Tuesday, December 30, 2008


"As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness."
--Henry David Thoreau

This morning our Christmas tree fell over. It seemed as good a time as any to un-decorate, to put away the past year, tuck it neatly into boxes and place it ever so gently in the garage. Perhaps the year will stew, ferment and become more than it was like a sourdough starter or a dark yeasty stout; something from nothing. Then again maybe it will be just what it was - a year. A year full of beauty and concern. A year sprinkled with joy and a pinch of fear. Next year, I suspect, I’ll open those holiday boxes to much the same.

Cleaning and organizing proved cathartic. Now I'm thinking ahead, contemplating resolutions and plans for the new year to come. I expect the recession to continue. I expect to be financially poor but hope to be emotionally rich. Rich in family and friends, rich in nature and the allure of the earth. I hope to find grace in the things around me and want not for the things I do not have. I hope to be frugal, creative and industrious so as to make the best use of available resources. I hope to nurture my family and myself; to spend time snuggling and reading, talking, laughing, walking and playing. I hope to decrease our financial debt while increasing our non-material abundance. I want to live a simple joyful life.

And I’ve thought quite a lot about how to express this desire, this need to deconstruct. To get back to the basics as it were. One word continuously comes to mind . . . simplify.

Of course I wanted a symbol of my hopes and dreams. Somehow, however, it didn’t seem right to go out and buy my deity. Instead I decided to make one. Some scrap lumbar, some leftover paint, a homemade stencil and voila - my mantle is now adorned with one simple word ... simplify. It is a visual reminder to take each day as it comes, to appreciate the artistry of the world and to enjoy what sits before me. Who could hope for more?

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To all of you in bloggerville - Happy New Year! I hope you, too, have a simple joyful 2009!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Only Six Days 'Till Christmas ... or, alternate title, Trying Not to Freak Out Friday!


Next year I will knit gifts throughout the year ... next year I will knit gifts throughout the year ... next year I will knit gifts throughout the year ...

A half finished hat for my son

I thought I started early enough. I was wrong. I'm still in the middle of this hat, a brother-in-law scarf and an elephant. I also have one more lucy bag to go. Then there is the question of my sister's Au Pair; someone I've never met but who will be at my parents for Christmas. I don't want her to feel left out. Do I give her bulbs? A cloth grocery bag? Do I have time for another pair of fuzzy feet?

Today packages were shipped back East; felted bags, handmade lotion bars and grocery bags. Cards have been sent; complete with holiday DVDs.


And no, I don't have my computer back. The dvds were made on this old but capable beast. It took a long time. A long long time. Everything takes longer. But I've figured out how to make things work. Right now I'm burning additional dvds, blogging and knitting. I knit during the inevitable computer pauses.

There is also a silver-lining to creating the dvd project on this beast. I discovered some videos the kids took with their still cameras. The papa and I are not so good about videotaping. These videos are grainy and have no sound but I love them. How could I not add them to the holiday dvd? Here is a sneak peek ...




Now I'm off. I have to provide taxi service, shower and go to work. Here's wishing you and yours a stress-free fruitful pre-holiday weekend!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Frugal Friday: The Holiday Version

This week I have lots to share so let's just jump in shall we?

Easy Inexpensive Last Minute Gifts:
Forced Bulbs


Remember this Frugal Friday? Well here are the Paperwhites in action...

(recycled glass container, recycled glass beads, felt bucket from
Target dollar section, bulbs -- total cost $3.19)

(recycled containers, recycled glass beads, bulbs -- total cost $2.19 a piece).
Notice the labradork in the background. I gave up cleaning my windows ages ago.

Another Easy Last Minute Gift:
Homemade Moisturizing Body Scrub


(Please note I ran out of sugar while making this photographic batch.
I recommend filling containers completely for gifting.)


Ingredients:
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 Tbsp honey
1 tsp olive oil (optional)

Mix well and place in pretty container. Recipe may be doubled or tripled as needed for container size. I found these lovely glass containers in the spice section of my local Whole Foods Market. They were three dollars a piece and can be re-used multiple times.

I used this scrub in the shower this morning and now my skin feels soft and supple. And the bonus? You can lick your lips while washing your face - mmm mmm! It sure beats chemical moisturizers!!!


Inexpensive Holiday Decorating:
Cut Your Own Christmas Tree

In Oregon you can cut your own Christmas tree from the forest. Simply go to the Forest Service office and get a permit. Total cost $5.00. Be sure to follow all the rules and regulations that come with the permit - we definitely want to be environmentally and socially responsible, as well as, frugal. Searching for and cutting your own tree makes a wonderful holiday tradition. Check with your local forest service office for details.


(Mr. Peculiar procuring this year's tree)

Inexpensive Holiday Ornaments:

Back when we were students and had less than no money we had to make all our own tree decorations. We went out into the backyard and gathered up pine cones. Then we sprayed them with glitter paint and used a hot glue gun to attach a ribbon to the bottom of each cone. These ornaments have lasted 12+ years and are still one of the first items we put on our tree. It is a gentle reminder that the holidays are not about material possessions but about the spirit of the season.


And don't forget. You can also make origami ornaments that would look wonderful on any tree.

Inexpensive Gift-Wrapping:
Use What You Have


I can not take credit for this idea. Mr. Peculiar came up with this gift wrap all on his own: a pillowcase and a napkin ring. What could be easier?


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And now time for a little personal sharing. Remember this post? I pledged to participate in the Jingle Bell Run. Well, true to my word we did. Here is a photo of myself, middle daughter, the boy and some family friends just before the race.


My finish time? Well let's just say my running partners were six and eight-years-old.


And finally .... here's a sneak peak at some of the felted bags I've been working on.

Happy Frugal Friday all!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Thousands of Bananas Wash Up on Shore



Florence, Oregon

A woman searching for sea glass gingerly picks her way through the wanton fruit; it’s still green, taken before its time. Her feet bare she curls her toes in the clammy sand at water’s edge and discounts the waves tugging at her ankles. The bananas remind her of beached whales, one leading and others following to certain death; only now it’s fruit, a mass suicide of fruit. She spots a fleshy sea star among the green tubers and picks it up for closer examination; it’s different, there’s something shiny on one of its arms, it’s a ring, a wedding ring. Retching violently she falls to her knees. The ocean, aided by the pull of the moon, envelops her and drags the found hand back to the sea.

Somewhere in the Pacific Ocean

A call comes through the satellite - heavy storm ahead; 35-foot waves and 45-knot winds. The call’s too late, the ship is already scudding before the wind; plunging into a perilous tango with the sea in a rhythmic heave ho, water greedily licking starboard then port side then starboard again. Cloistered in the bridge the captain and first mate struggle to face the bow into the swells. A deck officer scrambles over cargo containers securing lashings, sliding topside as if skating on ice. Lashings fail on the stern and a fulminating boom reverberates across the vessel. It's silenced by the wind. Two cargo containers slip unceremoniously into the tempestuous water. The officer races lee side seeking shelter but trips in a scuttle and slams onto the deck, sliding to and fro at heaven’s mercy. He catches a cable and wraps it around his arm as a third wayward container looms over him; it hesitates, as if deciding to spare a life, then slams onto the deck and releases 12,000 banana bunches into the ocean.

Uraba, Colombia

A full moon, floating along the horizon, spawns a billowy wake leading to the harbor. Torches illuminate a path from wooden warehouse to steel ship. Paramilitary guards wield semi-automatic weapons while they monitor civilian activity. An American supervisor stands nearby scanning for bushels of rotten fruit, tossing it overboard. Dissapointed puffer fish sample the fruity fare. The cartel busily alters two of the ship’s containers, replacing insulation with cocaine. A scuffle behind the palm grove arouses little suspicion. A guard drags a lifeless body onto the beach and slices it to pieces with a machete; a warning to union supporters. The body is discarded with the rotten fruit, each piece tossed like a football into the ocean. Plum-striped triggerfish flash in the moonlight as they swarm and devour the meaty flesh; beauty and obscenity tangled in time. One hand, the left, with a gold band on the ring-finger is thrown long and far. It lands in a container of bananas. Nobody notices. The bananas continue their journey.

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I've been without my lap top for over a week now. The verdict is not yet in although it may just be the keyboard -- hopefully I'll have more information today. In the interim I've been reading a lot. I finished Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs and Simple Prosperity; Finding Real Wealth in a Sustainable Lifestyle by David Wann. The second book really resonated with me; we, as a society, need to find happiness in a simple sustainable lifestyle. What is the real cost of materialism? Money to be sure but there are also environmental and social impacts to consider.

'Tis the season of excess; I certainly don't need a new car or diamond ring or plasma television this year. Perhaps a pair of locally made earrings. Maybe some macaroni ramekins. I'd be wonderfully content knowing we were environmentally responsible and not in the poorhouse this holiday season. And yes the economy is bad. But spending is not the answer; "Go out and shop" merely fuels corporate greed. Maybe, just maybe, we need an economic revolution and a new way of thinking about our world.

"When money is plenty this is a man's world. When money is scarce it is a woman's world. When all else seems to have failed, the woman's instinct comes in."

--Ladie Home Journal, 1932

There are so many wonderful, inventive, pioneering and forward-thinking woman on the blogosphere it boggles my mind. These are the people at the leading edge of a new future; one that "...moves you in the direction of less stress, more health, lower consumption, more spirituality, more respect for the earth and the diversity with and among the species..." (quote from Paul Ray of Cultural Creatives). I continue to be humbled and amazed by this spectacular group of women who are at the forefront of the simplicity movement. These are the people who inspire me to keep up with the non-Jones as it were.

And in the spirit of keeping up ... I've continued knitting and sewing like crazy; four-felted bags, three pairs of slippers, two grocery bags and cotton ba-aaa-bbby sweater (sorry - the partridge left the pear tree). Even so I'm not yet ready for Christmas which is a mere two weeks away. So I'm back to my projects and back to drumming my fingers on the table waiting to hear about my computer. I don't need a plasma television, I don't need a fancy car but I do want my computer back. Hey - nobody's perfect!

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Addendum: I heard from the computer store.  The good news ... the computer is repairable.  The bad news ... to the tune of $450.00.  Ouch.  I am having it repaired (that was one expensive bottle of wine!).  But I'm also going to scour my house to see what unneeded items I can purge on Ebay.  Hmmm - anyone want to buy an ancient television?  ;o)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Demise of a Laptop and Other Holiday Stories




Monday night my beloved laptop met with a glass of wine. I don't want to place blame but lets just say the husband had something to do with it. Immediately half the keyboard stopped working. I am hoping, praying, that nothing else is wrong.

Tuesday morning I was the crazy woman at the computer store, tapping on the glass, waiting for them to open. Open, open, open. The manager finally unlocked the door and I raced to the repair station. My eyes welled up. Breathe, breathe. The poor store clerk must've thought I was a crazy old coot. I managed to check the computer in without actually crying and am now waiting to hear from them; to find out if only the keyboard was affected or the whole shebang is kaput. In the comforting words of the repair guy ..."liquids and computers are not a good combination."

It's embarrassing to admit how crippled I am without my computer. It's where I write, process photos, make holiday dvds. It has my blog reader, my knitting patterns, my recipe files. Essentially that computer is an accessory brain; a brain now lobotomized. As such I'm wandering around in a daze not knowing what to do. Most of my photo files and writing files are backed up. There is hope but I'm still not pleased with the universe.

This incident is just another in a series of unexpected expenses for the Peculiar household. Traffic tickets, orthodontia and now computer repair. And the thing is -- we are not made of money. (Yes I know you are shocked by that revelation as most people are made of money. I too hear them jingle and jangle as they walk down the street). In truth as our expenses have been increasing our income has decreased. Things are very tight. We get paid on Friday and I sincerely hope I have enough for the mortgage and student loans. We will be fine. I'm pretty sure. But for now I'm a bit worried. We are balanced on a tight rope and expenses keep getting added to our balance pole. One more unexpected expense and we'll topple to the cold hard concrete below.

But enough about that. What you're really wondering is how is she blogging without a computer? Well we are not totally without. I am upstairs on the kid's computer. This ancient beast used to be our computer, as in belonging to the grown ups. Before that it was my parent's computer. In other words we practically need another room to house the vacuum tubes (okay so I stretch the truth a bit but you get the idea).

So I've been trying to figure out what I can do to make myself feel better in light of recent events. The first thing I did was clean my girls' room. I typically clean when upset. That felt good. But I wanted more. Then I realized the thing that would make me feel best is to share. Because, you see, things are tight. But really we have all we need. We will manage in one way or another. And no matter how dire any situation we all have something to give. So here is my humble offering ...

A couple of weeks ago a friend gave us an Amish Friendship Bread starter. Monday night, before said computer incident, we baked the bread. It was delicious. The kids love it as did the labradork who partook when we weren't looking.

We baked the bread and packaged three starters for neighbors. Now I can't send a fermented yeast mixture over the internet. But I can direct you to a starter recipe so you can make your own. And here is a little bonus: click here to download the starter care instructions in PDF format. My bread came with boring photocopied instructions and I wanted to spruce them up a bit. Somehow I had the foresight to upload this file before the crash.



I printed four copies for each neighbor (one copy for them and three to share when their bread is done). Then the starter dough and instructions went into basic gift bags. Gussied up with a little ribbon and voila -- inexpensive fun gifts to share.

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But that's not all I want to share with you. I was also fortunate enough to finish my holiday cards before I was lobotomized.

Here's this year's card:


And here is last year's card:


Both these photos are on Flickr under a Creative Commons License. You are welcome to download and use either photo for your own holiday cards. Click here for this year's card and here for last year's card.

Well that felt good. After a healthy session of David Sedaris and Holidays on Ice I'll feel even better. Have a wonderful Wednesday all!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Today is a day for sleeping and becoming human again after working the holiday weekend.  In the meantime check out my photo tutorial at My Baby Photos.  

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Grateful


As the holidays arrive I am calm. We are not traveling. We do not have big plans with family or friends. I’ll be working nights and trying to talk my husband through cooking his first turkey during the day. I only have eight hours between shifts on Thanksgiving day. Just enough time to catch a wink and eat a bite. We are going simple. A turkey, stuffing and green bean casserole. Just the five of us with little fanfare.

I am grateful we won’t be doing a last minute scrub down of the house. (Now certainly if my kids felt like cleaning their rooms I would not complain). But I am also grateful for many other things. For my family - that sweet babe who insisted on showering with me yesterday, her perfect rubenesque body, soft soft skin and tiny person voice. For that young man who is still sleeping at nearly 11:00 am. Yesterday he wanted to fish so he hopped on his bike with a fishing pole and took off for the pond - a Norman Rockwell moment if I’ve ever seen one. For middle daughter who in the midst of a sleep over decided to come home. She wanted to be in the arms of her family. And for my husband who got up a 5:00 am to go to work. The same man who will hold down the Thanksgiving fort while I work. I’m grateful we are bringing in the bacon, so to speak, even if it means odd work schedules and irregular hours.

I am grateful for a roof over our heads and a family that would take us in should this roof disappear. I’m grateful for yarn and knitting and the calm it brings. I’m grateful for home cooked food that fills this house with love. I am grateful for our health. I’m grateful for wine and beer and spirits to share with friends. I’m grateful for the labrador who sleeps on my bed. I’m grateful for my down comforter and flannel sheets. I’m grateful for my neighbor who brings over fresh roasted coffee.

We have so many things. And the one thing no economy can take away? Love. If we were huddled in a tent, cold and hungry and not knowing what was to come, we would have love. About that I am certain.

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Every year we make a holiday DVD for our friends and family. It is a slide show of photos set to music. This year the theme is gratefulness. I have been struggling to come up with music. I want is an upbeat indy folk song that talks about being grateful - is that too much to ask?

Here are a few contenders:

The Littlest Birds
by They Might be Tanyas

Born to Hum by Erin McKeown

Any suggestions?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Tagged

It seems I've been tagged by Bridge at Ride the Waves of Life.

Rules:

1. link to the person that tagged you, and post the rules on your blog.

2. share 7 random and/or weird facts about yourself.

3. tag 7 people at the end of your post, and include links to their blogs.

4. let each person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

All right - on to the facts ...

1) Yesterday I vacuumed my kitchen table and stove. It seemed like the most practical way to get the gunk out of the crevices.

2) I can only drink coffee if it is two degrees below scalding. Therefore I run around the house incessantly re-heating my coffee. If I could I would replace the glove box in my car with a microwave -- solely for the purpose of reheating coffee.

3) I fantasize about living in the Northeast (Maine, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire) but have never visited these places (I didn't even know how to spell Connecticut properly until today).

4) I'm coming up on my one year anniversary of my first tachycardic episode (seemingly cured by surgery and exercise -- my fingers are still crossed).

5) I grew up on a Navy Base in the middle of the Mojave Desert. Consequently I love fighter planes - especially the Blue Angels.

6) My husband and I met at the Old Spaghetti Factory in Newport Beach, Ca. We both worked there. He was a bartender and I was a hostess. I used to think that was a stressful job!

7) While in college I volunteered at the Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach. After a shift I would smell horrific. But I didn't have time to shower before class so I went as is. People actually got up and moved after I sat down. Rule # 105 in How NOT to Make Friends and Influence People - smell like fish. I miss the seals and sea lions.

And now for the tagging. Let's see ... I pick Donna, Jaimie, Amy, Liss, Elk, Amy and Karen.

Whew! I'll have you know I had to reheat my coffee twice while creating this post. Such hard work! I can't wait to see what you all have to say. Now back to our regularly scheduled programing.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Harold


Meet Harold. Shhhh! Don't tell my nephews. This elephant is slated for gifting. He turned out decent though I suspect the next one will be even better now that I'm an experienced toy knitter. He took me the entire weekend to complete. Miraculously, instead of being annoyed by my incessant knitting, the family became inspired. They are joining the homemade gift revolution.

Middle daughter started making sachets from scrap material. She's learning to sew, recycle and reuse. The sachet is filled with tea too old to drink but not too old to smell wonderful.




The hubbie is going to have a go at limoncello (we are now on the lookout for 750 ml flip top clear glass bottles if anyone has a source). Of course the brewer must create some sort of alcoholic beverage.

Though I've been knitting like crazy I did not do so today. Today my free beeswax arrived -- fresh from harvest; spectacular local raw wax mixed with honey. In the kitchen turned chemistry lab I attempted to perfect a hand cream recipe. Let's just say I'm still solidly in the experimental stage.

In the meantime I made some of these handmade lotion bars (only I substituted almond oil for the vegetable oil and added a touch of grapefruit seed extract for additional aroma). These bars will also be gifted to friends and family.



The economy continues to be tight. We continue to cinch our belts. Our retirement savings have been halved (halved!). And yet we are rich. Rich with effort. Rich with love. Rich with family. I can't think of a better way to be.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Vindication

I've been quiet this week. My mind has been quiet. I've been knitting a lot. And I've been wondering if knitting is a good use of my time. Shouldn't I be doing other more productive activities? Cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, earning an income? I feel guilty doing something I enjoy--even if it is mildly productive. It's the classic female conundrum--thou shalt not indulge in pleasurable activities. And yet I know, I know, I have to take care of myself in order to take care of others.

Well in the midst of this internal dilemma I made a cup of tea. Yogi Tea. This tea comes with lovely heartwarming quotes and I have to admit I look forward to reading them (great marketing Yogi guys!)

I have a ritual when making tea. I tear open the tea bag pull it close and inhale deeply. This causes instant relaxation. Next I steep the bag but do not read the quote. It's an exercise in delayed gratification. Finally, when the tea is done steeping, I read the message. And the quote of the day was "What you are doing right now is the most beautiful thing." Vindication. If the tea says it's okay to knit then it is okay to knit. So I went back to my knitting.

Here is a sneak peak of what I've been working on. I'm inspired by this lady. Of course she hasn't yet published her patterns so I'm making it up as I go. Soon I'll have my own set of patterns -- if I can just remember what I've done.


We're off on a little trip to visit my parents; a pre-thanksgiving celebration since I'll be working on the actual day. I'm hoping to finish this guy on the way. Have a great weekend all!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Meditative


With shaky hands and an affronted heart the knitter seeks solace in her needles. They could be weapons; armaments with which to point, to accuse, to stab. But instead she begins to knit. To slide needle under yarn, to wrap, to release. Breathe in, breathe out. Slide, wrap, release. Knit one purl one. Knit one purl one. Slide, wrap, release.

And her focus slides. Her anger withers away. She sees only yarn, soft glorious yarn, transforming from a mere ball to a resplendent object of purpose. The yarn grows unto itself, finds its place in this world. She becomes one with the yarn. She gains purpose. Slide, wrap, release.

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Baby hats, baby booties, Fuzzy Feet, socks and Lucy Bags. These things have been keeping me sane, keeping my mind quiet. Two more baby showers - check. Christmas gifts - check. Not strangling my screaming children - check. I am strangely content in this filthy noisy house. Tonight I'm not cooking. No football, no piano, no ballet. Just knitting and chinese food and an overdue homework assignment.

Ah - the food is here. I'm off to fill my tummy. Happy Monday all!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

It's All About Perspective


The thing I love about photography is that it’s all about perspective. You slow down, put on blinders and focus through the viewfinder. Life is filtered. Your perspective depends on the lens. Sometimes you see the whole picture, sometimes only a small part. More often than not you see something you didn’t notice before. Old becomes new. New becomes old. And, in my neck of the woods, dirt and dust garner beauty.

One of my favorite types of photography is Through the Viewfinder. There is an entire Flickr group dedicated to the art. Essentially you use a new camera to take a picture through an old camera. I have a wonderful collection of these geriatric cameras; all found at garage sales for under ten dollars. The photo above was shot through the viewfinder of 'ol argie.

And though I love my antiquated viewfinders I'm always on the lookout for something new. I adore fish eye photography and have coveted many a wide-angle lens. These lenses, however, come with a steep price tag. Not something I'm quite able to squeeze into the budget. But yesterday while poking around Flickr I found a fish eye lens I could afford - door peepholes! I can't wait to give it a try.

So if your having a bad day, if your tired or crabby or feeling just plain blah, I have a suggestion: Pull out your camera. Try on a different lens. It may just change your perspective.

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No, I didn’t forget ... today is giveaway day! The lucky winner via random number generator is ... Jamie!

Jamie also happens to be a fantastic photographer - check out her photos here.

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Happy Love Thursday Everyone! Don't forget Love Thursday has moved ... but that just means double the fun and double the bliss...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Teaching Children Fiscal Responsibility



My husband and I have not always been responsible with money. In our early twenties, despite an obvious lack of money, we’d determined it grew on trees. Booted from our respective nests we lived as if mom and pop were still footing the bills. Essentially we ate our way out of an early retirement by putting each and every mediocre meal on credit. Then we had a baby and I simultaneously started veterinary school. We couldn’t pay our bills - not even the minimum payments. And there were diapers and childcare and that pesky government who insisted we pay 1099 taxes. We were not okay.

We contacted Consumer Credit Counseling Services and made drastic changes to our lifestyle. We became a one car family; which I used to commute to school leaving the boys high and dry. My husband biked our son to daycare and anywhere else he needed to go. We did not have cell phones. We canceled our cable service. We bought pre-paid calling cards. We did not eat out. We did not go on vacation and we generally did not spend money on anything but the bills. Bit-by-bit we climbed out of that deep dark cavern of debt and vowed to never go spelunking again.

Now the economy is slowing. And regular readers know we are once again taking steps to cut back our lifestyle; not because we are financially down trodden but because we don’t want to be. And truth-be-told we could stand to have a larger emergency cushion--just in case I go and say switch careers or do something equally risky.

Christmas will be financed by selling stuff on Ebay. We are eating solely at home (last night I had a can of tuna and a can of garbanzo beans - yum!). Most household items are garage sale or thrift store finds. I rely on the Goodwill to outfit my children (read not trendy).

And other than my obvious lack of fashion acumen what does this have to do with the children? Everything. We have been using this economic slowdown as a springboard to teach our kids fiscal responsibility. When we go shopping we compare prices. We discuss which items are a better deal (the large container for x price or two smaller containers for y price). At garage sales we give the kids a budget (typically a dollar or two). The kids are free to spend this money at their will so long as they do the math themselves (though we do offer the four-year-old some mathematical assistance). We talk about budgeting, saving, investing and financial responsibility. And we thought things were going well ...

Then my daughter came home from school with a brilliant plan. It seems her friend, who is essentially homeless and whose family bounces from hotel to hotel, has a Family Access Network Advocate. This is a cool thing. Advocates bring clothes and notebooks and colored pencils - for free! Middle Sis got to experience this spirit of getting first hand because the advocate allowed to her tag along to her friend's session. Middle sis even got a free notebook. And she formulated a plan ...

You see, if she had an advocate of her very own then I wouldn't have to complain about her growing out of her clothes and we’d have access to all the pens we could ever write with. Clearly this is an excellent deal.

Aaaack! We sat Sis down. We attempted to explain “... We are thrilled there are advocates. Your friend, by no fault of her own, does not have an ideal family life. They are struggling. And she benefits greatly from these free items. Hopefully, with this assistance, she can make a better life for herself. But you, Sister, do not live the kind of life requiring an advocate. You don’t want the kind of life that would make an advocate necessary. Yes, free is good. The right kind of free. The if you aren’t going to use that and were just going to throw it out kind of free is excellent. It’s fiscally and environmentally responsible. However a family advocate not the kind of free you want. That kind of free is reserved for people who really truly need it.”

She looked thoughtful. We thought she understood. I WANT AN ADVOCATE!

Her father tried a different approach, “I can beat the living daylights out of you and then you could call the police. I’ll bet they’ll give you an advocate then!”

Sis looked at her father with a smirk, “No,” she said in a silly Daddy Trix are for kids tone, “that’s not how you get an advocate. I’ll just tell them you only buy me clothes from the Goodwill.”

Clearly there is still much work to do, “...and miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep.”

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

To whom it may concern:

Middle daughter is incredibly affronted because she owns only one (ONE!) Webkinz. She is also very angry as her evil mother will not drop $15.00 on a whim so that she can add to her collection. Because her friends own, like, seven or eight Webkinz - duh! Little sis is also upset that she has not contributed to the Webkinz phenomenon. These girls wholeheartedly agree that they would prefer Webkinz to say a roof over their heads or food on the table. Tears have been shed.

As such I am writing to suggest that if anyone is need of a Christmas idea I believe I have one.

XOXO,
The worst most evil horrendous mother on the planet

Monday, November 10, 2008

Midlife



Grey grifty November. The clouds push closer and closer--determined to crush our minds and spirits, determined to garner our souls. The house is dark, lights off for energy savings and to slow financial hemorrhage. The sink is full of dishes. Powdered sugar covers the counter like a winter snow, melted, then refrozen with litter from the streets. The cupcakes have disappeared. All that remains is the mess. It feels hopeless, desolate. I stand at the kitchen window and watch a single leaf dangling from a skeletal branch, holding, holding then snap--with a gust of wind it’s gone. I too am ready to snap, to disappear in a tempest as if I’d never been. There’s nothing left to do but clean.

The kitchen lights sputter, shocked at being called into action, then spark to life. I push up my sleeves and turn on the sink. Bright pink gloves protect my eczematous hands. The warmth creeps in; it ignores the latex barrier and begins to thaw my marrow. I smell last night’s dinner--grilled onions glazed in a balsamic reduction--love burnt into the pan. One by one the dishes disappear. The counter shimmers. The kitchen is transformed.

It’s the cycle of seasons, the cycle of housecleaning, the cycle of life. And I realize it’s time for my life to cycle. I ache for the upswing. Gloves off I stand ready.

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This weekend I had a epiphany. I was kneeling in the living room picking up toys and thinking about how I had to work over Thanksgiving. Thinking about how I had to work Tuesday night (and Wednesday night and Saturday day and Sunday day). And I realized that I really really don't want to do it anymore. I need to make a change before I end up in the loony bin.

At the same time I wrote the above post for a writing prompt. That solidified it. I'm now taking baby steps to change my life by the time I turn forty (this gives me 2 1/2 years to formulate and execute my plan). I don't yet have a solid plan but this weekend I started poking around the freelance writing market - we'll see what pans out.

My current fantasy--to find enough freelance writing and veterinary relief work to pay the bills. I'm not looking for fame or fortune. I'm looking for a reasonable income with reasonable flexible working hours.

Truth-be-told I'm scared, scared even to write this. It seems silly. A pipe dream. I may be an abysmal failure. And these are baby baby steps. I'm not quitting my job--yet. I'm simply wondering if I could quit my day (well actually night) job sooner than later. But I'm putting these thoughts out there for you to read, to know, so I don't chicken out.

And today a friend sent this quote from The Artist's Way ..."leap and the net will appear." I hope hope hope it's true. I'm not quite there yet. I'm on the precipice, peering over the edge into the canyon below, contemplating the consequences. I could fly. I could fall. I could hit the bottom and bounce; find myself bruised but in the air. I'll keep you posted.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Frugal Friday - Form a Sense of Community



This morning I’ve been on the phone planning carpools to and from middle school, to and from elementary school. Turns out this is the weekend of single parenthood. My husband is on a beer binge at a brewer’s conference and two mothers are off to work-related conferences. The remaining dads and I have threatened to throw a blow-out party whilst our spouses are away. No not really. In reality we’re coordinating childcare - lending a helping hand. I’ll be picking up the boys from school so one dad can get his daughter from preschool. I’ll be picking up the girls so another father can complete a much needed job. Today’s my day to pick up the slack.

The beauty of it? These are the same people who pick up the slack for me. They take my preschooler for a play date when I’m too exhausted to function. They drive my children to school when my work schedule doesn’t permit. Without these neighbors, without this community we’d be paying for taxi services and childcare; something none of us can afford at the moment.

And a developed sense of community naturally leads to frugality; you can trade not only childcare but tools, skill sets, DVDs, books, etc. We don’t own a ladder but my neighbors do. When it comes time to hang those holiday lights I know a ladder is readily available. In exchange I’ll bake homemade cinnamon rolls. My neighbors don’t own a truck but we do. All they have to do is ask. When I ripped out my water-hogging lawn my neighbors came over to help without being asked. You can’t beat free friendly labor!

But in order to benefit from a sense of community it must first be created. How can you create community? One of the best things my neighborhood did was have a block party. All it took was a free permit from the city and a few flyers. We took over the streets potluck style. Every one chipped in. We got to know our neighbors and formed a neighborhood directory.

Now when people walk down the street they wave to each other. Everyone looks out for everyone else’s children. We all lend a helping hand in whatever way we’re able. It really does take a village; not only to raise a child but also to live an abundant frugal life.

Here are some links for your reading pleasure:

The Sunny Way

Neighborhood Frugal

The Tool Trader


How to Start a Neighborhood Cooking Club

How to Start a Community Garden


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Have a lovely weekend!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Love Thursday and a Giveaway!

Today is Love Thursday. Today also happens to be my 100th post. In honor of this milestone I'm having a giveaway because the person I love is YOU!

Leave a comment below to win this lovely homemade tote bag:


I'll pick a random winner next Thursday.

Have a lovely day!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Hope


Today I'm in love with my country and today I'm in love with my kids. Last night my husband and I went to a birthday dinner with friends. Big brother, at twelve, babysat. Before we left, however, the labradork decided to sample a bag of halloween candy.

Since chocolate is toxic to dogs we detoured to the clinic for an excavation of the dork's interior. At one point we were all standing around the dog watching him return his stolen goods (i.e. puke, vomit, up-chuck; the verbiage choice is yours). He had eaten Milky Ways, Butterfingers, and an entire Hershey's bar - wrappers and all. The kids each had a cookie in hand and were watching the show as if they were at the movies. Clearly they all have strong constitutions and are no doubt my children.

We left the dork for observation, took the kids home and headed out for dinner. After dinner we went back to the clinic to retrieve the dog. It was exactly eight o'clock as we pulled into the parking lot. The western polls had just closed. My phone rang. Obama won! Obama won! It was the kids.

Home alone the twelve-year-old, eight-year-old and four-year-old were watching politics. They were watching the election. The excitement in their little voices was palpable. We came home to find these sticky notes all over the house. Clearly they are also their father's children.

Today I have hope. Today I am proud to be an American. I am proud to be a part of and a witness to history. And today I pledge to work "...brick by brick, block by block, calloused hand by calloused hand..." not only for a better America but for a better world.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Don't forget to vote! But also don't forget - today is just the beginning. There is still so much to do to in this world.

Here is a project we can all participate in ...


Happy Election Day!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Frugal Friday


I've got lots of frugal ideas to share with you but today am short on time. We are having people over for Halloween and have spent the day cooking and cleaning and cleaning some more. As such I've just one small idea to share ...

Do you remember the babies? Well one of those babies was born today - on Halloween! Her mom must have known because she'd asked me to knit a pumpkin hat for the occasion. Well today we went to visit the new babe in the hospital. I wanted to bring something to brighten the room and almost bought flowers. But then I remembered something I'd read last night in Simple Abundance - Victorian ladies used to preserve fall leaves. I didn't have time to preserve leaves but I thought - why not a fall leaf bouquet. My yard contained several branches of intact leaves and some Russian Sage and Yarrow that hadn't yet given up the ghost. I was so pleased with the final result that I also made another bouquet for tonight's table.

So that's my single simple tip today - use what you have. You may be pleasantly surprised with the results.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Love Thursday


Every last muscle in my body aches. But in a good way. Yesterday I went to a Bikram Yoga class (i.e. hot yoga). Oy was it hot! There I stood, neatly framed in the mirror, drenched in sweat, my no longer eighteen-year-old body tremoring as it tried to hold a pose. I’m doing this for me. I’m doing this for me. I’m doing this for me. I tried to visualize a lean mean muscle machine.

Each pose was demonstrated in cartoon form on large cards tacked to the wall above the mirror; gigantic yogi flash cards. I kept glancing at the cards - only four poses left, only three poses left. I think I can, I think I can. I was definitely the caboose of the class. Others held their poses so gracefully you’d think they were prima ballerinas. Me? Not so much. I twitched, I tremored, I fell out of balance. But I made it through. I was so busy concentrating I even missed the sunrise. If one is going to get up at 5:30 in the morning it seems the primary advantage would be to see the sunrise. But this is not the case. The primary advantage is lactic acidosis - the first step to a healthier fitter self.

And why am I doing this? Why am I torturing myself? (Because it does sometimes feel like torture.) It is not about aesthetics (though a flat stomach would be a welcome side-effect). It’s about honoring my body: this vessel that skirts me though the world. Lately I’ve neglected my physical self. Without exercise I’m tired, lethargic, mentally deficient. It’s difficult to accomplish all there is to do in a day. It's difficult to think straight. And I’m too tired to care for others. I want to be a happy healthy energetic mother with happy healthy energetic kids. As such I need to attend to the Mamma’s physical and mental well being so she will have the energy and state of mind to attend to others.

I felt great after I got home. Little sis and I walked to the library. We cut through the park and took a extra time to sqaunch the crunchy fall leaves. We picked up acorns and admired their beauty. We listened to the geese honking and hollering across the pond. It was a gorgeous fall day and we were out and about to enjoy it.

Today? Today I’m cleaning house (literally). After school the kids and I are going to the track. We signed up for a three mile Jingle Bell Run in December. We need to get in shape. We are going to run. Tonight we’ll carve pumpkins and mess up everything I cleaned but it's okay.

Last week was stressful, difficult. This week less so though yesterday we got the bill for phase two of orthodontia - ouch. And though money is tight, even more so between braces and car issues, we can deal with it. Regular exercise is key. It changes my perspective. Instead of getting depressed, instead of crying, I’m choosing to look at these financial strains as opportunities. As challenges.

I’m going to ramp up Frugal Friday. Our expenses are increasing, our income is not. Time to get creative. Very very creative. Hopefully the extra cerebral oxygen will be beneficial.

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I’m still slowly knitting away at my first sock. Here’s a sneak peak:


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This is my 96th post - ninety six! I’d like to do something special to honor my 100th post. I’m thinking a giveaway may be in order ... maybe a bag like the one in my Etsy shop ... stay tuned!

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On this Love Thursday don't forget to love yourself!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Just Trying to Walk the Line


Last week on Peculiar Momma:

The momma got sick. Pappa’s truck got impounded. Mamma was sleep-deprived and had to work all night.

Was it over? No! If so then what would we write about today? Lucky for you the adventure continues...

After said truck incident Mamma went to work only to find out she was the last one standing. Two other colleagues were out of town and a third too ill to work. There were 64 hours remaining in the weekend and one doctor. One sick doctor.

As luck would have it a relief doctor was willing to cover some of the night hours but couldn’t work days. So Mamma worked from 4:00 pm to 12:30 am, plodded home, caught a cat nap and returned at 8:00 am to work another 16.5 hours. Mamma was tired. Mamma was sick. Mamma was coughing up a lung. Just ... keep ... moving.

Meanwhile back on the homefront:

A neighborhood dog, Chopper, was run over in the cul-de-sac: the boy a witness. Chopper did not survive. Later the boy said to the Mamma, "I don't understand how you do your job. You see stuff like that everyday."

Mamma tried to explain. There's an internal switch used for self preservation. You flip it to turn into an emotionless automaton. The problem is that when one is tired, when one is sick, the switch gets rusty. It's harder to flip; harder to run on auto-pilot. Tears typically result. You brush them aside and move on to the next patient. Rinse. Repeat.

Somehow Mamma made it through. She finally arrived home early Sunday morning. A bed never looked better; flannel sheets pre-warmed by a labrador - pure heaven! Mamma refused to return to work Sunday. She couldn't do it. Someone else had to step up to the plate.

Sunday was a day to relax, to unwind, to forget. The Mammas and the Pappas were going on an outing. They went to a local lake to watch the salmon run and to look for bald eagles.

The outing started off well. The weather was great 65 degrees and sunny. The children bounded ahead to the inlet stream. The stream was filled with fish. The Mamma closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Ah, finally, peace and quiet. Then the family marched along the trail by the lake - right into a hoard of yellow jackets. The wasps swarmed. Pappa and both girls were stung - several times.

Run family run! And the family did run with the evil insects in close pursuit. Finally they made it to the safe haven of their car and high-tailed it to the general store in search of benadryl.

The family just prior to insect invasion


At the store everyone piled out of the car and went inside. Suddenly there was another yellow jacket. The Pappa shooed it outside and closed the front door. "No more yellow jackets!" said Mamma as she brushed her hands together in an attempt to comfort her family. Then little sis screamed. She had a stinger in her finger and another wasp was climbing down her shirt. The realization hit - the family brought the yellow jackets to the store with them.

In a writhing flailing fit the family stripped down next to the souvenir mugs. Several additional wasps were outed and annihilated.

Benadryl, tylenol and popcicles were in order - stat! The family retreated to the outdoor fire by the lake with the hopes that the smoke would repel any further attacks. The remainder of the day passed without further incident. Nonetheless this family outing was par for the course on this trying weekend.

The Peculiar family is hoping their karma will improve. They'd like to close this particular chapter in their lives.

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And here is the upside:

What? You can't be serious can you? An upside?

Yes. Yes, an upside.

  1. The weekend is now over.
  2. We were attacked by insects rather than say a bear or cougar.
  3. Nobody had an anaphylactic reaction.
  4. We were not arrested for indecent exposure.
  5. We did spend time together as a family (the family who endures pain together stays together).
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Here's hoping today is plain and ordinary.

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Antithesis of Frugal Friday (or How to Support Your Local Government)

Because sometimes we all need a good cry

Written from my husband's perspective:

1) Get caught in a speed trap in po dunk Oregon.

2) Miss your court date because you don't want to drive 3 hours to complain about speed trap. They've gottcha.

3) Pay ticket late. Grumble about government agencies and speed traps and corruption. Wipe your hands of the whole ordeal.

4) Wait two years.

5) Make an illegal turn.

6) Get pulled over.

7) Find out you forgot to pay an additional $75.00 fee for license re-instatement (i.e. you've been driving on a suspended license for two years).

8) Watch second police car pull up.

9) Be surrounded by police.

10) Watch police impound your car.

11) Walk the rest of the way to work to call wife. Keep in mind your wife worked all night. She's sick. She had a long long night in which she had to call the police on a loony bin client.

12) Have wife bring passport and social security card to DMV with pajama clad four-year-old in tow.

13) Pay $75.00 re-instatement fee - cash only. DMV has an atm. Pay off label atm fee.

14) Pay $25.00 for new license because police took old one.

15) Go to police station. Pay $100.00 for impound release forms - cash only.

16) Go to impound lot. Attempt to retrieve car. Attempt to write check. Cash only.

17) Drive to atm. Remove additonal $165.00

18) Drive back to impound lot. Retrieve car.

19) Put court date on calendar. Hope the $504.00 of tickets will be reduced.

20) Go to work in attempt to replenish hemorrhaging bank account.

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The moral of this story? Don't be fooled. We all pay taxes in one form or another. Sometimes they're hidden.  Sometimes they're overt.  

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I'm trying to put a positive spin on this one but am coming up blank. All I can come up with is ... at least my local government is well funded. Very well funded.

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I hope others out in bloggerville are having a wonderful and frugal Friday!

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Addendums to the day:

1) When you open the refrigerator and the bottom door shelf falls off spewing it's contents all over the kitchen by all means replace the shelf and put all the contents back in place.  Because the shelf definitely won't fall off again the next time you open the refrigerator, right?

2) Know that today is not your day.  Welcome the Charlie Brown cloud floating over your head. Accept with love the bathroom towel hook that decides to spontaneously disassociate from the wall.   Run your finger over the big gaping hole.  Try to look a the bright side - now you get to learn to plaster and dry wall. 

3) Do not turn on the television.  Do not watch the stock market eat away your retirement.  JUST DON'T DO IT! 

4) Know that when you get up, tired as you are, to fashion a lunch for your child that said child will be sound asleep when you return with her meal.  

5) Just close your eyes and take a nap.  Good night bloggerville, good night. 

Thursday, October 23, 2008

What I do not understand ...

Man has walked on the moon; "Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed."

Jim has a prosthetic hip; “a Tapered Titanium Cementless Femoral Component in Primary Hip Arthroplasty.”

My house is on Google Earth; “the rocket control mechanism uses the inertial guidance system to calculate necessary adjustments to the rocket's nozzles to tilt the rocket to the course described in the flight plan.”

E-mail is received minutes after it’s sent; “Eventually, the packets reach computer 5.6.7.8. Here, the packets start at the bottom of the destination computer's TCP/IP stack and work upwards.”

Animals are cloned
; “we can create an exact genetic replica of a cell, tissue or animal” down to the last A T G and C.

Mice grow human ears; “Progenitor Cells Isolated from the H-2Kb-tsA58 Transgenic Mouse.”

I can change the channel from across the room; “The chip is packaged in what is known as an 18 pin Dual Inline Package, or a DIP. To the right of the chip you can see a diode, a transistor (black, with three leads), a resonator (yellow), two resistors (green) and a capacitor (dark blue).”

I’m freezing yet febrile, every cell aches, my nose is raw; “there is no medically proven and accepted medication directly targeting the causative agent, there is no cure for the common cold.”

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It' official. I'm sick. Everyone else is healthy so I am apparently the fomite this round. I'll have to care for myself then brace to care for everyone else.

Last night I made soup for my soul; heavy on the garlic. I also downed several cups tea with lemon, honey and fresh ginger. Let me tell you - this leads to several trips to the bathroom. Sneezing on a full bladder is NOT a good idea for any woman who's had children.

And instead of reading tea leaves I read my tea bag:

I do hope it's true. I'm going to do my best to love my family and myself as I wade through this murky wet tunnel of parenting and work, sleeplessness and sickness. I can't wait to come out the other end. When I do I'm going to dry off and leap into a pile of gorgeous autumn leaves.

Then I'm going to keep a promise to myself. I'm going to create time for me. For exercise. For yoga. My body needs a thirty-seven thousand mile tune-up. Then I need to keep up with proper maintenance so I reach that coveted hundred-thousand milestone. Baby steps. Baby steps.

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Happy Love Thursday Everyone!

Monday, October 20, 2008


A couple of weeks ago I dipped my toe into the sock knitting pool and fashioned a pair of fuzzy feet. These felted socks are deliciously cozy and I’ve been wearing them non-stop. There is something very fulfilling and Mr. Rogeresque about coming home, removing one’s shoes and donning a pair of handmade slippers. It’s instant relaxation, a flipping of the switch; “Welcome to downtime!” purr the slippers to my feet and my body melts. Pure heaven! I’ve since knit but not yet felted a second pair and cast on a third. Fuzzy feet will be spread across the continental United States this holiday season.

In knitting these slippers, however, I realized it’s time to attempt a pair of real socks. My sock basket is woefully sparse as most of my footwear has been kidnapped by my children. I need some socks that are unmistakenly irrevocably mine. All mine.

Then this morning I logged on to my Google feed and saw Soule Mama’s autumn socks knit from the Yarn Harlot’s Basic Sock Recipe. I had sock yarn. I had needles. I was ready to go.

So instead of, say, taking a shower or getting dressed I cast on a pair of socks. I drove my son to school in my pajamas. At 7:15 in the morning when the sun was just peeking over the horizon this felt moderately reasonable. My twelve-year-old may have been fully dressed and ready for his day but hey this was my weekend and it wasn’t fully light yet so I had some leeway. By 9:00 am, however, when the sun had fully exposed itself and folks were out and about in their suits and ties or jogging outfits or whatever it felt a bit indulgent to still be wearing the Nick and Nora gnomes. Did this stop me? No. I gifted my neighbors with my full pajama laden glory as I drove my daughter to school. Fortunately I did not have to exit the vehicle once we arrived. I’m not sure the PTA moms would approve of my fashion acumen.

And, truth-be-told, it is now 3:00 in the afternoon. You guessed it. I’m still wearing my PJs. I’ll have you know I am not a total bum. I’ve done about a bazillion loads of laundry, loaded and unloaded the dishwasher, vacuumed and cleaned one bathroom. And I’m still working on that sock. Perhaps I’ll change before dinner.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Frugal Friday

Last night we messed up. I was tired. I just couldn't do it. We went out to dinner. $70.00 to feed a family of five. Granted that included margaritas. The margaritas were good. All margaritas are good. But the food wasn't that great. It certainly wasn't worth the money with or without alcohol. Tonight we're having proscuitto chicken with fontina cheese and grilled asparagus. Tonight's meal, including wine, will taste much much better and cost a fraction of last night's dinner.

If you are smarter than I and elect to spend your $70.00 on something other than mediocre Mexican food here is what you can get:

A yellow chair: $15.00
(lovingly photographed here and blogged here )

A green bookshelf: $10:00

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A yard of material: $1.00
A large shabby-chic table cloth: $3.00
A Christmas ornament for the neighborhood holiday exchange: $2.00

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A vanity table that perfectly matches the other furniture in your daughter's room: $15.00

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A brand new apron: $3.00

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And ... you'd still have some money left over to buy something homemade from my Etsy Shop.

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It's really all about how and where we spend our money isn't it? I hope all of you are smarter than I and have a Frugal Friday!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

"Mr. Duffy lived a short distance from his body."

--James Joyce, Ulysses

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Yesterday 4:45 pm

She’s bawling. She’s angry because I have to go to work. She wants me to walk her into ballet but didn’t get ready in time. She doesn’t understand why I don’t work only between the hours of 10:00 am to 3:00 pm while she is otherwise occupied with scholarly pursuits. Then I could attend to her needs, shuttle her about at will and generally perform my motherly duties. As it stands I am going to work and will be there all night. She is not pleased. She does not care about the mortgage or food on the table. All she knows is I am leaving and will not return until morning. I deposit her, bawling, on the steps to ballet class.

Yesterday 11:00 pm

I’m amputating my second tail of the night. This one is necrotic. The odor turns the hardest of stomachs. My nose is inches from the source. I hate tail amputations. This is how I make a living. I need a shower.

This morning 1:30 am

My feet hurt. I’m a wuss. Three of my employees are pregnant. I can’t imagine how they’re feeling. I sit and try to write coherent records.

This morning 7:00 am

We are checking out our overnight patients; discussing blood transfusions, diarrhea, broken bones and glucose levels. I can’t wait to go home.

This morning 8:25 am

I’m the morning carpool. We should be in the car. We should be driving to school. Instead I am sweeping the floor while my daughter dresses. Little sis will join the parade in her pajamas. She has no where to go. I’m exhausted. The night has sucked all creative marrow from my bones. I can’t do Love Thursday. I have no photo. I don’t know what to say. I look down and see this:




My life might be full of trash but the trash is full of love.

Happy Love Thursday!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Gone to the bees ...



I have hand eczema. I’ve had it for years. I’m careful with hand creams, avoid perfumes and harsh chemicals yet my eczema persists. It can be eradicated with steroids but not without significant side effects. And as soon as the medication is stopped the disease returns. So I’ve learned to live like a leper. People recoil when they see my out-stretched hand. They fear handshake transmission. At work I feign bite-wound injury. People don’t mind shaking a hand munched on by a bacterial laden cat. But eczema? No way!

Then last week I had a terrible flare-up. My eczema was more than a cosmetic disturbance. It became a painful and crippling entity. My hand throbbed, weeped and had shooting pains. It was hard to function. Clearly something had to be done. But what? Your average person, a smart person, would go to the doctor for a prescription to get the flare-up under control. But not me. No.

I decided to make a natural cure-all hand cream from the internet. It must work, right? If it is written it is so. And all I needed was beeswax, honey and olive oil. Pure. Natural. Simple.

Forever frugal I printed a 25% off coupon and headed to the craft store for beeswax which I found in the candle section. I’ve never worked with beeswax before and learned a few things I will share with you now:

1) Beeswax bars are impossible to cut or break apart without some sort of power tool.

2) Beeswax melts quickly over the stove.

3) Bars that stick out of the pan will drip over the side and all over the stove.

4) Beeswax is highly flammable (I had a small stove top fire and luckily nothing else).

5) Removed from heat beeswax quickly re-coagulates.

6) Beeswax does not come off with soap and water.

7) Beeswax does not come off with vinegar.

8) Beeswax does melt if doused with boiling water.

9) After a boiling water dousing beeswax will form into small beads, redistribute over the stove top and adhere to the surface.

10) The Cat in the Hat has nothing on me.

11) I do not have Thing One or Thing Two for cleaning assistance.

12) But I do have the internet.

13) Citrus essential oil (in this case grapefruit) removes beeswax.

14) Beeswax, honey and olive oil make a lovely paste that does indeed improve eczematous lesions.

I’m only a few days out with this concoction and my hand is healing. Only time will tell if this salve is an actual cure-all. I did, however, made a connection with a local beekeeper and have a source for free beeswax should I want it. If my eczema continues to clear I’ll likely be performing additional chemistry experiments in my kitchen. Perhaps I should stock up on essential oil.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Frugal Friday


Many of you think the sky is falling. I want to clonk you on the head like the V-8 commercials. *Clonk* Please don’t be Chicken Little and convert your paper losses to real ones. If you need the money and need it now by all means pull it out. But if you’re a long-term investor like me then ride this out. I’ll be with you sitting on the surfboard careening towards the rocks. I’ll hold your hand. Our stomachs may lurch and leap into our throats but that’s the thrill of the ride. The tide will turn before we collide. Have you ever ridden a roller coaster? Did you crash? No? See - people pay good money for this type of excitement. Today it’s yours for the taking.

And remember the adage buy low and sell high? Yesterday after market close I bought more stock for my retirement portfolio. I’m dollar-cost averaging my way through this mess and hope to make some money in the future. My husband rolled his quarterly bonus into his 401K. Have these stocks and funds declined? Probably. I haven’t looked. The market is falling again today. It will continue to fall for some time. But it will come back. And, honestly, if it doesn’t then we’ll all be together on this sinking ship and I’ll stop thinking about the market and figure out how to swim.

Investing is an activity for a person with a strong constitution and time to wait. Turn off the television. Put down the paper. Yesterday I bought stock then baked a batch of cookies while catching up on This American Life. We will all be fine - eventually.

This is not to say that you should not save and conserve money. As such here are my frugal tips for the week.

1) Make your own holiday decor. Typically I buy one or two decorative items a year. I buy these things on deep discount after the holidays and save them for the following year. But this year I’m not even going to do that. Instead I’m tapping the creative bones of the internet and will be making holiday decor.

Check out this tutorial for a fall bunting from recycled newspaper. We’ll be making this over the weekend.

2) Force your own bulbs. The days have been cold and grey over here. We are in for a long season of political and economic turmoil coupled with crummy weather. What better way to lift your spirits than with flowers.

I’m currently re-blooming an amaryllis bulb saved from last year. Hopefully it will bloom around Thanksgiving. And I ordered Paperwhites from BloomingBulb.com. I got 25 bulbs for $18.20 including shipping. Hint: sign up for their newsletter for a 10% discount.

Plant in simple thrift store containers or containers from around the house and you’ll have a fantastic inexpensive holiday gift. Containers not so pretty? Wrap in gift wrap. Small paint cans work great. Check out these tin can herb pots. They could easily be used for forced bulbs.

Worried about forcing your own bulbs? It's easy! Here's a great set of growing instructions. Five containers of bulbs for less than $20.00; I know what my kids’ teachers are getting for the holidays.

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Not only did I bake cookies. I also made another bag. This one, sewn from thrift store fabric, is for my knitting projects. These bags are supposed to be re-usable grocery bags. Perhaps I’ll get around to make some for actual shopping one of these days ...


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Have a great weekend everyone!