Mary Beth Writes

We are new subscribers to “Imperfect Produce” which is a service that delivers imperfect (duh) but safe and flavorful veggies and fruit to your house. This helps to keep “imperfect” produce from being wasted. (  I don’t get kickbacks from them.)

We are open-minded about trying new things to eat so when they included a pomegranate – cool. I enjoyed pomegranate, raisin, and walnut oatmeal I invented for myself.

We also received persimmons - the orange fruit Downton Abbey types put in their silver bowls on their antique sideboards during the Holiday Season. I cut into the first personal persimmon of my life and bit gingerly into the flesh. It tasted like sweet, soft, “Caribbean breezes” butter. (I’ve never been near a Caribbean island, but a girl can imagine, right?)

I said, “Mmmm….”

Four seconds later my mouth twisted sideways and my eyelids popped wide open as the astringent after-effect surprised my mouth. It didn’t stop me from eating half of the fruit, but I ate it slow and in tiny bites, my eyes squinting as I waited for the tannic pucker. Persimmons do a chemical number on mouth cells! 

How stuff looks is seldom as important as how it tastes or serves or works or feels. The truth of Persimmons is that how something LOOKS seldom tells the whole story – and this is a truth to deal with when living any life, especially a frugal one. 

Most of us care about how our houses and families look. Having hopes, dreams, and ideals about the shape and style of our personal lives is good. We know what we are aiming for.

Also true: Having hopes, dreams, and ideals about the image of our personal life is a path straight to hell.

Like this. Have you been in a home where there are well-displayed professional family photos; yet you know that the family is mostly unhappy? The photo communicates Norman Rockwell family sweetness, you know the family swims in stress, acrimony, and sadness.

Why spend money on more professional photographs? Why not find classes, couples counseling, second opinions, support groups for whatever the family is dealing with, lawyer consultations if that is warranted, or maybe just a Saturday afternoon no-agenda family trip to a park. The sound of kids laughing and adults not arguing is real, the family photo on the wall is an image.

We are fed a steady diet of how our lives should look. I bet you could fill in this list with the Standard American Image

  • What our homes should look like. (Lately it is white walls, mid-century furniture, and those mini-gas station flags draped on the wall over a kids bed. What’s up with that?)
  • How we dress ourselves or our kids
  • What career we or our kids “ought” to aim for (Don’t study literature or music or history, they say. In what world do we not need literature or music or history?)
  • Where we are going to rent or buy our next home
  • Where we are going to vacation next. (I didn’t say Disney. You said Disney…)
  • What we are going to cook for the holidays
  • Gifts we ought to buy for others so that they know we love and like them. (There’s a highway.)
  • What we are going to do when we “go out” this weekend.       
  • What our kids are going to do in their “free time”.
  • Etc.

 How things “ought to look” is such a trap. Do we really think how something looks can tell us if we are happy or not?  

 We need better questions.

 Such as:

How does it feel? (How would it feel to not have a car payment, to never again assemble a “wrapping station” for 37 presents, to not gain two pounds in one day each time a holiday or birthday happens, to be able to spend December evenings listening to music while working on projects and not in a blizzard of shopping details? And on and on.)

 What is the taste you would go for if you weren’t thinking about impressing? (Sourdough bread with salami, pickles, super-tangy cheese and an IPA? Spaghetti with sausage in it, wine, people talking and laughing? Two chocolate donuts, a cup of strong coffee, and a whole morning to read – something only so-called “lonely, single” persons can arrange on Christmas morning? And I’m jealous.)

What do you want to hear? The Messiah chorus sung by three choirs with a backup symphony orchestra is amazing. Yes it is. But would it FEEL calmer to not buy tickets, not drive downtown, not dress up – and just listen to the Messiah chorus while you clean up after dinner every night for a week?  

 Would you love the sound of your kids and grandkids not arguing? Look at these: (

Or (

What do you want to FEEL against your skin?  That moment when you step outside and it is 12-degrees and the wind is howling – but you are wearing long underwear under your jeans, and your not-new winter jacket blocks the wind, and you can pull up its hood and snap it across your chin, and your boots are lined with fake fur – and you feel good.  Or your house is chilly because you set the thermostat low, but there are two afghans and one cat on the sofa waiting for you.  Or no one else wants to go out in the rainst but you have a waterproof coat with a hood, and you have boots, and you  walk along a lake and the sound of the rain hitting the water is so awesome you laugh out loud.  


 Most of us spend too much time, money, and energy arranging how things will look. If we slowed down and asked a few more questions could we could have less debt, more sense-rich adventures, more awareness of the people we love and like? More time alone on the sofa with afghans, books, cats, and donuts?

If we ask good questions can we come up with a plan to, in a few years, transition from this job we don’t love to one we do? If we keep asking questions and paying attention, can we dive beneath our mild and horrible addictions, to find the bottlenecked creativity inside us?

Ask better questions.

Persimmon Cookies!

I had an extra persimmon so what to do? I found a cookie recipe, changed it a lot; they were (and six still are) so tasty.

The secret to my persimmon cookies recipe is this. You don’t actually have to have a persimmon.

Also I doubled amounts because I was giving them to friends who would be sharing with others, so I wanted there to be a lot.  You can cut this down.



1 cup of Crisco or other shortening

2 cups sugar

2 eggs

1 cup of soft persimmon

2 soft bananas

4 cups of flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon cloves

1 teaspoon nutmeg

½ cup chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans, I bet almonds would be interesting, also that's all the nuts we had in the house, hyou can add way more) 

1 cup raisins (any dried fruit)

 See what I did there? It was supposed to be ALL persimmons, but I only had one so I added bananas.  The cookies tasted like banana bread bites with edge-crunch from the Crisco. So you could just use old bananas and skip the persimmon. Hah.

Internet recipes drive me crazy. They show you a zillion photos and they talk about their kids and the dog and whatever… . It’s almost as if they are selling the IMAGE of a cute life...

Here’s the deal. Put the Crisco in your mixing bowl. Add the sugar while letting your mixer beat at least two minutes.

(Thanks, Meg, for sharing this huge cookie-making secret that the butter or shortening and the sugar have to spend a LOT of quality time with each other before one adds anything else.)

I chopped the persimmon small and added it to the sugar/Crisco.  Then I added the bananas.  Let all that beat until you can barely see fruit bits. Add the eggs.

When this slurry is utterly whipped – add the dry ingredients. I usually put them all into the sifter while the mixer does its thing. I also microwaved the raisins in water for a minute to let them plump, but that’s just because I really like the people I was going to give them, too.  Fancy steps, you know?

Drop by small spoonfuls onto a lightly greased cookie sheets. Bake 11-13 minutes at 350-degrees. They are soft in the middle, crunchy on the edges.

 The best thing about them is not how they look but how they taste.


Another great post. I agree! We are marketed to believe our lives are insufficient, always needed more stuff, better experiences etc. After all contentment is bad for the economy. I look at things now in times of life force. How much life force is that going to cost? How many days/hours do you have to work for it worth it? Thank you for another thought provoking post. Patricia Fl

Thanks so much for your response. I remember Amy Dacyzyn suggesting folks look at the cost of something in terms of how many hours they would have to work to earn the money to pay for something. Years ago I worked at a retail store for $7.25/hr. I was daily tempted to buy their $4 hot pretzels... but would consider that half hour it would take to earn it... Yeps.

If you haven't already done so, you might enjoy reading All the Blue Day blog by Jo. Have a peaceful and quiet week end, Mary Beth. Patricia/FL

I will definitely check it out. Thank you!

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The Choosing Season

“Decision fatigue helps explain why ordinarily sensible people get angry at colleagues and families, splurge on clothes, buy junk food at the supermarket and can’t resist the dealer’s offer to rustproof their new car. No matter how rational and high-minded you try to be, you can’t make decision after decision without paying a biological price.”  (

The Arrows of Yore

I have a weird dark closet in the back of my soul. In it are critical things people have said to me in my life. I rarely consciously think about those old cuts and criticisms, but they are tucked in back there and sometimes I remember them uneasily.

Here are some of my particular arrows of yore:

“Can’t you do anything with her hair, Dorothy?” Dorothy was my mom. My dad liked his daughters’ hair to be curly and orderly, mine was straight and flyaway. I think I was in my 40’s before I realized OMG I do not have “problem hair”… whatever the hell that is.

Buy Angry

Frugality is a tool and a weapon. You can use it to be powerful.


Frugality and Privacy

 “If you aren’t paying for the product, you are the product.”

When one of our kids was 8-years old, Len thought it would be fun to let that kid drive his car. I swear - though I doubt you will believe me - no drinking was involved. Len just really believes in our kids and sometimes this turns into bigger adventures than one would expect.

Did I mention the car was in the garage so it needed to be backed out? Also, the child in question was too short to adequately reach the pedals.

Mindful Chickens – Up North Weekend Edition 9/24/18

Mindful Chickens are (for people who don’t know why I call them this) about:

1. Being Cheap (cheap, cheep).

2. Being thoughtful about how choices affect our community and our earth.

3. Paying attention to the constant tumble of little things like bugs and crumbs, dollars and daily choices.

Several years ago our son and his wife decided that they were going to set a goal to visit every state park in Wisconsin. There are 50 state parks and they only have a few more to go; what a cool way to claim where one lives.

Mindful Chickens 9/15/18 & The Scattered Schedule of Retirement

Mindful Chickens are (for people who don’t know why I call them this) about:

ONE: Being Cheap (cheep, cheep).

TWO: Being thoughtful about how choices affect our community and our earth.

THREE: Did you know you can enter “flying chickens” as an actual searchable topic in YouTube? Did you know you can lose an hour (or more) of your life this way? It’s been quite a week over here, doing many needful and not-so-needful things – including watching chickens fly.

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