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decorating, DIY, thrifty

Fountain Grass on Display


DIY Fountain Grass Centerpiece

As I was doing a little yard clean up this weekend, I found myself with a pile of fountain grass. I was about to sweep it up and dump it in the compost pile but then I stopped myself. Instead, I gathered up the grass, tied a string around it and created a simple, autumnal centerpiece on the sun porch. Don’t you just love it when beautiful accidents happen?

The Great Compact Car Search of 2014, thrifty

The Great Compact Car Search of 2014 2015: Mitsubishi Mirage


Test Driving the Mitsubishi Mirage

One of my first driving experiences was in a Mistubishi Mirage. My parents bought a silver 1990 Mirage hatchback in that year. Always the spendthrifts, my parents’ Mirage was an absolute base model of an already inexpensive car. I’m talking manual transmission, no radio, crank windows, no cruise control, not even air conditioning.

When I turned sixteen the following year, I drove that silver Mirage, with my mom in the passenger seat, to the DMV to take my driving test. It’s always been a point of pride that I took my driving test in a car with a manual transmission – especially since I passed the test with flying colors. (Never mind the fact that just a few months after getting my drivers license I rear ended another car in the very same Mirage. Oops!)

At sixteen years of age, every car feels like a luxury car. As long as there are four wheels and an engine, the newfound freedom that comes with driving can make even a Pinto feel like a Mercedes.

I’ve certainly been around the block a few times since that first experience with a Mitsubishi Mirage. Now that the carmaker has re-introduced the Mirage to the US market, I thought we should consider it for our next car purchase. So how will the car that seemed like a luxurious ride when I was sixteen feel now that I, uh, have a few more miles on my odometer?

2015 Mitsubishi Mirage headlight

There’s definitely no mistaking the Mitsubishi Mirage for what it is: a cheap ride. We test drove a 2015 Mirage DE with a manual transmission and, while the price point was certainly quite appealing (right around $13,000), the car leaves a lot to be desired. The only positive thing I can say about the car is that the manual transmission shifted smoothy. Otherwise, it’s a bust. It’s sluggish, it doesn’t absorb bumps and potholes very well and, well, it just feels like a cheap ride. From the finishes to the handling, the Mirage lacks many of the upgrades that we’ve come to expect from even entry level cars. To get those creature comforts – bluetooth, push button start and the like – the price get pushed closer to $15,000. At that point, you may as well upgrade to a Honda Fit or Toyota Yaris.

We were attracted to the Mirage by its price but in the end we think that it won’t age well, especially in harsh city driving conditions.

Unfortunately, the Mirage also makes an appearance on Forbes’ list of 15 New Cars to Avoid (as does the Scion IQ, another car that we tested).


Images: This American House

landscaping, thrifty

Slow & Steady Wins the Race: Discounted Shrubs


Slow & Steady Wins the Race: Our Discounted Shrubs

Sometimes it pays to procrastinate. OK, actually, we’re not really procrastinating with the landscaping. We were given the advice by a landscape architect that we should live with the landscaping for one full year before we make any major changes. While we wanted to rush out and buy all sorts of new plants and shrubs for the house this summer, we held back. And even if we had wanted to buy a bunch of shrubs, holy cow are they expensive!

As city boys, we had no concept of the cost of landscaping. In the dozen or so apartments we’ve rented over the years, landscaping was always the responsibility of the landlord. Plants and grass and trees and shurbs were the farthest things from our minds. Now that we’re homeowners, we’re getting a crash course in Landscaping 101 … along with a little bit of Economics 101.

On a recent trip to the local hardware store, we were delighted to see a sign announcing 60% off all perennials and shrubs. Of course, this late in the season the selection was somewhat lacking. Still, The Mister and I stood in front of the discounted perennials and tried to find something to take back to the house.

Digging Holes for New Shrubs | This American House

We ended up with two Purpleleaf Sand Cherry plants, plus two other shrubs and an annual. I actually thought we were buying three Purpleleaf Sand Cherries but when I got home I realized we only had two of them.

We don’t really know where these shrubs will live on a permanent basis but we do know that we need to get them into the ground before it gets too cold. So we planted the two Purpleleaf Sand Cherries in the side yard. Once spring arrives we can either move them or, more likely, fill in around them to create a bed of shrubs in our side yard.

Digging holes in the ground always reminds me of those Loony Toons cartoons when Bug Bunny would dig his way to China. It also usually gets Peter Gabriel’s Digging in the Dirt playing on a continual loop in my mental jukebox. Yes, folks, that’s just how my mind works!

Purpleleaf Sand Cherry | This American House

They may not look like much right now but the shrubs will (hopefully) fill out quickly. They are supposed to grow to seven feet in height and five to seven feet in circumference. And, again, if spring arrives and we think they should be moved, we’ll dig them back up and move them. At 60% off their original price, they were just too good to pass up!

Images: This American House

garden, how to, kitchen, recipes, thrifty

How to Freeze Fresh Green Beans


How to Freeze Green Beans | This American House

In the opening scenes of the 1981 film Mommie Dearest, Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford goes through her morning routine. You see her plunging her face into a bowl of ice water and steaming herself in a hot shower. I thought of this scene yesterday as I was preparing green beans to freeze. With the blanching and the ice bath it felt like I was Joan Crawfording the beans!

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city boys, furnishing, small town life, thrifty

Small Town Lament: I Miss Craigslist!


West Elm Henry Love Seat | This American House

I’ve been back in the city for a few days, trying to make the most of what a major metropolitan area has to offer. I’ve had food delivered, used public transit and bought some specialty foods. But one thing tops all of that. One thing is even better than some random dude dropping off Thai food at my front door. I used Craigslist to list and sell something I no longer wanted.

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