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Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Aftermath: Halloween Past

candles burned down on treat table

Yes, in my town, it's all over officially. That leaves tonight, the official Halloween free for the mischief-makers. [update: I hear there will be more T or T tonight]

About the candle picture--the candles did not fit in the candelabra. I tried using a knife to pare the bottoms. No luck. They kept falling over. Finally, I melted wax in the base and even resorted to just shoving matchsticks into the base by the candles. Still, the candles were not straight. However, they did look like the belonged in a spooky setting. Then, they started dripping and upsetting me. Finally, I was fascinated by the strange and unique shapes formed by the melting wax. I bought 12 candles in a box at a yard sale, paying $0.50. The box said "dripless candles." Surely, these were not the candles that came in that box...???

Last night was a scaled-back Halloween display at mt house. Oh, I put out my little graveyard, but the mad scientist display on the treat table was missing, as was my costume. Usually, I have Osage orange fruit out with labels--zombie brain. etc. Various other items were missing. Only a ghost candy bowl and these candles were on the table covered in black cloth.

One year, I had two big bowls of candy. The middle school and high school boys would take three huge handfuls. This year, I just threw in a little candy in the bowl and kept it almost empty. Kids were polite when they thought it was the last of the bag. Little children who only took one piece were encouraged to take more. Pascow was obtained for a quarter at a yard sale about 12 years ago.

I put the table by the street and have the graveyard to one side. This year, there was no ghost in the tree.

A very scary cd plays on my boom box nearby. I love the screams and howls!

The unusual candle stick was only $1 or less at a yard sale about 10 years ago.

Best Costume of the Night

A young girl taped light sticks to her costume and costumes of her siblings. The mother said the directions called for hot glue, but they used lots of scotch tape instead. The children had black clothing on. They had some sort of hats with black veils, maybe something they made. This was an eerie sight.

Isn't this a great costume. Can you see the veil-like thing to which the lightsticks are attached? I love the original or homemade costumes.

The town decided that Halloween falling on a school night was not good for the children, so T or T was moved to Saturday night. If Halloween falls on Monday through Thursday, no one cares if it is a school night. What's up with that?

So, it's not over everywhere? Happy Halloween! How was your Halloween? "The goblins will get you if you don't watch out!"

Friday, October 29, 2010

Free Trick-or-Treat Candy for Halloween

Last year, before I became Practical Parsimony, I was frugal, thrifty, and looking for ways NOT to spend and still have what I wanted and needed, all legally, of course.

I used my credit for recycling cartridges and toners. Office Max has a program, Max Perks, that now has $6.00 credit in my recycling accout. Yes, OM sells the big bags of candy. I actually did have to pay $2, so I should have said almost free. Since I will probably eat $2 worth of the $8 worth of candy, the candy for Trick-or-Treaters is actually

Supposedly, kids hate little Tootsie Rolls. Too bad. I love them and will have a pocketful as usual, warming them up so I don't lose a filling, chewing on cold Tootsie Rolls.

My total for Max Perks recycling so far will be about $100.00 for January. I am finagling that to where I can use it in December to get cameras for two of my grandchildren. Last year, I managed to get a $189.00 camera for me for $22 after my recycling credits and a sale.

Will your Halloween have any frugal elements? With my free tombstone decorations for the lawn and now free candy, this is going to be one splendid parsimonious celebration for this corner! Do you have pictures you can show us? Will your blog have pictures of Halloween decorations from your home?

Update: Aargh! I broke down and opened the Tootsie Rolls at 3 pm. Now, it's about 5 pm. I was sick from eating them an hour ago.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


A Cautionary Tale

He had taken the Wall Street Journal since he moved here in 1974 after retiring as a major in the Air Force. He also took the local paper, New York Times, and an Air Force magazine. Since his mother died in 1984, I know he had not thrown anything away. He described his house as having trails. He slept on a cot in the living room, a narrow little space left in there. His bed fell down, and he could not repair it because there was too much stacked around it. He refused to sleep in his mother's room, still the way she left it in 1974. Nothing was moved or changed, nothing at all.

There was a trail to the sink and to the refrigerator. Then, the trail to the sink became filled with bags of trash. The microwave was sitting on the counter near the handle side of the refrigerator where one trail made both microwave and refrigerator accessible. He packed trash in bags and left them indoors with the intentions of taking them to the road.

He had not vacuumed since his mother died 16 years earlier. Yet, for all that time he had at least a dog or cat in the house, often both. Of course, he did not dust either. He smoked heavily, so the stench from anything brought out of his house was overwhelming.

He reported to me that he had not opened a Wall Street Journal in ten years, but there might be something of interest in there, so he was keeping them until he got around to reading them. The local newspaper was opened sometimes. The Air Force Times were stacked to read. He did open each one of those just to see if a hated member of his group in Vietnam had died yet. Otherwise, they all were left in pristine condition.

People blamed the hoarding and other housekeeping quirks on his alcoholism, but when he quit drinking, the trash kept increasing. He was a perfectionist in all areas of his life despite what others thought. That kept him from cleaning out the trash because he had to have the plan perfected before he could start. In his words, "I need a flow chart to do this." (Screaming to myself in my head as I listened.) I suggested three boxes to toss things in--keep box, toss box, and decide box. (He thought I was brilliant to suggest that.) You see, he would never get the job done if he pondered each piece of mail. He could easily decide some things were trash--20 year old grocery ads, dry cleaning receipts from 30 yrs ago. He could easily figure what he should keep--car, house, bank, savings, stocks, and personal letters. The rest would have slowed him down--unopened envelopes from anywhere, receipt from car repairs on car he did not own (would want to discuss the price with me and reminisce as we talked on the phone), any reason to procrastinate.

I was not allowed in the house, so I sat on a box in the carport. When I needed to pee, I had to go to the sawmill and squat on the dirt floor. When I had to poo, I got in my car and drove a quarter of a mile to a store. When it was too cold to sit in the carport, I sat in my car and he stood and talked through the crack in the window of the car.

The kitchen table was stacked about two feet high, conical, like a volcano with papers, change and bills. He ate on a place where the clutter was only an inch or so high and drifting down, always. He reported he was walking six inches off the floor and had not seen the floor in more than ten years. It was true. I saw for myself after the accident.

When he changed his clothes, his underwear and socks fell on the bathroom floor. When he went to a Laundromat, he reported over a hundred pair of black nylon briefs. All clothing, including t-shirts, was dry-cleaned and put on hangers. I had helped him buy some of those t-shirts as seconds, shirts bought for around the house only--75 cents apiece. Some days, he just went to the PX at Redstone Arsenal over 30 miles away to buy dozens of pair of underwear. He kept them in the trunk so he would know where they were when he needed  a clean pair.

One day in 2000, the night before Thanksgiving, we were watching Who Wants to be a Millionaire when he kept mentioning the dog was lying with his nose under his tail. Pup had never lain with his tail over his nose. The dog kept glancing at the space between door and TV. My friend kept commenting and telling me what his dog, Pup, was doing and exactly where Pup was looking. I suggested he heard someone outside or wanted to watch TV. No, Pup was not looking either place. Pup knew something.

Suddenly, John said, "Linda, I have a fire." I thought the phone went dead because I heard crackling.

(By the way, we often watched TV together, each of us in our own home, and talked just like we were in the same house. When we watched Third Rock from the Sun, neither of us wanted to miss a syllable. So I screamed "Third Rock," slammed the phone down and called him at commercials. Then we would laugh and repeat the lines.)

I called both his neighbors and raced 11 miles to his house. His neighbors had called 911 moments before my call because his television exploded. It was heard 400 yards away.

He lived in the country. As I sped to his house, I almost lost control of my car, driving 20+ miles over the speed limit on a two-lane roads with curves. When I arrived at his home, I could not park near it, so I parked in a ditch and ran the last 500 yards. His cousins stood motionless off to the side. Their expressions were not hopeful.

I watched as firemen dragged him across the lawn, naked, to be revived when paramedics arrived. I ran to him, stood over him, straddled him, begged him to get up for Pup, and furiously tried to get his attention. I beat his chest and stroked his face. His cousin put her scarf over his naked midsection.

This was surreal to me. I pondered how funny his hair looked. His beautiful gray hair was in kinky little red knots all over his head. How did I have time for this observation? I was definitely in shock and denial.

He had stacked newspapers near a wall heater. The heater came on because he had not turned it off in the spring. A stack of The Wall Street Journal had fallen against the heater. The hoarded stack smoldered until flames burst across the room, across the back door, and up the curtains. He tried to save his dog and was found with his arms around the dead dog, both coming out of the bathroom.

You might say that trying to save the dog killed him. You might say that the heater left on all summer killed him. You might say that his alcoholism killed him. You might find another cause. But, ultimately anything could have happened. It was hoarding that killed him. And, it was the hoarded paper that caught fire and helped the fire race from one side of the room to the other, blocking his escape. The other end of the house did not burn, so closing a door to the hall would have saved him. There are so many scenarios we could fashion.

After the fire I went into his home and pointed out his cot he described to me. His family who was not allowed in the house was confused. No one but I knew he could not sleep in his bed. He told only me the location and condition of his existence. For the first time, I saw the table where he ate and the cot where he slept.

My friend had a master’s degree from Georgia Tech. He flew 200 missions over North Vietnam and survived because of his caution, bravery, and precision, a Wild Weasel, an electronic warfare officer, and returned for a third time, flying 24 hour reconnaissance missions.

After the fire he was burned over 60% of his body but suffered the most from smoke inhalation. Most of the six months he lived,  he had his eyes stitched shut and was in an induced coma. I have never seen a human being in that shape or seen so many tubes. He lived six months in a burn unit.

Industrial dumpsters carried away his hoard.

Hoarding killed my best friend of twenty years on May 6, 2001. I still cry and hurt.

This and all my posts are never to be reproduced anywhere. Consult me for permission to do so.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Halloween Tombstones Making and on the Cheap

My front yard several years ago

halloween 2007

The tombstones cost me $0. In the stores the cost of a tombstone can be as high as $25. I made 8 several years ago. The tombstones did not cost me $200 in labor or scrounged material. This was taken with my old camera. Somehow, I copied them, lost the originals, and copied the copies. However, it still looks spooky this way.

I worked on this post for eight hours, trying to move pictures. I know how to do this, but I think my failures were part of the blog problems I am having. Of course, after about six hours, my foggy brain could have been a large part of the problem. You should be able to do something similar for a few dollars if not free, like mine. I am so sorry for the lack of order in the pictures. But, between chicken and raccoon problems, it is hard to This post was started two weeks ago! Okay, posting this before Halloween Night.


The styrofoam I found years before is soft feeling with a very solid surface. Last night when I went to the same place and brought home two pieces that were the hard, scratchy, and very porous type of styrofoam. It is exactly like the kind that I have used since the sixties for crafts. Either type should work with varying results. However, the soft kind is what I used for this, not the scratchy, porous, hard-feeling type.

Cheap steak knife works

Now, you have a mark on which to cut. Perfection in the cut is not necessary.

This step comes before the cutting. Sorry for the out-of-order pictures. 

I had gone Trick or Treat with a friend who was taking his children and grandchildren. After that, nothing would suit me but to have tombstones so I could make a cemetery in my front yard the next year. Here is how I did $0 dollars spent. I purchased the paint for this project...$5 mistint gallon at Lowe's. I only used a cupful so there is still little consumed dollarwise. The paint has been used for other projects. Don't wait until Halloween to look for the proper mistint. I purchased this in the summer for another project.
Still, nothing was spent.

Material list
steak knife
yardstick or any straight edge substitute
pen or pencil
plate or circular object
paint brush
old bricks
a twig, vines

Styrofoam was obtained from trash at appliance store.

A dull steak knife works fine for me.

You will need something straight. Even a stick or heavy cardboard without markings works. Just make a mark on the stick to show you distance. EX--I marked down 2.5 inches on my second cut. I don't need to know the inches, just a visual mark for distance.

Anything to mark a line in the styrofoam will work as long as you can see the indentation made on the styrofoam. I used a Sharpie so you could see the marks. Don't go buy one!

Usually, I have a kitchen dinner plate. But, the white plate on white styrofoam on white picnic table was not visually right for a clear picture. That's why there is a pink striped tablecloth on the picnic table...just for the visual effect. Using several circular objects of different sizes helps to create the shape of the tombstone.

Never use a good paint brush like I have shown in the picture. I used either an old, stiff, useless paint brush or one of the cheap foam craft brushes that had seen better days. The styrofoam has little pieces that escape. You do not want to transfer that to a brush or a good bucket of paint.

I did not bring out my gallon of paint to photograph. Transfer some of the paint to something else. A yogurt container or disposable pie pan will work fine.  I used paint I found cheap at the Lowe's mis-tint table--semigloss interior paint. I wanted black. However, the paint I purchased was so close to black, sort of a dark gray with a greenish tint. It was perfect. Semi-gloss does not photograph well. But, at night it was of little consequence.

I used cheap or old bricks. Ones without the holes are best. These hold up the tombstone and add an air of authenticity by forming a base like many tombstones have. Bricks need only to be painted on the top, front, and ends. Picture the brick lying on its broad side, just like it would like in building something of brick. Use two bricks in front and one behind each tombstone. This makes a great anchor for the styrofoam. One night, one of the tombstones leaned back because a tiny limb fell and knocked it askew. Actually, the leaning tombstone looked authentic. You only need to paint the brick surfaces that will be seen. I used one in back and two in front. When the tombstones sag forward or backwards. But, that only adds to the oldness, the creepiness, and the disrepair to you spooky graveyard.

Votives should not be left unattended at any time. It might be wiser to purchase the votives with a battery rather than burn down your house or have a child's costume burn. I only leave my display out for one evening and never leave it unattended. Any source of flame should be removed or brought inside each night if you intend to leave these out overnight.

Picture Tutorial

finished tombstone and fresh piece of styrofoam--about 25" x 16"

This is two steps here.   At the top of the picture below, you can see a mark. Well, this mark is 1/2 of 11.5 inches... 5 3/4 inches. Make a mark that far down on the top of the styrofoam. Then, use your circular object and mark around it and down to the mark.

If there is any foil or paper on yours like was on mine, peel it off. The foil just happened to peel in a circular pattern that has nothing to do with the final shape of the tombstone.  

There will not be any pictures of my painting the tombstone. As you can see from the picture of the painted one, the one on the picnic table, streaks are a good thing.

If you follow this tutorial, even remotely, tell me about your results. Do you have a frugal tombstone decorating scheme for Halloween that involves a free display?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Pumpkin Bread Recipe (or with sweet potatoes)

Okay, NO chicken talk. By the way, they are asleep just feet from me, covered in their hamster cage, and I hear no raccoons.

I love to bake this bread and eat it hot. Actually, I love to bake. I am too frugal and domestic to buy cooked baked goods. No, I am not a domestic goddess...just love domestic arts and skills.

This pumpkin bread recipe is very popular with my friends. I tried it using sweet potatoes I had baked, and it's much better...more delicious, heavier, more tasty.

Pumpkin Bread                                                      350 degrees--1 1/2 hours

3 cups sugar
1 cup salad oil (I use canola)
4 eggs, beaten
1 can, 16 oz., pumpkin
3 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp soda
2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
2/3 cup water

Cream sugar and oil. Add eggs and pumpkin. Mix well. Sift together dry ingredients; add dry ingredients alternately with water. Pour into two well greased and floured 9x5 inch loaf pans. Bake.. Let stand ten minutes. Remove from pan to cool. Makes two loaves.

My thoughts: Actually, depending on the size of the pan, it can make two or three. Making three loaves gives you more gifts for others. This freezes well.

Use mashed, baked sweet potatoes instead.

My notes: I always grease, flour AND put waxed paper in the pan before baking. That way there never is a stuck loaf! Just put the waxed paper on the counter under the pan. Trace around the pan with a knife point. Cut the paper from the impression of the knife. Easy peasy.

 I doubt I let the pans stand for ten minutes to cool! Turn the loaf out onto a dishcloth on your hand. Remove waxed paper and place the loaf on the counter or plate to cool.

Pumpkin does not come in that size can anymore, I don't think. I just use the size on the shelf! It turns out just fine. You could even put some sweet potato in to make up the difference.

Did you bake this? Did you like it? More recipes to come!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Raccoon menacing me outside the house--Howlin' Heat

Chapter eight

I just hope it is not, madder than hell because it thinks its kits are still in the house.

The hens were in the pen from 7 am until 11:30 am while I slept. Then, from 2 pm until 4 pm they were loose in the yard.  From 4pm to 6 pm they were penned up while I hooked up a computer from someone and bought coyote urine. I allowed them out at 6:15 pm when I got home. At about 6:30 pm, I was sitting on the back step with their cage and fresh paper as they scratched and pecked contentedly. I was out there to guard them!

All of a sudden they were bick, buck, buck, rapidly and excitedly as they looked at each other and me. Finally, I noticed they seemed to focus on a certain place beyond me. I looked and a raccoon was halfway through the vent opening in the foundation of the house, ready to grab a hen. I screamed bloody murder, dropped my cell that I was chatting on, and started jumping around, thrashing my arms to scare her.

I was all atwitter, running about, anguished at the danger, and yelling at my hens who were thoroughly frightened of me now. They don't understand, "Hurry, come here, hurry, let's get in the pen, come on, hurry, ooooh noooo, come on pretty babies." Yeah, that coupled with lunges at them really calms them down.

Thelma flew up five feet to the porch railing. The others were just flying up, trying to land on the window sill and who knows what! Between the raccoon and me, they were so afraid they probably will quit laying for a few days.

So, standing still beside the cage, I talked softly and calmly like I do when I want them to come to me or the cage. After about five seconds all three rushed to me when they decided I was not a mad woman. I had too little sleep last night and too much caffeine today. One even jumped on the cage and the other two were trying to figure out how to get between the bars to get in.

When I put them in the cage, they stood or sat calmly as I carried them up the steps and into the back door.

I had called the police as soon as the raccoon came in sight. They arrived after the hens were safe. The policeman saw the raccoon peeking out several times. Two other policemen came. They stood around and moved my live trap to the opening at another part of the house.

For bait this time I put a whole egg in the trap. Maybe that will work.

Oh, coyote urine? I was told by an outdoor store (hunting, fishing, trapping, guns, taxidermy, bow, and arrows) that coyote urine would keep them from the perimeter. How do you get a coyote to pee in a cup? Never mind. He sold me something that he assured me should work--Code Blue Howlin' Heat Coyote Attractant.

If I have coyotes come around, I am in big trouble.

This stuff had just been sprayed on the vent hole where the raccoon was standing and looking at me. I mean, she had her feet where I sprayed it. Anyone have any ideas about whether this will work or not. I plan to put a cotton ball in a plastic bag, soak the ball, seal the bag, and then poke a tiny few holes. I want scent in the air, not in the wood or ceiling tiles. If I put it up there with a reacher, then I can remove it later.

Got any ideas of how to deal with this raccoon? I don't care how bizarre or cruel it is! Write to me at Remember, it starts with two--pp.

Please don't suggest to stop up the holes where they got in. I want the raccoons gone. They will just dig back in through the ceiling. And, the holes they have made from the basement to get up here may never be found without razing the house. Oh, yeah--I cannot afford an exterminator. Thanks.

Okay, there was only one raccoon that was stalking around all night after the babies were caught. Now, I hear romping, snarling, and definite sounds of more than one raccoon.


Three policemen, two EMTs, and 1 Animal Control Officer

Chapter Seven

Two raccoons came through the ceiling, growling and snarling when they were not meowing. The mama stood in the ceiling growling at me. The police could not get here fast enough to suit me as I took a narrow hoe and beat at them as they fell in the room within a foot of me. One retreated to the bathroom where I closed it in. The other ran back and forth behind the sofa and a bookcase as they tried to catch it. Animal control does not come out at night--the rule around here. They obviously made an exception here tonight.

The hens are covered inside the back door in their hamster cage. At one point an officer started to leave the house. He said the mama, at least 20 lbs, was coming to the door, about a foot from the open side door. She was coming for her babies, meowing in here, the last place she saw them.

Of course, she was coming to protect the babies. Also, she could smell chicken, I am sure. Now, terrified, I will stay up the rest of the night.

How it all started--I was getting ready to log off the computer about 12:50. I heard a herd of raccoons running above the ceiling, between floors of house and over the ceiling under the roof in the one-story part where I am sitting. All of a sudden one of the babies crashed through the plastic in the ceiling that is covering the hole until a guy comes to fix it. (Remember, they dug a hole in here a few days ago?)

Go back in my blogs to find it here where they killed a hen. And, here is an update. Okay, it continues with a raccoon attack. Then, raccons invade my home. Then, destruction ensues. This is NOT supposed to be a chicken blog!

By 1:05, all Hell had broken loose here as there were three cops trying to catch the two babies as they watched the mama growl from the ceiling. These guys jumped when the raccoons headed their way.

The baby landed in the waste basket and I slapped my computer and the box it sits on in my lap over the wastebasket. The mama was growling just above my head and the wastebasket. So, I decided to take my computer and in my fright the raccoon....

Heavens help me! The mama is back and trying to get in. Okay, she was at the back door. Then, a few moments later she was in the ceiling. I am armed with a flashlight, a hoe with a small head, and the reacher/grabber. No, I will not be trying to catch her.

to my fright the raccoon escaped as I barely lifted the box when I was getting the laptop off the box and waste basket. I was going to take the baby and dump it in the live trap outside....or something.

It ran under the couch as I chopped it hard several times with the hoe.

THEN, the mama came back growling at me and another baby fell through. The mama snarled as I beat the baby with the hoe and shoved it into the bathroom and closed the door!

Now, I can hear it at the hole it broke through my bedroom ceiling. Okay, now it is back over my head! She wants her babies!

I want her.

The EMTs came because I was hyperventilating, about to faint, shaking uncontrollably, and could barely talk. Me, the brave one. I am brave, but there comes a point where I am easily terrorized.

The raccoon approached us all as we stood outdoors with the babies in a live trap. They caught the babies with the grabber/reacher around their necks and turned the trap up and dropped them down in it.

The guys were all getting a little jumpy or wary because of her actions.

They accidentally dropped the one in the bathroom. It was right where I told them it would be--in the corner, under the tub, behind a clawfoot. Then, they dropped it in the tub. So, now there is a big black mess in the tub where the raccoon feet were scurrying around, trying to run and jump out. It is okay. No problem.

I wish the EMTs had taken my pulse. My neck is throbbing with my pulse and my head is pounding with each heart beat, also.

It is time to just abandon this place, put my chickens in the car and drive far, far away!

I would like to find the damned woman who feeds raccoons in this neighborhood!

I am going to be up until daybreak out of self-defense (and fright and a pounding heart), so if you have insomnia, write me a comment and help me keep the watchout until dawn.

Ooooh, the raccoon is prowling and growling indoors and out!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Bananas and other goodies: Listening to bananas

Banana savings

Without meaning to dwell on grocery savings, I find many ways to eat well and spend nothing. Being frugal can be a fault, but I am willing to eat what others don't and actually prefer the "bad" stuff, the "beyond edible," especially in bananas.

One day, I went out to leave in my 10 year-old car and found several bags on the hood of the car. Not only had my friend left me egg cartons for sharing eggs, she had left about ten bananas in another bag. She had left a message on my cell phone, telling me the bananas were for my chickens. I called her and told her, "Chickens--nothing. I will eat those bananas!"

Sure, the bananas were mostly black spots, but that is how I love them. So, the chickens only got three of about ten bananas. I like a banana in a smoothie each day, a smoothie consisiting entirely of fruit with a bit of plain yogurt. Some I froze.

Picky people

My friend's husband refuses to eat a banana with even one tiny brown spot, so this week I was recipient of another three bananas. I say, "Goody, goody, gum drops." Okay, so I am picky when I refuse to touch a banana with any hint of green.

Lest you think I eat just eat produce others will not touch to save money, let me dissuade you of that idea. Any banana that looks green or smells green is very distasteful to me. Yes, I can smell "green." If a banana is completely black, I still give it a chance. Usually the banana is entirely unblemished once it is peeled.

Banana sound test

If I can hear the peel come off the banana, I cringe. That banana will taste green!

The only time I refuse to peel a banana is when the banana goes limp in my hand. THAT banana is chicken food. They even get the peels and bruises that are discarded. Eating a bruise is very distasteful to me.

People know I love over-ripe bananas, so they offer theirs to me. I don't think they just save them to give me out a purely charitable emotion. Otherwise, bananas would come my way more often.

Itty-bitty financial scheme

Okay, here goes my financial schemes on my micro-level figuring. Bananas are about $0.59 per pound x 52 weeks. That is a $31 year profit/saving, whichever way you want to figure it. (Sometimes bananas are $.69 and sometimes $.39, but usually $.59.)

While I don't receive a regular supply of bananas, and sometimes receive more than I can consume before that even I will not eat them, I freeze the remainder. As I peel them, I cut away bruises, making a meal of peels and bruises for the hens. I peel each banana, break it in half and wrap in waxed paper. A pint freezer bag stores them nicely until smoothie time. Allow the banana to thaw until the waxed paper will come off easily and drop the banana pieces into a blender. (I do reuse the bag for more frozen bananas.)

Trading inedible produce

Getting old produce from friends or whomever does not have to be a one-way street. Once, when visiting my elderly neighbor, I noticed she had about 6 bananas that had become spotty since I visited her the day before. She was complaining that she would end up throwing them away. At my home I was impatiently waiting for the greenish bananas to become edible. I suggested she take some of my green ones for later. I would love to have spotty bananas because I was hungry for a banana. She thought I was just trying to do her a favor and I did not really like spotty bananas.

When she was convinced I was sincerely WANTING spotty bananas, I ran home and got three of my gaggy green ones to trade for three of her perfect ones.

I know some blogs have grand plans to help people stay out of debt or get out of debt. My schemes and habits do the same thing. My figures are just smaller amounts.

Let's add
$39 onion savings (previous post)
$31 banana savings
$70 each year

Friend's benefit

My friend who gives me bananas is losing weight, needs clothing, and does not want to keep buying new work wardrobes. On the trunk of my car is a pair of nice pants that might fit her. If not, she has a daughter, dil, and probably knows someone else who can use them if the pants don't work for her!

Can you see it?

Maybe you are focused on the big issues? Mortgage? Gasoline? Children's needs?  Maybe you don't have time to give away what you don't want? Maybe you don't want to insult someone with your old, spotty bananas? Just rethink how you might save money on groceries, how you might use up the bounty in front of your nose. This goes beyond garden produce or found fruit. But, those are ways to consume what will be wasted and save money at the same time. Tell me your silly little scheme so my silly little scheme won't be lonely.

Lace curtain, sardines, raccoons, and chickens--Wednesday

Chapter Six

Defying the rules

Defying all rules of essay writing, I will now start at the wrong end of the above list.

Chickens live in the house now

On several of the prepper/survivalist sites, some of the bloggers say that when TSHTF that people will rampage and take what we have so they can eat. Well, I became indignant, saying my hens could live inside before anyone would just walk up and take them from ME. So, it appears they now live inside. For the third night in a row, I have loaded them up in the hamster cage and hauled them up the step, and into the house.

Frightened hens

As dusk approaches the usually head to the pen. Not so tonight. They were just hanging out around the back door. I took food to their pen and trilled "Dee-lye-lah," their food signal that usually has them trampling me to run right in front of me, under my feet, in the way! Not so tonight. They went halfway to the pen and headed back to the back door.

Not hungry for cucumbers

These hens will squabble over a cucumber, usually. Not tonight. Even though I was willing to feed them by the door for a change, they just walked around, looking into the closing darkness. They remember the danger in the night when Chessie was savagely murdered in front of them.

Wagon ride

I had pulled the little red wagon with their hamster cage to the pen, hoping they would eventually come get the food. I even sat on the bench close to their pen. No, they want to stay near the back door.

Raccoon food

As I went into the house, I told the hens, "Okay, let a raccoon eat you. Go to your pen." Then, after ten minutes, I felt guilty as I remembered the raccoon was walking around when it was much lighter.

Disappearing hens

They were nowhere in sight when I went down the steps and headed around the house, calling them, hoping they were in the pen. I searched and called, Dee-lye-laaaahhh." over and over.

I could not figure out how one raccoon had spirited away three hens who would probably squawk in fear.


Right next to the steps to the porch they have just demolished the bed where bulbs should be waiting for spring. It is just bare, dark, rich earth. All three hens were sitting in the dirt, settling in for the night. Since they have never had a roost, they don't head for a high spot to retire.


I swooped down and scooped up two hens who were not happy, flapping wings and scratching me. Finally, they acted resigned and became very silent as we approached the pen where the wagon and hamster cage waited. I dumped them in very unceremoniously, slapped the lid shut, and headed back around the house to the other side yard. The back door is really a side door, so that's where we headed. Fancy met us as we came to the corner. As I reached down for her, she neatly side-stepped me and jumped over the tongue of the wagon. She was on the opposite side as I. Very quickly she jumped up on the hamster cage, looking at her sisters.

When I picked her up and dumped her in the cage, all three of them lay down while I drove them to the side door. They lay down as I took them in the house and covered them. The only sound is the snoring of one hen. SAFE. TONIGHT.

Wednesday morning

Going back to 8 AM--Last night (Tuesday night), I had closed my bedroom door and locked the bathroom door that is between my bedroom and the den. As I unlocked the bedroom door and stepped into the den this morning, chaos greeted me. A large portion of the ceiling was down, and all the nasty insulation and rat droppings from the last 60 years was all over the room, especially under the large hole. The raccoon had tried to climb back up and the wall is filthy and scratched.

Garden rake

I still had the garden rake from Tuesday, my only defense, and carried it all over the house this morning, fearful of a raccoon attack. He might just try to go through me to safety. Since the half-dozen squirrels that have made it down the chimney or in beside and ac window unit have made flying leaps for windows and mirrors, smashing into both in an unsuccessful bid for freedom, opening the house for easy egress was the first order of business.  The back door was wide open, so was the window near it, and I removed the window screen. It took forever to open the kitchen window, but a little lithium spray has solved that problem! I took everything off the window sill and removed the lace curtain I made 20 years ago. Yes, I carried the garden rake with me, even into the bathroom.

Animal Control & EXBF

The Animal Control Officer and a policeman responded immediately. They brought a stick with a noose. EXBF was expecting me to call at 8 A.M. and let him know how the night went and if I needed him. He drove 70 miles to help me. They arrived withing ten minutes of each other.


I kept poking around the kitchen before they came. You must understand that stuff is stacked in there so that I feared we would never find him. I had to remove items from several rooms inundated with rain from a leaky roof. No, I am not hoarding. Yes, friends have seen it and know what is going on. However, things do get lost! But, I found the raccoon from his faint stirrings as I made a clatter. He was clinging to a chair leg in the most inaccessible corner of the kitchen. 

Sweet Baby

Ha! I had this precious-appearing animal snarl at me like a devil after mewing the sweetest cry. After about 30 minutes of trying to get the noose around his neck and talking over the fact they only had a snake grabber and the larger grabber had disappeared, I suggest my grabber. I just begged them to use their taser on the sweet baby. They said it was against the law. EXBF retrieved my grabber from the trunk and in two minutes, the little monster was caught.


There was nastiness all over the house, especially the den, and more especially around my chair. Two tables had been cleared of paper I was sorting. Thankfully, I closed my laptop before I went to bed. My tombstone for Halloween has long gashes--character, I call the gashes. A heavy, clean, folded bedspread, fresh from the clotheline has evidence he was climbing on it. This calls for a rewash. I have vacuumed but I still do not have furniture moved and all the paper up from the floor that he strew in his frantic attempt to get back up to the ceiling. It's just disgusting and probably unhealthy.

Failed repair

EXbf and I tried to repair the damage before trying to clean since the nastiness around the hole would just continue to come down. Then, we just taped a garbage bag over the hole. We argued the whole time.

Sardines, yum, yum

I went out tonight to get sardines to refresh the trap bait which was already sardines and tuna. No, these sardines smell too good to waste on a raccoon. So, the raccoon got one bite and all the oil. The sardines tasted as good as they smelled.

Lace curtain

About twenty years ago, I made a lace curtain for the kitchen window. I wanted to see out and have light. Since I took down the tension rod and the curtain today, I washed it and the backdoor curtain. Do you know how factory lace is made? It looks like yard goods, very wide and solid, rows upon rows of lace all ready to be cut apart. Since I bought this by the pound, the curtain may have cost me 15 cents. By using a piece of lace from another piece and making a fake miter at the corners, I managed to make a lace curtain with the scallop on both sides and the bottom.

Washing a lace ribbon curtain

No, that is not how it started. But, when it came from the wash, it was just pieces of lace attached to a header! Now, I have no kitchen curtain.

My favorite kind of raccoon

Real RaccoonTail Hat


As Dobie Gillis said, "Bummer." That has been my day. Now, I have to go to bed, unsure that the Mama raccoon will not come down this hole tonight. I am sure she will just rip my hens apart. I would carry them into the bedroom, but one of the hens snores!


Has anyone had such a horrific home invasion by raccoons?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Onion Savings: a bit at a time and no tears

Too much trouble for too little savings

Some people think the way I figure my savings is silly. One male friend said I spend too much time saving money that is not enough to even count. Well, if I tried to take $39 from him, he would probably have time to object.

My downfall

I gave up buying onions in a bag long ago since there is only me. Some inevitably spoiled and I was irritated. If I cut, chopped, and froze the whole bag at once, I could use them all instead of letting them go bad. I don't. I eat free onions.

Not really stingy, just parsimonious

The onions I use are the ones the market says are just not saleable. Like the guy said, "There is nothing wrong with the onion, I just cannot sell it." People are picky and will not buy an onion with one little scrape.

My gain

If I use 75 cents worth of onion each week, I will use $39 worth of onions in a year. Mind you, I set the weekly amount very low. I do know that the $39 is all mine at the end of the year, and onions that are fresh and edible are mine for free. Buying bags of onions would still be more expensive even if I sliced, chopped, and froze them for future use.

Onion savings +

The onion weighs a lb, one whole pound. Even if I doubled up on my onion eating, this will last well beyond a week. Tomorrow, I will be making meatloaf with free ground round that does not have enough fat to fry a burger from it, free bell pepper, and little packets of catsup that are leftover from fast food. (There is also a bottle of catsup in the refrigerator and two in the cabinet.) My hens are donating the eggs. Salt and pepper are neglible. The oats were on a deep sale, and I had a coupon. I use lots of oats in meatloaf. That way, I eat less meat and eat more oats that are good for me. For a family, this would extend the meat and be nutritious.

Rest of the meal

The cabbage (for cole slaw) was half price as was the carrot. Green beans were free. I suppose I have $1.50 invested in a meal that will last me for at least four meals. That is $0.38 for a meal. It can be done. A family could eat for $1.50.

Multiply this

A guy gave me a whole box of tomatoes that he said I could eat but he could not sell. Just think--multiply my gain by eating the tomato with a slight bruise, picked fresh that morning. Then, think of a whole box full--a week's worth to eat and enough to share with a friend.

And, keep multiplying

If I eat free on ten items a year at the same amount of savings, that would be $390/year. That will almost pay a year's car insurance, more than pay property taxes on my home, or pay for an obgyn visit and a dental visit. Thinking of savings in those terms makes it worthwhile for me. Besides, why throw the onion in the trash/compost when it has value, monetary value and food value?

Your turn

Is it worth saving money a teeny bit at a time, even if each saving event is only pennies? How do you save in dribs and drabs on your groceries? I do use coupons and work the sales! Is there any one thing, like onions, that you consistently get for free?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Raccoons invading my home

Chapter five

I finally became exhausted and went to bed. I kept hearing something and could not sleep. Finally, I got up because the racket came nearer my bedroom. The raccoons were between the floors and one had eaten through my bedroom ceiling. I shone a flashlight at the hole and Mama Raccoon was hissing and growling at me.  I chased it by screaming and fled the bedroom, afraid he would come down and hurt me.

I went back to the den and there were three holes in the ceiling! One was looking down at me growling. I am just terrified. The raccoon wants my hens so much it is willing to tear my house down.

Animal Control is on the way if they can find a live trap. I have one live trap, but this calls for stronger measurers. I am going to poison them even if they die between floors.

Does anyone have any ideas? Have you had raccoons eat your hens or try to get into your house?

Raccoon Attack

(This is not going to become a chicken blog, but I have a problem right now.)

Things that go bump in the night: Chapter four

Okay, so it was just a baby, but it was trying to get into the back door at 3:00 A.M. this morning.

Earlier, I heard a noise as I slept. Okay, a noise, Linda, that is all it is. THEN, another noise like someone opened the back door. I crept through the dark house to see what was making the noise. I stood inside the back door, as close to the noise as I could get. Finally, in one motion, I flipped all the outside lights on with one hand as I ripped open the door curtain with another.


So, I dared to open the back door and heard mewing. I stuck my head out and a baby raccoon, less than a foot long in the body, was trying desperately to climb to the porch using a garden rake I had leaned on the ground and up against the porch rail. The rake kept moving, impeding his progress. I wiggled the rake handle and the adorable little thing growled like a big dog. I retreated, fearing he would learn to climb better in an instant and attack me.

Mewing and Growling

As I stood next to my sleeping chickens in their hamster cage covered with a shower curtain and sitting right inside the door, I heard something on the door. Daring to open the curtain, I saw the little raccoon was climbing the door facing, trying to get to the top to enter the house at an inside corner! It mewed when it saw me--so precious. But, when I tried to get out the door to get the rake, it growled ferociously. Oh me, oh my! Am I frightened? Yes! If this ferocious little beast jumps on me from above my head, I am NOT going to like the consequences.

A weapon

Since I could not reach the rake to kill it, I looked for a weapon inside. The hammer was the only thing I could find. Naturally, in the dark I grabbed the ball peen hammer from the tool box instead of the claw hammer.


You can see how this ball peen is not much of a weapon. Okay, if you swing it hard, it would do some damage to a baby raccoon

If I had grabbed my 16 ounce claw hammer, I could do more damage with the claw.

My fighting skills

Well, I am such a baby that I did not hit him very hard until the last two blows out of about eight blows to his body. I just wanted to kill him, but I was afraid I would hurt him. How do you kill an animal with a hammer and not hurt the animal? I would repeatedly open the door, swing at him, retreat when he snarled, and still he mewed pitifully to me.

Finally, I heard him fall to the ground! I opened the door to see the baby raccoon trying desperately to climb the eight inches needed to get into my house. I pushed at him with my foot, a foot shod only in sandals. He snarled and hissed. Then, he mewed as he scrambled forward once again. It was such a precious, begging little mew. Then, as I shoved again, he mewed pitifully. He snarled again. Psycho baby? I didn't even have time to bend over and smash him with the hammer because he was so quick and so intent on entering my house.

Don't bite my toes!

One swift blow with my sandaled toes sent him scurrying. He looked back and mewed again.  Where on earth is the mother? Not in the trap as far as I can see.

He scurried behind some things stacked/leaned on the porch, snarling as he went, emerged and decided that a window screen leaning on the porch was better shelter than the wooden door leaning there that he first chose as shelter.  ???

Adrenalin rush

Here I sit at 4:15 A.M., wondering what to do with myself until I can release the hens to the safety of daylight and their pen. I am fearful. Although raccoons are nocturnal, they will come out during the daylight hours. My poor chickie babies will be spending more time penned up during the day until I find the mama and babies to destroy them. Sigh...since one was killed in the pen, right now, the pen is not much consolation to me.

Dress for success

I am afraid to go out now. But, when I do at daybreak, I will be wearing my tall, black, rubber boots, just in case. When I do go out, I will not only have on boots, I will have leather gloves and a coat. Hopefully, my thighs will be the only part of me not protected, but I have no chaps. I wish I had a warrior mask for my face. I am afraid this might come down to hand-to-hand combat. Mmmmm, hand to raccoon claws and teeth.


Animal control will definitely be consulted at 8 A.M.. They furnish the live traps. I just happen to have one I can set late at night when the problems occur instead of waiting all night to get help in the form of trapping. Whew! I am exhausted. And, somehow, I hurt my left arm! I think it was all the twisting and holding onto the door while I swung the hammer with the right hand.

More case histories

Have you dealt with this? Raccoons?  Were you getting the adrenalin rush that I was having? Now, an hour later, I have a horrendous headache. Please share you raccoon stories with me!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Murder Update!

Chapter three

For those late to the blog, read the previous report for the details.
I think it was a raccoon that killed my hen. A guy at the service station said that the manner of her murder sounded like a possum.

The live trap is in their pen, baited with raw meat!

Right now, the three hens are in a hamster cage right inside the back door, safe and sound.

Did you know hens snore?

Murder in the Henhouse

Chapter One

I wrote this piece last February--
About dusk I  saw a raccoon in a tree near the backdoor. Suddenly frightened for my hens, I did not chase him away. I had a plan. I was going to trap him. Not only do I have to finish setting up the two new Rubbermaid containers for my hens to live in before it gets completely dark, NOW I must get the trap from the basement. It is spooky down there, so I want to get that done while there is still light through the basement windows.

By the time I dragged the live trap from the basement, and set up the hens’ new house, the hens impatiently wanted to know where they were sleeping for the night. They have a way of making a long, drawn-out, bwaaaack, bwaaaack that just tears my heart out. They are begging the best they know how and to the only person who can help them.

Today is the day I purchased new Rubbermaid boxes for a nest and sleeping quarters, so they are wary when all is in place.

This was new, so I left them rubbernecking the structure—two Rubbermaid storage boxes with holes in the side, stacked on top of each other and a plastic lawn table. They were confused about not being able to roost on top of the boxes that were up against the tarp.

It’s getting dark and I have to prepare for the capture of a dangerous animal. On the internet is an account of raccoons attacking a woman. My hens won't have a chance.

It’s been about 7 years since I used the trap to capture feral cats, so I had to figure out how to lock it open. All the time I watch for a raccoon, ready to attack it to defend myself and my four hens. And, it is getting cold. I must go to a friend’s house.

Oh, I am so relieved, proud, and frightened. After helping a friend with his computer, finding it pretty much ruined, shopping with him for a computer at WM after midnight, setting up the new comp, and driving home, I was appalled I had a raccoon in my live trap. TADA

This is a very small, meek raccoon. Not sure it really was a raccoon since they are supposed to be vicious, I came inside and got a flashlight. I could see the mask without the light, but I just had to get closer. The raccoon looked up sweetly and so tenderly at me, and I talked to it nicely, telling him he was taking a trip because he could not live here. Wondering why it was not vicious, I got a stick to touch it. No sooner than I had gotten the stick to its fur did it whirl, growl, hiss, and lunge at me. Well, after too much caffeine that sure gets the heart to racing a bit more.

This a powerful, hunter feeling, like I have conquered the wild and protected my homestead and all the animals that depend on know, all four hens. Catching eight feral cats in a week was nothing compared to this! I am woman; hear me roar. And, watch me retreat when the raccoon roars, so to speak.

I love my trap.

I called the police. They came. They looked and said, “Yes, it is a raccoon.” The adrenaline was pumping in my body. Then, for some reason backup came—yes, two police cars and four police officers are here at about 2:30 a.m., looking at my raccoon. They seemed impressed and told me to call Animal Control in the morning.

This is time for a celebration. The feeling could be no stronger than if I had brought down a mastodon, single-handedly. Caffeine does this to one, I suppose. Maybe I was right to give it up. Tonight, I indulged in one too many Coke! Note to Linda---->never buy Cokes with caffeine.

Really, I read of other people's losses in the raising of chickens and feel I have been so lucky.

Now, I must go see if the girls are really alive and make sure they don't sleep in the laying room. Never in all my life did I think I would be going out in the middle of the night, shifting chickens to their bedroom in order to teach them where to sleep!

Chapter Two

On October 15, two nights ago, I saw a raccoon in the yard AGAIN. So, I set up my live trap. Next morning--nothing. Next night--nothing. I went out today to find a hen, murdered in the nest. Appallingly, two of the three remaining hens walked over her mutilated, half-eaten body to lay two eggs.

I was so stunned when I saw the body that it did not register what I was seeing! I got the eggs and put them into my pocket. THEN, my head was swimming briefly until sadness and anger set in.

Chessie was dead. She loved to jump onto the door and try to stick when I went to feed them. She had two broken toes and limped when she ran.

The trap will be inside the chicken's 10' x 10' enclosure. There will be raw hamburger for the murderer. Then, tomorrow, the villain dies! It is against the law to relocate raccoons, so no bleeding heart will try to save a raccoon life!

It is so sad.

The poor chicken has been removed. And, the girls are dusting themselves in the yard.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Frugal Halloween Shopping

Mailing  surprises

Since my grandchildren are 1000 miles from me, I am always mailing little inexpensive (read--onsale)(read--deep discount) gifts. If they could visit often, the small items could be handed to them. Maybe I would even know what they wanted. Even if we talk on the phone...okay, how much does a two-year-old say?...there is little evidence of their interests. Parents convey things, but still....not the same.

Sticker shock

Halloween items are over-priced! My parsimonious nature will not allow me to buy a $3 pair for Halloween socks even if they are sooooo precious and sooooo cute! I like items when they are marked to 90% off. Even better is getting little-used items at yard sales. When socks are marked down to 40 cents in January, I am happier.

After Holiday Sales

Last year, I bought $3 pairs of socks for 40 cents--my kind of gift. My grandson who is 5 and granddaughter who is 3 will be getting two pair apiece...$1.60  for those. A bandana for him cost 25 cents. Tights for her cost 50 cents. Adult Halloween socks for their mother cost 40 cents.

The Halloween Jello jigglers molds were free with Jello. The children will receive no candy since they will have plenty from Trick or Treat and relatives.

I was the recipient of a child's orange knit pullover, sleeveless garment that I can only describe as a vest. It has four cats knit into the front. The four tales are on the back. It is so precious, just right for a three-year-old girl.

The rings were from a large package of rings bought about 6 years ago. Each ring may have been less that a penny. I have forgotten.

5 pair socks   @ 40 cents = $2.00
1 Jello mold  @ $0          = $0
1 tights          @ $0.50      =$0.50
4 rings@       @$0.01       =$0.04
1 vest            @ $0           =$0
Total                                 =$2.54

Postage sticker shock

Now for the kicker--the postage will be around $5. The total I will spend (gifts and postage) will be $7.50! Outrageous! If I had paid full price for everything, the total would be over $25. If I did not shop deep discounts and yard sales, they would get nothing. I do have a Halloween card that cost me about a nickel. So, that would have been their only greeting from Memaw.

Since I have to pay for the little box that can be filled with any weight, and the price will be the same, I definitely WILL fill it. Maybe I will put a tube of free toothpaste in the box! Or, two tubes! That will raise the retail value considerably. Now that I am thinking about it, I will probably just fill the larger box to the brim with free things I have acquired. I was going to send the tiny $5 box, but the larger $10.70 box makes more sense.

The free Werther's candy I received tonight will stay here to keep me company! Don't you love coupons and sales?

And, those are just the two grandchildren in Texas!

The grandchildren in NYC have a box on the way to them. It is a larger box and less Halloween intensive. The almost-16-yr-old is getting some hand-me-down DVDs, more notebook paper, and a jester-like crown with bells...?? It is Halloween, so he can find some use for it.  And, he is in theatre. The granddaughter has a half-dozen pair of leggings and tights and 5 shrugs. Tights and leggings were fifty cents a pair and shrugs were $2.50 on sale with 75% off sale price. She is nine and NEEDS shrugs. Well, that is what she told her mother. All her things were on sale. I decided the Halloween gloves were just too cute NOT to send her. Yes, she will probably wear them all winter, rotating with her other gloves. I sent my daughter a can of my free peaches. She loves peaches. I sent free toothpaste, too. Value in that box--over $120 and the items cost me about $20. Nothing cost full price and all items were bought over time in dribs and drabs. Price for items and to mail it=$30.

Since the nine-year-old declared to her mother, "Memaw's the BEST!" when she opened one of my boxes, how can I resist?

Does anyone else buy their Halloween goodies at sales or yard sales? Share your Halloween thrifty ideas. We all love inspiration!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Is Background Noise Why We Overeat?

How much money does noise cost us? It rattles my sanity. Excess sound or unwanted sound is noise pollution. Pollution always costs us something. I may pay with rattled nerves. Some may pay with horrendous eating habits that cost them their health and drive up their medical bills.

Many people in the US overeat salty and sugary foods. Could background noise be part of the problem? A research project (technical) reports that people perceive taste in different ways according to background noise or lack of it. None of the articles mentioned overeating as a consequence of our changed perception when the background is noisy as we eat.

I wonder. If louder noise reduced the reported sweetness or saltiness (reported in a more accessible manner), could this be why we overeat? Our eating lives are played out against the background of cafeteria noise (think highschool), traffic noise (think workers who eat outside on the job or in a plant with machinery), in front of the television, in bars with blaring football games or music, or maybe just to our own preferred music. Our body may require more sugary and salty foods to overcome the effect of louder noise. Yes, even our favorite music and quality music of your preference can be the background noise that interferes with our ability to taste sweet and salty.

Fast food establishments are not bastions of tranquility. Maybe we need a bit more sugar and salt to help us really taste the food. That spells disaster for the body.

The subjects ate to white noise in the background. That even further amplifies the point. The background noise was not distressing sounds or jarring music not to their taste. However, I wonder if "noise" is just sound that is dissonant, unpleasant, or undesired. In that case would a teen's favorite cacophony be considered "noise" to the research? I doubt it.

What if a person lived in an area of wailing sirens, gunfire, arguments, or traffic noise? Often these area are where low income persons must live. They may not be afforded the luxury of a peaceful environment. Could these distractions in the background, along with poverty be the reason for highly salted and sweetened food that lead to health problems. Am I going down a slippery slope?

I don't have television; I live in a serene neighborhood, don't eat in fast food places, and never have to eat in a cafeteria or work environment. Often I can eat in the yard where birds, my hens, and trees rustling are the only sounds. Do you think they count as disruptive background noise? I wonder. Yeah, I doubt it.

Think of it--cloth tablecloths and napkins would have a dampening effect on noise. Expensive places with pleasant ambience are usually hushed, and the music, if any, is very low. Carpets are in place instead of the tile at inexpensive McD's. Noise dampening elements--real wood, carpets, drapes, cushioned chairs, and linens--are rarely found in fast food or greasy spoons. Are they? Not in my neck of the woods!

Do you think the hum of my refrigerator is background noise that alters my perception of taste? From now on, I will monitor my desire for sweeter or saltier food in a noisy atmosphere.

What are your thoughts on your eating/dining environments and your perception of taste? Where do you prefer to eat? Have you noticed you over-season with salt or sugar when the dining experience is accompanied by background noise? Do you agree with the research? Am I off-base in suggesting noise can make us gain weight?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

911 for small, lifeless hair care appliances


My motto—Don’t throw anything out until you try to fix it. I have revived dead hair dryers and fans for years. No, I am not an electrician. But, I don’t give up items I have paid dearly for the privilege of using for less time than I like.

When I was drying my hair with my handheld hairdryer, it just quit. Just like that, with no warning--it quit. Since I had only had it for six years, I was highly annoyed. Besides, I needed to dry my hair right then. Buying a new one was not an option.

Calm down

I always read the directions when I get items, even familiar ones. I remembered that the hairdryer could overheat, turn itself off, and come back on when cool. Impatiently, I kept switching it on and then off when it would not run. You have done that, too? Miraculously, the hairdryer came back on for another thirty seconds. Again, I waited until it cooled off. Of course, it went right back off after blowing for another thirty seconds!


Finally, I decided that since it had not burned up, maybe I could fix the problem. It really did smell scary and burning. As I looked at the back of the dryer where air is sucked into it, I saw the problem. The whole back screen was covered in lint. Over the years I have used various items to remove the lint—toothpick used carefully, same with an old toothbrush, a Q-tip, tweezers, and my fingernails. Sometimes, you might need to use all, depending on the screen. Always use the vacuum to rid the screen and maybe the internal workings of the small particles that can remain on the screen or fall through it.

Preventive Maintenance

Now, instead of letting this happen again, I perform preventive maintenance. Periodically, and in a lazy (leisurely) moment (not when I am frantic to dry my hair and hurry to leave the house), I check the back of the hairdryer. Sure enough, there is always some lint. By cleaning the lint from the screen before the dryer overheats, I think I am prolonging the life of my little appliance. So, go check your hairdryer. See if it needs cleaning. My cheap, little handheld dryer has lasted 10+ years, so far.

Box fans

At other times, my box fan has quit. And, it did not start again at all, ever. I would give it one last chance before placing it out for the garbage. You can revive a fan. Take the back off the fan. Put the screws where you won’t kick them around, the cat won’t play with them, or the kids track them out on their shoes. Look at the back of the fan blade near the center. There will be lots of goop there. Some of it will be in cracks.

Just clean it all out. Get a toothpick, Q-tip, toothbrush, and tweezers. Pick around with the toothpick to loosen the gunk in a ring around the center of the fan. Then, the tweezers can remove the hair and fine threads wrapped around. This part takes awhile, so be patient. Work slowly. Use the toothbrush to help pull things from between the parts of the fan. The Q-tip can get gunk out. Just use whichever it seems necessary to use for how all the gunk is coming out. I finish cleaning this part with a Q-tip dipped in alcohol and squeezed dry.

When you get through with this and see the fan will work, unplug the fan. Now, thoroughly clean the fan blades on both sides. Clean the inside casing of the fan. A damp, soapy, cloth wrung out well is perfect. Straight Dawn works on a greasy, gunky surface. If you can get the front grill off, put the front and rear grill into a bathtub of soapy water. You clean away much of the same kind of dirt that stopped it up in the first place.

I have never oiled a fan because I believe it is sealed up somehow. I rescued a fan from the side of the road, cleaned it like I described, and gave it away. My friend was very poor at the time and was desperate for a fan in our Southern summer. Several weeks later, she was sad because it quit. I told her how to clean it. She did. The fan lasted through the summer for her. After that, she reported to me each fan she got working again.

Trashed fans

I never leave a box fan on the side of the road. It comes home for a cleaning and is given away to someone who needs it. Even the nastiest of fans smell and look new after cleaning.

Curling irons

My curling iron quit heating. So, pretty cocky with all my successes, I tried to repair it. I got my little screwdriver. I unscrewed the screw. Then, the most amazing thing happened. All the wires inside the curling iron sort of exploded in my hand. I took the top (half of the barrel handle) off and looked inside, sort of like I do when the car gives me trouble. I pull over, raise the hood and look under it like I might know what is happening. HA! Never! This curling iron repair was a failure. I could not even get the thing screwed back together! If your curling iron breaks, save yourself the time trying to repair it!

Have you ever even cleaned the screen at the back of your hairdryer--the intake? Did you ever have a handheld hairdryer come to life after you cleaned it? Do you have a story of something you revived? Maybe you know how to repair a curling iron?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Eggs in My Pocket

When I gather eggs from my hens, I never need a container. First of all, there are only four hens. Secondly, I rarely find four eggs at once. Thirdly, I can carry all four in my hands and pockets.

Usually, there is only one egg. I go out several times each day and talk to my hens, let them out of the pen, oversee their ramblings in my yard, and have various other encounters with them. So, I get the eggs as they are laid, often getting really warm eggs or egg for my pocket.

One day, I left an egg in my pocket for four hours before I realized it was still there. Amazingly, it was not crushed or even cracked. Someday, my luck will run out.

Often, I go out to sit in my swing and put the egg or eggs on the picnic table. Foolishly, I placed one there yesterday, placed it where it would roll. And, it did--right off the table and it cracked. The hens found it and just went crazy! What running and squawking there was. And, I was running right along behind and squawking for them to stop.

I don't mind them eating their own eggs if I prepare them. Maybe they will develop a taste for their own eggs? No, obviously it will take more than one broken egg since all the eggs were untouched in the nest.

When the hens are out and I decide to go to the store, I just put them up and leave without coming back into the house. That means that somedays there is an egg that I get and take with me. Yes, I carry eggs in the car.

While searching for my insurance card during a traffic stop. I discovered an egg deep in the recess of the console that goes under the dashboard. I brought it in the house to see if it were salvageable. Folks, I cracked it and will spare you the details. As I retched and tied it in plastic and rushed it outdoors to the trash, I swore through my tears I would never put an egg in the car again.

Eggs in my pockets work better.

Yes, this is a frivolous post.

Now, who can tell me an egg story? Do you ever take your eggs along for a ride? Do you discover an egg in your pocket when you go the bathroom and feel the bump on your calf? LOL...tell me something to make me laugh.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Living Above the Store: Immersed in Community and Sustainable

My grandmother's store

Over the years I replay in my mind's eye my grandmother's store in Mississippi, refreshing the memory of exactly where items were located in her home and store, how large the store really was, what I smelled, what I liked to eat from her store, and how I loved being there where she lived and worked. It just seemed right. Was it a move brought on by thrifty habits? Did she live there because she had to? I don't know. The decision was made over sixty-years ago, and there is no one left to ask.

I suspect that the decision was made so Memaw would have income, not have rent to pay, and would need no transportation to work. All these elements and maybe more probably played into her decision. I know my cousin could walk to school.

Business model and candy source

This was and is a good business model. Besides, she had candy. It was not like my mother ever allowed us to have much. But, the very fact it existed and I did not have to pay for it kept hope alive in my heart that someday I could have candy, more candy I hoped. For a child who rarely got candy or Coke, a ninety-mile to drive to a grandmother's house who had CANDY, so much candy...such a thrill.

Nellie Olsen?
Given half a chance, could I have been Nellie Olsen?

Do you remember coal oil?
In front of Memaw's store there were the remnants of a gas station. the pumps were gone, but the coal oil pump close to the store remained. Coal oil is kerosene. The nearby residents used it for their lamps. They would bring a canning jar, usually a pint, to have it filled. We liked to play out front but rarely were allowed to do so. Very few cars, if any, ever drove up. My grandmother did not own a car.

Candy case

Inside, the store had shelves around the room and several in the center. On one side of the store was the candy counter. Candy was inside the huge oak, glass, fronted case. Candy could only be accessed from the two huge sliding glass doors. NO ONE except my grandmother opened the doors. If a person wanted candy, Memaw got it out and put it in a  and carried it to the register. I suppose that would thwart any little candy thieves.

Tiny bags for penny candy!

The bag was 5 3/4 x 3 1/2 x 2 inches. Ten cents worth of candy would last the 90 mile drive to Memphis.

Brown Penny Candy Bags 1lb 500ct

No grocery carts

People came to the store and brought a list, an order,  which my grandmother filled by walking around the store and gathering items.

I forgot the ice cream! Memaw kept a metal scoop in a glass of water. She sold the scoops in cones. Mama put a stop to ice cream begging. She did not want the four of us eating the profits. Every night when she closed the store, she took the glass of water and scoop into her kitchen to wash it.

Pencils and hairpins

Behind the counter were pencils, WriteRight notebooks, sewing thread, needles, hairpins, and the like. A cash register with the arm to pull was a prominent fixture on the counter. To one side was an oak refrigerator. I don't know what she sold from there except ice cream. But, some of her food was in it, food she consumed. No one except her touched anything in the store. Customers stood and waited for her assistance.

Living behind the store

She didn't really live over the store. She lived behind it. The living quarters were just an extension of the one-story building. But, I was watching Little House on the Prairie and thought of Memaw's store since the Olsen's store is upstairs over their mercantile.

In my mind's eye I can see Memaw's living area--living room, bedroom behind the living room, and a long room the size of both these rooms to one side.

Frightening claw foot tub

Oh, yeah, there were two steps up to the bathroom where the claw foot tub terrified me. Oh my goodness, what could be lurking in the recesses beneath the tub and those horrendous claws of cast iron? The lighting in that bathroom did not illuminate much. Needless to say, I spent no time dawdling in the bathroom when I had to pee. It was so terrifiying that I might have just held the other until we went home.

Isn't stream of consciousness horrible? So, here I am.

Martin Melaver Living Above the Store

In movies I remember often gritty living conditions suffered by those families who lived above stores. When I tried to Google "living above the store" to see if I could find some of these movies to include in this post, I found a fascinating man, Martin Melaver who wrote a book, Living Above the Store. The book review is fascinating, a look at sustainable living.

Later, I found an article, The Benefit of Living Above the Store, published in the New York Times. The story of revitalization is a lesson we need to learn. Family involvement builds community and softens the edges of business districts.

Many metropolitan areas are building lofts and renting or selling them. Not only does the revenue help the economy of the downtowns, a human element is infused into the usually lifeless weekends. Restaurants and other businesses spring up and thrive. Right in my own town of 14,000 people lofts have been created by business owners for their own quarters.

Modern Day Choice

One young man built an apartment over his family store when he decided to marry. He and his wife and two young sons live there still. Theirs is not a story of having to live there. They invested a great deal to make the quarters comfortable and appointed the interior with high quality furnishings.

Many of the two-story buildings in town held living quarters for the owners of the businesses. Of course, as the owners prospered and the next generation took over, living above the store came to be seen as a sign of poverty or an unneeded economy of spirit, if not the pocketbook.

Back of Memaw's Store

Memaw had lots of room. In the living room was a piano, rolltop desk, large sofa, a comfortable rocker, other chairs and tables. Best of all was the sofa that made into a bed.

Behind the living room was her bedroom. All I really remember was a double bed, massive with four huge posters and a dresser with the tall center mirror, recessed top and the sets of drawers down each side. There was other furniture, I just cannot recall it. Well, there were two nightstands and dressers. But, I cannot "see" them.

Alongside the living room and bedroom was a long room that was quite large. It held a table that comfortable held eight chairs. At one end of the room was other furniture that I cannot remember. Along one wall was a cot-like sleeping accommodation--not a bed, not a cot. My brother and sister slept there as toddlers. At the other end of the room was a kitchen area. At that far end was a huge double sink, freestanding with a curtain underneath. right to the left of the sink was the door to the bathroom.

These memories come from ages four to ten, 1950 to 1956. I try to remember often to hold the memories.

Attached to her store was a garage. In the day we could hear the men working. Thankfully, they left in the evening and weekends. In the wall between the garage and her kitchen was a recess that could be accessed by the garage and by her. The telephone lived there in the wall with a little door she could lock. The door and recess were no larger than a cubic foot.

Was her life a gritty, hardscrabble existence that I seem to remember from movies of families living above the store? I don't know because that is just the way it was. But, I doubt it. She knew all the people who came to her to shop. The part of town where she lived had only these two businesses, the ones housed in the building in which she lived. The streets were paved, had sidewalks, and people living all around. It was a short walk to the public swimming pool and close to the library.

Her home and store creaked with every step, and I love the sound of creaky, old houses now. Actually, I live in a house with just enough creaks. Best of all, its no longer terrifying.

Memaw's living quarters were a dozen feet off the ground, balanced crazily on stilts, Really, it looked rickety to me. The whole thing was built on a steep hill that fell away from the house in a frightenly steep manner. We played out back. I remember thinking the house was twice as far off the ground as my father was tall. The back steps seemed dangerous, but I am afraid of heights. So, maybe you cannot trust that memory.

My cousin lived with my grandmother. She was friends with the people where her/our grandmother worked. Oh, the hill out back led to a hollow full of people--Black. My grandmother saw no shame in this arrangement. As a sign of the times, I must say the white people lived on high ground. As a child I never heard a racist remark from her. She was polite to everyone with no undercurrent of disdain.

My uncle owned the store, stocking it, and often cleaning the floors. By living behind the store, my grandmother was able to support herself tending the store.

Immersion in the community

Martin Malvern described living above the store as immersion in the community. Should we do the same?

For me too

At least twenty years ago, I desired to "live above the store." I custom made patterns for people. I needed to have a place other than my bathroom for people to change. I needed a sewing room and a fitting room. My house was large enough for the simple conversion I needed--a powder room. Essentially, it would be a commode and sink in a closet in the hall.

I have this thing about people for whom I am working with going all over my house. Cleaning house before a client would come over is not my idea of convenience. After all, Memaw and the Olsens did not open their home/living quarters to the public. I suppose I want a "store" in the house.

The consequence of stream of consciousness memories and a little googling left me with a disjointed post!

Was my grandmother practicing sustainable living? Did her presence and my cousin's presence help to create community? Was she immersed in community? Do you live above the store?