Picture this — January 27, 2021

Picture this

Before Christmas, my family asked what I had included in my letter to Santa. I answered that I had told Santa I’m a simple woman who wants nothing more than for her loved ones to be happy and healthy.

After they picked their eyes up from where they had rolled onto the floor, my family members said, “For reals, what do you want?”

I told them that other than a laptop, I couldn’t think of anything I needed.

And that’s when it started. Apparently, during visits to my house, certain family members had been compiling mental lists of items they felt needed replacing. Picture frames held the top spot on that list.

I had to admit that one picture frame had seen better days. Although I had used copious amounts of scotch tape in an attempt to keep it together, one side would not stay attached to the frame.

“Okay,” said I. “I’ll put a picture frame on my list.”

“Oh, you’re so funny,” my loved ones said as they went through my picture frames, one by one, making little strikes on a piece of paper for each frame they felt needed replacing. When I tried to protest, they shushed me.

So, when we gathered after Christmas to open presents, I wasn’t surprised that I received five fancy new picture frames. I was surprised that, when I finally got around to displaying the frames last week – don’t judge my procrastination! I’ve been busy not completing other items on my to-do list! – I realized my family had been right. Multiple frames were held together – and I use those words loosely – by tape.

In some instances, I had also taped the photos to the frames and then wrapped additional tape around the back of the frames to, again, hold the whole thing together. I had wondered how my loved ones had been able to spot the flaws in the frames. Upon closer inspection, I wondered how the frames had not disintegrated whenever anyone picked them up or even walked by them.

Still, tossing the damaged frames into the trash represented a bittersweet moment. While I don’t remember the day I purchased the frames, I do remember the happiness I felt when I saw the price tags.

“Wow,” I recall saying to self, “these gold- and silver-plated beauties are only a dollar each.”

In retrospect, maybe that’s why copious amounts of tape were required to keep the sides attached to the frames.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

No time like the present — December 23, 2020

No time like the present

This is the first post I’ve penned on an actual computer since July.

Allow me to explain.

On a sultry summer Sunday evening, I was putting the finishing touches on a post when my aged laptop quit working. I figured the ole girl needed a break and would be up and running at suboptimal speed within hours.

That didn’t happen. Indeed, she wasn’t up and running at any speed days later.

I considered sending her in for repairs, but an IT expert/friend of a friend advised that it would be more cost effective for me to replace her.

As I appreciate the words “cost effective,” I did a quick search, saw that my preferred company had laptops on sale and planned to order one the next day.

The sale ended before I could place the order, because of course it did.

With no plans to pay full price, I decided to wait for the next sale. But what to do in the interim? How could I pen a post for my dear readers without a computer?

Well, for a few weeks, I used what amounted to a loaner. But I felt like I was taking advantage of the lender. So, then I started penning these-here posts on my iPad.

If you’ve never written anything on a pad or a tablet, imagine sending a 400-plus word text on your phone. Every week. For months. But that represents the lengths I’ll go to for my dear readers.

Who knows how long I would have made these sacrifices if not for my mom and a Black Friday sale.

Of course, at first, I did not react well to my mom’s generous offer to buy me a laptop for Christmas. I think I asked rhetorically, “Do you know how much laptops cost?”

To which she retorted, “No, because you won’t tell me.”

Our heated exchange might have also included her telling me she would spend her money however she expletive well felt like spending it.

Anyway, I consulted my preferred company’s Black Friday sales page, retrieved my abacus, and deduced that, at the sale price, she wouldn’t be dropping an obscene amount of money on me. After all, it’s not like I had my eye on a model that would allow me to play video games or launch rockets. So, I told her I would give her permission to buy me a laptop. She might have rolled her eyes.

No, it’s not yet Christmas. Yes, I am already using the laptop.

This has caused a minor controversy between us. My mom is concerned because I won’t have a gift to open from her. But I opened the box when it came to my house, so that counts, right? Besides, if she wrapped the laptop, that would constitute wasting wrapping paper and tape, which is not cost effective.

Happy Holidays!

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Bad hair day — July 22, 2020

Bad hair day

If the old saying can be believed, then we learn something new every day. I’m not sure that’s true, but one day last week I did learn it’s not a good idea to color one’s hair whilst one suffers from a migraine.

Allow me to explain.

Pre-global pandemic, I paid professionals to color my hair. Sure, there was a period of time in my youth – I spotted the first gray when I was 21 – when I washed that gray right out of my own hair.

Or at least I attempted to do so. Truth be told, I wasn’t that good at the endeavor, which was a tad messy. Indeed, when I finished the task, it looked like a beaver had exploded inside the bathroom.

Eventually, I turned to the professionals and was pleased with the results.

But then the Coronavirus descended upon an unsuspecting world, leaving me with two options – give into the gray or buy a box of color.

So, I bought a box.

Although my technique had improved, the task remained a tad messy. Indeed, when I finished, brown blobs stained the sink, the walls, and my face. But at least the gray was gone and a box of color costs approximately eight dollars, including taxes.

With that in mind, once the salons opened, I decided to continue coloring my own hair.

That brings us to last Saturday. I had spent most of the day in bed, writhing in pain due to a migraine that had haunted me for a week. That evening, however, I experienced a burst of energy. I had plans for Sunday and Monday that would involve humans being exposed to my head, so I decided to color my hair. I opened the box, slipped on a pair plastic gloves, mixed the crème (number one) and the activator (number two), and applied the mixture to my hair.

When I checked my work, I was pleased because no medium brownish streams of color ran down my head. Perhaps, thought I, you’ve found your calling. Perhaps you were meant to color hair.

With the clock ticking, I relocated to the kitchen to wash dishes while the mixture did its work. When the time was up, I returned to the bathroom.

When I checked my work, I was stunned. The top of my head was white.

Thinking I had accidentally bought a box of platinum color, I checked the box. There, I saw my friend, the medium brown model. I couldn’t figure out what had gone so horribly wrong. While I washed the mixture out of my hair, I decided there must have been a mixup at the factory. I decided I would run to the dollar store the next morning and buy another box. Sure, I had wasted approximately eight dollars, including taxes, and my time, but nothing could recoup those losses.

But at least I had gotten a tube of conditioner (number three) for my troubles. But when I picked up the tube, I saw that it was emblazoned with a number one. Because it wasn’t conditioner. It was crème.

That’s right, I had picked up the wrong tube and had applied 55 milliliters of conditioner to my hair.

The way I saw it, I had two options – proceed to the dollar store the following morning or apply the color crème and see what transpired.

So, I applied the color crème.

Whilst this experience does not represent the best method of coloring one’s hair, it did the job. Except for a few strays I missed, the gray is gone. Of course, my head itched for days. What’s more, every time I scratched said head, I spotted medium brown blobs under my fingernails. And, thanks to the conditioner, my hair was so shiny that you could see your reflection in it.

But at least it’s not gray.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Mix and match — July 1, 2020

Mix and match

If you’ve learned anything about me, dear readers, then you should know that I’m a tad thrifty. Sure, sometimes I splurge. In fact, I’ve come to realize – at my advanced age – that potato chips taste better if they come out of smaller bags.

Thus, I’ve been splurging on those jumbo packs, which contain smaller bags that are made to fit inside a child’s lunch box. Buying the snack size has the added bonus of preventing me from splurging on an entire adult size bag of chips in one sitting. Sure, sometimes I realize I want and/or need a second bag of the snack size to feed my chip addiction, but generally one bag does the job.

Anyway, as you might have deduced, I’m one of those annoying thrifty people who enjoys telling everyone how much money she saved on various and sundry items. So, as I was putting away my groceries today, I said to myself, “Self, you must tell dear readers about Super Dollar’s amazing Pick 5 deal.”

Here’s the gist: Pick 5 allows shoppers to mix and match specially-marked meat items for only $19.95. According to the abacus, this means that shoppers pay only $3.99 for each item!

Yes, you read that right!

Although I’ve been taking advantage of this incredible deal for oodles of months (please forgive me for not mentioning it sooner), its mere existence never fails to surprise me. When I reach the check out, I always triple check the monitor and, later, my receipt to make sure it hasn’t been a cruel joke.

So far, it hasn’t. What’s more, several months ago, I happened to be shopping on a day when the Pick 5 deal allowed shoppers to mix and match specially-marked items for only $14.95! I’m not going to lie, I feared I’d be arrested for theft as I exited the store. I also feared I might pass out from excitement.

I usually mix and match chicken breasts, pork chops, and bacon. And since I cut the breasts into smaller tenders, which I then spread across two meals, I’m spending less than two bucks for a meal – of chicken!

Shoppers can also select from, among other items, certain roasts and steaks, ground beef, wieners, and, wait for it, non-meat items such as cheese sticks and microwave-ready/pre-packaged mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, and pulled pork.

As great as this is, if they ever offer my brand of potato chips as part of Pick 5, I might never recover from the excitement.

Note: Super Dollar has locations in Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Survey says — February 25, 2020

Survey says

If you’ve bought food and/or sundries at any restaurant and/or store in the last few years, then at least one of your cashiers has probably suggested you take part in a survey. Perhaps said cashier has even circled a phone number on your receipt and noted that by taking the survey, you’d be entered into a drawing to win monies.

In spite of my slight paranoia, a few years ago I took surveys for the Supercenter and the home improvement store. I regret to report that I didn’t win a dime and that the surveys seemed to take dozens of hours to complete. Thus, my career as a taker of surveys was short and sour.

But one day in December, as I completed some last-minute-ish holiday shopping, I swung by the McDonald’s for some nuggets. For some reason, I looked at the back of the receipt and noticed that if I took their survey, I would be able to buy a sausage biscuit or Big Mac and get another one free.

Although I’m not known for having an interest in red meat, I do enjoy the occasional Big Mac. So, I completed the survey and a few weeks later, I cashed in on the BOGO deal. (By the way, the first time I saw BOGO listed on an advertisement, I said to myself, “Self, I’ve never heard of this BOGO brand.”) In case you’re wondering, I dined on one of those Big Macs that very day, put the other one in the fridge, and feasted on it the following day. My arteries can thank me later.

Anyway, you might recall that last week I mentioned my obsession with Wendy’s Asiago chicken sandwich. (As a reminder, it’s not pronounced Asia-go.) As I completed some shopping with my sister last week, I swung by the Wendy’s for one of those delicious sandwiches. And with the memory of the McDonald’s BOGO offer fresh in my memory, I checked my Wendy’s receipt. You can imagine my exhilaration when I saw that they offer a BOGO deal – a single hamburger or regular chicken sandwich — to patrons who complete surveys.

As of this writing, my body is digesting a grilled Asiago chicken sandwich whilst a plain grilled chicken waits its turn in my refrigerator.

There’s supposedly a limit on the number of surveys one can complete in a given amount of time. However, if you have access to multiple gadgets, I’m not sure how they would enforce this. And if you don’t think I would game the system to score some BOGO chicken, then you haven’t been paying attention.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Feed your inner splurge — February 18, 2020

Feed your inner splurge

Whether it’s buying generic toilet paper that’s so thin you could read through it or re-using salad containers, you can count on me to stretch a dollar. (A dollar comprising 100 cents in change that I accumulated by scouring for said change on floors or in parking lots.)

Anyway, due to this thriftiness, it might surprise you to learn there are items and occasions on which I splurge. For example, I buy Lindor chocolate truffles. Yes, I realize a bag that costs in excess of five bucks contains only 20 truffles, which means I’m spending more than a quarter on each truffle. But every time I pop one of those delicious balls of chocolate into my mouth, I consider it (more than) a quarter well spent. Besides, I’m still using that handful of Lindor coupons I scored in November, which means the cost per delicious chocolate ball is less than a quarter.

Although I break my fast every morning with generic oatmeal and lament the fact that I can no longer find generic tea, I buy Toasteds crackers. I also spring for Nestle cocoa mix. (What can I say? Chocolate is important to me.) Of late, however, the stores have not been stocking Nestle, which has caused my stress level to shoot into the stratosphere. Recently, as I stood in the cocoa mix aisle, I debated whether I should buy an inferior brand. Finally, I said to myself, “Self, you’re not getting any weak expletive cocoa.” So, I forked over the money for a “gourmet” brand that’s actually pretty good. (It’s still not as good as Nestle, though.)

And while I don’t dine out every day of the week, I do treat myself to one restaurant meal dern-near every weekend. Lately, I’ve been somewhat obsessed with Wendy’s Asiago chicken sandwich. (By the way, take it from me, it’s not pronounced Asia-go.) When I’m feeling especially frisky, I’ll order the meal. (It’s number 13.) But I make a point to go inside and place my order so that I can choose how much ice to put in my drink. This also means that I can then guzzle said drink and top it off before I vacate the premises.

Yeah, I’m thrifty even when I’m not.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

It’s better than (some) delivery — November 13, 2018

It’s better than (some) delivery

Last week brought exciting new experiences for me – I visited Atlanta, I rode through a gated trailer park, and I bought a DiGiorno pizza.

And as I look back on the week, I keep asking myself the same question – why did it take me so long to buy a DiGiorno?

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve dined on oodles of frozen pizzas in my time. Back in the day, I took Totino’s pepperoni pizzas for lunch, dividing the pizza in half to provide lunch for two days.

Through the years, I occasionally upgraded to the frozen pizzas that resemble the kind you order at restaurants. DiGiorno seemed a bit pricey, though, so I settled for lesser known brands. These pizza-eating experiences, however, always left me feeling less than sated. Although I tried several brands, none of them had much of a taste. Well, except for the aftertaste.

But last weekend I found myself in a precarious position. Yes, it was BYOF Saturday at the my mom’s. So, as I walked through the aisles at the Dollar General, looking for something to eat, my eyes spied a DiGiorno rising crust pizza in the frozen food section.

The cost – more than five bucks – seemed exorbitant, but the rumbling in my tummy overruled my thriftiness, so I bought the pizza.

When I arrived at Mom’s, I put the pizza in the oven, leaving it there until the cheese was on the dark side of golden and the crust was a medium brown. Once it cooled a bit, I cut a slice and took a small bite.

It tasted delicious.

I’m not a foodie, so don’t expect me to describe the sauce and cheese with flavor-filled adjectives. Instead, I’ll repeat – it was delicious. The company’s marketing plan boasts that their pizzas could be mistaken for delivery. That is not a ploy. It is the truth. Indeed, the DiGiorno I consumed was better than some pizza I’ve had from certain restaurants.

I shared the yummy goodness with my sister and still had enough left over for Sunday and Monday. But I ate entirely too much for lunch Monday, so I opted for a light dinner that evening. Then, I went to Atlanta. So, by the time I resumed dining at home, the pizza was six days old.

Although I frequently consume food well past expiration dates, I thought long and hard about eating six-day-old pepperoni pizza. I turned to my sister for advice, asking if the pizza would still be good. When she said no, I followed up by inquiring if the no meant “it won’t taste right” or “it will kill you.”

She refused to clarify her answer and I ultimately decided against eating that last slice of pizza. Yes, by my calculations, I threw away approximately 90 cents worth of pizza. But I didn’t want my first experience with DiGiorno to end with a case of food poisoning.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

A penny earned — September 23, 2018

A penny earned

One day this week, I spotted something glinting in the early morning sun as I drove through the parking garage. It looked like a bright penny, so I checked my rearview mirror to see if anybody was behind me. There wasn’t, so I put the car in park, hopped out, and scampered toward the shining treasure.

Smiling, I snatched up the penny and returned to my car, happy that I hadn’t allowed a one-cent opportunity to pass.

Later that day, I had the chance to share the news of my good fortune with a group of co-workers. Their reactions weren’t as positive as I would have liked. A couple folks mused that we’re only supposed to pick up pennies if they’re on heads. You know, because they allegedly bring good luck.

After they finished speaking, I explained that I don’t believe in luck. But if I did, I continued, I would consider it good luck to find any penny, regardless of whether it showed heads or tails. Or even if it was so used and worn that I could no longer distinguish head from tail.

Anyway, another co-worker then revealed that she tosses pennies into the trash.

Upon hearing this, I believe I lost consciousness. However, I did rebound and tell her that, in the future, she could start tossing pennies to me.

Seriously, although it doesn’t surprise me, I do not understand the general antipathy toward pennies. Whilst standing in checkout lines, I’ve witnessed folks drop change, only to look to the floor, wave, and say, “It’s just a penny.”

When this happens, I always wait for the penny-dismissing customer to leave before retrieving said cent for myself. After all, I am not a thief. For some reason, though, people frequently direct weird stares toward me when they spot me scooping up lost change. It’s like they’ve never seen a grown woman crawling on a floor to pick up a penny. But what am I supposed to do? Walk away from free money? I don’t think so.

Sure, I’ll grant you that a penny doesn’t go far by itself. But if you pair it with only 99 of its friends, plus tax, you can feast on the dollar menu or buy a box of Milk Duds.

And that’s assuming you only find pennies. Take it from me, when you’re down there scrounging around, you also run across nickels and dimes. Pair them with enough of their friends and you can upgrade to a value meal or two boxes of Milk Duds.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.