Mary Beth Writes

1.  We did it!  We called, explained what we thought we needed to do, made appts, were home for the appts, rec’d the estimates about - fixing the gutters and getting the house painted.  I think one of the reasons we usually do it ourselves is because this process is so daunting and time consuming.

The gutter guy is coming next week; we are looking forward to no rivulets when it pours. 100-year old houses built on non-waterproofed rubble foundations, like George Washington, cannot lie about what’s happening outside your basement walls.

We hired the painter who was 2nd cheapest. Why? Because he enthusiastically talked about paints now available and how one kind (I dunno) will really help to cover exposed exterior nail-heads.  You could see he was intrigued by the possibilities in his job. About 15 minutes after he left we got a call from him. He was in the parking lot of the apartment complex behind us, with questions about the back of the garage. 

We had forgotten we had a back of garage. So had the other two estimators.  When you don’t know who to go with, go with the person who seems to like what they are doing?  It’s not the whole answer (we got a recommendation, too) but its part of how to rely on others.  Price is important, but not the only criteria.

House won’t get painted till summer. If all goes well, I’ll share his name.

2. You know those tiny bottles of spritz cleaners they give you when you get new glasses?  That no one actually uses and they clutter that back of your bathroom closet?

I love that stuff. I started cleaning my glasses every morning at my office job; it was part of the “girding ones loins for this day” routine. I now have two bottles, including one here on my desk.

The chemical is simply Isopropyl Alcohol - and I refill the bottles when they run out.  I also use them to clean mirrors, chrome, phones (spritz the cloth, and then wipe down the phone) – and  Len’s glasses (Len’s lens).  

I just looked up the formula.  3 parts alcohol to 1 part water, plus a drop of dish detergent.

Who knew there was a formula? I just use the alcohol.

3. We saved our budget and our lives in the regular, boring, incremental ways by cooking from scratch, using more vegetables, grains, and fruits than meat, eating at home. Reusing reusable items - plastic bags, glass jars, packing boxes and materials for mailing eBay stuff and a birthday present.

I read the article you probably read this week about the dangers in spraying/spritzing cleaners into the air (not too worried about the glasses cleaner). So I cut two empty milk gallon containers into small buckets with handles – to use to clean upstairs and downstairs.

4. Since the beginning of this year I have eBay netted (after purchase cost, fees, and shipping) enough money to make a difference. I listed four new things on eBay yesterday; I think the coolest was this mid-century vase. It’s Harris Potteries, Chicago.  If no one buys it, I’m cool with keeping it.

5.  Huge Frugal Strategy…  We are intentionally not complaining about the weather. This is Wisconsin, urban, nearly March i.e. not exactly gorgeous. But we go for walks and hikes anyways (Len’s going out on his bike right now). We shush each other when one of begins to complain.  Keeps us from “having” to get out of here; saving us hundreds of dollars.

On a long walk yesterday I saw a soaring hawk, and heard (didn’t see) Sandhill cranes. I was less than a mile from a slough; I might walk there today to see if they are back.

6. I emailed my reps to add my voice to the demand for gun safety laws. Some other day I will tell you about how, when I was a young teller in Chicago, I was held up at gun-point twice.  

I bet very few Republicans have stood at the wrong end of a gun – except  - “On February 11, 2006, U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney shot Harry Whittington, a 78-year-old Texas attorney while participating in a quail hunt on a ranch in Riviera, Texas.  Both Cheney and Whittington called the incident an accident.”

What have you chosen to do in the past few weeks to save money and uphold your values?



Mindful Chickens? We are frugal so that our retirement savings will last as long as we do. At the same time we try to consume responsibly so that our choices have the least negative impact on our fellow humans and on our earth and its creatures.  Cheep, Cheap!


I just finished making and canning my second batch of sofrito.It's a herb mixture used extensively in Puerto Rican cooking and just about anything else I make. I make enough to last a long time so I always have some on hand. I also love how it makes the house smell as it's simmering on the stove. When it's Jared up and cool I store it in the freezer.

Yes! I want to know how to make sofrito. I will call you - maybe we can so a blog post...

That picture of the turkey is beyond awesome! Since we are on vacation, not a great week to talk about being frugal. Hmmmmm. But, we did make our own trail mix for the plane ride ! That counts!

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Retired Chicken Observations 3/22-2018

Two things I have been thinking about lately. Both are related to retirement income and retirement adventure.

1. Last week Len and I went to our Social Security office to sign me up for Spousal Benefits.  It took me several run-throughs to understand what “spousal benefits” are. Since then I have talked to several other people who were also unclear on the concept.

My confusion was this. I was already getting Social Security based on my earnings when I worked (as opposed to what I did when I stayed home and raised kids. But let’s not go there now. Grrrr.)

Franc’s Wildly Successful Life

This is a long piece of writing and I am proud of it. If you don’t want to read it all – here are my take-way points about how my friend Franc lives well on a surprisingly small income:

Mindful Chickens - The Snickerdoodle Edition

1. When we were sick in January (with flu and cold) Len used the CVS card that I had signed up for last year and then barely used.  He bought several OTC medicines plus a cool-mist vaporizer using that card, which saved us 20%. That was helpful.

2. While I was under the weather I signed up for Starz in order to binge-watch an Outlander season.  After I watched TV for two days I canceled the subscription, thus paying nothing.  This is the third year I have done this.  Why do they let me do this??

Frugal Stuff/ Flu edition 1/22/2018

1. I donated blood Friday morning. This is a free mini-checkup every two months; they take your pulse, temperature, blood pressure, and check your hemoglobin levels (iron). They send your blood to be checked for various diseases such as Lyme disease, West Nile, and Zika.

DO NOT donate blood in order to determine if you have a disease or not. If you think you might be ill, go to a doctor or clinic and deal with it. 

But, if you (like me) need an extra reason to be generous, the screening to give blood is not a bad perk.

Two Piquant Recipes, No Waiting

This is not a recipe blog. You may sometimes wonder what kind of blog this is, but I bet you have figured out we’re not here to cook. Still, sometimes I come across amazing recipes and today I want to share two of them,by referring you to the sites where I found them.

How do I find these sites, you ask? 

Simple. Google the name of two or three ingredients you would like to use up. This takes you to recipes that use those foods; you decide if you want to try them.

Health Insurance when you are laid off

Pals, I was reading letters at a website I look at often. A woman wrote that her 62-year old husband had been unexpectedly laid-off from his job. She said she didn't know where to begin to think about health insurance (and a lot more).  I talked to Len.  Man, we have been here.
This is what Len wrote. This answer is too long to post on someone else's website so we are sharing it here. 
Says Len:
You are in a difficult situation.
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