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2016 has turned into a totally sucky year with so many beloved celebrities dying like David Bowie and Prince. You can now add Florence Henderson to the list. Her death was just announced this morning on Black Friday. Here’s a video showing her in her best-known role as the matriarch of The Brady Bunch.

But there was more to Florence Henderson than her alter ego Carol Brady. She appeared on Dancing With the Stars and she proved herself as a pretty decent dancer. Here she is doing one of her dance routines with her partner Corky Ballas.

She has also done a number of ads on TV as well starting in the late 1950’s.


Once again it’s Black Friday, that time of the year where people will literally kill themselves over a sale. In fact, there’s even a website called Black Friday Death Count that tracks people whose lives were cut short in pursuit of that bargain. Yeah, I would write a periodic rant against the insanity of waking up super early in the morning, getting in a line outside of a big box retailer an hour or more before the store opens, then fighting your way through the crowds so you can get your hands on a super-cheap TV set, computer, electronic toy, linens, or even kitchen items. I wrote similar anti-Black Friday rants in 2010, 2012 (not once but twice), and 2013. Sometimes I would even embed videos of riots that broke out in the stores from crazed consumers. (I’m currently reading Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy—which I bought for a total of $5 at a used book sale—and I wouldn’t be surprised if Collins had gotten one of the inspirations for her books from the annual Black Friday ritual of trampling each other to death over a cheap DVD player.)

But this year I’m going to write about my own experience with getting that bargain electronic item on Black Friday. In 2014 I decided to get a convection oven for myself since my big oven stopped working and I couldn’t afford to get it repaired. Additionally I’m only cooking for myself these days so I really don’t need to use a large oven as often as I used to. A friend of mine said that Target was having a Black Friday sale on convection ovens. I decided to wait until two days later (Sunday) before I went to Target. I found an Oster convection oven on sale for $30. I bought it and even blogged about it (while including photos of various Christmas items I found on sale at that same store). I felt smug that I still got a Black Friday bargain without waking up early in the morning and fighting hordes of shoppers.

I used my convection oven on a regular basis for the next 11 months until October, 2015, when my oven stopped working altogether. I was miffed that the oven didn’t even make it to the first anniversary of the day that I bought it for $30. It was then that I discovered this fact: that many big name manufacturers like Oster will make derivative products especially for Black Friday where they cut corners while making the item just so these products can be sold under the same brand for a cheaper price. So I got suckered into buying that convection oven based on the Oster name and the cheap $30 price only to find out that it wasn’t such a bargain in the long run since that oven stopped working.

That incident prompted me to write last year’s rant on Why Black Friday Sucks.

Just a few days before Halloween, 2015, I purchased a Black and Decker convection oven from Best Buy for $80. It was the regular price and there were no sales the day I purchased it. It was priced more than the previous oven but I’m happy to report that I have had that oven for a little over a year now and it still works. I’m very happy with it and I hope that it’ll continue to work for me for a long time.

I’ve learned my lesson on buying anything electronic on Black Friday. I will never again buy anything electronic on Black Friday or soon afterwards. If I need to purchase anything electronic in the future, I will purchase it either before Thanksgiving or I will wait until late January before I make such a purchase. That way I can ensure that I’m buying something that’s high quality and will last me a long time.

So before you consider going out to a store that opened yesterday on Thanksgiving Day at 5 p.m. (which is what Best Buy, Macy’s, Toys R Us, and Bon Ton did) in pursuit of a bargain, please re-read what I’ve just wrote and ponder the strong chance that whatever you buy cheaply today will probably stop working or literally fall apart in less than a year. Ask yourself if you would be willing to go through the hassle of buying this item only to have to replace it in less than a year. Then stay home and wait until late January at the earliest to buy that item because you’re far more likely to get something that will literally last longer than one year.

This year the outdoor store REI began a campaign encouraging people to go outdoors on Black Friday instead of spending it at the mall. REI began a social media campaign using the hashtag #OptOutside. For added measure, REI decided to not only close its stores on Thanksgiving Day but to also keep them closed on Black Friday in order to encourage their employees to spend their time off outside.

I was intrigued enough to try opting outside myself. I went to Lake Artemesia that lies on the border between the Maryland towns of College Park and Berwyn Heights. I arrived late enough in the day that I was able to take these awesome sunset photos.








Today is that annual American tradition known as Black Friday where, the day after Thanksgiving, people will line up at various stores that advertise all kinds of goods being sold at rock bottom prices and they’ll tussle and even fight each other for those low-cost goods (which are usually in short supply). People have been known to interrupt their Thanksgiving holiday in order to stand in line outside while freezing in the cold November weather in front of some store in the hopes of being able to snag some cheap deals.

There’s a video that has gone viral where a local news station in Arizona interviewed a man who has been camping outside a local Best Buy for the past week in the hopes of being the first in line so he can snag some of those rock-bottom sales. He’s been camping in style as he shows off this tent that’s outfitted with a TV set (he obviously has access to a power generator or an electrical outlet of some kind), a computer (with no Internet connection—the guy in the story claims that he was working on getting that), a microwave oven, and one of those portable inflatable beds.

What’s more, Black Friday isn’t just for Americans anymore. That tradition has spread to other countries even though those nations don’t even have a context for Black Friday. (In the U.S. Black Friday is usually the day after Thanksgiving Day, which is a major holiday. It is traditionally the day that kicks off the Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa holiday shopping season and it marks the official end of Thanksgiving. The only other nation that I know of that celebrates Thanksgiving is Canada but that country holds its holiday on the second Monday in October.) But now one can do an Internet search and see headlines like Britain Adopts Black Friday With an All-American Frenzy.

I’ve long prided myself of never stooping to such levels as camping outside all night in the hopes of snagging a bargain when the store opens at the unusually early hour of 3, 4, or 5 in the morning. But last year I fell into Black Friday temptation myself because my oven broke (the stovetop still works though). I couldn’t afford to get it fixed (I’ve looked online and I found that, with parts and labor, repair prices start at $150) but I learned through one of my friends that Target was going to sell convection ovens at a very low price on Black Friday. I thought that a convection oven would be a good stop-gap until I can get my larger oven fixed. Besides, since I’m only cooking for myself these days, using a smaller oven would make sense most of the time and such ovens tend to use less electricity than the more traditional kitchen ovens.

I decided against camping outside in the cold weather or even waking up before dawn because I refuse to stoop to such tactics. In fact I didn’t take advantage of any Black Friday deals until Sunday. On that day I basically stayed in my warm bed, woke up at a reasonable time, and hung around in my warm home in the morning. I waited until after I finished eating lunch before I left home because, by that point, all of the Black Friday shoppers had returned to their homes two days ago with their newly purchased cheap loot. When I arrived at Target I found that it was very pleasant shopping with low stress. I didn’t have to battle anyone and, in fact, the store was no more crowded than it usually is on the weekends. I shopped in the aisles and I found an Oster convection oven that was on sale for $30. I was instantly sold because of the low price and the fact that Oster has long been a respected brand when it comes to kitchen appliances.

My Oster convection oven worked perfectly and I used it a few times a week. It was a perfect oven for cooking and baking for just one person. I used it through the rest of 2014 and through most of 2015.

But then, one week before Halloween, that oven suddenly stopped working. The oven hadn’t even lasted a year (it was just one month short of the first anniversary) and it was already dead. The only silver lining is that the oven died the night before the next electronics recycling event in my neighborhood that was scheduled for the following Saturday morning (that event is held only four times a year) so I was able to take that oven there and get rid of it in an environmentally responsible way.

A couple of days later I went to Best Buy where I purchased a Black and Decker convection toaster oven for $80. I already own other Black and Decker products (a lawn mower and a power drill) that I’m satisfied with so I had no qualms about buying that oven. It cost way more than the $30 Oster oven that I purchased on Black Friday. It wasn’t on sale (even though I bought it a couple of days before Halloween). It took a bigger bite out of my tight finances but I’d rather pay more for something that is higher quality and will last far longer than the 11 months that I used the Oster oven that I purchased cheaply on Black Friday last year. (Besides it’s still cheaper than getting my kitchen oven repaired. I will get that oven repaired eventually but I want to stabilize my precarious finances first.)

I recently came across this article titled 6 Black Friday Secrets Those Deal Sites Won’t Tell You About, which had this quote that especially stood out for me regarding my experience with purchasing the Oster oven for $30 on Black Friday last year.

Some products advertised at deep discounts on Black Friday are what’s known as “derivative products”—items made by the same manufacturer that look almost like the standard model but with a few very important differences. Consumer Reports highlighted derivative electronics in a 2009 investigation and found that these products are generally manufactured more cheaply, sometimes with less-expensive components, and that they are generally missing a few features present on the standard models. The magazine says big-name companies like Sony and Samsung have made derivative TVs in previous years; we’ve seen laptop and printer deals from brands like HP in this year’s Black Friday ads that appear to be derivatives, as well.

In other words, I got suckered by both the cheap $30 price and the well-known Oster brand name into purchasing a product that was probably a derivative product manufactured so cheaply that it was destined to not last very long.

I’ve learned my lesson. Never again will I ever make a major electronic purchase on Black Friday. Whatever money I may have initially saved when I purchased the $30 Oster convection oven just wasn’t worth it in the long run. I’m only glad that I wasn’t one of those suckers who camped outside for hours in the cold November night before the store opened in the pre-dawn hours because I would’ve been way more annoyed than I already was when the $30 oven died just a month short of one year.

And if my story isn’t enough to dissuade you from shopping on Black Friday, maybe this video will, which was shot in the wee hours of this morning in a mall in Louisville, Kentucky.

I finally did a little bit of shopping during the extended Thanksgiving Day holiday weekend but I didn’t go on the actual holiday and I didn’t bother with Black Friday or Small Business Saturday. Instead I waited until Sunday. You see, my mother decided to give me money for my birthday just a few weeks early and I decided to buy myself something.

A few months ago my oven stopped working yet the stovetop still worked. Since I only have to worry about cooking for myself these days, I’ve been making do with both the stovetop and the microwave oven. However there were times when I want to heat up some pizza that I purchased at the supermarket and, well, the microwave oven doesn’t do such a hot job because the crust is usually soggy. I wanted to get my oven fixed but, after doing some searching on the Internet, I found that, with labor costs, I would have to spend at least $100 and, with my lousy luck, it would probably cost even more than that.

One of my friends told me that she uses a convection oven (she also has to cook only for herself) and she said that she loves her. She also told me that there was a great sale going on at Target, so I ended up going there on the Sunday after Thanksgiving. I found an Oster convection oven that was on sale for $40 so I bought it and, so far, I love it. I plan to eventually get that oven repaired, especially if I ever decide to sell the townhouse and move somewhere else one day in the very distant future. But this convection oven makes the perfect stopgap measure for cooking and baking right now.

While there were plenty of people at Target that day, the store was no more crowded than a usual weekend shopping day and I didn’t have to stand in any long lines at the cash registers. After I selected my convection oven, I wheeled the shopping cart around the store where I saw a whole bunch of odd stuff on sale at Target this holiday season.

In the DVD department, there was a display shelf where all of the DVDs were priced at $5 and under. Except one of the shelves had given prominence to episodes of the classic sitcom The Cosby Show. I guess the management at that store didn’t hear about the controversy swirling around Bill Cosby and why he’s not as beloved as he used to be.


I’ve seen Christmas reindeer, Christmas dogs, Christmas cats, and Christmas mice in past years. But this is the first time I’ve ever seen a Christmas pig or a Christmas fox.



I’ve seen Anna and Elsa Frozen dolls before but this was the first time I’ve ever seen a three-foot tall Elsa doll. This doll is as tall as the girl pictured on the box. I found myself wondering if this doll could fit into children’s clothes since she’s as tall as a young child. I wasn’t about to spend $60 to find out.


I later looked on Target’s website and I found that there is also a three-foot tall Anna doll as well. (Anna wasn’t in stock when I was at Target that day.)

I also saw Peeps on sale in different flavors that were once unheard of when I was growing up. (Heck, when I was a child, I only saw Peeps on sale at Easter.)



Even Pepperidge Farms Goldfish Crackers weren’t immune to special packaging as I saw special Princess and Christmas editions.



Then there were these Wild Ophelia American Roadtrip Chocolate Bars that came in unusual flavors like Peanut Butter and Banana, Beef Jerky, and Smokehouse BBQ Potato Chip. No, I didn’t dare try any of them. I’m allergic to peanuts and the other two flavors mixed with chocolate just sounded way too strange and weird for my tastes.


Other people may give up part of their Thanksgiving to stand in a line outside some big box retailer either on the holiday itself or in the middle of the night while freezing their butts off in the process but that has never been my thing. (What’s really crazy is that this whole Black Friday madness has literally jumped across the pond to the United Kingdom where, for the first time ever, crowds engaged in fighting each other for some cheap thing just like here in the U.S.)

Actually there was an alternative to the Black Friday madness. Community Forklift, a home improvement place that specializes in selling hardware and other supplies that have been recycled from various places, was having a two-day party and holiday sale where Friday was known as “Green Friday” (which was an inspired choice of wordplay on “Black Friday” considering what Community Forklift does for its business operations) and the following day was tied in with Small Business Saturday (which has been gaining increased popularity in recent years).

So I went on Green Friday and I liked it even though it was cold that day and most of the warehouse where Community Forklift is located doesn’t have heating or air conditioning (so it’s cold in the winter and hot in the summer). People’s moods were upbeat despite the cold weather.

The one thing I love about going to Community Forklift is the treasure trove of vintage furniture and other decorations that would’ve otherwise had gone to a landfill. (If only I was more handy with home building skills and if only I had more room in my modest townhouse, I could go totally retro with the vintage items on sale there.) In addition there were Christmas decorations—some of which were other people’s discards while others were made with various recycled materials. It was such a feast for the eyes.















As part of its two-day event, Community Forklift had a bunch of free hands-on activities for all ages where people can make presents using recycled materials. I decided to try my hand at making a coaster. I needed a gift idea for my mother (she isn’t into the Internet at all so I don’t have to worry about her reading this post before Christmas) and I figured that she could use something where she could place a drink on. (It’s been hard finding gifts for my mother ever since her health problems forced her to retire. I usually give her some handmade soap or lotion that I purchased from a farmers market or craft show but it would be nice to give her something different for a change—especially one that I made myself.) The next photo shows the selection of square photographs that one can choose when making a coaster.


A used ceramic tile (probably was once someone’s bathroom tile) served as the base for this coaster. Once I picked up a tile, I flipped it over to the grooved side where I applied a layer of Modge Podge. Then I placed a piece of square cork (located at the left edge of the photo below) on top of both the coaster and the Modge Podge layer.


Then I flipped over the tile to the smooth surface. After mulling over the available photographs, I chose this nice nature scene because it looked really pretty with the lake, the waterfowl in the foreground, and the autumn leaves in the background and I figured that my mother would enjoy it. I placed a layer of Modge Podge on the smooth surface.


Afterwards I place the photograph on the Modge Podge-covered surface. Then I sealed the whole thing by putting on another layer of Modge Podge over the photograph.


I was told by someone (probably an art teacher or maybe I read it in a book) a long time ago that, for best results, one should put on at least two layers of Modge Podge for decoupage work. The person who was supervising the make-your-own-coaster area said that he felt that one layer was enough. So I placed my coaster with the ones made by others in order for it to dry. (Fortunately Modge Podge tends to dry pretty fast, especially if you put on thin layers like I did.)


I took the coaster home with me but I still wasn’t sure about using just one layer of Modge Podge. I was paranoid that I had missed a spot and it would later be revealed if my mother placed a drink filled with ice cubes and the condensation would drip on that spot and ruin the picture. So that evening I took out my own bottle of Modge Podge and coated one extra layer over the tile. The next morning I decided to make extra sure that the coaster was well insulated from moisture by adding two layers of varnish on top of the coaster. The photo below shows the results of my efforts. I’m hoping that my mother will like it when I give it to her on Christmas.


Today is Black Friday and I suppose you could be one of those people who decide to camp outside some big box retailer starting sometime after 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day only to physically battle other shoppers in the pursuit of some great bargain gifts for your loved ones.

Or you can take the more sane option, stay home, and do your shopping online. Instead of camping out in the cold November night, you can stay in the warm indoors by doing online shopping in your pajamas. If you take the sane option, I have something affordable for you to buy.

I currently have an alligator jigsaw puzzle on sale in my Etsy shop.


It’s based on this photograph of an alligator that I took during a trip to Cypress Gardens outside of Charleston, South Carolina back in 2008.

Where is the Alligator? Cypress Gardens, Charleston, South Carolina 2008

When assembled the puzzle measures 10 inches x 8 inches (25 cm x 20 cm). It’s perfect for nature lovers and jigsaw puzzle enthusiasts of all ages. You can buy it right here.

American Flag

I came across this video on Facebook that is a compilation of Black Friday shopping horrors from previous years. I recognize some of the footage while others are new to me. All of them are horrifying. No cheap item is really worth risking your life over. Really, it’s not.

Despite this post, I’m sure there are people who are waiting outside in the cold and darkness for the stores to put certain items on sale in the wee hours of the morning. In the meantime I’ll be sleeping in my nice warm bed under a crocheted afghan or two. (The local weather report is calling for below freezing temperatures overnight.) At least I won’t have to worry about my face showing up in any future “Black Friday madness” videos.

Of course that’s not to mention that this year a number of chain stores (Walmart, Kmart, Target, Kohl’s, Staples) are actually making their employees forgo Thanksgiving altogether by being opened as early as 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving. Nothing’s sacred in the U.S. anymore.

No amount of bargains is going to get me inside of a store at this time. Especially after not watching this.

Once again Black Friday at stores across the U.S. are full of stories about people fighting and shooting each other. Curiously most of the violence happened at Walmart stores. Here is one such scuffle at one of the Walmarts. You won’t believe why people broke out into a riot. It wasn’t because of cheap TVs or blu-ray players or a limited number of a hot toy available on the shelves. People were rioting over towels that went on sale for $1.28. That’s right, $1.28 towels. TOWELS! People were rioting over towels.

With something that cheap, I wonder about the quality of those towels. Were the towels so crappy in quality that Walmart decided to price them so cheap so the store could be rid of them? Given the $1.28 sale price, I wonder how many times it needs to go through the washer/dryer before it disintegrates. 10 times? 5 times? Less than 5 times? Boy won’t the people rioting in that video feel stupid when their efforts to obtain those cheap towels start to fall apart soon after going through aff that effort just to buy them. (LOL!)

Then there’s the video shot at a Walmart in Mesa, Arizona that features plenty of butt crack.

This next video shows the best thing about Black Friday at Walmart. People comprising of striking Walmart workers, union members, and the Occupy movement went into a Maryland Walmart and conducted a people’s mic-check. It’s pretty awesome to see.

The dolls and their pony allies won’t stop in their battle on behalf of the 99%. They participate in a massive workers strike against Walmart on Black Friday in a big way. They unfurled a banner on the outside.

Occupy the Dollhouse: Black Friday Protest at Walmart
Occupy the Dollhouse: Black Friday Protest at Walmart

Then they did a flash mob inside the store right in the toy aisle.

Occupy the Dollhouse: Black Friday Protest at Walmart

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