I am rich… in masks.

Because of the Coronavirus epidemic in China, masks are selling out everywhere. I heard that news and supposed that surgical masks were in demand.

This weekend BabyBro visited for his Christmas present: a ticket to a musical in  nearby theatre. Before he arrived, he asked if I happened to have any dust-filtering masks he could have. He needs them for spring gardening due to high pollen.

“Sure! How many do you need?”

“Two. I can’t find them anywhere.” Continue reading

Tightening the Draft

One of the problems with jumping back into writing for blocks of time (rather than 20 minutes of writing followed by an hour of tech-related issues) is that I have lost the tone of my previous writing.  I start noticing that my words come out flat or there’s a weird disconnect between me and my characters. Continue reading

Many Unhappy Returns

In a rare bout of impulsive shopping, I ordered a hoodie with a reindeer motif online. It ended up being a strangely off-black with gray patterns, not white as shown in the photos.

I hesitated to return it. First, because it’s still rather cute.

Second, it’s a hassle: I’d have to buy a return plastic envelope and drive it to the UPS store in a nearby town.

Third, it’s a light enough fabric that I can use it as a second layer between a T-shirt and a sweatshirt.

And today came the clincher: Returned Goods Get Sent to the Landfill

Good grief! Plus I learned a new term, bracket, which means “buy a medium, small and large…, and try them all on and then return the two that don’t fit.” That seems a waste of resources in and of itself.

I think the researcher’s solutions are sound, particularly buying secondhand.

And so I would encourage you to partake in [secondhand] and to look for brands that are actually part of the circular economy… repairing, refurbishing and fixing goods at the end of their life so that they can have a second life.


Year of (gulp!) No Shopping

It’s that time of year again. The season of Black Friday sales and the slow trickle of tax documents.

And a horrible urge* to try a Year Without Shopping (YWS). according to my field notes, it consists of the following “rules”:

  • No new additions to the wardrobe
  • No new _______ until current supply of _________ is used up
  • No entertainment purchases with the exception of experiences (This seems to be popular loophole; for example a learning experience or roadtrip.)

If anything breaks or wears beyond prepare, there is a process:

  1. Substitute.
  2. Borrow.
  3. Buy used

I have already incorporated some practices into daily life. However, I’m daunted by the idea of committing to no sales or no stocking up.  And there’s the haunting sense that once I commit to it, sinister stars will align to break various necessities…

But I’m going to do it anyway. This coming week, I will make a list of five (5!) planned expenditures.  Wish me luck.

*By “horrible urge,” I mean a horribly sweet Puerto Rican has been urging me to follow his footsteps, if not hus vagabond ways.


I want a glass of wine…

…and a slice of Pinconning cheese (sharp, but not the sharpest aged).


It’s a stormy evening, I was soaked through on my return home, and there are fresh apples in the bin. Some people like wine and cheese with crackers, but crisp apples are truly lovely with sharp cheese and a sweet wine.

Plus, I’ve been on an anti-inflammatory diet for over a month: no alcohol, no dairy, no sweeteners, etc. Sure, I feel better, especially in the hip I injured last fall. But sometimes I long for tortillas, rice, and chorizos. Or a cinnamon roll. Or Coke Zero from a fountain.

Strangely enough, I don’t miss chocolate or bread.  Nor pizza. Nor any of the foods I was warned I would crave.

Instead, it’s the seasonal dishes that call to me. Football season has begun, so I suspect hard cider and a donut will beckon soon, followed by pumpkin pie and my sister-in-law’s hors d’oeuvers (which, according to spellcheck, is French for “horse-devours”).


Weeding, Writing, and Restoration

This past weekend I spent several blocks of writing time moving files and saving Scrivener documents as rich text formats. In between, I tackled the Master List of chores, most involving a shovel, rosin paper, and work gloves.

I don’t have much progress to report on any front, but I came across a great post by author Holly Robinson called “Write Like a Gardener, Garden Like a Writer.

…I discovered a gravel path by [the Rose of Sharon’s] roots and began digging that out, too. This path led to more, and the paths defined garden beds where a few scraggly flowers were blooming among the weeds. (…) Just as I became passionate about writing fiction because of that one accidental college course, I became equally dedicated to gardening because I accidentally discovered that path.

Do read the whole thing.

Cup o’ Joe

Tony Bologna came onto my reader feed with an oldie but goodie (or perhaps “goofy”) look at gas station coffee.

Since my decision to cut back on caffeine and dining out, I have fewer cups of java, but appreciate them more.My gas station coffee of choice is Speedway because it’s generally hot and fresh. For coffee franchises, Tim Hortons  (check out the international locations!) beats Starbucks every time.

Bringing Down the Food Budget

The last time I tracked my everyday expenses, I realized I eat out a lot. It’s not just restaurants. I frequent the Factory cafeteria. I stop for coffee whenever I am on the road.

These frequent food-fests don’t even include planned outings, like a recent farewell dinner for three seniors. It’s a given that I eat out at least twice a month because of the ever-changing restaurant landscape in the Bluewater Area.*

But if I want to take down The Mortgage (more on that later), I have to cut some more corners. An average lunch costs $3.75 and an average dinner over $10.

At Simple Dollar, Trent Hamm wrote about how the average American spends $7.64 a day on food, including both homemade and restaurant meals. He encourages bringing it down to $2.50 a day by using six staples as the backbone of meals: rice, beans, oatmeal, on-sale fresh produce, dry pasta, or eggs.

That seemed a little low to me, but I’m going to try it. The annual shut-down of the Factory and my mandatory retraining for new requirements mean I will be spending a lot of time at home for almost two months. It’s much easier to experiment with recipes when I will have enough time to read them and even cook elaborately.

Wish me luck!

*For example, I had been wanting to try the updated menu at The Cadillac House since its renovation. Baby Bro, as usual, was my excuse for going. Lunch was delicious, and it was startling to see the difference in the floor plan.

Rain, rain, go away…


Darkness at noon, except for the brightness of flowers. Note the branches that have fallen due to storms.

La Casa de Tontería (the House of Nonsense to anglophones) sits not far outside the floodplain.* This spring has been unusually, if not historically, waterlogged. Oldsters talk of the high water levels of the ’80s, when kids walked onto their front lawns and splashed in knee high water because the St. Clair River passed over sea walls and crept up toward houses.

For me, it’s been a little inconvenient; e.g. changing clothes because my trousers were soaked to the knees when I retrieved my car from the impromptu creek alongside the house.  The rain has done amazing things for the garden. Already the rhubarb is enormous and the coral bells** overwhelm their pots.

But lately it’s like living in a rainforest, particularly today when two separate thunderstorms turned afternoon to twilight. The winds sent the helicopter-like maple seeds and clumps of green leaves plummeting onto walks and decks. The gutters are being force-cleaned as the sheer volume of water pushes everything else out. The recycling crew is picking up bins grown heavier with of sodden paper products.

The Middle School Mafia has been watching the skies and weather forecasts anxiously. Not only does lightning curtail their usual street carousing, but Tuesday is their end-of-year trip to the beach. Their principal already warned then that if they got any new suspensions (the old being Water Under the Bridge), they would be stuck in the Factory with… me.

Yes, I am the designated hitter*** for my brave colleagues who are chaperoning the trip.


* A few years after getting the Mortgage, I anxiously waited for the FEMA-redrawn flood maps. Those few yards have meant no flood insurance requirement for me.

** Heuchera americana and a variety called “Starry night” if I recall.

***This is a baseball term. No actual Young Humans will be harmed.