Monday, September 27, 2010

If I were a carpenter

So where do I start, when talking about Extras?

Do I start at the place where you walk into the warehouse, and you feel like you're in Home Depot heaven? It's heaven, because Extras is so much cheaper.

It's heaven because there's row upon row of kitchen countertops, and I need new countertops.

And there are sparkly things, like the ornate and huge and tinkling chandelier that was selling for a song. I only wish I had a room that would accommodate this beautiful bit of lighting. It was all I could do to walk away without stuffing it ever-so gingerly into the trunk of my car.

That's Extras. The cavernous Denver warehouse isn't terribly easy to find (near the 58th and I-25 exit - 400 W. 53rd Place), but it's worth the effort. Just give them a call at 303-296-8090, or googlemaps it. Because once you find this handyman's Shangri La, you'll most likely wonder how Extras has flown under you fixer-upper radar this long.

I'm sure if I were the least bit handy, Extras would be a Mecca to me. I'd feel so very happy to purchase a cabinet for $15 or a bathroom tub for $20.

But I know about Extras now, and I feel like it's my ace in the hole.

When I need anything for my house, I now know where I'll go. I'll go to Extras.

Because Extras has everything.

And anyone who knows about Extras can go there. It's no wholesaler's destination.

I know about this magical place because Mr. Fabulous is friends with Al and Marcie. Al owns Extras, and he and Mr. Fabulous have developed a bit of a kinship.

Al and Marcie are as magical as Extras.

And Cheryl, who's the backbone of the place, is just as fabulous as Al. She knows everything about Extras, and she seems to have a mental inventory of every unfinished door, every stack of drywall, every finish of cabinetry.
I wish I were handy. I would choose to die at Extras.

Because there's just so much great stuff here.

Rows and rows of material look just like this. And the prices are rock-bottom.

If I were a carpenter, Extras would be my destination.

I've mentioned the inventory, multiple times.

But the people behind Extras make Extras extra-special.

Quality: top-drawer. Inventory: extensive. People: extraordinary.

Unlike Lowes or Home Depot, there's no one at Extras who doesn't want to be there. Each employee is committed to the mission, and if you visit the website,, you'll see what I mean.

I especially enjoyed the travelogue of Don's house renovation, which you'll see on the Extras website. Don completely outfitted his house with material he'd obtained at Extras.

The website gives some Al and Marcie backstory, and it tells of how Extras began. When Al and Marcie were renovating their house, a need for Extras was identified.

I've been to Al and Marcie's house. It's one of the coolest, most eclectic, most creatively crafted, most comfortable houses I've had the good fortune to visit. Here's a photo of their ceiling, created from old railroad box cars.

Much of this fabulous house was created with unique finds not unlike what can be found at Extras.

Walk into Extras and possibility explodes. Extras is proud to be green, having culled its inventory from builders and contractors who have a little extra when their projects are completed.

Nothing is predictable at Extras, which makes it even cooler.

If I were a carpenter, Extras would be my second home.

Extras is the home I'd find myself wandering through while I'd be planning my personal sanctuary.

Ah, if I were a carpenter.

Lucky for me, I know a few.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

A few sheepish words on widgets, and a belated thank you note.

It seems that wherever you turn, someone's asking for a few bucks.

The most obvious example is the person with the cardboard sign at almost every intersection. The most unfortunate fixture of today's economy, these folks are pleased to take a buck or two.

Political candidates apparently need money to convince me they're worth voting for, and my donation helps these people to communicate to me that they deserve my vote, via highly polished and expensive television ads.

Retail stores ask if you'd like to round up to the next dollar to support a local charity. 

Tip jars are everywhere.

Try to escape by listening to the commercial-free National Public Radio, and you may find yourself in the midst of a membership drive. "Oh, crap." That's what I usually say, usually out loud, with every change of season that's ushered in with a new membership drive.

In keeping with all of these annoyances, I've fallen lock-step in line with so many others who have come before me. As you can tell from the widget located on the upper right portion of my lovely bloggy blog, I decided to passively offer my readers the option to slide me a few simoleons.

And, not unlike giving some ching to your favorite NPR station, membership has its privileges.

No, I'm not fashioning unique Paradigm Thrift mugs created from the rich red clay I've dug out of my backyard, fired in my personal kiln and designed with my unique brand of quirky creativity and personal style. You won't be receiving a mug if you choose to monetize my blog.

What you'll receive is much more interesting and valuable than a simple, utilitarian mug.

I'll write something for you.

When you monetize (donate sounds so telethon-ish) at a certain level, I'll write something, just for you.

Maybe you want me to blog about you.

Maybe you're in need of a personal profile or bio at your job. Your job may need a bit of material about you; something they'll use to showcase how bright and interesting their employees are. I can make you sound very fascinating.

Perhaps you'd appreciate a piece of short fiction in which you're the protagonist.

Or maybe you've been toying with the idea of finding a significant other, and don't exactly know what to say on your profile. I could help you with that.

You may not need anything written for or about you. Maybe you just like the blog, and feel like supporting it vis a vis some of your hard-earned money.

You certainly don't have to monetize this site at all. Because my payment, really, is your readership, no questions asked.

To be sure, part of me finds the entire subject of monetizing somewhat vulgar. I'm not a salesperson. I'm not comfortable even offering up the option of monetizing the blog.

But there it is, up there in the upper right area of this page. It's a lovely new widget, and I sheepishly wanted to point it out, just in case you were wondering.

My new widget is my bloggy version of a tip jar; my approach to rounding it up to the next dollar.

And if you choose, I'll write something, just for you.

And if you pass, I completely understand. I keep on top of the news, and I know our country's in the midst of an economic crisis, despite the recent odd revelation that the recession is over.

Whether you pass or play, just keep reading.

I love your input. I thrive on it. Your feedback is what keeps my chalkboard filled with white and my floor peppered with chalk dust.

Honestly - every time someone tells me they read my blog, the feeling I get is its own payment.

I value the reading people are doing, and I'm completely overwhelmed by the positive stuff I hear. I also value the controversy. Reaction to the 9/11 blog was completely unanticipated.

It's been interesting, hearing which entry some people like a whole lot, and other entries I particularly enjoy that have flown under the radar.

I appreciate every single person who's landed on my blog. Thank you so much for reading, and for coming back for more.

My ideas come faster than the time I have to crank them out on the blog. But rest assured, I'll keep coming back, and I hope you will, too.

So monetize me or don't. Either way, I'll keep doing what I do. I trust you'll continue to tell me what you think about what I'm doing.

Your input is more valuable than any widget.

And don't get me started on my opinion of widgets.

Sounds like a good topic for a blog.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Dumpster diving: nothing ventured, nothing gained

This type of diving will never be an Olympic event, and thankfully, it doesn't require wearing form-fitting swimwear.

This kind of diving just takes a bit of patience, good timing and an ability to identify the treasure among the trash.

It's become quite a movement, the dumpster diving. More and more people are recognizing that very cool stuff is tossed in the trash.

There seem to be several types of divers. First and most unfortunately, there are folks who scrounge dumpsters for food because they have no other resource.

Next, there are folks like me, who pick dumpsters in search of one thing (me: packing materials and cardboard boxes), and find really cool stuff in the process.

There is an ever-increasing number of people who dive the dumpsters, and some are directing what they find to people who really need it. My friend Sue recently told me about a radio show she'd heard, which was dedicated solely to the sharing of dumpster diving stories. One woman who called the show said she dove dumpsters in affluent neighborhoods on a regular basis, and gave what she found to single moms, shelters, other folks in need.

Other people troll dumpsters to replenish their wardrobes. A fairly recent Today show segment spotlighted a woman who consistently finds designer couture in the New York City dumpsters she frequents. She did have a picking protocol; she wouldn't get anything out of a dumpster that she couldn't reach. And she'd found some amazing items. 

It's true. Some dive out of necessity, some out of curiosity and others have found a comfortable niche that's filled by what they find in dumpsters.

There's even a word for folks who regularly dive.

They're called Freegans.

Freeganism is an actual movement. Freegans are sharply focused on a strictly anti-consumerism philosophy, relying on dumpster diving, gardening, trading and (gasp) sharing to survive.

There's a ton of information on line about Freeganism, but suffice it to say that Freegans are to environmentalism as vegans are to vegetarianism. Freegans want their footprints on this crazy planet to be almost imperceptible, and one of the many ways they keep it light is by culling through dumpsters.

Snagging other people's dumpster discards is a very peaceful, sustaining act, really.

But every yin has its yang; every party has its pooper.

For instance, if you get caught dumpster diving in the ultra-progressive city of Boulder, Colorado, you'll be fined $1,000 or sent to jail.


They say this fine/jail consequence for dumpster divers has been created to keep people safe. Apparently the CU Boulder police department would prefer that I climb one of the nearby mountains or local Flatirons instead of a city dumpster. 

Dumpster diving is one of the most tactile, interactive ways to recycle. But dangerous?

Safety is the last thing on the minds of most divers, whether they dive for fun, for profit, for others, for fashion or to add a plank to the platform of a socially conscious life. 

Whatever the motivation, divers understand that if nothing's ventured, nothing's gained.

But for your safety and the safety of others, make a path around Boulder.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Some say it's stalking - I say it's love.

So I saw this thing at a art fair by my house. I originally saw it on Saturday, and I wanted it. Is 'it' a he or a she?

Reactions have been mixed.

Personally, I think it's a she.

But I digress.

I wanted to buy this on Saturday. But art is discretionary. I did a bit of bargaining. I thought about how little I get for myself. And then I thought of all the places my money needed to be spent.

And then I walked away.

On Sunday, I took my regular walkies. I timed my walk so that I'd be at the art show at the exact moment when it opened for the day. I brought my checkbook, fully intending to buy this interesting treasure.

I noticed s/he had not been purchased, but again, I walked away.

College next year for one kid. Senior pictures. Lord, those are expensive.

Mr. Fabulous and I ran a few errands later on Sunday, and we drove past the art show, still in progress.

He knew how much I wanted this freaky thing. He said, "just tell me to turn or go straight."

I said, "turn."

So after having done some personal internal negotiations and a bit of art-stalking, I bought this for myself. It's the first thing I've purchased for the sole purpose of my own enjoyment for a very long time.

Here's what s/he looks like from another angle.

Last night, Mr. Fabulous and I were sitting on the couch, admiring my new acquisition.

We both agreed that it was a steal. The cost, when balanced by the time it must have taken the artist to come up with the idea, acquire the parts and actually make this piece was definitely worth what I paid.

I think it's interesting that I tend to gravitate toward art that's created out of things that were originally created with a completely different intention.

Such is the case with my newest acquisition.

The body is an old muffler, The hair is a thick chain. The eyes move; I'm not sure what they were used for originally, but I think they came from an old car. The head turns. The fingers are nails, bent ever-so expressively.

Sure, sure. There are a whole lot of other places my money could have been spent.

But I'm so glad bought it, even though it fell in the Want vs Need category.

It seems I'm still falling lock-step into appreciating the beauty of all things recycled.

Maybe that's the justification I can use to validate my purchase.

Or maybe it's okay just to appreciate this thing that I bought, just for myself, that I completely enjoy.

I asked for suggestions via my facebook page on what to name this thing.

My South Dakota friend Christine offered up the name Gladys. Christine has a very colorful, dramatic, borderline disgusting story about an inanimate object she fondly referred to as Gladys.

In both of their memories, this thing I stalked for the better part of the weekend has a new name.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The origin of our present fears

Nine years ago this morning, my husband at the time called me while I was still in my jammies, and he told me about what had happened to the World Trade Center. Turn on the tee vee, he said.

It was one of several very serious conversations we had about terrorism.

But as it pertains to today and today's relevance, it's a part of my lexicon that I heard first about the issues in New York from him, and I'll never forget it.

No one will.

I spent this evening not unlike I spent my time nine years ago today: glued to my television, watching coverage of 9/11.

Tonight, the coverage of the events of nine years ago were on the History Channel, and it brought the morning of that Tuesday nine years ago right back into sharp, if not sharper, focus.

With the odd exception that the events that unfolded in real-time nine years ago didn't come with a "may not be suitable for some viewers" cryptic introduction, the hindsight version of the events of September 11 are almost 20/20.

And in trying to apply a bit of hindsight to those events as those moments correlate to the present day, perhaps the most evidentiary conclusion is that we've all become so much more fearful.

About almost everything.

We're afraid about who can pray where, despite our country's Constitution. It's threatening to some people. God knows - whoever's God knows - why it's so difficult to just let people be.

It may be because of what happened nine years ago. But is it justified, all of this hostility?

Watching the rewind of what happened nine years ago today doesn't seem to reflect the anger that's everywhere almost a decade later.

Take a look at the video. The audio.

On the actual 9/11, there was an atmosphere of caring that seeped into every crazed pore of our collective fear.

Nine years ago, we all seemed to care about where people were and if they were safe more than what they were doing or who they prayed to or slept with or voted for.

We were less fearful not only of the unknown enemy. We were also less fearful of each other.

The events of September 11 have robbed us all of a fundamental essence of who we are that made us great.


The lack of that essence of trust has made us such cowards to fear.

I miss that element of trust; that piece of who we were that banded together for the greater good, for the love of the other regardless of our differences.

Fast forward from that day nine years ago, and the majority of us seem to be so afraid of almost everything.

I think that fear took root nine years ago.

I miss the easier, softer, more loving acceptance we all seemed to project to each other nine years and a day ago.

I miss the absence of fear; not only of the other, but of each other.

It almost seems like we've become our worst enemy.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

No new stuff for a year? Really?

I recently heard the revelatory story about the woman who didn't buy any new clothing for a year. She got a lot of press for her restraint.

I did read the piece she wrote about going new-free for a year.

She divulged that she, like many other women, is a therapeutic shopper. Shopping is a treat; something we're apparently owed.

She eventually did experience the revelation that shopping is a bit of a red herring when it comes to how we consumers see the world. And she provided valuable information about how those who have, spend:

"According to the National Consumer Council, we chuck out about 80 percent of what we buy after just one use."

That's crazy.

Several sources I've resourced indicate that, collectively, Americans alone discard two quadrillion pounds of clothing and textiles every year. All of this most likely reusable merch winds up in a landfill that's conveniently out of our field of myopic vision.

And as I've blogged about before, one culture's trash is another's treasure. Much of what we benevolently donate to thrift stores that isn't purchased is ultimately shipped overseas in big crates, and is sold or given away to people who think that what we consider discards is golden.

As for me, I can honestly say that more than 80 percent of what I own was previously owned by someone else.

Maybe more than 80 percent.

Am I ashamed? No. Do I look like I recently sashayed out of a thrift store? I don't think so.

Because people throw away really cool stuff.

So living without new items for a year? Really? Is that considered to be some kind of a sacrifice?

Try it for a while. It's an experience.

Can you remember where you bought your last Coach purse or Vuitton tote?

I can.

I don't want to brag, but I bet I spent less than you did, and no one knows the difference.

Really, the only difference is that mine didn't end up in a landfill.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

A review of the bins: They're craptastic!

I was driving to my Real Job today, thinking about the income I've generated by culling through the bins.

I've blogged about the bins before. To review, the bins is actually The Goodwill Outlet, which we affectionately refer to as the bins, due to the proliferation of bins filled with what some would see as crap.

But I've found that the bins are craptastic!

Let's review.

There was The Principles of Knitting book. Bought for 50 cents, sold for $260.

There was the Italian leather tote. Bought for about a buck, sold for $185.

There was that very cool book about the Titanic. Again bought for 50 cents, sold for $68.

Then there was the golf cart. We did a bit of negotiating on the golf cart with the employee at the register, because the cart weighed so much. She gave us a deal. It was purchased for 2.99. Sold for $100.

The Tumi computer bag. Ah, the Tumi. So light, and that's a wonderful feature when you're buying items by the pound. I probably paid two bucks for the Tumi; sold it for $140.

I found a fabulous bolt of vintage upholstery fabric. I wish I'd have kept a few yards of that fabric, but I sold it for about $200.

There have been so many craptastic finds at the bins. And yes, there are downsides.

Yes, there's the atmosphere. Dismal.

Yes, there's the ishy music and disobedient children. That's why they make Ipods. So you can disengage.

Yes, there are the crazy folks who knock you over to get to that random piece of crap that's crappy. That's why they made the concept of sauntering, like you just don't care. Because you don't, at the bins.

Because invariably, good stuff is ripe for the picking, if you can identify quality labels. If you know the difference between Guess and Gucci, you'll be just fine at the bins.

My fiscal bottom line has been nicely supplemented with what I've found at the bins.

All other thrifty thrift places pale by comparison.

The only difference is that, at the bins, you have to get your hands dirty.

And you have to disengage.

These are two qualities at which I'm very good.

Friday, September 3, 2010

What's killing radio? The attack of the pod people.

If there were a wager I could bet on in Vegas, I'd put my money on the potential that radio as we know it will be nothing like we know it now in 10 years. Maybe sooner.

Technology is grabbing terrestrial radio by the throat and holding it under the ipod, iphone, droid-filled water.

Own one of these devices and the world is in your back pocket, literally.

The technology is good, and it's only going to get better.

And the technology has created a whole new generation of program directors.

Pandora. Stitcher. Itunes. I Heart Radio. The list of locations is becoming extensive, and every new source provides a wealth of free content, much of which is timely, relevant, mutable, interesting.

I love it.

Today, I listened to my favorite podcast, then listened to what Rachel and Keith had to say. I took a break from chatter and put the hundreds of songs that are in my magical iphone 4 on shuffle.

And it was all commercial free.

That's the best part.

I've read a bit about why some folks think that radio is on life support. Decreased advertising revenue. The economy. Consolidation. And then there's technology.

I'm loving the technology.

So much to access, just a touch away. Anything I want, commercial free.

I can stream my favorite local radio station, too. But it's more out of a slight desire to occasionally listen to music that's relevant to my community.

I'm traitor, I guess. But I have the technology, and I'm using it to to its fullest potential.

Sorry, radio. I've become one of the pod people.

Because when it comes to what I want, commercial-free, it's all right here, in the palm of my hand.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Houseplants are takers, gardens are givers.

I have this personal credo when it comes to houseplants. When they start looking like they're getting ready to die, I put them on my back porch, ostensibly so that they can get some fresh air and sunshine. A backyard spa for plants.

Honestly, I put these pitiful plants outside because their leaves are falling off like the hairs on an old man's head, or because they're obviously not enjoying living the quiet, contemplative life of an indoor houseplant.

So I've been known to be passive/aggressive by punishing my errant houseplants. Go ahead and judge. These plants have every opportunity to come back inside - if they perk up, they come back in. If they continue down the path of withering unsightliness, they stay on the porch, and aren't invited back inside.

Houseplants aren't the same as garden plants. Houseplants are silent takers, and their primary function is to bring a slice of nature indoors.

Garden plants give back.

This tasty bowl of tomatoes is a case in point. My garden is presently producing amazing amounts of, well, produce. I've been plucking a few dozen roma and cherry tomatoes every day, and they're being consumed as fast as they ripen.

Thank god I entertain a lot.

If this high level of garden output continues at this pace, I'm thinking I'll need to up my game. Maybe open up a cookbook, learn how to freeze fresh produce, supply a food bank.

We're not only well stocked with tomatoes: the cukes and zukes keep appearing, growing quickly and profusely in an almost magical way.

Sadly, like a clean house or the thrill of a new romance, I know my garden won't last. A month from now, the giant tomato plants will become wilting skeletons dotted with shriveled tomatoes that are presently in hiding; the dinner plate-sized zucchini leaves will take on the look of sad, wet rags hanging on dried sticks.

But for now, my garden is like an intuitive friend who asks if you'd like to get together and talk, just a few minutes before you know you're lonely.

Sometimes, my houseplants seem like that friend who only calls to ask for a ride or to borrow a few bucks.

Maybe if houseplants did a little less taking and a little more giving, I wouldn't have to be so punitive.

In any case, soon my garden will take on the needy look of some of the houseplants that I've relegated to my back porch.

I miss my garden already. It's been so generous, so tasty. And like a fire, the ocean or an interpretive dance performance, the garden's been interesting to watch.