NaBloPoMo schedule

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OK, here is what you can expect from me in November. A post every day, on these topics:

My Money Sundays: posts about my struggle to get financially fit
Making Things Mondays: Craft tutorials along the same lines as the how to make bath melts one I posted recently.
Thrifting Tips Tuesdays: Where I give all of my best tips for your best possible thrift shopping experience.
What I'm Reading Wednesdays: Update on what I am reading/listening to and why or why not you should pick it up
Vintage Thingies Thursdays: I'm having such a great time doing these, I definitely want to keep them up through NaBloPoMo
Feminism Fridays: a hearkening back to my Women Making History series, posts about women and men who have made notable gains in women's equality
Show Me Saturdays: glimpses into my life at home, my pets, etc.

I've had a lot of new traffic these past few days because of the Bloggy Givesways contest. I hope some of you will stick around for NaBloPoMo. It's definitely a good time to get to know my blog!


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Happy Halloween!


Long live the homemade costume!

Halloween...early 80s?


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Vintage Thingies Thursday: Carter match book


I am sick in bed and nearly missed Vintage Thingies Thursday! Glad I remembered in time, as I have something especially appropriate for this particular pre-election Thursday:

carter match book

carter match book back

This Jimmy Carter match book was given to me by a co-worker, who found it while cleaning out his 90 year old mom's house. I'm not sure if it's from the 1976 or 1980 election cycle, but my suspicion, given that it doesn't say "re-elect," is that it's from '76.

Make it a Democratic year. Indeed. Don't forget to vote!


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Bloggy Giveaways Carnival!



bloggy giveaways button

My Lord! Did you all know about the Bloggy Giveaways Carnival? All over the net, bloggers are giving things away! Hundreds of us! It's not only a great way to enter contests for tons of cool stuff, it's also a great way to find new blogs. So, of course, I'm in.

Here's what I am giving away: an Introduction to Crushworthy Grab Bag, from my Etsy store, Crushworthy. The handmade fabric bag will include a sampling of my handmade all-natural bath products. Could be any combination of bath melts, bath bombs, bubble bath bars, oil perfume, oatmeal bath, sugar name it!

To enter, just leave me a comment on this post, telling me what scent(s) you'd like if you were to be the winner. I'll used Random Number Generation to pick a winner sometime next week, and the winner will be posted both here and at the Carnival's home site. Please be sure to leave a way for me to get in touch with you in your comment--if you win, you want to make sure I can let you know!

And then, when you're done here, go over and check out some other blogs and enter their contests! That's where I'm headed!

I am sorry I need to do this, but I do have to limit this contest to US-only shipping addresses.


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Will the real America please stand up?


I try, generally, no to talk too much politics here at WINOW. Mostly, this is because I don't like political blogs and I don't want to be one. Even if I did, I don't have the passion or the knowledge to be a particularly good political blogger, so I'd just be one of the zillion or so bad ones. No thanks. Plus, I'm increasingly realizing that some of what I do blog about (thrifting, crafting, dogs, etc.) draws a pretty wide spectrum audience, politically speaking, and although I am of course true to my ideals, I don't want to unnecessarily alienate anyone.

I'm telling you all of this, of course, so that I can go on and make a political post. I suspect you already knew that.

Clearly, I support (and have already cast my vote for) Barack Obama. While I don't have half the love for Obama I did originally, I still think he's a pretty good candidate--the best one I've seen from the major parties in my lifetime, anyway. I didn't have to hold my nose or grit my teeth to vote for him. I am cautiously optimistic about what an Obama administration could look like.

But even if I didn't like Obama, I'd be going out of my way to vote for him. I'm that angry at the McCain/Palin ticket. The reasons I'm angry would take hours to list, much less explain, so I'm just going to focus on one:

I don't like being told I'm not a real American.

Verbatim (via CNN), this is what Palin said:

"We believe that the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America, being here with all of you hard-working, very patriotic, very pro-America areas of this great nation."

In and of itself, this would just be an ill-advised comment, and Palin's later "apology" for it would be enough to wipe it from my radar screen. But the comment doesn't exist in and of itself. It exists within the greater context of Palin, a woman who has spent the last several weeks going out of her way to say things that are alienating and insulting to anyone who isn't part of her mythical "real America." People of color. Really poor people (not just the noble poor working class to whom she's trying to pander). Anybody who exists outside prescribed lines of gender or sexuality. And, apparently, anybody urban.

I grew up in Palin's "real America." Spent 18 years there, and have since spent another 11 in the circles and places she seems to be deeming unpatriotic and somehow faux America. And I can tell her, from my experience, that the people on both sides of this line she has drawn are concerned about the same things. We're worried about money, about health care, about dying and killing in Iraq and anywhere else. We stay up at night figuring out mortgage interest and worrying about global warming. We're trying to reconcile the reality of our imperfect government with the ideal of democracy we've all been taught to worship. We're just trying to get by. Palin, and by association, McCain, are trying to divide along imaginary lines, for their own gain, people who need desperately to come together.

Hearing that quote from Palin, my mind immediately went back to two previous comments. The first, probably obviously, was Obama, as the DNC speaker in 2004, saying that there isn't a black America and a white America, there is a United States of America. The second, though, was GW Bush calling himself a "uniter, not a divider." How have things changed so that this focus on uniting isn't a priority for Bush's party? When did it become not only OK, but laudable for Palin to point at imaginary differences between the citizens of this country in order to draw even greater tensions between us, rather than focusing on the things we all need to pull together and do to come out of our current crises?

I've heard a lot of insulting things come out of the mouths of politicians, and Sarah Palin has said more than her share (the thing about community organizers boiled my blood for sure). This, however, makes me madder than just about anything I've heard. It is so fundamentally insulting, not just for those who don't fit into Palin's idea of the "real America," but for those who do, who apparently aren't able or willing to live and work and strive among anybody different than they are. The folks I grew up with, small town or not, were among the most accepting I've ever met. It is an insult to them for a woman like Palin to assume that pandering to their ignorance or suspicion of those who aren't like them will win the McCain/Palin ticket votes.

I'm not trying to change anybody's vote. I figure most people who are reading here have already decided anyway. And I know this is, as far as political blogging goes, "old news." But I've been stewing about it for awhile now, so I had to let it out. I'm pissed off that we're letting these people get away with this type of rhetoric. There is an us against them in this country, but it's not the one they're trying to paint. Rather, it's us, down here, all of us, against them, up there, trying to fit us to our roles in their dramas, trying to line their pockets off our work, trying to create a mirage before our eyes to lead us to the voting booths. They're trying to make us forget that we're in charge here, all of us, together. Not the real America and the faux America, not the coasts vs. the fly-over states, but all of us. This is our country, and it's up to us to fight them if we have to in order to get it back.

I don't quote from Ani much anymore, but I can't resist:
This may be God's country
but this is my country too
Move over Mr. Holiness
and let the little people through.


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OK, several things to tell you:

First, I finally built a blogroll. You can find it here. It is, of course, a work in progress (and I am always happy to learn about additions!), but it gives you a good idea of the blogs I read. I tried to include descriptions of everything but the personal blogs, too, in order to give you an idea of places you might like to visit.

Next, about my feed. If you want to subscribe (and please do!), please use that link over on the sidebar to my Feedreader feed. If you already have another feed subscription, please delete it and use that one. Even though my blogging guru Skye has explained to me why that's necessary, I still don't quite get it, but she knows stuff, so just do it, please.

Finally, about NaBloPoMo. I think what I am going to do is theme days. That way I will have a structure, but not write about the same things every day. Doesn't that sound like fun? So far I have:
My Money Sundays: posts about my struggle to get financially fit
Making Things Mondays: Craft tutorials along the same lines as the how to make bath melts one I posted recently.
Thrifting Tips Tuesdays: Where I give all of my best tips for your best possible thrift shopping experience.
Vintage Thingies Thursdays: I'm having such a great time doing these, I definitely want to keep them up through NaBloPoMo
Feminism Fridays: a hearkening back to my Women Making History series, posts about women and men who have made notable gains in women's equality

What do you think? Sound good? Any ideas on how to fill Wednesday and Saturday?


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Friday love: where the heart is


When you grow up here, how can home be any place else?

Home in fall

Home in fall

Home in fall

(Pictures by my mom, who is almost certainly rubbing it in.)


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See that little icon over there ----->?

In case you don't already know what it means, it signifies that I am once again committed to posting here every. damn. day. during the month of November, as a celebration of the (third?) annual National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo).

NaBloPoMo is the brainchild of the brilliant Eden Kennedy, who blogs at Fussy. During the same month as the brain-bending NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, during which participants write an entire novel in a month), she decided bloggers should do their own thing. And we have.

In 2006, I started my Women Making History series. In 2007, I finished it, as well as filling in with daily dribble posts about not much of anything.

So what shall I do this year? Should I give myself a theme for NaBloPoMo, or just think of something about which to spout every day for the month of November? Maybe a list of topics? If you read this blog, is there anything you'd like to see me write about? Now's your chance, no subject too big or too small!

Also, I'm offering one of the prizes for NaBloPoMo this year, a dozen bath melts from my Etsy shop, Crushworthy. So if you are participating, you'll have a chance at winning those to look forward to!


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Vintage Thingies Thursday: Royal Dove Perfume Bottle


Today's VTT find is a new one--I just thrifted it at the bins on Tuesday evening (for the low bargain price of $0.39). It was in a bin with a bunch of empty modern perfume bottles (Clinque's Happy and Elizabeth Arden's Red Door were among them), as well as a few vintage bottles in less great condition.

dove perfume bottle

It's an empty bottle, once containing Avon's Delagar Royal Dove perfume. The sticker on the bottom says that it was made in New York in 1960. There is still a faint perfume smell (nothing I'd want to wear), but isn't the condition of the bottle amazing? It's clear glass at the bottom and the dove is frosted pink glass.

My plan for this is to carefully clean it out, then fill it with my essential oil blend, either for my own use or to give as a gift. The bottle is just too great to not be in use, especially given that it's nearly 50 years old.


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Go read Wild Surmise

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I just read Jenn's post from yesterday, Wild Surmise, over at Breed 'Em And Weep. Good, good stuff. Go read it.

Yes. Yes.


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Goodwill, 10/21/08


Self, I said to myself as I drove to the bins. You are going to be more responsible with your thrifting. You are going to only buy things you actually need, you're going to go with a budget, and you are only going once a week, so make it count.

I went on to tell myself, in a very strict voice, that I was not going to spend more than $15, that I was looking for long sleeved shirts, mugs for shaving sets, and stuffed animals without plastic eyes for dog toys, and that I was not to come home with any bath products of any kind, any sleeveless shirts, any skirts, or any fabric.

goodwill 102108

What you see here is as follows:

  • Three plastic eye-less stuffed animals for the dogs, $0.75 each

  • Seven tops for me, five of which have sleeves, $1.25 each

  • Three sections of upholstery fabric, $1.25 each

  • Four mugs, $0.50 each

  • An adorable hand knitted frog, $0.50

  • A blank dieter's journal, $0.50

  • An unopened Origins pick-me up set, including a toothbrush, toothpaste, facial mist, lotion, foot lotion, etc. (maybe from an airline?), $1.00

  • Two vintage perfume bottles, $0.39 each

Not pictured is a very nice beagle sized dog bed, barely used, for which I paid $3. So my total before tax was $22.53. With tax, $24.39.

Obviously I didn't obey all my rules. The stuffed animals, sleeved tops, and mugs were all fine. The sleeveless tops should have stayed there. The upholstery fabric is actually fine, as I've been looking for a section of that type of fabric to recover an ottoman, so it does have a purpose, but I should have only bought one section of it, not three. The hand-knitted frog wasn't on the list, but I'm never going to turn down something that cute and handmade for $0.50. The dieter's journal wasn't on the list either, but I plan to remake it as a Christmas gift, and for $0.50, that's a bargain. The Origins set was supposed to be an absolute no-no, but I've brought it to work to live, and I really can use it here--I've been wanting to freshen up after lunch recently. The vintage perfume bottles were another thing I couldn't pass up--I plan to fill them with my own concoctions and either gift them or use them myself. The dog bed was fine--those are always needed by the rescue and are not cheap new. And I went over my allocated budget by about $10. Which is, unsurprisingly, about the value of the stuff I bought that wasn't on my list/needed.

What can I say. It's a work in progress.

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In which I become a debt reduction blogger


I'm actually not really going to become a debt reduction blogger, any more than I am going to become a dog blogger or a thrift blogger or a craft blogger. I don't want multiple blogs (aside from Heroine Content, obviously), so this blog just has to be all things to all people. Or all things to me, anyway. I actually have a couple of long term projects I am thinking through rolling out here in the future, though, so you may be seeing a bit more method to my madness.

In the meantime, though, I am focusing, personally, on debt reduction. So you're going to hear about that. It's amazing, once you start looking, how many great frugality and simplicity and debt reduction blogs you can find. The ones that have made to my Google reader so far are:

  • We Don't Buy It: A blog about a family's attempt to spend a year without purchasing anything new.

  • 10 Notes: The blog of a SAHM chronicling her day-to-day attempts at frugality and natural living.

  • Walk Slowly, Live Wildly: Sara's personal blog. Sara and her family have spent the last year living in a vegetable oil fueled RV, traveling around the country talking about sustainability and natural living, and she's an inspiration. You can also read about her and her family's adventures at The Live Lightly Tour.

  • beauty that moves: One of my favorite blogs, beauty that moves features crafts, recipes, simple living ideas, and gorgeous photographs.

  • Almost Frugal: Kelly tags her blog, Almost Frugal, as "frugality for the rest of us," and I love this ethos. Reading Kelly, I feel like we're on the same journey.

  • Debt Diet: Debt Diet is the chronicles of a couple trying to pay down their consumer debt. They started over a year ago with over $50,000 in debt, and they update their progress in paying it down, as well as their struggles, on their blog. I think it's an incredibly brave thing to do and I salute them.

  • Frugal Veggie Mama: Her title doesn't lie! Frugal Veggie Mama is a blog about being an eco-conscious, frugal, vegetarian mother.

  • Gail's Blog: One of the few "financial expert" type blogs I read, I find Gail's Blog to do an excellent job walking the "tough but not preachy" line.

  • Living Without Money: On her blog, Ms. A leads us through her day-to-day life, trying to live well inexpensively. Though I disagree with many of the choices she makes, she's an entertaining writer and has some great ideas.

  • Notes from the Frugal Trenches: A Downshifting Journey: This is another blog to which I can relate--it's the story of a British woman in her late 20s who decides to get out of debt and change the way she's living, and her teaching herself to focus on what is really important, stop shopping mindlessly, and spend less.

  • Simple, Green, Frugal Co-op: This is a new cooperative blog, featuring the work of some of the other bloggers on my list (Notes from the Frugal Trenches and beauty that moves in particular). It focuses on how to downshift and be more frugal in increasingly precarious financial times.

  • SouleMama: SouleMama is another really inspirational blog, full of beautiful photographs and the words of someone for who simple, frugal, crafty living is obviously really working.

  • The Lean Green Family: I actually read about this blog in a magazine article in Business Week or some similarly unlikely publication. It's the story of an upper-middle class family who decides to stop their typical debt-ridden ways and get frugal.

Honestly, that's just a very small sampling of what is out there. The blogrolls of nearly any of those blogs will lead you to several more good ones--and I'm going to be filling out my reading list that way over the next few weeks.

Now, I actually have my first frugality tip! Coming from me, frugality tips are bound to be very elementary. I am an elementary frugalist. But we all have to start somewhere, right? So here's one of the things I've started with lately:

Use what you have. Seem simple, right? But I think a lot of us have a category of products we just really like to buy, and we tend to "stock up" on those. For me, it's bath stuff. I don't wear makeup or expensive perfume or hair care products, but I love handmade and natural soaps, lotions, etc. And over the years, I've bought a lot of them. I'd say currently there are no fewer than 15 bars of artisan soap at my house, and at least a half dozen tubs or bottles of lotion. And that's just the full-sized stuff, I also have tons of samples. So my pledge now is to use up all of what I have before I buy any more of these things. Not much, but it's a start, right?


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How To Make Bath Melts


When I started trying to make my own bath products, I got a lot of instruction from the web. I read a few tutorials and a lot of recipes, then struck out on my own. Yesterday as I as preparing to make a batch of melts for a swap, it occurred to me that I ought to give some of that knowledge back and give a tutorial of my own. Due to my current emphasis on finances, I'm going to try to include prices here as well, so you can see how much these little suckers cost to make rather than buy.

How To Make Bath Melts

First, get your ingredients together. What you see here is an 8 oz jar of Nature's Flavors organic cocoa butter ($6.56, or $0.82/oz), a 16 oz bottle of Mountain Rose Herbs sweet almond oil ($6.50 or $0.41/oz), a five lb bucket of Majestic Mountain Sage coconut oil ($12.75 or $0.16/oz), 0.5 oz bottle of Aura Cacia sandalwood blended with jojoba essential oil ($10.69), and a 0.5 oz bottle of Wild Oats jasmine in jojoba essential oil, which was purchased on clearance for $6, but is generally more like $13.99 for 0.5 oz.


Next, get your hardware together. I used a thrifted Pyrex measuring cup, a postal scale I bought off Ebay (our kitchen scale is broken), a plastic chopstick for stirring, and a flexible rubber ice cube tray (also thrifted) for a mold. This particular mold holds 14 0.4 oz melts. Flexible rubbber molds like this one are my strong preference for making melts, as I have a hard time getting them out of harder molds without making a mess.


Once everything is together, start measuring out ingredients. Be sure to zero out the scale with the measuring up on it, then, to fill this size mold (5.6 oz total), add 3.5 oz of cocoa butter ($2.87 worth). You want your cocoa butter broken into smallish pieces if at all possible, and that's usually how it comes out of the container for me.

cocoa butter in

Next, measure in 1.5 oz of coconut oil ($0.24 worth).

coconut oil in

Then, add about .6 oz of almond oil ($0.25 worth). Pour carefully--you can't take it back out if you add too much, and since almond oil is liquid at room temperature, adding too much will cause your melts not to harden.

almond oil in

Once your three oils are in, stir them up and then start your melting apparatus. I use a double-boiler method, as shown here, with a shallow pan of water heated slowly.

melting apparatus

The coconut oil will melt almost immediately, the cocoa butter will take longer. As it melts, stir frequently.

partially melted

As soon as the mixture is all melted, take it off the heat. The object is to heat it as little as possible while still getting everything fully melted. Do not be alarmed if it smells like chocolate and/or coconut--those are the butters natural scents and will be masked by the essential oils you add. If those scents bother you, you can buy deodorized cocoa butter, but it is much more expensive.


Once your melting is complete, you are ready to add your scents. In this amount of base liquid, I add about 60-80 drops of scent, depending on which scents I am using. The scents will smell stronger when added to the warm oil than they do in the finished product, so this is really a trial-and-error process. For the sake of this example, lets say I used .05 oz (about a tenth of the bottle) of sandalwood ($1.07 worth) and .05 oz of jasmine ($1.40 worth).

adding eo

Once you have mixed in your scents, pour the mixture carefully into your molds. You want to fill them all the way up without going over the edges. It's a slow process.

in the mold

Once the molds are full, they need to go somewhere to harden. Since it's still pretty warm in my house, I harden them in the fridge--they get harder faster that way, and it's a lot easier to deal with these as solids than as liquids.


After they harden for an hour or two, you should be able to pop them out of the mold easily and wrap or package them. My preferred wrapping methods are individually in foil and then together in a decorative fabric bag, or all together in a plastic bag and then that in a decorative bag, depending on how many melts we're talking about.

By my calculation, the total cost for this project (not including hardware, just ingredients) is $5.83, or $0.42 per .4 oz melt ($1.04 per oz). For the sake of comparison, my favorite bath melt from Lush, the Dreamtime, is $5.65/oz, and it contains artificial perfume as well as essential oils.

The upshot, of course, is that if you are a bath product junkie like me, it's greener and more frugal to make your own. If you don't want to make your own, though, come on over to Crushworthy--I am hoping to get new stock up this week, and I'll be happy to sell you some.


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Getting in to what you can't get out of


As you know, we have dogs and cats. As many people who have both species know, dogs, in general, find the contents of litter boxes endlessly fascinating and enticing. Which is, to put it mildly, nasty. In order to combat this problem, we keep our litter boxes in our laundry room and we keep the dogs out of the laundry room with a baby gate that the cats can easily jump over but the beagles are thwarted by (our bigger dogs, thankfully, have no interest in the cat boxes, as they could jump the gate if they wanted to).

Except that Huey the big-ass beag has learned to dislodge the gate somehow. One evening last week, we came home to find the gate down, cat litter all over the floor, and the top to one of the cat boxes missing.

Then we saw this.

stuck huey from the back

That, folks, is a beagle with not just his head, but his entire upper body (including both front legs) stuck in the cat box lid.

Once we got up off the floor and our hysterical laughter subsided, we tried to get it off of him. But not before we took some more pictures.

stuck huey 2

stuck huey

As it turned out, he was well and truly stuck--we couldn't work the box lid off him and had to cut him out of it. He clearly hadn't been like that very long, though, as he wasn't all that agitated and he didn't have any abrasions or anything from trying to get out of it himself. So no danger. Just the funny.


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Why yes, this is a solicitation


belle in basketAs I've mentioned, Mark and I are very active in dog rescue. We currently have two foster beagles, Belle (who you see in the basket here) and Huey. For the last couple of years, we've been fostering through a great local organization, Hound Rescue. Today we had a Hound Rescue meeting, and we learned, among other things, that the organization is not doing great financially. Mostly, this is due to a recent influx of older and sicker dogs, due, at least in part, to the general economic downturn. People give up their dogs when they can't make ends meet, especially if those dogs are elderly or have health issues (like both Huey and Belle do). In order to keep taking in and taking care of these elderly dogs, the organization needs to refocus on fund raising.

And that's how I want you to help. No, I am not asking you to write a check or Paypal over some cash (though we of course wouldn't turn it down). Rather, I am asking for some mouse clicks. If you go over to The Animal Rescue site, you'll find a contest they are having, the Petfinder Shelter Challenge. Once a day on each computer, you can go there and vote for Hound Rescue in Austin, Texas. If we get the most votes in our state, we get $1,000. If we get the most votes in a given week, we get $1,000. If we win the grand prize, we get $25,000 (that's a lot of beagle care, folks). $1,000 goes quite a long way for these guys, and voting is really no big deal to do, so please take a second (or as many seconds as you can, on different days between now and December 14), and give us a vote.

Over on my side bar you'll see a button that will take you straight to the voting. Just come back to WINOW and click on it anytime.

Thank you!


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Goodwill, 10/17/08


I'm refocusing on paying down debt. As you know if you've been reading here long, I've been making a major effort towards debt pay down since January, but in the last couple of months I've flaked a bit, and I am now trying to get back into it. Hence the new focus on reading frugality and debt reduction blogs. One thing I've noticed from those blogs is that accountability is key. People really seem to be helped by writing their spending down.

You know where this is going, right?

I promise not to post every time I buy a cup of coffee. However, actual shopping trips I'm going to be coming clean about for awhile.

Tonight I went to the bins:

goodwill 101708

My purchases, as seen above, are (from top left): a cute blue floral knee length skirt that I didn't need, but will wear ($1.25), four pink linen napkins on which I am hoping to embroider for gifts ($.0.25 each); a quilted Vera Bradley picture frame that appears to be new and I plan to gift ($0.50); a black cardigan sweater that I really did kind of need and will definitely wear ($1.25); two appertif glasses Mark specifically asked me to keep an eye out for ($0.25 each); a white milk glass mug that I am going to use for a shaving set I'm swapping ($0.25).

Total: $4.75 + 8.25% tax = $5.15. I paid cash from my $100 cash allowance for the rest of the month.

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Bloggers make the strangest bedfellows


After blogging here at WINOW for several years, I am finally cautiously trying to increase my traffic. Or not even my traffic, but my readership. For a long time, I've blogged either just for my own amusement or as a means of keeping in touch with a handful of friends. Lately, though, I've realized that there are huge blog communities out there I'd really like to be a part of. So I've done a few things--started an account with Google Analytics to see how many readers I actually have (usually around 200 a day) and how they are getting here (mostly from other sites); set up Feedburner (you can subscribe to my feed here); started participating in some carnivals, etc. The biggest thing I've done, though, and this isn't just to increase my own readership, but also to participate in conversations on other blogs like the ones I'd like to have here, is to concentrate on commenting. I read a lot of blogs (current blog roll count is 141 and it increases nearly every day), but in the past I've mostly not commented on blogs of folks I didn't know. I'm trying to change that. And so, I've started paying a bit more attention to who the people behind the blogs I'm reading are.

What I have found has been a bit surprising. A lot of the bloggers I follow, especially those in the areas of frugality and simplicity, debt reduction, thrifting and vintage, and crafting, all of which I have been particularly interested in lately, are very different than I. A lot of them are Christians. And conservatives. At least one has a McCain/Palin badge on her blog. It hadn't really occurred to me, when I was only personal blogs of people I already knew, that the blogging world was so wide, and that I could get so much enjoyment and information from the work of people with whom I share some interests, who are in other ways my complete opposites.

My attempts at branching out of my political and personal comfort zone, and at actually letting these bloggers know I am reading their work, have so far been very fruitful. The fastest growing sections of my blog roll (previously thrifting and crafting and more recently frugality and simplicity and debt reduction) are full of places I can go for inspiration. Once again, the Internet has shown me communities of which I can be a part that I never would have found in my "real life." And I am grateful.


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Friday I'm in Love

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And in honor of all of those bloggers who regularly use Friday to list things they love (and make all of our days brighter), I give you a playlist of songs I unabashedly and completely love. Enjoy.

MixwitMixwit make a mixtapeMixwit mixtapes


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Why I thrift


Today is the last day of my current thrift contest, so get on over there and enter before midnight if you want a chance at a custom-thrifted prize!

Now, as promised, my answer to the question "Why do you thrift?"

I thrift for all the reasons people have mentioned so far--frugality, environmentalism, preservation of history, the thrill of the chase. My biggest reason, however, is different than those mentioned so far:

I thrift in order to get time alone. I am a person who needs a lot of alone time who lives with a homebody. I am very, very rarely home alone. So I need to get out of the house for my alone time, and my number one favorite thing to get out and do, by myself, is shop.

I know it's out of fashion to admit you like to shop, at least for my social/political group. I'm supposed to claim to hate shopping and be sickened by the crowds/consumerism/exchange of money. But in reality, I don't, and I'm not. I absolutely love to shop. Walking around, looking at things, doing something in a public space that is totally acceptable to partake in alone--I just adore it.

Thrifting allows me to fulfill my desire to shop in a way that is both more economically viable and more environmentally friendly than any other type of shopping I could be doing. This is not only due to the lower cost and reduced environmental impact of thrifted goods, but also due to the time in to time out equation. When you are shopping secondhand, especially somewhere like the bins, it takes a lot more time and effort to find things you want to buy than it might in a more shopper-friendly environment. The treasure hunt angle. Because shopping at a thrift store is more challenging than a first-run store might be, I can spend the same amount of time shopping, but come home with less stuff. Because for me the actual experience of shopping, rather than what I find, is the point, that's a win-win situation.

As far as I'm concerned, there is no bad reason to thrift shop. The more people accept secondhand goods as viable options, the better off we'll be, in terms of our environment, our wallets, and the support we're (not) giving to crappy labor practices. I continually strive to buy fewer non-used items. There are so many reasons to do it, and I can't think of a single good reason not to.

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Vintage Thingies Thursday


This post is republished from last winter. I thought it would make an excellent addition to Vintage Thingies Thursday.

stub and hazelThis is probably my favorite photograph ever. It was taken in a photo booth in a train station one night around midnight, in 1945. In a world where the second great war in a generation had just ended and prosperity was beginning, the woman in the picture was 35 and just married. She's my grandmother, and in a few weeks she will be 98.

In my memory, she has always been old, but looking at her now, I can still clearly see the woman in this picture. Both her beauty and her will, her iron spine. I can see, in both the old woman I know and this young woman, how she came to make it almost all the way through college before the measles took her eye sight, how she grew up working the land, how she cooked in logging camps. How she raised three children to be fantastic people. How, a decade or so after this picture was taken, she moved her young family across several states, away from where they lived near a nuclear testing facility, because she didn't think it right to bring up children somewhere nothing would grow.

The man in the picture, her husband, died before I was born, but lives on in legend as a bare-knuckle boxer during the Depression and a teller of world-famous bullshit stories. I think I would have liked to know him.


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Blog Action Day: The Poverty Book List


I've been thinking for several days about what I want to write about poverty for Blog Action Day 2008. I started writing a personal story about poverty at least 10 times, but honestly, that doesn't feel the right thing to do today. I want to actually offer a resource, rather than just talking about myself like I always do. So, being as I've had some success in the past offering lists of recommended books, I thought maybe I'd use my Blog Action Day platform to offer a brief poverty studies book list. Hope it's helpful.

  1. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
    No surprise here. A lot of people consider Steinbeck's 1939 novel about the Joad family's journey to California during the Dust Bowl the best book about poverty ever written, and I can't disagree. This is a fantastic book, trite as it may be to say that, and I think it should be required reading.
  2. Homecoming and Dicey's Song by Cynthia Voight
    These are children's novels about four children, the Tillermans, who, led by eldest sister Dicey, make their way across the country to find their grandmother after their mother abandons them. Homecoming gets them to their grandmother's house, Dicey's Song is about them living with her. Both books are, in part, about living in poverty, and even though I read them in elementary school, they've stuck with me. I can still remember the passage in Dicey's Song about Dicey and her grandmother eating at a restaurant and Dicey's concern at the meal's expense. Excellent stuff.
  3. Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich
    Though this book was widely acclaimed, I know a lot of people who really didn't like it, saying Ehrenreich, even after her experiment, doesn't actually understand the working poor and makes stupid decisions and assumptions in her book and the experiment she writes about. I don't 100% disagree with this assessment, but I still think this is a brave and important book. The fact is that most people who have never themselves been poor have no idea what it's actually like, or why poor people might make the decisions that they do. Ehrenreich gives some explanations. Would I like it better if these explanations could come from someone who has actually lived in this situation and isn't just trying it on as a journalist? Sure. Do I think people would listen as well as they listened to Ehrenreich? No.
  4. The Working Poor: Invisible in America by David K. Shipler
    Shipler's book has much the same task as Ehrenreich's, but instead of building a fictional life in order to have "working poor experiences" himself, Shipler extensively interviews a bunch of working poor families and mixes their first-person stories with an academic analysis of the life of the American working poor. The only really bad thing about this book is that it is outdated (it was published in 2004, but even since then things have changed radically, and the research was done for years before that). I'd like to see an updated version.
  5. Don't Call Us Out of Name: The Untold Lives of Women and Girls in Poor America by Lisa Dodson
    This is another book built much like Shipler's, mixing first person accounts of poverty with academic analysis. What makes it more interesting to me, though, is that it addresses the interplay between poverty and gender. Again, the book's major failing is being out of date, as it was published in 1998.
  6. Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison
    Dorothy Allison's Bastard Out of Carolina is one of the most amazing and most difficult novels I've ever read. Poverty is only one of the things its about, but it is in many ways the most salient. Just as Bone's tale of the violence of men is a call to feminism, her tale of the violence of poverty is a call to class activism.
  7. The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls
    Jeannette Walls' memoir is mostly about her childhood, growing up very poor with negligent and unstable parents. Walls' family was at times homeless, often hungry, and usually without running water or electricity. She recalls middle-of-the-night dashes from collecting landlords and page after page of experiences that make the reader's skin crawl. It's a hard book to read, but a good one. I only wish Walls' discussion of how it feels on the other side of that poverty, as an upper middle class adult with a world of both gratitude and guilt, was more prolonged.
  8. Where We Stand: Class Matters by bell hooks
    bell hooks as written a lot about the intersection of race, class, and gender. This book is a conflation of memoir and social theory, and although it's a bit tough to read, it's completely worth it.
  9. Ain't No Makin' It: Aspirations and Attainment in a Low-Income Neighborhood by by Jay MacLeod
    Ain't No Makin' It is one of those books that I read and never forgot. I read it for intro pol sci my first year at Reed, and I've come back to it in my mind often since then. MacLeod wrote it about the kids he encountered while working as a counselor in a program for low-income youth. It focuses a lot on way poverty is spirit-crushing even at a very young age, and on the obstacles the kids have stacked against them. Once again, this book is out of date (and out of print), but it's still a good read if you can get a copy.
  10. Without a Net: The Female Experience of Growing Up Working Class edited by Michelle Tea
    The final book on my list is an essay collection written by women who grew up working class. The topics of the pieces range pretty broadly, from discussion of class jumping to explorations of how much worse poor people are treated in day to day life.

Obviously there are a lot more books about poverty that are worth reading. These ten are just the first best ones I could come up with. Please feel free to leave other suggestions in the comments, and thanks for reading my Blog Action Day 08 post!


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Need recommendations!


I am trying to fill out the "Frugality and simplicity" section of my blog roll. So far I only have four blogs. I know there are tons more out there. Suggestions?



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CONTEST: Why do you thrift?


Remember back in July when I had a thrifted finds contest? Well, I FINALLY found a suitable prize for the winner, The Shoppista. So, Shoppista, if you are reading this, watch your mail late next week for your truly fabulous prize. Let me know when it arrives and I'll post a picture of it, too.

Since I finally got that taken care of, I think it's time for another contest!

Since I've started reading more thrifting-focused blogs, I've not noticed many people writing about WHY they thrift. Do you shop secondhand mostly for economic reasons? Environmental? Because that's where you find things you like? Leave me a comment and tell me WHY you thrift, or better yet, write a post about it on your blog and leave a link in the comments. All commentors/linkers will be considered for the prize, which is another thrifted treasure!

Contest is open for one week, closing at 11:59PM on Friday, October 17.

Can't wait to see what you have to say!


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Update on reed diffusers


Several readers have asked for an update on how my homemade reed diffusers work. Now that we've had them for a few weeks, I feel like I can honestly answer that question.

They do work, but they aren't as strong or long-lasting as the commercial ones. In part, I suspect this is because of my not using chemical perfumes or scent enhancement, but I think it's also because I was too cheap and skimpy with the EOs. It makes sense that something that you are using to fragrance a whole room would need to be more concentrated that a bath product would, but I didn't really think about that to begin with, or at least didn't realize how much more concentrated they would need to be. So when I make them again, I'll use more EO in each one.

The ones with the added alcohol have, as expected, evaporated much more quickly than the oil-only ones, which have hardly evaporated at all. Since I don't notice much of a difference between the two formulas when it comes to scent, I will probably do all-oil in the future, just because it looks nicer in the bottle and will last longer.

Lastly, I made a silly mistake with the ones I made that you shouldn't repeat if you do this project--when I was cutting the bamboo skewers, I cut the in that went in the bottle not very carefully. They are crooked and jagged. I figured it didn't matter, since you couldn't see them. However, given that you have to flip the reeds periodically to make these diffusers work, that was a stupid oversight.

All in all, though, I'd call this project a success.

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Thrift Blog Round Up


I have slowly been accumulating a list of blogs featuring thrifted finds and thrifing information and stories, but I've yet to find a real comprehensive list of these blogs anywhere, or a circle of them or anything, so I thought maybe I'd do anybody who was doing the same search I was a favor and put up a list of what I've found. This is by no means comprehensive, so if you have or read a blog I haven't listed here, please leave a comment and I'll add it!

  • Ann's Treasure Box: this blog features Ann-Marie's thrifted finds and homemade creations. She also sells her finds on the site.
  • Apron Thrift Girl: This blog is a great combo of thrifting, swapping, frugality thought and tips, crafty stuffy (l love her menu planning pages), and great design. Apron Thrift Girl is also the mastermind behind the $99 Thrift Challenge, which I think is pretty much the sweetest thing ever.
  • Confessions of an Apron Queen: You may already know this blog as the host of my favorite weekly blog event "Vintage Thingies Thursday." Aside from VTT, though, it also features a great pin-up girl inspired blog design, an excellent recipe section, and an occasional drool-worthy antiquing photo journal. PLUS she gives away vintage aprons every week. For real.
  • freshvintage: Colleen's blog features the great stuff she finds, mostly at garage and estate sales, outside Philadelphia. She clearly has both a good eye and the requisite good luck.
  • lala-on-the-gogo is the personal blog of thrift webside goddess Lala (Thriftland: One Girl's Adventures in Secondhand Shopping). You should check out both of them.
  • My Thrifting Finds is a newish blog featuring photographs of my online pal Tilia's thrifted finds.
  • Thrift Candy: this blog features both blog owner Missa's original thrifts and her favorite picks from Flickr's 100% Thrifted and Nifty Thrift pools. She describes herself as a "kid in a candy store" and it comes through in her positive and fun (though stylistically very plain) blog.
  • The Thrift Shopper isn't so much a blog as a thifting information page, review site, and community.
  • Thrifting in Oblivion is a how-to blog about thrifting in the Southwest US (particularly the New Orleans area). It features photographed trips to thrift stores and salvage yards, thrifting tips, etc.
  • Thrifty Goodness: a combo craft and thrifting blog.
  • Queen of Fifty Cents uses her blog mainly to chronicle her Saturday morning garage sale and estate sale adventures. They're worth reading.


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Vintage Thingies Thursday


Vintage Thingies Thursday badge

Hello Vintage Thingies Thursday-ites! I missed you last week!

I actually have some new vintage finds that I need to get photographed so I can share them, but as I haven't gotten there yet, this week I'm going to share one of my first vintage thrift collections.

pie plates

What you see here (I think) is a set of early 1970s pie plates, with the recipes for the pies written on the plates themselves. This is actually only part of the set of these I've collected--I think there are 8 in all. Does anybody remember having these when they were new? I asked my mom, but they weren't familiar to her. I love the look of them, especially the cherry one. Plus I'm a big pie-maker, so they get occasional use.

I got the whole collection of these at the Goodwill, for I think around $2 each. They had very dusty plate hangers on them, so they had been on someone's wall. No decorative uses for me, though--PIE!


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Three cheers for Austin's pizza!


Mark and I like pizza. We order it a couple of times a month. But it has to be decent local pizza, Mark won't touch Pizza Hut with a ten-foot pole. After trying several of the local Austin chains (well, the ones that deliver in our neighborhood, anyway), we settled on Austin's Pizza as our deliverer of choice. Local, fresh ingredients, and frequent coupons.

Then we went through a period where we got several not-quite right orders in a row. Twice I was delivered Diet Pepsi rather than regular. Once our "hold the Canadian bacon, add sausage" pizza turned up with no sausage and extra Canadian bacon. Then we got an almost inedible undercooked pizza, and I sent a polite but firm email to their customer service address telling Austin's Pizza that while we would love to continue our relationship with them, we needed some assurance the quality would be better first.

Within 24 hours, I received a lovely email in return, apologizing, assuring that a manager would look into the problems at the location from which we're ordering, and giving us a pizza on the house. Problem solved. We've ordered many times since then and it's been great each time.

Until last night, at which point I wrote the following email:

I am sorry to be writing you again about this. A few months ago, I wrote about the quality issues we'd been having with pizzas ordered from you. You kindly gave us an order credit and said the problem would be fixed. And it has been--since then, our pizzas (we order at least a couple a month) have been great! Tonight was no exception--we got exactly what we ordered, quickly, and the pizza was excellent.
The problem was that we also ordered a Zilker salad, and at least 1/3 of the greens in the salad were slimy/bad. I understand that it is hard to keep greens fresh in Austin climate, but honestly, when I pay $10 for a salad, I expect to be able to eat it all. I noticed that the date field on the sticker on the lid of the salad says "2." Does this mean the salad was put together on the 2nd? Since today is the 6th, I expect if that is the case it explains why so many of the greens were beginning to decompose. I've gotten the Zilker salad before and found it to be excellent, and tonight ordered from you specifically because I wanted a nice salad, so this was a major disappointment.
I really wish Austin Pizza would focus more on quality control. We love to be able to support a local business like you, but we have to be able to feel secure that when we come home from work tired and order food, that food will be eatable when it arrives.

This morning, less than 18 hours later, I received the following response:

I am so sorry about the quality of your salad. We have struggled with this issue and employed the sticker dating to prevent this gross and embarrassing problem from happening to our customers. The stores are supposed to date the salads so they know when to toss them out. The salads are not supposed to stay in the cooler for more than 36 hours. At any rate, our operations manager has been made aware of the situation and will make sure the Farwest store has the proper procedures in place. Meanwhile, I will have the cost of that salad refunded back to your card.

Thank you for bringing this issue to our attention. We will correct it immediately.

We see it so infrequently anymore I am not sure all my readers will recognize this--it's called customer service, and it's a dying art. Austin's Pizza will keep my business, even though I normally wouldn't give this many chances. Why? Because they reply to complaints politely and quickly, give a refund if appropriate, and tell you specifically what they are doing to remedy the problem. That's worth something to me.


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Who you are and who you are not


I just spent several days with my two favorite cousins, Randi and Jessie. My maternal cousins and I grew up very close, and we still are, but we are very, very different. Spending a concentrated chunk of time with two women who are both so very much like me and so very different from me is such a strange experience. It's kind of like looking in a fun house mirror, you know? You see how you would be if you were different, and it's both fascinating and disconcerting.

Jessie is the next female cousin down from me. She's two years younger than I am. She's sort of on one end of a spectrum--she's very athletic, kind of politically conservative, likes high-end clothes, doesn't like school. Among other things, she introduced me to designer jeans and Anthropologie this weekend. She texts a lot, and is in a relationship with a dude who wants to be a basketball coach.

Randi is the next down from Jessie, another year younger. She's the other end of the spectrum. She got married last year and is now pregnant with her first kid. She and her husband own a bike shop, where one of her major roles is making custom wool bike hats and jerseys. She can't drive a car, but has traveled all over the world via her bike. She lives in a communal house with a composting toilet, doesn't generally eat meat, and claims she couldn't work a desk job.

Neither of those really sounds like a description of me, does it?

And yet, they are also both like me in so many ways. We think the same things are funny. We love to eat and love to laugh and after a few days together there was some sentence-finishing happening. While there was definitely a certain amount of each of us putting up with the preferences of the others (as when Randi and I agreed to go outlet mall shopping, or Jessie toughed it out at the Goodwill, or Jessie and I accompanied Randi to bike shops), we all got a huge kick out of going to a honky tonk and watching people dance; all enjoyed walking around the Austin Zoo, and were all bummed when we couldn't get tickets to see the local Mystery Science Theater knock-off troupe make fun of Forrest Gump. Most of all, we were all way too excited about Austin's Airstream trailer cupcake stand (but we each chose a different type of cupcake there).

It is always a little bit disorienting when your family members, who you associate so strongly with one setting, interact with you in another setting (especially when you have gotten used to living 1500 miles away from them and only seeing them once a year). This is something beyond that, though. I watch them, and talk to them, and see myself so clearly. But not the myself I am, the one I would have been if something had been different. But what? What in me would need to change in order for me to wear designer jeans and consider voting for John McCain? What about to ride a bike everywhere and refuse to make monetary compensation my first job priority? From where do those differences come? We grew up so similarly, how did I get like I am and they like they are? And how am I, anyway? If they were to write a post like this about me, what would the markers of my difference from them be?

Howdy Stranger indeed.



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