I like the grooves, they hold the cheese and sauce better than plain ziti) mixed with most of the sauce. Don't forget to reserve some sauce for the top!
 Next mix in the cheese mixture right in the pan, mix it up well. Then start putting some extra sauce on top.
Here I've already mixed the cheese mixture in (oops forgot to take a pic of that) and started spreading the sauce on top.

Next step is to sprinkle the mozzarella on top.
The mozzarella sprinkled over the top.

 Cover with foil, and pop in the oven. I set the oven to 350 degrees, for one hour. After the hour, I'll test to see if its hot enough inside, if not, it stays in with the foil. Once it's hot enough I remove the foil and let it bake just a little to make sure the mozzarella on top is melted nicely.

Ready for the oven!
Here is the finished Baked Ziti. It wound up having to cook 1.5 hours with about 5 minutes to melt the top once the foil was off. It always seems to take a different amount of time, which is why I say to check after an hour, as it depends on your oven.

Here it is right out of the oven, hot gooey cheesy Italian comfort food!

Now there are many variations on how to make this, but this is the way I grew up watching my Italian grandmother making it, and its how all of us in the family make it.

The recipe can easily be halved, or even quartered to suit your needs. My family will demolish almost half in one sitting and then the rest gets put in the fridge and is always gone by the end of the week, as it gets eaten for lunch, or if I don't feel like cooking one night -- leftovers!

You can also play with the cheese amounts. My family LOVES a lot of cheese, so I accommodate, but I have made it with less. You could also try using half the ricotta and half yoghurt cheese (strain yoghurt overnight in cheesecloth or a coffee filter to make yoghurt cheese.) I know other people that like to make a lower calorie version by using cottage cheese, but you'll never see that pass my lips! I can even see it made more vegan if you leave out the egg, used seasoned tofu, and vegan mozzarella (again, tofu doesn't go past these lips, its definitely a texture thing with both tofu and cottage cheese.) I do usually have extra sauce in the fridge, which is nice to add to leftovers as they can get dry. Play around to see what suits you best, but remember: this is Italian comfort food not really meant to be super healthy, just a hot gooey mess of cheese and pasta! (Hence why I made it while it was not only a freezing day, but also started snowing like mad!) Whatever you do, mangia!

Hooking up with Lakota's Taa Daa Tuesday:  http://faithhopeandcharityshopping.blogspot.com/ Check her out as well!




  1. THE COAT! THE COAT! THE COAT! You got the coat!!!! Oh may you have plenty more chilly days so you can float a foot above the ground in your blue fox! I'm always a late-comer too, mostly because I'm so broke I wanna haggle for bargains - it's good for the kids to witness the deals going down too - teaches them to stand their ground:). Loveyamorethanbluefoxbaby!!!! xoxoxoxoxoxoxoo

    1. Heehee, yes and I was excited as you sound too! Oh it was so toasty warm yesterday as I had to go a little ways up north and it was mostly in the 20s all day. Keeps these old bones warm! Haggling rules, and chances are much better if you show late. I used to do the same when I had the flea market biz, I'd rather give a deal then lug it back home. Gwensday won't bargain, but she doesn't have to, they take one look at her and either feel sorry for the poor freaky green haired girl (I presume), or just like her and give her a deal. Loads of times they just give her stuff! Lucky little lass! Love YOU more than my blue fox, my foxy friend! XXX

  2. I have never heard of that dish but I'm going to try it. It loooks delish. Someone else was blogging about Vera scarves recently and I'd never heard of her. I will keep a look out for them now.

    1. Hi Emma Kate! I think the dish is called something else in the UK, it might be "Pasta Al Forno"? Not sure as it isn't something I woud order out when its so easy to fix at home! Her scarves are beautiful, so many designs. But they are getting sparse due to the "trendy" collector factor. Sometimes you can find a deal on eBay, if you can get one around $3-$4 that you love the print of, its worth it. Thanks for stopping by! XXX

  3. Asking for their best price is always a winner, it's polite and puts the ball firmly in their court. That's a great style coat, bet it will keep you warm as anything and if NY's anything like the good old UK at the moment it'll be getting loads of wear still! x

    1. Hi Vix! Yes, always ask for the best price! Some people forget to be polite about it though and get all nasty saying its not worth that. That will get you nowhere fast! I used to haggle all the time when I had the flea market booth, and it was the polite ones who got the best deals. Oh yes, its been frigid here, snowed like crazy last night, and today when I went to throw some things in the compost I got soaked with sleet and ice! I wore it yesterday as it was in the 20s most of the day and must say it kept my aching back at bay! I'm sure there will be more days... I have a feeling it will be like a few years ago where we go from heavy coats to blistering heat, with no spring ): XXX

  4. Amor what a score!
    I believe in going late to boot sales jumbles you have to ge there early cause all the viejillas take everything.
    Love the coat! You need to model it for us. The Armami cape is divina.
    Those linens and scarfs are so pretty.
    Mmm baked ziti looks deliciosa! Your my kind of brujita.

    1. Muchas gracias amor! Boot sales, jumble sales, and here rummage sales you do have to get to early. Otherwise it gets cleaned out of good stuff right away. But estate sales seem different, and honestly I can't be bothered with the dealers. I used to be one, but never as nasty as the new crop. They grab right out of your hands, but that doesn't work with evil bruja me! One look, and they leave me. Still they're looking for different things so why bother with the hassle, right? I tried taking pics of me in the coat but the lighting was all weird, so I'll try again another day and post on FB. Thanks, baked ziti is a treat around here, since its not exactly the healthiest of meals, but oh so deliciosa! Of course, we are kindred bruja! My magick sister! XXX

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  6. Oh I love a hot gooey mess of cheese and pasta, I should have been Italian! Was wondering what ziti was ;-)

    I was getting jealous again seeing your finds about the fact we don't get estate sales here, and then I read about the last one you went to - ewww. It's so sad when people get their homes in that state, what a shame there wasn't an intervention before they died.

    1. Haha, I love cheese in general and find it really comforting, so any dish with masses of it makes me a very happy woman! I guess I should count myself lucky with my patchwork ancestry. Anyone can cook real Italian food, its actually quite simple. You can do it! Let me know if you try! Maybe they call them something else over there? Its usually when either an elderly person has died, or been moved to assisted living and the family has to unload years of accumulation, or the family is downsizing or moving abroad. They have companies that come in and do everything for a fee + a percentage. Its a great biz to get into, and I've thought of starting my own company but am too afraid I'll become worse than I am and end up like that other sale, EWWWW! I forgot to mention, someone in that house was a fireman, there was fireman memorabilia stacked everywhere, quite a mess. Again I find it hard to think a fireman of all people would live like that, it was a death trap! XXX

  7. The fur is amazing!
    We don't have estate sales here, sadly. I think at auctions you may find estate lots, but I've never been to an auction either!
    MMMMMMMMMMM, that baked ziti looks GOOD! Cheese on anything is ok by me! I'm totally gonna try this!

    1. Hi Helga! Thanks, its also amazingly warm! It gets pretty extreme in NY -- either boiling hot in summer, or arctic in winter so it's coming in handy! In all my years of collecting, selling, I've never been to an auction either! I do want to do soon and check out how they work out of curiosity. Oh do let me know if you make the baked ziti, I'd love to hear how you like it and your twist on it! XXX

  8. Hi dear!! You have a lovely blog :)
    Nice post, i really like your photos!!
    Take a look at;

    1. Hello Sandra, Thanks you, and thank you also for stopping by! Come by again! XXX

  9. Bejayzus - I cannot WAIT to see you in the coat. THE COAT! I have had the same experience - if you bundle your finds together and make an offer, they almost ALWAYS accept. The scarves are beautiful and I love those Vera linens - interesting about the ladybug thing. I haven't been to an estate auction in a million years - thanks for the inspiration!

    Sarah xxx

    1. I should have taken pics the other day, but I looked a horror with the way the wind was blowing with arctic force! Eventually I'll get a photo, promise! Yep, it always pays off to have a jumble of stuff at the ready! The Vera linens are my fav, really brighten the table. I'm glad I inspired you to hit another venue for goodies! XXX

  10. This place must have been so unreal.I would be sad for a week to think of what kind of insane person lived there.

    1. Oh Kelly it was frightening, and I've got really thick skin when it comes to hunting bargains. I honestly think someone was mentally ill, very sad that no one helped. XXX


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