Bambi Ain’t Easy, and Certainly Not Cheap

Wholly unrelated but very beautiful painting "Man and Woman" - Edvard Munch, 1905

Here at Casa USA Financial Service, we could be seen as moderately crunchy: organic gardens, average aptitude for recycling, *some* homemade cleaning products, and solicitous, borderline irrational patronage of local farms and farmers' markets.  Ah yes, and a subscription to Mother Earth News. Mother does good work on the conventionally sustainable:   reviews of home solar systems, the machinations of pesticide companies, the ins and outs of commercial composters, baking artisan bread and infused vinegars.  All that is good and self-reliant, love it.  However, when Mother delves into the arcane depths of personal finance advice, well, all we can say is that that's an endeavor best left to well-trained professional PF bloggers. The … [Read more...]

Minimalists Make for Lousy Neighbors

A chaotic shedful of hand tools

  Live next door to committed minimalists, there's more than an even chance they won't be the ones lending you a shop vac or lawn trash bags should a dire need arise.  More likely, they will be the supplicants at your door, mooching and beseeching. Then again, if you own a home in a typical suburban neighborhood, cheer up.   Chances are also good the neighbors won't be modern minimalists:  minimalists typically live in sparsely, yet tastefully furnished urban apartments. Generally Speaking... More sweeping, totally baseless generalizations about hard-core minimalists: + Relatively young and childless + Urban apartment dwellers + If not in apartments, couch-surving or RV-living + Work in a service industry (or blogging … [Read more...]

Old Tools, New Tools

Thrift Store Swag (clockwise from top) - hand saw, drill, rip saw, mallet, crowbar, sickle, pruning shears, hand file, cast iron skillet

Let us spend an hour or two in a thrift store, and it's laughably predictable what we'll end up with. Mrs. 101 will score on booty the likes of vintage tablecloths, glassware, quilty stuff, and assorted tchotchkys and knicknacks. For me, it's used books and old tools. Here's a grab bag of hand tools from a recent excursion:   All but the skillet and the handsaw were priced from 1 to 5 bucks.   The Made-in-USA hand shears were from a yard sale, priced at 25 cents.  They've outlasted a couple of Chinese shears already, which have either snapped handles or couldn't stay sharp. A very cool thing about the pruning saw is the way the once broken handle was repaired with a little judicious whittling and addition … [Read more...]

Random House and Garden Tips

Here's a few good things to remember: (1)  Bad idea to put eggshells down the food disposal, according to our $102-per-visit plumber.  The crushed-up shells are "sticky" enough to gum up the works and require a visit from Plumber Joe. (2) Got an old piece of furniture and needs rejuvenating?  Try a 50/50 mix of liquid WD-40 and Minwax, in an old spray bottle.  Spray it on, wipe it off with a soft old rag, and you'll be amazed at the results. (3)  Use cardboard instead of landscape cloth in your flower or vegetable beds.  Large sheets of cardboard are usually free for the asking at big stores like Lowe's or Home Depot.  A double layer of cardboard under a 2-3" layer of mulch will keep weeds down, and will eventually decompose, … [Read more...]

Cooking @ home: Pastina

small pasta shapes

Every time we go out to dinner these days, some one in our party invariably makes the comment "What recession?  Look at all the people eating out". I think a big part of it is that many people simply don't know how to cook for themselves, or have time and inclination to bother to learn, what with looking up and trying -- and failing at -- new recipes.  Granite countertops, frameless European cabinets, high-BTU ranges, and not the basic skill to make a good omelette. In any event, cooking at home is a meaningful way that a household can save money by planning out menus and learning how to make a few simple dishes.  Making pastina is an very simple way to add a course to a weekday meal. PASTINA Italian for little or small … [Read more...]

To Coupon or Not to Coupon?

Lot of positive opinions on clipping and saving with coupons.  But coupons are not for us. Just an opinion and a function of time spent, really.  If couponing is seen as an interest and somewhat of a hobby, then it makes good sense. For me, I have a long list of things on the project to-do list, it doesn't seem worth the effort for the payback involved. Have tried it in the past, but in looking at the time spent versus other other activities, the opportunity time cost is considerable. Other direct costs would include the printer ink to print out “free” web coupons, jet printer ink being one of the of the most expensive liquids on earth. Other indirect time costs?   Minutes spent looking around grocery store aisles looking for … [Read more...]