Sunday, May 30, 2010

Safety First

After a very busy day including, biking, mowing, and a fun wedding, I was wiped. It was 10:00 pm & I needed to fill up my tank to get myself back home. Not being a huge fan of getting gas in an unknown neighborhood especially while still dressed up for a wedding, I tried to find the best lit gas station around. I didn't even check to compare prices, safety first!

During my fill-up, a scruffy-looking, older guy walking past turned to me and said, "Evening miss."

I was a bit freaked, but, trying to look confident and assured of myself, replied with a polite, "Hello."

"You look very nice tonight," and he kept walking.

Well that was a surprise. And it was really nice to hear.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

WIN: Craigslist

On my To-Do list last Tuesday, I decided to list a few items from my garage clean-out on Craigslist. My previous attempts at making money off old stuff really haven't worked, but those were second-hand stores and eBay with fairly small items. A few years ago, I sold my Toyota Camry on Craigslist in about four hours, so maybe a mini-grill and golf clubs could also sell?

I listed them last Wednesday, and both sold!

Here's some general tips for Craigslist:
  • People prefer to buy physically larger items second-hand (probably also because physically larger items cost more new)
  • If you include lots of pictures, you don't have to write as much
  • Clean your stuff off before taking pictures of it
  • If someone responds to your ad saying they want to "check it out" and the item is easily portable, agree to meet at a location you can walk to. It's manipulation really. They might feel slightly guilty that you have to walk the item back, thus they're more likely to buy it right away.
  • Remember to remove your listing after the item is sold.
  • If you want to protect your identity while corresponding on Craigslist, change your email settings so your full name isn't shown on the to/from line.
What are your Craigslist tips?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

FAIL: Couch Slip Cover

I'll repeat my interior decorating disclaimer that I shared in my FAIL: Pillow Shams entry: "I'll be honest, interior decorating is really not my thing. I have no concept of what goes together, what's in, what looks good, why we have certain items, etc." This is why 2 of my 3 FAIL entries are about interior decorating (and I could add to the Pillow Sham entry with yet another failed attempt at pillow shams. I might just have to spend the money and get an actual bedding set instead of trying to piece things together).

Anyway, my couch & slip cover story: the first piece of furniture I ever purchased myself was Dave the Couch.

Dave came from Goodwill and was a great couch for two years (well, except the fact that Dave was ridiculously heavy and the hide-a-bed fell out every time he was moved). I loved Dave because he had lots of CHARACTER and wasn't boring.

3 1/2 years ago, I moved into my current place and took with me a couch from my parents. This couch is circa 1994 and thus represents the decorating style of the early 90's. This couch doesn't have a name since it doesn't have a whole lot of uniqueness and character, but it is quite comfortable and is a fantastic nap couch. Unfortunately, the texture is such that when my Jack Russell decided to harness her inner feline and treat the couch like a scratching post, she began ripping out certain spots in the upholstery. Since the Jack Russell is no longer with me, I decided I could try a couch upgrade, but without buying a whole new couch. Let's try a slip cover!

In my brief furniture experience, I have seen some good slip covers and some not so good slip covers, so during my trip to the store today, I tried to channel every bit of my interior decorating memory and pick something that would feel comfortable, fit my couch and look good. I ended up choosing a brown one that had a checked texture, although by-passing the only interesting one in the aisle, a "red" suede cover (their "red" is deep magenta. seriously people. if you need a definition of "red", live in Nebraska for 4 years, then you'll know what "red" actually looks like.) So I purchased the brown one and tried it on my couch.
Here are my thoughts,
  • Eh. I guess it's not horrible.
  • It looks to me more like a 1970's couch than a 2010 neutral piece.
  • It's really kinda boring.
  • This has no CHARACTER!
  • Hmm, I don't think I like this enough to keep it, especially since I'd have to drop a wad on blankets & throw pillows to spice up this blah.
  • Maybe my other couch wasn't so bad.
So I'm planning on returning the slip cover (an easy task since I'm returning the failed pillow shams too). I did a little clean-up work on the couch which greatly helped the doggy-ripped portions look better. It's not going to make any sort of Good Housekeeping statement, but it's a seriously comfortable couch that works quite well for my living room, a room of fun, relaxation, chips & salsa, card games, movie nights, greasy popcorn fingers and naps.
I wish I could share a dramatic Before and After set of pictures that showed a slip cover changing my living room and bringing me into the next level of neutral-happy interior decorating. However, this experience did teach me that I appreciate this couch for it's semi-outdated print more than I realized. It does have some CHARACTER! I probably will get a neutral couch eventually since nice neutral couches tend to look much better than neutral slip covers, but until then, I will enjoy this couch for what it is- a couch I don't have to freak out about!

(and the alligator's name is Lary, yes with one R. he was a souvenir from my high school band's trip to the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans and is named after a bus driver)

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Dress-Up Box

Growing up, my sister, our friends & I would play hours and hours of dress-up. We might have even made my brother join in on occasion. Lately going through my closet and dresser, I ran across several items that made me think, "A second-hand store wouldn't take this, it's still in fairly good condition, but it really belongs in a dress-up box." I don't have any kids to give these items to, but I do have a niece! Ok, she's seven months old, but she'll be playing dress-up with her friends before too long!

I haven't exactly collected a huge amount of items, mostly old jewelry and scarves, but over the next three years or so, I can probably put together a decent collection to jump-start a dress-up box (side note to my sister: I'm sure you've picked up on the fact that a load will be coming eventually!). I won't be buying any items, but simply adding pieces from my wardrobe (or friends who want to donate) that can be put to better use through playing house, recreating a wagon train or creating a mermaid city. Who knew the pilgrims had Hawaiian print blouses?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Anti-Procrastination Tuesday: #11

Wow, #11 already? That's almost three months of anti-procrastination! I can happily say that I've knocked off quite a few pending projects off the Ultimate To-Do, the ever-evolving list that lives in my gmail. At least it lives in gmail when I can remember what projects I have.
I do find it interesting that most of the links on Anti-Procrastination Tuesdays have to do with craft or organization projects. I'm hoping that someday the rest of my life will get organized enough for me to be able to tackle projects like that! Is it procrastination if you can't tackle a project because you just don't have enough time? I hope I'm not subconsciously putting projects off because I think I don't have time. Again, this goes back to my issue of sometimes not recognizing projects that need to get done.

So, here's me sitting down to take the time to figure out what I actually need to accomplish.
  • Go through garage
  • List golf clubs on craigslist
  • List mini-grill on craigslist
  • Hope that the two previous tasks won't result in another FAIL blog entry about attempts to sell stuff
  • Go through spare room (and there's actually a deadline on this one! Do before the end of May)
  • Go through closet (again & again & again...)
  • Find a place to live Aug 1
  • Find some new recipes to try out
  • Blog about French Lentil Soup (that's one good recipe!)
  • Go through kitchen
  • Find a good pair of dressy sandals
Well that's all I can think of for now. Yep, that's good.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Of Sad Days, Dogs & Prozac

I haven't posted in a while. Life got stressful & a bit complicated. Over the last few weeks, my Jack Russell named Mabel started giving me a lot of problems. She has always been an anxious dog, but she became increasingly so, especially when I had friends over. During a gathering at my house in January, she bit a friend of mine unprovoked and regularly tried to nip people's feet. She also started peeing in her crate about once a week. All of these signs were telling me, "Something is not right with your dog."

I decided to take her to the vet to get her checked out, but she passed with a clean bill of health. However, the vet said that if Mabel was experiencing such high anxiety, she might be a good candidate for Prozac, a solution that might or might not work to the tune of $250-$500 a year. While thinking this over, I decided that if the environment that I can provide her makes her so anxious that she needs medication, maybe she needs to be in a different environment. It was not an easy decision, but it came time for Mabel to have a new home. Through a coworker connection, a family down in Wichita is Mabel's new family as of this morning.

(And just to be clear, I did not "minimize" my dog because she was complicated. Dogs are one complication that I am more than willing to accept in my life as long as the dog is able to live in my home without being completely stressed and taking it out on my friends' feet.)

It was pretty hard to see her leave. After having her for 1.5 years, walking her twice a day, enjoying the dog park, going through obedience training and having her as a companion, I know I will miss her & greatly miss having a dog around. I wanted to help her calm down and be a happy dog, but for whatever reason, I wasn't able to provide her with the right environment to do that. I do have faith though that she will be happy and hopefully not as anxious in her new home.

So friends, you may now once again walk barefoot in my house without fear of losing a toe!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Anti-Procrastination Tuesday: Or Wednesday

Whew! Today has been busy. Lots crossed off the Ultimate To-Do!
  • Got passport photos taken
  • Bought more wrapping paper
  • Recycled unused wire hangers at the local dry cleaner
  • Registered my mom & I for a cooking class at our local health food store
  • Bought a netbook since my 5 year old computer really, really died last week
  • Bought a new pair of running shoes (after trying on about 8 pairs, came back to my favs, New Balance 472. Those shoes just feel like home)
  • Bought replacement tank tops for the ones that fell apart (and maybe two other shirts, but Maurice's was having buy one get one 50% off...)
  • Aired up my bike tires
  • Dermatologist appointment (hopefully only 5 more weeks of Accutane!)
  • Oil change/tire rotation (yeah, they wanted me to get a Firestone credit card. you get $15 off each oil change which for me is like $60-$75 a year, but they wanted my SSN so I said, "No thank you!")
  • Hair appointment
  • 11ish mile bike ride with Dad
  • Dinner with my roommate (using up one of the Christmas coupons we exchanged last year!)
  • Watched (500) Days of Summer (cute movie!)

So it's been a long day. I spent a lot of money. But the nice part about being generally frugal is I have money in the budget when I really need it, and had a bit to spare to utilize my coupons for Reese's Pieces & Hershey's Special Dark With Almonds. Life is good. :)

Monday, May 3, 2010

Driving it 'til the tires fall off

No worries, my car is fine. This philosophy has long been one of my frugal/cheap approaches to buying & using things. I like to spend my money on vacations, not on stuff. I can typically get through everyday life using the same items over & over until they are just done and it hasn't created a lot of problems for me.

Until the last few weeks. My laptop DIED. A bunch of my socks developed holes. Both pairs of running shoes have major damage on the inside. My passport expired. The vacuum sucks, er, doesn't suck. A track jacket I've had for three years started giving me a rash. A braclet broke. One pair of jeans started wearing through. Etcetera, etcetera.

When it rains it pours, but my frugal/cheap self is screaming, "I don't care that I use these items daily! It costs so much MONEY to replace all these things! I want to go on a scuba vacation this summer!" But if I want to do that, I'll probably have to get my passport renewed anyway. It's all in the budget & some items can be spread across several months for purchasing, but it's not really what I wanted to spend my money on. I'm still single so I like the freedom to spend my money where I please!

But I have to realize that stuff gets old. Stuff breaks. I can't be controlled by wanting stuff, but I also can't live without stuff unless I want to get leg/foot injuries from bad running shoes, toes sticking out of my socks, & nasty carpet. I don't want those. So I'll replace the stuff.