Podcasts, Videos, & Books Oh My! Gulf Coast Halloween Content

Throughout the years, I have not made a secret of how much I love Halloween.  It has always captivated my quirky nature and big imagination.  My younger Halloweens were celebrated with parties hosted by my parents including hayrides.  As a teenager, I still dressed up and enjoyed the edge of supernatural in the air.  For most of my adult years, I began to throw the elaborate costume parties with decorations executed to my yearly themes from Voodoo Shoppe to Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves.  

So as soon as I feel a breeze of cool air that can hint at Fall weather, I begin gorging on Halloween content.  Living in these times I have found more things than I could ever get through in a season.  I particularly love the things that nod to ghosts of my childhood as well as vintage Halloween Americana.  So in the ‘spirit’ of the season here are my favorite bits of entertainment that focus on Gulf South and state of Mississippi Halloween themed enjoyment.

Gulf Coast Halloween Content
Classic magnolias and oak trees shading the Old Biloxi Cemetery.

PODCASTS 

Podcasts have become a great way to ingest a lot of content quickly while I walk, drive, or chill on the porch.  I have found so many great ones over the years and shared them in two different favorite podcast posts.  However, I direct my attention towards creepy stories and Halloween history come October.  Here are my favorites…

Haunted Places 

This podcast covers ghost stories from all over the world in a narrative format.  Transport yourself into each story in order to enjoy the tales.  There are over 140 episodes as of writing this post.  So here are my Gulf South recommendations from the show archives:

Manchac Swamp

LaLaurie Mansion

The Myrtles Plantation 

Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar 

Marie Laveau’s Cottage

LORE

This one goes past just ghosts into tales of the supernatural and unusual.  This podcast and book was adapted into an Amazon Prime Series a few years ago.  It’s creator Aaron Mahnke is still keeping the podcast current creating new tales bi-weekly.  Check out the episode #40 where he visits Marie Laveau in New Orleans.  

Mississippi Paranormal and Cryptids Podcast 

This brand new podcast has begun creating episodes just in time for Halloween 2020.  Yours truly personally knows one of the hosts and is familiar with their former group.  The hosts Chris, Terry, and Bobbie were once part of a paranormal investigative group that looked into Mississippi Gulf Coast hauntings.  They discuss ghosts and other phenomena as well like BigFoot.  I enjoy their banter and listening in to their opinions of the great beyond.  Especially, the local spin on the Gulf Coast’s more shadowier residents.

Gumbo Paranormal

This is another very local focused podcast that discusses topics related to ghosts and paranormal along the southeast.  They actually discuss the Pascagoula Alien Abduction of the 1970s in detail in their earliest episodes.  Episode #16 also discusses the haunted books housed in Local History and Genealogy at the Biloxi Public Library.   There are many episodes that take place in the South!. 

Spooked

My best friend at The Muddy Mermaid recommended this one on our recent road trip.  I thoroughly enjoy the host’s voice and the different stories from listeners aired each episode.  They all cover a different personal haunting experience.  Some do not indicate where the story takes place, but all are entertaining.  Listen through their show archive and find the most spine tingling one!

Stuff You Missed in History Class

Each October the wonderful hosts both past and present make a batch of Halloween themed episodes.  They range from goofy like the history of Candy Corn to the macabre of unsolved murders.  They have also been posting previous episodes on Saturdays as well that fit the topic.  Carl Tanzler’s Corpse Bride from October 2017 was particularly freaky.  They also have a 2 part series on the Building of Disney’s Haunted Mansion which happens to be my favorite ride at Disney.  I can’t wait to see what they have planned for 2020.   

Halloween Podcasts
Above ground mausoleums can be found on the Mississippi Gulf Coast too.

The History Chicks-The Marie Laveau Episode 

The episode # 89 is about Voodoo Queen of New Orleans Marie Laveau.  Growing up next to New Orleans, she is a legendary figure being so revered that many pay their respects at her tomb in St. Louis #1 right outside the French Quarter.  (Myself included!) I enjoy the intensely researched episodes and the variety of sources referenced in their show notes.  This was particularly great with the topic being one so close to home.  

Listen and read their resource list here!

BOOKS

Haunted Mississippi Gulf Coast by Bud Steed

Now, I must mention this book with reservation.  The positive side of this book is every story included is from the Gulf Coast and many are well known here.  (For example, Rock-N-Roll Graveyard and Beauvoir.)  It is part of the Haunted America series from The History Press.  Although the author came to the Gulf Coast for research, he is not from here.  So I think there is something lacking in this book.  There is such a richness in our histories and stories.  To me, there is no better place to find that than in our ghost stories.  

So my recommendation is to check it out, but look further on your own. 

Ghosts!  Personal Accounts of Modern Mississippi Hauntings by Silvia Booth Hubbard

I like this book so much that I accidentally ended up in 2 copies!  (I found this to be the case in my massive book declutter of 2019.) Published in 1992, it is an oldie, but a goodie.  The stories “The Boy in the Yellow Shirt” and “Sanctuary for a President” are both set on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.  They are written by the people who experienced them, and are short reads.  

The Haunting of Mississippi by Barbara Sillery 

The Haunting of Mississippi is another broad anthology of hauntings.  It also includes tales from Beauvoir.  However, it also has a story about Pascagoula’s Singing River.  

Jeffrey Introduces 13 More Southern Ghosts  by Kathryn Tucker Windham

Kathryn Windham grew up in southern Alabama and is known as a notable folklorist and storyteller.  After discovering a ghost she named “Jeffrey” in her home, she began to write a series of southern ghosts stories.  In total, Windham wrote over 7 different books full of ghosts stories.  Her Mississippi collection includes Nachez and Vicksburg hauntings.  However, her 13 More Southern Ghosts has the story “The Harpist of the Gulf” a popular tale set in Gulfport at a house that used to stand on Highway 90.

Sadly, Mrs. Windham is no longer with us, but she has a lasting legacy on the internet. Check out this interview of Kathryn Windham discussing her thoughts on her book series.

TELEVISION SERIES 

American Horror Story: Coven

The cast of American Horror story spent season 3 in the Big Easy.  The series followed a group of young witches training in the picturesque Garden District Mansion.  Marie Laveau and Madame LaLaurie also made appearances.  It is one of my favorite seasons of American Horror

Bonus:  Want some more New Orleans screen time?  Check out Scream Queens as well.  It was filmed in the Garden District, but is definitely pretty ridiculous.  

True Blood

Based on the wildly popular book series, HBO adapted this show back in 2008.  (Does that seem like a long time ago to anyone else?)  It is set in a small Louisiana backwater town and follows a host of supernatural creatures from vampires to werewolves and everything in between.  It is pretty raunchy, but so entertaining!  Currently, True Blood is streaming on Hulu.  

MOVIES

The Skeleton Key 

This 2005 Kate Hudson film was a great homage to the eerie tales that come out of Louisiana swamps.  It also has elements of hoodoo and voodoo that is so much part of the folktale landscape.  

One Last Haunt 

I hope you find these suggestions enjoyable leading up to Halloween!  This list is not meant to be complete, but a highlight of my favorites.  Feel free to research and look further.  The Gulf Coast is a tapestry of colorful tales that is as much part of our heritage as a spicy batch of jambalaya.  Keep an eye out, you never know what you will find under the moss covered oak trees.  

What Halloween content do you enjoy?  

Gulf Coast Halloween Content
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Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission is you click through and make a purchase.

Finding Motivation In Uncertain Times

For 6 months, I committed myself to posting bi-weekly on My Sassy Starfish.  I decided it was do or die with my dream of sharing my content with the world.  It took great perseverance to carve out time in my work schedule, but I made it happen.  Then Covid struck.  My library sent me to work from home, and I continued to teach online early in the morning.  I found myself with more time than I have had in almost 2 years!  My last motivation took a nose dive simultaneously.

This is when I began lying to myself believing I would take care of how projects and get ahead on this whole blogging thing.  Maybe even launch a few more ideas I had.  Well, that all proved to be lies I told myself.  I found anxiety, lack of motivation, and a general malaise for over 2 months until I was able to return to my daytime job.  

I know what I was experiencing was not uncommon.  All my friends and family mentioned feeling some form of depression and lack of motivation.  Month’s later, I am just now finding some desire to create and hustle again.  Here are some ways that I dug myself out of this rut and began looking forward again.  

Finding Motivation In Uncertain Times
A little encouragement can be found if you take a look.

Start With Small Victories

Good habits are not built in a day, but the first step can being right away!  I found myself happier and more motivated when I completed one simple task I set to do.  For example, clearing off a cart in my office that had papers to be filed sitting in piles.  Taking time to write in my journal, even if it was just one entry.  Cooking something different or trying to make my own bubble tea.  

So think of something in the morning that will make you feel happier or more in control.  Then just focus on that one thing until it is complete.  It helped me feel encouraged and plan other small goals.  

Recreate a Familiar Routine or Ritual

The ultimate indicator of how productive we can be is found in our daily routines and rituals.  Rituals are things you do that make you feel calm and at home.  For example, making a pour over cup of coffee and completing a devotional.  A routine is something with do with barely thinking about it like your night time skin care regime with creams and rash wash.  My routines were the first thing to go without my normal strict 50+ hour a week work schedule.  

This caused me to be useless and watch a lot of television when I wasn’t teaching or working on my day job responsibilities.  Also the blog quickly suffered and so did my personal hygiene.  After about 2 months of this, I began returning to my department after my approval and reconstructing some of my routines.  I began with my post teaching routine of making breakfast and fixing my lunch.  Then I was able to begin walking my normal time of later evening instead of randomly throughout the day.  When this happened, I began to be more productive at home even though I was spending less time there.  

So pick something that makes you feel useful whether it is getting dressed, doing your nails, or whatever else in order to recreate some normalcy.  

Re-Evaluate How Your Meeting Basic Needs 

Even though your home, consider your daily habits that effect your health.  I found myself anxious and having itchy skin that was driving me nuts.  This was surprising since I was at home not dealing with stressful situations.  But the uncertainty was driving me crazy.  So I began focusing on my gut health with probiotics, fermented foods, and clean eating.  This helped along with long baths with epsom salt to unwind.

Think about things you have been doing since the pandemic.  Are you drinking too many sodas instead of water?  Eating too many unhealthy snacks?  Watching too much television?  If you think of some unhealthy habits, focus on breaking them!  Then you can think clearer and feel better in order to make a crack at your goals.  

Finding Motivation in Uncertain Times
Try a week of healthy eating.

Read or Listen to Something Motivational

The best thing that I did to get myself situated was reading the book Atomic Habits by James Clear.  This book is about the science and studies focused on creating good habits and breaking bad ones.  It is a quick read and there are plenty of audio summaries available as well.  While reading this, I began formulating ways that I can become the builder of my own habits.  

If you can’t get a copy just yet due to whatever reason.  (I had to wait a few months on the hold list for my public library.)  There are plenty of podcasts like Rise and others that have been discussing this topic.  You can also go to YouTube for some positive encouragement as well.  I have also found a lot of support and help on the app Marco Polo from friends I reconnected with during the pandemic. 

Start Using Your Planner Again

I didn’t crack mine open for weeks during all this.  It felt very futile since I knew my VIPid schedule daily and had a quick list of library tasks.  However, when I began using it again for planned trips to my department and the weekly goal setting tab, it helped me feel normal again.  Even if it is just things you hope to do that day, write them down and see if this becomes self-fulfilling.

No reason your planner needs to be a wasted purchase!  

Finding Motivation In Uncertain Times
I made a point to crack open my planner at least once a week.

Don’t Feel Guilty

I found that as I talked to friends and co-workers, is that we have all been experiencing this malaise and lack of motivation during the pandemic.  So don’t beat yourself up about it all.  Find a way to chip away at the boredom, sadness, or depression.  Call a friend, take a walk, or even just brush your teeth.  If I can do you it, I know you can too!

How are you finding motivation again? 

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Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission is you click through and make a purchase.

20 Things To Do With a Library Card

There is no question that I love the library.  I have enjoyed libraries since I was a child, and have worked in some kind of library for over 10 years.  There are so many things that I can enjoy for free! (Well technically for a fraction my taxes I am paying anyway.) It always makes me sad when people comment libraries are obsolete or ask if I think they will be phased out.  Actually, libraries are adaptable as much as funding will allow.  There is also a whole population of  residents without a personal computer or internet at home.  There are homeschooling moms using the library system to supplement their class library.  People looking for new jobs on the free internet and cheap printing.  Still the key to all these services is still a valid library card.

September has been Library Card Sign-Up Month in 1987.  There are so many things to use your library card at the library.  Since social distancing, many systems have beefed up their electronic offerings and made them easier to access without even going into the building.  In honor of National Library Card Sign-Up Month, here is my list of my favorite uses of library cards

There are tens of thousands reading possibilities at your local library!

Here is my list:

  1. Read a bestseller.  **May need to put your name on the waiting list, but that way you can read it without forking out 20 dollars for a hardback. 

2. Check out free audiobooks on CD to enjoy on the road.

I enjoy checking out CDs and streaming audiobooks for FREE from the library!

3. Find more recipes in their cookbooks than Pinterest. 

4. Skip the rental fees and check out movies on DVD. 

5. Satiate your child’s need for a new bedtime story with picture books.

20 Things To Do With a Library Card
Endless bedtime story material!

6. Learn a new language.  **Some libraries have app subscriptions to Mango as well as CD guides.

7. Research your family history

20 Things To Do With a Library Card
Family books, indexes, guides, oh my!

8. Find instructions for your next DIY project from macramé to carpentry. 

9 . Take sample tests of GED, SAT, TOEFL, and others. 

10. No need to pay for Skill Share or Master Class if your library has its own service. 

11. Download eBooks using OneDrive or Hoopla.

12. Enjoy some fresh music.  

13. Binge watch series you can get on Netflix. 

14. Plan your next vacation using their travel guides. 

20 Things To Do With a Library Card
Use some of these to figure out what’s for dinner!

15. Read about healthy habits after a doctor’s visit. 

16. Gaze at new magazines.

17. Use a sewing machine or cake pain from physical check out.  ** Libraries have begun holding unique items that the public requests for short term and one time projects.  

18. Plan a party from beginning to end including decorations and finger foods. 

19. Research something you find interesting.  

20 Things To Do With a Library Card
Libraries now have all this online!

20. Make a hold or request list of items you want so you can always have something to enjoy.  

Keep In Mind 

Every library has rules pertaining to obtaining a card.  My system requires recent residential proof with a date stamp and a government/state issues ID.  (I.E. a recent bill mailed to your home with your drivers license.). Some have rules limiting first check out.  Check your local libraries website or call your local branch.  This list is by no means exclusive.  There are so many services available depending on population, community requests, and administration.  Go ahead and enjoy our very own adult Reading Rainbow.  

How do you use your library card?  

20 Things To Do With a Library Card
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Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission is you click through and make a purchase.

My Outschool Review

In the throws of self-isolation, many of my online teacher friends began buzzing about a ‘new’ company.  I say ‘new’ because it’s been around several years, but has boomed like crazy since this revolution of digital learning happening in these uncertain times.  It is called Outschool.  This company began for supplemental home school instruction.  Now the demand for online educators has boomed so now hiring with Outschool has too!  

I was at first very skeptical, after trying to find several online teaching companies the past few years.  All, until this summer, ending with disappointment in failed launches or hiring freezes.  Foolishly, I thought some other paths had opened only to be frozen along with many hiring opportunities due to COVID.  At this point, in my worst slump since quitting public school, I made an account with Outschool.  

I am happy to report that it is slow going, but has been a teaching Renaissance for me.  

Giving Dino a break for self-created classes on Outschool!

What is it?

Unlike many popular online education companies, Outschool is an American company.  That’s right, all help and troubleshooting is coordinated in the good ole USA!  It also hires all teachers as independent contractors.  However, the perimeters are much more flexible than VIPKid and many other companies.  For example, if you have to cancel, you simply offer to reschedule or refund your students with no effect on your employment status.  

Outschool launches all classes through zoom on their learning website.  It also provides a space to advertise classes, promote yourself with a teacher profile, and refer students as well as other educators.  They take 30 percent of profits from each class that is turned around to maintain the platform as well as advertise teacher classes with Facebook Ads.  Teachers are paid weekly via PayPal.  

The World is Your Zoom Classroom: Customization of Courses

It is first important to understand that the teachers create their own classes on Outschool.  So unlike following a designated ESL Curriculum you can teach whatever you have experience or expertise.  This company is so much more than ESL.  Classes come in all forms from painting nails to book clubs.  

Getting past the course content themselves, teachers get to choose the amount of students in each class, the ages, the price, times, and even length.  They can pre-record content for a flex class or host a one time 30 minute story time.  The coursework team at Outschool does approve each class or give recommendations to edit the class before approval.  They will also give a recommendation on price versus length, etc.  

Outschool Pros  

The biggest pro for Outschool is all hours in a day or night can be used as teaching times.  While many of the students are American, they have a base of students all over the world.  This was such a draw to someone who has been waking up between 3:30-4:30 AM for over 2 years.  

The opportunity to cancel classes without penalty is also a big benefit.  They even allow teachers to set cancellation policies for students as well in their class!  There is also no minimum or maximum limit to teaching hours.  

Outschool Cons

My biggest con with Outschool is all the course prep needed to create a class.  From concept to creation, it very well could go unpaid without students enrolling.  I will be the first to say only one of my 4 created courses has had students enroll.  However, I am once again the new profile in a sea of amazing teachers.  

I also think the course scheduler is a bit clunky and you need to take great care when scheduling classes close together or on the same days.  

As I mentioned above, it is great to have more class time availability.  However, this still does not mean that classes will book during these times.  I am still working a day job at the library, and can only teach weekends and evenings.  Trying to schedule at these times has not been successful for me.  

Ready To Get Started?  Here’s How! 

A teaching license is not required for Outschool.  However, it is important to have expertise in what you will teach.  So if you grew up in Brazil, you probably have the skills to teach beginner and intermediate Portuguese.  There is a demand for arts, science, and many other specialties.  

Outschool hiring process has become longer than it was back in spring of 2020.  My hiring process took about 2 weeks in June.  It entails filling out an application with your experience, classes you can teach, and other general biographical information.  Then you will film a 3-5minute demo.  If you pass this stage you will be asked to fill out a background check.  Once the background check is approved, you can create a one time class for approval.  If you do not pass, you will be given tips and allowed to try again.  

Have more questions about the hiring process?  Contact me!  I will be happy to refer and guide you through the process.  

My good friends Lauren and Lisa have some great resources available as well.  I have linked them below.  

Lisa’s blog posts

Lauren’s YouTube Videos 

But What In the World Will I Teach?!

What to teach is a bit overwhelming to decide when starting out.  I floundered around for a few weeks after getting hired wondering where to start.  It is worse if you have a variety of degrees, work experiences, or interests.  It is important to have a general idea before applying in order to recommend classes you would like to teach in the application process.  

I began by writing a list of possible ideas and things I have taught in the past.  Then, I took a look at the weekly parent request list on the Outschool website.  (You can look without being on the platform here.). 

Once you create an account, you also get a parent account whether you have kids or not. I look to see what is available as well using my parent account.  This way I can see if I am duplicating multiple classes or can put my own spin on some topics floating around.  

I decided to begin with my roots as a school librarian and created a class featuring my pet hedgehogs and a story.  I call it Hedgehog Story Time.  My other classes include a chat about Siamese Cats (inspired by a parent request and my 2 new Siamese mix kittens), a genealogy research class, and a basic ESL practice class.  

The more classes I create, the more I think of and hope to launch seasonal specific classes from October to December.

Still lost?  Check out Teacher Michael’s podcast episodes about Outschool and Lisa’s great blog post about coming up with class ideas.  

Poster for one of my current Outschool classes!

Let Your Learners Benefit Too

In closing, I not only invite my fellow teacher friends, but students as well.  Here is my referral link to get 20 dollars off your first lesson!  Take advantage of all the talented teachers and creative courses for every interest.  If you don’t see it, I recommend you request it!  

What are your Outschool questions? 

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5 Great Mississippi Gulf Coast Farmers Markets

Now that summer crops are starting to appear, it is time to shop at my favorite places… farmers markets!  I love going to see what produce and food is available in order to plan my menu for the week.  Sometimes I am surprised by a delicious drink or snack.  It is also a great opportunity to get my hands on delicious local honey and pickles.  During the summer and fall months, I make a point to visit a farmer’s market at least once a month.  Now that social distancing is becoming a little less strict, I recommend visiting your local markets.

Here are my top 5 on the Gulf Coast.  

5 Great Mississippi Gulf Coast Farmers Markets
Love scoring local honey at the farmers market!

Florence Gardens Farmers Market 

Location: 12321 Preservation Dr. Gulfport, MS 39503 

When: First Sunday of Every Month 1-4 P.M. 

This one is hands down my favorite Farmers Market on the Gulf Coast.  They only have it a short time once a month, but I try to go each time.  I find a variety of snacks, vegetables, homemade goods, and even meat.  I usually get Mrs. B’s Honey and buy some of the most delicious egg rolls.  (We affectionately call her the Egg Roll Lady!). Booths change from month to month so it is always a surprise who you will find.  

5 Great Mississippi Gulf Coast Farmers Markets
Enjoying some delicious egg rolls!

Biloxi Farmers Market

Location:  Under I10 Bridge Howard Ave. Biloxi, MS

When:  Every Tuesday and Thursday 6 A.M.-4 P.M. 

I often pass by the market on my way to work and see a good number of vendors each week.  The market also is able to continue rain or shine since it is covered.  Sometimes Main Street Biloxi has bands or events during this time as well!  This is a great place to check for live plants as well as produce.  

Ocean Springs Fresh Market

Location: 1000 Washington Ave. Ocean Springs, MS 39564

When:  Every Saturday Mornings 

This is a great place to spend Saturday mornings.  (When you are done, you can enjoy the shops in downtown Ocean Springs.)   Ocean Springs Fresh Market has much more than just produce.  There is fresh baked goods, beef jerky, and more.  Keep track of new items on their Facebook page.  

5 Great Mississippi Gulf Coast Farmers Markets
You can find more than just produce. Be on the look out for sweet treats!

The Pass Market

Location: War Memorial Park Pass Christian, MS 39571

When: Saturday Mornings (Call the City of Pass Christian for Specific Times) 

Forever and a day ago, Leah and I participated as vendors in this market!  On Saturdays, Pass Christian hosts a market at War Memorial Park.  This one has more crafts and art than the other markets on this list.  However, there is food and produce as well.  This market is weather depending so check the radar before going!  

Farmers Market at Long Beach 

Location: Town Green Jefferson Davis Ave.  Long Beach, MS 39560

When:  Saturday Mornings 8 A.M.-12 P.M. 

I  visited this one awhile back, but hope to go by again soon.  (Working almost all Saturdays puts a damper on Farmer Market times!)  I see they have Serious Bread as a vendor as well.  This is a local bakery that has a delicious selection of bread, muffins, and cookies.  Their flat bread is often fought over!   The market is also located next to one of my favorite coffee shops Bankhouse Coffee. 

Honorable Mention:  Woolmarket Produce 

Location: 8416B Woolmarket Road, Biloxi, MS 39532

When:  Monday-Saturday 9 A.M.-5:30 P.M. 

If you need a more flexible time for buying local produce, I recommend stopping at Woolmarket Produce stand.  They are friendly and have a variety of seasonal vegetables and even free range meat.  Woolmarket Produce also helps me get my fancy pumpkin fix in the fall and even sell fresh cut Christmas trees.  They are also located next to a snow cone stand too!  

5 Great Mississippi Gulf Coast Farmers Markets
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Why I Love Farmers Markets

Shopping at Farmers Markets is a great way to support both local growers and reduce your carbon footprint.  A lot of produce at these markets travel a shorter distance and reduce the use of gas used in transport.  It is fun for me to look at the face of the person who grew the vegetables and fruit.  I hope this summer I can score a few yellow watermelons and plenty of local honey!  

What do you like to buy at Farmers Markets?  

Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission is you click through and make a purchase.

Mindful Thrift Store Shopping

One of the reasons I needed to discard so much stuff over the years was my propensity for thrift store shopping.  I would buy stuff as I quickly lost weight moving between 3 different sizes within months.  There were times that I would buy books or clothes to flip on Etsy or Poshmark for extra cash.  Not to mention my book hoarding habit and inability to stop myself from buying vintage dish wear.  Not to mention the cheap prices and half off days!  

However, when I was packing up to leave for Vietnam, I realized that I had gone overboard in stuff! There were over 8 bags of clothes, 20 boxes of books, and enough random things to fill a storage shed.  So since retuning stateside, I have taken time to really consider what I am doing with thrift shopping.  Here are my tips to be an effective thrift shopper without going overboard like me!  

Mindful Thrift Store Shopping
One of my many thrift hauls.

Before Going Plan Your Purchases

For years, I would visit the local thrift store at least 1-2 times a week.  Each trip I would come back with something random.  (Seriously, who needs bedazzled tacky Christmas shoes or a crystal cream pitcher.)  Now, I go with a plan.  If I need some work outfits, I only look for those items and try on options that work.  I do not go in to aimlessly wander anymore.  If you are looking at books, I recommend having a few authors or titles that you want and only purchase those if you are lucky.  

Take an Inventory 

A lot of us have an Achilles heal when it comes to purchasing. Some of us it is shoes while others are hand towels.  Before going to the thrift store take inventory of what you already have.  Ask yourself how many unread books you have on your shelf.  Take a look at dresses in your closet that you rarely wear.  If you need to, make a post about it in your bullet journal or in you phones notes app.  Also ask yourself how much space you have left for your collections.  

Mindful Thrift Store Shopping
Did I really need that many pants!?

Are You Really Saving?

 Saving money is a big benefit of thrift store shopping in the first place.  However, if you shop without begin aware of prices and volume you can be losing money.  Some items are overpriced for being new.  Especially name brand purses and other high end items to discourage resell.  It may be possible to purchase something in better condition for a cheaper price online.  Also, think of the wasted money if you never use the item.  I had several tops and outfits that I realized I never wore when purging to become an expat.  It is much more cost efficient to have a capsule wardrobe and limited to purchasing clothes randomly.  

Don’t Create Unfinished Projects

It is easy to walk around the thrift store and find a wave of possibilities in the goods.  That beat up book self could be perfect with chalkboard paint.  Maybe you can find a part online to fix the record player.  However, this is an easy way to accumulate a ton of incomplete projects.  (I am also bad about this!) If this is a problem for you as well, I recommend limiting yourself to one thrift store project at a time.  Allow yourself a new purchase only when the previous one is finished.  

Avoid Going If Necessary 

This is what I have resorted to the past year and a half.  I have stopped going in order to avoid spending anything and use things I already own.  This has also helped me focus my spending on brands with lifetime warranties and better quality.  I also look for brands with proven eco-friendly practices.  There is also a possibility of me making a dent in my to be read pile of books.  (Well I would like to think so.  One can wish right!?)

Mindful Thrifting
You don’t want to end up in this situation when it is time to move!

Think Before Thrifting

There are still so many benefits to thrift store shopping for your wallet, fundraising, and your carbon footprint.  I still love catching a beautiful and unique item hidden on the ‘junk’ shelf in the back.  However, take some time to think about the things you need and your goals for your overall lifestyle.  While thinking of this article, I found a few great articles here and here about “mindful thrifting.”  I encourage you checking them out if you want to explore this topic further.  

How do you decide what to purchase at a thrift store?

Mindful Thrift Store Shopping
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Products for Sustainability and Saving Money

Today’s topic is related to Earth Day celebrated last week and the launch of my best friends new blog!  I want to welcome Leah to the blog world!  Check out her new website focusing on lifestyle and sustainable living called Muddy Mermaid.  Each week she will give tips on how to live more sustainably and include a weekly “Meatless Monday” recipe.  So to reflect her niche, I have created a list of items that are more sustainable for the environment and money saving. I have tried most of these items, and look forward to reducing my carbon footprint this way.  

Although there is a small investment up front, they can save a ton in the long run.  

Products for Sustainability and Saving Money

Water Bottle with Fruit Diffuser 

This was one of my first sustainable purchases after coffee tumblers and insulated water bottles.  I got these containers to make my own fancy waters for detox and to kick my soda cravings.  Every night I would cut up some fruit and herbs and place them in the basket inside the bottle and let the water ‘marinate’ overnight.  So instead of having fancy fruit drinks in single use bottles, try making your own flavor concoctions.  

Bento Lunch Containers 

I have used divided lunch containers for years to encourage myself to bring my lunch to work.  This way I can avoid fast food and unhealthy choices.  The little divisions remind me to segment out a small amount of meat, some fruit, and more vegetables.  If it helps, there are so many varieties on the market available in any color or style imaginable.  Score cheap ones online or at discount stores like Marshals.  

Beeswax Wrap

These are the coolest things!  They can be used as replacements for plastic wrap, sandwich bag, and snack holders.  What amazes is me that they are reusable.  There are also crafty people on YouTube that sew and customize their own styles.    

Reusable Plastic Bags 

I noticed these on a rack the last few times I was able to go to Target. (So maybe 6 weeks ago?)  They are a thicker plastic and can be washed.  Choose a variety of sizes to fit all of your snacks.  Considering the average American uses 500 ziplock bags a year according to One Green Planet.  That is a lot of baggies!  Think of how much you can reduce that waste by putting your carrot sticks in reusable bags.  

Salad Dressing Containers 

This also helps me facilitate my own lunch.  These petit containers are perfect for salad dressing, sauces, graded Parmesan, and more.  They easily wash and keep me from putting too much dressing on my salad.  They seal well as well, and I do not have issues with their contents spilling into my lunchbox.  

Iced Coffee Bags

This was a recommendation from Muddy Mermaid herself!  These are a great way to create your own coffee shop style cold brew.  There is some trial and error to get the perfect balance of ground coffee to water.  Also, make sure to use filtered water because mine turned out funky from the tap.  This saves to go cups and money throughout the summer.

Reusable Pod Coffee Filters

Many of the little Keurig pods are not recycled and to straight to the landfill.  I realized this awhile back and recycle mine.  However, I still feel like this is not enough.  So I bought a reusable cup that I can easily fill with my own favorite ground coffee.  Not too difficult to clean and way cheaper than a 20 dollar box of k-cups.  

Shopping Bags

Reusable bags are something you more likely need to remember instead of buying.  We all have extra bags from giveaways, conferences, marathons, and other events.  Repurpose them at the grocery story instead of using plastic bags.  If you purchase a sturdy bag you may need less little bags.  For a long time, I carried a collapsible tote in my purse fo such occasions.  Think of all the sea turtles that could be saved!  

Micro-Fiber Face Towels

I received these as a gift and they have replaced 80 percent of my cotton swab single uses.  Instead of cotton swabs, I use these clothes for micellar water, toner, and witch haze.  Then I wash them hot to sanitize them.  They do great with makeup remover as well easily pulling off mascara.  They are small and great for travel.  Save even more money by buying them in multipacks.  

Period Cups 

Trying out this one for the first time took some nerve.  I debated it for awhile and still have mixed feelings about them.  However, they are well recommended and save a tone of waste in feminine hygiene products like pads.   The are basically a plastic cup that can be cleaned and boiled between uses.  They take some practice to get the hang of, but they are a great option if you are looking to try something cheaper and less like a diaper in the future.  

Rice Heating Pads

I use these in place of icy hot muscle strips.  They go in the microwave for a few minutes and last for awhile.  You can make your own or buy them online in any color or size.  I use a save that is about 12 minutes long and 4 wide.  I usually have 2 that I can put in areas that are aching.  They are also super cozy during cold winter nights.  

Where Should I Go From Here?  

This is just a small sampling of items that can be used to save money and live more sustainably.  There are things from bamboo toothbrushes that last longer to produce bags out on the market.  Now you don’t have to try all the things at one time, but incorporate them as needed.  The money and environmental savings can be big.  

What products do you use to replace stuff you normally throw away? 

Products for Sustainability and Saving Money
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How to Declutter Your Digital Life

Although my closets are still disheveled and not the best organized, my digital life is in ramshackles.  It is years in the making. Years of digital pictures, switching email accounts, and collecting social media profiles like I was getting paid for each one has left me with a huge amount of clutter.  I have made efforts in the past as I got new devices to clean up my computer files. It is just as important to manage your intake of content and information you keep. You become what you are exposed to!  So here are my tips to get started with me decluttering your digital life! 

How to Declutter Your Digital Life

Sort Your Picture Files

This is the easiest way to start your digital makeover.  First go through your pictures and delete any that are fuzzy or random.  For example, I have a lot of random pictures from screenshots and random memes.  If it is not worth keeping, I delete it. Then create folders based on dates, events, people, or however you feel you are best organized.  Assign those photographs to their respective folders. Do not forget the pictures off of your cell phones and tablets. I find it easiest to have them automatically uploaded from my iCloud.  This is a great place to start because I find looking at the photographs remind me of the happiest times in my life, and love reliving the memories.

File Folder Madness

Make sure to find homes for your files as well.  I have a few important folders on my desktop for quick access related to employment.  The rest are in the documents file clearly labeled. Do not be afraid to make sub folders as needed too.

Clear Out Old Emails

This is something I have years worth of as well.  Create folders for important emails, and delete the rest!  You can even mass delete by selecting batch delete through your email provider.  I am a longtime Gmail user which is good and bad. They have unlimited storage, but do I really need to keep it all?  Definitely not!  

How to Declutter Your Digital LIfe

While You Are At It Unsubscribe

Another useful activity is hitting “unsubscribe” from email lists as you lean out your inbox.  If it is something you are still into, you can usually select a lower frequency of emails. I use this as a tactic to avoid spending money online during my No Spend months.  It also makes the volume of emails you receive considerably less daily. Therefore, it is time saving!  

Run a Virus Scan (Even Mac Users)

This past year, I discovered my Mac had cooties!  I had long believed my MacBook was immune to viruses, and I seemed in the clear for years.  Then one day my Safari browser would not stay on Google and would jump to Bing. This was spamware that had found its way on to my “uninfectable” device.  I downloaded the App Antivirus VK for under 8 bucks. It did the trick scanning my computer and deleting the problem files. Make sure to do this before going onto my next step.

Backup Your Computer

Now that you have done all this, you need to back up your computer.  I do this with a 1 terabyte external hard drive that plugs into my USB.  You can choose a fancier airdrop model or cloud service. You just never know when you may turn on your computer to the black screen of death and the sound of a broken fan blade.  

Now Let’s Talk About Your Social Media

I am ashamed to say that I let social media consume a massive amount of time and energy.  However, there are some amazing connections and awesome experiences thanks to it as well. I have made friends I talk to daily on Instagram and been able to share so much of my teaching knowledge with fellow VIPKid teachers.    On the flip side, it is a breeding ground for negative people and false information. Here are my ways to tidy things up a bit.  

How to Declutter Your Digital Life

Unfollow Negative or Toxic People 

I started doing this all the time across all social media accounts especially FaceBook.  This is something I never regret! There are lots of negative things in the world, but to an extent we can CONTROL what we consume.  Do not feel obligated to follow anyone who promotes hate, false information, or downing posts. Now this is different from unfollowing  people you do not agree with. I am happy to live in a country and time where we can have our own opinions. I just can only handle so much fake news sharing!  

Delete Unused Apps

Some studies say that only 1 in 4 apps are actually used on our phones.  Go through and free up space! Your storage statistics will also give you recommendations on what to delete.  Also be aware if you are paying for an app that renews monthly or yearly. (Check your card statements for these sneaky money leeches.). Be sure to disconnect payment and renewal before deleting the apps. 

Clear the Pinterest Slush Pile 

My pins have reached the tens of thousands.  I love spending time cruising all the clever ideas and tips on Pinterest.  This year marks my 9th year on the website. However, not everything is popular anymore.  (I mean, does anyone really make t-shirt headbands anymore?) It was useful to go through my how to boards like my blogging board and checking the pins.  Turns out, a lot of my older pins were no longer available or had broken links. So I would take it a board and a time in order to delete ‘dead’ pins or things that you are just not into anymore.  

Think of ALL the Things

There are so many electronics probably hidden around your home.  You may have CDs that need loaded onto a hard drive or 500 pictures on your phone to transfer.  Make a checklist and begin decluttering your digital life. A clean desktop will feel just as good as an organized closet!  

How do you declutter your digital life? 

How to Declutter Your Digital LifeL
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50 Things To Do While Social Distancing

I am going into week 5 of social distancing and time away from my brick and mortar job. Fortunately, I am still going strong with my online teaching schedule. Posting frequently on the library’s Facebook has also taken up time while I try to remain productive at home. However, days have begun to run together and I only know the days of the week by the students I teach in the morning and early evening. So I devised this list of some productive and fun things to try while stuck at home.

A little encouragement found while walking my neighborhood.
  1. Challenge yourself to discard so many items. (Example: 20 items in a week or 50 in a month.)
  2. Read some books you already have sitting on your shelf.
  3. Try watching some Korean dramas (#kdramas). Many are available on Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and the free Viki app.
  4. Write a letter to a long lost friend.
  5. Scan your old pre-digital pictures.
  6. Learn a new language. (Verbling even offers face to face digital classes in all languages.)
  7. Research your family history online for free.
  8. Take an exercise class on YouTube.
  9. Try those beautiful Pinterest cupcakes.
  10. Keep a video vlog of your feelings during self-isolation.
  11. Host a Zoom Happy Hour.
  12. Plant an herb garden in random containers.
  13. Fill out surveys for cash, air miles, or gift cards.
  14. Pick a movie series you love and binge it with popcorn.
  15. Plan your dream vacation for when all this is over.
  16. Try some thing you loved as a kid again.
  17. Foster an animal in need.
  18. Trades stocks on Robinhood. (Get started with just 10 bucks!)
  19. Satisfy your Starbucks craving by making your own cold brew.
  20. Audit your finances by pulling old card and bank statements. (Challenge yourself to find your biggest money drains.)
  21. Laugh until your sides hurt with the podcast My Dad Wrote a Porno. (Warning it is very explicit!)
  22. DIY pedicure. (All you need is some Epson salt, lotion, and your favorite nail polish.)
  23. Clean out your social media accounts.
  24. Have a living room dance party with music from your teenage years.
  25. Read a book on FaceTime to your favorite kids.
  26. Take a free online course. (They are all over right now.)
  27. Dig out the old board games and host a game night.
  28. Find the “Most Instagram Worthy” spots in your neighborhood.
  29. Make a fairy doors for your yard.
  30. Check all your pens, highlighters, and markers to make sure they are not dry.
  31. Back up your phone picks and free up space on your phone.
  32. Camp in the backyard or stargaze from your balcony.
  33. Now is a great time to try that natural deodorant, hair dye, nail polish, etc.
  34. Complete a 24 hour read-a-thon.
  35. Print free adult coloring sheets to try.
  36. Have a tapas night and make sangria.
  37. Repaint a beat up piece of furniture to make it beautiful again.
  38. Make homemade ice cream in tin cans or zip lock bags.
  39. Make a vision board or collage with old magazines.
  40. Visit All Recipes to create your favorite restaurant dish.
  41. Start a gratitude or bullet journal.
  42. Trash all your expired beauty products. (Remember, mascara only is good for about 3 months!)
  43. Make an Amazon Music play list that reminds you of happy times.
  44. Release your inner artist with sidewalk chalk. (If it doesn’t work out you can always hose it off.)
  45. Donate to Feeding America. They need help now!
  46. Record an Instagram TV to share a skill or tutorial to help others. (Pick something you are good at.)
  47. Clean your walls with a magic eraser.
  48. Check into refinancing your mortgage or car loan. (Now is a good time!)
  49. Clean out old email inboxes and unsubscribe from spam emails.
  50. Try something on my 20 in 2020 list.

Get on with it!

I hope this list sparks some creativity and productivity this week. Although I have managed do get what is needed complete, I am still feeling unproductive. So I hope to use this week to get my creativity flowing again to create for this blog as well as new ones I am developing! (More to come later.). I would all my reader fam out there is safe and healthy.

What are you doing during your self-isolation?

50 Things To Do While Social Distancing
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20 Ways to Discard Things

Last month I focused on self-care and well-being.  Since I am writing this beginning my fourth week of self-isolation, I am beginning to endeavor onto home projects.  My top project is cleaning my classroom space, closests, and pantry. (Again using my psychic abilities this content was actually planned months ago.)  So once I pull everything out of storage and create a pile of stuff to discard at my door, what should I do with it?  

This article goes beyond dropping things at Goodwill and thinking of better ways to utilize our stuff besides landfills.  Lately, I have chosen to donate to different places because Goodwill is such a massive profit machine. I also do not want to take for granted what I already have in my home.  So here is my list of creative ways to sell, give, recycle, and repurpose unwanted items.  

Sell

Poshmark, Mercari, and Other App Sellers

I sold on Posmark for several years until about 2018.  (Here is my article about tips for selling there.). App sellers like Poshmark and Mercari are great ways to reach a broader audience with specialty clothing items particularly those that have a name brand.  Selling works best with listing the item with detailed photos and description. Therefore, it is a time consuming process. Both sites take a commission off of your sell and the buyer pays the shipping.  It is a good way to make some extra cash.  

Facebook Marketplace 

Due to safety concerns, I will recommend Facebook Marketplace over Craigslist. (However, still use caution by meeting in a public place and vetting your buyer.)  Facebook Marketplace quickly gets your item noticed by a group of buyers already in your area. My friends recommend placing direct communication on how you will select the buyer if there is more than one person interested.  

Facebook Groups

Joining reseller Facebook groups in your community is a great way to sell locally as well.  Some groups are made specifically for certain items like baby, pet, or home for example. Listings can be much simpler.  It is a great way to sell things in bulk like a group of like outfits. Be sure to read the groups terms and conditions before listing.  Also read comments and discussions to get an overall feel for the way members interact together.   

Consignment and Used Clothing Stores

I recommend this one with caution.  A few years ago, I placed my wedding dress and a Mardi Gra Ball dress for consignment.  They did not sell after over a year and when I got them back they were damaged. They even smelled like smoke!  So I would really check reviews of the place and maybe contact other people who had sold there. Similarly, there are used clothing stores like Platos Closet will buy clothes for cash or store credit.  I did this before moving to Vietnam, but it is a random process. They are picky with what brands and items they will take and the prices are low. When I tried this, I brought them 3 big garbage bags full of clothes and they picked one box worth.  I earned 100 dollars. However, it is 100 dollars more than I had before and it went far my first week in Ho Chi Minh City.

Old Fashioned Yard Sale 

An early morning, weekend yard sale is always a quick way to move things.  However, expect to keep your prices low and patience high. (Yard sale people are intense.)  In these days of social distancing you can host your own virtual yard sale on Facebook or Instagram.  

Give

Humane Society

The Humane society doesn’t just need food and medicine for the animals.  They also need used rags, sheets, towels, and blankets to use in pet cages.  They also take shredded paper and newspaper for liner as well. It surprised me how eager my local shelter was to get our old sheets.  

Fitness Trackers

I have gone through 3 FitBits since 2015.  The one I recently retired is still going, but a little sluggish.  I did not just want to throw it in the garbage. Turns out there is a group called Recycle Health. Recycle Health repurposes your old fitness tracker for those in need.  They also accept the chargers and replacement bands. If you want to donate simply mail the tracker to the address listed at their website. 

Veteran Groups

Non-profit groups that focus veterans are often in need of physical donations.  They can use anything from warm coats to old cell phones. To find out what is needed in your area contact your local VFW or other veterans group.  Keep an open mind to things around your house that can help others.

Domestic Violence Safe Homes

Find yourself with thousands of bath samples from the subscription box craze?  Overwhelmed by 3 semi-annual sales worth of shower gel from Bed Bath and Beyond?  Take these items and donate them to a women’s shelter. I am also sure they could use feminine hygiene products, razors, and other bath products if you have an over abundance.  They are not listed publicly for safety purposes so you will need a contact to deliver them for you. (Hint: A lot of churches have relationships with these groups.)

Public, School, or Classroom Library

Libraries may not be able to use every book donated by adding it to the collection, but they can often resell them to fund important library programs.  (Like purchasing refreshments for the yearly Christmas program.) Most school libraries have more flexibility in what can be put in the collection. I could use some donations as prizes for reading rewards as well.  If all else fails, teachers always need materials for their classroom libraries. Classroom teachers also can use games, flash cards,and art supplies as well to offset instructional costs.  

Recycle

Plastics

A variety of plastics can be recycled including those plastic Mardi Gras cups taking over your pantry!  Before tossing something, consider if it can go in the recycling bin first. A full guide to recycling plastic can be found here.  

Electronics

Several companies offer cash trade in or free recycling of old tablets, computers, and phones.  Apple has a great trade in program that pays out in store credit.  I have also been able to sell broken items on eBay for people to fix or use for parts.  

Mailers 

Reuse bubble mailers sent to you if they are not soiled or too torn. I am still reusing old Ipsy mailers that are sturdy and a metallic pink.  Be careful, to cover all barcodes. The exception to this rule is Amazon boxes.  My friend lost a package because it was sent back to Amazon sorting instead of her sisters!  

Gift Bags 

When you give me a gift bag, I will reuse it.  I also use plain and cute store bags as well. For years, I would use Victoria Secret bags for bachelorette gifts whether they came from the store or not.  

Hazardous Material Pick Up or Drop Off

Do not put caustic things like batteries, paint, nail polish, and other hazardous materials in the trash. Check your state’s policies and drop off locations.  

Repurpose

Think of a Friend 

When I did my book declutter last Spring, I thought of my friends as I discarded.  Share the book if something they are interested in or something nostalgic send it their way!  I sent a book of sea stories to a friend who is a Marine Biologist and a local ghost story book to a friend who has moved away.  Think beyond books and consider personal style, hobbies, and interests of your friends.  

Find a New Home in Your Home

Some things can be more useful in a different room.  For example, I use some little wooden boxes for sorting jewelry.  There are plenty of ways to reuse baskets and bags as well.  

Craft and Art Projects

Discarded items make great opportunities for art and craft projects.  Old t-shirts can become a useful quilt for example. Paper can be used to create artistic collages or even greeting cards.    Check out options online or check out craft books from your local library. However, actually use the items instead of letting it collect as another potential project.  

Fix It Up

Think of yourself, can the thing be fixed?  Check for extended warranties and replacement options with customer service departments.  I plan to get my favorite pair of boots resoled soon. That way I can extend their life.  It is surprising there is a whole market online as well for replacement parts by selling broken items.  Maybe you can even find a tutorial on YouTube to help you out.  

Kids Make Believe Station 

When I was a little girl, I would get in trouble breaking into my mom’s eyeshadow and using it like face paint.  What little kid hasn’t wandered around the house in oversized high heels. Take some of these items to create imagination stations for the kids in your life.  Camping plates make a great kitchen set. Old clothes can be a princess wardrobe. This is a fun way to give things a second life.  

Think Before Trash 

I hope this post has you thinking of all the possibilities out there for things you do not need anymore.  As landfills get bigger and resources get strained, it is a good idea for all of us to practice some thoughtful reusing practices.  I know as I begin to clean my house as the quarantine days grow longer, that I will be pressed to ask myself some of these questions as well.  I at least have a good start to finding the answer.  

How do you discard things?

20 Ways to Discard Things
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Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission is you click through and make a purchase.