Thursday, May 31, 2007

Your friendly Gas Station TV

So I'm filling up the TrailBlazer in McKinney at the Murphy's which sits in the Wal-Mart parking lot. It's a newish WM with a high tech Murphy's and the price per gallon is about a dime less than in my home territory, so why not. I'd filled up the week before without incident. Either I wasn't paying attention or the service was down, but this time when I exited my car, I was greeted by "Gas Station TV." That is truly how it announced itself.

Surely not. Oh, yes.

I'd seen the little boxes off to the right of the pumps that offer to give your gas a boost for $1.99 and then play commercials when you refuse, but I'd not looked straight over the pump to the large screen and the TV. It was the noon hour, a local Dallas station was on with top headlines, traffic, and weather. All useful things to know when on the road, I suppose, but what do they broadcast after the news? Could it have been that when I was there the previous week Gas Station TV was off rather than show a soap opera?

Now I'm curious, and I'll be back, after one o'clock next week, if only to see what's on the screen. Whether I need gas or not.


Monday, May 28, 2007

The ultimate in recycling... or when a shower curtain is really a skirt

I took up sewing when I was five. Allowed only a hand needle and embroidery thread, I set to work outlining heat-stamped kittens and puppies on Mother's old sheets. She would then hem them and have dishtowels. When clearing out her kitchen drawers preparatory to the estate sale, I found some of them, saved over nearly half a century. It goes without saying that they came home to continue service in my kitchen.

From dishtowels I moved onto doll clothes, first for baby dolls and then for my Barbies. Supermodels have nothing on my Barbies' wardrobes. By the time I was allowed access to a real sewing machine I was in it for myself. My favorite department of any store was the fabric. Pouring over patterns, matching fabric to line... I was in heaven. I had a large wardrobe at a fraction of the cost of "store-bought".

I kept this up in fact until about 15 years ago. I gradually started shopping the stores more. Clothes became cheaper as my tastes in better fabric became more expensive. I adjusted my sights on seasonals. I didn't buy it for it to outlast me: a season or two would do. Even given that, some items in my present closet are close to ten years old. Heck, some of them are even back in style!

But I still had my eye for fabric. At trade days, antique stores, Goodwill... all these places are havens for discarded tablecloths, bed covers, shawls, pillowcases. And though discarded by someone from their original use, they were still gorgeous (and now very cheap!) fabric. My sewing condensed into "Kay couture." (An acquaintance, thinking no doubt to insult me because she was that sort of person, once remarked that my skirt and blouse looked like a tablecloth. I told her she had an astute eye and walked on.)

So seeing a skirt in Boston Proper catalog that fairly screamed "tablecloth!" (although its description is 'lace'), fired up my fingers to comb through my treasure trove of recyclable fabrics. I have five rather large rubber boxes of such and in fact had just purchased a lovely rose bed cover (think spring coverlet) a month ago at Canton Flea Market, intending to make it into a skirt. Now I had my inspiration. I needed a better skirt pattern than my old ones were affording me so I took myself off to Wal-Mart.

Since when do patterns cost over $10? Are they for real? No wonder the market has fallen out of home sewing. You can't afford the patterns! Of course, there are lines of cheaper, simpler patterns in the $2.50-3.50 range (where I ended up buying), but looking on the package for the price is enough to give a home sewer a heart attack! But then, Wal-Mart to the rescue, there are special prices in the Wal-Mart edition of the pattern books. Prices much more in line with what I was willing to pay if I hadn't found my niche on the cheaper, simpler rack.

The bed coverlet made a great skirt. I garnered multiple compliments on it at church yesterday and actually told some people (those that would appreciate the fact) that it had had a former life.

But I still liked the lace effect on Boston Proper skirt 3227NC. I dove back into the trove and emerged with a bargello lace shower curtain. Not old, but certainly in the mood to be recycled.

The final product resembles the inspiration in mood only. The color is different, the hemline is plain. So, even though I am not the typical Boston Proper customer (too old, too modest), I may have to give the original another look.

It just went on sale.

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Saturday, May 26, 2007

Where will one gallon of gas get you?

I've read that if we would all cut one gallon of gas from our tank's use, that we would save enough collectively to drop the current price per gallon. I don't know that I believe that, but I'm willing to consider it.

Trouble is, I stopped being gas-reckless years ago. It's like, if you already cut salt and excess sugar from your diet, what's to give up?

When my children were babies, I had a double stroller. We essentially live downtown and our downtown was viable then, so I'd pop them in the stroller and make the rounds. I could pay my utility bills, check the sales at the five-and-dime, and do a final stop at the grocery store. They were entertained by all the movement and I might not move my car from its post for days. I was gasoline-responsible.

Then, in belt-tightening moves, all the utility offices closed. I'd have to mail my monthly payments. One by one the downtown stores closed, thanks to more shopping avenues in the small city 25 miles away, and the expansion of our own Wal-Mart. My beloved Safeway went into private hands and finally just closed. Over a period of time, I went from walking to do everything (at least the church didn't move and I can still walk to services) to turning over the ignition. But I was responsible about it and put my trips together and planned loops for doing all my errands.

My current vehicle, the Chevrolet TrailBlazer, gets about 18 mpg. So, as mental exercise, how do I cut 18 miles per tank? This really isn't very easy. Wal-Mart's about 2 miles from the house... if I didn't go 4 times per tank of gas... I could walk to the post office daily, but that's less than 1.5 miles round-trip. I have to see to my dad's business every week... that's 70 miles round trip. I can't give that up.

I'm not doing very well here, am I?

I had a Dallas Area Romance Authors meeting this morning 45 miles away. With attendant side trips (all my errands at once, remember?) I was bound to be looking at over 100 miles. We have plans for the evening... I just didn't go and face the traffic.

I figure I saved 6 gallons of gas. Heeheehee... I'm now good to go for the next six tanks.

Or, where's that wonderful gas-guzzling Suburban I used to own? At 13 mpg, I'd have saved 8!


Thursday, May 24, 2007

Catching up

Tried another Bertolli the other day, this time for lunch. Our Wal-Mart has expanded its offerings so I really have a couple more in the freezer, too. This up: Italian Sausage and Rigatoni (with roasted peppers in a spicy tomato sauce). It was good, although not perhaps the best choice for a warm day. But in the winter, with a salad and crusty bread: winner.

Souper Salad, Allen: 90. Really it should be a little less. Had to walk past the men's room and while it met the other criteria, it was bit unkempt.
Abuelo's Mexican, Plano: 100. Loses 5 for no seat covers, gets 5 back for baby table. The stainless steel decor was good, but a little polish and care on the doors would go a long way to make a nicer appearance.
Dillard's, second floor, Collin Creek Mall, Plano: 105: had a baby changer. Really nice touch: wall of mirrors and chairs to sit. Not comfy chairs, but chairs and space.

Good Morning America announced this morning that the tunic was the must-have item for summer. Oh, fine. I spend last summer losing 15 pounds and this summer I'm supposed to cover up all my good efforts.

Doesn't it figure?

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Monday, May 21, 2007

Living in the moment

I was enjoying a quiet conversation over a salad with a friend yesterday. We were on our way to the Dallas Summer Musical production of Wonderful Town, about which neither of us knew a thing except I had season tickets and a husband on the golf course for the Men's Golf Association championship. (He came in second.) We were doing a light lunch, the play, and then a heavier supper. The weather was great, the traffic had been light, and all in all, it was looking to be a wonderful afternoon for Wonderful Town. (It was.)

Our conversation rode the waves of mutual acquaintances and current local events, bordered on gossip (as if!), and then centered on compassionate concern (I promise), as we started talking about another woman. My friend commented that she never settled down, she was always ready to go to the next place, she never "lived in the moment."

Well, that was a conversation stopper. How many times was I guilty of doing just that? I'd be somewhere (let's say church or bridge club or a board meeting) and I would not be really focusing on where I was or what I was doing (singing or playing a hand well or listening to other's opinions and requests). Instead, my mind and spirit were off on the next thing. And what would I be doing there but thinking of the next one?

Talk about wishing your life away! This is just what our mothers warned us about when we were 12 and wanting to be 16 and 16 and wanting out of high school and 18 and wanting to be 21. You can see how this is going. We wish our lives and time away.

Friend and I pledged to live in the moment yesterday afternoon, to enjoy the experience of the musical and each other's company. I thanked her for the insight. Then had to admit later that during one of the dance numbers, I'd been running down the list of restaurants for supper.

I have a ways to go to be in the moment. But at least I've started.


Thursday, May 17, 2007

Coupon addict

When new products show up in our house--the more expensive and less useful the better--my husband looks at me and asks, "Coupon?"

Well, now that you ask, yes.

I love coupons, the little items which show up mainly in Sunday inserts now, although I remember a time they would be scattered through the newspaper itself or in magazines. I rarely cut one from either place now, but the Sunday inserts and I always have a tete-a-tete after church. It's a habit I developed from watching my mother clip and take to the grocery. While the coupons x-years ago were a dime and twenty cents, a quarter being a big savings, I haven't noticed one for under 25 cents in years. They're larger, many times 55 cents so as to beat the "double coupons under 50 cents dictum" at some stores, but you might have to buy two of the item.

I am not particularly brand loyal if I sense a bargain, but I'll not buy just to use a coupon. If it makes the product cheaper and I either already use it or am willing to try, sign me up.

So three new items have made it into the house, one of which I'll buy again maybe even without a coupon, one of which I will not, and for one the jury is still out.

I'll buy: Electrasol PowerBall Tabs. Well, aren't these nifty little items. (And they were practically free, the coupon was so large.) No more sifting powder or pouring thick liquid into the dishwasher. They seem to do a wonderful job.

No way: DelMonte Fruit Chillers. Interesting concept and something I wasn't going to buy without a coupon again no matter how good they were. Found in the fruit aisle (a bit confusing but well-advertised on the coupon), they are four small cups of "fruit" that you freeze, setting them up to be just-right portions of sorbet. I liked the concept, but the price (at Wal-Mart) of $1.98 (or so) was entirely too much for such portion control. With a dollar off coupon, it became a quarter a serving and I was all about that. I tried out the mango today (raspberry and strawberry are the other options). It was fair, but what really bothered me was the main ingredient: pear puree. Next up: corn syrup. Finally, we get to mango puree, followed by pear juice concentrate. I had also bought raspberry and the ingredient list is the same, subbing raspberry. I like pears, but if I'd wanted frozen pear puree, let's call it such. I'll eat what I have and that will be that.

Trying to decide: Mars has put out a new entry in the dog/cat food market called Goodlife Recipe. BIG coupons at first, i. e. free. Grabbed that for a trip to Wal-Mart. My housecats are on a restricted diet, but the outside population takes what I have coupons for. They will, quite simply, eat anything. (Note: I only own one outside cat, Little Girl. However, the neighborhood population has found where there's a full bowl at 5:45 a.m. and they're there.) In searching for the website (which didn't immediately make itself evident), I came across two reviews for this healthy product, one for cats and one for dogs. Neither were complimentary. Hmmm... Goodlife Recipe was affordable for outside cat dining only if I had coupons anyway, so it may be off the menu since the good coupons go away rapidly once a product is introduced.

But I'll keep cutting and looking. After all, how else did we find the Bertollis?

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

How does a week go by so fast?

It's been almost a week since I posted. How can that be? What have I been doing?

Well, I actually wrote some. That's a good thing. Worked in the garden quite a bit. Went shopping on the way to a wonderful Mother's Day afternoon with my granddaughter (her parents were there, too). Explored the public bathrooms at a mall, thought I'd remember all the particulars and then didn't, so I was back at square haven't-done-anything immediately.

But today I had my notebook in hand.

Nordstrom's NorthPark Mall, Dallas: The women's lounge. Right there should warn you you'll be okay. There were couches and a sitting room where I've seen mothers and infants before. It earns a 110 for the large baby changer and the auto-flush.

NorthPark Mall, Dallas: Public restrooms downstairs "under" the theatre. Gets a 100. They had separate family restrooms and a nursing room. I've seen this before, but never paid any attention to it until the granddaughter showed up.

Starbucks, Hardin and Eldorado, McKinney: -5 for being a one-holer (but they all are), +5 for the baby changer. 100.

Am I getting easy or just going nice places?

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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The first contenders...

... for best public restroom facility.

I was really pleased with these two.

Market Street, McKinney, TX, an upscale grocery with cooking classes and a helpful staff, earned a 95. -10 for having to walk past the men's room (downstairs, main restrooms), but recouped 5 points for a baby changer.

Half-Price Books, McKinney, TX, comes in at an even 100. -5 for no seat covers, +5 for a baby changer.


Sunday, May 06, 2007

The bathroom rules, revised

After visiting a few public bathrooms over the weekend, I decided I needed to do a slight revision before launching this full bore.

Instead of a steady stream of subtractions, I'm going to change a few to adds. So, the new revised rules:

From 100:
-10 if you walk past the men's room to get to the ladies'
-10 non toilet paper
-10 trashy
-5 one-holer
-5 no paper towels, if paper towels are the only choice of hand drying
-5 air dryer only
-5 no seat protectors
-5 door lock broken
-5 no coat/purse hanger
-5 no soap
+5 baby changing area
+5 auto-flush (and it works)
+5 auto paper towel

Now, let the games begin.

Up to dates: This is post 101! YIKES!
The grandest grandbaby is home from the neonatal intensive care unit after 24 days.

Thank you, Lord.

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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The bathroom rules

Preliminary check-list:

From 100:
-10 if you walk past the men's room to get to the ladies'
-10 no toilet paper
-10 trashy
-5 one-holer
-5 no paper towels
-5 air dryer only
-5 no seat protectors
-5 door lock broken
-5 no coat/purse hanger
-5 no soap
-5 no place to change a baby

I know some places that are going to be in big trouble.