Five Planned Expenditures for 2020

In anticipation of my 2020 challenge A Year of Mindful Shopping, I put together a list of above-and-beyond expenses. I was going to estimate their cost, but I really can’t.

  • Four nights in hotels. A family reunion and a weekend trip are in the works.
  • Materials for sprucing up the powder room. Labor is free, thanks to BabyBro’s generous nature. (Honestly, I think my MacGuyvered flooring pulled at his heartstrings.)
  • Admission to at least three museums and five gardens.
  • A new water heater.
  • A new headboard for the guest room.

New Computer: Oh, Happy Day!

I carefully wrote out a list of every need and want in anticipation of my 2020 challenge A Year of Mindful Shopping (I thought it sounded more honest than “Year of No Shopping”).

However, I already purchased the #1 on the list: a new computer.

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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.


Odds and Ends of House Upkeep

Usually winter is my relaxing season because, despite an increase in paperwork and often-hectic holiday preparations, the pace of life slows. There is little yard maintenance, the local roads have less traffic, and there are no mosquitoes.

Early snowfall, however, created its own problems. I had to get the birdfeeders squirrel-feeders set up early, so I grabbed two bags of the very limited selection at a soon-to-close retailer. The wildlife do not like it. It has too much corn, judging by the slowly-growing pile of kernels beneath the feeder. At least the suet is a hit, as well as easy to stock up; a local grocer carries it in the seasonal aisle. Continue reading

Shedding the Shed

On rainy Wednesday I got the news: the old shed will be dismantled Friday. Today after work, I cleared it out – much to the chagrin of the chipmunk living under it and the spiders within. Tomorrow morning I must turn off all the breakers so the wire is effectively “dead” and leave my preferred roof sample atop the still-wrapped new shed kit.

Will give an update tomorrow evening!

Going Out and Coming In


Treasures that need a little TLC, but the previous owner kept the blades sharp. The plate beneath them is one of my own creations.

Last week I dropped a carload of books, household goods, and the remainder of my DVD collection to the parish rummage sale. Last year I was reluctant to let go of some things, so I kept them but resolved to read, watch or use them.

I didn’t, so away they went.

Later I went to the sale and (of course) looked for my former possessions.  Other than an electric teakettle and a few philosophy books, nothing remained. There’s a kind of thrill in knowing someone else has found a use for one’s donated belongings.

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The Veggie Jar

Between garden supply runs and appointments, I’ve been driving around quite a bit. Last week I found myself looking for someplace to have a quick-and-cheap bite to eat. Of course, my budget doesn’t allow for fast food.

So I cheated without cheating.

I often drove by a grocery store between two fast food joints. Neiman’s Family Market has an in-store cafe that allows you (or me in this case!) to nosh on goodies in between grocery shopping.*

One delicious offering was sliced raw vegetables – not just carrots and cucumbers, but radish medallions and brightly-colored pepper slices. The produce sections of most grocery stores carry large plastic bowls of prepared vegetables or fruits, particularly in the summer. Nothing beats the heat like refrigerated snacks.

It occurred to me that the appeal of these bowls – besides the avoidance of cleaning, peeling, and slicing everything oneself – is their beauty.  The variety of colors attract the eye like a jar of hard candies on the counter of a sweets shop. It’s much more tempting to “eat your vegetables” when they’re enticingly pretty.

And the convenience of popping the lid and reaching in for a handful of snacks can’t be beat. Unfortunately, the price of convenience can be steep.


My version of a vegetable medley with the freezer container of “odds and ends.”

I decided to make my own version using the Anchor Hocking 7-cup container. I used celery, carrots, radishes, and two bell peppers. Not counting the amount I didn’t use, the cost is less than $5. I could have made it cheaper by using cucumbers and eliminating the celery, which is more than $3 a bunch.**

Not only is it less expense than the store-bought version, it had the added benefit of using all the “ugly” parts like the thick, whitish sections of bell peppers. I threw oddly-shaped pieces into a freezer container for vegetable soup in the autumn. A separate glass container holds sliced celery leaves ready to toss with salad.


This celery soup recipe by The American Moms is easy and delicious, and they give an nice overview of how Michigan farmers created the US celery industry.

*Grocery shopping while hungry can destroy a budget. However, some people become hungry after handling or smelling food. An independent grocer offers free coffee or tea for adults and free fruit to children. Putting food shops inside a store is a genius idea; just ask Michigan old-timers about the Purple Cow.

**Not heart of celery, the tender and leafy center, which is even more expensive. Michigan has had a late start this year in many crops due to cool rainy weather. I haven’t seen any local celery, just California produce. This doesn’t bode well for the price offrozen mirepoix packets, a winter staple.

Last Day of Intensive Gardening

Today is the day I finish the back garden! I’m so close to done, I can almost taste it. (Or is that topsoil in my mouth?)

Yesterday I was stabbed, scratched, and eaten alive by everything but earwigs. The hydrangeas in particular gave me conniptions. First I tried digging them out. Then I cut them at the base. Finally I put flattened cardboard boxes over the stubs – which stabbed THROUGH when I walked over – and hoped they will give up the fight. 

THREE HOURS later, I finished (at least for this year). I jam-packed three bags with their wands and roots.

The one near the house gets to stay. Or should I say “the hydrangea community,” since the dead ones were clearly separate roots in the clump. Or perhaps I should call it Mosquito Estates because the bloodsuckers sheltered during yesterday’s dry, breezy weather.*

I found two lovely river rocks beneath old fabric. I suspect they came from the original owner of La Casa de Tontería, as the couple who sold me it preferred semi-circular bricks. With the river rocks and my collection of Lake Huron souvenirs, I can make a “water feature” aka rock garden around the downspout. 😉

*Amazing how they discovered the gap where the cuffs of the work gloves no longer fit snugly! Bites on the wrist are more painful than the forearm.

Project Complete: Steampunk Box

Late this winter, I saw a steampunk trinket box. Made out of plastic resin, it looked like the perfect size and durability for an plugs-and-cords catchall. But the price! I wasn’t paying almost $9 per square inch. (Sounds like the rent in San Francisco, California.)

Instead I bought a plain pine box and a baggy of gears from a craft store. Luckily I kept the receipt, because soon I found a secondhand box in the Salvation Army store.


Decades ago, this treasure chest-style cedar box made an attractive (and popular) souvenir from Harrison, Michigan. Those imitation brass bands and the yellowish finish look awfully 1970s!

Beneath the dents and tarnish, the box was well-made. In particular, the sturdy hinges and tiny finishing nails impressed me. And the price was right: less than $4.50!

I bought a dark polyurethane. Then I gathered odds and ends: sandpaper, one-coat stripper, cheap brushes, and odd bits like a rusty key.

Stripping and sanding took a long time because I waited on the weather.* I applied the polyurethane one beautiful May day.  And speaking of mayday,  the first coat was a disaster! As it dried, flecks of pollen marred the smooth surface. Oh, the hazards of living in a bucolic wooded area!

Another round with varnish-remover and sandpaper. Then the tedious task of cleaning and polishing hardware with cotton swabs. I scuffed the finish around the latch and on the sides.

Finally I dug out epoxy and began gluing decorations to the surface. My favorite addition was an electrical connector made from a sliver of US nickel, which my grand- or great-grandfather found cheaper to create than buy for five cents. (A familiar story!)



My version of a steampunk box, relatively less gear and more box!

*Despite what manufactures imply, well-ventilated rooms are not a thing in my area. If such a room is discovered – usually in the heart of winter – we arm ourselves with caulk and insulation to fix it. However, some of us have screened porches  or what locals call “Florida rooms” (what my people call a solárium.)

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.