Monthly Archives: August 2016

My Shower System


Last summer, I spent a lot of time and money to stay clean. (Maybe I should say “cleanish” since I was only showering once a week.) I drove a minimum of thirteen miles (and sometimes as many as 73 miles) to shower. I paid a minimum of $10 (but usually $12) to shower, plus all the gas it took me to get to a place where I could clean up. I decided I had to find a better (or at least cheaper, closer) way to get clean this summer.

[amazon template=image&asin=B000X4IAMS]I looked into a Zodi shower system after meeting a man last summer who told me how much he liked his. The Zodi has two components: a heating coil powered by propane (specifically, one of those small, green canisters) and a pump powered by D batteries. Cold water passes over the heating element and becomes hot (or at least warm) and the pump squirts water out, if not with as much force as a conventional shower head, at least in a gentle stream.

The Zodi seemed like a good way to go, but the $150 price tag was more than I could afford when it came time to buy supplies for the summer. On top of the cost of the Zodi, I also needed a privacy tent, the cost of which would increase my investment. I started researching other methods.

I knew I wanted something more complex than baby wipes. I used wipes last summer for in-between cleanup (and I use them for the same purpose now), but wipes just aren’t enough. I get dirty as a camp host (especially my legs, even though I wear long pants), and swipes with wipes don’t get me nearly clean enough.

I didn’t think one of those solar shower bags was going to work for me either. Most of them hold five gallons of water, which is 40 pounds. Too heavy. How am I going to carry that, much less hang it? I know I could buy a smaller one or fill a large one only partially full, but I was also concerned the plastic would suffer a puncture or come apart at the seams. Also, a shower bag needs to hang, and none of the trees on my campsite have branches at an appropriate height. I wasn’t convinced a solar shower bag would work, and I didn’t want to pay to experiment with one.

In a Facebook group I was in, a woman mentioned using a garden sprayer as a shower. When questioned, she admitted she used hers while wearing a bathing suit, out in the open, just to rinse off after hiking. But I thought I could use a similar sprayer to take a soap and water shower.

I went to Wal-Mart and poked around in the garden department. There were several sprayers to chose from. While these sprayers are intended to be used to spray a variety of pesticides, they’re sold empty, not contaminated with killer chemicals. (I don’t recommend using a sprayer that’s had killer chemicals in it.)

The sprayers I saw held either one or two gallons of water. I chose a larger one because I was concerned one gallon of water would not be enough for my cleaning need, although one gallon has proven to be plenty. I wish I had gotten the smaller one. The water in the container doesn’t get nearly as warm as does the water in one gallon plastic water jugs. Also, the less full the container is, the more pumping it takes to pressurize it.

In any case, the sprayer I bought (according to, it’s the RL Flo-Master Sprayer) cost under $15. (The aforementioned website lists the price as $13.86.) There may have been a one-gallon size that cost slightly less.

This is my shower sprayer. The handle doubles as the pump.

This photo shows my shower sprayer. The handle doubles as the pump.

Since the sprayer works through pressurization, the handle also serves as a pump. After 30 to 40 pumps, the water comes out of the nozzle in a pretty good stream, not nearly as strong as water coming out of a shower head, but strong enough to rinse soap from my body.

The second piece of equipment I wanted to buy was a privacy tent. I wanted to take full-on, soapy, naked showers, not just rinse around a bathing suit. Since I figured neither my campers nor the company I work for would want me frolicking au naturel in public, I decided I needed a privacy tent.

I researched a lot of privacy tents and read many online reviews before I settled on something. The cheap ones seemed to be poorly made. (No surprise there.) I certainly didn’t want something that ripped the first time I zipped it, even if I hadn’t paid much for it. A ripped tent is a worthless tent, even if it didn’t involve much out-of-pocket expense.

I bought a Field and Stream brand privacy tent, partially because it got good reviews and partially because I was able to buy it at a chain sporting goods store in the city where I picked up the last of my supplies before I went into the forest. I paid $64.49 for it (including tax). As of mid August (after setting it up in early June), the tent is doing great, with no rips or broken zipper.

This photo shows my Field and Stream brand privacy tent.

This photo shows my Field and Stream brand privacy tent.

(Note: Nearly every review I read mentioned that while this sort of tent is super easy to set up, getting it back into a flat circle in order to return it to its carry bag is usually an ordeal. I’m not eager for the day I have to take down the tent.)

I also purchased a cheap bathmat to stand on when I’m showering, since the privacy tent doesn’t have a floor. I wear shower shoes while I’m cleaning up, so I could do without the bathmat.

My shower system isn’t complicated. In the morning of the day I want to take a shower, I carry the sprayer ( with whatever water is left in it from my last shower) and two or three plastic jugs filled with water out to the meadow. I set the water containers in a spot that will get sun for the next several hours.

After I finish my work for the day, I carry the containers of water back to my campsite. I’ve found it works best if I add one gallon of the warm water to the

This photo shows my jugs of water sitting in the meadow, warming in the sun.

This photo shows my jugs of water sitting in the meadow, warming in the sun.

sprayer reservoir, since the water in there stays cooler than the water in the other jugs. I place all my wash water in the privacy tent. I also place soap, shampoo, the wonderful microfiber towel my host family gave me, and a house dress in the pockets in the tent.

I get into the tent and zip the door mostly closed. As I take my clothes off, I toss them out of the tent, onto a chair I’v placed nearby for this purpose. Then I zip the door completely.

I start from my top and wash down. First I pour water from a gallon jug over my head to wet my hair. (Depending on how hot the day’s been, sometimes the water is as warm as what comes from a hot water tap.) Then I lather my hair with shampoo and use more water from the jug to rinse.

Washing my hair leaves the rest of me adequately wet. I wet a washcloth with water from one of the plastic jugs, then pour some Dr. Bronner’s peppermint soap onto the cloth. When I finish scrubbing one area of my body, I use the sprayer to rinse off the soap, pumping as necessary to build up pressure so I get a strong, steady stream of water. If I find a body part is no longer wet enough, I use the sprayer to squirt some water on myself.

My system would work best for someone who can set up a privacy tent where it won’t be blown away by heavy winds. It may not work very well for someone who’s changing locations a lot, although folding the privacy tent may get easier with practice. Also, one review I read indicated the owner of the privacy tent had been told s/he couldn’t shower on his her campsite because it was going to leave a soggy mess for the next campers; different locations will have different rules. I don’t think it would be a problem while boondocking on BLM land in the Southwest.

While I am happy with my shower system, I think I could have gotten along without the sprayer and just used a couple of gallons of water in jugs to clean with. In any case, it’s nice to be clean more than once a week. Of course, it’s also great not to have to spend a bunch of money to get that way.



New Necklaces


A couple of weeks ago, I made some new necklaces during slow days at the parking lot. All of these new necklaces are for sale.

The necklace on the left is made with brown and natural hemp and has a serpentine pendant. Serpentine is believed to help the wearer feel more in control of his or her life. It aids meditation and spiritual life. This necklace is 20 and 1/2 inches and costs $16, including postage. The middle necklace has an ornate little key on rainbow hemp. It is 18 and 1/2 inches and cost $12, including postage. The necklace on the right boasts a metal boot on earth tone hemp. It is 19 and 1/2 inches and cost $10, including postage.

The necklace on the left is made with brown and natural hemp and has a serpentine pendant. Serpentine is believed to help the wearer feel more in control of his or her life. It aids meditation and spiritual life. This necklace is 20 and 1/2 inches and costs $16, including postage. The middle necklace has an ornate little key on rainbow hemp. It is 18 and 1/2 inches and cost $12, including postage. The necklace on the right boasts a metal boot on earth-tone hemp. It is 19 and 1/2 inches and cost $10, including postage.


This necklace is a St. Christopher medal on natural hemp tied in a spiral design. It is about 19 inches and costs, $10 including shipping.

This necklace is a St. Christopher medal on natural hemp tied in a spiral design. It is about 19 inches and costs, $10 including shipping. I couldn’t find a stamp saying what the medal is made of, but the bail is stamped “France.”


Here's a closeup of the front of the medal. I suppose that's the Christ Child being carried by St. Christopher.

Here’s a closeup of the front of the medal. I suppose that’s the Christ Child being carried by St. Christopher.


This is a closeup of the back of the medal. I think it says something like, I'm Catholic. In the event of an emergency, call a priest.

This is a closeup of the back of the medal. I think it says something like, St. Christopher, protect me. I’m Catholic. In the event of an emergency, call a priest.

I took all of the photos in this post. Thanks to my friend in New England for sending me the key, the boot, and the St. Christopher medal and encouraging me to work these trinkets into my art.

Dear Dog Owners


Dear Dog Owners,

When I’m working in the parking lot (or at any other time, for that matter), I do not want to discuss dog feces.

I know what you’re carrying in the small plastic bags. I don’t want to hear about it.

I don’t want to listen to you ramble on about your dog’s ability to know exactly when you are at the midpoint of any walk so it can take a dump there and force you to carry the bag of “poop” for as long as possible.

(By the way, when did we as a society decide on “poop” as our acceptable term to use when referring to feces? Why can we not say “feces”? “Poop” may be a cute word, but using it doesn’t make bodily waste any cuter.)

When you put the little plastic bag full of your dog’s feces in the trash can, don’t tell me you’re leaving me a “present.” Don’t tell me it will be there later when I’m ready for it. You may think you’re making a funny little joke, but you’re not. You’re being gross, not charming, and I don’t want to hear it.

If you’re going to do me a favor and put the bag of doggy waste in a trash can by the restrooms instead of in the one I sit near during my shift, thank you, but don’t tell me all about it. Yes, I know shit stinks. Yes, I appreciate not having to smell shit every time someone opens the trash can. But you’re not going to get any extra heaven points if you tell me all about the great favor you’re doing me.

Hey, I know it’s embarrassing to carry around a bag full of fecal matter. That’s why we don’t need to talk about it. Here’s what you do: Walk directly to the trash can. Don’t stop to make chitchat. Open the trash can’s lid. Deposit the bag of fecal matter in the trash can. Replace the lid. Don’t say anything about what you just did! Don’t worry, I won’t say anything either. We’ll pretend it never happened. It’s ok. Some things don’t need to be discussed.

If your dog defecates anywhere in the parking lot, for goodness sake, pick up the waste and dispose of it properly. Don’t leave the feces where it fell to collect giant blue flies until I notice it and pick it up. Your dog and your dog’s feces = your responsibility.

And while I have your attention: Don’t let your dog piss on the iron ranger. I shouldn’t have to tell you that. You should pay attention to where your dog is squatting or raising a leg. But if you’re not paying attention and I ask you not to let your dog pee on the iron ranger, don’t get all offended and tell me your dog wouldn’t do that. You dog would so do that, especially if your dog is male. But we workers have to put our hands on that iron ranger when we extract the self-pay envelopes, and we’d prefer not to touch dog piss while we’re doing it.


Your parking lot attendant


Locked Door


I usually only share stories I’ve witnessed, but my co-worker told me this one immediately after it happened, and it’s too good to keep to myself.

Our restrooms are in a small building in the middle of the parking area.IMG_6725

On one side of the building are two doors. Each door opens to a wheelchair accessible room housing a pit toilet. The doors remain unlocked unless someone goes into the room and locks the door behind him/herself.

IMG_6727 Next to each door is a sign. Each sign has the word “Restroom” on it, as well as pictures to communicate the restroom’s suitability for all genders, as well as folks who use wheelchairs or other devices to help with mobility limitations.

On the other side of the building is one door, which remains locked unless someone with a key (me, my co-worker, our boss) unlocks it. My old boss called the area behind the door the “B room,” and my new boss calls it the “breezeway.” It’s essentially a small storage room where we keep cleaning supplies, toilet paper, and extra day passes. There is no sign of any kind outside the B room.IMG_6724

One Friday, my co-worker walked down to the building in the middle of the parking lot to do the midmorning cleaning of the restrooms. He went over to the side with the door to the B room to get the supplies he needed. As he approached the door, he saw a woman or middle age leaning on the door to the B room. She was slumped over and mumbling to herself. When she saw my co-worker heading in her direction, she told him, Somebody’s been in there a long time!

My co-worker had to bear to her the bad news that no one was ever going to come out of the room, that, in fact, there was no toilet in the room. He escorted her around to the other side of the building where her urgency impressed the people in the queue, and everyone agreed to allow her to jump to the head of the line.

I took the photos in this post.



Last year right before I took off to the forest, I bought myself a solar Luci light.

The Luci light worked great for me, and I was really pleased with my investment.

One evening midway through last season, I put my Luci light on a stump on the edge of my campsite to get the last of that day’s solar energy. Less than an hour later when I went to retrieve it, the light’s plastic had been chewed to shreds! I suspect some little rodent of this crime against my property.

I have no idea why a squirrel would chew plastic. I don’t think my light smelled of food. Maybe the rodent was just bored—or mean.

There’s a sporting goods store in Babylon that sells Luci lights, so the next time I was in town, I bought a new one. It was even on sale, which made me happy.

Being the frugal gal I am, I didn’t throw away the chewed light. No way! I trimmed off the shredded plastic and was left with a flat disc. On one side are the LED lights. IMG_6728On the other is the solar panel. IMG_6729

After charging in the sun, the lights shined just fine, for as long as they had before the fatal squirrel encounter. However, since I could no longer hang it with the lights facing down, it wasn’t as convenient as a light source as it originally was. But I kept it on hand as backup.

One morning I had both lights propped on the van in the sunshine, charging. When I left for work, I forgot to move the lights. After the twelve mile drive, the inflatable light was still hooked to the radio antenna, but the disc was gone. I thought that might be the end of it, but decided to look for it upon my return to the campground.

I didn’t think about the missing light again until the next morning. I walked the route I’d taken in the van, and sure enough, I found the light disc on the highway, not very far from the campground gate. The disc had obviously been run over by some vehicle, but when I pushed the button, the lights came right on. That is a quality product!

While I’ve kept the original light as backup (and have used it on several occasions when I needed more hours of light than one Luci could provide), for the past year, I’ve mostly used the second Luci light because it’s more convenient to hang it above where I’m reading or writing. I don’t know exactly how many hours I used the second Luci light, but according to my calculations, I must have used it a couple hours a night for a minimum of nine months.

In the last couple of weeks, I realized the new Luci light was not holding a charge as long as it once did. On two occasions, after being on for less than an hour, the light shut off and was done. I thought maybe the solar panel hadn’t gotten enough hours in the sunshine, but the second time it happened, I was confident the solar panels had  charged plenty. When I pulled out my original Luci light, I realized it was much brighter than the replacement, which had dimmed so gradually I’d not noticed.

The next problem with the replacement light is that I could no longer click over to the bright or blink settings. The switch only worked for on and off.

The final straw was when I turned the Luci on, and it immediately shut off. RIP Luci.

While writing this dispatch, I had an idea. Could I combine the working solar and light disc with the inflatable plastic bubble of the non-working Luci? Turns out I could.

The solar and light component fits into a thin pocket at the top of the plastic bubble. By carefully slitting the pocket partially open, I was able to slide out the nonworking solar and light disc and slide in the one that does work. Clear packing tape closed up the slit (although my operation has probably rendered the light no longer waterproof), and I can now hang my light.

In five minutes, I saved myself the approximately $15 a new Luci light would cost. The Frugal Zealot would be proud.

I took the two photos in this post.

Excuse Me, Sir


As I’ve mentioned before, the forest I’m in is experiencing a very strict fire ban. One of the restrictions is that people are not allowed to smoke outside. Smoking is only allowed in a vehicle with the windows rolled up to within an inch or so of the top. (Although smoking is allowed in buildings, neither my campground or the parking lot has a building suitable for smoking.)

The ban on outside smoking was not my decision. It was not the decision of my boss or his boss. The Forest Service made this rule, and I’m just doing my job telling people what’s up.

I hate having to approach people in the process of smoking cigarettes. (It’s always cigarettes people are smoking, never pipes or cigars.) I know people are addicted to the things, and I know they’re not going to be happy when I tell them they can’t get their fix in the open air. (See to read about a woman who went from overly friendly to vicious when I told her she had to get into her car to smoke.) I approach smokers very, very cautiously when I’m about to tell them what they’re doing is against the rules.

I don’t yell across the parking lot at smokers. I get within speaking distance, but not close enough to get hit if the smoker gets violent. I am extra polite right before I thwart smokers. Usually I say, Excuse me, sir (or ma’am). I have to tell you (meaning, I certainly don’t want to tell you this, but I am required to), we are in a very strict fire ban right now (giving them the reason for the upcoming bad news.) You are only allowed to smoke in your vehicle with the windows rolled up. Then I try to get away from the smoker as quickly as possible.

Most smokers comply, probably because most of them think I’m a ranger or at least a Forest Service employee who can write a ticket. But no one has said, What wonderful news! I’ve been looking for a reason to quit.

On the second Saturday in August, I had to speak to two men puffing away.

The first guy was a senior citizen with white hair and a short white beard. He was wearing fancy hiking clothes, and looked sort of like Santa Claus on a forest vacation. I glanced over at the Santa man standing by his car and thought I saw smoke. (With the popularity of vaporizers, sometimes what I originally think is smoke turns out to be vapor. Asking a person vaping to quit smoking is embarrassing, so I try not to make that mistake.) I looked over again and was pretty sure it was a cigarette Santa man had going on over there.

I got out of my chair and walked toward the man. When I was within speaking range, I said, Excuse me, sir. I have to tell you, we’re in a very strict fire ban right now.

Before I could say anything else, he started walking toward me and said, I’m very cautious.

I’m sure any person smoking in a National Forest would tell me s/he is very cautious. Saying it–believing it–does not make it true. I didn’t see what–if anything–Santa man was using as an ashtray. I’m not sure he was letting his ashes fall to the ground, but I’m also not sure he was catching them in a container. He was standing on the asphalt while he smoked–maybe that was his idea of cautious.

As I went on to tell him he was only allowed to smoke in his car with the windows rolled up, he walked over to the trashcan and threw away his cigarette butt. Apparently, I’d noticed him at the end of his cigarette.

The second smoker was middle aged and completely bald. He was wearing what I can only describe as “dressy casual” clothing–long shorts and a shirt with a collar. Perhaps his clothing was suitable for golfing? He was standing on the asphalt too, but near the entrance gate, puffing away in front of God and everybody.

I walked up to him. Excuse me, sir. I have to tell you, we’re in the middle of a strict fire ban. You’re only allowed to smoke in your car with the windows rolled up.

I saw the look of unhappiness on his face as he stalked away from the gate. (I think he was heading back to his vehicle to finish the cigarette, since he didn’t stub it out.)

There should be a sign! he spat at me.

I thought about pointing out the press release about the fire ban posted on one of the information boards, but I couldn’t remember if it addressed smoking or just campfires. I didn’t really want to have a discussion with the guy; I just wanted him to stop smoking out in the open. So I said, Yes, you’re right, there should be.

Then he said, because you’re defying one’s privacy!

What? Defying one’s privacy? Defying his privacy? Ummm, how is it private to smoke a cigarette out in the open, in front of God and everybody? Did he mean I was defying his privacy by speaking to him? How is a sign telling him smoking is prohibited different from me telling him smoking is prohibited? Since I didn’t want to have a discussion with the man, I didn’t question him.

My boss came by later, and I told him about the interaction, told him the man had said we need a No Smoking sign. My boss laughed and said soon we’d have more signs than trees. He probably won’t get us a sign, and I’ll have to continue to defy people’s privacy.


I took this photo of Smokey the Bear.



astronomy, comet, constellationI’d managed to forget about the Perseid meteor shower.

Last year people came to my campground particularly to see the meteors.

Three women were sharing a campsite. They’d come from MegaBabylon with fancy cameras and tripods. Their plan was to set up the cameras on the tripods in the meadow and set the timers to shoot photos every twenty seconds. I spent quite a bit of time talking to the two women who’d arrived first. I felt like we’d had a nice connection. I told them about my blog and gave them my card. They promised to send me some of the photos they’d shot of the night sky, but I never heard from them.

The other reserved campsite was taken by two young Asian American brothers. One did all the talking and was very polite. They were from MegaBabylon too.

It was the middle of the week, and no one else was in the campground–just me and the five stargazers. They were all really excited about the meteor shower, which wasn’t surprising, considering they’d driven for hours to come to a really dark area to get a good view of the night sky.

The group enthusiasm got me thinking maybe I needed to see the meteor shower too. I like nature. I like stars. I really like shooting stars. Here I was in a prime location for seeing this meteor show. Maybe I should get out of the van and have a look.

The photographer women said the shower would start after midnight and peak around 2am. They encouraged me to see the shower, but they didn’t invite me to join their party.

Midnight? 2am? I couldn’t remember the last time I’d seen those hours, unless I was up briefly to pee. I didn’t think I’d be able to stay up so late, but maybe I could set my alarm and get out of bed at the appropriate time.

The middle of the night came and my alarm sounded. I did not want to leave my warm, comfortable bed. I was soooo sleepy, but I knew the starts were out there, and now was the time to see them. I dressed and grabbed my old sleeping bag that doesn’t zip. As I trudged out to the meadow, I heard the campers already out there.

By chance, I ended up between the two groups. The camera ladies were in front of me; the brothers were behind me. I curled up in my sleeping bag and looked up at the brilliant night sky.

There were so many stars! It was all so beautiful!

In my head, I kept hearing Boots Riley sing

And though the stars are magnificent
whiskey and the midnight sky can make ya feel insignificant

I was cold. The ground was hard and uncomfortable. I felt less and less significant.

The talking and laughing of the others made me feel more and more isolated. I wish I had friends, I thought. I wish I weren’t out here alone, I thought. I wish I had someone to look at the sky with, I thought.

Lying there by myself, waiting to see chunks of the heavens come crashing from the sky made me feel increasingly sad. The sky is falling, and I’ve got no one, I thought.

I don’t remember seeing a single shooting star before I gathered up my sleeping bag and trudged back to the van. I didn’t fall asleep for a long time. Throughout my insomnia, I could hear the brothers’ oooohs and aaaahs of appreciation as stars streaked across the sky. Knowing others were happy did not cheer me up.

I was depressed for weeks. Sure, I’m typically low-grade depressed all the time, but this was forefront depression, crying at night, struggling to drag myself out of bed in the morning.

This year, I hadn’t even thought about meteor showers until I checked-in a young stoner couple on the afternoon of August 12th.

They had a lot of questions about my personal life. How long did I stay in the campground? Was I there every day? Did I hike a lot on my days off? (When I said no, the man asked me what I did on my days off.)

When I confirmed the couple was only staying one night, the woman said, There’s a meteor shower tonight! I guess they’d come from Babylon to see it.

Oh Perseid meteor shower! Metaphor for my loneliness!

I didn’t even consider setting my alarm. Best just to sleep through it, which I did. I didn’t hear the couple (who were camped in the site next to mine) scamper to the meadow or exclaim in delight.

Best just to ignore the stars falling from the sky while I am alone.

Image courtesy of

Bargain Beans


When I returned to the city nearest to my campground, I was glad to find a new bargain grocery store. The year before, I didn’t like any of the grocery stores in town because everything seemed really expensive.

The new store isn’t a scratch and dent store; I don’t think anything is outdated. However, many items are about to reach their expiration dates, so those items are cheap in order to sell them off quickly.

I’ve gotten 8oz packages of (not delicious) vegan “cheese” shreds for 99 cents, four cans of peas for 77 cents, popchips for 59 cents a bag, two packages of flour tortillas for $1, and two boxes of Stove Top stuffing (name brand!) for $1.

beansThe best bargain I found at the store was a stack of cans of organic pinto beans for 27 cents each. What! Hell Yeah! I scooped up nine of the ten cans on the table. (The tenth can was dented in a way I didn’t like, so I left it.)

Even though I’m not a fan of whole pintos over rice or in burritos, I bought the bargain beans anyway. Why? I knew I could easily mash them up and turn them into my own version of refried beans.

Here’s how I did it:

#1 Heat oil in cast iron skillet

#2 If desired, add minced garlic (fresh or dried) and/or minced onions (fresh or dried) to the oil.

#3 While oil is heating, drain and rinse beans. (I learned recently that drained and rinsed beans cause less gas.)

#4 Add beans to oil IMG_6680

#5 Mash beans. (I use the back of my spatula because that’s what I’ve got.)

#6 Beans will probably be quite thick. Add oil and/or hot sauce to thin slightly.

#7 Keep mashing.

#8 Add water to thin beans even more if necessary. (I like mine rather thin.) Keep mashing and stirring until beans are the desired thickness.

IMG_6684Voilà! Refried beans.

You may think this post is all about beans. It’s not. It’s really about creativity.

Back in the day, when I first read The Tightwad Gazette by the Frugal Zealot Amy  Dacyczyn, the most important thing I learned is that creativity is a crucial component of frugality. To be frugal, one can’t just rush out and buy something to meet every need that arises. To meet a need, one should look at what’s on hand or can be acquired inexpensively. One should try to think of a way to meet the need with what one already has or can get without spending much cash. [amazon template=image&asin=0375752250]

The same principle of being creative applies when one finds bargains. One must figure out ways to use what one can acquire inexpensively.

In my situation, I looked at the very inexpensive pintos and thought, What can I do with these beans so I will enjoy eating them? I realized I could mash them and add onion and hot sauce, then eat them in a variety of ways (with eggs and cheese on breakfast burritos, with hash browns and cheese, in bean burritos).

I used creative thinking to turn my bargain beans into deliciousness.



Grumpy Lady Returns


The lady who was mad because a) her Golden Age pass didn’t waive the parking fee and b) the $5 she paid for parking didn’t get her a trail guide returned to the parking lot a week and a day later. I recognized the expression of displeasure and the 80s-era glasses on her face immediately, but even though she snapped, I’m back! when I approached her car, I acted as if I’d never seen her before. I didn’t want to give her the satisfaction of being memorable.

The comment card I’d giver her the week before was lying on her dashboard, so I guess she hadn’t been upset enough to dash off her thoughts and drop it in a mailbox right away. She’d acted as if not getting a trail guide was the most important event of her day, so I was surprised to see the comment card casually lying upon her otherwise pristine dash.

The first time I encountered the grumpy lady, a young woman had been with her. The young woman had spoken nary a word while the older woman complained. This time the grumpy lady had two passengers, both of whom remained silent.

After snapping I’m back, the grumpy woman thrust a $20 bill at me. I accepted it. I handed her the day pass, then proceeded to get her change.

A lot of people pay their parking fee with $1 bills. If I don’t give those $1 bills people who pay with $20 bills, my little plastic accordion file ends up bulging, and at the end of the day, I might have 50 or 100 dollar bills to count. If I’ve accumulated a lot of ones, I’ll sometimes give one person $15 change in ones, especially if that person’s pissed me off. Sometimes people make snide remarks when I hand over a bunch of singles, but I figure money’s money and if they don’t want a bunch of ones, why do they expect me to want them? I wouldn’t say it aloud, but my attitude about change is you get what I give you and quit complaining.

So when it came time to give the grumpy woman her change, I decided to get rid of some ones. I gave her ten singles (because I didn’t have fifteen) and a $5 bill, but she wasn’t happy about all the ones.

Don’t you have many $5 bills, she demanded.

Not too many, I said. People have been giving me twenties today. I’ve been having to make a lot of change.

It was the truth. The trend on Fridays is $20 bills. I guess people hit the ATM at the beginning of the weekend and the machine spits out twenties. It was early in the day, and I had ten singles and maybe $25 in fives. Someone was going to end up with the ones anyway. Why not this nag?

What do you do when you run out of change? she wanted to know.

First of all, it’s none of her business what I do when I run out of change. But saying none of your business would have seemed rude and sketchy.

Secondly, what I do when I run out of change depends on the situation. If my co-worker is in the parking lot when I run out, I can ask him to change a twenty, or I can ask him to handle things while I go to the van and get change from my money bag. However, on Fridays, once I’ve done my cash out, I don’t have any smaller bills in the van. Sometimes if I can’t make change, I’ll tell people to see me after they walk the trail, by which time I may have smaller bills. Sometimes if people have a couple of ones and a twenty and I can’t change the twenty, I’ll just take the ones. And on rare occasions when I’ve had no change, I’ve let drivers park for free. (What else can I do? I can’t shoot $5 bills out of my ass, but OH! how glorious life would be if I could.)

But all of that is a lot to explain to a grumpy woman who seemingly wanted to find fault with everything I did, so I just said, People have to dig a little deeper.

By then she had her day pass and her $15, and she drove off to park.

I ran right over to my co-worker and said, That was the woman… and filled him in. He’d overheard some of our conversation and said about the woman, What a sour person.

Five or ten minutes later, the grumpy woman marched up to where my co-worker and I were sitting while we waited for incoming cars. The woman was carrying a disposable plastic water bottle, and she demanded, Where’s the water spigot? (Not excuse me or could you tell me or please, but with the attitude and tone of voice of You will fulfill my need for water RIGHT NOW!)

My co-worker calmly explained there is no water in the parking lot because the drought has caused the well to run dry. He had to explain the situation to the woman at least twice before she stopped demanding he tell her where the water spigot was. Then she said she guessed she’d have to go to the campground next door to get water. So my co-worker explained there is no water at the campground next door or at my campground down the road. She kept insisting she’d gotten water from the campground next door. My co-worker said it must have been more than three years ago because the campground hadn’t had water for at least that long.

Finally, she marched off and my co-worker made the victory gesture of arm bent at the elbow, hand balled into a fist, arm dropping while whispering, Yes! Usually denying people water is not a cause for celebration, but this woman’s unpleasantness made us want to thwart her.

Quite some time later, my co-worker and I realized we hadn’t seen the woman or her passengers cross the street to the trail, nor had we seen them drive away.

Maybe she’s out divining water, my co-worker said. I got a good laugh from the picture that produced in my head.

Maybe her passengers beat her with sticks and now they’re burying her in the meadow, I offered.

In any case, I was glad she didn’t feel the need to talk to me again.


Whimsical Mushrooms


I have a friend who is a fantastic artist. She wire-wraps shiny rocks and crochets purses and water bottle holders and headbands to cover cold ears in winter. You can check out many of the items she has for sale in her Etsy shop, Nirvana Creations,  at

Ammonite Non-Tarnish Copper Wire Wrapped Pendant

This is an example of a wire-wrapped ammonite from Nirvana Creations . Image from

A few weeks ago she posted on Facebook some lovely ammonites she had wrapped in copper to make pendants.

This is what Nirvana Creations says about the ammonite pendants:

This ammonite pendant was handmade by weaving copper wires into these elaborate designs. There is no glue or soldering in the creation of this piece, it is firmly held in place by the handmade setting. Each of these pieces is made with only the utmost love and care, to present the purest and most healing jewelry available. All the pieces are one-of-a-kind, there will be no other exactly like it in the world.

I love ammonites and I love my friend and I love my friend’s work. She is so talented! I told her I wanted to order one of the ammonite pendants.

My friend is also very nice. When I told her I wanted to buy one of her pieces, she said she wanted to do a trade. Of course, I was flattered she wanted to trade with me and told her she could have whatever of mine she wanted. She picked out a couple of things she liked, and I added a couple of other things I thought she should have and sent it all off to North Carolina.

A couple of weeks later, I received a package from her, and I got such a sweet deal. She sent me so much good stuff. I am a lucky woman!

In the package were three (three!) mushroom pendants I knew would look so good on hemp necklaces. I hadn’t even touched my jewelry-making supplies since spring, but I was so excited about the mushroom pendants, and I pulled out my supplies and made three necklaces on a slow afternoon at work.


These are the three necklaces I made with the three mushroom pendants my friend sent to me. Each necklace is 20 inches long. Each costs $23, including postage.


If I had to pick a favorite of the mushroom pendants, this would be it. The cap is made from purple and blue clay. The stem is made from a tiny stick. That's right! The stem is a piece of wood. I hung the pendant from a necklace of purple and blue hemp. The necklace is 20 inches. The price is $23, including postage.

If I had to pick a favorite of the mushroom pendants, this would be it. The cap is made from purple and blue clay. The stem is made from a tiny stick. That’s right! The stem is a piece of wood. I hung the pendant from a necklace of purple and blue hemp. The necklace is 20 inches long. The price is $23, including postage.


This amanita-esque mushroom pendant is super cute. The cap is made from red and yellow clay. The stem is made from a crystal (!) maybe tourmaline. I used red and variegated earth-tone hemp to make the necklace, which is 20 inches. The cost is $23, including postage.

This amanita-esque mushroom pendant is super cute. The cap is made from red and yellow clay. The stem is made from a crystal (!), maybe tourmaline. I used red and variegated earth-tone hemp to make the necklace, which is 20 inches long. The cost is $23, including postage.


This mushroom has a lot of color. The cap is made from clay and includes browns, reds, yellows, blues, and GLITTER. The stem is a QUARTZ CRYSTAL. I used blue and red hemp to make the necklace, matching the blue and red of the mushroom cap. The necklace can be worn with either the mostly blue side or the mostly red side showing, so it's like getting two necklaces in one. The necklace is 20 inches long. The price is $23, including postage.

This mushroom has a lot of color. The cap is made from clay and includes brown, red, yellow, blue, purple, gold, and GLITTER. The stem is a QUARTZ CRYSTAL. I used blue and red hemp to make the necklace, matching the blue and red of the mushroom cap. The necklace can be worn with either the mostly blue side or the mostly red side showing, so it’s like getting two necklaces in one. The necklace is 20 inches long. The price is $23, including postage.

All of these beautiful necklaces are for sale and would make lovely gifts.

I certainly appreciate my friend gifting the pendants to me to use in my work.