Second Hand Shopping & Dumpster (Curb) Diving in NYC

Second hand shopping has been a passion of mine for a while now for two reasons. First, there’s the positive environmental impact of reusing an item that would have ended up in the landfill and negating the negative impact of production costs for a new item – especially if it’s clothing or furniture.

Secondly, there is the thrill of getting a great deal on an item that someone didn’t see the value in. If done right, there are no cons in thrifting, second hand shopping, dumpster diving, re-using and re-purposing, whatever you want to call it!

Before you get too excited and head off to a local vintage store in Manhattan, prepare yourself. Not all second-hand stores are made equal. The first time I decided to go shopping in the city, I was browsing racks of second hand jackets that ranged from $50 to $300… that is when I realized that second hand doesn’t mean cheap. This is not a bad thing.

Shopping for used items isn’t just for people on a budget. Entering a second-hand store is like gambling. You do not know what you will find, if you will get ripped off or if you will go home with a steal! That’s what’s so thrilling about it.

Although, as I’ve mentioned, thrifting isn’t jut for those on a budget, I happen to be on one. In about two months I will no longer be blogging about New York because Isaac and I are moving to our very own house in Rhode Island.

It’s funny to mention buying a house in an article about second hand shopping. Unless you are buying a brand new house or build one just for you, you are technically buying a used or second-hand home. Just like with any other gently-used item, you can outfit the home to suit your needs and match your style!

Anyway, going from a shoebox New York apartment to a four bedroom house (which will ironically save us money FYI) comes with its perks as well as challenges. We will need a ridiculous amount of furniture to turn the empty shell of a house into a home.

If we had the budget for it, we’d be visiting antique stores and buying beautiful one-of-a-kind pieces for hundreds of dollars. This is something we will work up to as we shop Savers, my favorite second hand store, and while we scavenge the streets for the biggest risk of all – free furniture.

My next article will be exclusively about Savers, the closest one to New York City is on Long Island near Hempstead. Let me end this post with the pros and cons of finding free furniture on the street.

Brooklyn, and specifically Bushwick, where we will live for two more months, is littered with free furniture all year round. As exciting as finding free furniture is, it happens to be a hit and miss as well as quite risky when it comes to your health.

Pros: it’s free! You can find perfectly clean, high quality and even antique furniture that someone was too lazy to sell or take to a second hand store. Some of these items are the very same you’d be spending hundreds of dollars on at a fancy vintage store. These items, however, are rare and you have to be incredibly lucky to find them.

Cons: bed bugs. There are other cons like, it may be dirty, bad quality, peed on by a passing dog (or human). But nothing is worse that the risk of bed bugs. There are articles on signs of bedbugs that you can study and examine. Bed bugs can live in wooden furniture as well as sofas/mattresses.

Pro tip: find out what day trash pick up is. Since leaving furniture out on the curb is technically illegal, people are more likely to sneak their furniture out on these days because they are less likely to get caught.

I have heard my fair share of horror stories related to bed bugs and some kind people who throw out furniture will stick on a note on if there is a potential bed bug risk. But not everyone is that nice and they may not know. Make sure to watch a YouTube video on what to look for. Make sure to check every crack, corner and crevice before you bring anything home.

If you want to avoid these dangers, stick to Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist and garage sales. Although it’s still possible that you will buy something with bed bugs in it, people are less likely to sell something that they know will get them bad feedback/angry reviews.

Garage sales are especially great for buyers because the sellers just want to get rid of stuff and will likely sell things at ridiculous prices – like our new incredibly comfy, barely used, leather computer chair for $20. Something that a second hand furniture store would re-sell at at least $60+.

Stay tuned for my article about Savers including info about the type of items they sell, prices and their twice a year 50% off all item sales. If you have any comments, complaints, tips about second hand shopping or dumpster (curb) diving, leave a comment bellow!

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The New York Mycological Society

There are strict rules about foraging anything in state parks and city parks. The laws aren’t clear at all, so it’s always best to ask someone more experienced. Whenever we go picking mushrooms, we bring a towel/picnic blanket to drape over the basket just in case.

We have finally gotten a taste of some good weather so I started researching one of my favorite topics: mushrooms! I grew up picking mushrooms in Europe which is completely different than doing it in New York. First of all, in Europe, Czech Republic in particular, mushroom picking is a popular sport! Second of all, the mushroom season is only 2-3 months long.

In New York it’s completely different! First of all, almost no one picks mushrooms. This is true for New York City as well as the state, most Americans in general seem too scared to pick mushrooms! Also, mushroom hunting season here is practically all year round. However, prime mushroom picking time is from April until October.

Coming from a country where you have to wake up at 5 AM after a rainy day to find a single mushroom that hasn’t already been picked by the hordes of hungry mushroom hunters. The first mushroom I ever found in New York was found in plain sight on a very busy path in a New York City park… that got me researching.

Even if you know something about picking mushrooms in Europe or Asia, you can’t just apply the same knowledge in a new place. There are lookalike mushrooms that can be edible in one country and poisonous in the other. That’s why it’s a good idea to join a mycological society. If you’re in New York, I recommend the New York Mycological Society!

They have a website and a Facebook Page where members (and non members) can learn about mushroom types and join on mushroom hunting expeditions for just $5, unless you become a member for $15 annually ($25 for a family). The group consists of experts, some experienced mushroom pickers and many newbies.

They also don’t focus on picking edible mushrooms, they like to explore and identify mushrooms of all sorts! I joined for a walk through a cemetery in the Bronx, where we split up, picked mushrooms and met at the end to examine all of our findings. It was a lot of fun and very educational!

A mycological society can also help explain the laws regarding mushroom picking in the area that you are in. I was surprised that there are so many rules in America about literally everything. Isaac got a fine once for being in a park when it has snowed, despite there being no signs about it.

There are strict rules about foraging anything in state parks and city parks. The laws aren’t clear at all, so it’s always best to ask someone more experienced. Whenever we go picking mushrooms, we bring a towel/picnic blanket to drape over the basket just in case.

Starting this weekend, I will start going on hikes hoping to find oyster mushrooms that grow all year round! But the moment it gets warm and rainy, everything else will sprout too. I just can’t wait!

Do you love mushroom picking? Share your favorite mushroom stories int he comments below!

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One World Trade Observatory: New York City

The new One World Trade center is an amazing building, not one because of its architecture but because of its history. It is the tallest building in the USA and has one of the best views of New York City! The observatory has a unique view of the bay and even New Jersey. The best time to go here is right before sunrise to see it during the day and at night!

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Free Coffee in NYC: Pret A Manger

In case you were wondering, yes, they do have pumpkin spice lattes that can be vegan or not! There’s nothing basic about enjoying some pumpkin spice in the fall time! *glares at haters*

New York City is known for being expensive! We have lived here since August and I can confirm this, however, there are ways to visit or live here on a budget. One thing that we have done, is traded in Starbucks for a much better coffee chain Pret a Manger.

Not only is the coffee here delicious and cheaper than at other chains. They give you a free first coffee and they had a great card that rewards you for your loyalty. This card is digital and you can use it through your their app. You can also save your payment information which allows you to pay by scanning your unique barcode directly from your phone.

Although you will often come in to Pret and see a long line of people, the line will move at lightning speed. This is because they only make fancy coffees for you and if you want a regular coffee, you can pour it yourself! They have a cute little coffee bar with four options: decaf and three different brews as well as several kinds of milk, including nut-based dairy-free milks! Of course there’s also sugar, cinnamon and cocoa.

So basically, you come in, scan your barcode, pick a size and you do the rest yourself. No one gets the chance to mess up your order and you are in an out as quickly as you need. Of course, you can also bring your own thermos to illuminate plastic waste and you are welcome to hang out in their seating area for as long as you want.

In case you were wondering, yes, they do have pumpkin spice lattes that can be vegan or not! There’s nothing basic about enjoying some pumpkin spice in the fall time! *glares at haters*

Check it out:

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Chinese New Year Parade in Manhattan, NYC

The highlight of the day for me was two dogs, a husky and a golden retriever dressed in traditional golden Chinese lion uniforms. Just like the ones that are worn for the lion dance!

Yesterday, on February 17th, we went to see the Chinese New Year Parade in Chinatown! As you may already know, Isaac and I lived in China for two years before moving to New York. We ended up going to the parade with a friend who we met in Shanghai! It was the first time we saw her since we had payday sushi and it was great to see her!

Our friend had actually been to this parade before so she convinced us to meet her for brunch at Jing Fong at 10:00. We thought it was ridiculous to meet so early when the parade didn’t start until 13:00, but she just said to trust her and we’re glad we did!

The brunch at Jing Fong was interesting. You need to keep in mind that we didn’t enjoy our time in China as much as our friend, so while she thrived in the chaos of Chinese waiters yelling and carts of mystery food rolling by, we felt like we were back in a place we didn’t love. Also, although the official menu had a lot of vegetarian and vegan options, this dim sum brunch did not.

So even though we were less than two blocks from our favorite vegan dim sum place, we were stuck eating the same two overpriced dishes, one of which was a dessert. It wasn’t the best experience but if you’re a meat eater and want to enjoy a new culture, I think you’d like this place!

The way ordering works, is that everyone gets a ticket – sometimes there will be several groups of people at one table if it’s crowded. We had two older Chinese gentlemen sitting with us which was interesting. When the carts come by, you can take plates of food and they will stamp your ticket in the correct category: small, medium, large, special, etc. Each category has a set price that is tallied up at the end.

Just like in China, not everyone at Jing Fong speak Chinese. It was really difficult for us to communicate with them to find out if things were vegan or not. Even though Isaac speaks basic Chinese! It also took 20 people to explain that we wanted two separate tickets for our group – even the two men sitting with us got involved in explaining what we want. This was a typical problem for us in China – simple things became a huge ordeal to explain and solve.

We left the restaurant after about an hour – when we first got there, it was only half full. On our way out, there were hordes of people standing in a line out the door. When we got out onto the street to find a spot to watch the parade, it was no different. There were already thousands of people standing and waiting for a parade that wouldn’t start for two more hours!

It was lucky we came early, although we did had another friend who came out at noon and he managed to find an ok spot to watch from as well. But if you want a guaranteed great spot to watch from, definitely come early. The earlier the better!

As for the parade itself, I wasn’t too impressed but I may be a little jaded. There were many impressive dragons that got better the later it got. Those and the lion dancers were amazing. But like all parades in New York, in between the cool performers were people campaigning and I hate that every parade is so political.

The police department performed too and that part was great, but I could have done without all the boring stuff in between! If you haven’t been to Chinatown or New York before, you may not know this, but most police officers in Chinatown are Chinese or of Chinese descent, which is really cool!

So this was our third parade in New York. The other two we had experienced were the Caribbean and Halloween parades and they both had similar boring political fillers in between the cool stuff. I guess they don’t get the necessary funds without agreeing to include these? I’m not really sure to be honest.

All in all, the Chinese New Year Parade was interesting to see. I definitely recommend seeing it at least once, especially if you haven’t been to China and want to experience the culture a little. The crowds to get in an out are also very authentic, and if you think being smushed by crowds of people is unique to New York, don’t be fooled and read about my description of my daily rush hour commutes in Shanghai!

The highlight of the day for me was two dogs, a husky and a golden retriever dressed in traditional golden Chinese lion uniforms. Just like the ones that are worn for the lion dance! Did you get to see the parade? Tell me about your favorite part in the comments below.

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$2.75 Ferry Ride with a View: Rockaway Beach to Manhattan – NYC

Why overpay for a crowded cruise full of tourists when you can take a $2.75 (regular MTA fair) ferry ride!

Why overpay for a crowded cruise full of tourists when you can take a $2.75 (regular MTA fair) ferry ride! It takes about an hour and the views are spectacular. As you can see in the video below, it can get a little windy but sometimes there’s a rainbow waiting for you!

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Luna Park in Coney Island, NYC

Luna Park adventure at Coney Island, NYC!

It’s still cold outside but warm weather is coming. I repeat: Warm. Weather. Is. Coming! There are so many fun things that we’re all dying to do when we don’t need to wear our ski coats and fuzzy socks just go cross the street to the local bodega. One of the things I’m excited to do is go down to the beach and maybe visit Coney Island!

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