ask miss mustard seed & more finds

Marian ParsonsFavorite Finds, Shopping Tips38 Comments

I am asked a lot of great questions in the comments on my blog. Some I answer in a reply to their comment and some I just shoot an e-mail to, because it’s easier.  I received a couple of really good questions over the weekend, though, so I thought I would answer them in a post.


The first question was asked by a few people…  Do I worry about lead paint on the chippy old stuff I bring home?  Before I give you my thoughts on it, let me be very clear in saying that lead can cause serious health issues and shouldn’t be taken lightly.  If the piece was painted pre-1978, the paint most likely contains lead and should be handled appropriately.  You can read all about the dangers of lead HERE on the EPA website.  Since I am not an expert, I’m referring you to that material and you can decide for yourself whether or not to bring pieces like this into your home…

Miss Mustard Seed-8749


Here’s how I have approached it…

When it was just Jeff and I, I didn’t even give a second thought to bringing pieces with flaking paint into my house.  I would usually give them a good scrub and maybe apply a coat of polyurethane to seal the finish.  The game changed when I became pregnant with our first boy.  All things chippy were sent to the basement or sold.  It just wasn’t worth having it in the home and risk a baby ingesting a lead-filled paint fleck.

I stuck with that until both my boys were well passed the age of eating random bits off the floor and they weren’t mouthing things.  Due to the nature of my work and the fact that we live in a 1940’s era home, our children were tested for lead exposure as a precaution and they were both within normal, healthy levels and there was no concern.

Now that they are older, I will bring home things with old paint and pieces that are chipping, but I use them in a decorative way that the boys really don’t interact with.  Basically, they sit somewhere and are pretty much untouched and left alone.  I keep an eye on them for flaking paint and, if there’s any concern, I seal the piece with a poly to keep the look, but seal the paint.

Ultimately, though, it’s up to you to educate yourself and decide your comfort level with bringing pieces like that into your home.  Consider the age of your children (or visiting grandchildren, guests, etc.), if you have pets who might chew on furniture or eat paint chips or if you have someone in your home who is pregnant or has a compromised immune system.  If you’re concerned at all, don’t bring it into your home.  It’s just stuff and it’s not worth someone potentially getting sick.

I’m going to shamelessly plug milk paint, here, to say that you can get the chippy look a lot of us love without the hazard of lead.  It’s 100% natural and safe for kids, pets, etc.  You can have the best of both worlds.  (And we have a new product coming soon that will help control out-of-control-chippiness!)

MMS Milk Paint Boxwood dresser before and after -


How can you resell things you find at antique stores and still make a profit?  

This is a great question. When I started my business, I did all of my shopping at yard sales, auctions, thrift stores, flea markets, my house and the basements & attics of family members.  Even with two babies, I had more time (and determination) than I did money.  As my business grew and became more diverse, my responsibilities started to spread and there were never enough hours in the day to get everything done.  I was trying to be an antiques dealer at a busy venue, a blogger, freelance writer and it was just too much.  I learned that my time was better spent if I hit antique malls and shops that I knew carried stuff I like at good prices.  Yes, I pay more, but in doing this, I’m letting other dealers do the scouring, picking, hunting and sitting for six hours at an auction for me.

Miss Mustard Seed-8709

Here’s my strategy…

  • I have about six antique malls and an additional 10 or so shops that I frequent on a rotation, so I hit a different antique mall each shopping trip allowing 2-3 months between visits to a particular store.  That usually works better than hitting the same place every week or two, because there’s more new stock.  True, I might be missing good finds in between, but I’m not looking for 1-2 things.  I want to come home with a van load when I take the time to go shopping.  “Shop big or don’t shop” has become my philosophy!
  • I get to know the shop owners at the shops I like.  This is so key, because when they know what you like and they know you will give them good, steady business, they will treat you well.  They will give you discounts, let you know when they find really awesome things and they’ll even shop specifically for you.  A few shop owners and vendors I know e-mail or text me directly with pictures and prices and even drop things off at my home.  Be polite, kind, easy to work with and look at the people you buy from as a valuable asset to your business.
  • I’ve become a savvy shopper.  I will allow myself a splurge here and there for something really special, but I usually don’t buy things unless I know I can make a profit selling them.  Even if I have it in mind for myself, I want to make sure I can sell it down the road, because…you know how I am!  So, I look for sales and I know the booths and shops that have good prices and ones that are too high for me.  If I buy a lot from one booth, I ask the worker at the antique mall to call the dealer to see if I can get a discount.  Don’t be pushy about this, but in my experience, most vendors will give you a break if you “buy in bulk.”

And, you have to keep in mind that the retail sale of antiques is not my primary business or main source of income.  It’s something I keep doing, because I really enjoy it and it gives me a lot of creative material…fresh projects, new props for photo shoots and things to write about.  And selling at one or two markets a year gives me a fun, profit-earning excuse to connect with my readers.


While we’re talking about shopping, here are a few more things I found on Thursday…

I was immediately in love with this ticking duvet cover with the date stitched on it…

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…it was a great price, but hanging up behind a shelf, so it was quite a job getting it down.  I had to earn that one.

I found several sweet stools…

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…and some more dishes.

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I just can’t help myself.  I loved these three really old beauties (and the blue & white runner under the stack)…

Miss Mustard Seed-8747

…a pretty ironstone pitcher similar to one I bought a few months ago…

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Miss Mustard Seed-8745

…and another one…

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This enamel German clock caught my eye.  I love the shape of the numbers on the face…

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…and this pair of clocks were a great buy in a 50% off booth…

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One of them was marked “made in France.”  Yep, I’ll take that one.

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More finds to come…


And here is a preview of what I did with those milk bottles…

glass glittered milk bottles | miss mustard seed

ask miss mustard seed & more finds

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38 Comments on “ask miss mustard seed & more finds”

  1. Hey Marian I really want to do a shopping trip in France one day-hit all the markets, antique, flea and thrift stores!! Go with me please!! It would be a blast!! Although I wonder how we’d get all that stuff back here!?!?!

    1. Amy,
      People rent ocean shipping containers that are brought home by ship. It was about 600.00 for a huge one so they could be split if you go with a friend. I think it is difficult to make a profit buying in France now because of the low value of the U.S. dollar, that’s why most dealers can’t buy there any longer. Ten years ago, I used to pay 450.00 non-stop to Paris if I went in April (ten years ago) and now it is between 750.00 and 1000.00 (Economy with one or more stops.)
      Start practicing your counting skills in French for when the economy improves!

  2. I’m in love with the glitter milk bottles. I think I’ll try it with a very tiny blue stripe or two in the silver!

  3. Your willingness to share your successful approaches to business is one of the reasons I love you! Not to mention all the pretties you find and your home! 🙂 You are truly inspiring, Marion. Thank you for sparking the fire. My boys will be starting Kindergarten next month allowing me some time to find “my stores”. It’s a bittersweet feeling but I’m sure it won’t be for long when things start rolling and there will be “extra” for the extras. Wishing you a great day!

  4. Dear MMS, Thanks for sharing your shopping techniques! As always, love seeing what you’ve been purchasing and the beautiful ways you display them. Hugs, Anne Boykin

  5. Just back from my first trip to Scott’s Antique Market in Atlanta. A group of us stopped by after Haven yesterday! Wow! It was phenom! We missed you this year!

    With 2 stores it is critical that I keep inventory refreshed and I haven’t done a great job over the last few months. Gotta get back on my “tour of thrift” throughout Alabama! I have three different “runs” that I will make. It does seem that if I am taking the time to run the circuit, I need to maximize the chances of finding great items…thus, I too will allow time between visits to the same store! Haha…great minds think alike!

    Love your lesson on lead…a must info for antiquers!

    1. I am making a trip through Alabama next week. Are there any shops that you would recommend between MS and Birmingham and south of Birmingham? I live in the Memphis area and am close to the western side of Alabama. Thanks for any suggestions.

  6. Thanks for everything you do. I love your work! Awhile back you mentioned that you have several sites/blogs. I seem to only be seeing the retailer spotlight posts recently. Has there been a change in what you post? Can you tell us the url’s of your different sites so we can follow them, please? Thanks so much on behalf of everyone who wants to read it all 🙂

  7. to me the German clock looks very dutch, with the water and the windmill. Also the blue and white is very Delft to me.

    1. Yeah, it does! It surprised me that it was made in Germany, but it is. See the mark at the bottom of the face? It’s marked very lightly under the number 6.

  8. Marian,
    Love your blog – and as a recent follower I have a question – don’t you also have a retail space in a collective? I thought I’d seen some older posts mentioning this. In any event, I LOVE seeing all the blue and white pieces as well as your other finds. I am always on the lookout myself, though I sense things are just much more difficult to find in California. For example, you mention 6 antique malls, and we have exactly zero in my city. (San Francisco) I do have my favorite shops, thrifts, consignment stores, but would love being near one of the large antique “barns” with 100 dealers – Makes me want to make a road trip! Good luck with shopping for the next show.

    1. I don’t have a space anymore. It was too much to keep up with, so I do the online shop and a couple big sale events a year. That suits me!

  9. Hi Marian,
    I spray every single thing that is chippy with matte acrylic spray or matte lacquer. When people ask me if it has lead paint on it, I say, “Yes, you must never lick it!” They laugh and I tell them that it has been sprayed with acrylic, also.
    Recently, I had a major heartbreaking clock event, after I read about the illuminated hands on antique/vintage clocks. I had just found about 30 cool old alarm clocks for my shop with glow-in-the-dark hands or numbers of which I could see that chips of the illumination had fallen off and were on the clock face bottoms behind the glass. I didn’t want to sell them if they posed a risk to customers. I called and googled every place I could think of regarding how to dispose of these, even the EPA. No one could tell me how to safely throw them out. I finally put them all in a bag, marked what they were and put them on top of my garbage can. It was hard to do…they were so cool! The garbage man took them and hope he didn’t take them home. But, if he didn’t they ended up in the landfill which isn’t good either. What a dilemma.

  10. Marian,
    It seems you have built a good rapport with many antique dealers in your area. While I love stopping by different antique malls and stores when we are traveling, I still prefer larger antique fairs and shows and have more success especially in the bargaining area.

    One of the things on my bucket list is going to the “Worlds Largest Yard Sale” which takes place in early August every year.

  11. Another use for small table top clocks that are broken and cannot be fixed. I use them as
    picture frames………..I have one that is cream bakelite. Sometimes if the face is small enough and you can get at it I have inserted clock faces that are run on batteries. You are only limited by your imagination!

    Thank you Marian as you always have such words of wisdom.

  12. Just had a thought. It’s completely off topic, but I wanted to mention it….I refer to pictures of your home, projects etc. quite often. When you move to your new home, please be sure to keep all the pictures/posts from this home. Even though you’ll be moving on, it is my deepest hope that someday soon I’ll be purchasing some Waverly Tucker Resist material for curtains and I’m dying to incorporate your family room & bathroom wall paneling with your office bench for my family room…..Just wanted to get it out there!!!! Thanks!

  13. Thanks Marion for yet another great post. I sent an e-mail about a week or two ago. I asked you if you would please share with me how you painted the Server/Buffet in your family room. I have found one I love and would like to finish it like yours.. please let me know the colors used for painting as well as how you finished the top.

    Many thanks

  14. Marian, I thought some of your readers would be interested to know that 3M makes kits to test for lead paint. They are available at Lowes and Home Depot. 3M Lead Check, Instant Lead Check:

    I use to work for 3M for 20 years. I love their products. Now that I have grandbabies, I wanted to make sure that I was careful with furniture that I bought and use in the house. I love using these swab kits.

  15. Heyyy
    I think I see some beautiful hydrangeas in milk jars. Are the from your new hydrangeas. Very pretty.

  16. Which little clock was marked ‘made in France’? I have one that looks like the less fancy one and I understand it was from a train!

  17. I hope you don’t mind me asking but what do you typically spend on an average shopping outing like the ones mentioned in today’s post. Im in Southern California and everything here is very expensive. I’m struggling to get what I like for what I can afford.

    1. Not a problem. I spent about $300 in one shop and $650 in another one. That was for a pretty full van of stuff, though!

  18. this is so weird. I am getting ready to do a show. and feel like I am still a newbie. went to an antique mall today and found several cool things. — all the time wondering where do the experts “pick at” and do they all find the cheap great buys at random places that I always seem to miss? glad to know someone else does the mall thing

  19. Dear Marian,

    Those milk bottles with hydrangeas…please…what did you do to them? It looks like tiny clear crystals or clear glitter. Reason I ask, I’ve been saving glass jars/containers for a short while with an eye towards “recycling” them as giveaways to my neighbors as a way to begin my blog business.

  20. Marian, thank you SO much for taking the time to answer reader questions! I always learn so much and really appreciate it! 🙂

  21. Hi Marian! Probably a very random question…but will you be selling that two-step brown stool pictured above? I have been on the hunt for one in good shape for about 6 months to refinish for my 3-year-old niece. My sister-in-law wants it for the bathroom sink so she can start using it to wash her hands, brush her teeth, etc. The one in your picture is EXACTLY what I’ve been looking for and when I was scrolling through this post it stopped me in my tracks! If it’s on your sell list, I’d love to buy it from you!! Thanks for your time!


  22. Good morning…enjoying the blog along with a cup of coffee before having my quiet time, and had some thoughts on your shop. I live in the Deep South…Hotlanta:). And although we have plenty of antique stores, unlike your California readers:( it seems to be mostly primitive country type stuff. The northern part of our great country seems to have more European antiques to choose from, so I say all that to say those of us that follow you and love your style would probably blow up your shop if you placed more things that you are able to find on there. Also would love to see Jeff make and sell some of those fabulous bread boards…keep making the world a beautiful place one blog post at a time;)

  23. This was a great post! In addition to the lead paint I’ve always wondered how you deal with upholstered items… I’m so afraid of getting bed bugs/fleas/carpet mites I tend to avoid them. I would love your advice!

    1. I have actually never had a problem with bugs in a piece of furniture. I always give a piece the sniff test to make sure it doesn’t smell like smoke, pet urine, etc. and I give the piece a good once over. Usually, with bugs, you can see some signs of the fabric being eaten, discolorations, etc, but I know not always. I just take a chance and don’t think about it. In all of the pieces I’ve bought and sold, I haven’t found any more than a spider here and there. Everyone has to draw their own line, though!

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