Do You Think…?

…I’d (finally) start enjoying Christmas again if I turned off the TV entirely for the next month, and instead listened to beautiful Christmas music, watched Christmas movies, practiced Christmas carols on the piano, and read a few books?

Won’t happen, of course, but it’s a thought.

I’ll at least listen to Christmas music.  Here’s one of my faves!

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April 23 (T)…Thrifting (God’s Gift to My Continued Giddiness)

I have been a thrift store aficionado for many more years than I’d like to admit (and I say that only because I’m older than I’d like to admit, but that’s another subject…)  Thrift stores are, I’m convinced, God’s gifts to discount seekers such as myself, and I am in good company.  My shopping soulmate – the girlfriend who introduced me to some of the best thrift stores EVER – has an uncanny knack for ferreting out the most unbelievable deals.  She has the patience (and the eye) for searching out the quality items and deducing quickly whether or not they are worth the price that is marked.  We have had many…many…manythrifting excursions that have concluded with bags nearly bursting with “new to us” treasures.

And treasures they are!

I can not count the number of times I have found something brand new, tags still attached, selling at the thrift store for a fraction of the retail price.  Nice, quality merchandise…in my size or style…that is destined for my closet.  It makes me a little giddy to find a deal like that, even a little tingly all over.  I’ve come to believe it’s addictive in a way, if only that it completely changes my shopping (and especially buying) perspective.  Seriously, once you’ve picked up something that is a brand you love, that looks new (or nearly so), that is a color & style you love, and that is dirt cheap, it’s hard to go back to paying full price.  Really, really hard.

There is only one hard and fast rule for thrifting:  when you find that unbelievable deal, buy it immediately.  Do not think twice.  If you wait, it will be gone, and you will regret it.  Most thrift stores have some sort of return policy, and I’ve found it’s better to buy now and return later (if I change my mind) than second guess myself in the store. I truly speak from experience on this, thinking back to that pair of gently used Birkenstocks in a lovely, original print that I left in the store because why?? It doesn’t really matter, because they were g-o-n-e when I went back the next day.  D’oh!  Double d’oh!

If you will permit me, I’d like to offer a few suggestions on what not to buy at a thrift store.  There are a few obvious ones (for me) – underwear, bathing suits, bathroom soap dispensers, anything rusty or broken.  Yes, I’ll explain.

  • Underwear…just ewwwww.  Unless (and only unless) it is obviously brand new, and (not or) it is a gag gift for some unsuspecting friend.  I mean, that actually happened with one of my friends, who found a brand new (tags still attached) man’s thong and bought it for a gift.  But I digress…
  • Bathing suits…just like underwear.  If it has touched some unknown hoo-ha, it will not touch mine, except for the “brand new, tags (and crotch sticker) still attached” exception mentioned above.
  • Bathroom soap dispensers…this is just a personal “ewwwww.”  If it’s still gooey with soap / lotion / whatever, I just can’t.
  • Rusty or broken anything.  Because even at that price, if it requires a repair, I’m not investing in it.
  • Upholstered furniture…just no.  Germs.
  • Personal toiletry items….same “ewwwww” factor, unless they are obviously brand new, still in the package.
  • Toys that are broken, torn or missing parts / pieces.

With that, let me share a few of my fabulous finds over the years:

  • Two solid wood night stands, oak, not painted, drawers fully functional…$15 each.
  • Small wooden cd shelf, fully assembled…$5.
  • Metal clothes drying rack…$5.
  • Lane Bryant and Avenue pants…$4-9 per pair.
  • Carter’s, Gymboree, The Children’s Place, and Oshkosh B’Gosh clothing ranging from $0.50 to $5.
  • Steve Madden, 9 West and Chinese Laundry shoes, usually less than $10.
  • Le Creuset stoneware, $5 per piece.
  • Corning Ware cookware…usually $3-5 per piece (usually with lid included).
  • Crystal wine glasses…$o.99 a piece.
  • Large crystal wine glasses…$1.99 a piece.
  • Books, glorious books…trade paperbacks $2, buy 4 get 1 free.  Kid’s books $0.60, buy 4 get 1 free.

Couple these incredible prices with the often 25-50% discounts on select tag colors (or for club members…which means you have their nifty discount card), and you can really buy an insane amount for an insanely low price.  I have said for years that free is my favorite price.  However, nearly free is a close second, and I’ll take it for that.

So get out there and thrift, my friends.  The treasures are awaiting you…all you have to do is keep your eyes pealed for the deal.

April 21 (S)…Sowell (as in Thomas)

I have to admit that I have been crushing on Thomas Sowell for a long time.  He is a erudite economist, a pithy political pundit, and a phenomenally talented writer.  His is widely published as a columnist and is a prolific nonfiction author, all while continuing his day job as a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Instition of Stanford University.  To say he is highly accomplished is probably a bit of an understatement.  He’s one of my favorite people ever to advance the causes of economic solvency and political conservatism.  Plus, he has a wicked sense of humor.

With that confession now off my chest, let me share with you some of my favorite “Sowellisms.”

Some of the biggest cases of mistaken identity are among intellectuals who have trouble remembering that they are not God.

Socialism is a wonderful idea. It is only as a reality that it has been disastrous. Among people of every race, color, and creed, all around the world, socialism has led to hunger in countries that used to have surplus food to export…. Nevertheless, for many of those who deal primarily in ideas, socialism remains an attractive idea — in fact, seductive. Its every failure is explained away as due to the inadequacies of particular leaders.

Each new generation born is in effect an invasion of civilization by little barbarians, who must be civilized before it is too late.

Whenever someone refers to me as someone “who happens to be black,” I wonder if they realize that both my parents are black. If I had turned out to be Scandinavian or Chinese, people would have wondered what was going on.

It is hard to imagine a more stupid or more dangerous way of making decisions than by putting those decisions in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong.

Freedom has cost too much blood and agony to be relinquished at the cheap price of rhetoric.

Both free speech and property rights belong legally to individuals, but their real function is social, to benefit vast numbers of people who do not themselves exercise these rights.

Capitalism knows only one color:  that color is green; all else is necessarily subservient to it, hence, race, gender and ethnicity cannot be considered within it.

It’s amazing how much panic one honest man can spread among a multitude of hypocrites.

One of the common failings among honorable people is a failure to appreciate how thoroughly dishonorable some other people can be, and how dangerous it is to trust them.

People who pride themselves on their “complexity” and deride others for being “simplistic” should realize that the truth is often not very complicated. What gets complex is evading the truth.

Intellect is not wisdom.

Talkers are usually more articulate than doers, since talk is their specialty.

Despite a voluminous and often fervent literature on “income distribution,” the cold fact is that most income is not distributed: It is earned.

There are only two ways of telling the complete truth–anonymously and posthumously.

Extrapolations are the last refuge of a groundless argument.

Whatever we wish to achieve in the future, it must begin by knowing where we are in the present- not where we wish we were, or whee we wish others to think we are, but where we are in fact.

One of the consequences of such notions as “entitlements” is that people who have contributed nothing to society feel that society owes them something, apparently just for being nice enough to grace us with their presence.

One of the sad signs of our times is that we have demonized those who produce, subsidized those who refuse to produce, and canonized those who complain.

Sources:  Goodreads.com, ThinkExist.com, BrainyQuote.com

This is a very small sampling of the wit and wisdom of Thomas Sowell…a dip of the toe.  I urge you to check out his columns at Townhall (one of several publication websites), his books (they’re available at your local library), and those columnists and authors whom he recommends.  He is worth it.

Yep, totally crushing…

April 14 (M)…Mental (A)Musings from a Mad Mind (a Random Selection)

I don’t know why, but any time I think of cows, my mad mind always things “moo-cows.”  Always.  Sometimes I even say it out loud.

Cute!

Not cute!

I think muumuus, in their appropriate Hawaiian setting, are perfectly fine.  They are indigenous to the locale.  However, they have been madly misappropriated as a somehow appropriate plus-sized fashion necessity.  Being of a zaftig nature myself, can I offer a resounding objection to this trend.  Comfy they may be, but outside of Hawaii, please can we just leave them in the closet??

Those who meddle really miff this mad woman.  Those with mettle do not.  I know members of both extractions…guess who I hang out with?

Mmm, Mmm, Good!  Best branding EVER for Campbell’s Soup.  Best caption for this photo (credit People of Walmart for that)?  Not so much…

Mandi…a forever friend I miss a ton.  2000 miles of US geography, kiddos, and myriad responsibilities does not make it easy to visit…or frankly, to even chat on the phone very often.  No matter, because we pick up where we left off before…every time…which is what forever friendship always is.

Speaking of myriad, how is it that this particular word gets misused so much?  Short lesson:  myriad (adj) means innumerable, multitudinous, incalculable, immeasurable, numerous.  Therefore, “a myriad of (insert plural noun of choice)” is not correct.  You wouldn’t say “a numerous of …” or “a multitudinous of …” or “an incalculable of …”  Correct usage is “myriad (insert plural noun of choice).”  Like myriad responsibilities, for instance, which keep friends from being in touch as much as they would like to be.  OK, end of lesson.  It really is the little things in life… 😀

Momentary political tangent:  Minimum wage does not help the economy, and it does not make jobs more plentiful.  It does just the opposite, because the higher the minimum wage that is required per employee, the fewer employees that can be hired. For those looking for jobs, these circumstances are inconducive to success.  The market can regulate minimum wage adequately and fairly, but it is not permitted to do so (thanks to ubiquitous government interference and regulation).  This maddens me.  End of tangent.

Does MySpace still exist?

Mangos are melt-in-your-mouth delicious.

The best and most special name I have EVER had…EVER…is Mommy!  The best and most special job I’ve ever had is Mommy!  Well, wife too, but in my case, that’s implied. 🙂

Many, many thanks to my parents for passing along the love of reading to me.  It is one of my favorite pastimes (after…or maybe equal to writing), so let me share some of my favorite M authors:  Monica McInerney (marvelously fun Australian author); Mark Twain (no list is complete without him); Pamela Morsi (fun Southern author); Marina Lewycka (of A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian fame…funny little book), Cormac McCarthy (just read his stuff!); Mary Alice Monroe (great summer reading), Daphne du Maurier (Rebecca is perhaps the best gothic murder mystery I have ever read); Maurice Sendak (one of my very favorite children’s authors).

Making time to do the hair for my lovely friend WomanNeverSleeps‘ beautiful daughter on the day of her prom…my pleasure.  And a small example of the miraculous covenant that binds the body of Christ.  When help is needed, there is always someone to call, someone who can, someone who will.  It’s not always me, but it is today, and it is indeed my pleasure.

April 2 (B)…Books (and a Bookish Nerd)

If you know me personally, you had to know that today’s topic is a no-brainer. 

I love books.

I love reading, and try to do so every day.  I listen to audiobooks in my car constantly, and I set (often unattainable) reading goals each year, hoping not only to improve on my totals from the previous year, but to push myself to read things I would not ordinarily pick up.  And every year, I have had had great surprises, failures, disappointing revelations, but (nevertheless) satisfaction at having added to my reading history.

A few years ago, I was introduced to Goodreads, and I was instantly hooked.  I have always had a personal library, and Goodreads was the tool that allowed me to catalog my books, track my reading, get new book recommendation, publish book reviews, follow other readers’ reviews and comments, and interact with a group of people who love books as much as I do.

So I cataloged, organized, categorized, and made lists.

Most importantly, I started formally tracking my reading in 2007.  This has proved to be one of the most satisfying endeavors I have ever undertaken during my reading life.  I have learned a lot about my reading habits and my taste in books.  I discovered, for example, that pre-planning my annual reading is an absolute FAIL for me, as my mood is the dictator of what books wind up on my bedside table.  I also discovered that I am a relatively slow reader, in comparison to the many bookworms I encounter on Goodreads, in the blogosphere, or wherever we happen to connect.

Here are some stats:

2007:  40 books; favorites – Family Baggage and Alphabet Sisters by Monica McInerney
2008:  44 books; favorites – The Hindi-Bindi Club by Monica Pradhan, Becoming Finola by Suzanne Strempek Shea
2009:  84 books; favorites – My Grandfather’s Son: A Memoir by Clarence Thomas, No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peal Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
2010:  49 books; favorites – Rain Gods by James Lee Burke, The Water is Wide and South of Broad by Pat Conroy, Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, Their Eyes were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, A Separate Peace by John Knowles, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
2011:  54 books; favorites – Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, My Reading Life by Pat Conroy, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson, Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, The Help by Kathryn Stockett, The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas
2012:  12 books (to date); favorite (to date) –The Bonesetter’s Daughter by Amy Tan

The best things about this project are that I am getting better at picking books I love, and I have at my fingertips book recommendations galore…to share with others, or to peruse when I’m in a slump.

I’d love you to connect with me bookishly.  Comments, complaints and snide remarks are welcome and encouraged.

Here’s where you can find me:
My personal book blog:  http://bookishnerd.com/
Goodreads:  http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/346637

I also revew books on Amazon.com.

So, from one book lover to (hopefully) many…happy reading!

(Somewhat) Random Thoughts

I’ve been playing around with my blog design to find something that seemed to be more representative of the vision I had in mind.  This is what I came up with.  Tell me what you think…really!

In addition to the above, I designed another blog (which I posted about previously) so I can contain my bookish observations, reviews, lists, etc.  They are overflowing out of me, and it has gotten to the point where I’m posting more regularly along that line than along the various other meanderings of my brain.  Of course, I’ve been reading a lot (more) lately, which I suppose could account for that.

With regard to the reading a lot, if you have read something that you think is fabulous, tell me about it.  Tell me here, or at Bookish Nerd, or on Facebook, or through email, or (gasp) we could talk on the phone.  I know, that’s practically out of fashion anymore, but still…you could text. LOL

As I’m looking around, I note that I’m sitting in the living room that is absolutely chaotic with the detritus of a 5-year-old boy who is on spring break.  A barn, animals, books, DVDs, animals, PlayMobil (teeny tiny) pieces, Buzz Lightyear, animals, Sheriff Woody, Jessie, animals, a dinosaur camo throw, tractors pulling wagons filled with (have I mentioned this before??) animals.  What is miraculous about this is that I haven’t blown a gasket as he sits absorbed in The Land Before Time and completely content with the state of things.  This is something that bothers…really bothers…me.  To the point that I can’t relax until order is restored, and yet my darling son – so like his father – can be completely at ease in the midst of it.  Just push it over to the side if you need the space.  No problem…he’s going to use (play with) each item at some point…this week…ya know, so let’s not be putting things away unnecessarily.  I mean, you should see his bed.  It can be made neatly, with a few of his stuffed animals settled strategically for a warm & inviting sleeping environment, and as I peak in before heading to my own bed, every stuffed animal he owns is piled (PILED) at the head of his bed, and he is sleeping in some cockeyed position, snuggled within the pile, and possibly with some part of his body hanging off the bed.  Now when I say that he reminds me somewhat (as does my husband at times) of Pigpen in the Charlie Brown comics, who constantly has this little dirt cloud swirling behind him, you can visualize the trail of belongings that follows my son wherever he goes.  It goes beyond my threshold for clutter, and yet…well…he’s 5.

Since I promised said darling 5-year-old boy (who has informed me he is hungry) that I would prepare dinner at 6:00p, and he has been watching the clock, and I am now 9 minutes past my promise, I will stop and attend to him.

Until next time.

Bye bye, book stuff…

Just a note to say that I’ve created a new blog, Bookish Nerd, that will be dedicated to bookishness.  In the interested if maintaining some semblance of blogging organization (if such a thing exists), I thought this would help.  Not to mention that wading through a bunch of stuff you don’t want to read to get to the post you do want to read is…really…a pain in the rear.  So thanks to those of you who read my personal craziness.  To a great extent you are keeping me sane by following along and being interested.