Friday, December 7, 2012


Sharon Wolff

12 Days of Flea Market Bliss
8 Days of Flea Market Hanukkah
You've Got 10 Gifts $10 and Under

Over the next few months you will be spending extra money on gifts, food, decorations, seasonal clothing and more. Here a few ways to save a little as you go. Wouldn't it be interesting to keep a tally of how much money you save? Photos depict items that have been for sale at Wolff's Flea Market, They may no longer be available. But you will surely find something!

1. New Seasonal Decorations: if you didn't purchase clearance priced holiday decorations at the end of last season, don't despair! You can easily find new packaged holiday decor - lights, lawn decorations, trees -  at flea markets at less than current retail prices.

2. Used Seasonal Decorations: Recycle, reuse, repurpose! Items are destined to have a second or third life after the original buyer no longer wants them. They often end up at a resale venue like a garage sale, thrift shop or flea market. You can easily find gently used items in excellent condition an all of these places. Often seasonal items have been used only a few times and are in ready condition for their next home.

3.  Table Accessories: Have fun dressing your table for less! Candy dishes, linens, serving bowls, crystal, depression glass, platters, vases, candle holders and other knick knacks add a special touch to your holiday themed "tablescape". You can find funky accessories to fit your budget.

4.  Creativity: Display your flea market finds in unique and unusual ways. Mix and match seasonal colors and textures and the amazing eclectic result will impress your guests!

5. Gifts: Buy new, used, handcrafted, vintage and antique items at flea markets. You'll find better than retail prices and have fun hunting for additions to your loved one's quirks or collections.

6. DIY: Is a piece of furniture a little too scratched up for your preference? Missing a knob or two? Use your "future vision" and imagine what you can do to repurpose the item into a custom designed piece.

7. Stock up: See something you like? Is it a product you use regularly? Think ahead and buy in quantity. A vendor may even give you a bulk discount. Examples: food, paper products, toothbrushes, cleaning supplies, buckets of laundry soap.

8. Winter accessories:  Gloves, socks, hats, scarves make practical gifts and are useful for yourself.  At a flea market you can often purchase attractive items for men, women and children for $5 to $10.

9. Furniture: Sometimes it's better to buy a good solid piece of second-hand wooden furniture because in the long run it is higher quality than the same, more expensively priced pressed wood furniture.

10. Off brand items: The "generic" or unknown brands of products you see at a flea market may have come from a wholesaler and are offered to you at discounted prices. The quality, warmth and style can be just a good as a well-known brand, only cheaper in price! Don't be "married" to the brand; give the generic a chance!

So what are you waiting for? See how much money you can save while enjoying a flea market experience! Grab a friend and try a flea market!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Mystery boxes appear at Wolff's Flea Market
I really did it this time. Perhaps I was sentimental, as it was October 28, the last day of the outdoor season. Perhaps I was jealous of the overflowing shopping carts being pushed and pulled by customers while I walked around taking notes on my clipboard.

So when I happened upon an unassuming young man seated and partially hidden by a wall of closed boxes, I was intrigued. How could someone just sit there with sealed boxes of merchandise? I took the bait. "What's in here?" I asked. "Eggplants", replied the polite gentleman. "$4 a box." He proceeded to tell me how he came to possess this extraordinary amount of eggplants. For those of you in the flea market business, surplus items are acquired in many ways. These eggplants came by this vendor legitimately, and because they were perishable, they needed to be sold asap or they would need to be disposed of.

I thought to myself that if I was able to take, tackle and transform a riduculous amount of carrots, pineapples, onions and potatoes into several tasty creations, then maybe I could do the same with this extraordinary amount of eggplant. One problem, my eggplant has its own eccentricities. All I could think of was my first attempts at entertaining with eggplant. Three Thanksgivings ago, my idea of a healthy alternative to salad was roasted vegetables. Sounds good, but the eggplant effort ended with a tough skin and overly mushy pulp. My guests politely declined the atrocious aubergine.

Only last month, I attempted eggplant parmesan. I make a pretty good lasagna, so what could be so hard about applying the same principles to eggplant? As the tray of eggplant baked, it looked and smelled delicious. Unfortunately the cheese/sauce element was the only edible portion. The sliced eggplant remained, in my own words, "As tough as the rubber soles on your sneakers". My son Ben was quite supportive and insisted that it was good. He even made it look like he enjoyed it. That is one reason that I love him. I gave up and just picked the melted cheese. I vowed to never make eggplant again.

So, why when faced with a box of 1 dozen ripe for today eggplants would I possibly entertain the thought that I could make, not 1 but 12 eggplant recipes? Why? Because I work at a flea market, and in the flea market world, it's possible to do anything with a find.

Below are photos of my savory creations.
Click the link below each photo to be directed to recipes on the Hungry as a Wolff Cookbook Blog







Monday, October 22, 2012

Variety at Wolff's Flea Market - #1 BOOKS!

This post is first in a series of articles depicting the diverse vendors and customers who attend our markets. Since I love books and am never without a current read plus several others lined up for the next read, I decided to start with our own celebrity author, Jeannie Brown.

Jeannie Brown is a Palatine resident and long-time customer at Wolff's.  She is a lovely gal with a positive outlook and friendly personality.

Jeannie has written two books, and I have thoroughly enjoyed both volumes from start to finish!

Time Release: a "Conspiracy/Romance/Thriller"- the first in the Sara Parkins/Jason Forest Series

The Catwalk  second book in the series 

Jeannie is currently working on her third book

Need a good read? Books are available in paperback and kindle versions on
If you would like to meet Jeannie or have her autograph your copy of her book, she is a frequent visitor at our Palatine market and usually carries a few copies with her. Stop by and say hello!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

How to Build a Recycled Pallet Shelf

Sharon Wolff

Two pallets were used for this project. I used the existing frame of a smaller HT (heat treated) pallet and added extra slats from a larger HT pallet for two extra shelves and the backing.

Pallet measures approximately 21.5" x 31.5"
 I removed a center slat from the front to open up the
shelf and attached to the back.

Slats removed from a larger HT pallet. Use a mallet to gently loosen boards,
and a hammer to pry out the twisty screws. It's not that hard to remove the slats,
just be patient and they will eventually loosen.

Cut slats to size for shelves and back. I used a hacksaw. A Sawzall is definitely on my birthday list.

Rough design before assembly. I added two shelves.
The lower one is permanently screwed in and the upper one (on an angle) is removable.

After sanding out the slivers and spots.
I used my Mouse electric sander with 60 grit paper.

Close-up of permanent shelf with support block

This idea evolved. I had a nice piece of wood that was too short to reach across to be used as a
permanent shelf.  Decided to make it removable to display taller items if needed.
Photo is a close-up of the shelf  resting on support screws in the front and back of frame.  

Front-after sanding and assembly.
Added slats to the bottom shelf and on top to cover the
cut out pallet handles that were part of the frame.

Back-before sanding

After sanding and one coat of  stain. Decided not to varnish.
Flea market insulators have a new home

For more ideas from the pros, visit:
Design Rulz

Monday, August 27, 2012

Recycled Pallet Furniture Part 2 - Bench

Really, what legitimate flea market gardener doesn't possess 1 or more of the following assortment of  items in their yard:

cinder blocks - check
pallets - check
railroad ties - I can only hope
old tires - check
old bowling balls - check
lots of rocks - check
garbage picked furniture - check
over-grown patches of pure gardening joy - check
lots of ideas - check

David was on guard when I came home with more pallets. Joseph told me "ok, that's enough" as we loaded two small pallets into the trunk from behind a manufacturing plant (Always ask first before taking). I find that if you just tell the guys at the dock that you need a couple of pallets they are happy to offer them to a middle-aged mom accompanied by her robust son.

After the easy assembly of my first pallet project, the coffee table, it was time to make its companion, and I chose to create a pallet bench.

Please know that while many wonderful items can be made from recycled pallets, there is an amount of caution and controversy on this subject. In my short pallet experience, I have found two types of pallets- the very heavy blue Chep pallets that contain chemically treated wood that should not be brought into the home. I have used these only for yard projects (coffee table and bench). The other type of pallet is a lighter weight natural wood pallet that is marked "HT" for Heat Treated, which means it was place in a kiln with no chemicals. A future project will utilize the HT pallet for an indoor shelf.

Also, I recommend fresher, newer looking pallets as opposed to ones with known possible bacteria attracting products (food for example). However, since a pallet leads a rambling lifestyle, you may not know its checkered past.  It is possible to clean a soiled pallet with a bleach solution, but wood is porous. So if it looks really icky, be patient and find a nicer one. I am comfortable with the pallets in my possession and before I bring the HT project into the house, it will be wiped down, sanded and sealed.

Yada, Yada, Yada, let's get on with the project already!

Don't have all the "before" photos, but you can see what the pallet looked like. Literally sawed it in half and reconnected and reinforced it with scrap wood. Added scrap 4 x 4s leftover from the old swing set to raise the height.
The backside looks a little rough and I am looking for a few more pieces of scrap wood to trim it. There is a nice compartment it the back for storage or to place our favorite LED light & glass insulator combos.
Color it up: I used a variety of paints and stains leftover in the garage.
They have all withstood several rain showers.

Wheels: This is a heavy bench, so wheels were in order.
Yes, these are a bit ugly, but were cheap and sturdy from the
flea market and just right for a rustic outdoor project.

Dress it up: Clearance cushions from Garden Ridge - the perfect fit.

Gracie approved
For more great recycled pallet ideas also visit 

Friday, August 24, 2012


Sharon Wolff

In order to create an inverted tire planter, it is necessary to obtain a soft, pliable tire. Found these two old cart tires at the flea market last week for $6 and couldn't wait to get to work.

STEP 1:   2 worn, soft tires. About 14" diameter
STEP 2:  Outline the petals with chalk or contrasting marker

STEP 3: Use a utility knife or box cutter and follow along the outlines.
This tire was so soft, it took only 10 minutes to do the cutting.

STEP 4: Turn tire inside out. Not too hard, since tire was soft and pliable.

When inverted, the rim becomes a pedestal!

STEP 5: Spray paint top portion. Be sure to paint inside the
petals as they will be visible. Priming is not necessary and you can
use any type of outdoor spray paint.

STEP 6: Spray paint bottom portion and rim

The center of the rim has a hole for built-in drainage. I recommend lining tire with garden cloth.
Can't wait to fill it!

*Please note that tire planters are for decorative use only and you should not be used for vegetables, herbs, fruits or any edible plant because of chemicals in the rubber and paint.

Tire planter posing with a recycled pallet bench. More about the bench soon!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


Founded 2011

Have you noticed a few extra high school kids (and occasional college students) spinning around Wolff's Flea Market Palatine on our special event days? They are part of our community outreach program that benefits local children, their families and all other children who attend our market. High School Kids 4 Kids has amassed a solid footing at the market and we couldn't sponsor our fun events without them.

Our special events are family friendly and attract parents with small children, many from Spanish speaking families. Additionally, our sellers bring their own children to the market week after week and these events led by older kids are just the diversion they need during the long work day.

High School Kids 4 Kids volunteers work together as a team and shine naturally as they communicate in English and Spanish and also enjoy themselves as the kids they still are. To date, we have welcomed 20 high school and college volunteers to our events.

2011 Events
April Easter Egg Hunt, Gift distribution & Kids Carnival
June-Electronics Recycling & Earth Day celebration
July- Nelson Gill concert. Make your own limbo stick craft, dance and game leading
August- Super Couponing with Jill Cataldo-seating, customer escorts
October-Trunk or Treat at Kinsch's Florist
              Halloween Trick or Treat, Zumba & Costume Parade. This was our favorite event, because    our volunteers dressed up as characters, led dances and the costume parade.
See video here: HALLOWEEN 2011

December-Santa, present distribution to all children, Holiday craft. Crown control.

2012 Events
January-Data entry for Wolff's Flea market Cookbook Hungry as a Wolff
April-Easter Egg Hunt & Kids Carnival. Gift distribution and Egg Craft
June-Electronics recycling, Pet Rock Craft
August-Electronics recycling loading assist, Gods Eye craft
October-date TBA-Zumba & Halloween parade
Easter 2011 - Egg Prize Redemption Center
Halloween 2011-Recognize anyone?
July 2011-Making limbo sticks before the Nelson Gill concert
Easter 2011- Carnival Games
Christmas 2011 - All kids get a present!
December 2011 - Make your own ornament craft
Easter 2011
Electronics Recycling June 2012 - Pet Rock Craft

Electronics recycling August 2012

Monday, August 13, 2012

Flea Market Gardening: Recycled Tire Planter

Sharon Wolff

When I announced my search for old tires, wooden pallets and chipped bowling balls, I immediately sensed worry from my family. I overheard phrases like  "...the backyard... Sanford & Sons...", "...not bringing a dirty tire all the way home from West Virginia...",  "...please don't tell her about that pallet...". People outside the family were even bold enough to shake their heads. One person actually called me crazy.  Chris, I suspect you possess footage of me explaining myself to the hooting Wolff's Flea Market staff as a big old tire was loaded into my van.

To others, this new mission seemed quite out of the realm of normalcy.  Although we are a flea market, picker family, it appeared that no one had ever shown interest in collecting such large, heavy cast-offs, commonly found near Dumpsters or bowling alleys. They were especially confused about the bowling ball, because the few select people who are privy to a certain secret about me know that I should NEVER be in possession of a bowling ball.

So, people wondered and raised their eyebrows.  But, come on, when have any of my creative bursts actually turned out bad? Didn't my 52 pounds of potatoes project work out? True, we ate potatoes for 3 weeks... Doesn't the backyard pallet bench add a dash of recycled rusticity? True it still needs a little more love (and cushions), but it's cool, right? And what about the kitchen Chabinet (bench + cabinet)? It's sturdy, attractive, functional and holds cookbooks and coupons. So, why the skepticism? Was there really a risk that I would accumulate 20 old tires or broken appliances on our quiet suburban lot?

I hoped to design an inverted recycled tire planter, but the tires I found were steel rimmed and thus too difficult to cut and turn inside out. Beware! I am still looking for old soft tires!

Below is a very easy method to make a colorful recycled tire planter using leftover paint and other items from around your house or found at the flea market.

NOTE: Planter is for ornamental purposes only and should not be used for food plants (vegetables, fruits, herbs) as the rubber can break down and leach into root systems.

STEP 1:  Find your tire!
I paid a reasonable price for this nice clean tire at the flea market. Thanks Jerry. You may also find free tires discarded at the roadside (be careful), tire dealers (haven't tried this) or
STEP 2:  Prime!
I used Zinsser brand primer and
 a small brush to reach inside the treads
STEP 3:  Paint!
I used 1 coat of Rust-Oleum Painter's Touch Ultra Cover Glossy Hunter Green Spray paint.
(Free with my Ace Hardware Saver's Coupon). 
STEP 4:  Decorate!
Couldn't decide on a design, so I just used leftover acrylic paint to color a
few tread sections. These are the colors I had at hand. Might have used other colors
but the idea was to work with what I already had.
STEP 5Find your spot!
My wildflower garden is past its seasonal peak, and the tire brightened up the area.
I put it right over  a bare spot. Some online directions recommend placing garden
fabric at the bottom.  May not be necessary if planter is placed over soil.
STEP 6: Fill it!
Mine soil was free from the compost pile
Almost there...

Done! Plants and frog are flea market finds!

My only mishap was when I thought this piece of charred wood in the compost bin was a
 dead mouse and made David go out in the rain to remove it. Yes, I was gardening in the drizzle...don't you?

Notice the bowling ball ladybug? Next project!