Bargain Hunting in the Kansas City Metro

Several years ago, I discovered the Dented Can Outlet. It was close, on Troost near Linwood, and I scored some amazing deals there. Sadly, they closed, and I’ve been pining for cool food bargains ever since.

Well, I found one, and it is a doozy!

Located in Grandview, right off of the 140th Street exit and Hwy 71 (aka Hwy 49), Discount Groceries & More has plenty of bargains!

Check out my haul, all of this for a total price of just $56.37!

Four bottles of Frozen conditioning shampoo along with four bottles Barbie detangler – all of them were 25 cents each! Also some Boboli pizza sauce for $1.29 (to go with the Boboli pizza crusts I bought last visit for just $1.00 each) and two 79 cent cake mixes

The last time I was at this store was the Friday before Memorial Day. It was a rather eventful visit. The cashier who was checking me out was fine when I started checking out and slowly declined, moving slower and slower and slower.

Granola bars, arborio rice, sausage links, lime curd, and one of the two round lip balms. The lip balms, originally $3.99 were marked down to 50 cents each.

I offered to help her bag and asked if she could hand me more bags. She turned away, bent over against an empty checking station and stopped responding or moving.

I tried to talk to her, walked over and touched her shoulder, and then called for help.

Some snack size bags of TGI Friday’s potato skins (three for $1), two tubs of Bacon Rub (two for $1.00), four more of Peet’s Coffee, Thai Basil stir fry sauce, tartar sauce, flossers, a gourmet mint and dark chocolate bar, some tasty Cocoa Loco bars, and a box of 20 count Old El Paso mini taco boats.

From the looks of it, she probably was hypoglycemic. The manager, another checker, a customer and me got her to sit down on a cart and by the time I was leaving the EMTs and the fire department had pulled up.

The first book was 50 cents, the rest were 50% off of the marked prices which ranged between $1.39 and $2.39. The books are all for Em. The Lightning Thief is in graphic novel form, Em’s favorite way of reading books.

An off-duty policeman had gotten into the fray as well, asking her quite sternly if she had been drinking alcohol. I tried to not glare at him and his lack of helpfulness, she was quite obviously not drunk.

In any case, I asked about her and the checker smiled and told me she was fine and that no one was sure what had happened but it probably was a hypoglycemic attack.

And now my collection of Peet’s coffee in our new freezer is rather daunting…Twelve bags in the freezer and I’ve just started into one of the medium roast bags. The bags in the “expired foods” section are just $3.59 as opposed to being $5.99. Considering the coffee sells for over $8 normally, that’s a steal! At the checkout, the woman in front of me had found several whole bean bags of the Peet’s for just $1.99. I’ll be keeping an eye out for those next time I go!

This is a great store to check out. They have fresh produce, cheeses, and meats. Shoes, toiletries, auto supplies, DVDs, clothing. Not everything is discounted, so price compare, and head towards the expired foods section first. That’s where you will find the best deals!

I brought my own bags. Despite using the plastic grocery bags for diapers as well as at my cleanings, I’m swamped with them lately, so I brought my own and the clerk seemed quite appreciative.

The woman in front of me told us about a $6 per bag thrift store that I will be checking out when I’m down south again in a couple of weeks. I will report back on my findings then!

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A Brick Firepit!

A few weeks ago I headed back to my primary care doc. I have decided to remain without the typical health insurance and simply pay for direct primary care. I like my doctor a lot, she’s young, has a great sense of humor, and is honest and direct. I told her, “I’m still in a lot of pain, and it is really starting to affect my life.”

She ordered some x-rays. And lo and behold, I have degenerative hip disease, accelerated by damage in my early 20s. I did something stupid a quarter of a century ago. I didn’t use a ladder and instead climbed a warehouse rack, then jumped down and damn near broke my  right kneecap on a solid metal cart. It took about a year or more until I could walk right and of course, I didn’t report it, because I knew I wasn’t supposed to climb and I was young, poor and desperate to keep my job.

Osteoarthritis is the official diagnosis and it pretty much means years of pain, that will get worse and worse until it is so damaged that I need a hip replacement.

So I’m back in the weight-loss saddle – less weight means less strain on my joints – and I hope to lose about 25 pounds. It sure would make a difference if I can manage it!

Happy Birthday – Have An Inversion Table

For my birthday, my wonderful husband bought me an inversion table, which helps to decompress the spine and joints and give everything a lovely stretch. It feels wonderful and I use it twice a day for a couple of minutes at a time.

My left hip is out of whack. It’s also the one that shows the most damage on the x-rays. When inverted, I can easily reach the carpet with my fingers of my right hand, but my left hand barely touches the carpet. I’m uneven!

I hope to also stretch my body and become more flexible through yoga.

Why Look, A Brick Firepit!

So, what I DON’T know about laying brick could fill a small book. And when I first started, I just lay them directly on the dirt. As a result, three years after laying a beautiful, winding brick path, this is how it looks today:

I had also tried to outline the crop garden, something we have NOT kept up with for several years and which mainly lies fallow now, except for a couple of fruit trees, gooseberry bushes, and elephant garlic.

As the weeds overtook the bricks, they simply hid them from view, which became a real problem when my husband mows. So I realized I needed to dig up the bricks I had laid down and do a better job of it.

The best job I could do would include a couple of different paving mediums – crushed rock, sand, and the use of heavy equipment to compact the earth. But we have a lot of projects in motion right now, including the new addition of Little Miss, our foster daughter. I can spare a few hours here, and a few hours there. So I did the best that I could do – lay down the black landscape fabric and settle for eclectic, not quite level, but very cool looking firepit surround.

Little Miss was my supervisor as I dug bricks out of the ground

Once I figure out how to move the massive y-shaped stump from the tree we had taken down last year, I’ll expand the circle by another 2-3 feet. I’ll also burn the wood that’s in the pit, let it cool and then dig it out, remove the edge of landscaping stones currently defining the circle and dig down at least two feet to allow for more wood to be placed in the firepit than it currently can hold.

I’m not done yet, but this project is well on its way.

Four bags of paving sand later and it is starting to look better.

And then I’ll also expand (and level) the bricks around the gooseberries and trees and then turn my sights on re-doing the brick path along with widening it another foot.

Gooseberry bushes surrounded by brick. I need to level the bricks out, and expand the surround out more.

Go For Wool Rugs Instead of Those Awful Poly Blends

I just picked up this cute little 4×5 wool rug used for just $40. I was so excited because I think it fits perfectly in my laundry room!

As a housecleaner, I can attest that polyblend carpets are nigh impossible to vacuum. You have to attack them in a certain direction and my ORECK vacuum, with its strong motor and roller brush, is a bear to use when it encounters the “wrong way” of the carpet pile. Wool rugs don’t have this problem, and the nice thick pile is absolutely luxurious to walk on.

Just keep an eye out on Craig’s List and in thrift stores. I found this beauty at Weird Stuff for just $60 last year.

Bohemian or Victorian?

I am lucky enough to visit a variety of homes through my housecleaning business. I see traditional, shabby chic, Victorian, modern, and more in the varying decor styles and really enjoy getting new ideas.

One of my clients has a lovely little Craftsman style home with bright colors, Bohemian/eclectic style choices, and seeing her house has reminded me of the different choices I can have in decorating my own house.

Growing up, my mother made use of lots of antiques, mid-century fabrics, and truly beautiful design choices that were true to a more traditional sort of decorating.

And I followed in her path, telling myself that I didn’t really know how to decorate like my mom did. And honestly? I still don’t.

But lately, the bohemian style of decorating has caught my fancy with its bold designs and bright colors. The eclectic, whimsical style has also made me smile. It’s one of the reasons I made this terrarium here and put in the dinosaur.

Yeah, so that’s a bad picture. I spilled a bit of dirt and it the humidity is also clouding the glass, but hey, you get the idea.

Eclectic, bohemian, and a dash of Victorian antiques thrown in for good measure. Yep, that’s the decorating style I’m aiming for. I’ll call it the “She can’t make up her mind” decor style!

Posted in DIY, Garden Planning, Health, Home Decorating | Comments Off on A Brick Firepit!

Art and Privacy

A few years back we had several windows replaced in our house. The goal is to replace the rest of the windows (except for the stained glass window at the bottom of the stairs) with energy-efficient windows.

And yes, I’ve heard the arguments for keeping the older windows, but really, for us the vinyl replacement windows will work best for our needs.

In any case, I asked the workers to please remove them carefully, that I wanted to keep them for art projects.

I bought a ton of the flat glass beads and I had already completed a couple of projects that give us privacy yet also allow light in and provide some art for us to enjoy.

And I created this particular piece with the intention of hanging them outside on the Cottage West front porch, but that’s a lot of exposure to the elements and we do live in a neighborhood in transition. I could see someone either stealing these or breaking them, neither of which I want to see happen.

We have a window in the bathroom at the end of our bathtub. It allows in light, which I love, but then there is the issue of privacy when one is bathing. And the other day, while organizing the Art room, I ran across the window I had done and realized it was perfect!

Upstairs, into the bathroom window it went. I’m locating the proper eye hooks, chain and more to hang it properly soon. I think it is perfect for the space it is in! It gives us privacy and art. I might need to do this in more windows!

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Necessity is the Mother of Invention

I’m a list-maker, a goal-setter, and the financial wizard of our little family. And boy oh boy, do I have plans for our properties, now four in total.

They go something like this:

  • Maintain and increase a solid savings account for emergencies
  • Stabilize Cottage East and get codes off our backs (2018)
  • Finish back fence and gates (2018)
  • Install front fence across entire width of property (2019)
  • Finish work on Cottage West and make rent ready (2019-2020)
  • Rent out Cottage West and get to work finishing Cottage East (2020-2021)
  • Rent out Cottage East
  • Upgrade to 200amp & rewire our house (2022)
  • Replace all older windows with energy-efficient windows (2023)
  • Install central a/c (2024)

Yeah, that’s right, central a/c is SIX years away, maybe longer.

Along with those plans comes plenty of hard work and frugal living, and with that in mind, we are heading into our fifth year of no central a/c.

The house is big, and so as summer creeps closer and closer, and with it the dog days of heat and lots of sweating and camping out next to the window units, I had an idea.

In our double rooms, I have curtains that can isolate one of the rooms from the other and conserve the cool in a smaller space. This worked well for us when we numbered three, but with our newest addition, things have to change.

Little Miss needs her room to be temperate as well, so instead of closing doors and running the a/c in the rooms that we occupy, we probably need to somehow enclose the upstairs.

Heat rises, cool settles, and our hallway, with its stairs and high ceilings, and cooled air will just head downstairs instead of going into Dave’s office or Little Miss’s room.

“We need a curtain,” I said. “One that can go across the entire opening but not reach all the way to the ceiling because the hot air needs somewhere to go.”

The real test will come in the height of the summer – but I’m hoping that a/c units strategically placed in Dave’s office and our bedroom (opposite ends of the upstairs) will converge and cool the hallway, bathroom and Little Miss’s room without too much cooling loss down the stairs.

I’ve utilized heavy painter’s tarp here. I think it will do a fair job at keeping the cool air upstairs and the hot air downstairs. Fingers crossed!

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No State Sales Taxes on Energy Star through 4/25

Get it while the getting is good…

I just purchased an upright Frigidaire freezer with free delivery and no state sales tax on Energy Star rated appliances.

I saved a pretty penny on it and I’m looking forward to it being delivered in late May.

Price matching helps as well. Lowe’s matched Nebraska Furniture Mart’s price – a difference of over $120.

I have had a chest freezer for years and hate it. Frost builds up in it, and it’s hell to find anything inside of it. The new one will have 2 1/2 times the capacity of the chest freezer, so I know I will be able to fit everything and then some.

That’s it. Short and sweet entry for now. Go get your savings!

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Plans and Reality

I can’t help it, each spring I get so excited about gardening. I make giant, insane plans, buy (and plant) a ton of plants, and then reality intrudes.

It’s a BIG yard.

And it gets really hot here in the summer.

And I have some significant pain issues with my body thanks to injuries decades ago.

So there are my plans, and then there is reality – and I get to try and figure out how to balance it all.

Look at what is blooming in my office?!

Last Weekend – Brush and Cleanup

Japanese hops will be the death of us. I hate it, absolutely detest it, and whoever planted it here originally needs to be strung up. It is so invasive and at the end of it all, you can’t even use the hops!

I told Dave that this year we really need to stay on top of it and dig it out wherever we see it growing. If we don’t, it’s going to keep spreading. Awful, awful stuff.

We burned quite a bit of it and some wood. We have quite a bit to go. As we worked, it began to snow, eventually increasing in intensity and forcing us to retreat inside. We sat and watched the big, fat flakes cover the ground and smother our fire. I really hope that was the last gasp of winter.

Plena Cinnamon Rose

Shovel In Hand – Getting the Roses Into the Ground

Yesterday, after the package from Fedco sitting on our front porch for a week, I asked Dave to help me with some planting. And thank goodness he was willing because it wasn’t a single tree in that box, it was FIFTEEN rosebushes and one lilac.

Plus I had three more old-fashioned shrub roses and three clematis plants I needed to plant.

While Dave took the box to the back of the property and began unpackaging it all, I dug holes and planted the three clematis. One plant planted close to the base of the big columns and gently guided into the lattice work.

At least indoor plants don’t have weeds…

Imagine each of these columns with clematis vines wrapped around them and beautiful large flowers blooming each year.

After that was done, I grabbed the three shrub roses I had purchased at Aldi’s and headed for the back fence.

Alain Blanchard rose

I dug the holes every three feet or so and Dave planted the roses. We planted five Rosa Rugosa (the shrub roses) and one each of Maiden’s Blush, Maxima, Plena Cinnamon, Alain Blanchard, Dart’s Dash, and Linda Campbell. The rest were unknown varieties and apparently extra plants for free. All roses.

It’s pretty hard to see, and obviously, they are bare root at this time but give them a few months and I’ll bet they will turn into show-stoppers!

Maiden’s Blush rose

If I remember right, I chose varieties that would grow tall and be extra thorny. Because fences don’t always stop the determined, and I figure getting scratched all to hell by a pretty rosebush WILL. On the other side of the fence, I have planted plenty of raspberries and closely spaced some elderberry starts for maximum effect in creating a plant barrier as well as the wooden one.

I would love to fill the spaces in between and up onto the fence with Sweet Autumn, a hardy quick growing clematis and then add sedum as a nice ground cover that would prevent the need for mowing around the rose bushes.

Elderberry starts, they are everywhere! Does anyone need elderberry? Contact me, I’ll give them to you for free, you just need to dig them up.

Lastly we planted a Sensation Lilac near the west side of the house.

I have some lily bulbs as well that I need to plant soon. I doubt they will bloom this year since I’m so late in planting them.

And don’t get me started on all of the seeds I ordered.

Fences Make Good Neighbors

Since we moved here five years ago I’ve been desperate for a fence. But there were other expenses and a lot of yard to fence in. Recently, while visiting a client of mine in Columbus Park, I noticed some guys building a really cool fence around my client’s parking lot.

The metal panels are the remnants of from a die-cut shape, normally sold to a metal scrapyard, the guys installing this fence bought each 6×10 foot panel for just $25.

It is a pretty sizable parking lot and my client told me she paid $3,000 to have it all done, including a swinging gate and a smaller walk-through gate.

SIGN ME UP!

My plan is to do this in two parts.

Part #1 – We have a couple of holes along the back fenceline that will need to be jackhammered out. The remnants of a concrete foundation for a garage that is long gone, stood in the way of our finishing the fence last year (well, that and weather and finances and stick-to-it-ness).

We had the guys take a look at the back fence and asked them to create two large gates with these metal panels, along with jackhammering out the three holes that will need to be dug.

We will then step in and finish the rest of the back fence, which is currently about 3/4 done if you don’t count the gated sections.

Part #2 – Next year we will obtain an exception from the City ($168 and an application for a fence variance) and have the guys build a fence across the entire front swath of our property – from the side of Cottage East, past the front of our house, and the side lots all the way to the far edge of Cottage West.

It will include walk-through gates at Cottage East, the side lot between the Cottage East and our house, one for the front walk of our house, and one in front of Cottage West, along with a wide gate in the lot right next to Cottage West. Eventually, I would like to pave the lot next to Cottage West, possibly all the way, north to south between 10th Street and the alley.

The fence in progress last year (now installed along here) – note the overgrowth of Japanese hops (the bane of my existence)

A nice, tall fence. No more weirdos traipsing through our yard and depositing presents (yes, I have found human feces before), no one letting their dogs amend my soil (this chick from the apartment complex did it for MONTHS before I caught her and asked her to stop), and it will cut down on trespassing, theft, garbage, and give our dogs an opportunity to occasionally venture forth into the bigger part of the yard.

Heck, I’m hoping to eventually re-do the dog fence – goodness knows it desperately needs to be re-done.

What I Would Like to Do

If I had all the time in the world and endless energy and a pain-free body and cooperative weather, I would like to do the following in the yard this year…

  • Clear ALL of the stumps and brush out of our property – This will require burning the smaller stuff, breaking up the larger stuff, and the use of a truck. That last one, the use of a truck, is the problem. We hope to buy a truck soon, just a beater truck that could handle infrequent trips to the dump or to the brush recycling place. I can hope it will happen this year, but honestly, I doubt it will.
  • Clean up yard and dispose of random stuff lying about.
  • Establish a food garden again after two years of neglect – plant tomatoes, kale, and green beans – mulch heavily so I don’t have to weed it
  • Transplant more of the perennial spring blooming white-flowered plants from the lot east of Cottage West to different parts of the yard.
  • Brick walkways – Finish the brick circle walkway around the large maple tree in front. Re-do the brick walkway along the west side of our house. It needs to be pulled up, the grass and plants between the bricks pulled out, weed block laid down, and then the bricks re-laid. This would also include digging up all of the brick I have attempted to lay down to define the crop garden (now two years of lying fallow) and re-creating a smaller, more manageable crop garden
  • Digging up all of the mint and lemon balm from the greenways and transplanting them to several areas:
    • The east side of Cottage West. I want the weeds growing there to be completely choked out by the mint.
    • The bases of all of the fruit trees. This will control the weeds and we will keep the mint in check with the mower
    • The west wall of our house (keeps out ants and deters mice)
  • Taking it section by section, fill the greenways with daylilies. So full that nothing else can grow!
  • Transplant all of the newly spreading elderberry to line the alley side of the back fence (I transplanted sixteen of them today to the far side (alley side) of the back fence).
  • Eradicate all Japanese hops forever from my yard (a girl can hope!).
  • Dig out the future pond and line it with pond liner with the hopes of installing a pond pump, plants and fish next year
  • Get all weeds under control and out of our yard (yeah, fat chance of that)
  • Plant sedum seeds (all kinds, all colors) in several areas:
    • The sloped edge of the backyard in Cottage West so we don’t have to mow and for erosion control
    • The front yard of Cottage West and in the raised tree stump planter
    • The west side of the front yard of Cottage East and on each side of the walkway of our side lot and the base of the maple tree
    • The west side of our house (it’s a pain to mow)

What Is Realistic (and More Likely to Happen)

So, let’s be real. That list above, is not going to happen. What’s more likely is this…

  • Move most of the mint and as I do, replace with daylilies
  • Finish the back fence come hell or high water (and probably both if I know my luck)
  • Finish brick circle around maple tree, pull up overgrown sections of brick, and hopefully re-lay that one long walkway.
  • Plant a ton of seeds
  • Swear and cry while hacking away at, digging up and burning those awful Japanese hop plants. Give up in heat of summer and watch as they take over hundreds of square feet. Burn property to the ground in response.
  • Speaking of burning. Burn as much of the firewood and brush as possible while dually pissing off Asshat and the KCFD. I’m having a campfire and roasting hot dogs, I swear!
  • Clean up the random crap in our yard and ignore my grass-loving neighbor’s looks of disapproval
  • Maybe manage a small garden. If I’m really,  really lucky and the moon is in the correct lunar phase and I’m not struck by lightning, hives or a thrown-out back (last is highly likely).
  • Make weekly visits to the chiropractor and endure his disparaging commentary on how badly I treat my body.
  • Allow the future pond to grow even further into a morass of weeds and mini-trees because damned if there is time for digging.
  • Retreat indoors, muttering curses, and huddle next to the window a/c wishing, yet again, that I would stop taking on these renovation projects and focus on my own comfort for once and get central air installed (got $6k to loan me?).
  • In a panic, while faced with piles of seeds I ordered and can no longer remember what the plan for them was, begin tossing seeds randomly in the air while cry/screaming lyrics from random songs.
  • Be hit with the writing muse (after months of NOTHING) and spend the rest of the summer writing instead of gardening. Hence more weeds and an over-abundance of nasty looks from the grass-loving neighbor.

Yep, this year is going to be GREAT!!!

A Final Twist

After a nearly seven-month-long process, we have been approved as foster parents. And now the wait begins.

We are hoping for a newborn to under two, and if reunification with the bio-family is not an option, then we hope to adopt.

We aren’t heroes. The foster parent heroes are the ones who wade in and reach out to teenagers, combative tweens, and children who have been through the emotional wringer. I wouldn’t know where to begin with a child who was older, one who had seen or experienced trauma.

I know how to love and nurture, though. And  I know what we can give – stability, love, and good home to a little one who might not have it otherwise. We have a lot of love to give here.

So all of my plans for the garden may be turned on their ear in the next few weeks. We will see. Birthing a baby versus fostering/adopting one is both harder and easier. I won’t be worn out from giving birth, but with my girls, I could just breastfeed. Instead, I’ll be up at odd hours making bottles, burping, and dealing with a child who might have other issues. After all, these kiddos don’t come into care unless there is a good reason.

So my schedule, both working, home and garden, are unknown. I remember that the year Em was born our garden grew wild and unkempt. There was no energy left for it, none at all!

Fingers crossed, the yard will survive.

Posted in Garden Planning, Projects | Comments Off on Plans and Reality

Bidet…Who? Bidet Me!

It’s my husband’s fault.

Which reminds me of the joke…

If a man speaks in the forest and there is no woman around to hear him, is he still wrong?

The answer is, of course, “yes.”

Actually, my husband is right on quite a number of things. And as it turns out, getting a bidet is right up there at the top of the list.

He’s been talking about bidets for ages. And I would listen, nod, and think, He’s insane, I’ll be damned if I’m spending hundreds of dollars on a toilet that will spray me in my nether regions.

I saw a bidet, the standard one, years ago, while cleaning a custom-built house. It sat right next to the toilet, and I was fascinated by it. How did it work? How did you sit on it? Or did you sit in it? And then, recently, I saw a bidet/toilet combo at a new client’s recently renovated historic building/bottling plant turned entertainment area/living space.

This one was fancy. A heated seat, warm water wash, the works. It was super-cool and I’ll admit I really wanted one. But…

I got bills to pay, I got mouths to feed
There ain’t nothing in this world for free

That said, my husband mentioning a bidet again a week ago, and on a whim, I scoured Amazon to see what our choices were.

And that’s when I found this little add-on bidet. And for only $34.95!

Could something that inexpensive really work? I looked at the reviews and they had raked in over 6,000 reviews, with an average rating of 4.5 out 5 stars.

I thought about it for a day and decided, “Why not?!”

It was basic, no heated seat, no warm water rinse, but it looked pretty easy to install (sez the woman who asked her husband to handle those particulars) and it took about $10 more in parts (longer bolts and toilet seat bumpers to handle the raised seat).

“Try it out,” my husband said.

I looked at him, and held myself back from asking, “Who, me?” I had gotten us into this. I had bought the contraption, he had taken the time to install it, and now I got to take it for a test spin.

I turned one of the knobs, then the other. A jet of ice-cold water shot up into my nether regions with surprising force and I screeched in shock, turning it off quickly. My husband laughed and laughed, and I tried it again, shrieking again, shocked at how cold the water was.

Cold water – but I can get used to that – until such time as I write that bestselling novel.

After two days of using it, I have a review for you, my faithful readers.

It’s wonderful. I mean, sure, it would be far more wonderful if it had a heated seat, adjustable spray positions, and warm water. But overall, having experienced a bidet, I don’t think I ever want to go back to using a plain old toilet again. Why?

  • Less toilet paper

Where before we used loads of toilet paper, now I use a small handful of squares and just blot myself dry. I can’t tell you how great that makes me feel to not be flushing so much tissue down the pipes. I can’t help wondering how much of a strain this puts on our sewage and waste treatment plants.

  • Cleaner feeling “down there”

Do you remember a set of commercials for adult wet wipes where a guy covered in grease is trying to clean himself with toilet paper? Well, they had a point. Using a dry piece of paper to wipe off the “buttstuff” doesn’t work so well. A nice, cleansing jet of water, however, well it’s kind of like taking a mini-shower. Seriously, I’ve never felt so clean in all of my life.

My dad, upon hearing our reviews, gave his typical “Hmm” and shook his head. “I had a bidet in one of my apartments in Panama and never used it,” he said. “It’s too…French…for me.”

Okay, Dad, whatever.

As for me? I’m actually looking forward to using it each day. How’s that for weird?!

New goal in life: Earn enough from writing to buy a full bidet/toilet combo, complete with warmed seat, positional sprayer, the works.

Update: It is Thursday, 3/22 and the three of us (kiddo, husband and me) have been using the bidet for nearly a week. Today, we put out a new roll of toilet paper for the first time since Saturday. At this point, my husband is the only one who utilizes it.

Not to get too personal…

WARNING! WARNING!

But if you do a little shimmy shake (kind of like twerking!) while the bidet is spraying, everything gets nice and clean. I’m made some family cloth (see here for details on making your own) to blot off with. These cloths have no “residue” and are simply for drying off with. They go into a basket next to the toilet and will be washed on laundry day.

Financially speaking, the bidet should pay for itself in approximately 45 days of use. After that, it is a savings of close to a dollar per day, thanks to no longer needing toilet paper. The family cloth is not gross, since all of the ick has been washed off and is in the toilet (believe me, the spray is…energetic…on its lowest setting).

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Meanderings, Musings, and More

Hi There! Did you miss me?

I missed me, believe me, I did.

Three Plagues Upon My House

It all began in the last days of 2017, the last healthy days before a season of sickness. Seriously, I got sick THREE separate times.

Shortly after I recovered from Plague #1 – which my husband was still fighting off – here comes Plague #2. I could not believe it. I denied it, “This cannot be happening, there are rules, damn it!”

By the time I recovered from Plague #2 and Plague #3 came and walloped me upside my head, I was ready to start digging my own grave, but far too tired to do it.

By this time, the hubs had the second round of whatever he got. And dancing around us with crazy fevers and days of sore throat and sniffles was our little one.

Who am I kidding, she was probably the plague monkey who infected us each time.

Thanks a lot, public school populated with children who are not mine – you infectious little plague monkeys!

My cleaning clients were patient, gracious souls – but I have informed my youngest (currently suffering through a sore throat, malaise, and a zigzagging fever) that she is NOT to get me sick again. As if she could control it.

Could this plague season be over already? I actually noticed on the calendar that next Sunday is Leap Forward when Daylight Savings Time activates (something I abhor) and I actually smiled because it is the first step towards spring. And spring means the end of winter, which hopefully means NO MORE FLU.

Please let it mean that. Please.

Regulations, Schmegulations

First, there came the news of the new Airbnb regulations for Kansas City. One of the biggest thorns?

“Off-site owners must secure the consent of 55 percent of adjacent property owners.”

I live next door to both of these properties. But because I am using a property that I do not live in personally, I am considered an off-site owner. These new regulations mean that I have to ask permission of my neighbors to operate a business.

Now, if I choose to rent these houses out, I don’t have to ask permission. But Airbnb? Have to ask permission.

Uh uh.

Now they are proposing inspections (and possibly more) for rental properties. And I’m really having a hard time with this.

There are already plenty of regulations on the books – renters have rights, property owners have responsibilities, and we have a whole codes enforcement agency in place.

So why do we need MORE legislation, more laws?

Perhaps I’m being overly simplistic. Perhaps I’m looking at the world through rose-colored glasses. Perhaps I’m a fool for hoping that other property owners will do this novel and unique thing called “the right thing” and provide a safe, healthy, acceptable living environment for their tenants.

Look, it goes something like this. My first house is in Belton. I lived in it for 13 years – lavished love and work on it and did my best to not just take care of it, but make it a home. I planted multiple fruit trees, improved the inside, put a new roof on, energy-efficient windows, et cetera.

A few years back, the showerhead started leaking. It had a Waterpik showerhead, which might not be the most expensive one there is, but it was one I had bought and used for myself. So when I needed to replace it, I didn’t go out and buy one that was cheaper, I bought another Waterpik for my renter.

When we were over there on Sunday replacing the dishwasher, I felt awful because the dishwasher we put in there was a used one that doesn’t look as spiffy as I would have wanted it to. I was more stressed about it then the renter was.

I noticed the back fence is bowing and that some of the panels need replacing. “Tell me how many you need and we will bring them down, I don’t want you to worry about your dogs getting out.”

Which reminds me that I need to also return next weekend to see if we can fix the double gate which apparently needs work but that I forgot to look at while we were there.

Am I going to get top of the line for a rental house? No. But I am going to provide a decent living environment – one that has working appliances and that is safe. That’s part of the deal.

Today I read an argument about the new rental inspections with one guy insisting that it will make landlords give up and stop renting because they can’t afford to make a rental house be safe and decent to live in.

But the fact is, renting a house for $600 is not a profitable activity in the end. That’s why so many houses sit in poor condition. It isn’t because the landlord is an evildoer. It’s because in the end he just doesn’t have the cash because the activity is not profitable. It’s not very hard to figure out really…Has it ever occurred to you guys that there’s actually a market for substandard housing?

That last line really REALLY bothered me. I’m not okay with being a landlord who provides substandard housing. Call me old-fashioned but a home is where you should feel safe. It’s the place you go back to at the end of the day after working your ass off and feel is your sanctuary. Or at least where you can somewhat relax.

I’ve lived in substandard housing. It sucked. I don’t look back on it as an experience that helped me – it hurt me. I was poor, I was desperate, and all around me were predatory landlords that didn’t give a fuck about me or my child or whether we were healthy and safe. It stressed me out and gave me a shorter temper. I wasn’t as good a mom because I was worried about stuff like my bathroom wall dissolving and the hot water leaking so bad it might burn my child’s skin or the time it RAINED IN MY KITCHEN. And don’t get me started on the intermittent phone service (caused by the lines being flattened in the basement) or no screens on the windows (and having to kill hornets, mosquitoes, and other flying creatures) all summer long if I wanted any breeze in my non-air-conditioned overly priced hovel.

No one needs that.

I’m still on the fence about this new inspection proposal. I don’t think it will make a difference. What will make a difference is a property owner who is willing to be the better person or get out of the game. I believe we CAN provide safe, good housing and still make a profit. It might not be as large of a profit, but still.

The other day, faced with having to replace a broken dishwasher, I grumbled and stared at the rental contract. “A dishwasher isn’t a necessary appliance,” I said, frustrated that I had not delineated it as such in the rental contract.

But the real problem I had?

I don’t have a dishwasher. When mine broke, I decided not to fix it. I was frustrated that it had last two years and then abruptly died. I was also frustrated because the one at the rental house had also lasted just two years and then died. Talk about built-in obsolescence, that is ridiculous!

But it isn’t my renter’s fault. And frankly, for them and their needs, it IS a necessary appliance. I thought about how it would feel if I were in their shoes. When they moved in, there was a working dishwasher. I realized that, like it or not, whether I have a dishwasher or not myself, I had a moral obligation to replace the one that had broken.

So I put in the used one, felt like crap that I didn’t have a nicer looking one, and I’m monitoring the situation. Hell, I’ll probably be buying a new one for them in a few months.

Because that’s the right thing to do.

She Dreams of Spring

I can’t help it, I have to buy flower seeds.

It’s an addiction, I tell you, an addiction!

My plans for the yard are limited in scope. Why? Because I’m going to be very busy. I’m writing, moving between three major projects as the muse takes me, I’m gearing up for homeschooling again in the fall, I’m staying pretty busy with my housecleaning biz (I clean one house per day, five days per week and occasionally two houses per day), AND we will be opening our home and hearts to a foster child soon.

Our hopes are to foster to adopt – but I remain committed to reunification with the bio parents if at all possible.

In any case, it means that we will have one major project this year – finishing the back fence (the front fence will wait until next year) – and then I have my own pet project…

When I laid some of the brick walkways a few years back, I didn’t lay down weed block and so grass and weeds have grown up between the bricks. I need to dig them up, level the soil, lay down the weed block (a black plastic mat on a roll), and then return the bricks to their positions and add sand in between the cracks.

I have several areas where I simply need to dig up and relocate the brick pathways since they aren’t working in their current locations. And on the sides of the main brick walkway that moves along the west side of the house, I want to dig out a two foot deep stretch along each side, add good dirt and plant groundcovers on each side that will fill the borders of the walkway with beautiful green and flowering plants.

I’ve ordered blue Aubrieta…

Irish moss…

Monkey grass…

Rock rose…

As well as a packet of dwarf perennials…

I hope to continue to establish perennials that help reduce weeds while brightening up our yard with an explosion of flowers and beauty.

I dream of spring…I know that it is on its way!

Posted in Frugality, Garden Planning | Comments Off on Meanderings, Musings, and More

Financial Lessons to Take to Heart

Having declared full Chapter 7 bankruptcy over seven years ago, I am hesitant to give financial advice. I mean hell, what do I know? I messed up BAD, after all.

It was a hell of a lesson, but one that I learned from and I am determined to not repeat.

Recently, however, several financial situations came up that reminded me – just because I haven’t been perfect, there are still lessons I can and should pass on.

Lesson #1 – Establish Your Reliability

I recently flubbed up and issued a large payment out of the wrong bank account. It meant an overdraw of hundreds more than I had in the account and of course, there was an overdraft fee.

That overdraft fee was refunded when I went to the bank and explained the situation.

The clerk looked over the banking history, “Wow, you never bounce checks, EVER.”

They refunded me the fee, even though the mistake had been my fault, because I thought to ask AND I had a pristine record of not bouncing checks.

You can establish your reliability, and keep slush funds in your account even if you don’t make a lot of money by following the next lesson – creating a budget.

Establishing your financial reliability is crucial to avoiding the fees, charges, and more that will not only damage your credit, but make life a little more expensive.

Lesson #2 – Create a Budget and Stick to It!

I have been using a budget, rather obsessively I might add, for more than 20 years. It’s morphed from hand-written in a notebook to an Excel file – but it remains pretty much the same.

  • Income – This means counting all sources of income – my husband’s is easy, mine comes from multiple sources (writing, teaching, cleaning biz, and caretaking)
  • Expense – Whether it is monthly or non-monthly expenses, it includes everything I can think of from home repair to my daughter’s summer camp expenses, long-term and short-term savings, and the costs of renovating the two properties we are turning into Airbnb’s
  • Creating a slush between the two – Not only can your expenses not exceed your income, but you need a slush fund because, let’s face it, life happens. The flat tire on a busy highway or the suddenly dead refrigerator are an inevitable fact of life – crap happens when you least expect it or want it. I strive for a $300 slush between total expenses (this includes savings) and total income.

Part of creating a realistic budget includes tracking where your money is being spent. I use Quicken. It has its issues and quirks, but frankly, there aren’t a ton of financial software programs out there that seem to fit my needs, which includes being able to categorize my spending into specific categories that match my expectations. So Quicken does all right with that. In any case, I advise everyone get Quicken, but you could do some kind of Excel file if cost were an issue.

What helps with financial software is that you are able to truly examine WHAT you are spending your money on.

You might be sipping your double macchiato frappe from Starbucks and thinking, “I barely spend any money!” but that $5.49 that you just spent on your way to work, can turn into right around $120 in coffee splurging in just one month. Comparatively, a bag of coffee at IKEA will cost you $5.99 and last you all month.

Lesson #3 – Avoid Rolling It Over

While I was sitting in the bank with my favorite bank officer getting that mess all worked out, we got to talking. Eventually, it shifted over to responsible financial behavior and the lessons I had learned from bankruptcy.

I told him, “Nowadays, if I can’t afford to pay off a “special 0% offer” within the time frame allowed by the credit card, I don’t take it. Say I’ve got a credit card offering me 0% for 18 months, if, and only if, I can pay off the entire balance in 17 months easily, I won’t borrow the money.”

“Well you could just roll it over into another 0% card,” he said in response.

“And that’s what messed us up the last time. I was borrowing money without a clear payoff date and without the resources to pay it off.”

Look at it this way, the goal should be to be debt-free and have a significant reserve of money (on books and off in the form of cash). Strive towards that goal.

When we found ourselves having to accept an high interest rate on a loan for the RV, I paid the maximum I could afford to pay (over 3x their minimum payment) and then paid the balance off with a 0% credit card offer that I knew I could finish paying off in 18 months. The same thing happened with the Cottage East – I knew it desperately needed a roof, so we signed on the dotted line for nearly 10% interest rate, and I immediately began paying 4x the minimum payment and just recently put into play a 0% offer for 18 months with only a 2% transfer rate. The remaining balance on the roof will be paid off in the half of the time I originally planned on and just 1/4 of the time that they expected, saving us over $1,000 in interest.

Rolling your balances over into 0% offers and only paying minimums, endlessly extending the debt with no payoff date in sight, is courting disaster.

Meanwhile, a dozen things could go wrong. You could get in an accident, lose your job, have to take time off of work, et cetera. Avoiding the rollover, and even better, avoiding the debt in the first place should be your plan – not extending the debt indefinitely.

Lesson #4 – Build Your Reserves

There are actually two parts to this that I will go into detail below, but the bottom line is, shit happens. You are going along, happily on your way to work and your tire blows out, or you come home to a busted water heater, or a dozen other little things that happen when you least expect it and most certainly when you cannot afford it.

So build your reserves. Take the extra $25 or $50 and set it aside. Build those reserves so that when shit happens, and it most certainly will, it hurts a little less.

Here is how I try to avoid life’s bumps in the road…

  • Establish a non-monthly expense account and put a set amount into it each month.

I actually refer to this as our NME account and it is a monthly amount I set aside to handle the non-monthly expenses such as (but not limited to): car repairs, car insurance, home repair, the kiddo’s education and summer day camp expenses, gift buying, and clothing.

  • Have an emergency fund of cash available at all times

Cash is king. Have you gotten a tip? A couple of twenties from your favorite relative? Set it aside. My goal is to have at least $5,000 available, in cash, at any time. I haven’t gotten there yet (not even close) but it is a cushion for when the crap hits the fan or I see something I want to buy on Craig’s List (or some other place that only takes cash). It will be worth your while to do this – even if it means cutting back on a beer or two, a run to Mickey D’s for your favorite combo meal, et cetera. Build that reserve – because crap happens ALL THE TIME.

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Posted in Financial Advice | Comments Off on Financial Lessons to Take to Heart

Looking Back and Looking Forward – A Year in Review

With just a week left in 2017, I’ve taken a break from formatting and marketing to reflect back on 2017 and also to look forward at what 2018 has in store for us…

Loss and Gain

There have been some huge financial hits this year.

We started out the year by shelling out nearly $4,000 in expenses and lost wages to rescue my dad from Panama.

Having the Cottage West held hostage by a loan we co-signed on and had agreed to begin paying on in 2018 was the second big hit of the year. Sinking $32k into a house that was for a short time in my eldest’s name turned out to be not such a good idea. Especially when she threatened to sell it if we didn’t repay the $10k we had borrowed (by co-signing on a student loan) before 2018. When your spider senses start a’tingling, listen to them, no matter what or who you are dealing with. But hey, lesson learned. I won’t be doing that again!

And if those two hits weren’t enough, we also saw a parade of appliance failures and car repairs. Ai carumba, what a year! That was on the heels of paying over $6,000 to a contractor who abandoned us mid-project despite a plethora of promises that she never delivered on at the end of 2016.

This delayed much of our scheduled repairs on Cottage West.

We gained (sort of, still need to finish paying for it) – a 1956 Flying Cloud Airstream trailer that we hope to turn into a recreational vehicle for ourselves, and possibly Airbnb when we are not using it.

The newest money pit – Cottage East

And we gained yet another decrepit money pit property – the house to our east, now dubbed Cottage East. The timing of the purchase wasn’t the best – and we have the city breathing down our necks on the inherited code violations (along with nearly three years of back taxes), but in the end, ownership of this second adjacent house will be in our favor.

Eventually, the Cottages will be completed and ready to be used as Airbnb properties. Not in the time frame I might have hoped for, but life is full of unexpected bumps and my job is to roll with it and get our goals accomplished, however delayed that time frame might be.

I have one more gain and loss to share – and that revolves around weight.

When Dad arrived here, he was malnourished and fragile. He weighed only 120 pounds! He is now 143.8 according to a recent doctor’s visit. His blood sugars are much better and I make sure he keeps up on his medications.

As for me, I’m on a weight loss regimen – well, sort of. I started at over 220 and managed to get down to 205.5 before the weight started creeping up again. I’m currently at 209 and hoping to tackle some more serious weight loss after the holidays.

This Year’s Lessons

I’ve learned a lot this year. Man oh man has it been a learning curve in so many ways!

In particular, I have learned volumes from interpersonal relationships and what I am willing to tolerate and what I am not, as well as a nitty-gritty re-assessment of my own personal views, beliefs, and more.

Some of my takeaways include:

  • You can only chase after someone for so long trying to have a relationship with them. In this case, it was my eldest child, and I realized it was time to let her go. In some ways, it feels as if I have been chasing after her for her entire life. Part of being on the front lines of single parenthood means your child will blame you for what you did, what you didn’t do, and everything in between. It doesn’t help when you have an ex-husband who just loves to make you into the bad guy while not doing one single thing to help parent a child or be responsible in any way. Sometimes they (ex-husbands and kids) will even make crap up to suit their own narrative. You don’t have to accept it, believe it, or take it on. Sometimes it is best to just walk away, no matter how much you want them to love you back.
  • I no longer need or require or even particularly desire my parents’ approval. This has been a long time coming. And having my dad in my house, through a cascade of failures on his part to properly plan for the day he could no longer care for himself (accelerated by lack of proper self-care), along with a long-overdue firmer stance with my mom, has brought me back to center. Realizing I now have more parenting experience than either of them had was one of the biggies. And shocker of shockers, I’m no longer okay with them imposing their wills or beliefs on me. At the ripe young age of 47, I finally have grown a mind of my own. They can like it or not, but I am who I am, and I’m quite unapologetic about it. Getting to this point has been rather freeing, and I couldn’t have done it without some of the difficult experiences I have lived through in the past year.
  • I’m actually a decent human being – who knew? I say this honestly, not tongue in cheek. It’s been a long time coming, and a long walk uphill. I’ve questioned myself more than most, hated every mistake I have ever made, and basically hung my failings about my own neck like an albatross from hell reminder that I was not perfect. I’ve made hundreds of mistakes as a mother, a wife, and just in general. The support of friends during some particularly trying times reminded me that all of those mistakes make me human. Nothing more, nothing less.
  • I succeeded at homeschooling and I haven’t ruled it out for the years to come. In the wake of some particularly painful half-truths from the eldest, I fell into a cycle of self-doubt about all of my parenting abilities – particularly in the realm of education. I made the decision this fall to stop homeschooling and send Em to public school. It has been quite a lesson for all involved. Em scored at grade level or above (all the way to 11th grade in science!) in all core subjects. Her teachers adore her and she is happy and doing very well in our little neighborhood school. That said, Em and I both are interested in her returning to homeschooling after 6th grade (she’s currently in 5th) and I’m enjoying the extra time off right now and making use of it to further ensure that when we return to it, I will be doing so without the need to work outside the home any longer cleaning houses. That leads to the next lesson…
  • If I want to earn a living as a writer, I must market myself incessantly. I learned this lesson late this year, around the middle of November, actually. It is, however, an important lesson to have finally learned. I am determined to make a go of it, and I have turned my focus rather doggedly to this endeavor. Which is why you will see…

Less Blog Updates Here

Years ago, a favorite writer of mine, Mercedes Lackey, explained in a blog post why she was not continuing any further episodes of the Diana Tregarde series (which I loved). She pointed out, as politely as possible, that there had to be some financial reward at the end of it. The book had not seen good sales and she had to walk away from the series and focus on the things that would pay.

And in that vein, I have to admit that my blog here gets limited attention and, as far as I can tell, makes me no money at all. So that tells me that I need to be focused elsewhere and give this blog minimal attention.

I plan on blogging at least once a month here, more often if I find a particular recipe or local event that needs to be talked about.

I hope you will follow my exploits over at my author website or check out my books on Amazon. I will also be expanding my writing into other markets as well quite soon.

And as for Mercedes Lackey, I can’t help but wonder if she could resurrect the series as an Indie author, but that is a story for another day.

More Gardening and Property Upgrades in the Spring

I would like to put in a limited crop garden this year. I’m thinking 5-10 tomato plants, kale, lettuce, and carrots. We have planted several fruiting bushes, and I’m looking forward to caring for those better and encouraging them to grow and produce (along with our fruit trees who are now in their 3rd and 4th years).

I am planning on re-lay the brick pathways in several areas.

Finishing that back fence would be awesome as well!

Huge Changes A’Coming

In January, my husband and I will begin the last leg of the qualification process to become foster parents.

Boom – mic drop.

Yep, I know. HUGE change, right?

No, we are not planning on filling our house with children. But I would like just one more kiddo. Menopause has clearly shown itself to be real and in my face, but at 47, I’m not done yet. So we are applying to foster and adopt one child.

We passed all of the necessary background checks and now we just have the foster training and adoption classes to attend. It won’t be an instant thing. It is still months away, but it is becoming very real now that training is just around the corner.

My eldest often talked about adopting a child. Frankly, I never really even thought about it for myself until a few years ago when an odd situation presented itself. A letter from Oklahoma family services turned out to be the last step in the severing of parental rights and adoption of a child who, while not related to us, was related to my husband’s cousin. What I found interesting was our reaction to the thought of this child, and our willingness to step forward and offer her a home. Once we learned the full story, including that she had been in a foster home for a full year and was well-adjusted and loved and wanted by that foster family – we backed off. If we had been contacted at the beginning of it, before the child had bonded with her foster parents, that would have been different.

It left me with the realization that I was more than willing to step forward and do this. And as the reality of menopause set in, I knew too that there were not as many choices in front of me as there once were.

And yes, I have thought it through. We both have. Children are a lot of responsibility and commitment. I love watching children grow and develop, and make their way to adulthood. I love being a part of that. And I’m very excited about opening up our hearts and home to a child who needs a stable home and loving family.

I also have a strong belief in reunification when possible – that if a child and their biological parents can be reunified, they should. So the upcoming months and year in front of us will be uncertain and fraught with possible love and loss. It will be challenging for all of us. And it will also be very worthwhile. Of that I am certain.

Dialing Down and Focusing on Those Priorities

As 2017 draws to a close and 2018 is wide open before me, I am honing my focus down to:

  • Family – maintaining the strong relationships with my husband and daughter as we progress into welcoming another person into our home in the next few months
  • Writing – growing my income from a few $$ a day to eventually replacing the income I make cleaning so I can be at home every day for my family
  • Health – continuing my weight loss, increasing my walking, and continuing to lower my A1C blood glucose levels to the normal range (currently at pre-diabetic but I have seen a reduction)
  • Airbnb renovation projects – resume renovations on Cottage West and Cottage East by mid-2018

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One email per month, plus subscriber-only access to short stories that fill in the details of the vast Kapalaran Universe that exists in my mind. The Gliese, War’s End and upcoming Chronicles of Liv Rowan series are intrinsically connected to one another and you will get to see them firsthand.

Here is what my subscribers get in each monthly email:

  • The link and password to the FREE short story of the month (companion pieces to my already existing fictional works)
  • Updates on any upcoming free book promotion and discounted ebook deals
  • A summary of all of my blog posts (I post in four different blogs on a variety of cool subjects) for the month
  • An organizing “tip of the month” (remember, I wrote this GREAT organizing book)
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  • Updates on book projects

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Here is wishing every one of you a fantastic and promising New Year!

Posted in AirBnB, Challenges, Community | Comments Off on Looking Back and Looking Forward – A Year in Review