Seriously, Meat Tenderizer

It was Mom wisdom (my mother’s) that lead me to meat tenderizer, not for cooking though. I don’t care for it in cooking. I use it for insect bites. Some doctors will laugh at you for suggesting it, but it is in the recommended treatment listed by Johns Hopkins here, and there’s a simple explanation. Meat tenderizer breaks down protein. If the venom is protein based the meat tenderizer can help. If you get stung or bit by something with venom that isn’t, it won’t.

Riding on the Silver Comet, and other places I occasionally get stung. I have a pretty significant reaction to wasp bites. Last time, I looked like I’d gone in for over the top lip fillers, and the bright redness on my pale skin was impressive. I was bright red and swollen and smarting for a week. You know how it is when you know it’s going to be okay in the end, but in the mean time you want to scream and crawl outside of your skin? Bigger than “normal” reactions mean that at any time, the next sting could be worse, possibly anaphylactic shock level worse, and epi pens might not be a good solution for me because I have Raynaud’s Syndrome.

It hadn’t been happening terribly often, so when it did, I found myself looking for Benadryl and meat tenderizer after the fact. Finding unseasoned meat tenderizer last minute has been nigh impossible. So, I ordered straight papain (an enzyme from raw papaya that is the active ingredient in some meat tenderizers). It’s expensive, but not as expensive as a Dr., or hospital visit when you don’t have health care coverage. I put together a kit with papain, a Band-Aid, Benadryl and sanitizing wipes for my bike bag and put the remaining papain in my freezer.

I got stung yesterday. I was mad when that paper wasp lit on my leg and stayed till he stung me, not scared, mad, just like the time I flipped over my handle bars. The flash of anger wasn’t over the potential pain. It was the anticipation of possibly being debilitated. Did I have my kit? Of course not! It’s mid-March! I had taken it out when I cleaned the bike bag. I thought about getting it back in, but it’s March! I wasn’t rushing.

So, I cut the ride short, called Russ to tell him to pay attention to whether he got my “I’m off the trail” message and headed to the car. It was swelling and red enough that I thought any trail user who looked at my leg would notice from a distance. Before I got to the car, it was really stinging and my toes were tingling. I was concerned. My kit was in the car. I had gotten it that far. I mixed my “good stuff” pure papain with water from my water bottle, applied it, covered it with a cute Welly bandage (because they stick so well) and took a Benadryl. About 15 minutes later the pain was seriously decreased, and another 15 minutes later I called Russ and told him things had become a non-event, that he didn’t need to pay any special attention to a call he might receive from me. I took Benadryl last time and was miserable for a week. The difference this time was the meat tenderizer, the good stuff, not the grocery store weak sauce.

It used to be years between stings, but now I’ve had 3 in less than a year’s span. The kit will stay in the bag now, or I won’t ride. I stopped for an errand on the way home. Another wasp brushed my arm. I backed away, pulling my arm back, thinking WTH? Where are these guys coming from?!?! I think I’ll put together a kit for my purse too.

T-Shirts!

The Big Picture for Our Side Step into T-shirts

The trail video project has always been a good idea. We’re so ready to do that. There’s the matter of paying for everything though. We’re not ready for the successful funding campaign that has to come first. Frankly, now with Russ’ job loss, we’re worried about paying for the basics of life.

There Wasn’t a T-shirt Option Before

We’re intentionally making the video project low impact, so when originally considering supporter rewards for the video project, we considered a t-shirt, but decided to go digital for all the rewards. There were several reasons. First, because “no reward” support levels are often close to the same price point as “t-shirt reward level” support options. That can cause a supporter to think “Well, it’s free, I might as well go ahead and get the shirt.” When a person chooses a shirt that way, they aren’t necessarily interested in wearing it. It may go straight to a thrift store, or worse, it might even get round filed before it ever gets worn.

As a frequent thrift store shopper, I see Kickstarter rewards from time to time. Don’t get me wrong. Just because a reward made it to the thrift store shelf doesn’t necessarily mean it wasn’t a worthy item from a good project. But, if a lot of any given item makes it into the mega dumpster out behind the thrift store, that, of course, would be a different story. For a T-Shirt, that would be the worst form of Fast Fashion. Fast Fashion has big environmental and human costs, so we didn’t want to offer clothing that might not be used.

On top of all that, there’s the real dollar cost of production to the project. For every t-shirt reward the project gives away, the price of the project goes up and it needs more supporters to meet the project budget, which produces even more t-shirts that may never be worn. The negatives compound.

What Changed?

Life Changed. When Russ lost his job, he broke the news with the joke that he’d have plenty of time to work on the video project. In truth, the newfound freedom could be a potential stroke of serendipity that would make everything work out for the best, and things may still work out that way, they just haven’t yet.

The job loss blindsided Russ, and we needed to reassess personal threats and potentials to see how much actual freedom we had for the project in stress mode. We went in a few directions all at once without knowing what to prioritize. It doesn’t help that I’m so overdue to be earning something myself. Ongoing family obligations, the pandemic and the project have tacked years on to what would have otherwise been a short break from paid work for me. I don’t have any regrets about choosing family, or pursuing the project, but the financial downside to those choices has been life changing.

As much as I need focus, direction, progress and movement right now, Russ has needed time. It’s just a really good thing that we love each other because we’re not in the same place and it feels like love is all we have right now. We keep recommitting to the project, but the challenge is how to get there from here without having epic failure rock our world even more.

What’s Different About a T-Shirt Now?

The T-Shirt we’re thinking of now IS the point. It’s the product.

When our life changed drastically, we came to the idea of doing a t-shirt as it’s own project, one that people would buy because they wanted to wear it. That makes all the difference. A loved T-shirt that gets worn is worth producing, especially when we’re going to resource it as responsibly as we can.

We’re willing to offer T-shirts as a stand alone project because people wear them. People wear them a lot, and the ones they buy because they want the shirt won’t have the short life cycle that is the trademark of fast fashion. So we’ll do our best to create and offer a t-shirt that people will want to wear and use, responsibly sourced shirts that last well and can be recycled or up cycled.

I can’t wait till we have them ready to show you! They’re going to be great!

Tuesday Trippin’ May 10

Training wise, last week was significantly better than expected. Weather lined up for me to ride immediately before and after, and the break was only 3 days. In April the break was 4 days and we had 3 days of rain immediately before. We walked about 3 miles on a trail during the April trip, but I didn’t take hiking shoes. I ached from unusually low exercise when I got home.

I mentioned the need to shift over to walks for recovery exercise just before this trip. We ended up dong that. The Pensacola Bay Bridge is under re-construction, but the pedestrian-bicycle path on one side is complete. The bridge is 3 miles long. The first night we walked about a mile and a half. The second, we walked 5 miles.

Russ on the Pensacola Bay Bridge

5 or more miles is the length of walk I originally planned for recovery walks. That may be a touch on the long side, but I used to be able to do 5 miles pretty easy at any time without prep. Lately though, I’ve done more yard work, which technically qualifies as recovery activity I suppose. But, it’s been a few weeks since I’ve even walked around the neighborhood with my granddaughter on her scooter. I’ve been spending all my cardio time on the bike. The bike is awesome, but I need to make myself walk for the change in activity too.

I really wanted to walk the whole bridge in both directions, just because it seems complete, but when I looked back from the 2.5 mark at how far away the starting side shore seemed, I decided to turn back. I could have made the extra distance, but in the end, I was glad that I turned when I did and Russ was too. I expected soreness the next day, but there was none and my feet felt really good, like a bit of cross training was the thing I should be doing.

I’m not sure what I will settle on as the right distance for a recovery walk, but on the bridge with all the wind, it seemed more like a primary exercise day, which was fine for that week when I had less opportunity to ride. Some sources say 20-30 minutes is enough for recovery. But, more could be needed after a century ride than shorter forms of exercise. The key will be in how the rides are going. As long as my body feels better and my stamina is not reduced, it’s likely the right amount of recovery exercise.

If the recovery walk is shorter, it will fit better into a still photography day than I first anticipated. That may not reduce my project hours any, but it should improve the photography rewards. It is easier to carry a camera on a walk that only needs 20-30 minute intervals of elevated heart rate than one that needs 1.5 – 2 hours.

The Silver Comet and Chief Ladiga Trails are not alone. There are beautiful hiking trails on both ends of our project, including portions of trail that may be added to the Appalachian Trail. I’m excited about the potential.

I’m going to leave it here for this post. I’ll put some of my other thought in separate posts. Have a glorious day and we’ll see yo on the trail.

Tuesday Trippin’ January 11

We had good rides since my last post, not pushing too hard through weather that was on again off again like a Georgia winter. We took some time for the holidays with family, or at least I did. I went to south Alabama to see my mom and sister early and without Russ. He didn’t have the time off. It turned into Christmas Past, the Christmas of my childhood when I was the grandchild. Now I’m the grandparent. The celebration has morphed primarily in who is alive to attend and which house will accommodate us all. Sometimes people drift, especially in fractious times like these. I wasn’t sure I would ever see that again.

Normally Russ and I alternate which family we spend Christmas with and which family we spend New Years with. But, with the pandemic, we stayed home last year and enjoyed time within our bubble. That was nice because the bubble was bigger than normal with my kids home to roost. The down side was that by the time this past summer rolled around, it had been a year and a half since I had seen my mother. Russ had seen his Dad a couple of times for various reasons, but seeing Mom came later. I’ve always visited often. Even when I lived thousands of miles away I visited at least twice a year.

But, through the pandemic I’ve tried to behave in a low risk manner, wearing masks, getting vaxxed, not being the person who exposed my bubble to unnecessary risk. At times that seemed like a hopeless venture in a house of essential workers and school aged children with shared custody. I really felt the weight of visits not made as well as the weight of not carrying illness home to mother. Russ saw his Dad twice before I saw my Mom. That really isn’t relevant. He made a last visit to a dying relative and we went a graduation this summer before I went to see Mom, but it felt bad when Russ had seen his family twice and I hadn’t seen mine. Mom is 88 and a content homebody, but some days when we talked she mentioned how hard it was to be protected instead of hugged.

So, I made my commitments to be home this year, and then. Omicron. Potential attendees for our gathering included vaccinated people, people who had Covid on the first round, people who had it on the second, some who had it more than once, newly minted and entrenched political anti-vaxxers, and people of unknown status. It would have been the year not to go, if we hadn’t already had so much forced time apart. And, at the same time, a virus doesn’t care about all the times you were careful, it just transmits on opportunity.

We talked about having a fire pit outside. People were agreeable. Usually it’s a little cool in south Alabama in December, and the piñata would be destroyed outside anyway. (the current strategy on piñata design is to make them last through several swings of the high school sports kids while being reachable for swings from the littlest ones, without rendering the treats into powder before it was all over).

I didn’t expect many people. We’d never celebrated the whole deal with the generations of friends and family, the piñata and the roast beast on a different day. But everyone showed. Everyone. All the family, all the friends that normally come. One person left early when they learned they had been exposed to Omicron two days before, but everyone else was there. And, they all showed about the same time.

Mom keeps the house hot because she’s sedentary, so it was hot when people showed up, and then a full house made it hotter, like an Omicron oven. It was so warm outside, no one needed the forgotten fire pit and thankfully it didn’t take long for people to migrate outside to watch the kids climb the tree house and play basketball in the drive. But, I tell you, no one was carrying the virus that day because they didn’t get out the door that fast, and two weeks later no one had been sick. We were lucky, when what I try to be is smart.

For just one afternoon we were all those Whos down in Whoville, and then poof, back to the real world and that little bit of trepidation while I waited to see if anyone got sick. And, also, wondering in the back of my mind if that thing, that Christmas of my childhood that just happened once more ever will again.

Spartan Existence

So, it’s been over a year since that comment in my last post about the renewed commitment to writing. I actually have been writing quite a lot, but only in my head where no one can read it. I don’t know whether I needed a new topic or whether it was the fear that no one ever reads my posts… I mean literally, not even my family.

What ever it was, I do have a new topic and so let’s see where it goes.

It has been a longtime dream of mine to own an Airstream, but new ones are expensive and old ones are scary. How would I know if I was getting a bargain or a nightmare? But still, I’ve looked at Craigslist ads every now and then for decades.

Sometime, I think just over a year ago, I saw a Spartan Travel Trailer made in the 50s in Tulsa, Oklahoma I only found it because it was advertised as an Airstream. It peaked my interest. So, I showed it to Russ and we were both bit. We looked and thought and learned. We looked some more. No, we’re not finished with the renovations on the house, not even close. We looked. We joined Facebook groups. We found great websites and lots of Facebook friendlies. For better or worse, we managed to neutralize the fear. We found an Avion. We went to Hilton Head to look at it. It was scary even for our new found bravery and we like Avions, but they aren’t Spartans and we didn’t think it was a price / condition match. We actually found several things we like. Boles Aero, Vagabond, M Class, and on and on. Trolley tops are really cool and there is some stuff out there that is just so awesome that I never knew existed. Each ad we saw represented a trade off between location, condition, price, brand and whether or not Russ at 6’6″ could stand up in it. I had Craigslist alerts set up across the entire south east. Some how I couldn’t stop the Avion query from also giving me the frequent furniture ads by the same name.

I was up one night recently doing the late late night mucking about on the interwebs and I decided it had been some time since I had looked at actual Airstreams. I put in a search and there it was, an ad 15 minutes old for two local Airstreams, only 1 of them was a Spartan. The asking price was within reach and the wording said it was negotiable. This could be the beginning of something new and wonderful!

A Rollercoaster Named Overwhelmed

My writing has drifted out to sea in the rush to get the house ready for move in. For over a month, the floors have been a plague and we’ve had to go out of town twice for family funerals, one on each side of the family. We’ve also made other trips for other family obligations. “Hurry up and wait” has gone and any sense of order is just a lofty aspiration. Things bought for the house, the booth or the Etsy stores are scattered about the house like sprinkles poured on heavy by a child. As I am writing, I am thinking of the list of the things that we’ve done over the last month and I’m not really sure how we fit it all in, but I am sure why people are telling both of us we look a little short on sleep. This has been the year when people stopped telling me that I couldn’t possibly have children and a grandchild the ages of mine, and started asking if I qualified for the discount.

These are the times when I really question myself about how it is that I choose to do things, as in- never the easy way, but this time going about things the hard way wasn’t all in choice. A lot of the things that I thought would be the easy, low stress or expedient choices weren’t. It seemed reasonable to expect that buying a house would be less complicated, lower stress and a faster recovery than rebuilding the house we lost, but the housing market in our area is so strange now that it didn’t turn out that way.

There’s enough of a recovery going to keep prices fairly high. The recovery isn’t complete though and people have trouble qualifying for higher end houses they might have bought easily not long ago. That brings them down to my price range. My price range was always where I fit, but right now it’s also a fit for far too many other people. Since the fire, a house in my old neighborhood sold in week and another sold in days.

Almost everything has been just like that, longer, harder, more complicated…it’s really just a fairly standard renovation, with overdue maintenance and an unusually bad pet problem. The trips out of town have even actually helped. We have had time to assess how bad the problem is, how well different treatments have worked, do additional research and get some additional advice. If we had been left to do nothing but work on the house, we wouldn’t have done things as well as we have been able to. But, taking it all on at once has been pretty hard to swallow. It’s that we are trying to do as many things ourselves as we can combined with our little thrifty experiment.

Buying things second hand means getting them when you find them and storing them where you can. We are taking things over in small loads when we go to ease the moving burden, both in gas and in workload. Much of the stuff we have bought is “project” quality. We plan to transform it in some way before we use it. I’m pretty sure our new neighbors may be coming to think of us as the Clampett’s of Beverly Hills. First impressions being what they are… I’m joking of course. We’ve done a lot of yard work and they can tell that we are trying to take the worst house in the neighborhood and transform it into something better.

So there’s another day in the life… My goal for July: A house that we can move into, a writing schedule that’s regular, and enough aerobic exercise to keep my energy levels high and my stress levels low.

Diligence Due

Well, we’ve made it past due diligence and into the last stages of purchase on a house, but it sure was a coin toss for such an important and long awaited decision. I really appreciate fine workmanship. I respect time and old world craftsmanship, absent in the new standards construction and most other features of the house we’ve chosen. The positives are: a nice layout that’s good for short or long-term purposes, a good neighborhood, the right amount of space in mostly useful places and the right schools. It even has a beautiful (possibly solid mahogany) kitchen bar, but the house is covered in hard coat stucco that has cracks, messy old repairs and mismatched colors that show clearly, even in a low light photo.

There are decorator upgrades of personal taste, but widespread overdue maintenance indicating a total fail in the wise allocation of funds. With heavy pet allergens all the carpet will need to come out, and it won’t be fun for us as heavily committed DIYs. The house has potentially Money Pit qualities and it blew me away when due diligence exposed over 36K in unexpected expenses and repairs (those I didn’t allow for in the price), but the seller wouldn’t consider any price adjustment. I’ve had to consider the money I’d flush on 2 or more years renting to make myself move forward on this purchase.

And then there’s comparison to the home I lost. I like brick. It’s low maintenance (if it’s on all 4 sides) like mine was. That brick was straight and square and solid without any settling cracks. The old house had some irritating contractor short cuts. The original plumber had dropped the kitchen ceiling a foot and put the master bath vanity on a wall adjacent to the architect’s plan. I knew it didn’t belong there, and confirmed it when I stripped the wallpaper and saw the builder notes written on the wall underneath. The original plumber saved maybe $40 in copper pipe with these ugly modifications. I spent $5000.00 just getting a certified master plumber to restore the plumbing so I could then return the ceiling and vanity to the original plan. I despise these self centered short sighted short cuts, but the 1979 short cuts in that house were still less offensive than the newer short cuts that I’ll be fixing in this house.

As much as I want to be in a home that fits as many needs and wants as this new purchase, and to get on with normalizing life for my family, a feather could have changed my mind when the seller didn’t make any allowances for the problems exposed on inspection. None. Nada. Whether the seller already knew, or simply didn’t care, I remembered well why didn’t last in real estate.

I was offended, depressed and wrung out when I let the due diligence run out without the price adjustments that condition warranted. It may be the best decision I could make, given what I have to work with, but I rarely pay the wrong price for something and when I do I feel like I’ve been had. But, I was, I am, weary of the suspension of normal life and over ready to be getting on with things.

Friday night between midnight (when the due diligence ran out) and 3am or so when I finally made it to sleep, I was upset enough that I didn’t even want to sit across a closing table from the seller and I didn’t want to move our maple tree to the new yard. There’s a beautiful Tamukeyama weeping red maple that Russ planted in the old yard when we were dating. We’ve talked about moving it. He said it might take an entire weekend, given our equipment and making sure that it would live. It seems a lot of work to move a tree that’s been in the ground for 12 years, but I wanted the tree to move with us because Russ is the person who made me want to grow things again.

The part of this move that I’m struggling to get over is not that it unexpectedly became a seller’s market in my area just before I unexpectedly needed to buy. Life is a crap shoot and you take it as it comes. It’s not that I’m buying a fixer either. I wanted to restore something (if I can actually afford to restore this). I prefer to restore something old, solid and filled with grace. Not something that’s pretty new and only needs restoration because it’s been abused.

What’s bothering me is precisely that I’m tired of people getting away with having others clean up their mess. This seller bought a foreclosure at a fraction of market value, lived in it for over a decade (the decade that included the largest real estate meltdown in history), maintained it poorly and wanted sell for over 2.5 times the original purchase price. Neat trick if you can accomplish it right? Why shouldn’t anyone be happy about the same result?

But, consider this. If I am unable to make the purchase and repairs within the limits of a current market price, then the house isn’t worth what it costs me. If I pay more, I’m giving up future appreciation (that may or may not accrue). I’m giving my future to the seller, a seller who wants the big pay off regardless of having made decisions that don’t lead to that result, and regardless of who’s pocket it comes from. People who want others to pay their tab have always existed, but I think it is a disease, an epidemic drag on the economy and on our spirits that is reaching scarier heights with each passing day.

It’s the disease that killed my marriage. More importantly, it’s a disease that’s killing our country and I don’t think I’m being overly dramatic here. From building contractors to big banking, taxes to TV, environmental waste to drinking water, NIMBY’s to Pork Barrel Politics, people are maximizing small amounts of personal gain at a heavy and sometimes extreme cost to others, the exact opposite of Spock’s Law, rather than “The Needs of the Many Outweigh the Needs of the Few”, the accepted value sometimes seems to be “The wants of the one justify what ever you can get away with”.

It really seems like big business, big politics, big government and their marketing/campaign/”media”/”news” departments have been honing in on and amplifying the lowest common denominator in humanity for long enough to contribute significantly to debasing our society. The evolutionary brain’s survival technique of attempting to minimize effort while maximizing gain was pretty important when the challenge was to get enough calories to last the winter. Granted, it’s still pretty important now that we are living much higher on Maslow’s Hierarchy, but it needs to be channeled and enlightened. It is hard to overcome our baser selves when there are so many signals aimed at getting us to buy on impulse and maximize the rush, borrowing from tomorrow. When tomorrow comes the dopamine is depleted and it’s harder to get satisfaction.

Business, politicians and other entities constantly appeal to self-interest, they’re tapped in to the brain’s reward system and they use competition, salaciousness and tribalism to inflate the response of baser instincts. That makes us short sighted and easy to manipulate when we need take a long view and act with independent, conscientious thought. We need to be evolving in a changed world on crowded globe. Most of us, especially in the United States aren’t trying simply to survive anymore. We can afford ethics and balance, but too many of us have been worrying about how to get the next fix, anything from the newest cell phone, shoes, 3D TV, junk food, Facebook likes, extreme vacation or actual chemical drugs.

I’ve had a week to let my feelings about my new house and this national shedding of responsibility settle. The bigger, chronic problem is more troubling to me than my own personal run in with the latest reminder of the sickness, or even the one before that. I’ve been busy, so it’s been mulling around in the background, thankfully. Thinking about my own personal response to it all.

So, here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to work on how I feel about the closing. I’m going to commit to this house. I’m going to make it the best I can with the resources I have and while it’s mine it will be maintained properly. I’m going to ask Russ to take that whole weekend and move that tree, out of the back from my old yard and into the front of my new yard. I’m going to combat the disease in my own way, in my own little space. And, if the time comes when I sell this house, I’m going to do my best to make sure it is a value.

A House, A House, My Kingdom for a House

That’s not exactly how the Bard wrote about King Richard III’s battleground predicament, but I’m feeling a bit of the same dilemma. Trying to find a home has certainly marked a winter of discontent (and rare winter storms). One of Shakespeare’s most misunderstood plays about one of the most controversial English regents seems a good thing to parody while I’m trying hard not to take myself or my situation too seriously.

Normally the decision to move comes at a natural break, a change in life or career that makes moving away or changing your home the natural thing to do. Mine came quietly in the wee hours of the morning with the sound of fire fighters who scarcely woke the neighbors while keeping the fire from spreading to their homes. My guiding change was only abrupt need.

A rush of decisions hit. First there’s triage, then there are bigger decisions. The decision about temporary housing had to be made before the long-term decisions. Conveniently staying near a major junction in interstates had advantages, but wasn’t convenient to the place I eventually decided was most important to find a home and, what turned out to be my primary goal and focus wasn’t anything I had even thought about before the fire. I knew that it would be hard to make decisions about small stuff before I made decisions about the big stuff, yet life moves on and the small decisions happen whether or not the big ones do.

I’m not so far from that time when many people downsize, and let’s face it. When you have just lost the house full of things you spent a lifetime collecting and inheriting, that does seem like a time to downsize. But I haven’t quite made the time when I can do that. My home needs to accommodate all the needs it currently fills. So, the house that fits this year, may not be the house I still want to keep in 3-5 years. I thought I really wanted a short sale or a foreclosure. The savings would help me to make up for the likelihood that I would be in the house for a short time and cancel out some of the extra expenses of a short-term ownership.

It’s a game for the big boys though. I’m looking for a home in Fulton County where those foreclosure auctions on the courthouse steps include the high value homes of Atlanta and its surrounds. Here, even a home that goes for pennies on the dollar can have way too many decimal places for me and even on the homes that do apply to me, the ruthless people who know what they are doing are competing for a decreasing commodity and they could swat me away with their little fingers.

My sweet spot would be getting a house that someone else got on the courthouse steps, but hadn’t remodeled yet. Something that still had room in the price for me to improve it and have a little reward for my work. I went to a meeting for investors who wholesale properties. I thought I might find someone who had a property for me. I wasn’t really comfortable there. There is a kind of respect that people are due and I couldn’t see it at this meeting.

It is true that people have to look out for themselves and their families. How one chooses to do that comes in every color, shape and size. I know a sales person who said “I looked at every sale that another man made as taking food from the mouths of my family.” He was successful, but in spite of how that sounds, he was also compassionate. People find their own ways to keep up the march and it is a struggle.

Some people have appetites that are never sated though. They lack appropriate respect for the resources they use. Some would take anything they can get and try to force a situation to squeeze out even more from people who are desperate and powerless. Do they need the win, the extreme TV or the power vacation? It’s about how ever they define superiority and superiority is not the hole I’m looking to fill.

The truth is that foreclosures are not distressed properties. They are the properties of distressed people and the choice to focus on the inanimate is just a means to help distance humanity. I want the good deal that helps to make up for some of my losses, both in the fire and in the future, but I want it to come from one of those careless people who doesn’t try and brought their trouble on themselves. I want it to come from the person who will never have anything because they go through life irresponsibly. I don’t want it to come from someone who lost their job through no fault of their own, or worse, lost their health. But I won’t get to choose and I may not know until their neighbors become mine. As much as I would like to take care of my own family in the best way possible, to find the best deal, to continue my march and fill our needs, I do understand that what I have been looking for could be heart wrenching if it actually comes my way and the search for any home at market or below continues as I weigh the prices and potential of what is available.

The housing market has changed since I was last paying attention. I’m seeing that trusted resources like Clark Howard recommend renting in the current market if you will be in a house for fewer than 10 years. I don’t like throwing money away on rent, but I’m not happy with my current options and I’m not expecting appreciation to make much headway over the short-term. If money is to be lost, loosing it without the additional risk of short-term market swings could be the lesser evil. Many of the houses that I can purchase have serious condition issues and the prices don’t seem to reflect that. I’ve drifted toward looking at homes that are far outside my budget to be ready if they become short sales, and kicked myself for missing it when a couple of them did. But, there’s no good way to know and my missing it was not through lack of effort.

This has been a winter of discontent, searching and storms, yet, I have still spent much of it grateful for the better than good bits and I continue to trudge through those other bits with faith that something will turn up.

Thrifting for a Day

One never knows what the day will bring when setting out in search of treasure. Many people look at fishing as a similar venture. My father was an extraordinary fisherman. People who went at it with less seriousness saw him as lucky, but I knew better. He had put in the time and effort to take luck out of the equation. When he was young he kept meticulous notebooks recording places time, weather, water quality, bait/lures and other things, and for the rest of his life he did mental editing. He knew when, where, with which tools and under what conditions the fish would bite. Like the younger brother who was described in “A River Runs Through It” my father on the other end of a fishing rod was an artist. He got there with practice, attention and perseverance.

In thrifting it’s the careful attention and plodding perseverance that are most useful. I’d like to think my good results can somehow be attributed to skill, and it is important to know your stuff, but a lot of it is just putting in the time. Some stores will have habits and knowing them is useful. But, they don’t always stick to their own habits, and they are dependent on sometimes unpredictable things, so going back again and again is the only way. It also works in their interest to make sure you have to set foot in the door, to be in impulse purchase mode, to find out if they have the thing you really want.

We who love to thrift are particularly susceptible to impulse purchases. That’s how some of us become hoarders, and how others of us end up donating our purchases back to the place where we bought them to be resold again.

Wednesday, I made a big loop. It was about 15 stores, a tank of gas, a whole day and two meals out. So, maybe $300.00, nine hours and 100 or so miles were what it took to bring in my treasures of the day.

Here are some highlights.

Handmade Oak Craftsman floor lamp, needed a harp and a finial. Retails at $435 The harp and finial requires a trip to a lamp store for a sturdy harp and a finial worthy of its lamp. That was an extra 2 hours and $20.00 cost added to acquisition. I gave the lamp to Russ for his Valentine’s present.

9 shortbread molds, sometimes I’ll go months without finding any of these at a price I’m willing to pay. These had sold prices on Ebay from $9-200. The more expensive ones had papers, and I’ve been throwing out my papers because I plan to use these in a bakery offering on Etsy. The larger one is still in the dishwasher. $120

A stainless steel double boiler style steamer for personal use. $15

A large heavy duty restaurant sifter well made $10

A Paula Deen ceramic tube pan retails for $40.

A handmade lazy Susan that the maker still sells for $70 needed a bit of steel wool and some new oil, or $5 more dollars and 30 min.

An assortment of vintage goodies that I will sell in my Etsy store or one of my booths. $150.00

So, I had a very good day. I built my household, my Etsy business and my local business, The gain was around $500, but there’s always a but. Only around $150 is in salable merchandise and there will be percentages as well as overhead (like booth rent) taken from that.

Most of today’s finds will go toward the “How much of our household can we replace through thrifting” part of the equation. We got a really nice floor lamp that retails for about 4 times what we would have paid if we were buying a new household item and it was the showcase item of the day. I’m very happy with it and Russ is too. However, it is important to note that a large part of my gain comes from attributing retail value to that lamp, rather than valuing it at what I could ask for it if I were to sell it second hand. Much of my gain for the day is in having something nicer in my home than I could otherwise afford to buy.

Another big part of my success lies in the fact that I had several goals. That allows me to find more things that fit. If you’re looking for 20 different kinds of things it is more likely that you’ll find one of them when you go out.

Photos of some things will follow, but it’s time to publish, my technology is not playing nice today and I have appointments to keep.

Thrifty

Cookie Jars, LostBefore the fire, Russ and I were frequenting thrift stores and estate sales to find things to up-cycle, re-purpose or re-sell for our vintage and handmade business. Our treasures were available (and will be again) online at Etsy.com shops Six Degrees and Lost Vacation and in booths at local Antiques and Interiors stores. Woodstock Antiques and Queen of Hearts in Marietta
We love the manufacturing standards of older things as well as giving new life to things that might otherwise be lost forever. The treasure and bargains that you can find are amazing, especially in an affluent and densely populated area like the one we live in.

We also find things that friends and family are looking for. When I see something that makes me think of them, they may get a “Hey do you want..?” call, text or photo. Some of my stories of bargains sound great, just like those shows on cable. Sometimes I see a sofa or a trinket that I have… scratch that…had, or that my grandmother had. Finding those “usta haves” will be important now. But, it is a take what you find kind of pursuit. In a full price store, you know what to expect and have a reasonable idea whether or not the thing you want might be on the shelf. In a thrift store, you can find great bargains, but the stellar price may not be on the something that should take up space in your own life, business or hoarder home. So, how practical can it be to rely heavily on a commitment to thrift store purchases for replacing the must haves?

If you are up-cycling or reselling there’s a lot in knowing what things are and what they are currently worth. But it is hit or miss even then. Some thrift stores charge as much as some retail stores (I’ve even seen things priced as much as double retail), but they don’t offer returns or warranties, believing that dedication to their cause will get enough customers to buy their wares. And there is all of the time and gas involved.

After the fire, Russ and I wondered how much of our world we could put back together in thrift stores, estate sales and auctions. We’ve had some good finds, but are they good enough to justify the time and expenses as anything more than a hobby or an amusement? We were working on finding out if what was primarily my pursuit born of unemployment could grow into a realistic replacement career. We had built our stock and planned for a strong and busy holiday season that would boost this pursuit into a full fledged business, but it is not a metaphor to say that it all went up in smoke.

And then there is the time component of the up-cycles. It makes great entertainment to see a save on a show like Storage Wars when a cast member makes a great up-cycle from old junk into cool stuff, but they never talk about how much time that takes, especially if you don’t have a team of helpers to get it done on the filming schedule. Those shows give the numbers people want to consider, actual purchase price versus potential sales price without regard for time, gas, storage, marketing or other expenses. In other words, they ignore all of the inconvenient real costs for the camera. There are clear winners on the occasional miss in the pricing departments of most thrift stores, but do the bargains come often enough? That is our experiment. To call it a success, we believe that it has to justify the time spent, just like work. If I put a year into this and haven’t saved at least as much money as I would earn working at something else, then I would have been better off doing something else.

Few people have a fire sweep their lives, and adding up the real costs? That doesn’t make as good a show as just looking at the fun and interesting parts, so why would I put all of this time into writing a blog about this stuff? Even though a fire isn’t the most common thing, many people do have to start over for any number of reasons and when they do, it’s pretty daunting. So many decisions, and no time to make them be the best ever. So whether you are overloaded by a reboot, or just looking for some weekend project or entertainment, I hope that I can share something fun or interesting with you.

So that is what we will find out, that is what this blog is about now.

How much of our lives and our business can we recreate second hand through thrift stores, estate sales and any other source out there in three R land?

Soon we will have the name and look that my tech advisor recommended, but all the old content will still be in the background.