Mar 31 2011

cost analysis, kid style [day 309]

My youngest son came home with this a few weeks ago.

I’m not sure why he decided to draw this, but I’m glad he gets it.  Joe likes money and likes to spend money, but he also lives in the real world.  He’s 10 years old and somewhat budgets his money, that is, enough budgeting to get what he wants to buy.  He talks about buying stuff all the time, but he’s selective when it comes to actually making a purchase.

My oldest talked about an idea he had for an environmentally friendly missile.  While we were sitting in our think tank (hot tub), Cole spent almost 15 minutes telling me about his missile design.  It’s a missile that puts out an environmentally friendly gas that temporarily paralyzes people, allowing the police to ‘go in’ and get the bad guys, place them in prisons, and when the gas wears off, nobody is harmed in the process.  Here’s the blueprints.

Here’s the best part.  Yesterday, he did a cost analysis and figured out was his profit margin will be.  ??!!??!  How does he know how to do this?  He’s eleven years old.  I’ve talked about cost analysis stuff, but I’ve never shown him the process on paper.  Take a look.

Not only did he think of the labor costs, but when Joe talked to him about advertising, he adjusted the analysis accordingly.  I’m guessing Joe’s ad plan for him was to advertise during the Super Bowl.  If my two radically different kids partner together in the future, using their gifts to collaborate for good, they’ll do great things.  Yes, I’m the proud parent today.  :)


Mar 31 2011

urban explorers [day 308]

I love exploring abandoned houses and buildings.  A friend sent me a link to an article about “urban explorers” on howstuffworks.com.  This explained my attraction to these old, and sometimes dangerous places.  I learned a few things from this article, but mostly, it explained a lot.

“Urban exploration purists advocate only trespassing — not breaking and entering.  This forces explorers to get creative when finding an entry point into a structure.”

This is true, I have been creative on ‘entering’ some of these places.  If they’re locked up tight, then I enjoy the outside.  If the no trespassing signs are visible and well posted, I leave it alone.

“It should be said that UE is an extremely dangerous and illegal pastime. By nature, old abandoned buildings are unsafe.”

This is true, as I’ve fallen through several rotted floors.  Being careful is good, but being aware and preparing for a UE trip are necessary.

“Some appreciate the old architecture and ancient machinery. For other people, it’s the thrill of just standing still in a silent, untraveled place. Others find beauty in the type of decay that can be found only in neglected buildings.”

I do find beauty, but I’m also fascinated by the personal effects people leave behind.  I’ve found many things in abandoned houses, everything from photographs to electronics.  One house had the whole backside blown out by a storm, the closet full of clothes and the vacuum cleaner from 20+ years prior, sitting there as if the people ran out quickly, never looking back.  I can’t help but wonder why people leave stuff behind, what situation made them leave and how they determined what they did take.

“Whatever his or her motive, an urban explorer finds adventure in these abandoned sites. There’s a peacefulness in these empty, concrete caves that isn’t like the solitude found in the woods. It’s an experience opposite of nature; instead of finding reassurance in the renewal of the seasons, the urban explorer finds kinship with the past.”

This is so true, it’s a peacefulness, but very different than what’s found in nature.  It’s a serene feeling, laden with curiosity and wonder.

“These explorers usually take photos of the places they visit.”

Here’s some photographs I’ve taken in abandoned places, mostly houses.  I photograph these as a hobby, but I just can’t get past the fact that people throw away buildings, houses and cars as if they have no value.  Some of these places are structurally good and it just makes no sense that they’re thrown away.  Continue reading


Mar 30 2011

I don’t need no stinkin’ plastic liners [day 307]

I quit using plastic garbage bags, or any type of plastic lining in my trash cans.  Why?  I just don’t see why we need to place trash in plastic bags, taking much longer for it to decompose in a landfill.  I thought back to my kids earlier diaper days and the Diaper Genie.  I had one and used it for about a week, but I never understood why it was a good idea to turn dirty diapers into plastic sausage links.  It made no sense to me whatsoever.

I have, what most people consider, a very small trash can and recycling bin in my house.  They’re so small they fit under the sink cabinet.  They’re both plastic bins, making them easy to wash and they don’t leak.  Also, the small size makes them easy for my kids to empty into the outdoor containers.

I ran out of plastic liners a few months ago.  I decided to try going linerless.  It felt a little weird at first, but soon I started to wonder why I ever used plastic liners in the first place.  They really don’t do anything other than make the trash less biodegradable.  If I have some wet trash, typically food, I can place that in another piece of trash like a plastic wrapper from another piece of food.  This new system has been good.  No issues to report.  Buying things to purposely throw away is making less and less sense to me.

Here’s a few things I’ve learned in this process and a few tips I’ve picked up in researching this topic.

Biodegradable garbage bags. These bags cost a bit more, but if you absolutely need a trash liner, this is a good way to go.

Repurpose shopping bags. Instead of buying bags, reuse the ones you get from shopping.  They’re usually not big, but just consider it a motivation to cut down on the amount of trash you produce.  Use these for the ‘wet trash’ only when needed.

Learn what can and can’t be recycled. You would be surprised at the list of what can and can’t go into the recycling bin.  Pizza boxes?  No, because they have grease on them.  Styrofoam?  Yes, they started recycling this a couple of years ago.  I’ve found that most waste can be recycled.  We fill up our recycle bin way before the trash bin.

Separate your trash into bins. Some people have a compost-type bin for food trash, separate from the regular trash.  I have a separate bin for plastic caps so I can take them to Aveda for recycling.  I don’t do composting yet, but the change in our grocery shopping habits yield way less waste and trash.

Consider composting. I’m still considering it.  :)

Repurpose you trash.  If you need a liner for something, use a bread wrapper or potato chip bag.  You’re not adding anything to the trash and you’re not spending money buying fancy plastic liners to make your trash more attractive for the garbage truck.

Use plastic washable containers. Get rid of the metal trash cans, use small plastic ones, then you won’t need liners.

If you’re not sure about this, try it for a week.  You can always go back to using liners.  If nothing else, you’re saving money on trash.

 


Mar 28 2011

the affects of effects [day 306]

It starts when we’re born.  Accessories.  “My daddy is the best” and “My mom is better than your mom” on our shirts, iconic pacifiers, hair bows in more styles and colors than Baskin Robbins has flavors, complete ensembles of coordinated clothing, all in large quantities.  When did babies become fashion statements?  Aren’t they cute enough already?  I see a lot of people talking to parents with small babies and hearing more compliments about the clothing than the kid wearing them.

It continues through adolescence, expanding to toys and games.  I have boys (thank you God) that don’t care much about fashion and will probably need future therapy for their lack of stylish clothing options.  They do however have accessories.  They have Nintendo DS’s that have lots of games, a universal charger, a fancy light sabre stylus and headphones, all packed inside a custom case.  Society says, “You need more” and we respond by buying more.

Into adulthood now, and I’m not exempt from this.  I might not have a lot of fancy, trendy clothing but I do have some nice things in my house.  Most from eBay, craigslist and thrift stores, but nevertheless, lots of things.  Accessories.  I have decorative things that serve no purpose other than to sit there and look nice.  Now I’m an artist of sorts, so this is an important topic.  I love to create things, but with a purpose.  Much of my art is chaotic, but has meaning and purpose behind it.  The vase sitting on my shelf, not so much.  I’ve been sucked into the American vortex of more is better.  I created this photograph several years ago.  This has many meaning for many people, but I see it as how we become background fixtures in the sea of stuff we own.

Continue reading


Mar 28 2011

mental gymnastics [day 305]

Buy one, purge one.

I’ve been practicing my “buy one, purge one” philosophy and it’s going well.  I was hoping to photograph all of the items, however that would take a lot of time.  I am doing it though.  I don’t shop near as much as I used to.  Even though I purchased things from a thrift store, it was still buying a lot of junk I didn’t need.  Now I’m much more selective and I buy much less, especially knowing I will have to get rid of something every time I buy something.  It’s a good plan and it’s not been a struggle at all.

I bought 2 pairs of shoes, a pair of jeans and a pair of swim trunks at the thrift store a few weeks ago.  I needed a pair of dress shoes that were comfortable.  I found just the right pair and I bought another pair that were on sale for $2.00.  I came home and got rid of 2 pairs of shoes.  The jeans, girl’s size 16, fit me, but a little snug.  I bought them with the intention of wearing them if I could, but if not, using them to repair some of my other jeans.  The boys needed a pair of swim trunks, as they’ve been fighting over the one pair they have.  I actually got rid of a lot of clothing, not just 2 pieces.  I’ll be blogging that soon.

Just a few days ago, I bought some throw pillows for my patio swing.  I’ve been wanting some because I love the swing this time of year and I like to lay on it and read.  Considering I got the swing for free from a friend and the cushions free from a dumpster, spending a few bucks at a thrift store on pillows seemed okay.  They’re the same fabric as my patio chairs and are from Pottery Barn, so they cost someone a lot of money.  I plan to dye or paint the unbleached cotton cushions.  So what am I getting rid of?  My colorful tile pot (that’s broken), some of my solar lights (a few that don’t work) and the shiny rocks (that are serving no purpose whatsoever).

Buy one, purge one is not difficult.  It’s a good feeling to know I’m not going to be accumulating more stuff when I do shop and it makes me walk away from many things I would have purchased with my old shopping habits.

Snap one, show one.

I started a quirky little habit.  I take photos of the things I considered buying, but chose not to.  I snap a photo and I show it here on my blog.  Here’s a couple of pics.  To the left are 4 square glass tables.  I thought these would be nice for my patio.  Mental gymnastics:

  • What would I get rid of?
  • Do I want to clean these?
  • Will I maintain the plants I want to put on them?
  • Where will I get the plants?  The pots?
  • Are these made for outdoor use?
  • Do I really want to spend $70?

I thought about all of that in less than a minute and easily decided against them.  Next was 2 latte mugs, the polka dot one and the orange rimmed one.  It’s rare to find oversized mugs.  Here we go again.  More mental gymnastics for he sake of consumerism.

  • Do I like these mugs?
  • Do I need these mugs?
  • What will I get rid of?
  • Do I need more dishes to wash?
  • How many cups can I use at one time?
  • How do these fit into my minimalist approach to downsizing?
  • Do they coordinate with my mismatched collection?
  • Do I really want to spend money on these?

Again, in less than a minute, I walked away from these.  I like the new habits.  They aren’t painful at all.  I haven’t quit shopping, but I’m spending my money less frequently and more wisely.  Time to kick it up another notch?  Probably so.


Mar 26 2011

grocery shopping update [day 304]

I’ve gotten a few questions on my new grocery shopping plan.  I shop more frequently, but buying less, limiting myself to 25 items or less.  You can read the story about the downsizing and new shopping plan that was published in early February 2011.  Take a look.

Here’s the before and after photos of my pantry.  The after was taken a couple of weeks ago and even has less in there today.  I don’t have photos of the refrigerator or freezer, but they are sparse as well.  Here’s some of the results or the new way of shopping.

Money savings.

I started shopping at Aldi versus Kroger, Tom Thumb, WalMart or Target.  That, coupled with the 25 items or less, has produced the following monetary results.  These amount reflect groceries, the occasional toiletry items and some wine.

February 2011: $268.95

March 2011 (so far, 1 week left): $149.89

I started this in mid January, so I didn’t look at that month.  Here’s what I spent the 2 months prior.  Continue reading


Mar 26 2011

it’s alien poo out of an alien dumpster! [day 303]

Maybe I’m a mean mom, but I make my kids try new foods.  I don’t make them eat it if they don’t like it and I don’t go out of my way to get things that will gross them out.  Both of them like pistachio nuts so I thought I would make some pistachio pudding for dessert.  Here’s what happened.

Let me just defend myself here.  I have never fed my kids anything out of a dumpster.  I get food from grocery stores and I don’t know any aliens.  I don’t like food waste, so I bought just one box of pudding, however my timing on it wasn’t great.  I was going out of town the next day and since nobody liked it, it sat in my fridge for 5 days.  I guess the aliens came in peace though, as this is the shape the pudding cracked into.

Okay, so I added the little piece at the bottom between the two small lines, but it looked like a peace sign when I pulled it out, as the other 3 lines were cracked in.  So what’s the best way to avoid food waste with kids?  Here’s a few tips.

  • Small portions. When eating out, I sometimes make them share or order small quantities because we can always order more.  At home, I let them fill their own plates with the understanding that they must eat what they put on it.
  • Plan leftovers. If you go out, don’t get food that will taste bad as leftovers.  French fries are just gross as leftovers.  Order something that you or your kids will eat the next day.  At home, make extras of the foods that will keep well as leftovers and cook only what will be eaten on the right-now foods.
  • Let your kids cook. I don’t do this often enough, but if they help in the meal planning and cooking, they’re more apt to eat it.

This won’t eliminate waste, but it sure will cut it down to an extreme minimum.  It also never hurts to communicate your grocery budget to the kids and let them shop.  Keep in mind this can backfire when your 10 and 11 year-olds go to the neighbors house and tell them they’re spending way too much money on groceries, telling them everything they know about saving money when buying food.  I’ve found that works better than the ‘starving-kids-in-other-countries’ talk.  If we’re less wasteful, we’ll have more resources to help others.


Mar 25 2011

cookie cutters gone wrong [day 302]

While in Austin last week, I went to a small coffee shop to get my morning latte.  I snapped this photo while standing in line.  I love iced cookies, but $3.65 for one cookie?!  I can get a whole meal for that at Wendy’s.  Sure, they’re hand decorated and look pretty, but if I buy it, it will be gone.  Would the non-hand decorated ones be cheaper?  They had a broken one on a small plate next to the register each morning, and each morning I had a small piece.  They were good, but I still can’t see paying that amount of money for it.

And let’s talk about the cookies next to the Easter cookies.  At first glance, I thought they were thong underwear cookies.  One of my friends said they look like a woman’s reproductive system.  They could also be skinny ghosts, birds or Texas longhorns.  Imagination cookies.  Good thing they didn’t add embellishments.


Mar 24 2011

used or reused? [day 301]

I decided to check out a little boutique in downtown Frisco.  Yes, I said boutique.  I heard a story about some recycled jeans they are selling and decided to check it out.  The Blue Door Boutique, a cute little shop with a lot of style, carries a lot of interesting clothing and home decor items.  Unfortunately for me, none of it is used.  They did have the jeans I went in to see.  I had heard about these jeans from one of my writer friends.  The jeans, made from recycled textiles, were prominently displayed on a table.

At first, I thought REUSE jeans were jeans that were made from old jeans; in the way of taking old jeans and embellishing them or modifying them by merging pieces from several pairs of old, worn out jeans.  When I first saw them, I knew the story had to be different from what I had in my head.  All of the jeans looked the same in style and in color.  They also had a price tag of $85!

Now, in the world of new jeans, this is an acceptable price.  For me, this is crazy expensive, as I could go to the thrift store and get a pair of USED jeans for $3-$6.  I looked up REUSE to see what they’re all about.  I needed to know the story behind this nice looking, yet expensive, clothing line.

REUSE jeans are made from 80% recycled textiles.  Here’s a blurb from their site about why they recycle.

“In our world of overflowing landfills and global warming, recycling is more relevant than ever. Recycled jeans help counteract the human effect of the disposable fashion industry, while contributing to a cleaner, more sustainable earth.”

I like that they’re utilizing old clothing to make new clothing, but the price point is bothering me.  Here’s some info about that from their site.  Continue reading


Mar 23 2011

around the corner [day 300]

Wow!  Day 300!  Actually, that was yesterday, as I’m a day behind on the blogging.  It’s just a number, but I feel like I just made that last turn into the final stretch.  The funny thing?  I plan to keep going once I hit the finish line.  I’m sure I’ll start something new, but I plan to keep shopping the way I’ve been shopping.  There are so many good things that the challenge has produced, results I never would have expected.

  • My shopping habits have changed drastically. I think a lot more about things, all things, before I buy them.  Even small things like a pack of gum.  I look at everything long term now and I shop for the future, not the here and now.
  • I’ve lost my desire to shop. I still like to treasure hunt on occasion, but there’s no part of my being that wants to go into a superstore or the mall.
  • The amount of good things that have come out of no shopping. Since I’ve been blogging this everyday, it’s easy to go back and see all of the amazing things that have come out of the challenge.  Money I’ve saved, people I’ve met, ideas for sustainable living, and the list goes on.

Nope, I don’t want to go back to the old way of doing things.  I’ll stick with the new plan.  It’s very freeing.