Turn up the fun with BALZAC!

I came home after my infusion and cheer-me-up quick thrift session with a Balzac.

“What’s that?” KK asked. Another one of our odd-couple moments — her phd in comparative literature versus my wasted youth held dramatically different notions of what constituted a “Balzac” and what made it so great.

Put on your Hammer pants, tease those bangs, and go back in time with me to

The early 1990s!

The world just looked different then.

Balzac Earth balloon ball

Unwilling to wait a moment longer, I managed to blow it up — without passing out — and tossed it into the playroom.

Now, all I’ve heard for the last 30 minutes is galloping toddler feet and squeaks of joy.

As a kid, I thought a Balzac would be fun. But now, from a mom perspective, I think a Balzac is AMAZING.

For starters, for wearing toddlers out, it’s even better than the playground at the mall, with all its associated contagion.

It’s lighter than a beach ball, washable, and refillable.

It’s safer than a naked latex balloon, which at 15 months, the boys would bite, burst, and probably choke on.

And of course, it’s extra fun because I always wanted one of these and my parents wouldn’t get me one. “You have all kinds of balls already,” my mom would sneer. “Here’s some wrinkly leftover balloons from your sister’s birthday party.”

I never could make her understand that Balzac wasn’t a ball, or a ballon. It was a patented “magic action balloon ball — the newest, wildest, funniest, craziest ball on earth!” See?

Balzac user guide cover

Thrift Happy Thursday

Exhibit A: Lucky charms, minus the arms

I’ve heard that horseshoes are lucky, but never have I ever heard anything about a headless/limbless woman’s torso adding any particular oomph to a horseshoe’s benefits.

Exhibit B: Head and limbs, but no torso

It’s kind of like the Care Bear Stare, but with about 1,000% more creepiness. I think this unfortunate little guy was supposed to be painted…and filled…to celebrate…a holiday? But it’s an even Easter/Halloween split, so I give up.

I will admit to being temporarily tempted to use him as a salt pig instead.

Exhibit C: Speaking of staring

Pink Squirrel knows what you’ve been up to. If he had a mouth, he’d scream.

Exhibit D: Just four aisles away

These guys were shocked — SHOCKED! — at the prices on promotional backpacks. Is this a thrift store or Needless Markup?

Exhibit E: Not from a thrift, but fits the creepy theme of today’s post

I arrived on the scene after whatever happened had already happened. I think it’s better that way.

Exhibit F: For “Freaky”

A few weeks ago, I discovered a new Salvation Army store that was previously unknown to me (but is only 0.3 miles from one of the best Goodwills in the metro area AND close to a Park Avenue thrift and maybe a Value Village).

It was a HUGE store, brightly lit, fully-stocked, and nearly empty ON A SATURDAY. It didn’t even smell like a thrift store. It didn’t smell like anything, really.

Until I went in the bathroom.

As soon as I pushed open the door to the (spacious, well-lit, empty) ladies’ room, I was bowled over by the smell of moth balls. Lots and lots of moth balls. Pew.

But duty calls. I chose a stall, and as I’m sitting down, I’m thinking, “Who has a problem with moths in the –” when this tiny little moth flew into my stall and perched on the wall.

Well. Question answered, before I could even finish asking.


Thrift Happy Thursday

There’s so much weird stuff out there. Here’s some I saw recently.

Exhibit A, as in Awwww

I long to develop my taxidermy collection. I dearly do.


This little guy was $8.98. At the thrift store.

And it was missing some…liquid…even though it clearly states “DO NOT OPEN” on the sticker. And where could I get more shark preserving liquid this far inland?

But most importantly?

HE LOOKS SO SAD, with his little frowny shark face all sticking up like that.


Exhibit B, as in, Something I saw in a Public Bathroom

Time to have a *refresher* talk about connotation/denotation.

I’m displeased to report that this “Passive Odor Dispenser” performed its duties exactly as advertised, causing the bathroom to smell like a cross between a public bathroom and a cut-rate funeral home.

Exhibit C, as in Cute and Calculating

Vintage, natch.

I would have paid more attention in math class if my textbooks had been this attractive.

Exhibit D, as in Deer Me

I think this candle snuffer was supposed to be a preppy noble stag, like all the stuff Pottery Barn and everybody did recently.

But doesn’t it look a lot more like a jackelope?

(image from http://monster.wikia.com/wiki/Jackalope)
(image from http://monster.wikia.com/wiki/Jackalope)

Answer: yes. Pass.

Exhibit E, as in Exclusive

The nice spice grinder, which was The BOGO at The grocery store (very The thriftish).

Exhibit F, as in Foodstuffs, wtF?!

A baby carrot that came out of a clearance tray of crudites I picked up at the grocery store last week.

Best part?

It’s organic. ALLEGEDLY.

And for you carnivores, a bonus fuzzy stealth shot from my new farmers market:

It’s blurry, but you read that right.

Stuffed. Chicken. Skin.


In a kind of loaf-ish shape.

For eating.

Have any of you ever tasted this delicacy? If so, I would love a report, because sadly, I have not.

It’s stuffed with a mix that includes breadcrumbs, and I was too embarrassed to ask if it came in a gluten-free version.

But if it did? Oh, buddy.

And last but not least…

Exhibit G, as in Goldmine

It’s so shiny.

That’s a NEW IN BOX Fagor Elite Pressure Cooker set. It was originally $179 at Macy’s.

I got it for $29.

Granted, is a  little more than the “90% off original prices” threshold I set for myself.

(It was only 84% off.)

But it’s never been used! It’s got the box, and all the paperwork, and even the freaking DVD on how to use it.

I’ve never owned cookware that came with its own multimedia extravaganza.

The 5-piece set is missing the glass lid (which probably broke). For $12 I could replace it, but I have several 10-inch regular pots lids, so no need!

I love the $7 thrifted Hawkins Futura pressure cooker I found a few months ago, and these will complement rather than replace it. These have straight sides and because the big one holds 8 quarts, I will be able to fit a few small mason jars in there to do some small-batch canning!

Plus, it’s extensible. There’s a dessert kit I could get for it, to make cheesecake and flan. To make crème-fricking-brûlée.

In a pressure cooker.

What interesting finds have you cooked up recently?

Thrift Happy Thursday (formerly “Terrible/Wonderful Things I Saw This Week”)

Have you noticed that I’m trying to get all thematic up in hiznouse? Welcome to Thrift Happy Thursday, guaranteed to have 100% less therapy than yesterday. There’s so much weird stuff out there. Here’s some I saw recently.

Exhibit A: When you absolutely, positively, never-ever want to have sex ever again

I would recommend this long-sleeved sweatshirt-nightgown, in bewitching battleship gray, complete with plush behatted kitty and real jingle bell accents.

Recommended accessories: an old copy of Readers Digest, some Metamucil, and your glasses, if only you could remember where you left them.

Exhibit B: Not from the thrift store, but thrifty as in DIY

Beware the Cthulhu outlet!

Just before xmas, KK was replacing most of the outlets on the first floor, because, while they were technically functional, they were all so old that anything plugged in would just fall out.

And according to KK the Outlet Expert, “that’s NOT enough of a reason to not vacuum.”

Pffft. Find a reason or make one, I say!

Anyway, this electrical monstrosity is what KK found behind a single duplex outlet when she went to replace it.

I might be able to understand it if our house were historical, say, and had been lovingly expanded and remodeled over the years.

But it’s not! This house is 8 years younger than the younger one of us!

Exhibit C: Turn it up

And finally, a dear friend who knows how out of touch I am with the music kids listen to these days kindly sent me this video:

I have never found a coat at the thrifts as great as his BUT in college, I did find a giant red faux-fur coat at a yard sale for $1.

Bonus: it had been one of the prizes you could get “for free” when you saved up points from smoking enough Virginia Slims.

It was glorious.

What would you do with more hours in a day? (NHBPM 24)

Things I would do every day if I had more time in a day:

  • go to the gym everyday, instead of 3 times a week
  • shop for the freshest produce and meat every day, instead of just once a week
  • organize the pantry
  • take my dog for long walks 3 times a day, instead of just once or twice

    Lula in a sunbeam
    Lula in a sunbeam
  • actually read all the blogs in my google reader every day, instead of just hitting “mark all as read” so I don’t feel like I’m falling behind
  • actually comment on all the blogs I read, instead of thinking “I’ll get around to it when I have more time”
  • go thrifting!
  • turn some of the ideas in my inventions notebook into real prototypes
  • finish my movie before the competition deadline in January
  • raise chickens, for eggs
  • raise goats, for fun
  • raise hell, for eggs and fun
  • actually moisturize the dry places
  • always drive a different route to get places
  • figure out how to speed up this socialist wealth redistribution scheme I keep hearing about

Things I wouldn’t do even if I had all the time in the world:

  • read all the EULAs and TOSs for the sites I visit and apps I use
  • wear makeup
  • dust
  • eat soysauges
  • go to the circle of hell known as the mall

What would you do, or not do, with more time on your hands?

Terrible/Wonderful Things I Saw While Thrifting #3 (NHBPM 10)

Write about or share something you found funny.

I hope these posts help my wife understand why it takes me so long to shop. There are so many things to look at, pick up, squint at, and scratch my head over, most of which never make it home. Here are two good examples.

This pair of gloves caught my eye at Value Village recently. They had a pleasant weight to them, and I thought they might be good for dog walks this winter. For which I need the manual dexterity for tying poop bags that gloves offer, but I do not need a strong nonslip grip. These could work.

I could tell they were woolish, but by how much? Better check the fiber tag inside.

30% Racoon.

Yeah, wool too, but Racoon [Raccoon].

I felt exactly the same way, and I have a bowl of dead reptiles and insects, and a frog in a jar, on my desk.

Apparently, aside from mink, I’m squeamish about wearing mammals. It felt so said, since surely the raccoon had to die.

But how do you know that? I hear you asking. We shear sheep and goats and comb bunnies to get nice wool, and they’re none the worse for the contribution.

To which I offer: can you imagine what a shaved raccoon would look like? (Serious warning: Do not google image search that. You’ve been warned.) Or can you imagine what it would be to have a job where that’s what you had to do every day? Shave raccoons?

I rest my case.

And for this week’s final Terrible/Wonderful find, remember that I’m not sporty. So maybe you’ll know right off what this was, but I most certainly did not.

They were in the lingerie bin, but they looked manly. Well, as manly as shiny, slinky, stretchy black shorts can look. A peek inside, though, did NOT clarify matters for me.

It looked like underwear that comes with its own seat cushion, which in turn looks kind of like a bicycle seat.


Bicycles! Aha! This is a Goodwill located right next door to an REI. Maybe the tag attached to the mystery shorts would tell us more.

Yes! Getting warmer, Watson. They did come from REI — twice, since somebody bought them and then returned them.

But wait. What does that fine print say?


About seven amazing things hit me at once:

1. Somebody paid $26.50 for padded panties.

2. Said body did this assuming they might not feel weird on skin.

3. Said body tried them on anyway and was unsatisfied.

4. Said body brought the panties BACK TO THE STORE, and

5. Had a conversation with a store employee DETAILING exactly why they were unsatisfactory enough to bring BACK TO THE STORE.

6. Ostensibly, the customer was rewarded a refund or exchange, or at least a hearing-out.

7. REI Damages do not end up in the trash. Or at least, not all of them.

Make of that what you will.

Until next time!

A Care Package for Fat Girl Fitness (NHBPM 9)

Today’s prompt was to create a care package for my fellow patients. But as much as I love presents, it’s been my experience that people with MS may be best served by having less stuff, not more: less to clean, less to put away, and certainly less to trip over.

Instead, I’d like to share a care package of the tools that have made my weight loss and fitness dreams come true-r. (Hey, it’s a work in progress.)

I just finished Week 4 Day 2 of Couch-to-5K for the second time this year, and these are the things that keep me going.

Enell Sports Bra
Before I started working out, I was a 38G. Now, 50+ pounds later, I am a 34G. There is no god. But luckily, there is Enell.

Benefits: The boobs do not move — I can RUN for the first time since I was 8. No underwires! Straps do not dig or shift. Front close, so you don’t have to get trapped trying to pull it over your head, necessitating a call to the fire department and the jaws of life to get free. (Remember, they said they’d have to start charging after the next time.) Unique sizing system, so I get to be a size 3. Built strong to last long.

Drawbacks: Limited color selection. Cup seam shows through lighter shirts, but I AM RUNNING HOW DARE YOU JUDGE ME RROOOOWRRRR!

Shopping tips: Prime-eligible at Amazon, and you might be able to find it at a local running store to try on first. And because I love you all, I will share that I recently found their outlet on ebay, where they sell slightly imperfect versions for nearly half price.

Body Glide anti-chafe balm
I know none of you have first-hand experience with this, but sometimes fat girls have thighs that touch. And when exercise makes that touching sweatier and more frictive, bad things can happen. Body Glide is like lube for your body. Or as Linda Richman would say, “Like buttah!”

Benefits: Odorless. Easy deodorant-style application. Usually sold in running stores, so we can infer that it’s not only fat girls who have issues with rubbage. Lasts for hours — longer than I would ever work out. I used it on my foot, after my shoe started rubbing on my toe, and it worked great for that, too.

Drawbacks: My stick crumbled off into big chunks after a few weeks. I was able to mash most of it back into the applicator and keep using it, but I’d prefer if it hadn’t happened in the first place.

I am a very suggestible person, and I’m not above using the right music provide motivation to get started, keep going, and even have a good time. If you can hear Wham!’s “Wake Me Up Before you Go-Go” and not smile and step lightly, you might be dead.

Benefits: Easy to put on and take off. The silicone skin is strong, and thicker on the back where the armband slides through. After nearly a year of 3+ uses/week, it looks and works like new. Comes in a bunch of colors. The armband is highly adjustable (something I’d worried about because I have huge bus driver arms).

Drawbacks: None! The TuneBand has exceeded all my expectations, and now it’s even on sale for less bank.

Panasonic Ergo Fit earbuds
You can listen to music without earbuds. Plus, they’re handy for helping drown out the dumbass conversation the girls on the  treadmills next to yours are having, at such high volume. I hadn’t had much luck with earbuds in the past — wearing glasses doesn’t help, but it also rules out wearing any kind of external headphone comfortably   The in-ear style of these is way more comfortable than the round Apple-style ones.

Benefits:  These sound nice even at volumes high enough to drown out dumbass conversations. They’ve been impervious to sweat and being tossed in my gym bag. They came in red, one of my favorite accessory colors. Reasonably priced. The cord slider helps keep them from getting terminally tangled.

Drawbacks: None. They don’t have an inline mic for taking calls, but nobody needs to hear me huffing and puffing while I’m working out. (I keep these Skull Candy earbuds in my purse for non-gym use, if you’re looking for the mic.)

Contigo Autoseal water bottles
The only water bottle I’ve tried that (1) really doesn’t leak so much as a drop in my gym bag and (2) has a drinking hole that’s actual mouth-sized. Unlike, say, classic Nalgenes, which are actual now-you’re-wearing-a-bottle-of-water sized.

Benefits: Dishwasher safe. Strong and BPA free. Lots of colors. Carabiner clip built into the top.

Drawbacks: If you store the lids on the bottles, they might develop a slightly musty smell in the cap. Are you one of the strange few who doesn’t love a fresh bottle of Basement in the morning? Solution: just store the bottles open.

Shopping tip: I bought these first for KK for Christmas a few years back, in a 3-pack at Costco for $10 or $15 bucks. Those are still going strong, and I’ve picked up a number of others (and three of the stainless tumbler ones) at the thrifts for just a dollar or two.

Nathan Flip Straw Water Bottles
This one deserves an honorable mention. It can leak a tad in the bag, but it’s great for all other purposes.

Benefits: Also dishwasher safe. Lots of colors. Built-in carabiner clip. The flip straw part is soft, so I’m not afraid of knocking my teeth out. Even better, you simply sip from it — you don’t have to bite it like you do a Camelbak.

Drawbacks: Just the leaking thing, really.

Shopping tip: I recently found a Quickdraw Plus at Marshalls or TJ’s for $5, imperfect just because they’d sewn the reflective strip on backwards. And just this week, I thrifted a sample version these waist packs, with the bottle, for $1.50!  I would normally have to be in a coma to agree to wearing any kind of waist pack, but this one fits (very comfortably) at the small of my back, so I can pretend like it doesn’t exist.

Some other tools I’ve used include:


Lose It! Free for iPhone and online.
I used this to track my food and exercise because it was free, straightforward, and worked seamlessly cross-platform. Nice, clean interface.

5KRunnerFree for iPhone.
This was my Couch-to-5K coach the first time around. I liked that it was free and awarded badges to gamify the experience. And it worked. I did NOT like that there was no way to control my music without having to go through too many steps just to skip to the next song. I also found the interface too small to read when I got hot and the Uthoff’s kicked up, but honestly, that was a double-edged sword. Sometimes, it’s just better to remain ignorant of how far you still have to go!

SlimKicker. Free for iPhone and online.
This one is new to me, but I’m about to try it because I like the novel premise. You choose short-term goals to work toward for 7-30 days. Your challenges get tougher over time, and you’re encouraged to check in daily with folks who’ve chosen the same challenge for support. You win points and “level-up” when you succeed.

Honorable mention: Weight Watchers
I think every woman in America has a WW story or six.

I did WW for the first time a little over 5 years ago. I hadn’t weighed myself in years, and was sort of surprised to be 241 pounds at my first meeting. Miss Melba, the leader, was amazing and deserves her own cult. I watched portions and counted points and lost 42 pounds in six months, without ever visiting a gym or doing anything more strenuous than walking the dog.

Mostly, I enjoyed getting to clap for myself and others at meetings. I only stopped because the MS started and I had to marshal all my resources to deal with that instead. But I did learn some vital weight loss skills, like portion control, substitutions, body awareness, which I’ve been able to apply to successive independent attempts ever since.

So I’d recommend WW to anyone who, like me, was weight-loss naive, with the caveat that you find a leader that clicks with you immediately. Like choosing a doctor,  you may have to shop around, but it is totally worth it when it works.


Short hair.
I had hair down to my waist until I was 23 years old. (My mom had to scotch tape baby bows to my head until I was nearly four, so once it showed up, she couldn’t bring herself to cut it.) That meant I had to wash it at night and after toweling it dry, still had to wait 8 to 10 hours for it to actually dry. It could easily take an hour even with a hair dryer.

And it sounds like I wasn’t alone.

Cutting my hair short freed me to get active and sweaty and take showers, without having to block out 2 days to do it. I’ve just gone shorter and shorter ever since. Now, after I shower at the gym, I dry my hair for about 5 seconds under the hand dryer. It’s hard to imagine ever going back.

Summer 2001
2006 or 2007
October 2011

Which brings us to braving public showering and locker rooms.
Until last year, I had spent more time in men’s locker rooms than in women’s.

I never played sports, but I spent two years in high school being a manager for the football team, which meant that I, and my also-female co-manager, were the only two girls in the whole school allowed to go into the fieldhouse. (To fill up water coolers and make ice packs, not to ogle. I assure even the straightest of you ladies that there is NOTHING sexy about that smell. Ugh.)

But last year, my wife joined a new rock climbing gym (the largest in the nation) when it opened nearish us. She invited me to come along, as they had a regular fitness area with cardio and weight stuff that nobody else was using. I went. It was cool, at first. But I quickly realized that my 40-minute workout ended before KK’s 2-3 hour one, and sitting around in sweaty clothes was gnarly.

I finally tried the showers, so at least I could clean up and sit around in clean clothes while I diddled on the iPad for an hour or two. It was not traumatic. It even felt good. Each shower was separate, so there was nothing really public about it. (I’ve used worse in hostels in Europe.) There was even a curtain separating the showers from the main locker part, so nobody had to see too much of me. And best of all, I could take a cold shower, which helps beat back the Uthoff’s and fatigue that MS brings uninvited to every workout.

A weightlifting training program, customized for me by a dear friend.
Cardio stuff often makes me too hot, too fast, and I start to lose power before I get the benefits. Weightraining, though, allows me to get serious work done before even breaking a sweat. It’s been such an important part of the process. I’ve gotten stronger, sure, but it’s also improved my balance and posture (which has suffered since 4th grade — see “34G above”).

Final Thoughts

I hope you read through this long list and thought,

Well, DUH! Of course she lost weight and got stronger. Look at all the help she had!

Because, clearly, it takes a village’s worth of goods, programs, and lifestyle changes to make big fitness changes. I didn’t even include the food prep tools I use, or the recipe websites, or the protein bars I love, or…the list goes on.

But the takeaway is that I gave myself “all that help.”

I built it into my life, one piece at a time. I kept the parts that helped and chucked the ones that didn’t.

And once it hit a critical mass, I started to lose critical (m)ass.

2003, maybe, vs early 2012
2003 vs Christmas 2011

And if I can do it, you can do it. I don’t have to know you to say that. Anyone can do it, because it’s not about being perfect or being the best. It’s about being better and feeling better.

Whether you have a serious illness or not, “self-care is a divine responsibility.”

That’s “divine” as defined in the Wikitionary, as in:

  • hallowed, holy, sacred
  • supreme, ultimate


  • beautiful, delightful, exquisite, heavenly, lovely,
    magnificent, marvelous, splendid, wonderful.

It’s all of the above, and so are you.

I don’t know about this…but I’d like to. (NHBPM 3)

Maybe I read too many Nancy Drew and English manor house mysteries growing up, or watched too many X-Files. Don’t judge — my little sister had a thing for Mulder, and I had a thing for dark.

I’m a curious sort of girl. Asking and answering questions is my favorite thing to do. I am rarely happier than when I don’t know something, because that means…drumroll, anticipatory salivation, happy dancing…I get to go find out.

That’s why even after swearing upside down and sideways that I would never, EVER, go back to school, I ended up getting a degree in library and information studies. (Thanks, Daddy! I promise this blogging thing is just a lark!) Getting trained as a librarian was as close as I could get to being a professional searcher, without having to carry a gun and eat in my car like a private investigator.

It’s also why I love thrift shopping. Not only do you get a strange mix of eras and objects to sift through, you get mystery items  missing their original packaging. I had a lady awhile back turn to me in the kitchen stuff aisle and hold up one of these that she found in the utensil bin:

“Do you what THIS is?!” she asked.

“I believe it’s a shedding blade.”

“A what now?”

“It’s a tool for grooming dogs with thick coats. But you could probably run it through the dishwasher and use it to de-seed a cantaloupe.”

I try to be helpful. I”m sure she meant to thank me before running away.

Now, have I ever bought, touched, or used a shedding blade? No.

Have I ever said the words “shedding blade” out loud? Nope.

But could I piece the cultural detritus in my head together for the win? Yes. And failing that, could I have used my iphone to figure it out? For sure.

“I don’t know about this, but I’d like to” is something I feel or say or think at least 20 times a day. The internet has been the perfect vehicle to feed my addiction curiosity. When I have a health question, I can hit MedlinePlus or PubMed or MayoClinic or a million other sites. I have a steady stream of MS-related abstracts and news delivered via RSS right into my google reader and twitter stream. I correctly diagnose my friends and family so often that I usually end our phone conversations with, “I’ll send you my bill.”


Even before the internet, I was the kid with her own reference library. (Thanks, grandmothers and yard sales!) I loved reading the front matter of the phone book and going through the trash at the post office. Flipping through almanacs and atlases was a perfectly reasonable way to spend an afternoon.

But my all-time favorite lookbook was The American Medical Association’s Family Medical Guide, whichever edition was published in the early 1980s. I would pull out that fat navy volume and just browse. There were the usual anatomical illustrations that any pre-pubescent kid would find stare-worthy. Lots of basic first aid information, just in case.

But there was also an entire section of delicious flow charts for diagnosing and treating common injuries and illnesses – a simplified glimpse into the way doctor’s think. And somewhere, buried in the middle, there was a picture of somebody with black hairy tongue disease:


Like panning for gold, that looking and finding.

Black. Hairy. Gold.

What do you want to know about today?

Terrible/Wonderful Things I Saw While Thrifting This Week

I didn’t get out much this week, due to being broke and such. But I still managed to track down a few novelties at the grocery store, the hardware store, and a relative’s house. What’s the best stuff you saw or snagged this week?


This brand respects customers enough to let us make up our own minds.


I had hair down to my waist until I was 23, but this is something else entirely.


Spotted at my mom’s, but she got them at Goodwill recently. Laguiole place settings for 6 (minus 1 fork) and a corkscrew etc for $2.92 TOTAL. She saw me admiring them before I could get them into my purse…this time.