Emily at the Brown Elephant

Finds from my Neighborhood Resale Shop

An Ode to the Gnome Pants

Gnome Sweatpants – $8-$12 (cannot recall)

I bought these Gnome Pants from the Brown Elephant months ago, on a whim, because I needed some Benjy-walkin’ pants (when it’s a weekend morning and you are CERTAINLY not getting dressed for the day yet).

Somehow, they grew into more than that. They became grocery pants, after-work pants, and at this current moment, staying-inside-sick pants. They’ve provided endless fodder for potential What Not to Wear moments, although I would claim the Gnome Pants deserve time in the public eye. Once a girl approached me hoping I could point her to where she could buy her own pair of Gnome Pants. Tragically for her, it seems these were a once-in-a-lifetime find.

Have the Gnome Pants seen a bar or two? Absolutely. Have the ironic and the purposefully-lazy intentions blended together at this point? Definitely.


But, when we’re talking comfy cotton, whimsical gnomes, and  a butt-pocket for your phone, it turns out I had inadvertently bought the perfect pair of pants.

Here’s to many more dog walks, naps, ill-advised public appearances, and meals cooked with phone in pocket and earbuds piping conversation with my mom into my ears.


Christmas Tree

It’s been a little while since my last post. I have bought things from the Brown Elephant since…possibly uninspiring things. For example, while writing this, I have my feet propped up on an unassuming ottoman thing. It’s black and cylindrical, and made of plastic and foam. It was $15 and it fit the bill. And, it’s always good for me to toss a solid color into the mix; I’m drawn to everything odd and patterned, and sometimes you need a good solid-colored anchor in the room.

Anywho, Christmas tree. For the past few years, my fiancé (formerly boyfriend-at-the-time, obvs) and I have gotten a live tree. As a child we always had a fake tree, and Mike always had a live tree. I went with his tradition, since there are Christmas tree lots all over Chicago, and it was fun and sort of romantic to pick one out each year. They are somewhat a pain in the ass to water, but they smell nice, and they look great.

More and more, we try to be environmental, and so last year, Mike suggested we use the tree for firewood instead of tossing another tree in the trash. He sawed off the branches, and we burned it in our chiminea. It smelled kind of weird, and later we found out that burning evergreen smoke is not really great for the environment, and might even be poisonous.

This year, I didn’t feel like dealing with any kind of tree. Real tree sucks, fake tree sucks, they all suck! But, then I was walking Benjy, and I saw the Brown Elephant had a bunch of fake trees. AND they were having a 25%-0ff-for-neighbors sale.

So, after I finished up work (I was working from home), I texted Mike to see if he was cool with a fake tree, and I walked over. Per usual, I was drawn to the oddball tree. The sales associate described it as looking like a tree in Seattle, maybe one like this? I thought it was purposely designed to look like a narrow log with branches, but he mentioned it had a top piece that was missing. But it was too late, I loved it.

Christmas Tree – $20, on sale for $15

It came with 2 sets of white lights. And, I crafted a super classy tree top for it.

Class for days – made from a paper towel roll

I had about 10 ornaments around, and I hung those, and right now I don’t really care if we find the others.

$15, no watering, supports Howard Brown Health Center, kind of weird, bing bang boom. Thank, Brown Elephant!

Oil Lantern

Cargo Oil Lamp – $15

Mike had been looking for a camping lantern that burns oil, so that we could use citronella oil and keep the bugs away. Over the course of a month and probably 5 Brown Elephant visits, I had only seen a Coleman gas lantern, which wasn’t right for what we wanted.

This past Saturday, I found this beautiful lantern and bought it for $15. It has a little oil pot that sits inside with a wick that twists up higher or lower. The only way to open it is through the top, but you can light the wick with a long match through one of the bottom holes.

Later on Saturday, we must have spent 30 minutes searching everywhere for the damn citronella oil we certainly have, but never found. And THEN we spent 15 minutes trying to light the lantern with what I thought was leftover oil from a tiki torch, but turned out to be rain water…and that shouldn’t have been a surprise, since those torches have been outside for a year!

We were able to test it out with camping stove alcohol, and it was very pretty. We will need to buy some more oil, and maybe a length of wick too.

When searching for what exactly this is, I found it must be a ‘cargo oil lamp,’ as that pulled a ton of search results with similar looking items. Sort of crazy, the brand new version of these are REALLY expensive! Like $100-$150 for many models (I’m using this WayFair search for reference).

Oooh back to reality though; I suppose this eBay search for a ‘nautical brass oil lamp’ shows a bit more of a price range (some as low as $40ish), although nothing looks as similar here.

Either way, it seems like I got a very lovely oil lamp for the price. I would, however, be interested to see if I could find this exact one anywhere; the trouble comes from complete lacking of text or markings anywhere on the lamp, though. Even if I find out nothing more, we now have an old-timey, maritimey, nautical-looking oil lantern that we should be able to use with citronella oil. 🙂

The Elusive Toilet Paper Holder!

I finally found one at the Brown Elephant:

Oggi TP Holder – $6

I have been looking for one for a few weeks, and kept my eye out at the Brown Elephant, on Craigslist, and even at TJ Maxx because it felt dire that I’d be able to find one second-hand. I nearly bought one at TJ Maxx, but ditched it while in line (kept only my 2 new pillows I was buying; not sure if I’m up for not-new pillows at this point).

Sticker on the bottom says it was $19.99 at Bed Bath and Beyond.

This item was an illustration of ‘ask and ye shall receive,’ but, you know, with the Brown Elephant as my deity. I just wished really hard for a toilet paper holder, and then I simply made 7 separate trips there, and boom! done!

A Flower Pot and Not My Favorite Suitcase

Luggage is expensive, and for some reason, flower pots are expensive. As for the latter, I’ve definitely assigned an arbitrary value, a kind of ‘I will never pay more than X amount for this item,’ which generally prevents me from buying a new flower pot anywhere.

During the same trip where I found the railing planters, I also purchased this flower pot:

Flower Pot – $5

It’s a single item with the water tray part attached. When I bought flowers for the railing planters, I picked up the above pretty ones for this pot, too.

An even better find was this rolling suitcase:

Lipault Wheeled Duffel -$35

This baby retails for $259 brand new (and if, by the time you click this link, the 40% off navy- and chocolate-colored luggage coupon is still in effect, then FINE, retails for $155.40). It squishes down into a size that can be stored under your bed, which is nice.

I’ve been looking for a rolling suitcase about this size for a while now, but at places like Marshalls and TJ Maxx, the ones I’ve seen in the $40-$80 range weren’t especially cute or well-made. Still, I was holding out for a pattern that would immediately point out to all who saw me that I was a stylish world traveler, unaccepting of your boring neutral bags, your boring neutral bag life!

So, I was a little torn, as I’m hard-pressed to buy much in a solid color, nevermind a solid neutral color. But, the practice of buying resale items involves the (small) sacrifice that you don’t always get your most favorite version of a thing.

In one of his stand-up bits, Louis CK said, “People don’t even want to back off from their favorite thing. They won’t even do their second favorite thing” (video of bit here, or if the video has been taken down, try searching ‘Louis CK favorite thing’). It’s this mentality that you don’t take into account any other factors of what’s happening; you must do your favorite thing. His example involved driving, and I often apply it to when people buy dogs from breeders. With dogs, it’s the idea that you’ve always imagined getting this very specific type of dog, so of course you’re going to ignore thinking about sad shelter dogs to avoid the possibility of some uncertainties or extra training, because those dogs aren’t your favorite type of dog.

But I digress (a little); that quote applies to my shopping because I’m actively trying to buy resale items in an effort to shop a little more sustainably and to support the Brown Elephant, so I should take those factors into account, alongside my idea of what ‘my favorite’ suitcase is. And in the end, the Lipault suitcase is really cheap, really well-made, and benefits the Brown Elephant. And that is why it is a great find!

Railing Planters + a Crafty Time

Yesterday, after a few ciders with my friend Jimmy, we rode the bus to head back to my place to play video games until Mike came home from work. Jimmy stopped to grab some coffee, and I thought I’d pop into the Brown Elephant.

I found and purchased these two railing planters:

Railing Planters – $6/each

If you bought these same ones at some fancy hardware store or nursery, you’d be looking at upwards of $18/each! Well to be fair, mine didn’t come with these liners, so that drops the actual retail value down to $13 each, so yeah, I guess I only saved a total of $14 between both of them. But, thanks to me being a crafty B*, it sort of is like I saved $24, because I crafted up some liners for free-sies. And, I had fun feeling handy with a power drill and capable of completing a project without any instructions.

Should you want to do this same project, instead of spending $5 on a planter liner like some sort of Monopoly man, here’s how you do it:

  1. Have some burlap coffee bags on hand. Don’t have them? If you live in a coffee-lovin’ town, there’s a chance your local roaster will give them to you for free. Or buy some potatoes or something, but I imagine it would have to be a pretty big bag.
Burlap Coffee Bags

2. Either cut off the end so you have a nice already-basket liner (if that’s the case, you’re nearly done!), or perform a shifty sewing job to complete the sealing of three sides of your rectangle piece.

Now that’s some shifty sewing
One of these required no sewing, and the other required about 15 minutes of labor

3. These last steps are sort of just how any normal human being must install these railing planters. You need to attach them to the railing (I am getting pretty good with the power drill!), put in the liners, and fill with dirt.

Attached and dirt-filled

4. Finally, add plants. If you’ve got a green thumb, you can just do seeds, but I was born without one of those 😦

Final product

All done! Special bonus if your neighbors see you working on your project, and you are able to solidify your identity as the local hippie lady, or perhaps a young Martha Stewart (who was likely her neighborhood’s local hippie lady).

*in some circles, this phrase may also refer to a ‘craft beer’

Lazy Sunday Trip


It stormed this morning, and while I lay in bed, I felt happy I didn’t have anywhere I had to be today. I felt even happier when I considered that this would be a lovely day to walk over to the Brown Elephant.

After breakfast and two Chemexes/Chemices of coffee with Mike, I showered and was about to head out. Last second, Mike decided to join me and we brought Benjy-dog, too. Here’s what we found:

Coffee Mugs – $1/each

I love these, especially the one on the left, so much. They’re a nice smallish size, and a great mismatched pair.


“PM Italy” Dish – $4

I bought this jewelry/loose-things dish to put by my bedside as a catch-all for jewelry, lip gloss, nail clippers, etc. A shinier version is on eBay for $50 right now, for whatever that’s worth; I don’t always know how accurate eBay pricing is for antiques. I’m not sure if sellers actually get their asking price. I do like the less pristine look of the one I purchased, since it goes better with the rest of my bedroom’s (and home’s) aesthetic, and since the price was right-er.

Reusable Shopping/Tote Bag – $1

I always carry a reusable shopping bag folded neat in my purse, so that I’m not stuck using disposable plastic bags at the store. I picked this up so Mike can do the same; he’s mentioned in the past that he really likes how I always have a bag handy, and he, too, tries to avoid plastic bags at all costs. The little carabiner will clip nicely to his bike bag, I think.

This one is Mike’s find:

Vivitar 28-200mm F/3.5-5.3 Lens – $15

Apparently this is a pretty good lens in great condition, and according to Mike (in collaboration with eBay listings), this would be worth around $60, in its used state. The important thing is that Mike doesn’t have a similar lens right now, so it’s a practical purchase.

I didn’t find any clothes today; good clothes finds here are fewer and farther-between for me, but that’s okay, since I frequent this store at least twice a week. We did, however, get some good Benjy-pets from strangers, although not without one crabby glower from someone whose stone heart could not be melted by Benjy’s puppy dog eyes.

Additionally, Mike hooked your girl up with these better-than-camera-phone pics. Slick!


The Justification Trip

This last trip to the Brown Elephant made me realize it’s not all about a good deal. Sometimes it’s about an okay deal, or something that’s ‘not really a deal’ at all. BUT YOU WANT IT.

Part of these posts is that I might someday get better with the photography, or someday I might plan around the lighting. For now, this is what you get:

Yellow (and Blue) Pillows – $12/ea

The other side of these pillows is the same pattern but pale blue. I saw these pillows the other day and wanted them…but I though ‘$12 is kind of pricey for these’. Then, I returned with my fiancé and I decided ‘I’m worth it’. The picture looks kind of crappy, but what these pillows do is give more cushion room, because I took the lumpy big back cushions away and replaced them with these guys. With the dog-cleanliness blanket, it’s pretty busy-looking, and I put that gray pillow in the middle there for who knows what reason. Trust me, though, it’s cozy and comfortable now.

Another non-deal was this pretty peplum blouse:

Peplum Blouse – $15

Marked at $30, then 50% off, this was still more money than I’d usually spend on a shirt at the Brown Elephant. I tried to find the actual price to further justify my purchase, but I ended up finding the same price at whatever this site is. 87% off? What does this mean? Is this shirt undesirable? A drifter, perhaps? Either way, it looked pretty cute with my purple maxi skirt today.

To end on a more practical note, my fiancé and I decided to get this TV unit:

TV Unit – $37.50

This is the sort of style neither of us is necessarily drawn to, but we needed to replace a bulkier (but somehow physically smaller) light tan particle board shelf thing that wasn’t doing anyone any favors. It’s nice that it balances out the pillows-and-pillow-and-blanket futon (pictured earlier), and with my attraction to busy patterns, it’s good to have a few demur-er pieces of furniture.

Also, it seems to be this Ikea product but with slightly different legs. Aw yiss, that’s a savings of about $150.

Looking for Clothes – Finding Risers

I recently filled up a Nordstrom Rack online cart with $90 worth of tops/blouses. Upon reviewing my choices, I realized they were mostly just rayon and polyester, and it did not feel worth it to proceed with the checkout. I figured, I could get so much more at the Brown Elephant (or another resale shop, or eBay), and really, I just felt indignant about my hard-earned money going towards a bunch of crap that was probably sewn by children overseas.

Today was extremely hot, and I figured taking my dog, Benjy, a short walk over to the Brown Elephant would be good, since it’s air conditioned. While I was there, Benjy received ample pets (he’s loves people), and I found a few great items:

Old Navy Bird Shirt – $6

I’ll be real, a $6 Old Navy shirt is not a killer find; they can get pretty cheap at the actual store, But, this one has birds, so it hooked me.

‘Underbed’ Spacers/Risers – $5

Aw yiss. I had insisted to my fiancé that Marshalls/TJ Maxx usually had risers, after we found our Japanese dining table (found at A World Through Rose Colored Glasses) served as a pretty good board-game table if boosted a paint-can’s height higher. Several trips later, no risers, so I kept my eyes peeled for a while. Well today, lo and behold, risers! $5, costing $10 at the Container Store. Good stuff!

Plastic Watering Can – $2 Westinghouse Stake Lights – $2 each

I hadn’t been looking for a watering can, but our current one sucks and leaks everywhere, so I figured this was a good buy. The stake lights appeared to be brand new with all their tags, including the little prevents-the-batteries-from-draining plastic tabs still in place. Searching for retail price, I found Amazon had the silver version priced at $75 for 15, so $5/pop (plus whatever lashings the Amazon warehouse employees receive per item).

So all-in-all, a pleasant bunch of finds today!

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