Tag Archives: shopping

Decorating on a budget requires magic potion

Craigslist + spray paint = pure gold

Before the pandemic ruled out discretionary travel, my Beloved and I spent a lot of time driving around the greater Austin area picking up amazing deals he found on Craigslist.

Some people might avoid Craigslist, what with its reputation for being sketchy, but my Beloved is 6-foot-3 with a mean left hook, so few places and people scare him. He’ll schedule a meet-up with just about anyone. We’ve never been ripped off or beat up using Craigslist (knock on wood), and in fact, he’s found some amazing stuff and we’ve met a lot of friendly people.

Firm believers in the trope that one man’s trash is our treasure, we haunt Facebook Marketplace, Goodwill and consignment stores, too. And this willingness to sift through a lot of junk to find the good stuff came in handy as we furnished our new condo. Our winter place had been a 355-square-foot RV, so we had almost nothing to begin with.

Our new place has a garage, which means we have space to spray paint, the magic potion of transformation.

deck chairs

Picnic paradise.

My Beloved found this picnic table set on Craigslist for $225. It was perfectly functional, but a little rusty. A couple coats of matte black spray paint, and voilà. As good as new.

The matte black looked so nice on the deck table, he employed it again for a little seating area on the back patio.

back deck settee

The view isn’t as spectacular, but the privacy is nice. 


Our up-north clock is peeking out from behind that 12-foot Christmas tree there.

We spied this set outside our neighbor’s camper at the resort where we stayed prior to our move. The back on the matching chair was broken off, and this table and chair had endured more rain than use in their lives. They were just sitting there, forlorn and unloved. We offered the neighbor $25 for the two functional pieces of the set, and he jumped at it. Now we have the perfect spot for a phone call and an afternoon cup of coffee.

Our dining room needed a big piece of wall art to fill the back wall. Initially, I shopped for an oversize clock, imagining the kind of piece we’d used in our great room back in Wisconsin, the sort of decoration of which Joanna Gaines would approve. This was too specific (or on trend) to find on Craigslist. And the new ones I found online were either too small or too expensive for my taste.

While perusing the oversize art pieces at Goodwill, I found a piece of filigree metal work hidden between pieces. The price was perfect ($15), but its golden color said 1990 to me. This time, my Beloved painted it in satin black instead of matte, and now it shines.

diniing room ornament

Satin black was this piece’s destiny.

I love how the wall ornament echoes the new light fixture in the dining room. Here are the pictures of the way the dining room looked before we bought it and after we redesigned it.

Sharp-eyed viewers might notice the centerpiece on the table. This beautiful piece was neither found on Craigslist nor spray-painted, but it’s the perfect accent on our table.

candle holder

This beautiful candleholder was handmade by my dad, a talented woodworker. I’ve bragged about his work making bookshelves in my previous homes. He works with smaller projects now, and he’s mastered the art of mixing woods in the details (can you see the seam down the middle there that matches the supports?). It coordinates with the eclectic mix of chairs we chose for the table, and I love it.



My dream job would be product development in the Reese’s Peanut Butter department

Did! You! See this?!

Peanut Butter Lovers

The Hershey Company, as it is known formally, has come out with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups for Peanut Butter LOVERS. All caps! “Extra layer of smoother, sweet peanut butter creme.”


I paid a springtime-inspired visit to the nearby ice cream store yesterday, salivating for a Zanzibar chocolate ice cream sundae smothered in peanut butter sauce. Zanzibar chocolate, for the uninitiated is made by Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream with three, count ’em, three kinds of cocoa “for a rich, fudge brownie taste.” See what I was craving there? A Reese’s Peanut Butter-inspired ice cream sundae.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” the ice cream scooper apologized, “we don’t carry peanut butter sauce anymore.”

My ears could not believe their eyes. My eyes fell out of my head. My chin dropped to my chest. My chest began heaving in deep shuddering sobs.

Oh, it wasn’t that bad.

But I was a little disappointed.

A lot disappointed.

The scooper kid offered me extra whipped cream and a cherry.

I accepted.

I love peanut butter. Deeply adore peanut butter. Currently own three kinds of nut butters and have been known to eat creamy Jif a quarter cup at a time.

Don’t judge.

When the dessert cart comes around at the end of a decadent dinner and the waiter describes the house-made carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, I’m like “meh.” Warm and oozy molten chocolate cake? You have my attention, but … . Peanut butter pie topped with peanut butter whip? Sold!

So when Hershey’s announces Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups for Peanut Butter LOVERS, I’m trying to figure out how to be the first in line.

Online I scrolled through 85 different kinds of chocolate and peanut butter combinations–milk chocolate, white chocolate, dark chocolate, miniature cups, snack size cups, regular cups, big cups, king-sized cups, chips, pieces, crunchers, crunchy cookies, sticks and in this pastel time of year, eggs in every size until I finally come to Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups for Peanut Butter LOVERS.

There’s no “Buy Now” button.

Where can I get my hands on those things?

Flea market finds that evoke a sense of place

Overheard at the pancake breakfast: “A bear gave me a scare last night. That dog of mine thought she was going to take it on, right there in my back yard.”

Like the eavesdropping, many of the wares at the St. Regis flea market were unique to the place.

Most flea markets look pretty much the same. Vendors display the same motley assortment of canning jars and kitchenware, old Life magazines and rusty junk found behind one’s garage.

Occasionally, a forward thinking flea market organizer also invites artisans who offer handmade jewelry (sometimes made with forks and spoons) and wooden birdhouses.

The annual Memorial Day weekend flea market in St. Regis, Montana, offers special treasures one might find only in the Pacific Northwest.

Like used snowshoes, for instance.


And hats made of real fur.

flea market furs

It can get cold in Montana, you know.

And to acquire those furs? That takes weapons. Lots of weapons. I saw shotguns, sledgehammers, axes, knives of every length from jack to bowie, maces (yes, more than one) and anvils (perhaps only a weapon in the hands of Wile E. Coyote).

And will you be transporting said weapons? How about a purse?

flea market concealed carry

Also necessary: Hunter’s scent, offered in every piney variety: Spruce, cedar, pine, fir, and juniper. Also, for the outliers, sage and eucalyptus. And don’t forget the camouflage in a variety of sizes.

flea market camo

Lest you think it’s all serious business at the flea market, check out the pink camo in the foreground and the princess costumes on the left, in the background of the camo.

If decorative is more your style, perhaps we could interest you in light fixtures made with elk horns. No? John Deere picnic umbrella? You got that covered? Maybe bear-shaped pieces of granite, then?

flea market granite bear cutouts

Or perhaps a bird feeder in the shape of a moose.

flea market moose

I think your wildflowers could use a vase.

flea market boot vases

Exhausted with all of your options? Let me offer you a seat.

flea market furniture

These clever vendors didn’t miss a whimsical beat. I thought unicorns could fly, but maybe they need shoes anyway.

flea market unicorn shoes

Or this dose of quirky. Everything’s bigger in Texas, but I bet you’ll never see this life-size yard art there.

flea market yeti

I felt like I was at a Montana art show, walking around the St. Regis flea market and drinking in the local flare. And I guess I’m a bit of an eavesdropper. Besides the bear conversation at breakfast, I was amused by this overheard wish.

“I’d like to hit the Powerball and come here,” said one young man to his friend as they brushed past me between a rack of raccoon skins and a display of soap made with goat’s milk. “I’d buy everything.”


I wore my hooded down parka today to spend a couple of hours moving junk around the garage today (or supervising the movement thereof).

There’s nothing as bad as trying to pack up the miscellany of a garage. It’s all strangely shaped or heavier than iron (because it is iron) or filled with toxic or flammable chemicals. How do you pack that?

And we’re experiencing winter temperatures for the first time in, well, a season, so there’s that. Ahem.

Fun times.

All is not lost, however. Later, as I was digging through 700 photos I took last summer while on an epic European family vacation looking for the perfect one for my holiday cards, I ran across this beauty. And I thought I’d share. Because readers in the northern hemisphere who were shopping today (or moving the stuff they’d once purchased around the garage), might enjoy it.


Ahh, the Croatian coast. In June. Lovely.

Meal planning give you the blues?

Can I hear an “Amen!” for Blue Apron?

Haven’t heard of Blue Apron? It’s a prayer answered for a cook who hates grocery shopping.

Like me.

My sister gave me a subscription to Blue Apron — touted as “a better way to cook and eat” — for my birthday, and I started enjoying the benefits back in February. I’m still hooked.

It’s part of my solution to weekly menu planning which, if you’re disciplined, you’re probably doing this fine Saturday morning. Before you head out to the supermarket, you’re figuring out what you’re going to serve for dinner in the coming week.

If you’re not disciplined, you don’t have a plan, you shop only at 5 p.m. every day and you end up eating out or dining on cold cereal.

I always intend to plan before I head to the grocery store. You know what they say about the road to hell.

With Blue Apron, an insulated box arrives on my doorstep once a week, and I’ve got the ingredients and directions for three complete meals for my Beloved and me (Blue Apron offers a family plan, too). This costs $59.95 (about 10 bucks per serving), but it’s worth it to save me the trouble of getting creative (never the same meal in a year!), shopping (remember, the closest supermarket worth visiting is 20 minutes away from my house) and the heartbreak of leftovers that never get eaten.

Here’s how Blue Apron looks when it arrives at your door:

blue apron packing

Underneath all the fresh produce is an icy compartment for the meat.

Here’s what the first two weeks of meals looked like:

To be fair, only one of these meals took less than 30 minutes to prepare. But I appreciate learning new tricks. I’ve made that seared chicken more than once, and the mapled carrots made a great side dish for guests. And who knew pita bread was an alternative for hamburger buns? Not me until Blue Apron introduced the idea.

Occasionally, we get weird stuff. My Beloved, for instance, refused to each the beet salad. In those instances, more for me!

And sometimes the weird stuff is an introduction to something yummy that I never would have tried. Earlier this week, we dined on pink lemon.

pink lemon

To prepare, I was directed to remove the peel, pith and seeds, then dice and marinate with olive oil, salt and pepper. Whodathunk? The result decorated the salmon on my Seared Salmon Salad. Delish!

Seared Salmon Salad with Arugala, Peas & Pink Lemon

If you’re interested in trying Blue Apron, I can hook you up. I have five invitations to share. You sign up, and you’ll get two meals for free (see? they have great marketing, too). Make a comment her (or on Facebook) to share your email address and you’re golden.

I found my mojo at the used bookstore

After turning Suzanne Somers’ book Ageless over in my hands (and my mind), I toted it inside from the rack on the sidewalk, ready to hand over 50 cents for it. I pay 50 cents for a newspaper. Even a book by Suzanne Somers is worth that.

Come and knock on our door …

I hear you, theme from “Three’s Company.”

The oldish guy seated behind the counter in the used bookstore had longish gray hair. A oldish cigarette with a longish ash hung from his fingertips.

“I’ll take this one,” I said, setting Somers’ missive on the cluttered counter. “Do you have a memoir section?”

He eyed me briefly and pointed me down a longish aisle to a hand-lettered sign that said “Biography Room.” Off I went to explore the used treasures therein.

Surrounded by old book smell, I was just happy to be upright this afternoon as I browsed through various political and celebrity memoirs (I found memoirs by Loni Anderson and Rob Lowe I couldn’t live without — because one used book by a washed-up celebrity isn’t enough). I took a shower this morning for the first time since Tuesday, when I was tanked by a virulent strain of the coughing-aching-stuffy-head flu, delivered with a generous helping of exhaustion (for those of you who are counting, this was my second bout of flu this winter). For four days, it was all I could do to change my underwear and brush my teeth.

This morning, I could breathe again, glorious breathing in and out through my nose. I showered. Shaved. Washed my hair. Exfoliated my face. Body lotion. Antiperspirant. Wrinkle creams of every weight and brand.

I even blow-dried my hair and applied mascara.

So my Beloved and I ran an errand that I had been putting off, and the errand brought us near enough to the bookstore that Suzanne Somers’ tome caught my eye (oh, to feel ageless again, when I was just happy to feel human).

A minute or two after I disappeared into the Biography Room (which was more like a Biography Closet, but who’s complaining), my Beloved entered the store, having satisfied his curiosity at the antique shop next door.

“Is my wife here?”

“There’s a lot of wives here,” the smoking clerk said. He paused, eyeing my Beloved and putting two and two together. “Oh, you mean the tall looker? She’s back there, in the Biography Room.”

Did you hear that? He called me a tall looker. Me. The woman who, only hours before, looked like death warmed over. I was no longer the woman of greasy hair and bloodshot eyes and sneezing attacks.

I am a tall looker.

A tip to the clerk wasn’t appropriate, but he certainly earned one.

Minnesota spice company serves consumers with taste

A shelf in my spice cupboard. Actually.

A shelf in my spice cupboard. Actually.

I am a proud fan of Watkins black pepper.

Most people around here are proud fans of the Chicago Blackhawks, but I like to be different (plus, I’m no great fan of hockey, despite my Minnesota roots).

I also like Watkins paprika, cinnamon, chili powder and cumin. And pretty much every other spice Watkins sells.

Watkins Inc. is a small firm based in Winona, Minn. The 147-year-old company owned since 1978 by Minnesota businessman Irwin Jacobs, it may be best known for its personal-care products and food extracts, particularly vanilla.

Oh yeah! The vanilla! The only vanilla extract I use is from Watkins.

Unlike so much pepper I find in shakers everywhere, Watkins pepper has flavor. It has pep! It’s not just black specks on my food — I can taste it. And sneeze! Wow, it’s got achoo power.

Speaking of that subpar pepper found elsewhere, I learned last week Watkins is suing McCormick & Co., the nation’s largest spice company, accusing McCormick of “slack-filling” its containers. What used to be an 8-ounce container now contains only 6 ounces of the black stuff. Sitting the same shelf as Watkins pepper, it makes Watkins’ product look overpriced.

Apparently, three out of four containers of pepper are sold or packaged by McCormick while Watkins’ share of the pepper market is microscopic.

Sigh. Consumers en mass can be so dumb sometimes. When will we learn we get what we pay for?

I’m rooting for the little guy here, both because I hate big conglomerates and because Watkins pepper is far superior. And I think you should vote with your dollars, too. Shake off that other stuff and buy Watkins pepper (and any other spice from Watkins you can get your hands on). You won’t be sorry.

Black Friday, schlmack Friday

The only time I left the house today was to drive to the gym to run 3 miles. But I still managed to accomplish:

  • Decorating the inside of the house.
  • Trimming the tree (I had help — thanks, Adored Stepson).
  • Eating leftover turkey, stuffing, gravy and yes, a half a slice of pecan pie.
  • Making my list, checking it twice. My Beloved and I ordered at least a dozen Christmas gifts online. No traffic. No crowds. No standing in line. No encounters with grumpy retail slaves.
  • Ordering Christmas cards (they’re going to be epic!).

Best Black Friday ever!

Welcomed in a land of milk and honey

Pomegranates for $1.19 each.

Imagine that! I’d never eaten a pomegranate until a decade ago when my friend Jill served me a Bon Appetite salad topped with the ruby seeds of a pomegranate. Now, I can buy them at a supermarket 15 miles from my home for the price of fine apples.

I was greeted no fewer than four times at this particular grocery, known for its produce section and deli. A man noticed the confusion on my face and took the initiative to direct me to the macaroni and cheese. I was among friends, which is not the way I felt when I stopped at the village market less than a mile from my home. I say felt in the past tense because I’ve been boycotting the place since March when I stopped in for strawberries and milk and I was not greeted once — not one word was uttered to me the entire time I shopped, not even “thank you.” The strawberries that day, by the way, should have been in the garbage, not in the fresh fruit display. And pomegranates? Are you kidding? Never.

But today I found dried figs and leeks, and in the grocery section, a new ready-to-eat soup made with coconut milk and shiitake mushrooms. Oh, the selection!

I felt like I was in a familiar land where they spoke my language and packaged up some strange amalgamation called “lunch meat ends” for $1.79 a pound.

And this ancient fruit originating in the Middle East I learned is now grown in California. And shipped, practically to my doorstep, for my delight and consumption.

Oh, joy!

Summer clothes in this house mean neckties

Clothes make the man. Or perhaps it’s better said that clothes make the boy a man.

We shopped today for a black belt, dress oxfords, pinpoint shirts and, lo and behold, we found a smokin’ deal on a suit, so we bought a suit, too.

Not for me. For my Adored stepson.

He finished his first year of college today (he’s got enough credits to be a junior, now because he accomplished his first year while still in high school and living at home with his mom so this past year was technically his second year). His last test this semester was a take-home math problem, and it was a doozy, filled with xs, ys and zs. It had something to do with linear programming and matrices, which is way above my pay grade; it practically required a degree in Excel spreadsheets. In any case, it was emailed to the professor by deadline, and he’s done, done, done, ready for summer break.

We’re ready to welcome him home for summer break, too. He’s going to try his hand at selling. His father, my Beloved, is the consummate salesman. I’d suggest he could sell ice to Eskimos, but he’s actually said he’s better than that. It’s not just arrogant storytelling. He sells an expensive abstract product to skeptical businessmen: Commercial insurance. And he does pretty well.

This summer, he’s going to attempt to show Adored stepson how to be a successful salesperson, too, and the lessons begin next week with cold calls.

Baptism by fire.

In any case, stepson needs to look the part, and in the insurance world that means ties, navy suit jackets, sharply creased pants and shoes polished to a mirror lustre.

Since the 19-year-old didn’t have a lot in the way of professional wear, a bit of shopping was in order. A number of pieces were found on eBay, my Beloved’s outlet of choice, but we needed a few finishing touches, so we invested in those today.

Ah, when Adored stepson sauntered out of the dressing room in his suit jacket, oh, he looked so handsome! I’d buy some property coverage or worker’s comp from him.

I’d prove it, but I’m not allowed to post any pictures, so you’ll just have to take my word for it. Clothes do make the man.