Small is Beautiful on Valentine’s Day

valentines day hearts picture (18)Valentine’s Day is a challenging holiday.  Up until the age of 12, it’s pretty straightforward – hearts, candy, handmade Valentine’s cards for all your relatives.  Then love strikes, and it’s never the same again.  From then on, Valentine’s Day gifts fall into two categories:  the Grand Romantic Gesture (a solitaire diamond in a heart-shaped box; Super Bowl tickets; dinner in Paris; a Ferrari), or the Small but Meaningful Gift.

The Small but Meaningful Gift is especially useful if you’ve just started dating someone, are hoping to start dating someone, want to communicate with your teenager, or made a New Year’s resolution with your spouse to save for a new refrigerator.

Since this is a blog about a thrift shop, we assume our readers are looking for ideas for Small but Meaningful gifts:

– DVDs! EVERYBODY has a favorite movie.  (Particularly good for someone-you-are-hoping-to-date, because it would be really inconsiderate of the recipient not to invite you over to watch the movie.)

– BOOKS! Everybody also has a favorite author, or at least a favorite genre.  Just don’t buy a cookbook for someone who’s dieting, or, because we obviously sell used books, a book that’s inscribed on the title page, “To Andrea – Happy Valentine’s Day 2003.”

– CUDDLY PETS! No, not a REAL pet, because this present is a surprise, and in spite of all those stories where the little girl or boy opens up a birthday box to find a puppy inside, a real pet should never, never, never be a surprise.  But cuddly stuffed animals are perfect.  They’re huggable, kissable, can go anywhere, and make people happy when they look at them.

– HOBBY AND CRAFT SUPPLIES! These can be anything from cooking gadgets to scrapbooking materials to sports equipment.   Your Valentine will be thrilled, even if you are privately thinking that no one needs 15 different cheese graters.

And remember to check out our special hand-made Valentine cards, created by our own members in our Thursday night “Crafters” group.  One of these unique cards would go perfectly with your Small but Meaningful gift.

 

 

 

No Cuts Here!

It seems lately that whenever we turn on the news, we hear about aid to needy families being reduced.  Congress cuts the food stamp program; extended unemployment benefits are expiring; food pantries have to spread the same amount of food donations among an ever-increasing number of people.   But the help that ALI gives families is one area that’s NOT being cut.  In fact, the total amount we give needy families is going UP, not down.

Operation School Bell is ALI’s largest philanthropic program.  Through OSB, we give school clothing and school supplies to students in need, in the Irvine school district.  Each child receives a backpack, a set of notebooks and pencils, and a sum of money to purchase school clothing and shoes at Target in the Irvine Marketplace, our partner shopping store.

In 2012-13, we clothed 761 OSB kids.  We’re currently in the final stages of our 2013-14 program, and we’ve clothed 816 kids to date, That’s an increase of 55 students – or 7% – and these aren’t the final numbers.  And we’ve been able to do this WITHOUT  lowering the amount of money we allocate for each child.

This is largely due to our generous thrift store shoppers!  We are a completely volunteer organization with no paid staff, and ALL the money we raise from the thrift store goes to support OSB and our other programs in Irvine.

The fact that more families need to reach out to us for help in these tough times, is not a statistic to be proud of.  But we ARE proud of the fact that we’re able – thanks to our generous thrift store shoppers – to meet this growing demand.

Downton Abbey on a Shoestring

The new season of “Downton Abbey” on PBS has started.  According to USA Today, 10.2 million people watched the premiere. Media experts everywhere are pondering why Americans are so enthralled with this soap-opera saga of an aristocratic British family and their servants. 

We KNOW why everyone in Irvine is watching this show.  It’s lawn envy!

Just look at the gorgeous expanse of green lawn surrounding the manor.  Does the Earl of Grantham get an insert in his water bill every month asking him to “Replace your lawn with drought-resistant native plants?” No! Did the Earl of Grantham have to pay $300 to the sprinkler repairman to fix his sprinkler valves? No! In fact, the Earl of Grantham has never even seen a lawn sprinkler! Because at Downton Abbey, water falls miraculously from the sky! All the time!

The other reason is that we all have a fantasy of living in a place like Downton Abbey.  In spite of your zero-lot-line house with its two potted succulents on the patio, you too can create the Downton Abbey ambiance.  And you don’t need to be as rich as the Crawleys  – just visit the thrift shop, where you’ll find:

  • Silver.  We have beautiful silver trays and goblets, along with a silver butter dish and silver-trimmed bowls and coasters.
  • Crystal.  We have a Waterford bowl and a Waterford desk clock that would fit in perfectly at Downton, along with other crystal bowls and a decanter.
  • Glassware.  We have wine glasses, martini glasses, and champagne glasses.  Just what you need for that after-dinner sherry, or to help you keep a stiff upper lip in the face of life’s dramas.
  • Jewelry.  We have a fantastic selection of vintage-style costume jewelry.
  • Sweaters,  scarves, and gloves.  You can dress up in these and pretend you’re at Downton Abbey in the winter!
  • Picture frames.  We have lots of silver and gold-toned picture frames for your family portraits.
  • Needlework.  Although the times are changing at Downton, upper-class girls would still be expected to do needlework.  We have embroidery hoops, cross-stitch patterns, and a huge assortment of needlework books.
  • Stationery.  No one at Downton Abbey sends email.  They pour out their hopes and dreams in hand-written letters.  (Of course, they had cheaper postage back then.)

And if you just want to invite your friends over to watch the show, we have fondue pots, cake pans, and coffeepots to help you stay up until 10 pm.

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New Years Resolutions

Happy-Quote-Up

According to the University of Scranton, the top three New Year’s Resolutions for 2014 are:

1)    Lose weight

2)    Get organized

3)     Spend less, save more

I could instantly identify with this, because I went to the thrift store yesterday and here’s what I did:

1)    I saw a copy of Susan Powter’s book Stop the Insanity (remember Susan Powter, the fitness guru with the shaved head?), and skimmed through several chapters hoping to find her weight-loss/fitness secret.    (Spoiler alert:  There’s no magic formula.  It’s all about balanced eating, regular exercise, and a healthy self-image.)  I have to admit I didn’t buy this book (since, like most people, I already have five similar books), so it may still be on the shelves waiting for you.  The thrift shop also has a lot of guides to healthy eating, low-fat cookbooks, walking shoes, and a food scale to help you with this resolution.

2)    Next, I stopped at the “Office and Tech” section, where the organizationally-challenged can find file folders, three-ring binders, an in/out basket, and desk and office organizers – putting you on the path to achieving Resolution #2.

3)    The ENTIRE thrift shop helps you spend less and save more! I found a top from a well-known mall store (which shall remain nameless) on sale for $2, which I knew had originally sold for around $50.  Resolve to spend more time in 2014 checking out our bargains!

The FOURTH most common New Year’s Resolution is:

4) Enjoy life to the fullest!

One of the things that contributes most to our enjoyment of life, and the feeling that our lives are meaningful, is doing something to help others.  Helping the Assistance League of Irvine, by shopping at our thrift store, does just that.  The sales from the shop directly support our programs in Irvine.

So when you shop at the thrift store – you’re actually fulfilling FOUR New Year’s Resolutions.  Where ELSE can you get that kind of result? Head over to the shop and get started today!