Friday, January 31, 2014

My Thoughts on Veganism

I've written about my thoughts on eating meat here and here.  I've also been sharing with you my attempts at eating a more plant based diet through my Adventures in Vegetarian Cooking series.  Today I want to write about my thoughts on what would seem on the surface to be the most straightforward way to resolve my complex feelings about eating meat: going vegan.  In summary, I don't think it is the most straightforward and is not the right choice for me.

Side note: why am I talking about going vegan rather than vegetarian?  Because for whatever reason you pick to be vegetarian, you should really be vegan.  Health reasons?  Dairy cows and laying hens are pumped full of the same hormones and antibiotics and dairy as your main replacement of meat is not so good for you.  Environmental reasons?  We utilize the same resources to provide dairy and eggs as we do meat.  Cruelty reasons? Do you think milking cows and laying hens have it any better than the animals raised in factory farms for meat?  I would argue they have it worse because their lives (and their suffering) are longer.  So while vegetarianism is great, I see it as a middle of the road choice.

Back to why going vegan is not the right choice for me.

(1) It does not have to be all or nothing and it is not a competition.  I really hate PETA and the "meat is murder" crowd.*  I find PETAs tactics - shock, shame and scare - to be very alienating and counter-productive. My guess is that the number of people who are alienated by their tactics (so then close their mind to their arguments) far outnumber the people who are swayed and adopt a vegan diet.  We would be better served to get a majority of people to reduce their meat consumption via a Meatless Monday, Vegan Before 6, or Weeknight Vegetarian diet rather than a minority to go all out vegan.

(2) I don't think eating meat is inherently wrong.  The way the vast majority of our meat in the country is produced is abhorrent to me and I think the disassociation we've permitted ourselves is shameful.  But on the other hand, I don't believe every life is sacred and we are part of the food chain.  Nature is cruel and a good life/quick death (my personal goal and what I aim for with my food) is not guaranteed.  If you've ever seen a cat stalk its prey or coyotes make a kill you know this.

(3) I don't understand what vegans' end game is. If every person on the planet became a vegan tomorrow, what would happen to all the pigs, chickens, and cows?  I guarantee there would be a lot fewer of them since they don't make very good pets.  So... what is the endgame?  An end to factory farms/needless suffering?  That I can get behind.  But we'd have to have a fundamental shift of power in our country - away from subsidies going to big agro and instead going to small farmers who practice sustainable agriculture and focus on quality of life. Otherwise that type of farming will be unattainable for the majority in our country (it is expensive for the farmers to raise animals that way and therefore expensive for the consumer - out of reach for many).  If the farm bill that just passed is any indication we are very far from that happening.

Also the number of vegans who attack small time farmers definitely portray that this is not their endgame and they see any slaughtering of animals as murder.  Take the comments on this Washington Post series as an example.  Tamar Haspel writes over at Starving off the Land, a homesteading blog I followed for awhile when I was dreaming of having a hobby farm. She raised three pigs for food and gave them a good life.  It was a project in dealing with her food first hand and I admire her for undertaking it.  However, the amount of hate spewed towards her in the comments of her articles made me fear for her safety.* 

And some more personal reasons:

(4) I'm married to someone who won't give up meat entirely.  He's been game to try more vegetarian meals with me and I am happy he has been so supportive.  He recently reached a limit though when I made four vegan meals in a row and he begged a meat based meal.  I made some pork steaks (from the pig share we participated in) the next night and he was happy. So we won't quite be weeknight vegetarians :)

(5) I don't want to be the person at the dinner party that can't eat anything/needs a special meal. I hate to be a bother and I hate being hungry even more so I'm going to eat whatever you serve me (happily).  And finally...

(6) Meat is delicious.  It really is.  I'm not sure what my last meal would be if I was on death row but I am sure it would have some sort of meat or fish and melted cheese in it.

*I know not all vegans are like this and it may be that vegans, like feminists, have a branding problem.

Monday, January 27, 2014

A Year of Blogging

Saturday was the one year mark for this little blog (well, the revival of it anyway).  I took a look back through and here are some of my favorite posts.

The Paws:
Best Buds - Kinsey and Pippa <3 each other!
The Senior Among Us - My ode to Roxy
So This Happened - Kevin walking Pippa on a leash.

My attempts to be funny:
How to Make Tofu Your Husband Will Eat - I make it this way for him all. the. time.
The Secret Behind Closed Doors - God I hope PETA doesn't find this post.
Paws vs. Little Feet - Our answer to the "when are you having kids" question.

Recipes I'm proud of:
Park Cafe Gypsy Burrito
Tomato Cobbler
'Bella Sweets & Beets

Life, generally:
Five Years, A Look Back - The story of how Kevin and I met
Finding Joy in What You Have - Choices always have pluses and minuses
Feminism and Housechores - How we share our domestic workload

And, just for fun, searches that have lead people to my blog:
  1. cutting multivitamin in half (maybe because of this post?)
  2. diy stencil night stand (my one DIY project!)
  3. eight pawws (self explanatory, I dig the spelling of pawws)
  4. thrifty hulu (this post was more of an ode to Netflix than Hulu but okay)
  5. we would rather wait in our car than walk the eight feet (not sure why my blog came up for this search but it made me laugh!)

I'm hoping to keep the momentum going on this blog even though this year promises to be very busy.  Exciting news coming soon (mom, before you get your hopes up, it is not a pregnancy announcement - thank goodness considering all the alcohol I drank over xmas!).  I may need to drop down to fewer posts but am hoping to stay consistent.  Thanks for reading along.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Row and Brie in DC!

Last weekend I took advantage of having Monday off* to head to D.C. to visit a friend of mine I hadn't seen since moving back to the East Coast.  We met in college and overlapped in DC for a couple of years - even lived together for one of those years before she moved back out to Seattle.  I would see her pretty often while I was living in Alaska since I would take advantage of long layovers in Seattle to sneak in a visit but I hadn't seen her since moving to Upstate New York in 2010. 

She is back in DC for at least a year and it was so easy to get down there for the weekend.  I left after work on Friday and came back Monday afternoon.  So much easier/cheaper than getting to the West Coast!

It was really great to see her and it was also fun to be back in DC together -- we relived our glory days. Glory days should probably be in quotes since it was a tough time for both of us, I think.  For me because I was in a job I disliked and not quite sure what I wanted to do with my life.  For her because she was in a long distance relationship and working very long hours for very little pay. 

But being back again for a visit was great.  I was amazed at the area that she lived in - Lincoln Park - since that was not a nice area while I lived in DC.  I remember visiting a boyfriend who lived out there and I needed to take a cab back and forth since it was definitely not safe to be out on my own, even just walking to the Metro.  Now it is full of toddlers and dogs!

We went to the American History museum - the First Lady's dresses exhibit was by far my favorite.  Yes, I'm a feminist who is still a sucker for pretty dresses.  I took a picture of Obama's:

but actually my favorite was Nancy Regan's! 
We also went to see Bao Bao, the new panda cub at the National Zoo.  We waited in line for over an hour for about 2 minutes of viewing time but it was well worth it. 

We went to some of our old favorite restaurants (Old Ebbit Grill, Pizza Paradiso) and even did a selfie in front of our old apartment building!

What is a two person selfie called?  A bilfie?
We also got one four mile run in around the Capitol.  We estimated that day totaled 10 miles between our run and how much walking around we did.  I was tired the next day!

As much fun as I had I was happy to come back home and see Kevin and the dogs.  The dogs are always extra excited to see me when I've been gone for a few days and I love the extra wiggles I get. Well, mostly from Roxy.  Kinsey wiggles every time I leave and come back (even if it is for 5 minutes) so the noticeable difference is how excited Roxy is to see me. Melts my heart.

*I am positive MLK Jr would approve.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Feminism and Housechores

I am among the 20% of Americans who identify as a feminist.*  I'm married to a feminist too.  He may not identify himself as one but his thoughts and actions (valuing women equally to men) betray him as such.** So as two feminists, here is the division of our household chores:

  • I do most of the cooking, pretty much all of the dishes, clean the house, mow the lawn in the summer.
  • Kevin does all of the fix-it chores, hangs things, winter-proofs our house, takes care of the apartments.

So we pretty much have the traditional gender-roles division of  house work. Wwwwhhhhhaatttt? 

Actually, I'm okay with this.  We don't have to do everything 50-50, we just both have to give 100%.  What each of our 100% looks like can be different.  Kevin is naturally more handy so gravitated towards the maintenance chores when we bought our house.  I am not handy so stuck with the cleaning/cooking chores. Efficiency-wise, it makes a lot more sense for me to clean the bathrooms and vacuum the floors on a Saturday morning while Kevin goes over to one of the apartments to figure out why the dishwasher isn't working.  Both of us are providing value to our household and doing work that we would otherwise have to pay for.  It's not my job, as a woman, to clean the house.  We are equally responsible, as a family, for cleaning our house.  Most of the time, I clean the house because that frees Kevin up to do a maintenance project that is also both of our responsibility.  But if I was in charge of that project, my solution would be to hire someone to fix it.  So it makes sense that Kevin takes those projects on.

Sometimes our 100% means giving 110% to pick up the other person's slack.  If one of us is sick or working long hours, the other will give a bit more.  Those acts of love mean more than any flowers or chocolates or jewelry Kevin could give me.***

Here are some of the household cleaning tips I am trying to employ (sometimes more successfully than others):

1. Pick up the house everyday.  For me, a cluttered house is a lot more annoying than a dirty house.  I don't mind the dust on the tv or the pet hair in the corner as much as I mind having mail all over the place and glasses everywhere.  So I've been trying to devote 20 minutes every day when I get home from work to putting everything back in its place.
2. Clean one floor on Saturday and one floor on Sunday or as needed.
3. Pick things up as I go.  I'm trying to be more conscious of picking things up when I happen to be somewhere for an unrelated reason.  So if I go into the living room in the morning to open the shutters (so the dogs have their "tv" on while we're at work) I try to pick up a few glasses or put a few things away while I'm there.  Takes an extra second and adds up.
4. Clean as I notice something.  I'm not very good at this but I am trying to start to clean something the moment I notice it is dirty.  So if I notice a mantel is dusty, to stop and wipe it down right then and there.  It only takes a few minutes and makes me a lot less crazy than my general m.o., which is to wait until I'm cleaning everything to get to it.  But once I've noticed something is dirty, I will continue to notice it and it will bother me.  If I just stop and do it then and there, I save myself some annoyance down the line.

How do you divide the household chores in your house?  And any tips for keeping your house clean?  I'm always looking for ways to be more efficient so I can spend less of my free time cleaning.

*How is it that low?  Don't women want to (a) have control over their lives and (a) be valued as an equal member of society?  That is all that feminism is - valuing women equal to men as a whole.
**So only 8% of people identify themselves as anti-feminist, so Kevin falls in with the 72% that believe in equality of the sexes but don't use the label "feminist."  The word "feminism" has a branding problem that really needs to be addressed.
***I'm not really a flowers kind of person (seems like a waste of money) and Kevin has only brought me some once - when I was really mad at him early on in our relationship and about to break up with him.  I guess I do like flowers -- since it made me pause and here we are five years later :)

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Adventures in Vegetarian Cooking: Chili & Cornbread Dumplings

Chili is one of my favorite winter meals.  Like pumpkin in the fall, I start to crave it as soon as the snow starts to fall.  Honestly, it might be because of the cornbread - I really love sweet cornbread (I love anything sweet that counts as a healthy meal!).  This time I decided to try cooking the cornbread in the chili, creating a dish similar to chicken and dumplings.  My mom suggested I call it chili shepard's pie, which it is also similar to, but I'm sticking with the Chili & Dumplings.

We are in eat down the freezer mode so all of the veggies in the chili were local, either from our winter share or our freezer.  It is a long time until we'll get fresh produce again but I also know that Kevin won't let me sign up for the CSA this year if we still have a freezer full of veggies.  So for the next few months a lot of our meals will be revolving around what veggies we have unfrozen that week.  Chili is a good way to use the corn, peppers and tomatoes.

 My secret ingredients:

Kevin often accuses me of wasting good alcohol when I cook with it. I don't care, it makes food better.
The cornbread in the chili worked well (and bonus, less dishes to do!).  I will probably make it this way again.

What did the meat lover think?

Success! [****Edited to add: after a couple of days the cornbread was pretty mushy.  I probably would make this again for company or I otherwise knew we'd go through it quickly.  If I was going to make it again for just us two I would cook the cornbread separately.]

Here is the recipe:
2 T Olive Oil
1 onion chopped
2 cloves garlic
2 cans fire roasted tomatoes*
1 jalapeno pepper, partly deseeded (more if you like it hot!)
1 c. corn
1 c. green peppers
1 can black eye peas
1 can chickpeas
2 squares dark chocolate
1/2 a beer (6 oz) (feel free to drink the rest while cooking!)
2 T paprika
2 t cumin
a dash cinnamon
cayenne pepper, salt and pepper to taste.

Corn bread batter (I used a mix)**

Sautee the onion in the olive oil in a dutch oven (or other oven safe dish) until soft.  Add the garlic and sautee a few minutes more.  Add the rest of the chili ingredients and stir to combine.  If you have the time, let simmer on a low heat for 30 min. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 400. Mix the cornbread batter. Drop spoonfuls of batter over the chili.  Don't worry if they sink a bit, they will rise to the top during cooking.  Place into the oven uncovered and bake until cornbread is done (about 30 minutes). 

*You can use fresh peeled roma tomatoes (4 cups) as well.  I actually used 24 oz of tomato puree we got from our CSA winter share and 1 cup of roasted tomatoes I put up over the summer when we were drowning in them.

**Pumpkin bread would also work well, I may try that next time!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Cheap vs. Thrifty: Cutting the (Cable) Cord

We haven't had cable since moving back to the East Coast (almost 4 years!).  The only reason we had it while living in Alaska was because Kevin's initial roommate worked for the cable company and got it for free.  He left it connected as a favor when he moved out/I moved in.  I can't say either of us have missed it and we have gotten by with a combination of Netflix, Hulu, and the Internet.

For awhile we were rotating Netflix and Hulu and that worked really well.  I'd put Netflix on hold for awhile and we'd watch the shows available on Hulu Plus.  Suddenly Hulu Plus didn't have the same selection/only had what was available online for free.  For example, I had Hulu on hold over the summer and reactivated it in October, thinking we would be able to catch up on the current Scandal at that point but several of the episodes were not available (and the ones that were we could go watch on  That was really annoying to me so I cancelled Hulu altogether - we'll just wait and watch Season 2 of Scandal when it comes out on Netflix next year. 

We pay $20 per month for Netflix ($8 for the streaming and $12 for the 2 DVD at a time plans).  We also pay an extra $20 for the "turbo charged" internet service that gives us unlimited streaming (although sometimes I call Time Warner and can get on a promotion that lowers that price).  Forty dollars is a fraction of what we'd pay for a cable service and I consider it money well saved.

Pros of the Netflix-only approach:  The money saved, no commercials, accessibility, the ability to marathon a whole series and not have to wait weeks/months/years to find out what happened.

Cons: You have to wait until the season comes out on DVD.  I take the attitude that is my choice and if I inadvertently come upon a spoiler that is my own fault for not watching it in real time. I do often employ the hands over my ears, "I don't want to hear this, nah nah nah" approach if someone is about to say something about a show I watch (mature, I know).  I also stopped reading Slate because they had so many real time reviews of the shows I watch (among other reasons).  Another con is you don't get sports, so if you are the type of person who wants to watch golf on a Sunday afternoon or some other ESPN event, you won't get to. We don't watch sports so this doesn't bother us.
Overall the pros outweigh the cons for us and we are happy with our approach.

Here are some of the shows we've streamed over the years:
  • Battlestar Gallactica - the whole series is available and even if you don't normally like sci-fi, you should try this.  The series actually winds down, rather than being cancelled mid-plot, which I really like.
  • Numb3rs -  the whole series is available and a good crime show.  Same as BSG, the series winds down and has a conclusion.
  • How I Met Your Mother - seasons 1-7 are awesome.  I personally think seasons 8 and 9 were pretty bad but I still watched them.  I haven't seen any of season 10 (on now) but I'll watch it when it comes out next fall just to have the resolution.
  • The West Wing - if you haven't watched this yet you have many many hours of good t.v. ahead of you.
  • Sherlock - season 1-3 of the current BBC version is available and it is good.  The episodes are 90 minutes each so they are more of a series of movies than a tv show.
  • House of Cards and Orange is the New Black - we watched both of these of the summer and liked them.
  • Weeds - we watched up through season 7 and then stopped.  I love Mary Louise Parker but the show got pretty repetitive and we never bothered with the final season.  We really liked it for a long time though.
  • 24 - same thing happened here, I think we watched through season 6 or so and then never watched the final two seasons.
  • Lie to Me - the first couple of seasons are good, we lost interest while watching the third (after which it was cancelled so I guess a lot of other people did too).
  • Friday Night Lights - Kevin never got into this but I watched it and loved the whole series.  I think it has one of the best portrayals of marriage there has ever been on TV (between the Taylors).
  • Coupling - A British series I watched several years back, it was like the British version of Friends and I liked it.
  • Better Off Ted - a quirky sitcom that is pretty funny.  We were sad that it got cancelled (whenever it did get cancelled) because we liked it.
There are also shows we watch that are not available to stream (Big Bang Theory, Homeland, etc).  That is where the DVDs come in.  I try to keep the DVDs in constant rotation and if I've ordered a movie or show and we haven't watched it in a week or so, I figure we are not going to and send it back.

Also a plus, Netflix has really good customer service and is always willing to immediately replace a broken DVD or fix any problems (ask me about the epic Netflix prank I pulled on my dad some day).  One time they shipped me an extra DVD just because the one I wanted (I can't remember what it was now) wasn't available in my area so it would take a couple of extra days to get to me.  I am much happier calling Netflix than I am calling Time Warner that is for sure (I have an acceptance/hate relationship with Time Warner).  For that reason alone we'll be cordless for a good long while.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

A Random Post

I didn't have a post lined up for today and didn't have a good idea for one so I thought I'd cobble together some random updates that don't merit a post on their own.

Fitness:  I signed up for an 8 week fitness challenge at my usual gym.  The challenge is to lose the most weight/body fat but I'm really in it for the three times a week group strength training classes.  Strength training is my weakest point (pun intended) and I need the classes to actually lift weights.  The first day was Monday and I was still so sore that I skipped Wednesday's class (not off to a good start I guess).  I'm also thinking about signing up for a local half marathon.   The race is the last weekend in April so I would have plenty of time to train.  The problem is that the schedule I pulled has long runs (defined as longer than 5 miles, the absolute most I can stand on a treadmill) starting in March and the weather can still be really nasty/streets really icy then.  I am worried that I won't properly train.  I think my plan will be to start the training program and see how I do.  The difference between signing up now versus late March (when I should know if I've trained properly) is only $5.  This will be my first half marathon since 2006.  The regular half marathons and two marathons I did back then feel like a lifetime ago.

D.C. Bound: Next weekend I'm going to D.C. for the long weekend.  One of my best friends just moved there from Seattle and I'm heading down to help her settle in.  I haven't seen her in four years (!!) so I am super excited.  Excited to be back in D.C. too - I lived there for a few years after law school and have fond memories.  I have no desire to move back, but it was fun for that period of my life.  Kevin will be staying home and taking care of the paws/shoveling out our tenants.  He is so good to me.  (He does have plans to go to Michigan soon to visit his friends, so I'll pick up the work on the homefront then.)

Shows we are watching: We just have Netflix so we don't watch any shows in real time.  Currently we are watching The Big Bang Theory (so funny!), Lost Girl (Netflix recommended this based on what else we have watched and we like it so far), The Mentalist, and Chuck.  I also recently watched the last season of Dexter - which just came out on Netflix.  I was surprised I made it until it was out on DVD without hearing how it ended - I may or may not have put my hands over my ears and sang "nah nah nah" a couple of times when someone started to talk about it.  No spoilers, but I was both happy and conflicted on how it ended.  We are always looking for new shows on Netflix, so please recommend any you love!

What I'm reading: The John Rain series by Barry Eisler.  Kevin introduced these to me and I just finished the fifth one.  Nothing else really, I haven't been reading much lately.  Anyone have any recommendations?

Pippa: no real change since the last update.  She sleeps a lot but is still cuddly and playful at times.  Some days her ears/nails/gums are stark white (bad) and some days they are pretty pink (good).  We are taking it day by day and excusing her from her mouse patrol duties.  We found some droppings recently and had to resort to traps, since she spends all night sleeping with us and is clearly not on mouse patrol.  If she were not terminally ill, this would be unacceptable (rodent control was the reason we got her) and she'd be having a performance review right now.

A whole post with no pictures? Here are some off my phone:

Monday, January 6, 2014

CSA 6 months in and Indian Spiced Root Vegetable Soup

We ended the fall share of our CSA, which brought us to a total of 6 months (16 weeks for the summer, 10 weeks for the fall).  Overall we have had a good experience and I will even make a bold declaration: we now like kale! Crazy, I know, since we were so adamantly against it. I discovered the trick with kale is to treat it like onions, and cook it until it only slightly resembles its original self.  I also try to pair it with something sweet (sweet potatoes for example) to offset the bitterness. 

We've gotten to the time of year that all that is available locally is storage crops.  We accumulated a lot of carrots, apples, potatoes, etc over the last few weeks of the share.

Those alien looking things are celeriac (celery root).  Tastes exactly like celery.

We are splitting the winter share three ways with two friends, since we will be in for more storage crops.  We like storage crops but don't get through them very quickly, so it should be a perfect amount!

Last week I decided to try a variation on my potato leek soup and use more of the root vegetables.  I used Indian spices and coconut milk to add creaminess/keep it vegan.  It ended up tasting pretty great and made a lot of it so we've been eating it all week.

Served along side a toasted cheese and tempeh sandwich, it makes for a perfectly filling and delicious vegetarian lunch!  Here is the recipe:

Indian Spiced Root Vegetable Soup

4 large scallions, greens removed and diced
1 small onion, diced
2 large garlic cloves, diced
8 medium unpeeled potatoes, washed well, medium chopped 
1 rutabaga peeled and medium chopped
2 large unpeeled carrots, washed well, medium chopped
1 small celeriac, peeled and medium chopped
4 cups vegetable broth
1 T garam marsala
1 t turmeric
1 t cumin
1 t salt
1.5 t pepper
1/2 t ginger
1/4 t cinnamon
1/4 t cayenne pepper (more or less to taste)
1 can coconut milk

Sautee scallions and onions until soft and brown, add garlic and sautee a few more minutes.  Add the rest of the ingredients except for the coconut milk and pressure cook for 30 minutes (or slow cook for 8 hours).  Add coconut milk and blend with immersion blender or regular blender.  Taste and season accordingly.  If you pressure cooked it, give 30 more minutes on a low heat for spices to blend.

To make the toasted cheese and tempeh sandwich simply add tempeh and chutney to a grilled cheese sandwich.  Toast in a toaster oven until cheese is melted or grill on the stove top.  Between the cheese and the chutney, you can't really taste the tempeh (just how Kevin likes it) but it adds a good protein boost.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Cheap vs. Thrifty: Shopping Estate Sales

We started shopping estate sales when we bought our house.  We've gotten some pretty great deals and I'm pretty sure shopping at estate sales falls squarely into the "thrifty" side of the cheap vs. thrifty spectrum.

Antique sewing table: $7.50

We bought two Hitchcock-esque chairs for about $10 each at Goodwill.  I really liked them and for the longest time, they were the only real dining room chairs we had (we had some nice folding chairs as a placeholder).  Before buying a house I didn't realize how expensive dining room chairs are (outdoor furniture too) and wasn't quite ready to commit the hundreds of dollars required to buy a quality set.  Then I saw an estate sale with these previewed:

We got 4 actual Hitchcock chairs for $100.  Actually, Kevin's parents bought us these for Christmas, thanks KMC2!

We went back the next day for two Nichols Stone chairs (one is pictured on the left).  The great thing about estate sales is that they are generally half off the second day and you can negotiate any price.  I was tempted to get the two Nichols Stone chairs the first day (they were about $90 total) but was willing to risk them being gone.  I was happy they were still there the next day and ended up getting them for $65.
I actually like how the chairs coordinate but don't match.  We now have 8 dining room chairs and if you are counting along, we got them for a total of $185.  I'm pretty sure we can't get one new Hitchcock chair for that price (they don't list prices online, which is a sign that they are too expensive for me).

The majority of the picture frames in our house have come from estate sales or Goodwill.  You can get really nice picture frames for $1-3, which would run you upwards of $10-20 new.  I also often buy art just for the frames.  Even if I don't love the art, it is often priced well below what even the frame is worth, so I buy it and replace the art.

Although we have gotten some good art that we left as is.  Framed art: $15

Plants in nice pots: $12 (it is an added bonus of being a cat toy).

More plants for $4 each.  They look pretty good along side my one and only art piece in the house.

We've gotten lots of other things that are not pictured, including some outdoor pots for planting, tools (once Kevin got a saw for $10 that was worth $100s), and household odds and ends.  If you have the time, estate sales are definitely worth perusing.  You can find estate sales in your area at and a guide to estate sales here. Happy thrifting!