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Saturday, September 19, 2015

80/20 Frugality?: Spend more on...What?

Mr FS and I have a combined age of 124. We are close to retirement if we really want it. In fact, we are too old for early retirement. Not that we wanted it. What could be more rewarding than yapping about literature?

Every now and then, I make a vow in this space. Generally, I do not keep my vows. Everyone knows about the Pareto Principle, right? That's the idea that everything is 80/20. You get 80% of the results with 20% of your effort. Then, to get the other 20%, you need to put out 80%. This works with stuff also: we wear 20% of our clothing 80% of the time; we use 20% of our cookbooks 80% of the time, and so on.

This would mean that--in my frugal path-- I've gotten 80% of the benefits from 20% of the effort. For a long time, we put in the extra 20%: we wanted, for instance, to make sure our kids graduated college without debt. DONE. We wanted to pay off our house: DONE. 

Thanks to the recent swoon in the stock market, I have reverted to my 2008 behavior: I no longer look at retirement balances. Time is no longer on our side: whatever we save now will have a relatively small impact in the long run. 

That is disappointing, but freeing. It's hard to change habits. But I herewith vow to try to do only the 20% that will garner the 80% of results. 

So I'm trying to figure out what add-ons we should indulge in. Frugal Son wants us to treat him (and ourselves!) to more of the pricy restaurants in New Orleans. So we're doing a bit more of that.

I can't think of anything else. Any ideas?

Have you ever deliberately INCREASED your spending? On what?

Thursday, September 17, 2015

CHEAP CHIC is back!

OK. I just copied and pasted from the publisher's website. Anyway, THIS was the book we used to pass around the vintage clothing store where I worked. THIS was the book that taught me about COST PER WEAR. THIS was the out-of-print book that was going for big bucks on Amazon.  Did you read this book back in the day?

The Ultimate Fashion Bible CHEAP CHIC Is Back in Print!

40th Anniversary Edition -- With A New Foreword by Tim Gunn

The Ultimate Fashion Bible CHEAP CHIC Is Back in Print!


  • Imprint: Three Rivers Press
  • On sale: 9/1/15
  • Price: $16.00
  • Pages: 224
  • ISBN: 9781101903421
CONTACT:Rebecca Marsh
With a new foreword by Tim Gunn and hundreds of timeless tips and tricks, the ultimate fashion bible CHEAP CHIC is back in print.
“I think it’s terrific.” –Diane von Furstenberg, of the original edition of Cheap Chic
Before there were street-style blogs and ‘zines, there was CHEAP CHIC by Caterine Milinaire and Carol Troy. Originally published in 1975, this little book about personal style sold hundreds of thousands of copies in its first iteration and was an international hit. Decades later, it continues to inspire designers and attract fashion lovers, gaining a reputation as a cult classic.
Back in print and with a new foreword by Tim Gunn, the fortieth anniversary edition of CHEAP CHIC: Hundreds of Money-Saving Hints to Create Your Own Great Look (Three Rivers Press; Trade Paperback; $16.00; On Sale September 1, 2015) is both a fascinating fashion artifact and a timeless style guide. It was one of the first fashion books to show photographs of “street style” intermixed with couture.
Whether you’re a lover of designer labels or a master thrifter, CHEAP CHIC is about cultivating your personal style on any budget.CHEAP CHIC covers all the basics, and provides advice for stocking up on must-have items such as T-shirts, denim, exercise gear, and one-of-a-kind couture pieces. There’s a reason that classics – like a good pair of leather boots or a navy blazer – never go out of style, and CHEAP CHIC is proof of their staying power.
Astonishingly relevant forty years later, CHEAP CHIC provides great practical advice for creating an affordable, personal wardrobe strategy: what to buy, where to buy it, and how to put it all together to make your own distinctive fashion statement without going broke. It is the original fashion bible that proves you don’t have to be wealthy to be stylish.
CHEAP CHIC also includes interviews with fashion icons like Diana Vreeland and Yves Saint Laurent, along with beautiful vintage photos of stylish celebrities from Greta Garbo to James Dean to Cher. The model on the cover, swinging from the logo designed by Bea Feitler, is Jerry Hall.
CHEAP CHIC provides excellent tips on thrifting, layering, and more – readers will even learn how to make a bikini or tie a headscarf properly. Packed with style ideas, shopping tips, and ways to develop your unique look, CHEAP CHIC is a go-to for fashion inspiration.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Housekeeping: Does Anything EVER Wear Out?

I am in the 1% of housekeeping--the bottom 1%. There are many things I can't do (fold, sew, e.g.) or don't do (iron): other things I do seldom AND badly. 

One of the things I do seldom and badly: getting rid of things. I have a wee bit of motivation because Miss Em is returning after a year abroad. She left behind too much stuff also, but at least she's an excellent folder and organizer.

Stuff I will NOT need to buy for at least 5 years
bed linens
pots and pans
kitchen equipment

I should probably add clothing to that list, but am sure I will be enticed by many things. Still, it's amazing how little really wears out. 

Example: Mr FS got a beautiful shirt at Marshall Field (a definite blast from the past) in Chicago in about 1986. We were at a conference so I remember the date. Even at half price, the shirt was a splurge for us at $25. It remained a favorite for many years (very interesting chambray fabric). He must have worn it for almost 25 years. Finally, the collar shredded. We were ecstatic!

Another still-used item: cloth diapers. We bought our diapers second-hand (so a bit shredded from the get-go) from the very diaper service used by Mr FS's family back in the day. Both our kids used them. Then--after much searching--we found someone who wanted SOME of the diapers for her little one. We still had a lot left.

Miss Em uses them to wipe off her paint brushes. She loves them. They should last another 20 years.

Have you had anything wear out lately?

Saturday, September 12, 2015

A Little Help for Syrian Refugees in Serbia

My daughter's last weeks in Serbia--a country that has embraced her and that she has embraced--are coinciding with the masses of Syrian refugees entering a country with a dubious and tragic history of its own--and in the midst of a terrible economic situation. Emma has been volunteering at various refugee sites.

Her drawings of Serbia have met with a wonderful reception, both in Serbia and in the Serbian diaspora.

She is offering a set of postcards for a mere $5, with all proceeds to go to aid for Syrian refugees in Serbia.

This is from her FB, through which you can link to her commercial site. No paypal, I'm afraid. It is not available to residents of Serbia.


I know we all want to do our part, however small, to help refugees as they make their long and difficult journey toward a better life.
These postcards are a small contribution we can all afford: 100% of proceeds will go to Refugee Aid Serbia. The postcards are tokens of appreciation for what is, for all intents and purposes, a generous donation.
Receive something beautiful and do good all at the same time. What could be better?

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Veronese: Lost and Found?

Continued from "The Lost Museum."

The famous scholar told us the story of how he came to own a Veronese. It was a well-practiced tale. I am only reporting (after 30 years!) what we were told. I cannot vouch for the veracity of the tale, of course.

Famous scholar told us that a colleague showed him a classified ad for a yard sale in a Chicago suburb. Among the usual: furniture, household, and so on was something unusual: painting by Veronese. Famous scholar went to the sale, learned that the painting was $3000 and purchased it, with the proviso that he would have to look into authenticity. The sellers agreed.

Famous scholar was well-connected and took the painting to his friend who was a curator at a famous art museum. They found the painting in a publication, with a note that it had been lost. With this evidence of authenticity, the sale was completed. The sellers were dentists.

Fast forward about 20 years (2004?). Mr FS and I invited a few stray people to Thanksgiving dinner. One guest was my former department head. Another was a woman we know who grew up in England. During World War II, she was among the children shipped from London to the countryside.

Somehow the conversation turned to ... well, I can't remember...but I told the story of the Veronese. Both guests said--immediately and in unison--WAR LOOT.

Of course! How could I not have seen it?  Surely this would have or should have occurred to the person who worked in the museum if not to the famous scholar.

Interestingly, I checked out the whereabouts of famous scholar. He's still famous. And he's teaching in Berlin. How strange. I wonder if he still has the painting. I wonder if he went to the exhibit at the Bode Museum. I wonder how much of the story is true.

Monday, September 7, 2015

The Lost Museum

Mr FS and I visited Berlin for the first time this summer. Because of my family's lucky escape from Austria in 1938 and because so many people I knew in childhood and beyond had lost relatives to the Holocaust, I was apprehensive. As it happened, I loved Berlin. We stayed in a now trendy area of the former East Berlin.

As usual, we got a museum card, in this case, a 3-day pass. All the museums are fairly small and several are clustered in "Museum Island." So we saw the must-sees--like Nefertiti--and then checked out some of the less visited exhibits.

One that intrigued me was at the Bode Museum: "The Lost  Museum." The exhibit consisted of full-size black and white photos of lost art works. Some were simply lost. Others were taken by Allied forces. Most taken by the Russian forces still have not been returned. Many works were stored for safekeeping and then were destroyed in a fire.  This last is, of course, ironic in the extreme, given the manner of death of so many people during the war. Here is an interesting essay on the exhibit from the Wall Street Journal.

The exhibit was almost empty. It was very moving. And, of course, the lost people are never far from one's mind.

In the lounge, we perused a catalog of the exhibit, which included many works not on display. I took a special look to see if there were any Veronese paintings among the lost. Indeed, there were.

Why did I look at Veronese?

Almost thirty years ago, when I was studying art in Chicago courtesy of the National Endowment for the Humanities,  the director of my seminar kindly invited me to dinner with a well-known scholar. The dinner was not a success. We went to a trendy restaurant, which was so noisy that I wince at the memory. There was a wait of over an hour. UGH. Also, I could tell the scholar was kind of bored with us, probably saving his energy for people who could help with his career.

He was an incredible gossip and I shared with him one delectable morsel. He then told a story about how he came to own a Veronese.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

How do Scammers Do It?

A few days ago, we were inundated with mail addressed to WRONG PERSON with our address. I opened one without looking at the name  and discovered that WRONG PERSON was applying for credit. So I--good citizen--called ATT, Verizon, and a few other places to alert them to the scammer.

The customer service people were unconcerned. I got "Perhaps it is the previous resident" (we've been here for 25 years); "Perhaps your neighbor accidentally wrote down the wrong number" (no); and even "We're sorry. We cannot give you information on someone else's account (very suspicious of ME).

Well, I just opened an ATT bill (because I thought it was MINE) and discovered that WRONG PERSON has a bill of almost $400! Then I noticed other mail ("your statement enclosed") addressed to HIM. I wrote "Not at this address"on the envelopes and put them outside to be picked up. Who knows if they will ever return to the companies.

I can't even DEPOSIT a small check without producing picture ID. American Express is always flagging scammer charges. How do people set up fraudulent accounts?

Should I re-alert the companies or assume that it will be--as before--a waste of time during which I will be subjected to pitying comments and suspicion. I figure we're all paying for this stuff one way or another.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

If Janice Can Do It, I Can Do It

Pretty much everyone in the entire universe reads and learns from the Vivienne Files, right? Well, in case you missed it, Janice is now thinking of selling some of her beautiful Hermes scarves.

Well, if she can de-accession items of such beauty and quality, why am I having so much trouble donating...let's see, a St John sweater with a hole in it in an unflattering color? A camouflage jumpsuit that I thought Frugal Son would like for a Halloween costume? An Armani sport jacket that is cut way too big for the men in my life? You get the idea.

Guess what? All these items came to me courtesy of the thrift store. I did some good for a charity by buying them. I can double my goodness (so to speak) by giving them back to be sold to the next person (except the St J, which will probably go--via the thrift store--to a bulk fabric buyer).

Really, if Janice can say good-bye to such beautiful things, I should be able to do the same to my motley collection.

Thank you, Janice, for the inspiration.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015


FOMO: fear of missing out

A fairly new acronym for me. It was used quite often in the recent mania regarding the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale. I read all the blog posts. I even bought something: a set of underwear for Frugal Son.

I get excited by sales as much as the next person. Probably more. I was raised by two sale-addicted parents. I am, in fact, writing this while taking a break from my on-going and inefficient efforts to declutter.

BUT--back to FOMO. As a little experiment, I put some of the most-touted items from the Anniversary Sale on my Nordstrom Wishlist. Guess what?

Though most of the items sold out, many have now even lower prices. The two Brahmin bags, the two Longchamp bags, various sweaters: all are now 50% off. One sweater I coveted is 65% off.

They are, of course, selling out even as I type. Still, seeing that Wishlist helped me a lot. I can wait till next year.