Tag Archives: shopping

Plan Schman

8 Sep

I think I’ve mentioned before that my husband is a planner.  I, on the other hand, am not.  I think it stems from my inability to make a decision.

These are at once strengths and weaknesses.  Take this weekend… we have options!
There’s a BBQ shindig at an old college friend’s place.  We’d know a few people, but it’s definitely a drop-in party.
There’s a loose plan to do somethingorother with a couple we wish we spent more time with.  We need to refinish our deck (more on THAT later).
I’d like to get a little shopping in… yes, I know this is my “Thrifty Thursday” post, but it’s definitely autumn around here, and I neeeeeed some scarves.
I’d also like to have a little time to just sit and read, as the next book club meeting is in ten days and I’m pretty far from my goal of finishing two books between meetings.  I aim high, don’t I…

To him, this means that we’ll do all of these things.

To me, this means we might stop by that party, or we might be too tired.  Or we might decide that it’d be better to get a start on refinishing the deck, and have ourselves a good powerwash.
We’ll probably hang out with that couple we like so much, but it’s hard to say when or where, because it’s only Thursday!
I’m sure we’ll end up at the mall, but if it’s nice weather, then maybe not.  Who wants to waste a sunny day inside?
And, as usual, my quiet reading time will probably take the back seat on the weekend bus.

For the most part, we’ve settled into managing our time my way.  Just the other day, he even changed The Plan in the middle of the afternoon.  I was completely thrown!  And more than a little bit proud.

But the money, we do that his way.  This is where his “The Plan” thing pays off.  We’ve made some good progress on our financial goals so far this year.  So motivating!  As we round out 2011 (did I mention it’s scarf-and-boot season?), we want to stay on that track, plus we’ve set a little savings goal.  With a goal, it’s so much easier to make those in-the-moment decisions.  Buy what’s on sale!  Skip the appetizer and dessert!  Drink at home!

Nothing!  That’s what!

I find it easier to set goals if I can attach them to a gizmo.  Someone told me recently that people who shop for a project but never FINISH the project are really in love with the creative process.  Fine.  I looked at Smarty Pig and loved their pink and green site, but didn’t necessarily love that it allowed me to solicit for “donations” through social media.  But if you’re into that, I guess it’s a neat feature.  They are literally a piggy bank, and allow you to dump out in the form of gift cards, debit cards, or ACH transfer.  There are some free-money bonuses for redeeming gift cards through their partners, so that’s neat.  But it involves opening a new bank account, and that’s more hassle than I’m willing to endure.

Mint.com is a little more my style.  Not visually, their site design does nothing for me – that whole pig thing is too cute.  But they’re more of a chalkboard of what’s happening in all your accounts.  They just pull the information from your various financial institutions so that you can see your debts, savings, investments, and spending patterns laid out all pretty.  They call this a “read-only” service, which is also a security measure.  If you can’t move your money around through Mint.com, neither can anyone else.

The winner!  Check it out and see what you think!

 

 

Weekbeginning

22 Aug


I have a strange “weekend” setup.  Usually it starts around 5 on Saturday, and ends with work on Tuesday morning.  The Saturday night bit feels like a weekend, but the rest of it feels like a weekbeginning, filled with preparations for my upcoming workweek.  Sometimes that means cooking, sometimes it means cleaning, and it always means laundry.  Usually I try to squeeze in a new recipe or thing I haven’t tried before, like learning to crochet or fixing something.

This weekend/beginning is different.  My normal schedule has been condensed into 1.3 days, which has a strange effect on me.  Something like… I have nothing to do!  I guess I didn’t completely slack off.  First, I discovered that I’m pretty great at grilling big juicy steaks.  A friend told me about a rub he makes that gave me a much simpler idea… on one of my steaks, I did a pretty good seasoning of salt and pepper, and then sprinkled some granulated sugar and a little cayenne pepper.  Amazing hot caramely sweet crust.

Next was the final shift of our amazing garage sale.  I got off to a Very Early Start this morning, even though our first customer didn’t show up for a few hours.

I popped my weekly breakfast egg bake into the oven when I got there, had some coffee, and the day began.  After all was said and done, the gang brought in over $500!  An episode worth repeating, I think.  We saw some interesting characters, got rid of almost enough junk, and made a little cash.  The only downer?  The lady who walked away with some of my junk without paying for it.  Wouldn’t have bothered me so much if it hadn’t been set aside with some things that another customer wanted to actually PAY for.

After I got home with my compact carload of ugly Christmas plates and mugs (had two carloads at the beginning!), I threw in some laundry and decided my time would be best spent lying in the grass and making a little progress on The Help.

I thought our glasses looked like they were on an adventure.
I nearly got to take a nap in the sun, but Someone decided he was hungry.  We thought we could treat ourselves a little as we’d made a killing selling our junk to people who collect junk, and got rid of lots of junk in the process.  Plus, the great part about a 1.3 day weekend is that you don’t have much time to accidentally spend money you don’t need to spend.  We thought we’d walk to a “nearby” establishment for some supper, promising each other we would aim towards the cheaper items on the menu.  I say “nearby” because when you live as far from civilization as we do, every establishment you walk past is an entire block.  Home Depot, Best Buy, etc.  We walked just under 3 miles to a seafood restaurant (in MN) where we discovered that it was a little overpriced, but also industry night, and they counted us among the working folk.  Also, everything had a bit of a southern/bayou twist, so we got to douse it all in hot sauce and Cajun seasoning!  So our $32 bill became $16 and we left stuffed.  Score!

I didn’t have much time for culinary adventures or creativity, and I’m not really optimistic about finding time for that in the next several days.  But I’m beginning this week with clean laundry and a little cash in my pocket.  I can’t move my legs right now because of my 6-mile trek to dinner, but we can’t have everything, can we.

The Opposite of Shopping

18 Aug


We’re having a garage sale.  No, not a two-for-one on garages, but a smorgasbord of discards.  There will be treasures ranging from absolute junk to stuff I just don’t need or use anymore.  Or ever.  It gets better… it’s not just my junk, but the junk of 3 other households as well!  The next few days will determine whether this is the best or the worst idea ever born of this group of ladies.  And it’s got competition in both directions, so it’s going to be a close race.

Donation is the way we usually get rid of stuff around here, but did you know that Goodwill won’t accept Christmas items in the summer?  When on earth do you think I go through my Christmas stuff??  So it’s important that these items sell this weekend.  It is not important that I take home a great profit (except on my vintage historical stereo with detachable speakers and double tape deck), it’s important that I NOT take home any Christmas stuff.  So, garage sale it is!

This forces me to look at my stuff and ask myself if I want to move it again.  There’s no telling how far the next move might be, so it’s an important question.  That cookie sheet?  Definitely not.  Not moving that guy again, he doesn’t pull his weight.  Cookies and frozen pizzas just stick, and stick, and stick.  But the stereo with detachable speakers – yes, detachable speakers! – that I bought in 9th grade?  With my own money, mind you.  VERY industrious at 14.  I flamed out early.  I’ll put that stereo in the sale pile.  But I’m definitely pricing it out of range so that I can continue to move it from house to house.  This way, though, he thinks I tried my best to get rid of it and it just wouldn’t sell.  It’s vintage!  A piece of history!  I’m sure you understand.

The trick will be to resist taking my fistful of cash (or pennies) and reinvesting it.  Garage sales are their own circle of life.  You buy something at a garage sale, and ultimately end up selling it at a garage sale.  You take the money handed to you in exchange for that item, and rush out to “reinvest” it in someone else’s vintage electronics.  Or whatever your thing is.  My most recent treasure?  A vintage ash tray.  I don’t smoke.

Isn’t she lovely?

With my recent vow of thriftiness, the idea here is to take my profits and invest them in an actual bank.  No shopping.  I’m pretty sure I can do it unless I run across new lampshades for my kitchen chandelier or a sewing machine that I just cannot pass up.  I’m sure you understand.  To help me stick to it, I’m counting this as a “revenue stream.”  Someone told me once that a household should have several revenue streams – ideally, 7 of them.  Did you know that?  Me either.  It’s interesting to think about, though, and I think it can’t be bad to shoot for.  We each have a job: check, check.  I think investments count: check…?  Once or twice a year, I sell some junk or some craftiness: check.  Still need three more streams, but I’m not sure I can be bothered about that just yet.  Someday, friends, enough people will read these ramblings that this very page could be a revenue stream… okay, maybe not.

When you’re cruising the sidewalks this weekend, snapping up other peoples’ junk (it’s probably an antique!  they don’t even know its value!), bid persistently.  Don’t let those ladies emotionally overprice their items out of purchaseland.  That’s their revenue stream and it’s our responsibility to make sure they end the day with cash, not a failed trip to Goodwill.  Go forth and garage sale!

I Have Needs

11 Aug

Am I really the only one who feels totally overcaffeinated when the IKEA catalog shows up in July?  How about Restoration Hardware?  Or even just little ol’ Crate & Barrel?  I find it hard to believe that I’m alone here.  When he asks why I bother dog-earing the pages, I tell him that I’m just “getting ideas” for things like… paint color?  How to arrange the furniture, maybe?  I’ve never actually looked for these things in a yummy new catalog.  I’m sure I could get these ideas from the great staging they do, but what I actually see is gorgeous furniture that I need.  Wait, want.  I get those two mixed up a lot…  To understand how much I truly do not need furniture, you should know that until a few weeks ago, we owned five sofas.  Five.  This does not count upholstered chairs, of which we have at least that many.  I think I’ve mentioned that it’s a big, uncleanable house.  Holds a lot of sofas.  Davenports, if you prefer.

When we were cleaning up after our big shindig this weekend, we were looking around the house with a little bit of a critical eye, and he was telling me a few of the features he “hates” about the place.  We got on the subject of ceiling fans and other fixtures.  I have mixed feelings about ceiling fans.  I think they’re not the most beautiful design element available, but I love the option of moving the air around via something other than my expensive-to-run and highly-inefficient air conditioner.  There are two in the house, and sometimes we run them even though they’re in rooms we never use.  It’s our theory that the air circulates beyond those little rooms… but who knows.  We’re contemplating replacing one of the builder-standard gaudy “chandeliers” in the main room with a ceiling fan, but it is my opinion that it should be a non-hideous one, or it’s not really worth it.  Read: expensive.  That was pretty much immediately pointed out to me, but I quickly moved on to the next idea I had.  Take the gaudy “chandelier” in the kitchen and paint it red.  The question is whether I could swap out the glass “shades” for something that would be a little less 2001.
I saw this on Shabbie Chic Home‘s Etsy site and realized I might be able to make something cool…

And how cool would it be to have mason jar shades?  Okay, maybe a little much on an entire chandelier.  But I like the idea!  And cool of BootsNGus to recycle vintage jars this way.  I love that they tell me it will remind me of catching fireflies as a kid.  Agh!  Suckered again.

I don’t tend to rush out and buy housewares.  My bigger impulse issue is clothing, as my job is fashion conscious and it’s easy to justify.  I neeeed this dress.  Wait, is that justifying or whining?  Either way.  And maybe there’s a little truth my claim that the wardrobe needs constant updating, but I can still shop the closet.  I can turn wide leg pants into skinnies.  I can take that dumpy old jacket and have it cropped and tailored.  That’s usually cheaper than a new outfit!  And I can paint the things in my house that are ugly until they are bearable.  I have a hunch that the busy-ness epidemic and the consumption epidemic are close cousins.  I’ll be trying to consume less without adjusting my schedule at all.  Stay tuned, this could get interesting.

I don’t mean to brag…

13 Jun

I baked a cake this weekend.  From scratch.  If you spend any time around me, you probably already know this, as I obsessed about it for about 5 days before it even happened.  The victims?  The ladies of book club.  Let me share a little bit about the experience…

I own several cute aprons – at least two of them involve polka dots.  But somewhere in my mind, I have aprons categorized as “retro” or “obsolete” or some other category that deems them unnecessary when I’m cooking.  So when Act I of this cake-baking adventure found me promptly covered in flour, I decided I will start using aprons more often.  Some other things I learned through this experience: parchment paper should come pre-cut in rounds.  Minor pain in the arse cutting circles out of parchment paper.  Also, non-nonstick cake pans are better, because the batter needs something to “grip” while it “climbs” the side of the pan.  Thanks to my pastry-chef-friend E.  Did you know that nonstick cake pans cause the cake to brown more on the edges?  Neither did I.  Did you also know that some recipes call for 9″ rounds, and some call for 8″ rounds?  Who came up with THAT system?  For now, I have 3 stick 9″ pans.  Let me know if you need to borrow them.

The cake was great.  I have a hard time dividing things “in half,” apparently, so when it came time to spread the filling between the layers, there may have been some jamming of lemon curd between two already-set layers.  Turns out it tastes okay even if you rough it up a little bit in the process.

I also made sangria (for my regular friends) and fruit punch (for my pregnant friends).  I didn’t try the non-alcoholic version – what? – but someone asked for the recipe so it must have been okay.  The sangria comes from Emeril and can be found here, and the regular punch was cran-pomegranate, a squeeze of lime, a bottle of San Pellegrino, and some other stuff.  I also made some caramelized onion dip in an effort to get rid of the Greek yogurt in my fridge.  My mom suggested I add some ground chipotle to it, so I did, and it was good.  I like it both ways!

Tonight I grilled some salmon, and managed not to screw it up.  Turning it over was nearly as terrifying as baking a cake, but it worked out.  Look out, I seem to be on a roll.  Next up: souffle!  That was a little culinary humor, I’m not actually dumb enough to try making a souffle.

I know you’re probably already feeling bad about yourself, what with all that I’ve gotten done this weekend, but there’s more.  I managed ALL OF THIS, and also found time to go shopping!  I know!  In a futile search for the Perfect Summer Frock, I bought one dress that he loves (I was ambivalent, it is above the knee and fitted – there is no room for gluttony in this thing), and one that I think he would prefer I never even saw.  It hits me somewhere below the ankle, is blousy-but-belted, and I could probably fit two of my closest friends or several racks of ribs in there with me.  It’s a “maxi dress.”  The best invention of the 21st century, I think.  I am certain that men everywhere are organizing a campaign against them, but ladies, they are genius.  Throw on some flip flops and some bangles and it’s practically evening wear.  Now I just need to get to work and make some jewelry to go with these new friends of mine…

Oh Look!

24 May

I have a short attention span.  This makes me challenging to be around in several ways.

In any given shopping situation, you might find me changing directions (let’s call this “Path B”) without warning or announcement because something caught my eye.  You would then find my husband continuing on Path A for quite some time before noticing my disappearance, hunting around until he finds me – I don’t stick up much above the racks – and reminding me yet again that he would like a little warning when I decide to tear off in the direction of whatever was shiny or polka-dotted.

He loves movies.  We have the largest collection of VHS tapes in the Central Time Zone.  He owns most of his favorite movies and likes to watch them while we cook or eat or do other chores.  Last night, he put on “Road to Perdition” while I cooked and he did some dishes.  About every 2 minutes, I said something like, “Who’s that guy” or, “What are they doing?” or, “Are they gangsters??”  This, apparently, was irritating.  I’ve been known to ask the same questions during an episode of Law & Order.  Supposedly, nobody else in the world has trouble following the plot of Law & Order.

Our house is too big.  We have about 2500 square feet.  My last place was about 1000 square feet, and I was only responsible for half of it.  Have you ever tried to clean 2500 square feet?  There’s SO MUCH TO DO that it’s hard to stay on one task for very long.  No, seriously.  You’re cleaning your office, and then your mind wanders to all the other things that need to be done.  There’s that box in the basement waiting to be sorted (does that mean emptied and spread around a 12-foot radius for anyone else?), or maybe the counters in the bathroom need to be wiped down.  Or maybe there’s a pair of socks that didn’t make it into the sock drawer, and I can NOT finish what I’m doing until one or three of those other tasks are complete.  Begin distraction task, repeat distraction.  This seems like a good time to mention that my mother-in-law’s house is Very Clean.

I try to put a positive spin on things.  I’m a silver lining kind of girl.  I’m trying to sell him on this silver lining being my endless curiosity, or my interest in all kinds of things that could bring richness and texture to our lives, but I’m pretty sure he just sees several pairs of half-made earrings, or the 12-foot spread of junk that at least used to be contained in a box.  He may be infinitely patient with me, but at least all my socks make it into the sock drawer.