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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Hunting Season

Bargain hunting, that is.

Every so often, my husband and I go bargain-hunting at thriftshops. That's what we did this morning, and we got some pretty good buys. Our hunting ground was Westlake. When we left home, we weren't sure what we'd bag.

First we stopped a the Discovery Shop, but didn't find anything we wanted, although the shop had some great stuff.

Next we hit Goodwill, where I found a like-new Coldwater Creek black knit dress for $4, a beautiful handmade mug for $1.49, and a copy of Edible Wild Plants for 75¢.
The dress coordinates well with Dylan.

Since I had a coupon for $1 off, I didn't do badly. John bought a spiffy-looking made-in-UK wool cap for $1; with his coupon, it was free.

We arrived at the Westlake Library a few minutes before the early closing and bought $11 worth of books from the sale rack of discards and donated books. I selected four I wanted to read; John found two for himself. Most of the copies were in mint condition; only one was a discard. The retail value of the books was over $120. Since John and I are both avid readers, we were pleased with our find.

My writer buddy Marion has been telling me how good The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency books are, but I hadn't read any. Now I will. I'm a John Irving fan, so I was also glad to get The Fourth Hand.

Our best finds came on our way home when we stopped at Clay's consignment shop. I'd been wanting a set of International Tableware in the Bob Timberlake Ella's Rooster design since I'd found two cups for a quarter each at the Rocky Mount Goodwill a few months ago. I really liked the colors and the country design, but the pattern had been discontinued.

Clay had a complete service for four—twenty pieces—that hadn't even been used. The set was marked $40; after a bit of haggling, I got my dishes for $15. The color goes great in my country kitchen.

I have no clue how much these dishes would have cost new. Anybody know? Some of the online replacement china sites list the plates for $9.99 each.

John probably scored the best bargain of the day. He's wanted a Texas Instruments graphing calculator for a long time, and Clay had a TI-83 Plus. However, it didn't have batteries so John didn't know if it would work. He decided to take a chance.

For $20, he got both the calculator and a small TV that we're now using as a monitor for one of our security cameras.

The calculator, which retails for $99.99 at Staples and other stores, works fine.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Recycling a Headboard

A few months ago, I paid a dollar for a really ugly headboard at Goodwill. Taking out the back and painting what was left helped a bit:

The removed back piece was the headboard's original color.

I painted it the same color I'd used on an earlier recycled headboard. The only problem was that I didn't have any of the wallpaper border left. However, I found a similar roll at Lowes in Roanoke—same pattern but a different color. Would it work? And more importantly, would the "new" bookcase fit along the wall with the previously recycled headboard bookcase and another bookcase that I'd had since I was a kid.

Yep on both counts. See for yourself:

The completed bookcase.

What's up top.

And here's how it fits with the others.

Total investment for headboard, paint, and wallpaper border—less than $10.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Let’s Go Krogering

When I told one of my fellow bloggers where I was going this morning, she emailed, “You go to Kroger's? Isn't it a lot more expensive [than Wal-Mart]?”

Well, yeah, it is. Usually. But my husband and I shop on Senior Citizen’s Day, when we get 5% off. That usually equals the sales tax. Kroger often has some pretty good specials, which I buy if they’re items I use and need. Plus, Kroger has this limited special on its gift card: If you buy a $300 shopping card, Kroger credits it with an additional $30. You’re limited to a maximum of 4 in a limited time. I just bought my third one today. The offer expires sometime in July.

Also, Kroger issues some pretty good coupons to some of its faithful shoppers. Many of those coupons are for things I can actually use. And I clip other coupons, too. My plan is to use coupons for things that I need that are already on special. Sometimes I stockpile. Today, for instance, I stockpiled paper goods. A few weeks ago, I stockpiled dry dog food.

Kroger marks down baked goods, deli items, and meats that are almost out-dated, If it’s something I will use within a day or two, you’d better believe I take advantage.

Since Kroger is 14 miles from us, I only go to on Tuesdays. Often we take care of other business in Rocky Mount at the same time. We might tank up on gas ($3.85 this morning—the cheapest I’ve found in the area), then stop by Goodwill (where we usually buy a couple books), the library, the hardware store, etc.

Consequently, it takes two to shop. John mans one cart while I woman the other. Sometimes he takes a handful of coupons and goes one way, while I take a handful in the other direction. That saves time.

John with handful of coupons and our two carts.
Our cold bag and recycled bags are in the cart on the left.

On Tuesdays, Kroger provides free coffee and snacks. We usually partake of their hospitality—sometimes with people we know who are shopping the same way we do. Also, it helps to sit down midway through our shopping and regroup.

Another thing I like about Kroger is that it has paper bags. If you double-bag your cold stuff, it stays cold longer. If you double-bag your canned goods, you can carry a lot more. Consequently, to save bags, we take the doubled bags back to refill. We also have an insulated bag that we carry.

Time out for a rant here: Using paper bags does not mean that trees are dying in vain/the rain forest is being depleted/etc. for my paper habit. Not using paper bags won’t save trees. Paper isn’t made from old growth hardwoods; it’s made from fast-growing pines that are planted (and replanted) as a crop. We grow loblollies, which are used for paper products. (If you want to save trees, don’t buy fine furniture!) Using paper bags is highly preferable to using those flimsy plastic bags that are made from petroleum products. OK. Rant over.


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Goodwill Goodies

I've gotten some goodies at Goodwill lately. Yesterday at the Rocky Mount Goodwill, I bought a long black coat that's made of pure silk. Original price tag was still on it—$159, then reduced to $79, then to $59. Goodwill had it for $20 but had just reduced it to $15. I figured, what the heck!

Cat hair won't show on it!

Now, where I will wear something designed to be worn over evening wear, I don't know. But I will look darn elegant doing barn chores in it.

A week ago, I bought some stoneware for $10.99 at the Westlake Goodwill. The 7 plates, 6 bowls, and 7 salad plates were all taped together, so I couldn't see who made it until I got it home.

Turns out it's the Heritage pattern by Brick Oven. One plate on one of the replacement China sites goes for $5.99. Guess I got a good deal. Plus the colors match my kitchen floor.

I'm happy with both my finds and I've done my part for recycling.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Bayou Chairs Renewed

When I was a kid, these chairs sat on our front porch.

They'd faded a lot through the years. A little sanding and paint renewed them:

Total cost: About $5 worth of Rustoleum.

Monday, April 7, 2008

New Printer

For about a year, I've wanted a laser printer. When prices for some models dropped below $100, I started looking, but the ones in my price range were kind of clunky.

Last Wednesday, I was in Roanoke for the Pen Women meeting. On my way, I stopped in Staples and saw an HP LaserJet P1006 that was on special. Regular $179, it was down to $99, thanks to an in-store discount. I liked the way it looked.

It would look nice beside the HP ink jet all-in-one that I already had. It coordinated well with my aging eMac. But could I get it cheaper?

Yep! The circular I'd picked up when I went in said that Staples would give a $50 rebate for a customer's old printer if the customer bought a new printer whose regular price was $159 or more. But would they honor this on a regular price that had already been reduced?

Yep! I asked a salesman, and he confirmed it. But did I have a printer I wanted to part with?

Yep! The Epson ink jet I'd gotten free with my iBook back in January 2004 had died in 2005, and I'd never gotten around to throwing it away. (I'd already made some money with that free printer. Epson, as part of a class-action suit, had already sent me a $25 check and given a $25 credit at their online store. I used the credit for paper. I figured I'd already made as much off that printer as I could. What a surprise that I could still milk it for a little more.) But could I find where I'd put it?

Yep! When I got back home, I found it in a downstairs closet. Now, I didn't rush back to Roanoke (at the current gas prices, it costs me $10 for a round trip). I knew I was returning on Saturday for a Cottage Curio event in Salem. Besides, I rarely buy something the first time I see it. I give myself a few days to decide if I really want it. Did I really want this printer?

Yep! But would the store still have some when I returned on Saturday?

Yep! But the salesman didn't think the rebate applied to marked-down items. I told him what the other salesman had told me. He went to get his manager? Would I get the rebate?

Yep! The manager honored it. But, would I like to get a toner cartridge while I was there?

Yep! I know from experience—and from living 15 miles from the nearest office supply store—always to have an extra cartridge for the printer. Plus the cartridge that comes with a printer usually doesn't last long. But the toner cartridge was $60! More than I was paying for the printer! Did I still get it?

Yep! What good is a printer without a cartridge? At the check-out, I learned that there was a $20 mail-in rebate on the cartridge if it had been purchased with a printer. So, the cartridge would only cost me $40. Did I mail it in?

Nope! Not at the current rate of postage. I applied for the rebate online.

Setting up the printer was, well, interesting. Hewlett-Packard doesn't provide a manual. Only a sheet with some pictures of the steps you have to follow to unpack. By the time I found this sheet, tucked into the printer's paper slot, I'd already unpacked the printer—and not necessarily in the order the pictures suggested. I looked in the box for a manual. There was none.

By this time, my husband, the retired electrical engineer, was involved. We found a CD. "Maybe the manual is on the CD," he suggested. It wasn't—only the installation instructions. Could we get this thing installed and working?

Not at first. After running the install, we plugged it in and found a USB cord (Why don't companies provide one with the printer?) to connect it to the eMac. The eMac recognized the printer. That was a good sign. I tried to print a document—and got a blank sheet of paper. Uh-oh. Was this printer a dud?

Nope! Turns out we hadn't removed a couple of plastic doo-hickeys from the cartridge that came already installed. Luckily, pictures on the box of the new cartridge showed how to remove these doo-hickeys. We pulled (OK, my husband pulled) the cartridge from the laserjet and successfully removed the doo-hickeys. Did it work?

Yep! It worked great. And doesn't it look right at home with the other technical stuff on my desk?

Total cost (including tax) for the (original $179 printer and $60 cartridge): $96.52.

Some lessons:
  • Never pay the original price; wait for a sale.
  • Wait a few days to make sure you really want what you think you want.
  • Don't throw anything away; you never know when you might need it.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Pet Stuff

A bag of dog food in a country kitchen doesn't go with the decor. Having the bag sit on a stool makes it easy to tip and pour into a bowl, though.

Solution: Put the bag into a burlap bag. Looks a bit more country.

Y'all do know that the best way to keep pet food fresh is to leave it in the wax-paper or plastic-lined bag in came in, don't you? Same for horse feed. If the inside of the bag is coated, the feed keeps better in the bag.

If you have more than one cat in the house, an old picnic basket makes a good double cat bed. I don't remember where we got this one—might have been Goodwill. I think it cost about a dollar.

The pillow under Eddie-puss isn't really a pillow; it's an old towel inside a decorator pillowcase I bought for $1.25 at the Discovery Shop.

Of course, if you're gonna have a double cat bed, it helps if the cats get along. Unfortunately, Camilla and Eddie-puss can't stand each other. (Both cats were off-road adoptions. Even though I didn't pay for them, there is no such thing as a cheap pet, what with vet care, food, etc.)

Monday, March 24, 2008

Back to the Bookcase

I collect pictures of equestrian art.
Some I bought at flea markets or antique stores; some were given to me.

“These are a few of my favorite things.” (Remember when Julie Andrews sang that in The Sound of Music?)

Many items on my wall and on the top shelf of the bookcase I made from the old headboard weren’t expensive. Most are second-hand, and thus recycled. Some are homemade. But they’re things I really like.

For instance, this original watercolor was a gift from Mary Ann Reynolds, an art teacher buddy from years gone by. We taught together at Jackson in the 1980s. After my retirement, when I had to do twenty days a year as a consultant, I worked with Mary Ann on various projects that combined art and literature. She painted this picture just for me—we both love horses.

Speaking of horses—

I’m lucky to be married to someone who often surprises and delights me by bringing home stuff that he thinks I’d like. One day, he saw this wooden horse statue at the Rocky Mount Goodwill. He only paid a few dollars for it. “I thought you’d like it,” he said when he handed me the bag.

Like it? I love it!

The Goodwill isn’t the only thrift shop that John and I frequent. The Discovery Shop at Westlake has some fantastic decorator items at great (low!) prices. The Discovery Shop supports the cancer research—last year, they gave half a million toward finding a cure for breast cancer.

I bought this horse tile there for $5 several months ago. Below is a closeup of the detail.

In the picture below, there’s a little brass vase that John paid $2 for. In the vase are two sprigs of artificial flowers that I bought at the Discovery Shop two weeks ago—$1.50 each.

Next to the vase is a picture frame that Robyn Bevins (daughter of my college roommate/ BFF Polly) gave me when I visited them in Newport News during the CNU conference. She’d thought of me when she saw it, and bought it second-hand (we give each other a lot of recycled stuff). It was perfect for the photo that Ed W.—one of my Lake Writer buddies—Photo-shopped from the jpeg I sent him so it looks like a watercolor of Melody and Cupcake. I LOVE that picture in that frame.

John bought me the large brass vase at the Discovery Shop about six weeks ago when I had back problems so bad I could hardly walk. We were returning from my doctor's appointment and had to pass the Discovery Shop on our way home. John said he’d just be a minute—I felt too lousy to get out of the car. He returned with the vase—only $6. It’s so perfect for this space. The flower arrangement inside was another Discovery Shop buy. I paid $5 for it—a half-price special—two weeks ago. They’re perfect in that vase.

The framed Emily Dickinson quote (“Hope is the thing with feathers . . .”) is a card from my cousin Marty. She wrote, “It reminds me of that picture on Grandma’s wall. . . .” and I go back 55 years to when Marty and I were kids and sat under that picture.

The little heart candle came with something I once bought. It’s purpose here is to hold the picture frame in place. And it smells nice. The decoupage flowerpot-candle is a Robyn Bevins original. She’s a talented craftswoman who makes a lot of neat stuff. The doily underneath was hand-crocheted by a great-aunt—I think it was Aunt Ossie Nace Goode of Lithia, Virginia. I have a lot of handed-down doilies made by my Nace ancestors.

Anyhow, I have a lot of favorite things that didn’t cost much but mean a lot. I can look at some of them and see the faces of the people who gave them to me.

I can look at things John or I bought from Goodwill and the Discovery Shop and hope that the money we spent there advances the good work that these places do.

I feel sorry for folks who have to buy everything brand new. They don’t know what they’re missing.


Sunday, March 23, 2008


My cousin Marty, who lives in Corolla, North Carolina, likes to make things. Several years ago, she made me two wall hangings from shells and sea glass she found on the beach near where she lives. I liked them so much I used them as curtain tie-backs.

The neat thing is that she recycled so much—not only what she found washed up on shore, but also some greeting cards that she used as backing.

See? Wasn't that creative?

Sometimes all you need to make something wonderful is whatever nature provides, some recycled material, and a little glue.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Dumpster Decorating I

Several years ago, we found a headboard leaning against the side of a dumpster. Granted, it was indeed an ugly headboard, but I figured I could use it in the tack room as a shelf.

And I did. The cubbyholes held brushes and other horse stuff. After a few years, the headboard was covered in red dust, salt, mouse poop, cobwebs, etc. It was even less of a thing of beauty.

I figured the headboard just took up space and didn't really do much. I didn’t want to take it back to the dumpster (the landfill will fill up soon enough as it is!). ’Nita, one of my weird and wonderful friends (I have several friends who fit into the “weird and wonderful” category) thought it had potential as a bookshelf.

Good idea! I have way too many books. Things have been getting a bit messy and crowded in my room. The bookcase won't hold everything. Plus this arrangement is downright ugly.

What the heck, I decided to recycle the old headboard. First thing was to clean it.

It still looked pretty bad. Next we removed the appendages (or whatever they’re called) where the bed frame attached. (Note I said "we." John owns the tools.) Anyhow, we discovered the headboard is solid pine. Nice wood:

I painted it the most neutral color I could—ivory (which happens to match the other bedroom bookshelf).

No, it didn't sprout leaves underneath. Those are the shadows from a bush behind it.

Hmmm. Way too bland! A bit of leftover wallpaper might help. This border, left over from the time I papered the master bath eight years ago had possibilities—but was there enough?

Yep! Just enough with about a foot left over. Whattadaya think?

Here's a different view. Notice I added some accessories that I previously hadn't had room for. The old bookshelf is on the left.

Dylan seems to approve.

Cost of materials:
Headboard: free
Paint: $3.50
Wallpaper border: leftover, hence free

Total cost: $3.50. Worth every penny!

~Waste not, want not.~

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Waste Not, Want Not

The cover of the current Country Living proclaims: "ReUse, ReCycle, ReFresh."

I was into recycling before it was cool. During the 40s and 50s, everybody made do with what they had. We didn't even call it "recycling"—it was just what you did if you had good sense.

For instance, I wore hand-me-down clothes my cousin Marty had outgrown. When I outgrew them, they passed down to my cousin Judy. Once in a while I got a new dress—Mama made it on her treadle Singer sewing machine that she'd bought second-hand before I was born.

I don't ever remember a glass jar being thrown away. An empty jar was always good for something—a place to keep a collection of buttons (that were cut off clothes that were too worn out for wearing), a storage container for food, a vase, etc.

Worn-out clothes became rags. I remember Grandma Ruble had an impressive collection. Clean rags might be recycled into bandages or cleaning cloths. No one bought Band-Aids or paper towels. (Did they exist in the 40s?)

Back in the day, sensible folks didn't waste anything:
Use it up,
Wear it out,
Make it do,
Do without.
That's what this blog will be about—living frugally (but well) by reusing, recycling, or refreshing.