Mary Beth Writes

Other people call them “frugal things I did lately”. I call them Mindful Chickens because they are 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 dollars and choices.


1. The fridge-freezer was leaking on the floor. Len pulled everything out and unscrewed the back sheet-metal panels. Used my hairdryer to melt ice that shouldn’t have been there in the first place, pulled the clog from the drainpipe. It’s fixed.

Meanwhile I sorted through the frozen stuff. Threw away frozen bread heels. They work great for stuffing/dressing (sauté onions, carrots, other veggies, add the broth you made from scraps/bones, mix in the bread and seasonings, bake until crispy), bread pudding, croutons; things I used to make when we had kids to feed. Last thing Len and I need are calorie-dense meal-stretchers.

I wrote down everything and made an inventory. Saved me from thinking I should buy squashes to cook and freeze, I still have packs from last year.

There are just the two of us and we live 5 minutes from grocery stores by car, 30-minutes by walking. It’s WAY cheaper to let the grocery stores “store” things we might need someday, instead of hauling stuff home to a free-standing freezer.

2. I was in Racine on a sunny day and went for a walk along the shoreline. Best price in town.

3. Long story short, we owned a matching sofa and love seat that looked nice, but whoever sat on the love seat to watch TV had to scrunch up or hang over. We’ve been talking about this heart-breaking scenario (first world problems) for more than a year. We were in Milwaukee, so we stopped in at the Habitat for Humanity reStore – where someone had just donated a very nice charcoal sofa. They were about to close the store, but the manager said Tuesday was 20% off day.

So, following Tuesday, we bought a nearly new sofa .. but now we needed it delivered. There were some guys moving things into a trailer by the loading dock.

For a super reasonable amount of money, FOUR guys wrapped the sofa in tarps (it was raining) and delivered it to us in Waukesha that afternoon. I told them I am going to give them free advertising right here. They were efficient, friendly and polite, and not expensive.

Powell Cleaning Group. Moving, carpet cleaning, floor waxing, sanding, buffing, cleaning, debris removal, yard cleaning, snow services, window cleaning.  They say they will have a website soon, but they don’t yet.  414-933-6130.

We were determined to find a sofa that didn’t add more junk to the world. This was more complicated than buying new but came with the built-in entertainment and adventure of looking for it, finding it, and getting it home. 

4. Len’s bread. When one has bread like this in the house, it would be sin to eat out.

5. Went to Chicago to visit our youngest. Len did some “dad chores” around her apartment and then we went for lunch at a nouveau tacos place – I had roasted chayote tacos! After lunch we went for a long walk through beautiful autumnal Humboldt Park (if you follow goofy news, they had an alligator there this summer and had to bring in alligator catchers from Florida to get it).  

6. A good friend’s son is the Museum Scientist at University of Wisconsin Geology Museum  Len asked Jennifer and Jennifer asked David and YES we could visit him.  We got to spend two unbelievably cool hours seeing the lab there and asking him questions. 

And then, coolest thing on earth ever – we had a geode. Otis gave it to us more than 10 years ago, he lives across the Mississippi from Keokuk, Iowa, which is a famous treasure trove of geodes.  David cut our geode open for us! Took about five minutes; diamond-tipped hand saw inside a box that loudly sucks rock dust and heat up a chimney. Sparks flew. And then … Voila!

The museum is free (look, they have story night!). 


As Mary Beth said, the Geology Museum was extremely cool. There are some really cool dinosaur skeletons (full-size, real thing!) that will thrill any kid plus a movie of a meteorite that fell through the night sky in Wisconsin plus PIECES OF THAT ACTUAL METEORITE. Also, the Museum used to have the bones of Union General Sherman’s horse, but they were destroyed in a fire. “ The burning of Science Hall occurred on the evening of December 1, 1884. It was only a small fire when discovered, but the campus fire-fighting equipment was carefully locked up to prevent student pranks. When the volunteer fire department finally came charging down the street, they halted at the corner of Lake and Langdon streets and refused to budge, suspecting a false alarm by mischievous students. After they were assured that the fire was real, the firemen approached but by the time the first stream of water hit the building, the fire was out of control. Before morning, the $80,000 building and its valuable collections were totally destroyed. The Wisconsin State Journal, annoyed by the whole affair, condemned the city's ‘useless toy for a fire brigade.’”
Leonard's picture

This is a cool video about using medical imaging equipment to look inside of a fossile (which had been on display at the University for 99 years!): (copy this link and past it into your browser address line)

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Mindful Chickens - Clucking at the Stock Market

I started this a month ago. Time flies…

Other people call them “frugal things I did lately”. I call them Mindful Chickens because they are about:

1. Being Cheap (cheap, cheep).

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

3. Paying attention to values and values.

Big Shopping & Quick Shopping

Len and I are buying groceries differently than we used to and we are saving $100-250 per month doing so. If you know us, you will have noted that neither of us are any slimmer.  This is not about eating less.

Mindful Chickens in Canada

In case you don't already know... My husband and I did a 15-day road trip to eastern Canada.  Kurt Vonnegut wrote “Unexpected travel is like dancing lessons from God.”  The plan was to visit Nova Scotia and Newfoundland – but then Hurricane Dorian changed that. Stories and photos at my website.

Other people call them “frugal things I did lately”. I call them Mindful Chickens because they are about:

How Big IS Grandma? Do You Need More Space?

Our internet service had been goofy all that day; the house alarm system sent a random beep to my phone at 3AM. Waking from deep sleep to “Is there a bad guy coming up the steps right now?” turned into the kind of insomnia that requires … decluttering videos. My heart stopped racing as I watched a mild woman talk about the closet in her laundry room.

How I saved Tens of Thousands of Dollars Lately and also got a New Kazoo

Just in case you thought I stopped paying attention to how to live cheap and well. 

1. For several months we have composted veg and fruit scraps - our weekly garbage reduced by half! We collect detritus through the day in a bowl on the counter, carry it out to a steel garbage can we brought from our last house. I’ve dug some of this collapsed organic stuff into the garden.

Less Lemming, More Living

Last week I posted an essay railing against our North American/western maniacal consumerism. We are so deep into climate crisis and into destabilizing world poverty caused by the oligarchy of the few.  Something has to give. Plus this: If we are living on $50,000 a year or more, we are already earth’s top 1%. Isn’t this nuts? It really is up to us to turn back this crazy lemmings’ march to the sea.

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