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 11 2011

I talk to strangers [day 289]

I was doing some blog research and ran across this t-shirt.  ”I talk to strangers” is the message on the front.  I like this t-shirt and it got me thinking.  I know we’re supposed to teach this concept to our kids, but I haven’t done that.  Do we really want to live in a society where we don’t get to know each other, where there’s no sense of community and where we have a fear of meeting people?  We don’t talk to people and we wonder why loneliness creeps into our lives.  Loneliness can lead to sadness, depression and even addiction.  If you know anything about addictions, you know that people use them as an escape from reality.  Sometimes in the past when I’ve been sad or depressed, I would shop.  Yes, believe it, because I did.  Society tells us that it’s okay, even good, to spend money on frivolous stuff that we don’t need and don’t have money for in the first place.

I put a different spin on this ‘strangers’ thing with my kids.  I tell them to talk to strangers, but not strange people.  What’s the difference?  A guy in a car driving by and offering them some candy, now that’s strange, but a person that they meet at a store or just in daily life being friendly, maybe a stranger temporarily, but a possible friend.  We’ve gone over all the scenarios of what not to do to get abducted, but I don’t want my kids living in fear that the one bad person in the thousands of people is going to harm them.  I watch Criminal Minds and other similar TV shows, making it easy for me to think everyone is out to get us, but should we live in this type of fear?

I can teach my kids to be safe without teaching them to be secluded.  One way, is to help them see that there are many good people in the world.  I try to get them involved with me in local missions or take them places where they meet people.  People that might be different than us.  People that add value to our lives.  The photo is from Church Under the Bridge in Waco, Texas.  That’s Dedrick helping my son fix his shoe.  Dedrick has some sort of mental disability, but is just the kindest man and greets everyone at the church.  He wanted to lead worship, so they gave him a pink guitar (with two strings) and a mic (not hooked up with sound) and he leads worship.  Yes, he’s smoking in the photo.

One may also think it’s crazy for me to think this way.  I’ve been held at gunpoint twice in my life and I’ve had two stalkers, both needing police intervention.  I still believe people are basically good.  If I lived differently, I might have avoided these situations, but I might have also missed out on many good things and not met some really great people.

If you’re wondering how this ties in to no retail shopping, I guess it would be that there’s much more value in people than in material things.  Maybe this is a good thing to teach my kids, or maybe it’s not, but it seems be helping in building character in my kids.  And if you’ve spent any time at all with my kids, you know they’re characters!  I think they get the difference between good strange and bad strange.  Go say hi to a stranger today and see for yourself how it can add value to your life.


Jan 29 2011

aldi vs. walmart: a shopping comparison [day 248]

You asked for it.  Here it is.  The price shopping comparison between Aldi and Walmart.  After my post on day 241, many people asked for a price comparison with Walmart, some because they love shopping there, others because they believe Walmart to have the lowest prices.  So what’s your guess on the savings?

Aldi is still a lot cheaper in comparison t0 both of the other stores.  On similar size off brand and generic items, Kroger was 52% more and Walmart was 47% more.  The savings at Walmart for these brands is not much less than a regular grocery store, neither coming close to the savings at Aldi.  On the name brands, Kroger was 113% more and Walmart was 67% more.  Here’s where the Walmart savings come in.  Name brands you’re familiar with, for much less than other places.  This whole process has made me think about my previous grocery shopping habits and has encouraged me to make some changes.  I’m going to label these a little differently.  Let’s call these stores by type.

conventional grocery storediscount grocery storesuperstoreconvenience store

All of the store types have pros and cons, however making educated shopping choices for your money and well being isn’t the easiest thing to do sometimes.  Here are a few of my observations and answers to questions I had before doing this comparison: Continue reading


Jan 17 2011

airing my dirty laundry… and clean laundry [day 235]

I promised you dirty laundry, so here it is.  There’s actually more of it, but this is my basket.  My kids have one upstairs too.  So why an I showing you this?  I have no idea, other than it seemed like a fun title for this blog post.

I was thinking a few days ago how ridiculous it is that I have as many clothes as I do.  I have a relatively small closet, at least considered small by Frisco standards.  It’s a walk-in for skinny people.  I thought, “What if I got rid of half of my clothing?”  Helping my friend move back into her house, and helping her purge clothing from her son’s outgrown wardrobe, was the final push I needed to do this.

I decided to do it.  Get rid of half of my clothes.  Going into this, I had no idea if this would be easy or difficult.  Will it feel like a sacrifice?  Let’s see…

Let’s start with my closet.  I have approximately 278 pieces of clothing in there, so I will need to purge 139 pieces.  The first pass through the closet yielded 84 pieces of clothing.  Not bad for a first pass, but still a pretty long way to go.

The second pass, which was a little bit difficult, yielded 28 pieces of clothing.  This pass felt a little bit like a sacrifice, but when I thought about it, most of this is stuff I don’t wear anymore.  This batch included my pair of mismatched shoes, as they’re too small and hurt my feet.  Sad about those, but it makes sense to pass them on.  These will go to the first person that asks for them (size 7.5), as the thrift store would pitch them in the trash thinking they need exact matches.  Continue reading


Jan 16 2011

light bulb! an idea or just simply for light [day 234]

My friend that had the flood finally got to move back into her house yesterday.  As I was helping, I noticed the old bathroom light fixture sitting in the trash, with all of the old light bulbs still in it.  With the challenge, I can’t buy light bulbs, so I gladly unscrewed them all, placed them in an unwanted pink basket and brought them home.  I have 2 lamps that need bulbs.

I want to switch my bulbs over to the compact fluorescent energy saving bulbs, but that requires purchasing them.  It’s great to do this, but throwing away good bulbs seems like a bad idea to me.  I plan to switch them out as they burn out, as they are better for the environment and they use 25% of the energy of standard incandescent bulbs.

I decided to count the number of bulbs and the types that I have in my house.  Here’s the analysis.  (Whatever, it only took 5 minutes)

  • Incandescent – 43
  • Compact Fluorescent - 23
  • LED – 13
  • Halogen – 24
  • Low Watt – 8
  • Fluorescent tubes – 2

Dang!  I have a lot of lights in my house!  Only 41% of my lighting is energy efficient.  Using an energy star calculator, replacing all of the non-energy efficient bulbs in my house would cost just under $500, retail price.  The halogens would pay for themselves in 1 year in energy savings.  The incandescents will pay for themselves in 14 months.  So the big question is, do you replace them right away or do you replace them as they burn out?  Or some people might even be wondering if they should replace them at all?  What are the pros and cons here?  Let’s put these bulbs head to head and see what makes the most sense.

Pros: switching to energy efficient lighting

  • Saves money on your energy consumption. Up to 75% savings on CF’s and 90% on LED’s.
  • Much better for the environment. LED’s have no toxic materials in them and require no special disposal procedures.  CF’s help prevent the greenhouse effect and global warming.
  • Lamp life. LED’s last ten’s of thousands of hours, CF’s last approximately 6,000-15,000 hours, incandescents last approximately 750-1,250 hours, halogens last approximately 2,000 hours.  The life span of energy efficient bulbs are substantially longer than the non-energy efficient bulbs.  This makes the initial higher cost of the bulb a good value.
  • Costs. When factoring the bulb costs and the energy costs together, these save a lot of money in the long run.

Cons: switching to energy efficient lighting

  • The bulbs cost a lot more to purchase. The purchase price is higher, usually 2 to 5 times more.  The upfront cost is more, although the long term savings should be taken into consideration.
  • Lights on. CF’s take time to “warm up” and the light gets to it’s full brightness in about a minute.  For some people this is an issue, but I’ve gotten used to it.  It’s actually nice in the morning when you first wake up not to have bright lights in your face.
  • Lighting ambiance. LED’s light lacks in brightness and because of the light temperature, has a bluish hue to them.  Incandescents have a warm, yellow light.  Incandescents also have directional capabilities that the others don’t have, which is why you see a lot of halogen fixtures in stores and restaurants.  Lots of progress is being made with the energy efficient bulbs in this respect.
  • Disposal. Disposal of CF bulbs is tricky, as they contain a small amount of mercury.

For me, the pros outweigh the cons.  I will continue to replace the bulbs as they burn out with energy efficient bulbs when I can.  When the shopping challenge is over, I’ll consider replacing a portion of these that are in fixtures I use frequently.  Some of the accent lighting fixtures I don’t use often can wait.

Disposal and recycling issues. The recycling and disposal of the CF’s is still not easy.  (Jason, better late than never on this post)  Although there are many recycling programs, there aren’t many drop off places and the city recycling program doesn’t pick these up from your house.  It’s just not easy to dispose of these bulbs right now.  There are, however, two major retailers that participate in the recycling and disposal of these bulbs.  They are The Home Depot and Ikea.  Yes, it’s a little bit of work to save your bulbs and take them to the store, but you can plan it with a needed trip to that store.  Get together with you neighbors and take turns making a “bulb disposal run” each month.   Given the life span of these bulbs, it’s not a huge time sacrifice, and given the size of them, it’s not much of a space sacrifice either.  :)


Jan 9 2011

are you expressing yourself or propagandistically supporting financial insanity? [flashback - day 227]

n1355929489_107613_2584Original post: January 1, 2009

About two months ago, I got a really cool pair of shoes from a friend’s teenage daughter.  She said she was not wearing them anymore, so I took them home with me.  The shoes were awesome, great colors and artwork!  As soon as I got home, I put them on and went outside to play with the boys.  We got out the sidewalk chalk… well our version of sidewalk chalk… and started the outside art process.  I drew the skull that was on my shoe.

I had seen lots of merchandise with artwork like my shoes, but I didn’t really know much about it.  Ed Hardy.  Stuff that people are paying insane amounts of money for.  $109 for a short sleeve t-shirt?!?!?!?  Are you kidding me?   Continue reading


Jan 1 2011

new year's resolutions [day 219]

I don’t have any resolutions for the new year.  I’m doing the no shopping challenge, I’m getting a lot of things done in my house and I’m doing most of the things I want/need to be doing.  One thing I do want to change is my cooking habits.  Cooking is not fun for me, but I’m trying to be better about cooking more and eating out less.

I upgraded my kitchen this week so I have more counter space and I bought the final piece of Le Creuset cookware to complete my collection.  Yes, all of it was used.

I found an island for my kitchen on craigslist.  I’ve been thinking about doing this for about a year now, but the island has to be on wheels and a very specific size to fit in my kitchen.  Color is no problem, as I can redesign it.  I needed something solid so I can tile the top of it.  After looking at islands, I think this one retails for around $150-$200.  I paid $60.  Here it is after the makeover.

The drawers are on the other side.  I have the tile to do the top, but I didn’t have the setting materials or grout, so I decided to do an artistic treatment and collage artwork on the top.  It’s a great thing to do to recycle and reuse books or magazines.  It’s easy to do, just use spray glue for the artwork, layer it until you’re happy with it and paint a couple coats of clear acrylic over it.  It’s very durable, as I have a bathroom floor done this way.

The next item I purchased (Merry Christmas to me) was from eBay.  It’s the final piece to my Le Creuset cookware.  I bought a steamer insert 6 years ago and the guy at the store told me it would work with a pot I already had.  It didn’t.  So this was not an impulse buy, as I’ve been planning to buy this for a while.  Why?  Let’s just say my MacGyver steamer rig didn’t work out so well.  It steamed great, but it took about 3 hours to clean up and luckily didn’t ruin my stove.  It was pricey, but it works into the no retail thing.  $188 including shipping.  This pot retails new for $315 and you can’t kill this stuff, it will be passed on to your grandkids.

I didn’t pay a lot for most of my pieces.  I got my first one at the thrift store for $4.  I got a set for free with my AMEX points.  All of the others were eBay or factory seconds, and I got their coupon calendar, so I paid next to nothing.

I guess I really didn’t need any of this stuff, but it’s all used and because I was not in a hurry, I found exactly what I wanted and for a good price.  Value might be a better word.  Happy new year.


Dec 22 2010

white elephant gifts [day 209]

As usual, I had to look up some information on this.  The white elephant gift exchange is defined on Wikipedia like this:

white elephant gift exchange is a popular holiday party game found primarily in North America. It has many variations in both the name and the game play. Generally, white elephant parties need a minimum of six participants. With a larger group, game play may be more protracted. White elephant parties have been known to result in intensely vicious and/or playful rivalries between players trying to get sought after gifts. The goal of a white elephant party is usually to entertain rather than to gain. This game is sometimes called a Yankee Swap, Chinese Gift Exchange, Dirty Santa, Thieving Secret Santa, or Parcel Pass.

I think the key phrase here is the goal, it’s to entertain rather than gain.  The term white elephant is defined as:

white elephant is an idiom for a valuable possession of which its owner cannot dispose and whose cost (particularly cost of upkeep) is out of proportion to its usefulness or worth.

Most white elephant gifts I’ve seen don’t completely fit that description, but most are useless or outdated.  Here’s a few gifts from a white elephant gift exchange I participated in about a week ago.  Continue reading


Nov 20 2010

made in china [day 176]

I heard something interesting on the radio yesterday morning.  It was on KRLD news talk radio, and I’ve looked for it online, but I couldn’t find it.  I did find something similar, but the radio version must have been the recap.

Basically, they were blaming the failing global economy, single-handedly, on China.  Now let me just say right now that I do not know a lot about global economics.  President Obama did say he has an opposition to China’s currency manipulation yesterday, although I don’t know exactly what he meant by it.  From the articles I have been reading, China’s economy is doing very well.  My question, based off the news I heard, is this.  If China is somehow responsible for the failing global economy, wouldn’t that make us responsible too? A large percentage of the stuff in our retail stores was made in China.

Here’s an excerpt from engineeringamerica.org.  “Consider all the “made in china” stickers you see.  The products wearing those labels and all the jobs that went into their manufacturing were out-sourced to China because it was most economical to do so.  America produced the entrepreneurs to design the products, and China produced the cheap labor.  If the educational trends hold, China will house the innovators, and America will be thrown the scraps from their powerful economy.” We do outsource a lot to China and do we expect them to always be the cheapest option?  Do we expect them not to build their economy off their hard earned dollars?    Continue reading