Tag Archives: entertainment

Old And Desirable

Today, out thrift shopping, I happened across a couple of pieces of stereo equipment.  You know, that’s exactly what I need is more stereo stuff.  I must have a third stereo in my house.  Maybe it will go in the guest bathroom.

That’s not what I was thinking, exactly.  The thought I had was, “I’ve seen this before.”  I’d seen pictures of it in forum posts of people bragging about their systems and others drooling and praising those people’s stereos.  This was one of those stereos.  It was old, like older than me, old.  And it was neat looking in that retro way.  From pictures I’d seen, I knew what it would look like powered up.  The power level meters would have a beautiful, soft aqua glow.  But on the whole, it’s not my aesthetic.

BUT, it is one of those impossibly rare finds, and the price was reasonable.  Only $20 per piece, $40 out the door.  This is the same thrift shop at which I bought my other retro stereo.  That stereo only cost me $18.  So I walked swiftly back up front to get a shopping cart (because these components are easily 60 pounds together) and made off with my spoils.

Back at work and back online, I do a quick search on the eBay for the components.  Each one is selling for about $1000.  So, assuming these pieces work, I have a $2000 stereo for the price of $40.  But again, it’s not really my thing.  There seems something sacrilegious about running a CD player through a 60’s era stereo.  This system was made for vinyl, and that’s not what I do.

In fact, to give an idea of what the preamp is capable of, it has inputs for two turntables, three (3!) tape decks, radio tuner, and another input.  You can output to three different destinations including a monitor output.  It almost seems like a piece of equipment you’d find in a broadcasting studio.  It has a function called “expansion” that is supposed to work the opposite of a compressor: make quiet parts more quiet and loud parts louder.  Crazy.

So my initial plan is just to clean it up and flip it, assuming it works well.  Even if it doesn’t work well, the place I plan to sell to is a repair shop.

The MegaBenno

I’ve had a plan for a long time to display my CD collection in a large shelving rack.  When I last had my CDs organized, they were in rotating towers.  First one tower, then a larger one, then, because of growth, both towers at the same time.  I currently have about 1500 CDs and I should be planning for many more.

Early in my collecting days, I used the Ikea Benno shelves.  I still have the three that I used (capacity 540, for reference).  I still think they are the best for display and storage, so I gave consideration to getting more.  Now, the Benno is called Gnedby, but most Ikea fans know both names.

Because I would be having so many towers to hold my large collection, I studied the hack to eliminate one of the side panels to reclaim some horizontal space.  The result of the hack was pretty good, but the more I considered it, I was still turned off by having a grid of squares repeating over and over.  The Benno was designed to be a vertical storage unit, which is how I laid it out when I used it.  A-Z from top to bottom in the first tower, then top to bottom in the second tower and on and on.  That’s not how I wanted my new shelves to be.  I wanted a horizontal orientation.

My first idea was to stack the Bennos horizontally, which has been done already in the Ikea Hacks archive.  That’s ok, but you still have the issue of doubled side panels.  So I considered a means of stacking the Bennos and only using one side panel between each tier.  I designed it to use short legs that would keep it up off the ground.  My sketch was something like:


The problem with this is that I would have to buy 10 towers and I would end up with a bunch of leftover side panels.  So I reconsidered the design.  What if I used side panels for the sides and side panels as the shelves.  That eliminates the two vertical end pieces, which can then be repurposed as center vertical pieces.  That works out to 7 towers, a savings of $150.

My original design was for 10 shelves – 10 Bennos stacked on top of each other.  However, if I’m using the side panels as designed, a Benno has 12 shelves per tower.  That’s a CD capacity increase from 1,800 to 2,160.  That’s almost an extra year of growth at my current pace.  However, that now requires 8 towers, so that’s an extra $50.  With shipping and taxes, the whole purchase was $468.


The first step after unpacking all the Bennos is converting side panels to shelves.  This is accomplished by sawing off the base of the side panel where the floor trim cutout is.  This needs to be done on all but two side panels.  When we’re done, one of the cut off bases will be used in the center for support.


The next thing I did was lay out the two side panels and position the bottom shelf.  I drilled some holes from the inside out for the bottom shelf, then screwed the shelf to the side panels.  Then I drilled holes and attached the center support to the bottom shelf.


When I attached the center support, I planned to have one screw up from the bottom and another down from the top of each shelf.  So I attached the shelf’s bottom screw first, then once the shelves are attached to the side panels, the screw down from the top will be attached.  This is a cross section of five shelves.



I brought in a group of shelves and center supports and attached the center supports to each (one screw from the bottom).  With enough shelves to fill up half the unit, I marked which holes I would need to drill out to fasten each shelf to the side panels.

The next step is drilling holes through the side panels for each shelf.  These don’t have to be large holes, just large enough so the wood won’t crack when putting screws through.


For the shelf that will be on the bottom, take one of the cut off bases from the shelves and position it where the center support will be.  Screw the base to the bottom shelf for support between the bottom shelf and the floor.

The fastening of the center supports is a little convoluted because we’ve eliminated the two side panels in favor of one.  So where normally, each shelf panel would screw into the center support, we have to connect each vertical support to the upper and lower shelf.  Screw the front of each shelf up into the center support and the back of each shelf down into the lower center support.  You can use the included Ikea screws for this.  Finally, attach the side panels to the twelve shelves.  The holes have already been drilled, so it’s just a matter of lining up the shelves with the holes.  You should have enough Ikea screws to get through this as well.

Stand the shelf up and attach the backing.  Because some shelves with be left hand panels and some will be right hand, you can attach the backing in a louver fashion either upper or lower facing.


Then the fun part, filling the shelving.  The whole purpose of wanting to have horizontal shelves is so the collection goes from A-Z from left to right, top to bottom.  One of the appealing design considerations for organizing this way is something I saw in a picture of someone else’s collection.  That element was having small letters indicating the alphabetical progression through the collection.  My research has shown that really nice crafted letters to divide the collection are not cheap.  Cheap if you want your initials.  Not cheap if you want the whole alphabet.  While I was disappointed by that, I pondered how else I could have alphabetical dividers in my collection.  One idea that came to me was alphabet blocks.  But I think the bright multi-colors would be too whimsical.  I found a modern set of blocks, but beyond their size being too small, 1.5”, they were also $85.

My solution was to repurpose all the shelves that would not get used with my redesign.  I could glue two together for visual weight, then stick a large letter sticker on the front.  Alphabet stickers can be bought in any craft shop for very little money.  Less than a single fancy letter figure.


Florida, The Bakery

I’ve been seeing a lot of billboards lately with a new slogan: “Drive Baked, Get Busted”.  It just kind of appeared out of nowhere and suddenly, it was everywhere.  Ok, yeah, police want (stupid) people to know that driving after getting high is a bad thing. 

I looked this promo campaign up and yes, it is new this year.  Supposedly, it’s because of the new medical pot law in Florida.  If we’re going to have medical pot, we need to let people know that you can’t take your “medication” and go for a drive.  Here’s the funny part.  The ad campaign is primarily targeted to 18-34 year olds.  Exactly the ones that would need medical stoning plants.  Secondarily, the ads target 55-74 year olds.  You know, the ones that smoked pot all the time when they were… 18-34.  But anyway, fuck yeah, Gen-X!  You’re not targeted as pot smokers.  And I find that really dumb, because everyone I knew growing up was perpetually high.

It kind of got me thinking about the whole PSA campaigns for any sort of impaired driving.  First of all, what idiot doesn’t know that driving under the influence of anything is bad? (Anything but driving under the influence of Jesus)  Second, if the person doesn’t know naturally that it’s bad, is a billboard really going to educate them?  Sometimes, I see messages on the traffic warning signs that say, “DUI – Decide before you drive” and I think a lot of people are like, “Already done.”

You just wouldn’t believe the frequency I see impaired drivers on the highways.  If it’s not some drug, then it’s probably tiredness.  Tiredness is an impairment that doesn’t get enough attention.  Maybe a billboard or two would help: “WAKE UP, MOTHERFUCKER!”

Lack Of Drive

The other morning, I was in RaceTrac getting my usual breakfast and there were a couple of kids in the store.  I say kids, but I don’t mean like little kids.  Probably teens, probably 16.  They were milling around and eventually bought some stuff, then milled around a bit more.  A few things struck me as kind of odd about that.

First, there weren’t any parents with them.  I’m not sure why I thought this, since they’re old enough to be out and about on their own.  But the idea that they didn’t just go in the store, buy stuff, then leave made me think they were chaperoned.

When I was growing up, when you got to your teens, you wanted to be independent.  You demanded independence.  Because I lived in such a tiny town, I would drive almost 45 minutes just to eat at Wendy’s.  I would drive over an hour to go to a decent mall.  Even today, I still don’t see any problem driving half an hour for food.

As a completely-unrelated aside, this current era is nothing like my youth.  I distinctly remember standing alone in a checkout line and the cashier wouldn’t even acknowledge my existence because I didn’t look old enough to buy anything on my own.  Kids now have purchasing power and don’t get ignored if they want to buy something.

But back to these teens, when they made their purchase, I expected them to head right outside and leave.  One probably just got his or her driver’s license.  But, because they remained in the building and just hung out, it was pretty clear they didn’t have their own vehicle, which is another oddity to me.

I’ve read plenty of articles saying that the new youth have little care for cars, which completely boggles my mind.  Having a vehicle is freedom.  It lets you get out and see more things, on your own terms.  I must assume that because so much entertainment is at hand via phones and TV, there is less desire to find entertainment through exploration.  Also, since everyone is so isolated in their virtual worlds, there is also little desire to get away – because they are always “away”.

The GF is the same way.  Maybe it also has to do with growing up in a small town, where you had to have transportation to do anything or see anything interesting.  But that desire to see and explore continued long into our lives.  On a vacation a while ago, while driving on some random highway, I observed that unlike other couples that sit at home and watch TV, this (identifying the car seats) was our couch, and this (identifying the windshield) was our television.  It’s not like we couldn’t see other places and other things by sitting home on the Internet, but that’s unsatisfying for us.

Recently, we wanted to go to touristville, which ended up with a crazy meal at a steakhouse.  Instead of taking the interstate, which would have been a minimum trip time of an hour (with no defined maximum due to traffic), we chose to take all back roads, which gave us a more predictable, although longer trip time.  But more importantly, it gave us something to experience other than stopped traffic.

Similarly, when I moved from the wasteland across the great commonwealth, I would sometimes return home to visit friends.  The first (or last depending on direction) leg of the return trip, I had a choice to take an interstate or take a smaller, alternate route.  Without fail, whenever I chose the interstate for time concerns, I always regretted it because the drive was so uninteresting and fatiguing.

Driving is embedded in my being.  If I lost the ability to drive, I think I would have a very difficult remainder of my life.  Driving is freedom; driving is experience; driving is risk and reward.  America is a big country and deserves to be seen down low, not from far above.

A Good Time, Spoiled By An Explosion

During the holidays, you are supposed to be reflecting on how your year has gone, for better or worse.  Then I suppose you make future plans based on that evaluation.  It’s like how it is at work for me, with my annual review being in December.  I don’t really have much to worry about in my professional life, and my personal life has been pretty good for a solid number of years.

The GF and I have pretty much been loners throughout our coupledom.  We share a friend here or there, but this year, we are both very grateful for new friendships.  Well, one is new this year, and one was budding almost a year ago.  It’s really weird to actually analyze how friendships form as adults, especially when you’re not really a person, you’re a collection of you and your partner.  But suffice to say, the GF and I have been very fortunate this year.

And, like so many of my posts, that’s not even what I want to talk about.  I want to talk about the time where there was a lot of promise and it just blew up in our faces.  Literally.  This couple was neighbors with the GF, and there was a huge falling out over an incident (not this incident) that is not my story to tell and these neighbors have since moved away, blah, blah, blah.

Now, it was a fall or winter evening, a cold night, and they had invited us over for a evening around a fire pit.  It’s an activity I never really understood – staring at a fire and getting smoke in your eyes – but I know people love doing it, so I’m not opposed.  And so we went over and hung out with them in their driveway, with what I assume was a brand new fire pit.

The pit was metal and round and was pretty ornate.  It sat on the ground and had the decorative cut outs in the upper portion of the flat-bottomed bowl.  The neighbors had built up a good fire by the time we got there and some drinking was involved.  It was cold enough for jackets, despite the fire.  (Another thing about fire hangouts – one side of you roasts and the other freezes.  Fun!)

The night wore on and nothing was terrible at all.  We got along pretty well.  But, without warning, the fire pit exploded.  Yeah, nothing more to say.  It just blew up.  The thing launched probably about 5 feet in the air and it began raining fire and ash down on all of us.  No big deal, really.  That doesn’t happen often to me, if ever, but in this specific case, my jacket bore the brunt of the cinders, melting holes in multiple places.  The GF took some cinders to the hair, which lit on fire.  It was fine, we got the hair put out without any disfiguration.  And after the panic subsided and some neighbors came out to find out who dropped a bomb on the area, we took note of the damage.

There is a lesson to be learned here, and that lesson is, don’t put a flat-bottomed fire pit on the ground and especially do not put it on a concrete surface, like a driveway.  Elevate that fucker.  I deduced what had happened pretty quickly and it was confirmed later.  The fire pit, resting flat on the concrete, heated up moisture and air that was trapped inside the concrete.  With nowhere for the heated pressure to escape, it eventually exploded like a cheap pressure cooker.  This is actually what launched the fire pit into the air.  And underneath, where the fire pit had been, was a substantial hole in the driveway.

Fortunately, we have had no explosions with our new friends and as for those old friends, it was probably prophetic as to how it would turn out in the long run.

New To Me Old School

I am literally 10 years behind the times.  But on the plus side, I’m saving lots of money by doing so.

As I’ve mentioned, I have two new idiot boxes in my house.  I still don’t watch a lot of TV, so I needed to find a use for them.  The obvious consideration was to get a video game system.  On top of the entertainment value, it could work for some social interaction as well.  You know, for all the guests I have over…

But what game system to get?  I haven’t played video games seriously for 20 years, when the controls became so complicated and all in 360 degree, 3D style (if you want to know precisely when I quit, it was ID Software’s Quake that put me over the edge).  So, looking at XBox/PlayStation nonsense was more of a detraction than a motivator.  But there exists a game system for people like me, the casual gamer.  The Nintendo Wii.  Yup, it’s 10 years old now.

I’d played Wii at a friends house only a couple of times.  I found it very curious, since it relied on motion input instead of traditional directional controllers.  Moreover, the gameplay wasn’t hyper-competitive, just fun.  That was right up my alley.  So where do you go to buy a 10-yr old game system?  To me, it was just like buying a 10 yr old music keyboard or guitar or effect unit – the pawn shop.

I’m definitely no stranger to pawn shops, and I have a pretty good sense as to what to buy and what to avoid there.  I had a pretty good feeling about getting a Wii.  At the very least, you could look it over for damage and whatnot.  So, I made my rounds of the local shops, seeing who had what available in the best condition.

I ended up getting a system and some games on new year’s eve for $52.  The next week, I bought some more controllers, some games, and a balance board for $48.  So I had a full system for $100.  That’s pretty good.  When the Wii first came out, it was $250 for the base system, $40 for an extra controller, and $20 for the nunchuk. The balance board was $90 at launch.

And it’s been a good system.  It’s fun and doesn’t require a ton of dedication or effort to use.  It’s been enough fun that the GF has been considering getting one for her house.  So today, I went on the hunt again.

The pawn shops around my workplace have historically been excellent for finding good deals on whatever I’m looking for (or something I wasn’t looking for).  Today, with a planned purchase, I wasn’t disappointed.  I got a Wii with one controller and nunchuk for $35, plus another controller/nunchuk for $12 – similar to what I spent last time.  I figured we could share the balance board for a while.  On a whim, I stopped at another pawn shop and was surprised to see a balance board sitting all by itself.  Originally $10, it was marked down to $7.  That was an immediate cash purchase and out the door.  The only thing I regret is not buying the $2 copy of Wii Fit to go along with it.  I’ll get that next week for myself.

So now we have Wii’s.  Whee.

Music In The Valley

Last weekend, I had a pretty productive CD run.  I think I picked up a dozen new ones.  One of the “why not” buys was a disc called “The Best of Starship”.  It was a cheap-looking CD.  Really cheap.  Like one of those compilation CDs that companies make just for some quick bucks.  It turned out to be something really different, though.

I don’t own any Starship albums, but I do know the songs pretty well from the radio.  When I put the CD in and played it, I didn’t immediately recognize the music.  After the song played a little longer, I recognized it, but something was still off.  The singer’s voice was familiar and all the notes were right, but the production of the track was different.

I looked at the album cover for clues.  In small type at the bottom was “New Recordings by the Original Artist.”  How strange.  What I was experiencing was the Uncanny Valley effect.  That effect is typically associated with robots, how people’s perception of them rises as their realism improves, then suddenly drops off as people get really creeped out by the tiny inconsistencies.  I’ve also had the same thing with software, where if the replication of an application isn’t exact, the little differences drive you crazy.  You notice all the little things.  At that point it’s better to create something entirely different.

And that was the case with this album.  It wasn’t a live album.  You know you’re getting a different sound when buying a live album.  It was a studio album, but it wasn’t like studio outtakes or demos or alternate takes.  It was just doing it again.  And it wasn’t like redoing it with the intent to improve on it, it was trying to remain faithful to the original.  But it wasn’t.  The production was much more sparse – less overdubs, less polish.  It almost sounded like a MIDI sequence plus guitars, plus the original vocalists.  It was good enough to be recognizable.

I have to say, it’s the strangest CD I’ve ever come across.  I’m torn between throwing it away because of (to borrow the uncanny valley’s terminology) the revulsion at what I was hearing or keeping it because it’s such an oddball recording.

Everything’s A Phone Now

A recent post on a blog I follow informed me that there was a great deal happening on an entry-level, budget Windows Phone – the Lumia 435.  I could pick one up for $30.  That made me pause for a moment.

A brand new smartphone, capable of running Windows 10 Mobile, with expandable memory that can take an SD card up to 128GB.  What if I bought it, never put a cellular SIM in it, maxed out the memory and just used it as an MP3 player?  Huh? What’s stopping me?

Let’s look at some current MP3 players.  They are really dwindling in numbers, because, well, smartphones do everything now.  16GB Sony Walkman – $80.  8GB Sandisk Clip – $35.  160GB iPod – $399.  32GB Zune HD – $275.  This phone – $30.  128GB MicroSD card – $50.  And I don’t even need the 128GB card now.  I have a 32GB card from my old phone.  Consider this a done deal.

So now I have another Windows phone.  It’s going to be my new MP3 player.  And better than other MP3 players, it will do Internet and Bluetooth audio, and games, and whatever else I want (except phone calls).

I began setting it up by installing the 32GB SD card I had around and upgrading the phone to Windows 10.  Boy, what a drawn-out process that upgrade was.  When I was done upgrading, I then uninstalled every app except for the ones I needed – primarily Groove Music.

Ok.  Now, how do I get my music on there?  I keep the music on my computer in WMA Lossless.  That format works with Zune.  But you can’t sync to anything other than a Zune device using the Zune software.  And although I can copy the files right to the phone, I don’t want to use my lossless files since they’re around 25MB per song.  I was dreading the idea of manually transcoding my entire library just to copy it and delete it.  Surely there has to be some software that would automate that.

Enter the old stalwart, Windows Media Player.  This software will not die, nor should it ever die.  Windows Media Player can sync files to another device that is nothing more than a memory card.  And in the process of doing so, it can transcode the files to a different bit rate – Exactly what I need.


Then you choose what you want to put on your device, and drag it to the Sync pane.  Then Windows Media Player just does its thing.


So, with my test using the 32GB card, I got about 40-odd percent of my music on there. There’s some stuff I can take off because it’s not really mobile audio stuff.  I also discovered that Windows Media Player encodes to WMA format, so I probably don’t need a high bitrate of 192k.  192k in MP3 is moderate quality, 192k in WMA is very high quality.  Bringing that down a notch to 160k should reduce the space usage.  And I see I also need to get cracking on cleaning up my album art.

But!  Once that’s all done, I will have a pretty sweet MP3 player, that isn’t a phone, but really is a phone, just not being used as a phone.

Late Night Thoughts (But Torture Is Discussed)

I’m coming down with a cold (I don’t get sick).  Last night was the transition from a scratchy throat to a runny nose.  Obviously, I was kept awake.  During one of my wake-up sessions, I had a thought:  Getting death threats from people could be pretty scary.  But if you got a death threat from a death metal band, I don’t think it would be scary at all.  How could you even take it seriously?

“I’ll rip out your guts!” – Yeah, ok.  I hear ya.

“I’ll murder you while you sleep!” – You said that on your last two albums.

“You will be tortured for years and years!” – Blah, blah, blah.

And threats like that, whether you hear them from a death metal band or from someone who is trying to express how they don’t like you, are, by-and-large, empty.  It’s what I will call a “smorgasbord of torture.”  The person has no clue what they are going to do to you, so they say they’re going to do it all.  Break your legs, crush your skull, rip out your tongue.  Yawn.  Do they even know how much effort those things take?  Do they even know how a body works?  Clearly, you can’t rip out someone’s guts and torture them for years.  It’s not realistic.  And what, in the realm of death metal music, is ever realistic?

Now, what you have to watch out for is someone who makes a threat and then starts making the threat more and more specific and detailed.  This person knows.  This person has a plan.  This person is the one to be feared.

So yeah, I hope I feel better soon.  It’s the holiday season, after all.

Christmas Startup Costs

This is the first year I’m going to be celebrating Christmas.  When I say that, I mean this is the first year I’m going to be doing the traditional tree and trimmings.  In years past, I did a tiny 3-ft, pre-lit artificial tree.  You know, the bare minimum.  I’m approaching this as a multi-year project, building up a little each year.  Maybe next year will be exterior decorations.

The point I’m making is that I’m starting with nothing.  I don’t even think I have a single tree ornament of my own.  So, if you are considering doing your first Christmas, consider this list for the things that you will need.  But, keep in mind, most all of these will be reusable next year, so you can spend a little more and get quality stuff that will last year after year.  Normally, I would factor in whether I wanted to have something new each year and budget for disposable items.  But I think Christmas stuff should have a sense of stability and memories each time they are used.  And if your approach is also a multi-year vision, decide what you want for next year and hit the after Christmas sales.

So, this is what I started with:

Tree Skirt

This was the first advance purchase.  The GF and I were evaluating our options at Old Time Pottery and we found one with the fabric we liked, but not the right colors.  Later, we were at Lowes and saw one we both immediately liked.  We noticed that Lowes’ Christmas supplies were really selling out (impressive), so I grabbed it right then to avoid any remorse over missing something we both agreed on.  Price: $30.

Tree Lights

Wow, so many options.  When I was growing up, we had one option for bulbs.  I think they are classified as C7.  But now, you have the LED lights and all these different shapes and colors.  This is where I had to start thinking.  I could do a themed tree, like all gold or silver or blue, in which case, I’d probably get a single-colored set.  Or, I could go traditional and get the multi-colored sets.

I like the look of themed trees, but they seem so boring to me.  I wanted a more interesting tree, with ornaments of all different types, to encourage exploration and to capture different moments.  So, the lights I choose will either be multicolored or dual colored.

I started at Lowes.  What the hell.  They’re down to less than a full isle of Christmas stuff.  Less than a full isle! They didn’t have the lights I wanted.  Ok, let’s try Sears.  Sears usually surprises me with prices and selection.  Nope, Sears is down to thin pickings as well. Ok then, I know Target has them because I saw them the day before when I bought my tree stand.

I bought a 200-bulb string and two 50-bulb strings, for a total of $63.  All LED, all sphere shaped.  The 200-bulb is shiny and faceted and the two small strings are solid pearl lights.  That’s about 100 ft of lights, at $.63/ft  Not cheap, but much better than I budgeted.

Tree Ornaments

Consistent with my choice to have a non-themed tree, the ornaments will be a collection of many different shapes, colors, and styles.  One thing I am against, though, is “shatter-resistant” ornaments.  These plastic bulbs with the visible molding seams are cheap and tacky.  I understand their place in families with dumb children, but for the record, I never broke a glass ornament when I was growing up.  And since my household is not and will not be child-friendly, I’m having nice high-quality glass ornaments.  Although, after discussing with the girlfriend, we’re going to have to put shatterproof ornaments of some sort at the bottom to account for curious cat and clumsy dog – their first Christmas with a real tree.

There’s no shortage of variety when it comes to ornaments.  And the prices are all over the place, too.  You’ll probably start with some multi-sets, then in future years, buy unique individual pieces to create memories.

I hit two places at first, Old Time Pottery and Michaels, and got some basic red/green/clear balls and a spire tree topper (which I’ve learned is called a Finial).  Total running cost: $47. Then I did another run at Big Lots, Sears and JCPenney.  The quality is getting better and plenty of diversity.  Total now: $104.  At this point the cat thinks this is going to be the best Christmas ever.


Then I hit Pier 1, Hobby Lobby, Bealls, Target (again), and Michaels (again).  And I think we’re done.  Total: $195.  We did decide to go with the fancy ornament hooks instead of the simple wire hooks.  I have to say, they’re worth the investment, both in looks and usability.

As far as what we ended up with, there’s probably close to 200 ornaments on the tree, between glass balls, icicles, bells, diamond and ruby gems, a few birds, a bird nest, individual personal items, and some novelty items.

The Tree

The tree is going to be a live tree.  The initial reason for this is to have the more traditional experience.  If I find I don’t like it, I can always go artificial next year.  But I think I owe it to myself to try the real tree first.

We went to a tree stand that’s always been coming to town since I can remember: “Booger Mountain”.  We picked out a tree.  A big tree.  8 feet high and dense and wide.  They only took cash, and it was a chunk of cash.  $90.

Tree Stand

Since I’m going natural, I’ll need a tree stand.  I might as well get a nice one.  I had a couple of gift cards from Target, so I figured I’d use them there.  I ended up with a nice plastic stand with an easy watering opening for $20, $10 after gift cards.  I thought that was a good deal until I stopped at Walgreens and saw a stand on clearance for $7.  But what’s done is done.  My stand is good for an 8’ tree.  It did the job just fine.

The Complete Damage

Adding up everything, I’ve spend $390 on this project.  All but $90 will be reusable in future years.  The girlfriend spend $300 on her own exterior home decorating (first year for that, too) and all of that will be reusable in future years.  So, it looks like we’re even.