Tag Archives: retail

Beater to Sweeter (in two acts)

Act One

Well, it’s just weird enough. You know Mister Big, the Sex and the City character? We now own his Mom’s car. Evidently, they have a summer house up here (in a village I shall not reveal), and had an “up North” car that didn’t get used much. And we bought it. Shades of Seinfeld.

We are now the proud owners of a white 2002 Mercury Sable (of all things), with a super lean 70k miles behind it. Little old lady from (Passadena). The thing looks as if no one had ever stepped foot in it. Interior, spotless. Exterior, spotless. No rust. No corrosion. The engine, spotless. When we test drove the thing, we were all lah-dee-dah-look-at-us-in-the-fancy-car. Felt like a stay at the Ritz.

Act Two

A new car means lots of things. Good things. Real good things. No more constant (monthly) repairs. No more getting stuck all over the place because the car broke again. We’ll have windows that open. Air-conditioning. A sound system. That nifty hatchback-or-backseat option. Better gas milage. And oddly enough for us, it’s as nice as the cars we had rented for vacations.

Well, whatta ya know. A car from a dealer with a warranty. Does this mean we’re adults? If you are ever in the market, we recommend Evergreen Auto in Saranac Lake, recommended by our mechanic, another mechanic, and many friends.


The Jeep? Poor thing. She’s headed to the bone yard. With almost-monthly visits to the shop, sensor problems, wiring issues, a leaky transmission, brake problems, leaks in the windows, an impending inspection, and a habit of refusing to start when it’s below 50 degrees … well, she’s gotta go. In her defense, she provided a helluva basic ride for a while. RIP, Ethel.




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The Big Shop

Sometimes, I find that my idea of fun would drive most people crazy.

We’re bargain hunters. I get excited about it. It’s easy here. Shopping in a town where everything is basically on one single street – everything on the way to everything else – you’re going to pass each store anyway. Doesn’t take going out of your way, just the will to get out of the car.

We have two hardware stores. Aubuchon and Ace. One is on the way to the other, so we never buy anything without stopping at both. I recently saved $40 on an item by just being willing to pull over and check the price in both stores. Usually it’s just a few bucks, but I have some fun in the bargain.

In the grocery arena, Saranac Lake has three supermarkets. Beginning downtown, we first have the “old” Grand Union on Church Street, with the pothole parking lot. It’s kind of a dump, but I like it. We don’t go there though. On your way out of town, you’ll find the “new” Grand Union, and Aldi across the street.

We do most of our shopping at Aldi. Warehouse-like, cash-only, no bags. Low overhead. Clean as a whistle. I mean, spotless. I was dubious, but then I discovered that Aldi has contracted with some excellent suppliers to provide their brands. The frozen vegetables are the best I have ever had. The  fancy crackers are better than the Elves’ brand, and are $1.39 rather than $3.99. The peanut butter is quite good. The spaghetti sauce is better than most. Much better. There are a few bombs – the soup is salty and I don’t like most of frozen meat – but we don’t buy that.

I like Aldi. I especially like cutting our grocery bill in half. However, they have what they have and that’s it. It’s a German company, and true to the legend – they are most concerned with efficiency. You ain’t gonna get any special attention here, Precious. Box your own. In short, you’re welcome to buy what’s there – cash only – and if you don’t like it, too bad. And as a bonus, you’ll get spotless, tidy restrooms.

We used to shop at the “new” Grand Union. It’s okay, I guess. It’s a little shabby, getting to the point where broken things don’t get fixed. It seems a little dirty to me, but maybe that’s because I know the restroom is disgusting. Really disgusting. Gas station disgusting. (I know I have a fixation, but I figure, if you can’t be bothered to keep the restroom decent, you’re probably cutting corners elsewhere.) We used to go to the new GU mostly to buy water, or some other non-Aldi item. But then in another “why don’t we check in here” jaunt, we discovered that a few steps away in the dollar store, they have gallons of water for a dollar.

We do the same when we go to Plattsburgh for clothing, coffee makers, or whatever. It’s fun for me – I like to investigate all options before actually buying something. The modern-day equivalent of The Hunt, perhaps. Take my new coffee maker, for instance. Four stores before I decided on one and found a price I liked that matched the features I wanted. $22 for a five-cup, programmable model with a metal pot. Exactly what I wanted. Small, features, metal pot. Out of stock.

So we went out of our way to pull off the highway while on a trip, and bought it buy it two-hundred miles downstate.

Sometimes, it’s about the hunt.


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The Hot Head

Sorry for the radio silence, friends. Long few days.

You know those few areas in your life that you take way too seriously? Oh, yeah. I totally ran into one of those this week. Long story short – We need to heat the cabin/studio, we discovered the propane heater was going to be inadequate and way too expensive, and I wanted a woodstove. Who knew a woodstove could cause such angst?!

I found a helluva deal at Tractor Supply – a very nice cast iron box stove that can accomodate 23 inch logs. Small, nice looking, perfect. Even has a cooktop … tea on the woodstove in the cabin! And on super-sale for $149, which is unheard of.

I allowed myself to get way too excited about it. I understand why – a woodstove is sort of a heart’s-desire thing with me. And I didn’t think. All my neighbors’ stovepipes go out through their walls. I planned the same. And crashed and burned. $500-something additional bucks to run the pipe through the wall, up the outside, and above the roof. Well, there’s just no way. I don’t care if wood heat is free – we can’t lay out almost $700 to heat a cabin. It would take two or three years to recoup that.

Then, in the way that these things always happen, a friend who also has an Amish-built cabin took issue with my estimates, and explained his rig – with the stovepipe going through the ceiling. Duh. My estimates were sky high because I was foolishly running most of the length outside, where you need to use expensive insulated stovepipe. (Safety, and codes besides – both of which I respect.)

I made new plans to run the pipe through the ceiling, called Tractor Supply to see if they had the Metalbestos thimble/chimney/cap/stuff I needed, and found that I could do the whole thing for $390. Including the stove. Tight, but doable. Especially considering that we won’t be paying the estimated $90 per month for propane in the cabin. And two neighbors have already offered as much free wood as I want. Oh, and that woodstove pictured above? By Sunday evening, it will be sitting in the corner pictured here. They only had one left, so I paid for the everything over the phone.

Quite literally – Over the river and through the woods, to Tractor Supply we go.



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Flipped the Icy Middle Finger

‘Tis the season.

downsized_1013090712The season in which North Country Residents start to think about propane suppliers. If they’re lucky. Obviously, if you have some company’s tank sitting outside your house, you’re obliged to go with them. If you own your own tank, or if you’re establishing new service, you have a choice. And here’s what I have discovered – the rates for propane and installation vary infuriatingly and wildly. 

propane_001We’re getting tired of constantly taking our 30lb RV propane tanks to be refilled, so we decided we need a big tank. Refilling our onboard RV propane tanks at the hardware store is costing us $3.59 per gallon. Besides inconvenient, that’s too much. My yellow pages revealed six local propane companies in the area. I wrote off one because I had heard bad things. Coupled with awful online reviews, I crossed that one off and called the remaining five. 

I called AmeriGas Propane at (891-3172) all afternoon for two days, but no one was in the office – I kept getting transferred to the national emergency call center thingamajig. Also no luck reaching anyone at Suburban Propane (891-1515). Granted, I only tried Suburban a few times in an hour, but the phone just rang and rang. 

Big D Fuel Inc  (891-1900) was the first call in which I gained actual information. I was told that my propane would cost me $2.549 per gallon (or, about $255 for a 100 gallon tank). Plus $60 per man, per hour for hookup. This rate is based on using 800 gallons of propane through the season. Now, I am the first to admit that I can be hopelessly optimistic, but that’s 150 gallons of propane per month. We’re currently using about 42 gallons per month. I know it’s going to get much colder, but I do wonder if we could possibly use 150 gallons per month in a little 350 square-foot RV. I suppose it’s possible, but … $2.59 a gallon is really high. Plus, ya know. Paying for the installation. 

Hyde Fuel (891-7246) blew all the others out of the water in the high-price department. $165 for the tank, $65 for the regulator, $115 or so for set up, and a whopping $3.75 per gallon for propane. That’s just about twice the best price I was quoted. How is this even possible?!

Which bring us to the friendly and more affordable Griffith Energy (891-1910). The boss is coming out (for free) to check things out before we proceed. He’s going to take a look at my through-the-wall direct vent cabin heater too, to see if it can be easily hooked to the same line. No charge for installation as long as it’s not complicated and it doesn’t take longer than two hours. The propane price per gallon? A special rate of $1.599 for the first tank fill, and $1.99 thereafter. 

As for the expensive companies – C’mon. Do I look like I just fell off the city bus? I suppose a few of these places could have made an assumption that since this was new service (and an RV), I maybe didn’t know what I was talking about. But honestly – Wouldn’t I call around? They must be aware of their competitors’ rates. Up to $200 more per month and/or a requirement that we use over a particular amount of propane? And pay for them to place the tank? Please

edenPureGen3_1000In the what-if-we-supplemented-with-electric department, I investigated the trendy and much touted EdenPure infrared heater. This thing is supposed to be the best thing since who-knows-what. Evidently, it ain’t all that. (I was disappointed – I wanted one.) The claim is that the thing will heat 1000 square-feet (far more that an RV). And the housing doesn’t get hot. Perfect. Except for it’s $400, and most folks claim it’s not much different that any other new-fangled large space heater. A lot of words get tossed around about these things, mostly from my Ace Hardware salesman – “pennies an hour.”

Well, yes. But, so what? The 1500w model would cost about .27 per hour to run, at our local electric rates. Running that 1500w model 24/7 would cost you about $194 per month. Add to that the $400 it cost you to buy it. You get the idea.

At any rate, my theory was at least proven – Heat takes energy and money no matter how it’s created, and there aren’t any magic wands or shortcuts. Most experts report that the Eden Pure is not much different that a quality $50 whatever-model from your local store. Consumer Reports’ #1 ranked heater? The Honeywell Electric heater HZ-519 … at just $60. DeLonghi heaters and oil-filled radiator style scored well also. 

So, we figure we’ll be toughing out the cold season with Griffith Energy for our propane, and a a little portable floor model from Target or somesuch. Happy heating!



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Tomatoes and Two-by-Fours

Ideas generally come to me quite easily.

Except when I try to force my mortal schedule on them. I was thinking this morning that good ideas are a great deal like the sprouts of my new grass seed – I may stare at the underground seedlings every morning, trying to will them into being; but they generally insist on popping up here and there when I’m not looking.

2320371900083440370JjtLxv_fsEver mull something over for years? For three years, I have been trying to come up with an idea for my own little local Adirondack business. I’m pretty saavy when it comes to knowing what feels and is right. In those three years, a lot of half-decent ideas have gone by the roadside. Literally. I’d been thinking of putting a little shop at the edge of our road.

I do pretty well in Winter with my knitting shop on Etsy, but my prices wouldn’t fly here in the village. Piano lessons? That’s a better idea, since I have a “studio” in the cabin already. But really, I’m not crazy about teaching piano. And then, I was in the store the other night. Someone came in looking for green peppers. And then someone came in looking for tomatoes. Yep. I finally had the correct idea – roadside vegetable stand.

fruit standAnd imagine this – other than inventory, I can set it up for nearly nothing. Just the price of a county tax certificate. I have a nice, large, flat spot right next to the road, perfectly visible. I have a 20 ft curb cut next to it, I have space to make a few parking spaces, and we have pull-overs besides. I am on the major road. I can build the thing myself with all my free, good lumber. I have tons of wood siding. I will have eggs from next year’s hens, and there are no NY State restrictions. And … there is nowhere around here to get vegetables and fresh eggs. I’m thinking of something like the stand pictured, but smaller – 10 x 14 or so.

PA Lancaster County Roadside Stand

But you see, now I have another idea conundrum. I need a name. I like the sort of plain, no-nonsense names that many of the smaller-village businesses around here have taken. I was thinking of simply, The Lean-To, but I am quite sure someone else is already running a biz in our county by that name. Maybe The Salad Shack? Nah. I don’t really like that. Something with Greens or Farm in the title? Hmmm.



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The House Tour

A whirlwind adventure this weekend … from Plattsburgh to beyond Massena, and back via Potsdam and Malone. The farmland was gorgeous! Fortuitous, because the reason for a jaunt was two-fold – a good old-fashioned roadtrip combined with a tour of potential housing stock.

We headed out about 10am, stopping after noon at an awesome parking area for the mother of all picnics – big fat onion rolls, maple ham, smoked turkey, pepperoni, muenster cheese, mustard, nutmeg apple bread, and a leaf lettuce mix with parsley and basil (all grown by me). Our only misadventure was the car battery dying … again. (Remember July 4?) Said battery is already out and the new one is being delivered this morning. Here’s hoping it’s not the alternator. Meanwhile …

On the housing front, we toured modular (wood frame) homes, manufactured (mobile) homes, and pre-built camps/cabins. What’s that thing that Lady O says? It was a serious a-ha moment. Several a-ha moments. You see, evidently, we don’t like what everyone else likes. At all.

000_1368I was asking the nice lady at one of the lots about customizing options and asked to see the swatch books. And then I wanted to see more swatch books. She wondered why I was so interested in the finishes this early. I explained that “details really matter to me.” She said, “No, no. You can tell me.” And so, I explained, “They all look like the inside of an envelope tried to mate with a condo in Aspen.” To her credit, she remained cordial.

To be fair, I’m not writing them off totally. I still need to go back to see my awesome friend Michelle in Plattsburgh.

000_1373All the same, I’ve never been much into new-fangled luxury, and I’ve always known that faux touches are not my thing. The Greco-Roman detail at the top of the archway in this pic, for instance … it absolutely drives me crazy. Pretty, I know, but not my thing. And these homes were enormous! Way, way too much house for us. We want a 500 or 600 square-foot footprint at most. And the only way I would consider a second floor is if it were a short Cape-style loft room – not a full floor. The lady out Massena-way thought I was nuts.

000_1385Then, as we headed back Route 11, we stopped at a few cabin & camp builders. And it was here friends, in between Potsdam and Malone, that I fell madly and deeply in love. Cabins, friends, cabins. Gorgeous cabins that arrive on your soon-to-be-doorstep fully insulated, completely wired, and as finished as you like. Log siding. Little porches. Cedar walls if that’s your thing! And it comes to you on a big truck. Plunk! And they’re really pretty large. (To us). The 476 square-footer pictured is perfect. I’d eschew the T-111 siding for shakes or log or something more natural. I like the log-sided one to the left, actualy. $18k for the 476er, completely kitted out with the fancy cedar finishing, electrical, and insulation.

000_1380Now, how to get the thing permitted? Stands to reason, they must give you a building permit for them under some guise, even though we’re not talking about a conventional build. And out of the heavens, my supposition was confirmed. As we crossed our town line – no kidding – I noticed the things all over the place … exactly the same model as on the lot. Awesome. Precedent.

Now, what’s that Town Building Inspector’s number? Oh, wait. I’m getting a little ahead of myself. I have a house to tear down first. We’ll get there.



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Rufus Xavier Sasparilla

“Now, I have a friend named Rufus Xavier Sasparilla …”

100_0633My friend Corin points out that we need to get back to the dog. All this talk of moving, and hardly a mention. Lucky he can’t read. (I assume.) His name is Rufus, and he was named after the Schoolhouse Rock cartoon. (Video is at the bottom of the page – I am a total product of the 1970s.) This is likely the last photo of Rufus as a City Dog. He seems to be taking to the Adirondacks. He doesn’t like the car ride much, be he sure likes running around the yard. We got some stakes and poultry wire to put up a temp fence for him. We’re not calling it “poultry wire” though. I told him it’s “big dog wire.”

Looks like all the big stuff is out of the city house and we’re down to bare essentials. Just need to straighten up a few things (okay … I have two big bookshelves and a file cabinet to take out of the office) and do the big clean.

Speaking of, let me tell you about my cleaning  finds. First off Mr. Clean’s Magic Erasers. (I’m always a little behind the curve.) I have this wall that I couldn’t get the paint colors for. Serious black furniture scrape marks on the walls. Amazing. This stuff takes anything off anything. And fast! What’s in this crap? Plutonium?! My other new favorite is my Shark Rechargeable Cordless Sweeper. Picks up anything (even nails and tacks), and it kicks my Red Devil dustbuster thing’s ass.

We’re in the mountains this weekend – You can keep an eye on my Twitter feed if you’re curious what we’re up to. It’s over there at the top right. You have a great weekend too!


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