Friday, July 8, 2016

The saddest bar in the world...

So I drove by this bar everyday.  It seemed like a dive bar, a watering hole of sorts.  A faded mural on the desert baked adobe walls wasn't expertly done, but someone invested their time a long while ago.  I decided one day to stop into this bar to see what, if anything was happening inside.  

Turns out, this was the bar where broken dreams went to lick their wounds - and died of infection.

I drove in, though had to try twice to slowly roll over the heaved asphalt that was as tall as the curb and then dropped back down to the broken and nearly eroded parking lot.  I parked more on gravel then pavement.

Walking up to the doorway, I couldn't help but notice the exterior wall had pock marks like construction-grade acne, marring the faded wall mural. The eaves showed rot with flaking paint that had you supposing the lead content of.  Bracing myself a little, I opened the door.

Upon entering, my eyes were unsure which way to not look, the ceiling or the floor.  I started staring at the ceiling, which reminded me a bit of my bathroom floor. When I didn't pick up my dirty clothes.  For a few weeks. There were faded t shirts, neon bike shorts, stretched tank tops, all stapled up there and having gathered a fine layer of dust - which was impressive being as they were, as mentioned, on the ceiling.  There were also tattered bras, dingy panties, ragged boxers, each tacked up with varying degrees of success. I tilted my head to the left to avoid a particularly clumsily hung bra strap.  To avoid this underwhelming decor, I cast my eyes down, and I became accutely aware of why the ceiling looked dusty.  There wasn't any more room for dust on the floor.  The cracked wooden floor wasn't so much visible as suggested beneath the layers of dirt, some places with apparent broom bristle streaks confirming that someone, once, did try to sweep it up.  Perhaps the gravity was too strong. and that is why they gave up.  Or perhaps the spilled beer had turned it into a cement-like adherent.

In an attempt to move occupy my mind with something else besides the dinginess, I went to the bar.  I do believe my jaw dropped at the woman behind the counter.  It was in dumbfounded astonishment.  How this human being, a girl in her 30's, could be so comfortable and conversational while wearing just flip flops, a faded red bra, and the saddest little stretched out navy blue g string this world has known.  She wasn't in great shape, with pudge on the hips and stretch marks on her sides, but it was the utter lack of her trying to 'own' the git up that baffled me.  It was like she was just wearing a uniform assigned to her by the boss.  Surely she didn't choose this for herself?  She was very pleasant, I will give her full credit there, but then she explained to me they only do double shots in the mixed drinks, which is why my mason jar of whiskey coke smelled like turpentine and cost 9 bucks.  I smiled, tipped the dollar I always do for a drink, and asked for quarters for one of the three pool tables.  I was informed to use the one on the left, as the one on the right didn't work great and there was already some people on the center table.

I set down my burned drink and spent some time looking for a straight cue with the tip firmly attached.  I finally found one that met 1 of the 2 criteria.  I put in my quarters, pressed in the lever and heard the balls start to roll out.  I viewed through the scratched window and so no more balls in the pen and let go the quarter slide.  I went to grab the triangle and realized it was missing.  There wasn't one at the far right table, either.  I asked the couple if I could borrow theirs, and they happily let me use it.  I put the balls into the triangle to rack and came up one ball short.  Hmmm..  I felt up the chute as far as my hand could reach and found no 8 ball.  I checked the other table and, shrugging, just grabbed the cue ball off that table to stand in for my missing 8 ball.  I broke and played sloppily, musing to myself.  I scratched almost immediately.  In waiting for the cue to return, the table made some horrible thunking noises, and out came my cue ball.  And another cue ball.  And my 8 ball!  All I could think was, "And this is the table that works?"

After killing 10 minutes hitting the balls around with a crooked stick, I went out onto the patio.  It was hot, and there was more dust here, legitimate considering we were in the desert and this was outside.  I struck up a conversation with an older guy who, I found out, did Union and odd construction type jobs across the country.  While we were talking, the bartender flip=flopped over and asked the man for a smoke.  He smiled and offered her one.  She commented on how someone was cleaning their weed on the table out there and that she wished people would clean up after themselves.  I thought to myself, "How does someone get concerned with weed chaff but not the general dirt and debris?"   She then commented on how she thought the gal that just came in was 86ed from the bar but she couldn't remember.  I thought to myself, "How does someone get 86ed from a place like this?"  The bartender finished her bummed smoke and went inside, the little string of her thong looking lost and tired amidst the ample flesh. I was about to leave when the previous mentioned, possibly 86ed gal  approached the guy I was talking to and also asked for a smoke.  Her words were slurred, even though it was only 6:00pm, and she teetered a little on her heeled shoes.  She was rather unkempt and looked like she had slept in her car.  The man, generous soul that he was, let her have a smoke.  While she lit it she inquired, "Now be honest, does the back of my hair look good?"  The front and sides of her hair looked like she was practicing felting wool, and the back didn't look any better, but the guy and I exchanged glances, and both said, "Yeah, it looks fine."  What else do you say?  "No, you should put your other finger in the electrical socket," just seems like it would be riling up a rattlesnake.

As she teetered away, I said farewell to the guy, set my undrank mason jar on the sticky counter and left behind the under-dressed but pleasant bartender, the broken pool tables with their crooked sticks, the dirty clothes decor.  I walked across the wood floors with their rock-like accumulation of dirt.  I went across the remnants of a parking lot and drove ever so slowly over the heaved entrance onto the main road.  I knew I was never coming back to this sad little world.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Back for more:

Back for more:

Well, I spent some time finding a job, getting good at it, and finding a balance to working working 40- hours, driving 10- hours a day and still having all the other things to do I was doing.

I've been considering what I wanted more in life, and I realize I miss writing.  So instead of trying to find a perfect image or series to write, I've decided this would make a good journal entry.  I will try keep posts to one topic, so people can sort them out and read what they like, but here is me.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Shutterfly Surprise: Some Fun, Free Christmas Gifts

So, I was walking down the sidewalk and I saw a plastic red bottle cap.  I picked it up, and yes, it was a Coke cap - one with the Coke Reward Points code underneath.  I put it in my pocket and continued on my way.

When I got home, I signed into Coke Rewards to enter said cap code.  I received 3 points. At Hip2Save they had mentioned a wall calendar offer for 3 points.  So I went to Rewards, and sure enough, there was an offer for a free 8.5"x11" wall calendar from Shutterfly, one per user.  I thought - a photo calendar is the perfect gift for mom!  So I called up my big sister and told her to start sending me some photos to put it in.

Paying postage on the calendar was the only cost, as well as the time to use their impressive little program to assemble great photos into the calendar format .  I got a one-of-a-kind gift for mom that is both practical and sentimental. As a new Shutterfly member, I also scored 50 free 4x6 prints and a free magnet photo and address labels! I plan to use my band's logo over some snapshots of us and our web info to turn the prints into free promo materials!  

The magnet I selected a photo of family so I can see them with every food raid.  The labels I put Big D and my name on, so we can use them for cards, rent checks, etc.  It was so cool to see our names together (getting engaged, this is becoming more and more common, but it still is a reminder of how we are joining our lives together.)

Also, they are running a promo on Shutterfly for a free photo card (CARD4U). The card I found a nice snapshot of me and I plan to send it to mom next time she calls and says she misses me.

Want to try Shutterfly for yourself?  

Here's a step-by-step to score the free stuff I did.  Score these goodies before December 28, 2015 (though some promotions go longer). By the time you get them all, you can make a really good decision on Shutterfly's quality and products and decide if you want to use them for future printing.

1. Go find a Coke 20oz bottle cap (or Powerade still has codes on them, as well, I believe.) 3 points is all you need, so you just need one cap. You know SOMEONE who drinks Coke, right?

2. Go to MyCokeRewards and Sign in. If you don't have an account yet, SIGN UP here. Once you are in, click on the text box where it says "Enter Code" and put in the long string of letter and numbers under your cap to get your 3 points. Make sure to enter codes in all lowercase letters, and anything round like a 'zero' enter as "zero" and not the letter "o". Hit enter, and you should now have at least 3 points.

3. Still on the MyCokeRewards site, go to "Rewards." At the left side of the window, select the 1-49 point range and the page will refresh - the fourth or fifth item to pop up should be the Shutterfly Print Calendar. Select it and click on "Claim Reward". Make sure before you do this you can access
the email your Coke Rewards goes through. They will send you a promo code right away via email.

4. Check your email and copy the promo code for the calendar. You can click on the link or just go to Shutterfly and set up/sign in to your account.

5. If you don't have a Shutterfly create a new account: CREATE ONE HERE. If you have an account already, skip to step 6.

You automatically get the promo - Get 50 free 4x6 prints, one free magnet and one free set of address labels - when you sign up for Shutterfly.   (This is just for new customers.) Offer ends 1/3/2016. Must be all redeemed by 1/4/2016.

6. While logged into your Shutterfly account go to "My Account"There will be a text box under the heading "Promos / Gift Certificates / Gift Cards"  where it says "Enter code" - paste  the code from MyCokeRewards here.  Hit enter, or click on the orange arrow after the text box, and it will apply your code to your account.  You should now have a calendar showing up in your list of promotions. The calendar must be ordered by 1/31/2016 to be free.

7. While you are there on the promo page, enter the Promo code "CARD4U" into the Redeem Promo box, You will have free card added to your list of promotional freebies. This code is valid until 12/28/2015. Put your picture on this and have a card ready to mail to a distant loved one who may like to see your face!

Using Shutterfly:

The hardest part of all these goodies is gathering up and uploading your photos to the Shutterfly site and setting up how you want your products to look.

The actual uploading of photos is dead simple - you can upload from various online sources or your computer, and you can upload multiple all at once. I recommend gathering all the photos you want to use in one place, and uploading them all at once, as the program lets you drag and drop photos to where you want them.

The editing/designing tool shutterfly offers is actually impressive while staying simple.  For the calendar you can change sizes of pictures, text, borders, 'stickers' and backgrounds. You can drop photos or text into the squares of the days on the calendar to mark birthdays (pretty sweet) or anniversaries of people. Really, how much time you put into is up to you. You can be pretty creative. Just be careful which stickers and other options you choose, as some will charge you for the use (e.g. for certain special 'stickers' there is a $0.25 fee to use it as much as you like.)

When you finish your masterpiece design, go and check out your cart with your final products all selected, and the promo codes will automatically apply. You should just have to pay shipping and handling for your goodies (though all but the 50 free prints appear to qualify to be 'available for pick up' if you'd rather.)

Bonus Freebie Round:

And for any mom's with babies or those planning on having a baby (or anyone wanting info on Similac products and promotions, I suppose!), you can sign up with Similac "Strong Moms" Rewards and receive a free 8x8 Photo Book from Shutterfly when you register your email! They send you an email with the promo code, and you enter as you did the CokeReward promo code.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Cleaning (Not-so) Disposable Earplugs

Well, he won't admit it, but my Big D happens to snore at night.  While I usually sleep through anything, sometimes I need a little help drowning out the noise - so I pop in some foam ear plugs.  The problem is I only have disposable ear plugs at the moment, and I hate throwing them out after a use, but want to keep them (and thus my ear holes) clean.  The answer?

Well, there are a few.  I found a great article here all about it, but for a quick overview, this is what I did:

For the dirty plugs: 

Soap and Water, Clean toothbrush (bleached or just ran in the dishwasher)

I had a pair that had sat out and gotten a little dusty.  For these, I first washed them with soap and water, scrubbing the surface a bit with a clean toothbrush.  For the toothbrush, just run it with a load of dishes, or if you used it for something not so pleasant, make sure to give a bleach soak.

For the waxy plugs: 

Hydrogen Peroxide Bath (or Witch Hazel less often)

For the waxy ridden ear plug, I put my pair in a small container of hydrogen peroxide for a few minutes.  To keep them submerged, I just found a heavy round item smaller than my container and set it on top.

After the soak, I rinsed, rinsed, rinsed in water and let them fully air dry.  This got the surface gunk off and they felt clean again.  I've heard of people using witch hazel, as well, though I've read that witch hazel may faster dry up/make brittle some foams when used often over time.  The hydrogen peroxide you get at the store is 3% concentration, usually, and hasn't been noted to have a reaction with foam ear plugs (PVC or polyvinyl chloride/memory foam) at less than 10% concentration.

For the "clean quick" plugs:

Throw In Laundry

I've actually accidentally washed some ear plugs in the pocket of pants before, and they come out surprisingly clean!  I'd say to put them in a pouch of some type- a small drawstring bag, a clean sock, pantyhose, a mesh bag - just so they don't clog up the washing machine or get lost. Between the detergent and rinse cycle, they come out clean and wax free (much like your chapstick will disappear inside a tube if washed.)  If you are still worried about bacteria, just give them a quick hydrogen peroxide bath.

Although they won't last forever, and PVC in my ear all night probably isn't the best, until I find the 'perfect plugs', this is one way I don't have to spend money and still get my beauty sleep.

Places to get earplugs:

Hospital or Hotel Stays - sometimes the foam earplugs are offered gratis as part of your stay - even if I don't use them during the stay, I tend to grab them to keep in my guitar case or to include in gifts for people.

Airlines - Big D made my day by grabbing his and his family's sets of complimentary 'sleep aids' from the airline they flew (Jet Blue, I believe.)  Each contained a sleep mask and pack of ear plugs, and they are the most comfortable foam plugs I've worn!

Cheapest Otherwise:
Harbor Freight - if you go through ear plugs a lot, like I did when I was in a metal band, buy a big box at Harbor Freight.  With a 20% or 25% coupon, you can get about 50 sets for $3-4.  They also have a fair reusable rubber style for $1.60 after your coupon.

The Dollar Store - for $1 you can get 1-3 sets of the foam, and sometimes a not-half-bad reusable rubber style.

Clearance aisle in the fall (from swimming area) - Although meant for keeping out water, you can get reusable ear plugs for $.25-.50 after the swimming season is over.  I've seen them at grocery stores and Walgreen's on clearance for less, sometimes!

Money Saving Tip:

If you have one set of plugs that are rather large, cut each one in half.  Now you have two, and they won't stick out of your ears like little orange wingnuts!  In the band where I had to wear ear plugs, this was a great tactic to make my stash of earplugs last longer and have me looking a little 'cooler' while maintaining my hearing.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Good Reasons To Get Reusable Towels

Paper Towels versus Reusable Towels:

So how can you save money and the planet?  How about switching from using paper disposable towels to reusable cotton ones?  Reusable towels gets things cleaner with less effort, require little effort to clean, and cost less to buy than a 12 pack of paper towels if you are doing it right.  Need more incentive?  Here is some (estimated) math.

Name brand 12 pack of paper towels will cost you up to $20.93.  You will use them up in approx 8 weeks (the average family goes through 1.5 rolls per week.)

A good supply of cotton towels will cost as little as $11.98.  These should last at LEAST a few years with just a little laundry time put in.  (Pictured is 10 flour sack dish towels at $7.98 (Walmart) and 16 heavier washcloths at $4.00 for 2-8pks (on sale at Target), all 100% cotton.)

Price Breakdown: 
Total 2 year cost of paper towels = $272.09 PLUS: approx $156 waste removal 
(2 years of paper towels weighing approx 78 lbs, and at $2 a pound (as in Europe, where trash is by the pound) this comes to a whopping $156!  In Mesa, AZ, this would be about 4 extra 'black' barrels of trash to be removed, which is a month's worth of trash removal cost, which is much less, but still expensive for trash.)

Total 2 year cost of reusable towels = $11.98 PLUS: approx $36.48 in laundry expense. 
(Towels equal an approx. extra load of laundry every month over 2 years, which using hot water/top loader machine/ name brand expensive soap would cost $1.52 a month, or $36.48 over 2 years.) 

So - for 2 years of wiping up messes and drying things off, do you want to spend $428.09 or $48.46?

Reusable Towels in Action:

Now, I will always have a few paper towels lying around for that unfortunate bloody/stinky/greasy mess that arises that you just can't bring yourself to clean up with something you will later wipe dishes with.  Those messes happen.  But the other 99.9% of the time I'm cleaning up with my reusable towels.

For drying needs, the flour sack towels are great on dishes.  They also fill in elsewhere in the kitchen: I lay them between the lid and bowl of a salad bowl to keep the lettuce from getting soggy and brown.  I use them to wrap up baked goods to keep warm/soft,  I lay them out to use as temporary dish drying racks for large items.  I use them as pot holders when the oven mitt is too far away.  I drape them over the oven rail to use as a finger towel if my hand towels aren't around.   

The washcloths are more absorbent than any paper towel, and infinitely stronger.  I use these as dish rags, counter sponges, pot polishers, and any other 'wiping' tool in the kitchen.  With so many, I use a new one every day or more, and get more washed before I ever run out.  They sop up water easily, and ring out with ripping.

Aside from the towels I just bought, I have been using cloth napkins (a pack of linen napkins I picked up at a thrift shop, 8 pack for $2,00) so no paper towels are used at the table, either.

For storing your reusable goodies, I can show you what I do.  I've never been a stickler for a 'perfect' looking house, and prefer practical/easy over pretty/complicated.  So I don't mind letting my tools hang out - in this case, I used a wire under-the-shelf bin hung sideways on a cabinet door under the sink.  I hang out my vinegar spraybottle, rubber gloves, and the most recent dish towel off the ends and stuff my washclothes and towels inside.

This works great for me, as I use these items constantly throughout the day and don't have to dig under the sink for them, but they aren't on my counters, either.  And no one ever asks where the towels are! It may not be the prettiest part of my kitchen, but I value the no muss, no fuss functionality.

For anyone going the reusable route for clean up materials, I highly recommend going to the Dollar Tree or a thrift shop and finding a poly-coated mesh metal waste basket for throwing in dirty towels.  Shouldn't be more than a buck.

The rubberized metal holds damp rags without rusting, it is easily washed up with a = you guessed it!=  reusable washcloth, and the mesh design allows air flow to the entire bin allowing rags to dry out without molding/smelliness until you bring it to the laundry to throw in the wash. I just plopped mine down next to my little trash can and I toss in the towels as they get 'less-than-fresh'.

Have you made the switch yet to reusable towels?  How is it going for you?

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Buy Less: Reduce Your Stuffprint

I was inspired by a simple Venn diagram that beautifully showed "Stuff" in relation to "Stuff We Care About".  This is my re-interpretation of that:

I came up with the word 'stuffprint', representing the footprint of space our stuff takes up, and I think the word conjures up how stuff can take on a shape and size that becomes overwhelming. I believe the quote about stuff I see thrown around the internet also sums up the sentiment of my poster:
“Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” -William Morris
So, before you lament on how tired you are of looking for x,y, or z for the umpteenth time, consider reducing your stuffprint and taking back your time, space, and sanity.  There are many ways to reduce your stuffprint, but the process is pretty much the same for all of it and has 3 stages that aren't completed so much as repeated.

1.  One needs to get rid of stuff that isn't useful or loved.  
How much, how fast, and what you do with the stuff is all up to you.  Taking the commitment to moving the stuff out of your life that isn't useful or beautiful, though, is what you need to do to start.
2.  One needs to prevent more stuff from entering their now less-occupied space. 
Our current culture tries to push stuff on us to inspire us to acquire more!  Free samples, brochures, catalogs, swag, and more from companies trying to entice you.  Even if you avoid shopping and internet sales sites, though, then there are the well-meaning friends who give you things - gifts, stuff they are trying to clear out, things that no longer work for them they think you can use..  It is hard to say no to something free you could, in fact, use, but to keep your stuffprint small, this is a skill you will need to acquire.
3.  One must constantly cull and cultivate the stuff they have to keep it useful and loved.  
Be it from things wearing out, tastes changing, or needs coming up that didn't exist before, you will eventually need different stuff than what you have.  To keep the stuffprint small, you will need to give up stuff before gaining more.  Otherwise, with every new pet, new baby, new job, or life change you will end up right where you started with too much stuff you don't actually have love or need of.

And then after you cull and cultivate, you will keep needing to get rid of stuff that finds it way to you, despite the best efforts to prevent it from entering.  You will redouble your efforts of prevention, and then have things change and need to modify your stuffprint.  It's a cycle, really.  But totally worth applying to your life if you are feeling overwhelmed by material things.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Buy Less: The "Will-By" Defense

Another mental trick that will keep your spending in check without you feeling deprived! I call this one the "Will-By" Defense. Here's how it works:

If you can't clearly state when you WILL use an item BY - an actual, MM/DD/YY date - you are likely not ready to buy it at any price.

No matter how great the price, buying something costs you money over time.  Just like a store has a cost associated with things sitting on the shelf, items incur a 'cost' sitting in your house unused.  Space and storage costs money.  Time is spent on keeping things clean and undamaged.  Investing money into an item removes that money from other uses that could have made you money.  Therefore, if you can't USE an item in a certain amount of time, it will never be worth the 'good price'.

Consider the following: