Non-Consumer Mish-Mash

by Katy on March 29, 2010 · 30 comments

It’s time again for Non-Consumer Mish-Mash, where I write a little bit about this and a little bit about that.

The Never Ending Quest for the Perfect Glasses

I wrote last week about how my 14-year-old son has passed over to the land of the blurry, and is now in need of prescription glasses. The optical store that’s connected to his vision clinic wanted $250 for the glasses my son picked out, which set off my “I can do better than that” alarm.

My husband took him that afternoon to Costco in search of glasses that wouldn’t break the bank, but my son found nothing that met his discerning taste.

Two days in Seattle added up to a break in this errand, but Sunday dawned anew on the 2010 great glasses search. I was going through the Sunday paper, when I came across a JCPenney advertisement that promised “Two Pairs of Glasses for $88!” The only Portland JCPenney is located in a mall that’s right next to a different Costco from the one my husband went to, which in my mind equalled running this errand and getting it over with.

Sadly, this was not to be the case, as the JCPenney optical department is closed on Sundays. (Deep breath Katy, deep breath.)

My son did find a pair of Costco glasses that met his approval, but the cost added up to $98. Yes, a bargain when compared to the hefty $250 price tag of the first pair, but still $10 more than two pairs from JCPenney. And I do want to get him a backup pair.

So I will dedicate the time to take my son to the mall one day after school this week, and hopefully put this errand to bed. I will buy him the Costco pair if JCPenney proves unsuccessful, and then I will also try out an online source for the backup pair.

This is why I have minimal interest in simple living blogs from people without kids, because that existence is an entirely different beast. Let’s see them try that whole minimalist, car free, my life is a zen experiment thing with four days a week sports practices, dental appointments, homework supervision and the challenge of healthy meals kids will actually eat.


Addendum: I am aware that life is complicated for one and all, not just those with children. Please do know that I wrote the above paragraph thinking it was funny, which apparently was not the case. I could erase my words and pretend they never happened, but I’m going to keep them in as proof positive how very flawed an individual I am. I do my best, but my best is far from perfect. (A line I’ve actually used with my kids.) Thanks to everyone who shared their reaction to this paragraph with me.

You’re all keeping me on track and hopefully socialized enough to leave the house now and then. ♥

365 Days of Photography from The Frugal Girl

Kristen, over at The Frugal Girl has put together a new blog which will simply publish a photo a day from her life. She describes this concept as such:

“Each day I publish a new photo of whatever happens to catch my eye. You’ll find food, people, and lots of everyday, ordinary things in my photos. Because I think that beauty is everywhere… you just have to look for it.”

Click HERE to take a look at Kristen’s wonderful photographs.

The To-Do List That Sank The Titanic

I am currently reading Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project, which chronicles the writer’s year long project to pore through research related to happiness and then apply these concepts to her own life.

One of the things that Rubin did at the beginning of her project was to write down a five page long to do list. Five pages! I am not a huge list writer, mainly because I like to think of myself as someone who doesn’t need this kind of structure. (Really though, I don’t want the accountability of my unfinished tasks in writing.)

Rubin describes some tasks as “Boomerang,” meaning that dealing with the initial task then brings about another. (Like going to the dentist for a cleaning, and then going back for a filling.)

Today is the first day in two weeks that my kids are in school and I am home from work. I am looking around my house and seeing stacks of unsorted papers, piles of stuff I listed on craigslist, but have yet to sell and a general sense of disorder and mild filthiness.

Time for a to-do list. It might not add up to five pages, but it sure isn’t going to be a half page either.

First on list? Take kids to 2:45 dental appointment. I’ll cross my fingers that it won’t be a boomerang errand.

And by the way, this book is two days overdue at the library, so I guess I need to add “Finish happiness book” to my list.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

Lisa March 29, 2010 at 9:46 am

I love mishmash day! Too bad about the JC Penney’s optical dept being closed for the day , but it’ll all work out in the long run. And though I understand your angst about non parents shoveling out advice on simplifying life, don’t be too hasty young lady! Some of your child free audience is in that condition because we survived raising those little rascals to an age that they can survive this big, bad world on their own! Once you reach that ultimate goal, you’ve earned your doctorate degree at the school of hard knocks. ;0)


Katy March 29, 2010 at 9:51 am

Thanks. I just feel like my quest for simple living is, ahem . . . hampered by the never ending errands and chores related to parenting young teens.

And I totally love the “young lady” bit. I’ll take all the young I can get!



Lisa March 30, 2010 at 9:37 am

Ah Katy, you’re still just a Spring chicken…this old hen should know!!!


Queen Lucia March 29, 2010 at 9:54 am

I’m looking forward to the result of the great glasses quest. My experience with offers like the JCPenney one is that they really are too good to be true – my vision needs are always outside the rules of the special offer. So I will be interested to know how it turns out for you and your son.

I also like simplicity blogs by people with children (in the home – I hear you, Lisa!). When I read the others I feel like I must be doing something wrong (I know, there is no wrong, but still…) because I haven’t reached that perfectly simple place of silence and beauty. Then I snap out of it and try to find the right balance for us amidst all the chaos of family. That’s why I like YOU so much!


BarbS March 29, 2010 at 10:11 am

Would you consider writing a review or some things you learned from the Happiness Project book? I bet I’m not the only one who’d be interested in your thoughts…


Katy March 29, 2010 at 10:15 am

I’m only about halfway through the book so far. Although, I’ll bring it to the kids’ dental appointment today, which should help.



Meghan March 29, 2010 at 10:40 am

Regarding an online place for glasses, can I suggest I’m not affiliated, but I have bought about half a dozen pairs of glasses from them for the total price of maybe $75, and I’m super happy with them. (I bought half a dozen pairs so I can have them all over the place, and change them from day to day, not because they broke or anything.) I think glasses start at about $8, and ten days later they show up in your front step. It’s a good setup.

Also, “a general sense of disorder and mild filthiness” is pretty much how I feel all the time of late. I’m glad that it’s not just me.


Carol March 29, 2010 at 12:12 pm

Generally I enjoy your posts, but I must admit to being a bit miffed by your comment about those without kids. Some of us would have taken the job if we could have gotten it. Then there are those of us who have the job of taking care of aging parents – where one’s ideas may well NOT be appreciated and accepted. Again, there are those of us who are single and don’t have a husband to help us make it through life. And then there’s me – about whom all three of these factors apply. Please remember that everyone has their own set of challenges to face, and yours are not necessarily tougher or easier than anyone else’s – just different!


Katy March 29, 2010 at 12:22 pm


I’m sorry that my little tirade rubbed you the wrong way. We all have our own unique challenges in life, and I was just writing about my own life. My pet peeve are smug bloggers (which I suppose I come across as now and then) who feel that we should all be buying 100% local organic foods, be car-less and own just 93 special possessions in our homes.

I do my best at providing real food on a budget, driving minimally and keeping the crap to a minimum, (Okay — I suck at this) but there are simply days when I have to driving waaay across town for no reason and then feed random Costco samples and a hot dog to my son for his lunch.

Simple living with kids is far from simple. Then again, there are many lives that are far from simple.



Diane March 31, 2010 at 10:19 am

Hi Carol,
I am so in the same boat as you in many ways. One of my goals is to be happy with what I *can* do in life and avoid dwelling on the wishes that haven’t come true. As a result, I am a generally happy person and am often told by friends (married and otherwise) how much they want my life. I take that as the highest praise!
It’s a real challenge not to be bitter, but I find it’s like forgiveness: one feels so much better on the other side. Please don’t waste your energy being “miffed” at other’s lives. Focus on your unique opportunities and always have something (big or small) planned for the future so you have something to look forward to. Best of luck to you.


Jess March 29, 2010 at 12:26 pm

I’ll second the Zenni Optical rec. My husband and I both have used them and have been entirely pleased with the quality, and ecstatic about the prices. Prior to Zenni, I got all of my glasses from Costco. They were good, but all of the bells and whistles that Costco charges extra for are either included in the Zenni price, or are much, much cheaper. The thing that sealed the deal for me was that the anti-glare coating I’ve gotten on my Zenni glasses has never flaked off, whereas the coating on my Costco glasses ALWAYS started flaking off after around a year or so. Anyway. I’m not affiliated, either, just a happy customer.


Rebecca March 29, 2010 at 1:03 pm

FWIW, both my husb and I have had great success with JCPennys optical. Granted, neither of us needs bifocals or anything, but with kids our specs take massive abuse, and my husb spends his days at a computer and likes no glare and scratch resistant coatings on his. I also have to say that their styles are very fashion foreword, I love my super funky glasses, while my husb is more Euro modern. The only thing I couldn’t get there is sunglasses, because I have found that although you can put a tinted lens into a regular frame, sunglass frames are more durable over the years. So I resorted to a pair of RayBans that I have had new lenses put in twice. And getting 2 pair is a must for us, as neither of us can function without our glasses. Plus I can change out when I desire a style change.

And they are as durable as any I have had from other, more pricey places.


Loretta March 29, 2010 at 2:39 pm

I found myself nodding along to your little tirade, but I love to torture myself by reading those blogs! They have given me some great ideas, especially about stripping my life of all the extra stuff – both physical and mental – that I don’t need.

I have primary school-age children, and also share the care of my dementia-affected mum. The kids and I can walk to and from school, and I can walk to a lot of places locally, but much as I’d love to go car-free, I HAVE to (and WANT to) drive an hour round trip 3-4 days a week to see my mum and take her out. We all do the best we can with the life we have 🙂

Good luck with the glasses hunt!


Jean March 29, 2010 at 5:45 pm

I was one of those people who thought that the simplicity zen would be acheived when I had my kids raised..but alas, it still escapes me.
The parents are aging, the adult children still need your help or counsel , my husband decided to open his own business so I got a second job as his bookkeeper, and even though there are not as many dirty dishes or loads of laundry, it sure doesn’t seem like I spend any less time on housework! I can say that much of the time I spent chauffering children is now devoted to my gardens, so there are some good things, but just be grateful you were blessed with those two boys, who are healthy enough to participate in all of their activities, because one of these days you will be sitting at their high school and then college graduations wondering how all those years could have passed so quickly!


Marie-Josée April 1, 2010 at 6:01 am

Well said Jean.


Ashley March 29, 2010 at 9:36 pm

I understand the woes of attempting simple living when family life just isn’t being cooperative (and yes, I liked the comment even though I don’t have children… just Grandma to look after). I do what I can, make sure to choose words that don’t make my Grandma think I’m a loony tune for suggesting we put away the Tupperware, and on those days when I know it would mean a big deal, I give in and drive to work so I can bring home her favorite fast food meal for lunch.

*sigh* but most of all… thank you for reminding me that I need to go get my eyes checked. It’s been years and the last trip to the Costco eye-guy left me with astigmatism and bifocals.


Kristen@TheFrugalGirl March 30, 2010 at 2:26 am

Thanks for the link, Katy. 🙂


Jeanne Grunert March 30, 2010 at 4:00 am

I had an awful experience at a local JC Penney optical store and do not recommend them. My glasses, which were supposed to be shatterproof, chipped. They refused to replace the lens. The man there was rude and nasty. I had to argue and argue. I have had the same pair fixed twice now with other issues. I will not go back there again. I’d rather spend a little more at the privately owned optical store and get some decent SERVICE.


Tammy March 30, 2010 at 5:04 am

I know that for me personally, it’s pretty easy to look at other’s path and say “yeah right”, so I could relate to your “tirade”, but we really are all very different. And that to me is the value of surfing different blogs – I enjoy getting different perspectives. I’m a single Mom of two teens and work full time (31 miles from my home), so going without a car really isn’t feasible for me, but I find that I can still get lots of ideas from many of the different blogs – some I’ll use others not. For example, if I ever have to make the decision between differing cappacino machines, I’ll know right what to do – but until then, I’ll just try to remember my canvas grocery bags when I go to the store. The online shoe store that has $600 shoes on sale for under $300 – I’ll know where to find it – but til then, I’m developing a relationship with my cobbler. All in it’s time.


Raffaella March 31, 2010 at 12:50 am

Re: the “take the bike” advice, I’ve always found it funny, because it sounds like, well, the greatest discovery ever. But if you can bike to work, why haven’t you done it before? People who stop taking the car for a 10 minutes route and start going by bike are only doing the most logical thing. I used to be a commuter too, working 40 kms from my hometown, and at least I went to the station by bike (15 minutes).


Dawn March 30, 2010 at 5:18 am

I agree with you about simple living with kids. I would love to be able to go car free, but I don’t think my children would appreciate me showing up at lacrosse practice on my bike to pick them up! I do get ideas about simplifying my life from those blogs, but only 1 plate, 1 fork, 1 spoon-please!! And try to get a teenager to live with only 100 items-its impossible. It has helped me cut down on my spending habits (3 months without buying any clothes!)
I enjoy your blog because it shows that frugal living can be done with children. Also from your blog I realize that it is nice to have the extra shifts at the hospital ($$$), but the time with my children is more important.


Andrea March 30, 2010 at 8:57 am

Ha! As a mother of three in a rural area I found your paragraph about complicated existence very true…and humorous. Some people just take themselves too seriously. And a five-page to-do list? that wouldn’t make ME very happy…and I wouldn’t get most of it done!


Shannon March 30, 2010 at 9:07 am

The long list doesn’t surprise me. I’ve read a bunch of simple living books lately, and I always come away feeling exhausting! Simple living should be, well, simpler, right?


Katy March 30, 2010 at 10:02 am

Her project isn’t simple living, but happiness. Then again there’s nothing simple about nagging unfinished tasks that weigh you down.



Angela March 30, 2010 at 9:59 am

Ha! I read this post AFTER you’d made the addendum about simple living with or without kids. I am married without kids, and sometimes my “simple living” choices make my life even more complicated! But it’s true that I can’t even imagine doing it with kids! It amazes me, even though my life is far from “Zen.”
As an embarrassing example, an unfulfilled item on my to-do list for several months: “meditate.” Ha!! Pathetic.


Michael March 30, 2010 at 12:48 pm

First time reader, first time poster.

As man with no children I laughed at your zen-minimalist paragraph; as a husband who is planning children, I laughed at your zen-minimalist paragraph; as a man who tends to his mother-in-law, I understand some of the posters… and laughed at your zen-minimalist paragraph.

I think when reading blogs we, as readers, need to remember that the author is writing from personal experience, and is offering a certain amount of advice. We readers need to take what is applicable, and discard what is not.

I came here by fluke through a “frugality” tag to my own blog, but you are bookmarked, and I will stop by again to read more of what is in store for me… albeit many years down the road.

Thanks for the heads up,


Gypsy March 30, 2010 at 3:24 pm

As someone who tries to be a minimalist with two pre-school children I totally get your tirade …. I love reading the work of those without children as its kind of like my escapsim fantasy … where I leave the chidren and hubby here and escape to a tumbleweed tiny house with my 93 posessions for a week. Until I miss them terribly! However, if we didn’t have these ‘aspirational’ ideas I would probably still have five lipsticks and four sets of cutlery!


Raffaella March 31, 2010 at 12:42 am

The infamous paragraph actually made me smile. It was funny! 🙂
Yes, there are some smug bloggers, let’s face it – their life always sounds perfect, perfectly organized, minimalist, a zen experiment, as you put it. Maybe they just make it seem like that.


Marie-Josée April 1, 2010 at 7:14 am

Children certainly add a real twist to the zen part of the simplicity lifestyle, but again, I think the zen part of the equation is making and finding the time to devote to ourselves and our children, so that we are fully present for our lives. Not continually rushed and stressed and fatigued, unable to enjoy anything.

What I have gleened from reading several books on simplicity, from reading blogs and from my own experience, is that time is the most precious commodity. From reading your blog I know you have integrated this concept in your own life, and obviously, you are reaping the rewards. You seem happy and a devoted parent.

When my children began frequenting friends and school, they started rejecting my organic, vegetarian meals. I initially resisted, but had to adapt and began integrating meat in our menu, and gasp, we actually began frequenting McDonald’s. We have always eaten out frequently in the past 20 years (regular restaurants) but have never stopped purchasing organic foods and serving healthy meals.

I was very rigid about my ideals when I was younger, and I’m glad that I had the sense to compromise and not make our organic, biodegradable everything, non-consumer lifestyle into a religion. This approach has served us well and did not isolate my children socially, which would have been a real tragedy in my opinion.


Happy Mum April 20, 2010 at 7:53 am

I thought it was funny.


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