Priceless One-of-a-Kind Tin

Momma at Passmore GroceryMy mother was about 10 years old when this photo was taken in front of my grandparents’ grocery store (around 1948/49) in North Surrey, British Columbia.

As the picture suggests, North Surrey was a humble but wholesome blue collar neighbourhood. It was full of hard-working families like mine and most of the kids who grew up together then remain friends and now, most in their late 70’s early 80’s, still get together every 3 months for lunch or to see an Elvis Presley impersonator concert.

Except my mom. She died  when I was 10, the same age she was in this photo.

Having retired (supposedly), and watching his pennies, last year my uncle (my mother’s brother, who raised my siblings and I following my mother’s death), gave me a Christmas present that didn’t cost him a dime. But, as the credit card commercial says, to me it is precious.

Passmore Grocery Tea Tin

Around the time the photo of my mother was taken, the Murchison Tea Company of Victoria, British Columbia made personalized tea tins for each of their merchants for Christmas.  There was only one tin made for each merchant, and this was my grandparents.

As I suspect is true of most families, a lot of cool “stuff” from my family did not survive the passage of time.  My antique auctioneer uncle salivates over the long gone storefront signs in the photo of my mom. I am thrilled this tin has survived three generations and being moved back and forth across Canada.

Watching the horrifying news coverage of the Fort McMurray fires I looked at my spoiled, lazy cat sprawled across the back of the sofa with his paws dangling down and told him that if our home catches fire he’ll have to fend for himself. I’ll be running for this tin.

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Downtown Abbey-era Trough

Heartbreak! This Victorian English trough was a birthday present to myself last year.

A friend had it for sale in his store and I saw it on his web site first.

It became my online porn and I soon added the site to my favorites.  My facebook friends were quickly forgotten as I devoted my not-so-spare time to rationalizing the purchase.

It’s not cheap, but rather uncharacteristically for a girl whose tastes tend toward rustic and primitive, I fell in love with its ornate iron swirls and scrolls.  I verily swooned when I set eyes on it.

 This was not a trough  you would find in a barn, of course.  It would have been at the front of a very up market hotel or a great estate like Downtown Abbey for elegant visitors to water their horses.

I, of course, had visions of container gardening (I lined it with heavy plastic before playing with pots of shade plants), but I couldn’t find a place where it fit.  It had to be under cover so it wouldn’t rust and fall apart, but I just don’t have covered space wide enough.

So with a broken heart I’m going to have to sell it.  I can think of a million “repurposes” – it would be gorgeous wedding catering décor – filled with tubs of ice and used to serve food or drinks or to receive gifts.

It would also be gorgeous in a boutique selling pillows or towels or yoga mats.

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More than Sew Sew

Antique sewing machine doorstop

A local sewing shop has a brilliant repurpose – an antique sewing machine as a doorstop.  Although it’s old, it’s probably not working and even if it is, functionally isn’t as convenient as today’s fancy, light model machines. So if not for this business’ creativity, it would likely end up in the landfill.

Those things weigh a ton – it’s a genius repurpose!

Laura's Fashion Fabrics antique doorstop

I’ve walked by it for years and love that this little shop has this clever repurpose right out front where everyone in the community can see it.

And propping the door open all day (spring through fall in our mild climate) is a big, friendly White Rock-style “come on in”.

If you’ve ever in White Rock, BC give a thumbs up to the girls at Laura’s Fashion Fabrics on Johnston Road  (



The Broken Truth

I looked out my bathroom window one morning while brushing my teeth and someone was going through the garbage can I had put out for weekly collection. It was a long time ago (like many of the things in my home, I AM an ANTIQUE). Then I was young and head of an environmental group and kinda prominent (read: mouthy). The person going through my trash wasn’t a homeless person – it was a young reporter curious about whether I walked the talk.

He didn’t  get a story, but certainly  taught me a lesson! While it isn’t always practical, we all should try to practice what we preach.

So when I was helping my uncle clear his home of some “junk” recently, we had fun talking about alternatives to the garbage can for some antique and vintage items that had been damaged.

As a multi-media altered card artist, I am always on the lookout for bits of broken pottery, porcelain or glass.  There are a lot of cool jewelery artists who similarly repurpose broken bits.

But a glass Hen on Nest at my uncle’s was a great example of not throwing the Hen out with the bathwater.

The “nest” part of the piece had a large chip missing. But I bet some modern jewelers would love to get their hands on this mottled vintage glass.

   The chicken top, however, was in perfect condition.  No need to let a jeweler break it up or throw it in the glass recycling.  There are a number of new leases on life available to items like this.

It could be placed on an oval bowl or basket in any complementary colours.

 It’s spring so you won’t be surprised what this junk gardener did!!

Graniteware Garden

A few months ago I got a phone call from my antique auctioneer uncle. A friend of his was moving from a house to an apartment and wanted to consign some items to his auction. When he arrived at her house to discuss the consignment he saw a large pile of items destined for the dump.

He asked her if she would be willing to give the items away instead of sending them to the dump, then called me as soon as he got her approval.  That represents a bit of a shift for him. While I learned my love of primitive antiques from him, I think he frequently despairs that my appetites have gone a bit far.

But this load goes straight to the heart of why I created Adventures in Junking: reducing landfill contributions through creative reuse or repurpose.

I suspect my fellow junkers will see it as a great score!

The graniteware canning pot is full of smaller graniteware items, and these were the inspiration for a Graniteware Garden.

People who follow Adventures in Junking may remember these wicker chairs were a roadside rescue from last summer, as were the graniteware bundt pan and it’s support (which was the base of a coatstand). But the lovely little graniteware pot stuffed with spring blossoms is part of the haul from Herda.

The lid for the canning pot gets in on the act, repurposed as a welcome with the help of a piece of chalk.

The choice to use the canning pot in the garden instead of the kitchen is made for me.

My lovely antique Red Rose tin had already been rusted through when I rescued it. I had no reservations about using it as a cover or sleeve for plant pots, but its condition limits its function (and value!)



Even though my pots and tins are rusty and rustic, I want them to last.

So I put plant pots inside the decorative tins or pots and pull the plant pots out for watering and put them back after they have stopped dripping.

A lovely rusted antique milk pitcher houses a hosta


Hard to believe someone was going to throw away this lovely old bread basket

The brass mid-century ashtray was another curbside rescue.  I immediately saw a good prospective repurpose, but was surprised to find it. There are many  collectors – hobbyists and professionals – who drive up and down streets looking for scrap metal .. And brass brings a good price.  Recently at one of his antique auctions a brass bed that wasn’t very attractive sold for $50 to a fellow who turned around and sold it to a metal recycler for $150.

From an environmental perspective, seeing antique or vintage brass go to a metal recycler is certainly preferable than seeing it end up in a landfill, the antique lover in me worries that the strong price of scrap metal will greatly diminish the amount of metal antiques we leave future generations.

I am also a container gardener, and as I said, I immediately saw a repurpose in the ashtray. The little ashtray comes off for emptying. I took out  a metal bundt pan that I hung from a tree as a bird feeder last year and popped it onto the ashtray stand, then replaced the ashtray to hold the bundt pan in place.

I filled it with seed and added a metal jar lid filled with water

A little friend shares my love of critters.


A little seed in antique graniteware bowl which will hopefully keep the squirrels away from the feeder intended for birds.


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St Patrick’s Porch Decor

Antique Shamrock Lard tin (from the former Burns Company of Vancouver, BC) planted with Shamrocks and Irish Moss.

The Celts of ancient Ireland believed that planting Irish Moss by your door acts as lightning rod for prosperity and good fortune.  I’ll keep you posted.

It is accompanied by a vintage Blue Mountain Pottery Clover Leaf hostess dish in green drip glaze – a curbside find at the home of neighbours doing a spring purge.  Given the significant Irish population in this city, I think I was lucky to spy it first.

All in all fun, vintage DIY porch décor for St. Patrick’s Day – and here in White  Rock for the month long  Irish Festival in March.

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