Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Going to the Consignment Shop

It's come down to this, folks...I'm selling my clothes. In the old days when I had money, I spent a portion of it on J. Jill, Liz Claiborne, Sigrid Olsen and Juicy Couture. And I haven't worn any of it in years.

For two years while running the club my workday uniform consisted of sweat pants (in long, short and capri length) and my Club50 baseball shirts or T-shirts. It was comfy and reassuring that I didn't have to decide what to wear at 5 am. every morning.

So despite having pared down my wardrobe before I left Chicago, I had the closet that was rarely touched. I hung everything neatly when I moved in and then forgot about it except for a few occasions. There was synogogue on the high holidays, Scott and Colleen's wedding. Rosario's New Year's day brunch, the Chamber of Commerce Christmas party and trips back to Chicago. I'll admit I do not have most exciting personal life but that's basically the result of two years of working/sleeping/working/sleeping/working/etc/etc.

So that explains why the clothes are "very gently used."

I went through the summer stuff since that's what's selling now. I had some nice Sigrid Olsen summer pants but the woman at the store said she didn't need any more pants in my size because her rack was full. I looked at it and it was full, but full of plain black and brown pants. My Sigrid Olsen prints would really stand out.

Would you believe I had five pairs of athletic shorts, Reebok, Addidas and Nike. Some even still had the tags on them. I think I bought them figuring I'd wear them at the club in hot weather but they're way to short for me. It's an age-appropriate thing.

She did say that she would take jeans which is good because I had two pair of regular jeans, two pair of capri length jeans and one pair of white jeans. I'm hoping I'll get a good return on those.

I'm throwing in a couple of handbags as well. I parted with a bunch of purses before I left Chicago but I still have too many. I'll always have too many. But I' m not giving up the good ones because I'll never get what they're worth.

So I'll be reporting back here with the results of how much I take in and whether or not this is a worthwhile venture.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Canceling Services

One way to save money when you have little coming in is to cancel those extraneous services that you've decided you can live without.

I just got off the phone with The New York Times. As much respect as I have for their journalistic skills, I have absolutely no respect for their sales department. The woman on the other end of the line supposedly "pulled up" my account information and told me she could offer me the paper at half price for 6 months only charging me $13.60 per month. I pointed out that I was already paying $13.60 per month and she insisted I was paying $27.20. Just to refresh my mind and prove to myself that I wasn't going crazy, I pulled up my credit card bill online and saw that I was indeed paying just $13.60 per month. Then I said I would like to keep the crossword puzzle access like I used to have and I believed that cost $35.99 per year. She told me that the crossword only access would cost $179 per year. I told her that was ridiculous and to cancel the whole thing. I went online to try to find out the actual cost of the crossword puzzle access and I couldn't confirm it because it still recognizes me as a member. I'll wait until they cut me off and then sign up again (unless it really is $179 per year). She pissed me off even more when I asked for a confirmation e-mail or snail-mail. She said they don't do that so now I have to wait until next month to check my credit card bill to make sure they really canceled it.

Back at the beginning of the year I restructured my communications options and needed to cancel my old services for TV, phone and internet. Dish network was very sympathetic and although they offered me a deal citing that they hated to lose me after 9 years of service they canceled with no problem.

Comcast, with whom I had internet service, canceled me with no questions asked. They just wanted their equipment back so I had to drive over to their office and drop off the cable modem and cables.

Vonage was another story. I knew they were going to be difficult because I tried to use it at the Club to save some money but it wouldn't work properly with the wireless internet service I had at the Club so I had to cancel. They really didn't want to cancel me at that time, instead offering me a "hold" for $5 a month. I explained to them that it just wouldn't work and I wanted to cancel outright but it still took several minutes of arguing to get them to cancel it completely.

So when I went to cancel my personal Vonage service I was prepared or so I thought. They told me I was going to have to answer 2 out of 5 security questions to verify my account. One was the amount of my last bill so I had to do a quick credit card search to find that. Then they wanted to know the name of my plan. The NAME of my plan? I told them it was their basic plan but I didn't know what they called it. I couldn't answer the next two questions either (I don't remember what they were) and was beginning to feel like scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail where the troll under the bridge is asking questions to let them pass. What's your favorite colour? What's the capital of Assyria? Fortunately the last question for me was What's your e-mail address? and I knew that one.

Then she started in with the offers. They'll pay my bill for one month, they'll pay my bill for two months, they'll keep my phone number active for a small monthly fee. At every turn I held my ground and told them no, I wanted to cancel outright. Finally, after about 15 minutes I prevailed. They really do try to wear you down, putting you on hold at length (while they supposedly check with supervisors) but my advice is to hang in there and hold your ground.

If you tell them you're not working, they'll be sympathetic but still persistent. I still think the best tactic is to tell them you're dead. I discovered that one 10 years ago when I was canceling my father's cable TV service after he passed away. They have no answer for death...remember that.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Let's Mess With Texas

A wise person (the name escapes me now) once said Texas is too small to be a country and too large to be an insane asylum. I think whoever said that was dead on but evidently in this day and age of the delusional right wing some people are conniving to have Texas secede from the union so they can have have their own country with lots of guns, no taxes and for some reason, no teleprompters.

So which looney right winger is stirring up this sentiment. One of those militia neo-nazi guys who blew up Oklahoma City? No, it's Rick Perry, the governor of Texas.

On the surface this seems like maybe not such a bad idea. Confining those people to a single area could only make things better for the rest of us. But then New Mexico would have to build a border fence to keep them out of the USA. On the other hand they would probably have a job for Norm Coleman of Minnesota so Al Franken could finally get down to the business of being a senator. And hey, did you hear about that Senator Burr from North Carolina who told his wife to take as much money as she could out of the ATM as a personal run on the bank. It's his own bailout program...take the money and bail out.

I believe in free speech and the right to protest but I don't understand these people. Tell me why they're asking for tax cuts? If they earn less than $250,000 a year (and by the look of them I think we can make the assumption that they do) they got a tax cut. Didn't they look at their pay checks? And their leaders like Rick Perry and that goofy congresswoman from Minnesota spout these unbelievable statements throwing out statements like herding college students into re-education camps (she was talking about Americorp) Obama brazenly ordering the killing of three black Muslim teenagers (Rush Limbaugh talking about the Somali pirates). Oh and they actually called these rallies the largest grassroots turnout in history. After all, they got 200 people in Rockford. That's only 4600 fewer than the amount of people who showed up for the Motley Crue reunion there. Largest in history? Did they see Martin Luther King's march on Washington in 1963.

The only consolation I can take in all of this is that the group that spouts this hatred have their teabag parties and has already judged the Obama presidency to be a failure is less than 25% of the country. As hard as Fox News tries to make it look like a silent majority we can take some comfort that many people who were supporters of GW Bush have now seen the light and come over to the side of humanity.

But back to Texas. You know how much damage the last governor of Texas did. You remember him. ...the guy trying to reshape his legacy after screwing up the entire world for the last eight years. Rumor has it when he left Texas he had a bumper sticker on his car that said "If You Think I was Bad, Wait til you See the Guy Replacing Me."

I booked Brian's flight into El Paso for his visit here in June. He'd better bring his passport.

I'm going to brew myself a nice cup of tea.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Victory Garden

It will be a victory if I can actually grow this garden. Michelle Obama has inspired me to supplement my food budget with vegetables grown in my own garden.

Anybody who knows me well knows my history with plants. Let's just sum it up by saying "not good." When I opened Club 50 my family sent me a "money tree" which was actually a scheffalera plant. I managed to keep it alive for two years which is some sort of record for me but in the end it succumbed along with the business. I can't blame the plant's death on the economy but lets just say the economy depressed me enough to stop watering the plant.

As for vegetables, I tried growing them in Chicago when my cousin, Scott built a lovely raised garden bed in our backyard. I planted lettuce, chives, parsely, tomatoes and peppers. The lettuce became a salad bar for rabbits in the neighborhood. Somehow they ignored the chives and parsely. I guess they didn't like the taste. As for the tomatoes and peppers, I will always remember that proud day in early October when I harvested my crop before the first frost. In my basket were two tomatoes the size of golf balls and a green bell pepper the size of my thumb.

Being a devotee of Martha Stewart I felt humbled and ashamed that I could not grown a decent garden. I tried to blame it on lack of sun but I don't think that was the whole story. The parsely turned out to be my cash crop. I harvested enough parsely to garnish plates for weeks.

Of course here in the desert it is not easy to grow anything. First of all my landscaping does not allow for anything but container gardening. My "lawn" is a bed of rocks which is nice because you don't have to water or mow it. Basically, the perfect lawn for me. But yet I have this urge to grow something. Remember the speeches Eddie Albert used to give on Green Acres about planting the seeds and watch them shooting up to the sky. I have that but I don't know why.

Last year I planted a tomato plant but despite watering it every day it simply fried in the hot sun. My marigolds fried too. So this time I could blame the heat but yet other people were able to make things grow. Certainly Home Depot, Lowes and WalMart wouldn't be doing such big garden business if we couldn't support anything but cactus.

So I did some research and went to Home Depot and found a tomato hybrid called "Heatwave." It's specially bred to thrive in hot climates. I was thrilled. Then, emboldened by my tomato find, I looked onward and bought a strawberry plant, rosemary and my old cash crop, parsely.

I planted them in three containers and put them near my front door but not under the canopy so they can get full sun most of the day and then shade in the evening. I have a hose so I can water them every day and even put these glass bulbs in that retain extra moisture.

And so far so good. It's been a couple of weeks and nothing is dead yet...and I even have a strawberry. Yes, one tiny strawberry, but I grew it myself and when it gets a little bigger I will proudly eat it. Maybe I'll even make a cheesecake to put under it.

I doubt that it's really going to make a dent in my grocery budget but it's in my blood (and on my membership card in the Martha militia) so I will press on and of course, continue to post updates on the garden.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Transportation in a Brave New World

Is the GM Puma the answer to our fuel efficiency problems? I'd like to know what liability insurance runs on this vehicle.

Today I'm driving a funky Mazda 5 which is my loaner car while my tail light is being fixed. I can't quite get used to it. It's very low and there's no satellite radio which some of you may view as a luxury but in Las Cruces it's a necessity.

It's Passover tonight but I'm not going to a seder. I probably could wander over to the temple down the block and press my nose against the stained glass window but I think I'll be happy with my own matzo ball soup. I made a great batch of matzo balls this time. They're floaters, not sinkers.

Besides, there's plenty of baseball to watch. Of course I have my Cubs but Direct tv is having a free preview of their Extra Innings package through this weekend. So I'm watching all sorts of teams that I don't even care about but heck, it's baseball.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Senior Day Score

I am becoming the mother of all grocery shoppers. I can sniff out a bargain and Senior Day at Albertsons is definitely part of the mix. There are still things that are cheaper at WalMart but I won't buy meat at WalMart and Albertsons has some good sales like cereal for $1 per box, eggs for $1 a dozen and best of all bread flour for $2 for a 5-lb. bag.

I only spent $40 and I got four of those bags of flour, a whole chicken and the necessary veggies for making chicken soup and then chicken pot pie with the soup chicken. Matzo balls may be another story since there wasn't a box of matzo meal to be had in the store....and believe me I'm not holding out hope of finding it at WalMart or Lowe's Fiesta Market. They did have matzo and macaroons and kosher for Passover cake mixes. They had gefilte fish in a jar and matzo ball soup mix but no matzo meal. I suppose I could grind matzo in my food processor...I'll have to think about it. Oh and they didn't have the jelly candies that nobody eats.

But I'm excited about making soup tomorrow. It's been a long time.

Oh and I should mention that we found a really good barbecue restaurant today. It's called Smokey Dick's and even though it's way over on the other side of town, it's definitely worth the drive. They have a slightly sweet sauce with a peppery aftertaste that lingers for just the right amount of time. They also have cole slaw made with pineapple

Excuse me if I chuckle but I'm watching a Republican congressman trying to spin their budget proposal. He's talking about a simplified tax option for the very wealthy that would lower their tax rate to ten or fifteen percent. He's arguing that it's not a tax break for the's "revenue neutral." This is what I hate about Republicans. They think that ordinary people are too dumb to do the math. The whole Bush administration was built on "because I said so."

Oh and one word on the Obamas in Europe. Don't you love the fact that Michelle wore a J.Crew sweater to meat the Queen. But i'm not sure about this gift giving stuff. They gave her an Ipod and somehow it doesn't seem like the ideal gift for the Queen. She'll probably re-gift it to her grandson.