Don’t you just love a bargain??

After just over 25 years, I’ve come to the conclusion that my bathroom needs to be re-done. Not major renovation, but I want to get the old wallpaper off and paint it something light and bright. Time for a different look. And yes, that grout around the tub should be re-done, too.

As I contemplated this, I thought “this would be a good time to upgrade that old towel rack that was probably put in when the house was built over 50 years ago.” Not just a towel rack, I decided, but this would also be a good time to put “grab bars” in the shower.                    lowes

So a couple of days ago I stopped at Lowe’s and bit the bullet. I took a look at the towel racks and settled on a brushed nickel Moen which was $27.98. For a towel rack! (Sigh.) Then I checked the bath grips. Merciful heavens — $20!! So for two bath grips and one towel bar, the bill came to just under $75. Ye cats!

The next day, the contractor who was here to give me an estimate mentioned the Habitat for Humanity ReStore which I have been to before just to see what was in stock. They get left overs that contractors have donated which can be anything from brand-new-in-the-box hardware to sinks and hardware that have been pulled out of homes which are being remodeled. Yesterday on my way to an appointment I thought “I’ve got a few minutes — why not?” so I whipped over to ReStore and would you believe, just as I walked in, right there in front, a huge display of towel bars! Moen towel bars. In brushed nickel — just like I got at Lowe’s. New. In the box. For $13.50. No way!

I grabbed a towel bar and started looking for the hand grips. Didn’t seem to be any of those although there were lots of other bathroom accessories.   restore banner

“Excuse me,” I said to the couple who was also checking out the display. “Have you seen any of the grab bars for showers?”

The man said, “I think I saw one over here,” and sure enough, at the end of the rack was one Moen grab bar. It was white but the tile in my bathroom is white and for $5.50 I was delighted.

“Here’s another one,” his wife said, pulling out a longer version also in white. Well, what the heck, I can put the longer one on one side and the shorter one by the shower curtain. That was marked $6.50. A bargain!

I hustled up to the counter and plopped down my finds. The woman started to ring them up: Towel rack, $13.50, discount 40%. Huh? Maybe it’s senior discount day. Next: Small hand grip: $5.50, discount $20%. Last: large handgrip $6.50, discount 80%. Total for all three: $13.80. Less than I paid for one handgrip at Lowe’s.

I quickly handed over a $20 bill, but … ?? The cashier saw my puzzled look and laughed. “The discounts?” I nodded.

“Here.” She showed me the price tag and pointed to a letter: A. “It’s been here since April. That gets an 80% discount.” Wow!!  “We discount things to keep them moving” (as if 1/3 of the price at Lowe’s weren’t enough!). Fine with me.

“Next time you come in,” she continued, “check the letter on the price tag and you can figure the discount. And,” she continued handing me my change and the receipt, “If you come back on Monday with this receipt, you’ll get an additional 15% off.” Good grief, they’re practically giving the stuff away! I wish I had more time to see what else was there.

Before going to my appointment, I stopped at Lowe’s and got the $73.44 refunded to my account.

Now the only problem with the whole thing is that I had not measured the towel rack before I went shopping and it turns out the one I got is too short. I’ll have to go back. I know they had the longer ones at ReStore. So I figure I can use this one for a guest towel on the wall by the door and get the longer one for my bath towel.

Hey, at this rate I can get a new towel rack for the guest bathroom, too. And maybe while I’m at it, I’ll have that room painted, and maybe the seals around the shower re-grouted and …

Or maybe I’ll just get my bathroom done as I had planned and think about the rest later.

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I can’t afford anymore free food!

del taco logoThis morning DelTaco sent me a coupon for a free shake. The last time they sent me this I had their orange shake which was dee-licious. We won’t even speculate on the calories — we’ll just leave it at dee-licious. But not this time. I deleted the coupon. I’m not going to use it.

It isn’t that I don’t want a yummy orange milk shake, but it’s free — with a $3 purchase.  That would be the Macho Taco: a whole pound of fattening (but good) beans, cheese, rice and spicy chicken. Pair that with a milk shake and you have a recipe for food coma. I know this for a fact because that’s what I did last time.  I couldn’t move off the couch — just lay there groaning. The cats liked it — not the groaning part but the fact that I was just lying there. Lop Ear snuggled down by my knees while Paddy O’Cat stretched out by my head. I vowed I would never eat again. Yeah, right.

And this isn’t my only experience with “free” fast food. Not all that long ago I earned a free Whopper from Burger King by filling out a survey. Free with the purchase of fries and a drink. That came to just under $3 and I didn’t even finish the fries. (So how come my jeans are getting tighter all the time?) I coulda just bought the Whopper for what I paid for stuff I didn’t even want. And if that wasn’t bad enough, I didn’t have the sense to wait until I got home to start eating, so dripped tomato and onion on the blouse I had just ironed. Drat!

A few weeks back DelTaco notified me of a “free hashbrowns with purchase of two breakfast tacos” promotion. I don’t think the hashbrowns were worth it  – not even for free. The breakfast tacos were okay, but I can scramble eggs with cheese and hot sauce and slap it in a tortilla at home without going to a drive-thru. Lot cheaper, too.

So I started thinking about all the “free” food that comes across my path like two-fers (which are great if there are two of you). The casinos sometimes send buffet two-fers and I love those.  The trouble is that if you don’t drop some coin into their slot machines while you’re there, after awhile they stop sending them. After all, they’re in the business of making money, not giving away food.

I’ve discovered a couple of buffets I really like, but now I’m spoiled — am I going to pay full price? No. Well, maybe — if it’s not too outrageous. The new SLS Casino (and I don’t know what that stands for and haven’t been curious enough to research it) had a two-fer and while it was very good, it was also expensive — like $32. Okay for two, too much for one. But they did have really good shrimp …

The good old Las Vegas buffet. Temptation runs rampant!

The good old Las Vegas buffet. Temptation on a platet!

The Palms Casino which originally opened it’s buffet with mid-eastern delicacies like humus, baba ganoush, stuffed grape leaves and a few other things, has joined the trend of more popular offerings like ribs and baked ham, enchiladas, sweet and sour chicken and a large salad bar piled high with fresh melon.

Main Street Station downtown has a good array and the price is right — about $8 for lunch and not only do they have a good salad bar, but they have a huge selection of desserts … and how did I get onto the subject of buffets, anyway?

All this talk about food is making me mighty hungry. A macho taco is starting to sound pretty good. Hmmm … I wonder if it’s too late to “un-delete” that milkshake coupon.





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Don’t cats deserve to be fed, too?

Today at lunch I was flipping through the pile of ads and saw one for C-A-L Ranch Stores. A C-A-L Ranch Store has recently opened nearby in what used to be supermarket. I went for a visit out of curiosity. It is a store that surely would be best suited for rural Nevada — I can’t imagine who in Las Vegas needs barbed wire fencing or steel poles for cattle pens, but apparently somebody does. They also sell baby chicks. Sweet.

If you need barbed wire -- or baby chicks -- this is the place to go

If you need barbed wire — or baby chicks — this is the place to go

So, I’m looking at the ad and there is a full page of food for horses (don’t they eat hay?) including food that empowers them and another one that makes their coat shiny. Huh. Perusing the ad further, I see bags of food for chickens which comes in pellets or crumbles and enhances their muscle development. Uh, is anyone else bothered by the idea of chickens with muscles?

Okay — now I see a bag of dog food for the active, adult dog, along with Milk Bone and some special dog treats.  So surely they sell cat food, too. And I’m looking …

I see rabbit food, pig food, turkey food and goat food. Oh, here’s a bag of wild bird seed, but no, nothing for cats.

The more I think of this, the more I wonder about the unfairness. (Disclosure: I am not a horse person.) What, exactly do you do with a horse? Well, you ride it, dumb-dumb. Okay, you ride it. And I guess you could use it to pull a wagon or a plow (although the pictures of the horses in the ad didn’t look like the plow-pulling type). So once a day or so you go ride the horse. Then you take it back to the stable and spend time wiping it down and brushing it. Then — whether at night or in the morning — I understand you have to “muck-out” the stall. I believe that is the equivalent of emptying the litter box. It’s bad enough emptying a litter box for a creature that weighs maybe 10 pounds, but a horse litter box? Gimme a break.

Big and stubborn and sometimes mean. Pretty, though. Horses -- they cost a lot to feed!

Big and stubborn and sometimes mean. Pretty, though. Horses — they cost a lot to feed!

In addition to the stall where the horse lives, you also have to have some land for the horse to walk around on. This is called a pasture. The horse nibbles the grass — Oh, excuse me, the horse grazes. So he’s eating the grass on the land you bought for him, and you buy him hay, too, and oats I believe.  And now there is horse food that you buy in 50 pound bags. Oh — and lookie here: Horse Treats! Yes, a 20 pound bag of horse treats. Let’s stock up on those. I’m astonished at the cost of keeping four cats in kibble — I cannot begin to imagine the cost of keeping a horse and tell me again what use they are?

I once balked at the saying “worked like a dog,” because dogs don’t work, but my friend Sandy admonished me. There are guide dogs and guard dogs and bomb-sniffing dogs and police dogs and companion dogs. Okay, so some dogs work. Do horses work? Maybe race horses, but I’m thinking you have to buy them LOTS of oats and horse treats.

Back to the ad: Pigs — okay, I can see buying food for pigs because pigs are useful and desirable and we don’t have to go too deeply into that since I am eating a ham sandwich as I’m writing this.

Goats — they give milk (well, the girl goats do) and goat hair which can be used to make clothes.

Chickens. Yum! (the eggs – the eggs.) And bunnies, Awww… of course you want to buy food for your cute little bunnies.

So, don’t cats live on farms? Don’t cats work? I call keeping the farm rodent-free work. So don’t cats deserve to be fed, too? Perhaps they are full from all the vermin, but that hardly seems fair. And what happens when they’ve freed the farm from rats and mice? Hey, guys, how about some cat food over here?  And cats have other uses besides being walking mouse-traps. When you need someone to snuggle with, forget the horses!

Tell me -- you gonna get a horse to do this?

So tell me — you’d rather be hugging a horse?

And adding insult to injury, the big banner across the page says, “We have your essentials for any kind of animal.”

I guess I’m going to have to run over there tomorrow and give them a piece of my mind. And maybe a cat, too.

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The wrong wine

Summer is winding down — although it’s still plenty hot, here in the desert — and I am gladly using up all my white wines and getting back to my favorite reds. The other night I was having fish for dinner and opening my wine cabinet took out one of the few whites left — Menage a’ Trois. I don’t even remember buying it, but their wines are decent everyday wines and (as the name implies) a blend of three wines.

The fish came out of the oven, the green beans were done and the rice was pretty well ready — maybe a little on the crunchy side. Fish is not my favorite food, but this was pretty decent. I reached for my wine glass and took a sip.


Now I’m guessing this has happened to you at some point. You have your mouth set for something and then you taste something else? Like when you thought you were reaching for water and took a big gulp of milk instead? Or thought you were reaching for milk and it was orange juice? It’s not that it is bad, it’s just not what you expected.

The Menage a’ Trois was sweet! Oh, yuck!

I grabbed the bottle — Moscato! Dessert wine. The blurb on the back said it had a pleasant floral aroma (yep), and the blend of Muscat grapes from three different vineyards yielded a luscious blend of apricot and peaches. You know, if I’d been in the market for an inexpensive dessert wine, it would have been fine, but I wasn’t. I set aside the wine, deciding water was the better choice.

The next day I was in Trader Joe’s and saw their Coastal Sauvignon Blanc. My preference in Sauvignon Blanc is Monkey Bay from New Zealand which is crisp without being bitter, but TJ’s doesn’t carry that. So what the heck, $6.99 for a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc.

“How bad can it be?” I asked myself as I checked out the label. After years of experience, you would think that when I utter that particular phrase, an alarm would go off in my head saying “put the wine down and step back!” You would guess the thinking part of my brain would say, “spend a little more and get something you know is decent.” But No! I went on ahead. I mean for $6.99 I’ll take a chance.

So that evening I uncorked the TJ’s SB, took a sip and cringed. I hate wine that makes me cringe. It tasted as though the grapes were slightly under-ripe. I sighed and poured a glass. Maybe it’d be okay with fish. (Still had another piece of fish.)

Well, it was okay — just. Drat. So now I had two bottles of wine that I didn’t like. I debated pouring them down the drain — I mean, they weren’t all that expensive. But then, inspiration hit. Why not “blend” them? That’s what they do at the winery, right? They mix the different varietals together until they get what they like. All right, I can do this — and I did.

The result of mixing two “just okay” wine was another “just okay” wine. At least it wasn’t sweet and it didn’t make me cringe, but it didn’t make me smile, either. After two nights of drinking this concoction, I thought, “that’s enough of that!” and headed for Total Wine.

Yeah, good old reliable Monkey Bay!

Yeah, good old reliable Monkey Bay!

There I bought the Monkey Bay and let myself be talked into a French Sauvignon Blanc which the young man assured me was “just as good.” I opened it the other night and it was an improvement over the TJs, but it was still sharp. More acidic than under-ripe, but still a bit on the sharp side.

Now I’m back to Monkey Bay and am looking at the zinfandel I bought at the urging of the same young man. “You’ll love it, ” he assured me. Yeah, well I’ll be the judge of that. And if I don’t, I can always mix it with some of the left over French Sauvignon Blanc. Or I can just pour it all down the sink and go back to drinking what I know!

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Rug Sale at Macy’s

Ever since I dumped that cup of coffee (with cream) on my dining room rug, I’ve been thinking it’s time for a new rug. I don’t think that curdled-cream smell will ever entirely dissipate.

The more I look at it, the more I wonder why I got that rug in the first place — it doesn’t match anything else. My curtains have a dark green background with lighter green leaves and dusty rose-fading-to-beige flowers. The dining room chairs are the  same colors in a small pattern.  Why I thought a  black and burgundy rug would work, I have no idea. Perhaps because it reminded me of a rug at home when I was growing up.

Come spend your money at macy's rug sale!

Come spend your money at macy’s rug sale!

In any case, I find myself looking askance at that rug and wishing for something lighter and prettier. Last week’s paper had a full-page Macy’s ad touting “Huge Rug Sale! 60% off! Come and bring your measurements, fabric swatches and designs.” Hmmm… maybe I should check it out.

So Saturday (a day I promised myself I would never go shopping once I retired), I hied myself over to Macy’s Home Store and found my way to the “Rug Gallery.”  In addition to hundreds of rugs suspended from racks, the floor had pallets piled with more.

The first one I looked at was $899.99. Okay — 60% of $900 is  $540, so the rug would be $360. Still seemed like a lot. I flipped back several of them, enjoying the variety of color and designs, although none appealed to me.

I then looked at the hanging rugs — a little larger and definitely pricier. Wool and silk. A salesman sidled up to me. “Can I help you find something?”

“I’m looking for something  in shades of green for the dining room.”

“These rugs that are hanging have to be ordered. They aren’t in stock. BUT,” he added, “today they’re 10% off.”

“I thought they were on sale for 60% off.”

“Oh, that’s the rugs on the floor,” he said, motioning to the rugs on the pallets. He picked up the tag of the closest hanging rug. “This one you were admiring would be $2,700.” Call me crazy, but spending nearly $3,000 for a rug you are going to walk on, drop food on, the cats are going to sleep on (or worse) just doesn’t work in my world. “Plus delivery,” he added as I just stood there gaping at him.

Piles of rugs -- all at 60% off. And no delivery fee!

Piles of rugs — all at 60% off. And no delivery fee!

“Uh, so I’d better stick to the rugs on the floor.” I motioned to the green and beige one which was in an unattractive modern pattern, but the colors were right. “Let’s see, with 60% off, this one would be about $360, right?”

“Oh no. The price marked is the sale price.”

Yikes! I am way out of my league. I will not be buying a rug from Macy’s. I tell him I’ll think about it (yeah, right), he hands me his card (which will be deposited in the nearest trash can) and I stroll back toward the door, trying to look like someone who could actually buy a $3,000 rug if she really wanted to.

But wait – there’s more!  I’m passing the linens.  I have a weakness for nice sheets. I pause at a display of 800-thread-count sheets and admire a white-on-white stripe. Amazingly, they are sold singly — not in the usual set of two sheets and two pillowcases. You hardly ever see that anymore. Idly, I check the price. $370. WHAT? Three hundred and seventy bucks for a sheet? What are those 800 threads made of anyway? Silk spun by the Empress’s pet worms which she hand feeds with imported mulberry leaves? And of course, you can’t have just one sheet, so that’s $740 for a pair. I pick up the package of pillow cases, bracing myself for a shock. $175. Surely the decimal point is in the wrong place. I rub my eyes and look again. Un-believ-able. So now we’ve racked up $915, right? Plus tax. So right about $1,000. For sheets. To sleep on. At night. In the dark.

A pretty, young saleslady approaches. “May I help you with something?” Ah, yeah, do you have a finance department? Could I take out a loan and pay these off over, say, a year?

“No,” I return her smile. “I’m just passing through.” Or passing out — not sure which. I resume my leisurely stroll toward the exit, still trying to look like someone who could drop thousands of dollars on textiles to walk on and sleep on and still have enough money to buy groceries.

This morning I looked again at the dining room rug. I’m liking it better all the time.

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Could it be a girl ??

I know I’m not the only person on the planet who names my cars. In fact, I’m willing to bet a lot of people do — probably more women than men.

My first car, a little blue Renault, I named Ozzie. No idea why — it just looked like an Ozzie.

My next car was a red Studebaker Hawk when I was in the Foreign Service in Pretoria, South Africa. One of the Foreign Service officers was leaving and sold it at a price I could afford. The car came pre-named: The Sexy Red Flash. So Flash it was.

The Sexy Red Flash

The Sexy Red Flash

In London I got a second-hand Peugeot and named it Scout because it was a trusty little guy who accompanied me on all kinds of adventures into uncharted waters — and meadows and villages.

When I got home to California several years later, I bought a second-hand Volkswagen squareback (fancy name for little station wagon) which I named Jeremy Spencer after two of my favorite Englishmen: Jeremy Brett, an actor, and Spencer for Winston Spencer Churchill. It was a German car, but nevertheless, the English name seemed right.

And on and on. And now, three months after I’ve bought a cute little sparkly Ford Escape, I’m still casting about for a name! After I’d bought it and the dealer had done all their little last-minute things like detailing it (well, they called it detailing, I call it running it through the car wash), and filling it with gas, the salesman took me outside, handed over the keys and said, “Here she is.”

Looks a lot more sparkly in person

Looks a lot more sparkly in person

“She?” I asked. “It’s a girl?”

He looked nonplussed. “Ah, I don’t exactly know. I just thought it was a girl.”

“All my cars have been boys.”


We stood and looked at each other for a moment and then at the car, then back at each other. He shrugged.

“I just never thought of a car as a girl,” I said. He nodded mutely. Obviously, that was not a question that was going to be settled that day.

And so it is, three months gone, and I’ve still not found the right name. Several people suggested Scout Junior, in honor of my last car, a Ford Explorer named Scout that I absolutely loved. But that would make three Scouts and somehow it just doesn’t seem right. This little guy deserves his very own name, but I’m starting to get desperate — all my cars have had names. Even the Toyota Rav4 which I loathed, had a name. I knew almost from the beginning that I wasn’t going to keep it, but told Phyllis Palmer that I was just looking after it until its rightful owner came along. “Oh,” she said, “it’s a foster-car.” So it became Foster.

Yesterday it occurred to me that perhaps I haven’t been able to find a name that fits because maybe — is it possible? — could this be a girl??

Several girls names immediately presented themselves: Veronica, Felicia, Amanda, Rosalind. I rejected them all. Samantha, I’m thinking now. It could be Samantha. Miranda — how about Miranda. I had an aunt by that name and it’s a Shakespearean name. Hmmm…

Every time I get in him (her?) I start reciting names out loud, waiting for the one that clicks. So far, no clicks. I’ll keep trying, and I’ll let you know. Maybe you have a good car name?


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Those dratted 45 Seconds !

Has this ever happened to you? You’re off to run errands — you get in the car, and realize you have forgotten (fill in the blank: shopping list, coupons, sunglasses, water …). Unless you’re super-organized, you have done that. And if you never have, please don’t tell me!

the nearly-forgotten, all-important bottle of cold water.

So the other day, I got in the car, backed out of the garage, reached for my water bottle and … no water. Now this is the desert and September is still plenty hot, so I don’t go anywhere without a bottle of water. So, I stop the car and get out and go back to the house, unlock the steel security door and then the wood door, go inside and snag the water, go back out locking both doors and then unlocking the car which I’d locked out of force of habit. The whole exercise was less than a minute — let’s call it 45 seconds. How much difference can 45 seconds make?

Two blocks later I turn the corner just as the school bell rings and the door burst open at the elementary school, unleashing a torrent of kids. The kids have enough sense not to run into the street, but the parents are another matter making illegal U-turns, double parking, stopping in the middle of the street and motioning to their kid to run across to them, and otherwise doing everything possible to snarl traffic. The flashing sign says “15 miles an hour.” I wish! It’s more like 15 feet an hour. Finally, I inch through and end up right behind a big yellow school bus belching exhaust fumes.

school bus

We get to the corner just as the signal turns red. The school bus, of course, can’t turn right on red, so we sit there for nearly 90 seconds (this is one of the longest signals in Las Vegas coming from a small street onto a main boulevard) until we get a green light. I whip around the dratted bus, finally seeing clear street ahead of me — but not. There is some kind of slow down, but I am now behind a panel van and can’t see what’s happened.

It turns out that what’s happened is somebody just rear-ended another car, and it’s in my lane, but of course I don’t know that because I’m behind a van. The other two lanes move forward, but not mine. After two signal cycles, I manage to change lanes and as I drive by,   I toss them a dirty look — only to realize the car in front of me is stopped dead. I screech to a halt with maybe three inches to spare. The driver in front of me tosses me a dirty look in his rear-view mirror.

At this point I’m thinking I should just turn around and go home, but my $10 free merchandise coupon expires today and I desperately need some new socks. I’m finally free of the school zone, the van, the accident and now it’s a straight shot to Kohl’s. I know what I want and where to get it, so I should be able to get in and out quickly. And I do! Well, almost. I snag a package of athletic socks which are $13.50 — perfect.

So I get to the cash register. There are three registers open and only two people in line. I get there at the same time as another lady — we glance at each other and then I step back and let her go ahead — she only has one item, a coffee pot.

But it isn’t smooth sailing. Why did I think it would be? Cashier #3 closes for her break.  Well, still two cashiers so it can’t take that long. The next person in line has a huge stack of shirts and shoes and several coupons. She’s just ready to pay when the cashier says “would you like to open a Kohl’s account today? It would save you 20%.” Oh, merciful heavens. They go on and on — she’s not sure; she wants to know how much 20% would come to; she already has so many accounts; what would her husband say…

At last cashier #2 is free and the lady in front of me — the one who has just the coffee pot — steps up and explains that this is an exchange. The cashier rings it up at $15.30. “But when I bought it before, it was only $13.50. I shouldn’t have to pay the difference.” The cashier scans something, pulls out an ad and tells her the sale price has expired. She isn’t going to let it go. He finally calls for a manager. At least I’m standing there with a package of socks and not a quart of ice cream! I have now been standing in line for about 8 minutes. All because I went back to get a bottle of water!

Cashier #1 is now done with the lady who finally declined to open the credit card and I step up. With my coupon, it comes to $3.50 plus tax. I have money in my hand when he says, “Oh, wait, that’s not right.” Noooo!!! It’s a good thing I’m holding a package of socks and not an axe or machete because I am very close to a homicidal rage. “Here,” he says, swiping something across the scanner. “It’s $2.80.” “How did that happen?” I ask. “I gave you the 20% off family and friends discount.” It saved me a whole 70 cents – the best thing that’s happened to me all day.

I plunk down my money and head, gratefully, for home. I catch all the green lights, take a quick jog over the freeway (which is what I should have done on the outbound trip) and am home, safe and sound with my new socks in just over an hour. A trip that should have taken 30 minutes — 40, tops — ate up all that extra time just because I went back to get my bottle of water.

And the worst part? As I get out of the car, I realize I never even took the top off the water bottle.



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