no-buy 2019

No Buy 2019: Repairing the Coat Tree

One of the most interesting things about this No Buy challenge is that it’s almost like a switch has flipped in my brain, and the compulsive small-item-purchasing has pretty much stopped. I think going into every situation knowing that I’m not going to buy anything has changed my relationship with impulse buying. I never thought much about the small, random things I might pick up (and window shopping is hard when you *could* just get this *one* thing), but the blanket “I’m not buying ANYTHING” statement is…freeing?

The other thing that’s happened that’s really neat is that I suddenly have the funds to do all of the other little things I’ve been putting off for months. There is flexibility in my budget now for lunch with a friend or getting my hair done or whatever other little thing might have needed better planning. And this is without going beyond my budget, and accounting for savings. So yay!

I want to highlight one of our repairing (rather than replacing) projects that we did a couple of weeks ago. For years I searched for a sturdy wooden coat tree for the front hallway, so when I finally found one a couple of years back, I was super excited! It was a two piece affair, and the base screwed into the top. Unfortunately, I think it was a victim of military moving….

…because a couple of weeks ago it essentially snapped in half.

Yeah.

I think what happened was that with getting disassembled and reassembled in the move a year ago the screw started to strip, and over the course of the last year it worked itself out of groove until it was beyond help.

(pardon the bad photo quality, these are screen grabs from the video I took of this process)

But let me emphasize– it took me YEARS to find a coat tree. The last thing I wanted was to have to find a new one, especially when we had all of the pieces! So in the spirit of repairing-to-not-purchase, Jared and I set about DOING CARPENTRY.

The first matter of business was to find a way to reconnect the pieces, and in our toolbox stash we found small wooden pegs from some previous furniture repair. With the pegs in mind, we made a little template to help us mark out four spots in equal distance from the central screw, and marked them with pencil.

We drilled into the four segments with a bit the right size for the pegs, then set about fitting them into place. With a liberal application of a heavy duty (furniture grade) wood glue, we wiggled the two pieces of coat tree back together, and ta da!

Just 48 hours later (after drying) we had our coat tree back! Total cost: $5 for the wood glue, which we now have for any other project that might come along.

I can’t tell you how relieved I was. It’s so difficult to find a coat tree anymore, which is strange because it seems like such a useful item! And when I posted about this on instagram, I received multiple replies asking where I’d gotten mine. The moral of the story is if you’ve got a coat tree, hang on to it! Oh and I guess also that repairing things isn’t that hard if you take the time to do it.

national parking

Indiana Dunes National Park!

It’s official! One of my favorite places to visit while we lived in Chicago, Indiana Dunes, is now the US’s newest National Park!!

Indiana Dunes, June 2015
Photo by Joanna Volavka

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore became Indiana Dunes National Park this month, becoming only the 61st place with that designation in the country. So cool! While the designation doesn’t really fundamentally change much about the park or how it operates (it has been national land since the 1960s and has been a park for over 100 years), it does provide a boost for marketing, while also becoming the first national park in Indiana. So congratulations, Indiana residents!

Indiana Dunes, June 2015
Photo by Joanna Volavka

But there are still some cool things to know now that it’s an official National Park! First, according to National Geographic, this 15 mile lakeshore gets about the same number of annual visitors as Mount Rushmore. It’s also the closest thing to a beach that most folks in Chicago are going to experience, and has some legit massive dunes.

Indiana Dunes, June 2015
Photo by Joanna Volavka

The dunes are soft sand, and offer a buffer against the storms from the lake to the wetlands surrounding the area. You can hike through the marsh trails (and be sure to note which areas are part of the Indiana Dunes State Park, managed separately from the National Park spaces since regulations are different) or across the dunes. Just be prepared for a workout– the dunes are steep and hiking through sand is no joke!

Indiana Dunes, June 2015
Photo by Joanna Volavka

Indiana Dunes was one of our favorite escapes from Chicago. We could get there in just over an hour from home, but it felt like a whole world away. The Chicago skyline was distantly visible on clear days, but in the other directions it was just sand and water and trees. And while the beaches weren’t like being by the ocean, if I closed my eyes on a warm day and pretended…it was close enough to get by.

no-buy 2019

No-Buy 2019: New (free) Couch!

One of the more interesting aspects of this project is that, even just three weeks in, I’m stretching my creative muscles to figure out ways to make things work. Part of that is being on the lookout for opportunities and being willing to jump at them when they present themselves.

Case in point– our old couch has been needing to be spruced up for a while. I have had the intention of getting it reupholstered at some point, but never got the chance with my furniture place in Chicago. Now that we are in San Diego, I needed to research a new place….and from the estimates I was seeing online it looked like it would be $2000+ to reupholster and repair the couch, as the springs were all but shot. OUCH.

Treasure hunting.

Fast forward to last Monday. One of my hobbies is checking the free section on Craigslist once or twice a day. It may sound like a strange habit, but the things people give away are always interesting and sometimes valuable. Monday I saw a sofa pop up that was intriguing– so I sent a message to the poster.

It was an antique reproduction, recently reupholstered in the seat, and it was stylistically similar to much of the rest of our living room furniture (Queen Anne, darker finished wood). The person wrote back that if we could come TODAY we could have the couch. Jared and I hopped in the car and drove right over.

What we discovered was a HUGE golden yellow sofa with carved legs that was NOT going to fit in our car. At all. It had gotten a little damp in some unexpected downpour and one of the legs had come off, but it was solid wood and the springs were perfect. So we decided why not?

It took us over 2 hours of waiting around Home Depot to get a flatbed truck to rent, but before too long we were back to pick up the sofa.

Unexpected kindness.

Challenge: the truck’s bed was full of dirt and we accidentally left our twine in our car, which was back at Home Depot.

And this is where the story turns into a tale of the kindness of strangers. While we were staring at the dirty bed (and look at this couch– if it got muddy there wouldn’t be a way to clean it!), one of the couch owner’s neighbors came outside to work on his car. I asked him if we might borrow a broom. At first he looked a little surprised, but when we explained why, he immediately went and got us one to borrow. Win #1!

The truck was clean (and we borrowed some broken down cardboard boxes to put under the sofa so it wouldn’t rub on the truck itself) but we were still without twine…and needing to go down and back up the valley to get home.

Leaving Jared with the truck and sofa, I walked down the block and saw an upholstery shop. When I went inside, the owner was there working on a chair. “This is kind of a weird request,” I said. “But I feel like you might know where someone locally might sell twine? We are moving a couch.” “How much do you need?” the man replied. “I’ve got this stuff that will last 30 years if you treat it well.” Reader, he unspooled YARDS of this twine and just handed it to me, free of charge. (I took his business card and will happily patronize his shop* in the near future.) More kindness from a stranger. Win #2!

We tied the sofa down, wrapped the cushions to make sure they wouldn’t slip, and drove the sofa home before returning the truck and retrieving our own car.

Add a little elbow grease…

When we got home, we put the sofa in the back yard to dry for a bit. Once the sun set, we brought it inside. We reattached the leg– it was a non-load-bearing leg in the back, and we had extra strength wood glue from another project that weekend, plus tiny tack nails to secure it in place. I attacked the few remaining damp spots with my hair drier, and boom: the sofa is installed.

It’s HUGE. You can stretch out completely on it without banging your head into the arm. But the pillows provide enough support you don’t slump either. It goes with our furniture (other than the coffee table which I’ve been meaning to re-stain anyway) and is in great condition. My friend said it was like finding a unicorn.

Oh, and Caspian thinks it’s his new bed.

Threadwalkers

Local Author Showcase at the San Diego Central Library

This weekend I had the honor of being included in the 2018 Local Author Showcase at the San Diego Central Library in downtown San Diego. The library had over 300 submissions to the program for 2018 (previously un-featured books published after their 2017 showcase were eligible, which included Threadwalkers!) and mine was selected along with a huge number of other awesome local authors.

Threadwalkers on display at the San Diego Central Library

The Friday night reception included a keynote speaker and then snacks in the library, as well as unveiling of the display cases where our books will be on exhibit in the library through the month of February. After that, our books will be available for checkout in the library system for a year. Yay!

L to R: Mya Duong, Jenn Greenhall, Joanna Volavka, Ana Levley, and J. Dianne Dotson

It didn’t take me long to find my book amongst the other black-and-white covers (the cases are very pretty, with books arranged by color or style), and I also had a fun time finding books written by my other local author pals. We had a good time playing scavenger hunt with one another’s books.

I got to meet some new folks, too, and had a very good time chatting about writing and the event and just getting to know other local writers.

Thanks so much to the San Diego Central Library for sponsoring and hosting this event! And if you happen to be in San Diego in February, snap a #Threadwalkersselfie and I’ll send you some swag!

no-buy 2019

Project: No-Buy 2019

*dusts blog*

*wipes away accumulated ads and other garbage*

*shines monitor*

Whew. Is this thing still on?

HELLO. I think the last time you heard from me was at least three months ago. I could check, but…. nah. Let’s just start this fresh.

This year is going to be a big one for me with a lot of moving pieces (thankfully my household is NOT one of those pieces– we’ll be staying put all year, thankyouverymuch!) and while last year was pretty much one long adjustment period (re-settling in San Diego! getting used to school! figuring out school/writing/other balance!), this year is going to be different. Blooming where you are planted means giving yourself ways to grow, right?

And so I’m starting a project. Well, sort of a project. Don’t consider it a new year’s resolution, even though it’s beginning in January. Rather, consider it as Year Two in San Diego.

Some background.

Usually around the time we’ve been in a home for a year, I finally figure out the space well enough that I can organize it and put everything where it ought to have been in the first place. I know that seems like a long time, but the reality is that we move often enough that I have to be very good at just Putting Everything Away so that we can get on with our lives.

It takes about a year to learn exactly how much space is in the spare closet, no I don’t like having my “pantry” on the bottom section of the cabinets, and I can’t reach the shoes in this closet if they are stacked that high. So a year into each place, I pull things out room by room and essentially re-move-in. (This is often accompanied by rearranging the furniture, which Jared has gotten so used to he doesn’t even question anymore why the entire living room set is piled in the middle of the floor at 10pm. This is just life.)

The one-year mark in this house happened to correspond with late December, so it gave me extra incentive to really think about the STUFF we have, and what we need, and how best to organize it. (No, I haven’t been watching that Tidying Up show on Netflix. Everyone asks, and I’m sure the show is helpful for folks, but this isn’t that.)

The Project.

Around that time I also decided that I wanted to try a new approach to my spending habits– and so the idea for a No-Buy 2019 was born.

The usual goal of a “no-buy challenge” is to not spend *anything* for a set amount of time, usually a month. Since I want to last a whole year, I had to make some adjustments. My goal isn’t to stop spending quality time with people or to miss all of the movies coming out this year (or otherwise make myself miserable)– my goal is to stop buying random crap at Target. Yeah, “it’s just $5” or “well, it’s on sale for $7.99” or whatever doesn’t sound like much, but that stuff adds up quickly!

My secondary goal is to really understand (and appreciate!) what I already have. And not only that– to USE what I already have! If I have something in excess (or in sufficient amount even), then I should use that thing and not purchase another one. Yes. Good.

Example: I have STACKS of shoes. (Literally stacks– I stacked them!) But when I have an event to go to or need to dress up, I spend forever fishing through my closet because I can’t find a pair to go with whatever I’m wearing. This is patently absurd. The problem isn’t that I don’t have the right shoes– it’s that I can’t FIND them!

Solution: I pulled every pair of shoes out of my closet (they are all in their original boxes, which helps tremendously) and organized them by type before stacking them back in the closet– in columns. Now when I want a pair of ballet flats? I go to the column of ballet flats and choose a pair! Need some pumps? There’s a column of them! Sneakers? Right here with all of the other athletic/outdoor shoes!

And here’s the magic part: I found shoes in the closet that I forgot I even owned. Shoes that I was so excited about when I bought them, but then forgot. It was like going shopping without spending money!

I’ve gone through my makeup, through my jewelry, through my books and movies, through EVERYTHING and organized it. I’ve even taken a sharpie and written on the boxes when they weren’t clearly labeled (see on the shoes?) to make SURE I know what I have. I want to USE this stuff!

I’ve rambled enough about the Purpose Of This Project. Now how about some nitty gritty?

Here are my No-Buy 2019 guidelines:

  • Purchase nothing on impulse.
  • Use (and use up) what is already here. Clean things out completely.
  • It’s okay to replace consumables. (Mascara runs out. Eyeshadow? I’ve got a drawer full.)
  • No shoes, no clothes.
    • Exemption: if I get a job (volunteer or otherwise) that requires, say, a uniform shirt.
  • Exceptions for:
    • Gifts for others (like the first birthday gift I will send in March to a friend’s kiddo)
    • Tickets to movies/shows/events under $50 (again– the goal isn’t to not DO anything, but to not buy excessive STUFF)
    • Pre-meditated purchases*
    • Organizational tools (like small shelves for the pantry)
    • Tools for repurposing old items (like paint to spiff up an old chair)
    • Haircuts and similar
    • Travel expenses**

That exceptions list is pretty important. I needed to be specific with myself and lay out ground rules, but I also needed to allow myself to function for the year. I don’t want to make myself frustrated after all! I want to be able to maintain this all year, and part of that is leaving room for fun things. The tickets exemption, for instance, is so I can still do fun things, but with a price limit so that I maintain balance.

And that’s it!

Why am I sharing this level of detail? Well, I thought it might be fun to document the year here with you all. I hope you enjoy coming along for this project with me. I’ve already had a couple of adventures, but I’ll save those stories for the next few posts.

Happy 2019!

 

*Pre-meditated purchases include things that I’m looking for long term but waiting for the right specific item– an example would be that I need a new jacket, but I want to get one that I like and that will last for several years. I’ll know it when I see it.
**I am planning some travel this year (more about it later) and would like to be able to bring back a souvenir without guilt.

Threadwalkers

Listen to this: there’s a Threadwalkers audiobook!

Threadwalkers has been out for just over a year, and I so appreciate all of you who’ve taken the time to read it (and leave reviews– it helps others find the book, so thank you!) and who have come out to my events and the like. I really, REALLY appreciate you all!

Back when the book came out, I had several different kinds of requests for “bonus” or other material, and one of the most frequent asks was for a Threadwalkers audiobook.

For all of you: I HAVE GOOD NEWS.

The Threadwalkers audiobook is available NOW!

You can find it in the major audiobook retailers listed in the image (Audible, Amazon, iTunes). Yay! And if you aren’t already signed up for Audible, I have a gift for you:
You can try Audible for free for 30 days, including a FREE download of Threadwalkers! [CLICK HERE]

If you happen to read the audiobook, it would be fantastic if you could leave a quick rating. Those really do help folks find the book, especially when it’s new.

Thanks for continuing to support Miranda!

Threadwalkers

Upcoming Event at Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore

HELLO.

Wow, this summer got away from me. What can I say? Grad school and writing a new book and all kinds of things ate my brain and my time. But here we are.

And here we are with another local event!

Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore here in San Diego is hosting a Local Author Meet & Greet event on Sunday, September 16, and it sounds like it’s going to be a lot of fun! Want to know more? I’ve got you covered!

I’m looking forward to getting to know some local readers, and also connect with other local authors. Let me know if you’ll be there!

 

uncategorized because I forgot

Site updates, Summer 2018

Hello! This is just a quick note to let you know about a few updates that have come to the site. First, you may notice a slight layout change. I think it looks nice and shiny now! There may be a few more tweaks over the next little bit, but I really like the new layout.

Second, there is now a nice little drop-down menu button for purchasing Threadwalkers on Amazon! Easy peasy! I also added a new drop-down for non-book news and articles, as I was featured this week on SD Voyager Magazine. You can check out the article here [link]!

Things will been quiet here for the next month while I’m concentrating on school, but there’s probably a lot coming this summer that I’m excited to share. In the meantime, you maaaaay notice a brand new link at the top that says “Conservation Girl.” It’s not a new book– it’s the start of a project I’m working on for school. Take a peek if you like, and if you have any conservation questions for me, ask away! I’d love to add more content to the site, and hope to build it out more in the next few months.

So that’s about it. I’m looking forward to a California summer!

Threadwalkers, writing related

Threadwalkers book signing at Warwick’s

Yesterday I had a lovely time at Warwick’s in La Jolla, signing copies of Threadwalkers for their Weekends with Locals event. They open their shop on Sunday afternoons to local authors to bring their books and chat with people coming into the store, and they very kindly offered me one of their spots this month. Thanks, Warwick’s!

Thanks for this snap, Laura!

It was a lot of fun getting to meet people, and also a bunch of my friends showed up to support me, which made the whole day really fantastic.

We took some photos for posterity, and I grabbed a late lunch afterward with some of my friends, and made a day of it. And hey, if you’re still looking to buy a copy, here’s the Barnes & Noble link, the Amazon link, and the Kindle link— and the Kindle edition is currently on sale, so only $2.99. πŸ˜€

this and that, updates

It’s April and I’m back from my SoCal staycation

I’m really bad a titles, y’all. Blog post titles, anyway. But I feel like most of them are at least pretty informative about the content of the post.

We moved into our house in California back in late December, and Jared checked into his new command in early January, and in theory he was supposed to get 10 days to help get the house set up and us settled, but the Navy being what it is, he got to take his leave in….March.

Handily enough, I also had spring break in March so we lined the dates up and took a fantastic 10 day staycation in southern California, because sleeping at home and driving a little further is cheaper than flights and hotels. I won’t go into all the details, but here are some of the highlights! I might make more detailed posts about some of the individual outings (like the Food & Wine festival) in the next couple of weeks, but no promises.

Continue reading “It’s April and I’m back from my SoCal staycation”