Sunday, September 24, 2017

It's Never Enough

I'm curious. At what age does someone care more about retiring than working? I feel like I'm teetering on that time. God knows we're nowhere near retirement. We have many, many years of work to look forward to. I'm not sure if mine is a symptom of introversion - because I'm not crazy about people all around me - or a sense of defeat that says it's not going to get much better than this. i.e. I won't be retiring as a multi-millionaire.

I want to chuck it all and go live in the country, but old age would be pretty scary. No doubt, we'll live a long time, and that means outlive our means. Maybe Trump and Kim will destroy the world as we know it with sophomoric mouthiness gone bad, and then we'll be richer than most because we have a nice little patch of land.

We happily talk about what to do next. Put new floors in the Austin house? Clear another acre in the country? Landscape the backyard? None of those things will happen for at least a year. Why? We just got a whole new HVAC in the Austin house. I knew it was going to happen because the existing system was failing when we bought this house. Some freon and a new capacitor gave it a few more years of function, and then reality came a callin'. I guess we can call the new HVAC our first major improvement to this house.

I'm pretty sure we're living the real American Dream. You know. The one where we race forward at breakneck speed while sliding backwards an inch for every mile. Lately, I've been trying to figure out how to get the inch back.

A side hustle that doesn't wear me out more than I already am each week. A side hustle I can do by myself because my wife is beyond worn out each week. I haven't figured it out yet. I thought I'd add a few commissionable links to this blog, but it's the wrong kind of blog. Small readership. Older. Not particularly swayed by the impulse buy. Not reading this for advice. So, that's not the solution.

Spend less money. Let me tell you. I am not a frivolous person. Neither of us are spendthrifts. HVAC. That's where the extra money goes.

Save more money. HVAC.

All in all, I KNOW how blessed we are. It's my personality- my close resemblance to a goat - that makes me want to achieve just a little bit more. Make things happen a little bit faster. Climb a little bit further. Because in my mind, that next financial plateau is what makes retirement come sooner rather than later. 

Saturday, September 16, 2017

That Cheap, Old, Awesome Dinnerware and Glassware That Never Dies

O.K. I'm back to the Antique Week chatter. Now that summer has blown away, and fall is kicking in, your favorite home decor retailers are revving up the holiday tableware sales pitch. The cheap old stuff your granny passed along to whoever would take it is actually a better buy, if you ask me.

Frankly, I love the old Depression Glass and cheap Green Stamps tableware my mother gave me. It transcends its cheap and slightly tacky look to be retro urban cool beyond anything the big retailers can offer. Although I don't actively collect depression glass or other vintage glassware anymore, I think it adds a nice touch to everyday dining or the occasional dinner party. So we do pull it out sometimes.

Avon Ruby Glass

I have a collection of Avon Ruby wine goblets and port glasses, I have plates and glasses of various size in the Depression Glass pink Sharon pattern, along with other random pink pieces, and a sizable collection of Sterling China (Japan) that my mother gave me. I recall this stack of dinner plates, saucers and tea cups coming from the Minimax in Edna, Texas. I think she collected stamps to get them. They were our everyday plates before the introduction of the microwave. After that, she boxed it all up because they have decorative metal rings that sparked. Now I use them with my family, but usage comes with strict instructions not to put them in the microwave.

Sterling China Florentine Pattern

Something I love about the Sterling plates and my Depression Glass plates is that we eat less. The pink plates are only about 9 inches in diameter, and the Sterling has about that much eating surface, with the rest of the plate dedicated to the outer pattern. 

Pink Depression Glass Sharon Pattern

Now that I've shown off my shabby collection of cheap glass, I want to encourage you to buy the old stuff. It's actually cheaper than the new replicas, and the old stuff has soul. Somebody else ate and drank off of this cheap dinnerware. They collected colored glass out of  oatmeal boxes, or at the movie theater, or like my mother, at the grocery store. We still earn the "free gift" today, but our contemporary freebies won't last for generations.

If you're headed to Antique Week, look for some cool old glassware. Make it the star of your Thanksgiving dinner party. Brighten up the holidays with nostalgia. That's what we'll do. We'll put up the every day Sterling plates and set the table with the pink stuff. It will be fun, and it will feel like our history.

Final bit of advice. Check eBay for these old table relics. I did some quick comparison, and I found that websites dedicated to the 3 different collections I own were more expensive. I really don't know what the prices at Antique Week will be. Here are three easy links to the glass I own:

Pink Depression Glass

Check out the other Depression Glass colors, too. I love the greens and blues, and my sister has a big collection of milk glass she inherited from our grandmother. It's heavy and ugly to the point of being cool. 

Milk Glass

Whatever style you like, buy up enough to set a table, and have some fun with holiday dinner parties.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Twelve Year Disaster Season

The last 25 years have produced devastating hurricanes in my part of the country. 1992 is stained with the destruction of Andrew; a category 5 storm that destroyed Florida. 13 years later, Katrina became the monster that not only killed people, but it also exposed the shortcomings of the American government when it came to the country's most vulnerable population. 12 years later, Harvey leveled sleepy coastal Texas towns before drowning Houston, La Grange, and the Golden Triangle. We couldn't even take a breath, and now Florida is in the midst of another disaster of Andrew proportions.

La Grange neighborhood destroyed by flooding from Harvey

Basically, about every 12 years, hurricanes destroy parts of the Southeastern United States. That's just long enough for most people to forget what it really means to suffer. Honestly, I feel a little guilty chattering away in my last post about something as luxurious as Antique Week. This trendy event is taking place 20 miles from the devastation in La Grange. While the antiquers shop, some folks in the county will rebuild. It happened, it's Texas, people muscle up and start rebuilding.

Tammy, Elizabeth and I met up with my brother, a couple of workmates and a friend to help do some demo work in La Grange. It's a whole different thing to see this kind of destruction in person rather than see it in photos and newscasts. To feel the emptiness and loss is to give these kinds of natural disasters a hopeless respect that, frankly, shouldn't be forgotten for 12 to 13 years.

I don't need to wax on about the devastation. Nor should I have to encourage anyone to make donations of work or money or goods. You should do that on your own, if you can. What I do think deserves some blog time is preparedness. Even if your emergency supplies sit for 12 years, get prepared.

5 Things We Own That You Should Own

  1. A generator. We have a 4,000 watt generator that runs on gasoline and propane. I run propane because it's cleaner. This little gem will keep a refrigerator, freezer and fan running while the electricity is out. It will also run a 10,000 BTU window unit for cool nights and a few lights. 
  2. Emergency radio. The kind you can power by hand cranking. These gadgets usually have a feature that allows you charge a phone, too. Super handy if you don't have a generator.
  3. Emergency lighting. Flashlights, camp lights, lanterns, and even solar charged lights. 
  4. First aid kit. Not just the band aids and tylenol, but include an emergency blanket, bug spray, and soap. Throw in toothpaste, too. 
  5. Emergency food supply. You do not need doomsday prepper food buckets. Stock up on canned goods. Don't forget the can opener. Throw in a camp stove, or at least one propane burner. And food does you no good without water. Fill up those 5 gallon jugs, and put a hand pump on the one you're using. Have two or three on hand. 
The same stuff one needs for an emergency situation is the stuff we use to "live" in the cabin. We are prepared by default. Fortunately, we didn't need any of these items for "survival," but it was comforting to know we had it. 

We have a few more months of hurricane season, and if 12 year weather cycles hold their course, we'll likely have a good freeze this year, if not in the next couple of years. A hard freeze can knock out electricity, so you want to be prepared for that, as well.

I can't speak for folks to north and west of us, but if you're in our parts, be as prepared as you can be. If you don't need your supplies, maybe someone else near you will need them.

Just like the good ol' boys in their bass boats who saved flood victims, be prepared to help your neighbor, too. I heard a reporter say that he asked every good ol' boy he interviewed why he was risking his boat and himself to save total strangers. Every single person gave the same 3 word answer. This is Texas.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Antique Week is Coming to a Field Near the Cabin

Oh, lordy.

That phenomenon known as Antique Week is already moving into Round Top. It will creep its way towards Carmine in the next week or so, and then it will explode all over Northeast Fayette County. I have yet to convince Tammy she needs to experience it. It just isn't happening.

However, many of you love the idea of a day in the country, wandering through cow pastures of... stuff. Some of it is antique, but most is... stuff. Shabby decor. Fun little finds. Think Junk Gypsy pointy-toed boots, sassy tees, and conversation piece pillows. The stuff you find at Pottery Barn, but with an outlaw flair. That's what you will find a LOT of.

Buy your boots before you get there, and get a better deal.
Once upon a time; like 30 years ago, I loved this antique fair. In fact, I still have furniture I bought out there. However, I was just as likely to walk into any random antique shop on any random day and buy something cool. I used to collect depression glass, so that was my justification for stopping to shop. For years, my plates and glasses have stayed tucked away in some forgotten cabinet. In the last few years, Tammy and I have started to use the plates because they are a more reasonable size than the modern dinner plate. So we're shabby cool and health conscious.

Here are my thoughts and tips for Antique Week Fall 2017:

1. Make a plan. It's too big not to. You need to have some idea of what you like/want, and then find the general area for shopping. I mean, this thing is miles long. It's huge. Try this site for planning -

2. Try your best to find lodging, but don't hold your breath at this late date. However, I once found a room in La Grange, during Antique Week. Someone cancelled at the last minute, and viola!

3. Wear comfortable shoes. I know you want to look super boho, but make sure the shoes are comfortable. You will walk through cow pastures. You will feel dusty and gross after a day of shopping.

4. A wagon with a cooler of drinks is a good idea. Drink water. Drink water. Drink water. The booze is plentiful, but drink water. You're outside, and it can be pretty warm.

5. That being said, expect it to rain and be very muddy. See #3. Don't ruin your cute shoes.

6. Go a few weeks early. Go as the vendors are setting up. Or go the Monday after the final weekend. Actually, the Monday after is great for making deals because these dealers come from all over the world, and the less they have to haul away, the better. They'll make a deal.

7. Final (or the big) weekend is the first weekend in October.

8. The traffic jam follows you to Antique Week, so be patient. These are two lane roads, and it is bumper to bumper traffic moving slowly to avoid pedestrians.

That's just a few thoughts off the top of my head. I guess I would say as a final bit of advice - do not think that people in Round Top and the area are like the antique week community. Some are like that, but most are quiet, hard working, family oriented folks who resemble pretty much any good folks from rural communities. Round Top has notoriety because of Junk Gypsies, Antique Week, and such, but most days, it's just a nice little spot along the road.

Here's a little more detail from folks who know more about it than me.