#5TF: Great Outdoors

Five Thought Friday Challenge:  Week 8 – August 12 – 18, 2017

If you happen to be in the path of Monday’s eclipse then you’ve no doubt noticed the rampant commercialization of this rare astronomical phenomenon. We found out firsthand when we went in search of the special viewing glasses that are needed to watch the event. We read on Facebook that Walmart had the glasses for $1 so one evening we made our way over to pick up a few pairs, only to find that yes indeed, Walmart does have Eclipse glasses. They have both shot glasses and drinking glasses (along with koozies, t-shirts, and hats) but no viewing glasses. In fact, our town of 35,734 people has somehow managed to scoop up every single pair of free or cheap eclipse viewing glasses offered by the public library, Chamber of Commerce, various businesses, and yes, even Walmart. And not always for their own use, mind you. Today, I listed an old cell phone on OfferUp and saw a few folks selling ISO Eclipse glasses for a mere $10 per pair.

Our local paper has warned that we should not go out this weekend and especially on Monday if we can help it. They want to make sure all the tourists who are supposed to flock here for the “Gallatin Eclipse Encounter” have plenty of places to park and as little traffic as possible during their stay. We have lots to offer them too – a Sip ‘N Stroll of the downtown area, a Bluegrass Jam, and an all-day party in the park. I’d love to know what the economic impact of this 2 minute 40 second event will be for our city and how we’ll use that money to better our community (hint, hint politicians…though I doubt you’ll ever see this post anyway).

Now onward and upward to better things…

One thing I really enjoyed this week was car camping in Ocoee, TN and waterwater rafting the next day. (And by car camping, I mean we literally slept in the car!) You can read all about our fun adventure here: Our High Country Adventure

I am grateful that we made it out of Deliverance country alive. Just kidding, it wasn’t that bad. But winding our way up a gravel one-lane switchback road sure made for a very scary experience and arriving at the end of it to find ourselves hiking down a narrow ledge alongside some strange (and very chatty) folks in flip-flops didn’t help matters much either. I am not sure how they made it down at all. We had on our best hiking shoes and we stumbled more than a few times ourselves.

Angie says that she’s grateful that we did not have to go to the grocery store before or during this trip and that the entire weekend only cost us $44, including the rafting trip.

I need to let go of the notion that we’re ever going to be able to walk outside our house without getting eaten alive by some sort of bug. We won our battle against the mosquitoes by using a combo of creamy baby lotion and citronella spray but the chiggers at our campsite outnumbered us 1,000 to 1. Poor Angie got the worst of it. Almost a week later and she still looks like she has the measles.

We made progress on our hiking/walking goal, adding 12 miles to our tally during our 2-day outing. We also canned 3 more quarts of tomatoes and made great strides in meal-prep this week. We spent Monday afternoon chopping and prepping ingredients for a veggie soup that we shared with my Mom and Ticky on Tuesday and a squash lasagna that lasted for 2 dinners. The few hours of effort we put in that day more than paid off during the week when we had meals ready to go after a long day of mowing or playing outside with the little one. I think this coming week, we may do a pot of beans and rice and have variations of Latin American dishes for the week (like tacos, arroz con pollo, and veggie quesadillas).

The funniest thing that happened this week is really too embarrassing to be shared. Let’s just say, our campsite was a long way from the potty and sometimes your hear really strange noises when you’re attempting to pee in the woods at night (like owls or perhaps your partner laughing at you for some still unknown reason). Thank goodness I restocked the wet wipes in our car!

A close runner up to this incident was probably the look on our faces when we realized we were headed straight uphill on a gravel road in a car with a 1.4 L 4 cylinder engine. To put that in perspective, the Jeep Wrangler that passed us about a mile before the “terrifying switchback” probably had an engine 3 times that size and it was still having a hard time pulling the hill. After what seemed like forever, we somehow managed to make it to the top – to the main road – the road that we could have taken to get to our destination instead…if only our GPS wasn’t possessed by demons!

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#5TF: Heroes and Cheapskates

Five Thought Friday Challenge:  Week 7 – August 5 – 11, 2017

I finished reading a pretty good book this week by Jeff Yeager – The Cheapskate Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of Americans Living Happily Below Their Means. It’s kind of like The Millionaire Next Door in that it’s a collection of tips and stories about cheapskates (not millionaires) from across the country. Though it was written right after the economic downturn of 2008, many of the suggestions are still applicable today. You won’t find anything ground-breaking in the book but if you are also a cheapskate, like we are, you’ll be able to benchmark your cheapness and possibly pick up a few new tools of the trade.

Since reading the book, we’ve started using a rinse bucket for our hand-washed dishes (as opposed to running water to rinse them) and we are hanging up more of our clothes to dry (as opposed to using the electric dryer). I also tried renegotiating our internet price with Comcast…which we’ll get to in just a moment…and I’m trying to remember to unplug “energy vampires” at night. We already do fairly well in the food waste department but need to elevate our game when it comes using a crock pot and making meals (or at least ingredients for meals) ahead of time. This seems to be the hallmark of a true cheapskate and since we aspire to be both The Minimalists and The Cheapskates Next Door, we have some improving to do 🙂

Speaking of Comcast…at the end of this month our internet bill goes up from $19.99/month to $49.99/month. In a conversation with them on Wednesday, I inadvertently cancelled our home internet service. Panic immediately set in LOL.

I need to let go of the delusion that I’ll ever be able to live without home internet. It’s a wonderful thought but not one that I think I can do. Joshua Fields Millburn of The Minimalists does it and he’s a productive writer, blogger, etc. but me, I’d be nuts within a week. My inner cheapskate (and the fact that I’m a bit of an introvert) makes working at a coffee shop nearly impossible. In my head, I start thinking: $2/day for a cup of coffee x 4 working days per week x 48 work weeks = $384. That doesn’t include gas to drive to the coffee shop or the fact that I’d get hungry being around all those bagels (or frustrated being around all those people). So go to the library you say. Nope, our library is only open 3 of those 4 days.

It might be different if our sole income was not derived from a remote, internet-driven job. But since it is, I made a very valiant effort to negotiate our rate with Comcast. In the end, we settled on $29.99/month for another year. That gives me 12 months to figure out a workable plan in case I can’t renegotiate a decent rate again next year.

One thing I really enjoyed this week was having my mom over for breakfast on Sunday. 99% of the time we go to her house to eat so it’s always a treat when she comes to ours. We had a great breakfast of whole wheat pancakes, blackberries, and sausage from the Farmer’s Market. After breakfast, we sat outside for a long time just talking and then walked next door to Aldi so my mom could do a little shopping. It was a very relaxing day capped off by a scenic drive in the evening, where we found a new picnic spot and lots of grazing deer.

We made progress on the usual suspects: food preservation, decluttering, and cheapening our vacation plan. We put away more peppers and onions, another quart of spaghetti sauce, 2 more servings of okra, and a half dozen ears of corn. We cleaned out 9 items from the shed at my mom’s house. And we found a way to get to the cruise port from the airport for just $2.75 – the local bus!

We also put up a new antenna for our TV. Since moving to this apartment, we’ve been able to get 3 channels, and none of them facing in the same direction. Last football season, it was nothing to find our flat indoor antenna taped to the ceiling in the morning and threaded through the blinds of the patio door in the afternoon. There are so many pushpin holes in the walls around the TV from mounting that thing in so many different positions that we may need a whole tube of toothpaste to fill them one day. The new antenna is very “old school”. It looks like one my grandparents had back in the day but it really works. No more playing Twister to watch the Texans (um…I mean the Titans) play!

On a much different note…

I am grateful that we have a home. I may not always like where we live and I may wax philosophical from time to time about the high cost of rent in this low-rent town but I am glad we have a clean, safe roof over our heads. What prompted this attitude of gratitude was the fact that once again my niece has found herself bouncing between homes. This time, she and the little one, along with her boyfriend, their roommate and her 3 children were all holed up in a hotel for the better part of the week while trying to sort out their living situation. Though she declined our offer to stay with us for a few days, we made sure all of them had food during this ordeal.

It breaks my heart to see anyone homeless, especially children, and of course, I want to leap to the rescue. However, this is the 3rd time in a year they have been kicked out of a residence and the underlying mentality is one that I can’t correct by being a hero. They actually think that they do not need to work and they should not be required to pay anything to live in someone else’s house. This incident could have all been avoided if any one of the 3 adults in the situation had paid the $40 that they were asked to contribute to the month’s utility bills. Being asked to fork over $40 was a slap in the face, yet the fact that they just paid more than $210 to stay in a hotel to avoid paying $40 in utilities somehow escapes them.

And back to something joyful…

The funniest thing that happened this week was when Ticky snuck into the neighbor’s kiddie pool, fully clothed, all while being supervised by 3 adults. At first, she gingerly dipped her socked toe into the water and looked around to see if any of us were watching. The pool is one of those hard plastic things with a slide. Since Ticky is crazy about slides, she just couldn’t resist trying this one out. As firm believers in doing spontaneous things like jumping in the ocean with our clothes on, neither Angie or I said a word. A few minutes later, Ticky was standing in the middle of the pool splashing the neighbor boys. She had such a good time and it only took a few minutes to change her into dry clothes. It was so worth it just to see her laughing and playing.