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 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 7 2011

go to your happy place [day 284]

I have many happy places, as well as many non-happy places.  I guess we all have those lists.  Sitting in my hot tub, happy place.  Going to the mall, not a happy place.  Jumping on the trampoline, happy place.  Driving in traffic, not a happy place.  Going to the beach, happy place.  Going to a snowy place, not happy.  Some happy places are obvious, while others are not.  One of my happy places is being in an abandoned house or building.  It sounds crazy, but take a look.

This is an abandoned church up in Maine.  It was locked up tight, so no inside time here, but it was a beautiful day and many photo opportunities outside.  It’s so peaceful, yet mysterious.  I also got to spend some quality time with a great friend here.

Some of the best happy places don’t cost money, there’s no admission and can be a spontaneous thing to do.  I have a happy place with my kids.  When the weather permits twice a year, in the fall and in the spring, we sleep outside on the trampoline.   My happy place in my house is standing in front to my latte machine in the kitchen.  No, it’s not in anticipation of the steamed, frothy greatness that I’m about to drink.  It’s because there’s a small rug there to warm my feet from the cold floor and the heater vent gently blows a soft breeze of warm air, wrapping me in an invisible blanket.  I stand there every morning and count my blessings.  Occasionally, one of those little blessings will stand there with me if  he’s awake, as it’s his happy place too.

Some of the best things in life are free.  Enjoy them.  Where is your happy place?  I’m going to mine right now, you should too.


Feb 12 2011

ditch your high maintenance vacation [day 262]

My kids and I decided to make a purchase a couple of years ago from craigslist.  It was a bright red Sebring convertible that we fondly called the “vacation”.  We couldn’t take a vacation that year, so this was our substitute for it.  It wasn’t uncommon to hear, “Mom!  Are we taking the vacation?”  And my reply was always something like, “Is it raining?  If not, of course we are.”

Let me start by saying this was not a well-planned purchase.  We had the vacation for about a year and a half, and during that time, we got a lot of use out of it.  It was a sad day when we had to end our vacation, but all three of us knew it was the right thing to do.  We had so much fun in our vacation!  Although it didn’t initially cost a lot, the maintenance, repairs and insurance just made the vacation too expensive.  The previous owner carefully hid many of the mechanical issues, and I, being in love with the thought of having a convertible, didn’t do my due diligence on this item.

This was our second car, as I would never consider parting with my 15 year old Infiniti.  Actually, I had 5 or 6 people that were ready, cash in hand, to buy my Infiniti, but I will own that car to its death.  I will get 300,000 miles out of it… or more.

I’ve been downsizing everything lately.  My housewares, my wardrobe, pretty much everything I own.  I never realized how much stress is associated with stuff.  Embracing the chaos has a whole new meaning for me.  I can embrace the chaos by managing the chaos.  Less stuff = more time, more money and more peace.  I lost about $1,000 when I sold the vacation, as the A/C compressor went out right before I went to sell it.  Not having the vacation and all of it’s associated costs, monetary and otherwise, gave me some peace worth more than what I lost.  We have some great memories from our vacation and we’ll always have those to cherish.

Where is your vacation?  Is it time to end it?

[side note:  I got rid of the vacation before I started the challenge.  I realized I will never have a need for two cars.]


Dec 13 2010

I've saved a lot of money, but that wasn't why I did it [day 201]

I’m speaking tonight at Preston Trail Community Church, in the Financial Peace University class, about the “no retail” shopping challenge.  I didn’t start this to save money, but it did turn out to be a nice benefit.  Here’s a recap of the posts from the last 200 days that have to do with saving money and thinking differently.  Enjoy & save!!

Basic & small money saving tips

A money lesson from Barbie. [day 198] – You can learn a lot for a dummy, I mean a Barbie.  This has tips on teaching your kids about money, and even though it’s Barbie, it’s good for boys or girls.

Saving electricity [day 191] – It’s a small thing, but these add up, as my last utility bill was $52.01 on a 100% renewable energy plan, 1,780 square foot house with huge vaulted ceilings and 16 year old appliances.

White elephant gifts [trashogram] – Give it away or trade it.

Junk drawer [trashogram] – You know there’s money there and also in your couch cushions.  It’s not collecting interest, that’s dust.

Made in China [day 176] – Know the difference between cheap and frugal.

To buy or not to buy? [day 167] – Kids spending money and get a small loan, because your going to the movies and buying popcorn.

Ask the chickens [day 162] – Expiration dates and tips on not being wasteful.

Fine!  Dress me up like a fairy princess! [day 161] – Tips on thrift store clothing shopping.

Shopping tips [day 160] – We’ve been subconsciously trained by little yellow tags.  Buyer beware.  Continue reading


Nov 24 2010

move it Ralph! this shelf is mine! love, Martha [day 182]

I had to shop yesterday for work, and I know now why I don’t shop.  Getting new stuff can be good, but the shopping process just isn’t fun.  I had to go to Home Depot, which is basically a toy store for me.  If I was shopping, that would be in my top 5.

Finding specific paint colors by numbers is no easy task.  While they were mixing the paint, I was helping my friend Shannon pick out paint colors for her house.  I immediately started looking for the Ralph Lauren paint chips, as I like the color selection and the paint covers well.  I looked around and quickly realized that Ralph has left the building, as Martha Stewart stood over my shoulder with a smug look on her face.  She has shoved Ralph out of the way to make room for her collection of more feminine, more subdued colors.

I asked the guy behind the paint counter about this observation.  He told me that Ralph is gone, replaced by Martha because she’s more popular and has a larger market share.  I didn’t buy RL paint because of the name, I bought it because I liked the color selection and the quality.  Do people choose paint because of a name?  Is there something symbolic about it?  Once it’s on the wall, does anyone care who made it?

What do the cans say?  Besides saying these are all great quality and they cause cancer, but only in California?  Martha’s paint has a ribbon around it with the words “color performance”, although I think the ribbon is a subliminal message that says, “I won.  Ralph is outta here.”  Ralph’s paint is the American icon of paint.  The design says traditional, the color pallet says traditional with good taste.  So I thought I’ll have my own paint line.  Jody’s paint is leftovers from her painting jobs and everyone else’s, excluding beige.  Jody’s paint peacefully sits in your garage, waiting for a touch up or a new painting project, but never trying to pull market share from other paint companies.  Can’t we all just get along?   Continue reading


Jul 12 2010

the challenge: day 47 [self-awareness]

I was at a staff retreat all day today, so no time to think about shopping.  I did, however, do a behavioral style assessment through idynamx.com, and the results were quite interesting.  I really enjoyed this process, not only learning more about my behaviors, but learning more about the people I work with.  After reading it, it’s no mystery why I started this blog, or for that matter, all of my blogs.

Of course, all of the material is copyrighted, so I’ll just highlight a couple of interesting things.

Need: To learn experientially from life and speak out their ideas. Yep, that’s me.  And that explains why I blog a lot.  I do like to speak out my ideas, but I also like the conversation.  I like to hear others ideas, learn from other people and I also love to debate when there’s a contrasting idea.  Playing devil’s advocate is a good and healthy process.  It enhances good ideas and modifies the not-so-good ideas into new ideas.  And there’s also those times where there’s more than one right way or several good ideas to accomplish the same thing.

Like: Emotional “peace and quiet”. Okay, so I’m not the warm and fuzzy type, I’m more cognitively and goal driven.  The words used to describe me cracked me up a bit, most were not too surprising, but other were… interesting.  I have a strong personality and I sometimes like to influence others by intimidation or forcefulness.  I guess I do come across that way sometimes, as i do like to get on my soapbox a lot.  I really just want to share my life experiences in a way that motivates people to do something different or make a positive change.  I like to learn from others, so I guess I just assume everyone does.  So anyway, thank you for reading my blog!  If I come across as a bully or overly dominant, free free to call me on it.  Then I’ll tell you to quit crying and accomplish the goal.  LOL  I’m sharing my challenges and ideas of the one year of no shopping, but many of my ideas have been generated through feedback I get, so please feel free to leave comments.

Relational description: Verbalizer.  Well, that speaks for itself.  Can’t argue with that.

I’m aware that I’m quite quirky in comparison to the ‘normal people’, and quite honestly, that makes me happy.  We are all unique in our behaviors, but I often wonder how much is influenced by our society?  Our suppose our core behaviors are part of our personality, and I could get into the whole nature versus nurture thing, but how much of what we do is following and participating in our culture?  Shopping, for instance, is a social thing, necessary for some things, frivolous and exorbitant for others.  I’ve also heard the term ‘retail therapy’ for the need to shop, you know, if you’re feeling depressed or sad.

It’s just a thought, as I couldn’t help but wonder how all of this plays into my one year of no shopping.  I’ll ponder that.  :)


Jun 2 2010

the challenge: day 6 & day 7 [materialism & a project for kids]

I’m back home from my trip to Mexico and back into my much too busy routine. I don’t have any shopping challenges to report, however I am uncomfortable with my very comfortable life.

There is one thing I’ve been thinking about, and that’s how this challenge will affect my kids. I’m trying to teach them that materialism is not good, while the life lessons they’re learning in our society are sending the opposite, and quite powerful message that materialism is very good. Last night we sat out on our rickety old trampoline (in the rain) and talked about what we’re passionate about. My boys are 9 and 10 years old, so the discussion itself was a bit of a challenge.

I decided to give them each a summer project. The project will allow me to teach them some of my design skills, while teaching them to help people and encourage others to do the same. They are both to choose a topic, do a journalistic photo shoot and create a video. They will have to storyboard it and blog during the process. Honestly, they’re viewing it as summer homework. Hopefully they won’t see it that way once we get into it. I’m such an abusive parent! LOL

Cole is doing his project on The New U.S. Army, a new non-violent army. Joe is doing his with a comic book style superhero named God’s Host. And me? I will be helping them and doing the 8 million other things I have in my head. This morning I’m looking for a homeless retreat in Dallas and planning a new type of recycling program. Yes, there’s much to do in this world… shopping is not on the list.