Friday, December 19, 2014

Week 2 Clothing Experiment

Well, this week I got one compliment.  From someone at the library who doesn't know me.  She liked the lavender sweater. 

No one at work as noticed a thing.

The order of sweaters was:



 Wednesday   (Note the use of a black t-shirt as the baselayer):
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Thursday  (changed it up with a brown turtleneck rather than last week's cream turtleneck):
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Friday  (note use of brand new thrift Eddie Bauer red turtleneck.  Very Festive):
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Still wish I had black jeans...must get some Rit dye and sort that out.
 This would have been a snazzier outfit with dark pants.

I may try the brown carharrts next week with the lavender sweater though the butt on the carharrts is paper thin and could blow at any moment.

But seriously folks...had I bought these new (one was "new" actually...Friday's sweater is the one that had the tags still on it) and at retail prices we're looking at $ 160 + 330 + 330 + 270 + 250 =$1260 worth of sweaters I wore this week.
I'm estimating my prices from Dale of Norway online stores, and from the tag on the Pendleton.  
How did no one say anything except the woman at the library...who is a knitter?

Next week I will try to see more people.


In the words of a kindergarten student known to my cousin Courtney (Hey Courtney):
Well, she sure f*#ked that up!

Yeah.  So, you know how I try to have a minimum 24 hour waiting period on purchases of non-necessities? 
This is recommended by many many thrifty folks.  Some have much longer waiting periods but I got with 24 hours since I've been living in a town without stores.  Most purchases are out of town so the 24 hours is usually a de facto week waiting period in practice. I sees this great deal on something I've wanted.  A video projector.  We're all familiar with my love of the movies.  I figure a projector I can hook to my laptop would be the way to go.  Small, easily storable, and shouldn't take much electricity.  But, they are usually quite spendy.

Then I look at the Grocery Outlet ad because I'm going to be in a town with one of those.  I see this:

Now that is a good price. I read a couple of online reviews and see that it's sort of a crap shoot but hey, 40$ right!

I stop in for groceries (which were a fabulous deal!  1lb of organic tahini for 2$, avocados 3 for 2$, etc) and grab the last one of these that is available.

When I get home I go to hook it up.  It won't hook to the computer.  After much hemming and hawing, I go to thrift and pick up a used DVD player with no remote for 10$.  OK, 50$ in to this now.

It does hook to the DVD player just fine.  I pop in a DVD I have from the library and do a quick test.  Yes.  All systems are go.  As I was warned in a couple of reviews, while it will project up to 120" wide (10 feet!!!), it looks like you're watching the movie through a screen door.  BIG PIXELS.  Not a huge deal as all movies used to pretty much look like that, but his is more of a chain link fence than a screen door.  STILL, I figure, cheap and kind of awesome. Even has a speaker.

At this point I notice that I grabbed a the DVD player with play, pause, and eject as the only options.  Damn.  Can't fast forward, go back, or skip between scenes.  There were no players with remotes but some did have "skip forward" and "skip back" buttons.  As it is, I will need to just sit and watch the movie.  If I stop, it will be back to the beginning (pause didn't last long) and just watch all of that again.  So, no problem.  We USED to just sit and watch an entire movie.  It's what the directors want.

I go get a cup of tea and settle in. I move the player to a better location after shutting it down and then plug it in.  It turns on without me touching the "power" button.  Hmmmm...
I try to shut it off.  the button doesn't button anymore.  No clicking.  No effect.   But the movie is starting so I just watch it.

The movie has subtitles which are a bit of a challenge at chain link fence resolution.  I keep going.  I pause it long enough to darken the room a bit more.  I watch the rest of the film.  It's a great film.  Too bad I can't access the menu to see the extras.  Maybe later on the computer.

I try to shut off the projector.  It won't respond to the button.  Those of us who have used these know that the light bulb in there is blazing hot so you need to use the button.  It lets the fan keep running after shutting off the light.  Once the bulb is cool and won't bust, the fan automatically shuts off.

I keep punching the button.  Nothing.  I try unplugging and replugging it in just comes entirely back on.  Crap.  I lower the brightness to the least bright possible in hopes the bulb won't be so hot.  I let that run, fan on the whole time, for a bit, then unplug awaiting the "pop" of an exploded bulb.  Nothing.  I got away with it.

But alas, this is not going to be a worthwhile thing.

So, I pack it up as I will be back at Grocery Outlet the next day.
I return it and they do a refund.  Sigh.
Of course I can't return electronics to the thrift store.  So, I'm out 10$ for this little lesson.  Had I thought it through and researched a bit, all of this would have been foreseeable.  Lesson Learned.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Week 1...wee clothing experiment

I didn't take good photos...but I kept the background consistent by using the nice mirror in the employee crapper.

Here is a rundown of this week's sweaters.  Well, every week's sweaters but the order of appearance for this week.

Monday, the "new" used lavender Dale of Norway cardigan:
With a cream turtleneck because I didn't have a better color.  And photo in the home crapper for variety.  The rest are in the work crapper.

Tuesday, the zipneck black Dale of Norway:

Wednesday was my most comfy sweater.  The classic black ski sweater by Dale of Norway from 1992:

Thursday I had a more formal meeting so I chose the new thrift Pendleton merino wool cardigan:

 I really liked it and wished I had a dark red or royal blue turtleneck, but the old shabby navy one had to do for now.  I look like I lost weight but it was just the sweater.

And today, Friday, the sweater was another Dale of Norway cardigan.  The black and cream one I've had for a while.
And yes, that's the same cream turtleneck.  I'm short on shirts to wear under these.

 No one said a word but I didn't see many people twice this week.  And I wore a different sweater each day. 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Another Wee Clothing Experiment

Been a long time...blah blah blah.

Anyway, I'm settled into winter digs in Moscow, ID.  Froze out of the camper in October.  More on that some other time.  Or not.

So, thanks to some crazy good thrift store finds, I'm doing a clothing experiment.

In the last 2 weeks I've found 2 amazing wool sweaters at thrift stores.  The most recent was on Sunday at the Moscow ID Goodwill Store.  A lavender and cream Dale of Norway brand cardigan with the pewter frogs.

Here's a full shot from the web:

$7.99.  It has a couple of pulled threads that need clipping but that's all.  Lovely and about $150 on ebay.  New they run $200-400 for that style and that brand.

A couple of weeks ago I found a Pendleton brand black and white button down cardigan at a different thrift store in another town.  Basically the same price.  It had the tags and spare button still on it (in fact it still does as I have yet to wear it).  The original tag price is $158.   Not bad again AND it's brand new.  And it's merino wool.  Really soft.   I don't have a photo but it's basically this without the deer:
70s -Charlie Wolf- Womens black, natural white and tan longsleeve wool ski sweater with silver button front, round neckline, reindeer and snowflakes design and box cut bottom hem.
 These two join the 3 I already own (who were formerly joined by one more but I gave that one to Fred).  The 3 I owned already are all Dale of Norway brand.  One similar to the lavender and cream one shown above with pewter clasps, but blue and white mainly.

Similar to this:

 One is a 1992 (the date is knit into the design) crew neck ski sweater in black red like this one:

Mine is not as busy as that one but I don't have a photo.

The final one is more modern, black and straight with a standup collar and 1/4 zip at the neck.
It's this model but a different pattern:
dale of norway

And I'm not as hot as that guy.  For the record the sweater in this picture is $318.

I got the sweaters I already own for 15$ each for 2 of them and I think the last one was about 10$. 
So that's $56 for 5 amazing sweaters.

Now for the experiment.  I'm going to wear one of these sweaters to work everyday until someone says something.  I can wear something else on my days off, and I can change into a field shirt if I have to go to a hazmat site or somewhere else that could result in having to wash the sweater.
Like tomorrow I need to go to the clinic and get a wound cleaned on my hand.  I don't want to bleed on a sweater so I may wear something else while I'm in the appointment.

Maybe I'll take photos in the bathroom mirror and make a look book while I do this.  I hear about the young people doing that.

I could use a few more decent turtlenecks to wear under these or mock turtlenecks.  I've only really got 3 and it's going to get to be a bit of a strain.  But, so it goes.

I'll rotate which sweater gets worn on which day.  We'll just see how long it takes.  I did it last year with 3 sweaters and it lasted a long time and no one seemed to notice/care.

This will inform my "how many clothes do I need" inquiry.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Frugal Reset

With 2 moves in 2 months, a 2 week trip home, a trip to the coast, another vacation coming up next month (I have to cram travel into about 4 months of winter due to job duties in the field season), an out of town conference or two, and perhaps random food costs shot up.

Too much eating out.  Too much road food.  Too much prepared food.

Another factor was canning season.  Once I got back into a place with a kitchen, the apartment I have for the winter, I wanted to get some things put up for winter.  I couldn't really do that in the camper with such limited space and stove smaller than the canner.  I didn't get outdoor accomations arranged.

So, food costs shot up.  It's easy to have that happen.  When traveling, entertaining, having visitors, etc and especially when working more than 3 blocks from home now that I commute, it seems easier to just buy something for lunch or hit up the local cafe for a sandwich.

But alas, those lunches, about 2 a week on average, were costing me 10$ a shot, double that if I was treating a friend.   That adds up compared to bringing lunch.

I have made SOME effort to have lunch ready at the office.  I found cheap soups at Grocery Outlet.  When I remember to eat them I'm spending $1.50 to $4.00 per lunch (because I don't JUST have soup...a piece of fruit or meat or bread or crackers to go with completes the meal). 

So, what would I save if I cut back on the store and restaurant lunches and made more of an effort to have my lunch pre-planned and brought it in?

Turns out there's an app for that.  Actually a calculator:

Lunch savings calculator

 Even with 0% return, if I ate 20 lunches from a brown bag (or you know, from groceries etc) for an average cost of $3.00 per lunch, vs eating out and buying grab-n-go stuff at the store for an average cost of $10.00, I would save $1680.00 per year!   OK, not quite that since I don't eat 30 lunches out per month right now.  Even if it's half that, $840.00 per year, that's pretty damn good.  $70.00 per month.  Probably double my utility bill. 

 Good to know too.  These sorts of reminders help me reset the frugality meter.  Daily small choices got me the money to buy that land for cash.  It's still easy to forget how much those small things add up.

 That said, today's lunch was left over baked salmon, elk jerky, and 1/3 of a box of soup.  The soup cost $1.99 for the quart box (organic carrot ginger soup made without dairy!).  So about $0.66 for that.  The left over salmon and elk jerky were from a community dinner last night so those were basically free.  I'm also having a cup of tea so whatever one tea bag (actually, I reuse them so a fraction of one tea bag) costs.   Let's call it $0.75 for lunch today.  And it was REALLY GOOD lunch.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Guest Blog: Amtrak Cross Country Trip

I asked a relative who was taking a cross country trip on Amtrak for a review.  It's a fairly thrifty way to travel, especially one way travel.   She booked just a seat, not a roomette.

Here is her review of the experience:

The train was not a bad experience at all and I could say I would recommend it to others.  I might suggest using the train for shorter distances, the trek from Spokane to La Crosse did get a little rough on the 2nd day.  I was on the train for a little more than 36 hours and at around hour 30 I was ready for my train experience to end but it was not bad overall.

*If you don’t want my jabber then there is a summary of pros and cons at the bottom*

The positives of the train would be the seating, the carry on luggage, the food, and the views/sights.  There is no doubt that the best thing about the seats is the leg room, being a tall person this is very important to me.  I, like many others traveling alone, was lucky enough to get two seats to myself which allowed for maximum space but I don’t think it would have been bad if I did have to share the seat next to me.  The seats if front of you have foot rests as well as your seat having a leg rest or leg extender (I have no idea what to call them).  So when it came time to sleep I could lift up the leg rests on both seats and make a kind of couch to sleep on.  The seats also recline fairly far as well so I had no trouble sleeping at all. An awesome feature of the train is also that they have electrical plug-ins for every seat so I could charge my phone or iPad which was great. Another pro of the train was that the staff really couldn’t care less where your carry on luggage is.  On planes they are really strict about placing you carry on bags in the overhead compartments or under your seat but on the train everyone just had their stuff in the seats next to them or on the floor. It was nice because then I had easy access to things when I needed them.   

The food on the train would be another positive thing. It is definitely not the best food you will eat in your life, like it’s not crème brulee or anything but it is decent enough.  I was brave enough to try one of the breakfast sandwiches and it was not bad.  The food is a positive just because they offer different options.  Passengers can eat in the dining car or go to the lounge to buy food, and they have a fair amount of things to choose from.  The final pro of the train is of course the sights; you see many mountains and landscapes that are really beautiful.  I unfortunately went through Glacier National Park during the night but woke up in the morning just as we were leaving and saw a really pretty sunset. North Dakota was a little boring and offered much of the same but the Dakotas are just in an unfortunate flat and super boring geographical area. Anyway, I saw many beautiful animals and trees on the trip and the train went through some interesting cities also.

Now for the negative aspects of the train; the bathrooms suck, there is no delay information, and it may be easy to get motion sickness. The number one negative is without a doubt the bathroom.  The bathrooms are microscopic and tiny, there is barely enough room to turn your body to wash your hands.  All of the locks suck and are broken so you play a sort of toilet Russian roulette (which in my opinion is worse than the real game) when you open the doors.  I had a person walk in on me while I was going and I accidentally walked in on another woman.  A random old woman peeing is not what you want to see at 6 in the morning after you have been sleeping on a train all night (just saying).  Plus, the bathrooms are gross like you would expect them to be, they see a lot of traffic. Another con would be the lack of knowledge about delays.  They may announce an unexpected stop or how long they will be at a station but they do not announce how far off schedule the train is.  During the night they make no announcements on the train at all so then you have no idea about stops that happen while you sleep.  It was frustrating because I ended up being 2 hours later to La Crosse than I was supposed to be.  The last con would be motion sickness. Most of the passenger seating is on the upper level but the train tends to sway in the wind and I can see where it would be easy for someone to get sick.  Also, many people lost their balance when trying to walk around so I would recommend caution to older individuals taking the train because they seemed to have the most trouble with balance.

Overall, if you are accustomed to the plane experience but cannot afford to get a plane ticket the train is a very similar experience for less money.  It has the same atmosphere as a plane but more leg room, there are plug-ins, you can use electronics while on the train, there is better food, and you get to see more than just clouds all the time. The bathrooms do kind of suck but if it is for a shorter trip then it’s not so bad. So the train is a great travel option!

-a lot of leg room (leg rests and foot rests)
-most people have two seats to themselves
-Plug-ins for electronics
-food/dinner options
-views/sights to see
-similar to an airplane experience

-bathrooms (gross, small, and no real locks)
-no delays are really mentioned
-motion sickness

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Living in the RV: An Update and Commentary

How's that for a dull title?   Dull and to the point.

So, I'm living in the camper full time now.  Have been for 12 days, though 2 of those nights I was working and didn't get to be here.  I'm here now.  I think it's the first I've used my computer in the camper.  I was trying to watch a DVD but it turns out I have to be connected to the damn internet to set up the DVD player on the computer.  Cripes.  I've watched other DVDs but I think those videos were burned as computer files and would not have worked in a DVD player.  These are actual commercial movie DVDs.  Anyway, it ain't a-workin' so I'll work on a blog post that I can put on the interwebs while I'm setting up the damn DVD player.  Maybe tomorrow.

As for now in the camper.  It's been fine.  I don't miss not having electricity.  The LED lights, battery, are fine.  I found cheapo and reasonably ecologically responsible, though not rechargeable batteries at an outdoorsy store the other day and replaced the batteries in my 2 main LEDs and WOW what a difference.  It's like daytime in here at night now.  Still, I'm trying to mostly follow the sun for a schedule.  I just use them to read in bed.  I've only needed them as flashlights one night that was quite cloudy.  Otherwise my eyes adjust to the dark and there is enough moonlight and starlight to get to the composting turlet without a flashlight even if I have to make a run in the wee hours. 

I am missing having a nearby water source.  I'm hauling in water by the gallon in jugs which is fine and most of the world would be delighted to have 10 gallons of clean water at one's disposal at all times.   But, hard to wash produce from the CSA and other things without a spigot and running water.   The sun shower is fine.  The inconvenience is that I live in a draw and the sun goes behind the trees on the west side a couple of hours before actual sunset.  At that point, the water in the sunshower starts to cool.  I've got about a 20 minute window before it's cold enough to be uncomfortable.  When I hit it just right, it's lovely.   It does mean that I don't want to do heavy work that would make me sweaty after the shower.  Right now that's at like 6:30pm.  I'm trying to save making dinner and other non-strenuous activities, but I'm missing quite a few productive hours.  A source of warm water and a shower (so I don't have to sleep sweaty and stinky in the trailer and make the whole place reek of armpits and feet) later in the evening would be nice.

The composting toilet...had a bit of a struggle there.  I don't have the "bulking mix" (peat moss and hemp) from the factory (cost, allergic to hemp) so I had been using straight peat moss.  The turlet started to stink.  The point of the turlet is it is not supposed to stink like an outhouse.   Hmmm....   So I called the company.  I told them I could not use the mix they market due to the hemp so was there something I could do.  Yes...wood shavings like you get for your hamster mixed in with the peat.  2 parts shavings to 1 part peat.   I've been adding just shavings (you add a cup of mix for each #2, or a minimum of 1 cup per day per person using the turlet) at a higher than normal rate until I catch up.  It started stinking less right away.   I also added more of the enzyme that is supposed to "activate the composting process."   I was also having trouble with ... um  ... "material" falling into the lower drawer (that's how the unit is emptied when full) when I did the periodic mixing.  (The whole thing is a rotating drum on a horizontal axis.  There is a door that you line up with the toilet seat.  The door falls open and ideally falls closed as you mix.  Turn the drum the other way to empty and the "material" falls out into the drawer to be emptied as fully composted non-stinky product.)  The nice lady at the composting turlet company said that sometimes the hinges on the door get "clogged" with "material" and have to be scrubbed out with a toothbrush and the enzyme spray.  I, AS A JOKE, said, "I guess that shouldn't be the toothbrush I'm currently using."   She, not getting the joke, replied, "A toothbrush you will never use for anything else.  Ever."   I found one for 50cents.  I had to buy one because MY toothbrush is a handle that little fresh brush heads fit into.  I've kept dozens of used plastic toothbrush handles out of the garbage stream (not much but one does what one can) not to mention the packaging.  I wasn't about to even get the handle anywhere near the "material" clogged hinges.   Now I have a turlet toothbrush.  If you visit, do not get in the bucket with rubber gloves and a yellow toothbrush and use that toothbrush.   Just saying.
After a quick, and icky, scrubbing, I did a test mix and VOILA!  It works!   Now I'm just missing the little rake used to clean out the "material" that might escape the cleanout drawer.   I'm sure something will appear at a thrift store that will be just the ticket.

I'm still considering switching to a simple sawdust bucket toilet after reading "The Humanure Handbook" but so far I haven't taken the plunge.  It does sound simpler, though harder to get past the county permit and health inspectors. 

Cooking at the camper has been interesting.  The stovetop works and it has become clear that I brought too many kitchen items.  I brought maybe 10% of what I had in the single-wide.  Still too much.  I've used the skillet, the tea kettle (for hot water for washing dishes mostly, couple of cups of tea), and a small sauce pan.  I did well with the knives though.  I brought 3.  A Rada paring knife (thanks Sher!), a serrated 5 inch "ginsu" type knife, and a 6 inch chef knife (thanks again Sher).  I also have my filet knife.  I've used the first three every time I've cooked.   Very handy.  The spork I got at "The Silver Spork" in DC is my main eating utensil.  Fun.  (ooo...gorgeous sunset tonight!  pink storm clouds).   I've been eating mostly off an antique enamelware pie plate.  I have other plates but I haven't even bothered getting them out.  I've been doing my mixing in (like for french toast) and eating salads out of an oval GI issue stew plate/bowl thing.    Coffee is made either in my wee bialli style espresso maker (though it had an issue this morning and may need a new gasket), or my french press travel mug. 

I brought 3 thermoses (is that the right plural?)  thinking I'd heat up water in the evening and store it in a thermos so I could wash my face in warm water in the morning.  Haven't bothered.  I have an ice-tea-jar with a spigot on it on the back of the sink.  I fill that with water and it makes for a reasonable faucet for tooth brushing and hand and face washing.   I use "Camp Suds" biodegradable soap for everything so far.  It looks like one small bottle will get me through this time no problem.  For showers and handwashing after using the toilet I put a squeeze bottle, like you'd have dishsoap in,  with mostly water and a bit of the Camp Suds mixed in, near the turlet/shower area (under the west side of the spruce tree) and that's been working just fine.  I couldn't tolerate not washing my hands after I use the toilet.  I have the toilet covered with an old sheet (so the sun doesn't wreck the fiberglass it is made of) and I've been using that as a hand towel.  I had hung a hand towel up there but it kept blowing off the hook/twig.  I'll just wash the sheet like I would the towel.   I do admit that after having to scrub the hinges and otherwise deal with the toilet the other day, I didn't find the squeeze bottle wash very satisfying.  So I walked 10 or 15 minutes to the far north edge of the land, crossed over to the rest stop next door, and used the sink there with hot running water and industrial soap.  The irony is that that industrial non-biodegradable soap will end up in the septic drain field for the rest stop...which is on my land.

That little trip brings us to another fun bit of living here (over all it's fabulous!).  On the way to the rest stop I was walking over the septic drainfield vicinity, which I don't often do.  At the very north edge along the east-west fence on the boundary with neighboring properties...GIANT POO!  Either moose with a mild case of diarrhea from too much fruit, or a bear with a bit of constipation from too much grass.  It looks more like the bear poo in my poo field guide.  But I've seen moose poo at the north west end, and this was the north east end.  Exciting.   On the way back from the rest stop I accidentally flushed a large family of quail!  I added them to my notes in the bird book (Thanks again Sher!) of what I've seen.  There were cedar waxwings eating bugs over the pond the other day too.  Very cool. I haven't identified the humming bird who eats at the feeding hanging off the camper.  I'm sure it's not exotic but I just haven't grabbed the book while it was actually there eating.  It has a surprisingly long beak and isn't very colorful.  Must be a female (due to coloring, not beak format).

Gram and a variety of other relatives got me an excellent wildlife camera with external solar panel back up on the battery.  I first set it up on the island (now peninsula because most of the water is gone) in the pond.  I put it on a milk crate as there wasn't a tree or post.  I set it for motion detection and to take photo every 15 minutes.  I went back a couple of days later and grabbed it to see what I had.   Well, it seems after a couple of hours it fell over.  I had many many photos of blurry ground.   A couple photos of me setting up the camera.  Sigh.  I decided to put the camera somewhere handier while I learned the ins and outs of it.  It's quite a hike to the pond and I didn't want to use up my precious pre-shower-post-work window running after it.  Now it's on the front of the camper on the non-active propane tank.  At last check, I had about a hundred really nice photos of an empty hay field.  I'd like to point it west past the toilet but I don't have anywhere to hang it that wouldn't also shoot me as I use the toilet and shower.  No one wants to see that.    Once I get the hang of it, I may try back up at the north end, or if I can find something to hang it on, I'll point it at the culvert crossing the creek on the east side of the property.  There is plenty of poo on that so I know things are crossing it.  I also know these things are deer but photos of deer would be more interesting than photos of an empty field.

It's 8:07pm and quite dark now.  I think I'll bag it for the evening.  I'm sure I'll wake up at 4am per usual, but such is life on the land.  It's not just that the sun is about to come up and things are getting light at 4am, that's also the time the semi's start going up and down the road again and I don't have much sound isolation from the road here in the camper.  I don't mind though.  It doesn't really matter which 8 hours I sleep as long as I sleep.   The lack of security lights shining in the windows is wonderful!  In the single wide I had 3 layers of dark fabric over the south windows and "room darkening shades" over the east windows and STILL I could practically read without turning a light on.  I was having trouble sleeping.  Not here.  It's dark and the wind and frogs and crickets are quite soothing.  The occasional thumping on the camper weirds me out but so far it's come to nothing.