Monday, March 30, 2009

Young Lady ... where have you been?

Last week was Spring break.  We didn't go anywhere.  We didn't do anything.  We simply hung out. We learned to make Huevos Rancheros.   We learned what a couche is and proceeded to fashion one of our own.  We baked ciabatta. We played Yahtzee in the dark.  I finished knitting a sweater and made booties for the new baby down the street.   I bought some material (an old sheet and an old curtain) which will become my summer lounge pants.  We hosted a slumber party complete with movies, manis and pedis. We did a touch of laundry and tons and tons of dishes (created by me and cleaned by the hubbie).  It was a good week.  

Today was the first day back at school.  Back to routine ... ballet, piano and lacrosse practice, work schedules and orthodontist appointments.  Back to "real" life.  

I thoroughly enjoyed our idleness and eagerly await the next spot of time where we have nothing to do.  


Monday, March 23, 2009

Monday Memories: The Commute

Gayle over at Planet M Files is hosting her third Monday Memories. This week I finally got together a post to share. Some of you already know this story (Amy, Andrea, Keri and the girls from work). To you I apologize if it's old hat. To the rest of you I apologize for the images that will unmercilessy be forced into your heads. And if you are a man I apologize again. Happy Monday!


“From there to here, and here to there, funny things are everywhere.” Dr. Seuss

I started veterinary school in the fall of 1996. My family lived in Eugene, Oregon but school was in Corvallis, an hour’s commute by car. Corvallis and Eugene were connected via two routes. The first being the I-5 which meant blasting up the corridor with 18-wheelers and drug smugglers. The second route was a two-lane country highway meandering through Willamette Valley’s humble farming communities. Needless to say I took the road less traveled by.

I’d be out the door by 6:45 am, taking our only car; a white Subaru Outback (we were, after all, a prototypical Northwest family). My husband pedaled our young son to daycare on a bicycle with a Burley Cart, rain or shine.

On clear days my commute was phenomenal; fields upon fields of grass grown for seed, pastures peppered with sheep, archaic barns and Christmas tree farms; all indulged my senses and provided much needed visual sustenance and mental fuel. On rainy days, which in the Willamette Valley occurred more often than not, the commute lost it's appeal and became harrowing. The roads, pitted by years of travel and poor upkeep, filled with water and grabbed the car, tossing it to and fro. Getting lost in the landscape was not an option during those waterlogged days.

The country road contained other hazards as well. With only one lane each direction getting stuck behind an old person, or God forbid, a tractor added precious minutes to a tight commute. Nonetheless I carefully obeyed the speed limits. The gestapo in the small farming towns were also known for their speed traps. I had no interest in losing additional time or money but also had other drive time activities I did not wish to explain. Therefore, no matter how late, I always followed posted road signs.

You see my son was 3-months-old when I began this commute. He was my first child and I was determined to do right by him while still pursuing my dreams. I was a young modern mama and could do anything. Despite school, despite the commute, I continued to breast feed. This meant pumping.

Thank God for the double breast pump with a cigarette lighter attachment. When did I pump? While driving of course! My boobs were available having no other commitments during the drive. They didn't have to steer, push the gas pedal or shift gears. Their schedule was wide open. My schedule - not so much. Time was precious and I was not going to waste a single moment.

Now there were some technical difficulties with this particular endeavor. The cups had to be hooked into my nursing bra (under my shirt of course) and the bottles had to be balanced on my knees. I had to make sure the bottles did not overfill and short out the pump. I had to relax and think happy thoughts. I had to endure strange looks from farmers on tractors. I had to drink a lot of water. And I still had to drive.

Luckily for me I was never pulled over while pumping though I’m sure I wouldn’t have been the first “pumping while driving” offender. My baby boy is now twelve-years-old, almost thirteen. Looking back it’s amazing I was able to commute, raise a child, breast feed, go to school and stay married. I also managed to squeeze in a few other accomplishments including having a second child and graduating with honors (in that order). I was told it couldn't be done and I proved them wrong.

I don’t know I’d have the tenacity to do now what I did then. I was younger and just naive enough not to listen to others. Today I'm older and a bit more tired. But despite my age and the requisite wisdom that comes with it -- I will never ever tell anyone it can't be done (whatever their "it" is). Because with the right attitude "it" probably is possible. Though I may not be able to do it someone else likely can. Instead I tell people it won't be easy, you'll struggle, you'll want to quit. People will try to talk you out of your dreams. But, to quote U2 (and whomever originated the phrase before them), "Don't let the bastards grind you down."


Saturday, March 21, 2009

Missing in Action

My brain is missing in action. With each passing year I grow increasingly forgetful and fear this is the beginning of the end. Gray matter, once solid, has turned to mush. I suspect it’s pouring out my ears as I sleep. It’s caught up in the wash with the sheets and pillow cases, spun about and sent forever down the drain. Where else could it have gone? Because clearly portions of my intellect have vanished.

It’s those moments when I pick up the phone to call home and forget my own number. It’s the days when I write the word “world” and then stare at it incessantly wondering if it is spelled correctly. It’s the two weeks in a row I forget ballet lessons; weekly lessons we’ve been attending for six months. It’s the absolute blank when I’m trying to recall names of people I know, people who are familiar.

I can feel it; the little man in my head sprinting down neuronal pathways. He’s panicking, opening doors one by one, looking for information. But he’s lost the address. He can’t find the vault. Each successive door reveals a blank white board. Someone got there first and erased all notation. Naked in public, laughed at by others, he frenetically continues his quest. In the meantime I stand with my face as blank as the boards behind the doors; jumping occasionally as egresses are slammed shut.

Perhaps the inn is full; there’s no room for additional information. As such cerebral sanitation crews labor late into the night to gather veteran knowledge and dump it out any available orifice. This would certainly explain the knowledge gaps; the lack of recall.

My memory failure is typically chocked up to hormones and parenthood and a lack of sleep. Though, like garbage floating on the ocean, pernicious thoughts also float through my head. When skies are grey thoughts of Alzheimer’s, malignant tumors and virulent prions come crashing to shore; reminders of human mortality and the morbidity that precedes it.

Then there are brighter days when I remember Albert Einstein. He was notoriously absent-minded. He couldn’t tabulate bus fare and misplaced large checks. He couldn’t even remember his own address. And yet he was a genius. It’s then I realize my problem is quite clear. I am simply too intelligent. Yeah, right.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Frugal Friday - The Root of the Matter

I have a famous relative. He’s so famous he’s been in People Magazine. His name is Ernest Dittemore and he’s famous for living in a hole. Mr. Dittemore was a distant cousin of my mother’s, once removed. Before his death we exchanged yearly Christmas cards and my family got quite a chuckle about the eccentric Mole Man. He was, after all, our family’s claim to fame.

Only now I’m beginning to wonder if ‘ol Ernest was truly eccentric or merely more practical than the rest of us. A hole is inexpensive and, by it’s nature, relatively environmental -- warm in the winter, cool in the summer. Granted there’s not a lot of natural light and it is, perhaps, a touch dirty. But just think -- no vacuuming, no dusting -- imagine the time you’d save.

Now what, you may ask, brought this on? Are you planning on digging a new home? The answer would be no. At least not yet. But I have been reading Thoreau. And he’s got me thinking that we “advanced” countries might be better off stepping back a century or two.

Along those realms I did consider digging myself a different hole. No not the one I’m digging with this post ... I mean a literal hole -- a root cellar. Again, you might ask why. Well it seems my onions were a bit too thrilled in our heated stick built kitchen chock full of artificial light. My onions went and sprouted. Bah! What a waste! What to do? What to do?

Clearly I needed something to keep the onions in the dark. "Aha!" I declared speaking to no one but myself, "I need a root cellar." But then I remembered something; something with eight-legs. Spiders. Do you see me standing on my tippy toes on the chair in the kitchen? I was once chased, yes chased by a wolf spider. I’ve been rather fearful of eight-legged creatures since. I can deal with spiders in my well lit house but do not like the idea of encountering them in a darkened cellar.

With the root cellar idea kaput what was I to do with the sprouting onion? What does anyone do when they need an idea these days? Why Google it of course! And here is what I discovered: there is a whole movement of people who grow things purchased from the grocery store.

Why didn't I think of that?!! I'll grow my onion!

Now this onion will not turn into another bulb. However the sprouts are edible (much like a green onion). And if I let it go long enough it will flower and go to seed. The seeds can be harvested and grown into additional onion bulbs.

So I planted my onion along with some spouting garlic cloves, green onion bottoms and a rooted watercress. Now, low and behold, I have an indoor vegetable garden from grocery store purchases.

I wish I had a sun porch on which to expand my plantings but alas I do not. Instead my veggies are content nestled on the edge of the bathtub. They may move outside as the weather warms.

And that, my friends, is the root of the matter.

Happy Frugal Friday!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Ever After

I grew up a child of Disney. Not today’s Disney, the manufacturer of tween celebrities, but the animated Disney of the past -- Cinderella, Snow White, Bambi. Though these tales always began with a tragedy (typically the death of the mother) they invariably ended in happily ever after. All Disney tales follow the same simplistic formula; tragedy, foe, rescue of protagonist by a prince, knight or other likely hero and finally happily ever after.

These animated fables led me to believe I’d have one life challenge and once the challenge was met never-ending happiness would ensue. But my life hasn’t followed Disney’s allegorical blueprint. Sparrows do not tie my bonnets nor do dwarves swoon over my every move. I have not (yet) suffered a major personal tragedy. Rather life has been a series of obstacles; periods of hard work and sacrifice followed by brief moments of bliss. The bliss, however, is short-lived because the next hurdle unfailingly comes into sight. I know, I know ... life is not a fairy tale. Nonetheless it remains difficult to accept that happily isn’t ever after.

I continue to wait; to naively hope that infinite happiness lurks around the next corner. After this hurdle is cleared, after that problem is solved, then I’ll be truly and irrevocably happy. I want this to be true. And yet I know joy can not exist without sorrow. These seemingly contrary emotions will always wax and wane just like the ebb and flow of tides. Yet I’m unwilling to give up my guileless hope.

It’s quite possible I’m a slow learner. After all I still get excited about the daily mail though it brings nothing but bills and junk. Another misguided throw back from my childhood. Today when the mail truck comes I’ll grab my keys and run to the mail box. I’ll sort through the bills and the adverts and once again stifle my disappointment that no treasures arrived.

The irony of my hope is it has always been misguided. Most fairy tales, in their original inception, did not end happily. Charles Perrault killed off Grandma and Little Red Riding Hood. These hapless characters were not rescued by a heroic huntsman. The moral of the story? Don’t talk to strangers and don’t dilly dally or you will be eaten -- literally.

I can’t help but wonder if the original versions of these stories would be better suited versions for our children. Had I grown up assuming my life might end in the stomach of a wolf then perhaps I’d be grateful to be alive instead of longing for the ever after. Then again I'd rather not live my life in constant fear (as if the nightly news doesn't already serve this purpose).

I suspect a moderate tale, such as Grimm’s alternate Riding Hood might provide a happy medium. In Grimm’s second version Little Red Cap met a wolf on the way to Grandma’s house. This time, however, Red Cap heeded her mother’s advice and did not talk to the beastly creature. Instead she hurried to Grandma’s, warned her about the danger and together they outsmarted the beast. The evening was saved and the girls partook of tea and cake. Ms. Red Cap, however, remained diligent and on her toes as she traveled home. She was not bothered again because of her careful ways. No knight in shining armor or huntsman necessary. In other words, her life and subsequently her happiness was in her own hands.

It is time I took responsibility for my own happiness. It's unlikely a prince will come and scrub my floors which today would make me happy (it is however possible I'll find a frog). Instead of waiting for my prince to come I’m going to put on some music and pick up this mess. Then I’ll sit down and write a letter to mail to someone special -- me. And tomorrow I'll wait with bated breath for the mail arrive. After all it might contain something good.


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Using Photoshop's High Pass Filter to Sharpen Photographs

I've got another tutorial up for those who may be interested.

Night Shift

I apologize in advance for the imagery. My mind is, on occasion, warped. This job, this life, will do that to you.


I lie on the futon and stare at the ceiling with its fluorescent lights, acoustic tiles, and sprinkler head. The futon is definitely a step up from the abandoned gurney with mold creeping along the bottom of the pad; a gurney no longer fit for man and therefore donated to beast. We, however, did not differentiate between man and beast and returned the gurney to man, or woman as it were, as temporary sleeping quarters. Thankfully this used futon has taken its place.

Musty cologne wafts from the pillow case. I know who worked the night before and contemplate changing the sheets. Instead I close my eyes and picture dust mites, eight legs a piece, crawling in and out of the fabric like maggots burrowing through rotten flesh; with each breath millions of microscopic creatures are torn from their nests and plunged into alveoli then ripped from tissue and flung into space. In and out, in and out; I breathe steady with knowledge. The carnage is mine.

Computer beacons penetrate eyelids; constant reminders that I am not home. I pull the threadbare blanket over my head and wonder how many animals died nestled in its creases; how much urine and vomit caressed the stitching? What organic matter was set free in the wash and what remains?

A dog cries out. He’s been rebuilt. His pelvis more metal than bone. That doesn’t diminish the pain of being turned; rotated every four hours to prevent bed sores. He’s been here a week. He’s still not walking. Is it worth it to continue the fight?

What have I done? How did I get here? What am I doing? I need to rest. Soon the phone will ring and I’ll be called into action; expected to be lucid and intelligible while cohorting with the moon. I lie on the futon in a modified savasana, a corpse pose, and dream of sleep.


Friday, March 13, 2009

11:00 PM Friday the 13th

It's eleven o'clock at night. My husband is quizzing the nine-year-old on itunes. She has a wealth of musical knowledge - latest answer Siouxsie and the Banshees. I am giving the five-year-old piggy backs through the living room and she dancing on the arm of the couch. The product of after dinner s'mores, warm weather and the promise of spring. Tomorrow we will sleep in ... late. A child that sleeps to noon is nearly as valuable as one who goes to bed at 7:00 pm. We only live one life.

Tomorrow Frugal Friday, or if you prefer Spartan Saturday.

But for now g'night.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Nine-Year-Old Wisdom



"It would be nice if the bank didn't own our house. Because, ya know, then you wouldn't have to pay a mortgage and wouldn't have to worry about the bank taking our house."

"Don't I know it!"


Oh to be absolutely, completely and honorably debt free. That would be amazing! But then I think ... beware of The Monkey's Paw and count my blessings.


Today I am grateful for:

  • Delicious soup in a box (as compared to other things in a box).
  • The perfect costume found dirt cheap three days before a school play.
  • Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.
  • Days off work.
  • Nights where I get to sleep!
  • Later days.
  • Thrift store sweaters.
  • Hand knit sweaters in progress.
  • An email from My Pet Chicken: the chickies are coming! The chickies are coming! (estimated arrival date April 6th)
  • Pepcid AC

Please note: Though we feel broke and constantly worry about meeting our financial obligations we are not on the verge of losing our house (at least not at this moment). My middle child, however, is unfortunately tuned into the the world's economic strife. I hope, if nothing else, she learns from our generation's mistakes.


Friday, March 6, 2009

Frugal Friday: Food, Fitness and Frugality

We like to eat. We like to eat good food. Healthful food. Food with fresh organic ingredients. Eating is more than a matter of sustenance. It’s love and exploration. It’s enjoyment and nourishment.

To eat this way takes time and expense. A small container of truffle butter costs significantly more than a vat of Parkay. But a container of truffle butter costs oodles less than truffles themselves. And, for us, a 4 oz container will last three meals ... steak and arugula sandwiches, pizza with balsamic roasted tomatoes, brie and goat cheese and a final yet to be determined meal.

The steak meal was the most expensive ... ~$25.00 for ingredients. But there were leftovers for lunch so that makes two meals for our family of five. Of course you have to add in the cost of spaghettios for those too picky to eat the steak. The pizza was less expensive ... leftover dough -- free, leftover truffle butter --- free, leftover arugula -- free, cheese $9.00 from a local restaurant supply store, roma tomatoes ~$3.00. And we have tons of cheese remaining which will make its way into a future meal.

Now I know people who eat the same thing, night after night. These people also eat at 5 pm sharp each and every day. Beans, rice and vegetables. “It’s healthy,” they tell me, “It’s inexpensive.”

Their cooking may be frugal. It may be healthful. But it is downright boring and unimaginative! Certainly we have our moments when we are lacking time and creativity. Then we reach for the bag of veggies and rice, toss in a few cashews and voila - quick, easy and frugal meal. But to eat the same thing day in and day out? No thank you!

We prefer to explore. We like meals from all continents of this world. And when we can not afford to physically travel we visit cultures via their cuisine. We’re not Anthony Bourdain, mind you, we steer clear of tongues, brains and sphincters. But we do like variety. And cooking these meals at home most certainly saves money over eating out. So frugal? Yes. To an extreme? No. We live in these bodies and these bodies demand a modicum of pleasurable experience. How else is one to get through the twists and turns of life?

And speaking of bodies ... if one is going to eat and eat well one must also exercise. Because otherwise eating takes its toll (as my midsection can attest).

Exercise is one of those activities that appears expensive. After all it requires gym memberships, high tech machines, personal trainers and fancy attire, right? That's what they want you to think. They are vying for your hard earned dollar. They don't want you to consider alternatives. But, the reality of it is, exercise does not have to be expensive.

My son is the perfect example. He spends his days wrestling with friends, playing basketball, riding bikes and walking downtown. And he doesn’t have an ounce of fat on his body. Granted he’s a twelve-year-old boy. But I’d venture to guess that if we adults behaved a bit more like him we too would be physically fit and dare I say happier.

My son does not have fancy shoes. He has a garage sale bike. He has blue jeans and mom’s old sweatshirt. He uses his friend’s hoop down the street. If that hoop were not there he’d walk to the park. Exercise does not require an out-pouring of money.

But, you’re right, we’re not twelve. We’re adults with jobs and kids. We have work to do, houses to clean, meals to cook and carpools to manage. Who has time for exercise? Let me ask you this. How much television did you watch today? Were there moments when you had five or ten minutes available? How many pushups can you do in five minutes? How many sit ups? Remember jumping jacks?

Today I found an hour. An hour to walk on the treadmill and run a bit too. All the while watching the food network and dreaming up my next meal. Yes, we have a treadmill. It’s fourteen years old. It works perfectly fine. I’m willing to bet many of you have an old treadmill too. Or an exercise bike, or a step machine or other implement of fancy. A machine that was going to whisk you into the life you’d imagined, the life you’d always dreamed of.

Well today I challenge you. I challenge you to dust off the machinery and dust off your dreams. Do it for your health. The benefits are amazing; endorphins, increased energy, increased endurance, a better body. Do it for fashion. Picture all your skinny clothes lying in wait. This is my ultimate plan ... a few pounds to go and my wardrobe options will increase 10-fold without me spending a dime.

What? No equipment? Lift soup cans or gallons of milk. Get a piece of rope and jump over it. No. More. Excuses.

Reach out and grab the life that is waiting for you. Frugality and pleasure are not mutually exclusive. Neither are frugality and self-care.

You can be frugal and eat well.
You can be frugal and fit.
You can be frugal and happy.
You just have to be willing to do it.


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Love on a Farmboy's Wages

Today I turned off the television. My children were not pleased. The poor dears had to read or color or clean their rooms. It is downright shameful the way I treat them. Shameful.

Our quiet living room was also confused. Where was the noise? The perpetual sound? It wanted, no it needed, music. How else is one to hang up loads and loads of laundry? But we're not talking just any music. We're talking vinyl. LPs. Records.

You see last week my husband found a steal of a deal at a garage sale ... a record player, with built in speakers! Now we have something on which to listen to our collection. For the past 15 years we've been hauling records from place to place to place. Yes. Records. And you know what? I love them. I love the pop and click that comes with vinyl. I love picking up the needle, sliding it over the record and gently releasing it onto the spinning surface. This action is much more satisfying than the simple push of a button. It reminds me of my brief days as a college DJ, setting a record in place and cueing up a song. And, perhaps, I am stuck in the eighties. Our collection includes David Bowie, The Psychedelic Furs, Elton John and The Sugar Cubes. Currently I'm listening to Crowded House and I just finished The Jazz Butcher.

The thing that cracks me up is my son, at twelve, also loves eighties music. He's downloaded the likes of The Clash, The Kinks, Jane's Addiction and Men at Work to his ipod.

There is a meme cavorting around Facebook that has you put your music selection on shuffle and then answer a series of questions. I thought it would be fun to do this with both my music collection and my son's collection. Strangely I found songs on my computer I didn't even know I had. Anyway - here goes ... my answers are in pink, my son's in blue.

1.) If someone says “are you okay” you say?

When I Come Around - Green Day

I Miss You - Blink 182

2.) How would you describe yourself?

Photograph - Weezer

All that I Want - the Weepies

3.) What do you like in a guy/girl?

Just Because - Jane’s Addiction

Sailor - Hem

4.) How do you feel today?

A Boy Named Sue - Johnny Cash

New Soul - Yael Naim

5.) What is your life's purpose?

I Walk the Line - Johnny Cash

Rose and Hips - Keren Ann

6.) What's your motto?

I Miss You - Blink 182

Beethoven’s Bagatelle in A Minor - Alfred Brendel

7.) What do your friends think of you?

Bad - U2

The City and the Traveler - Hem

8.) What do your parents think of you?

With or Without You - U2

Heart of the Matter - Moon Mountain Ramblers

9.) What do you think about very often?

Born in the USA - Bruce Springsteen

Veterinary Rhythm and Blues - Jonathan Hoffman

10.) What is your biggest turn-on?

When the Sun Goes Down - Arctic Monkeys

Wake Me Up - Norah Jones

11.) What do you think of your best friend?

Pigs in Zen - Jane’s Addiction

Drifting - Four Non Blondes

12.) What is your life story?

Close to Me - The Cure

Fly Me to the Moon - Jazzamor

13.) What do you want to be when you grow up?

Fluorescent Adolescent - Arctic Monkeys

All that I’m Good For - Hem

14.) What do you think when you see the person you like?

Sunday Bloody Sunday - U2

Baba O’Riley - The Who

15.) What will you dance to at your wedding?

Down with the Sickness - Disturbed

Cha Cha Cha 57 - The Tao of Groove

16.) What will they play at your funeral?

Yellow - Cold Play

My Lady Blue - Eric Serra

17.) What is your hobby/interest??

Jesus of Suburbia - Green Day

The Cruise of the Dolphin Tribe - Eric Serra

18.) What is your biggest fear??

I Stand Corrected - Vampire Weekend.

The Simple Story - Jane Birkin Feat and Feist

19.) What is your biggest secret?

Santa Bring my Baby Back to Me - Elvis Presley

On Your Porch - The Format

20.) What do you want right now?

Love on a Farmboy’s Wages - XTC

Lazyhead and Sleepybones - They Might Be Giants

21.) What is your obsession?

Sweetest Thing - U2

Funky Picante - Marc Antoine

22.) What will your child's first words be?

A-Punk - Vampire Weekend

Happiness Runs - Donovan

23.) What do you say when you look in the mirror?

I Fought the Law - The Clash

North (World) - Peter Kater

24.) What is your opinion of sex?

Unless it Kicks - Okkervil River

Crying Shame - Jack Johnson

25.) What will you post this as?

Apeman - The Kinks

Espuma Bossa (acoustic mix) - Panaphonic Feat

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Random Thoughts on Frugality and Life

We’re still home. One sick child has gone back to school. Two sick children remain nestled on the couch. Middle sis is celebrating her 9th birthday in her pajamas. I think they’re over the worst of it. The fevers are gone. Appetites are returning. Hacking coughs and stuffy noses remain. My chair has taken up solid residence in the TV room. Right now we’re watching kids programming on public television. Hot chocolates are cooling. Hopefully the kids will imbibe before our animals sample the chocolatey goodness. The washing machine is working overtime and I’ve managed to unload the dishwasher. And during all this I’ve been pondering some of life’s major questions...

How long will one gallon of white vinegar last me while going no poo? There are 256 tablespoons per gallon. At four tablespoons per use I will get 64 uses per gallon. If I wash my hair every three days this will last 192 days. Therefore I will need two gallons of vinegar per year to wash my hair. A total investment of $5.38 cents.

What about the baking soda? A four pound box costs $3.63. This box has approximately 8 cups of baking soda. One cup equals 16 tablespoons. Therefore there are 128 tablespoons per box. If I use one tablespoon per wash every three days then this box, assuming it’s not used for deodorant or baking or household cleaning, will last an entire year.

Therefore washing my hair will cost $9.01 per year. That sure beats the $50.00 bottle of shampoo they tried to sell me at the salon.

Are chickens frugal? The answer is no, not so much. Chickens are more about knowing where our food comes from, how it is treated and what it is fed. We will be raising chickens for their eggs. I won’t be able to bring myself to slaughter one of our feathered friends. The coop will cost somewhere from $300.00 to $500.00 to build depending on chosen materials. We want an attractive coop so as to please the neighbors as well as for our own aesthetic pleasure. Eight chickens ordered online cost $63.00 including shipping. We’ll split the chicken cost with another couple. We’ll also need feed, a heat source, etc. I’m anticipating our initial investment will be around $600.00. These babies won’t start laying eggs for about 5-months. Once they start laying I expect to get around two dozen eggs per week (assuming we are good at keeping our chickens happy). If a dozen organic eggs are $3.00 we’ll have $6.00 a week in eggs. As the eggs start coming in we hope to sell some or barter them for things such as fresh roasted coffee. So that is $312.00 a year in egg production. It will take a good two years for a return on investment. But in the meantime we’ll have excellent fresh eggs, learn about small scale farming and have fun in the process.

Is knitting frugal? Knitting is very much the same as chickens. Materials for my current project cost about $35.00. I could buy a thrift store sweater for $5.00 and thus save time and money. But the thrifted sweater would not come with the satisfaction of knowing my heart and soul were knit into the yarn. Were I more inclined I’d buy the $5.00 sweater, unravel it and re-use the yarn to knit up a new garment. People do this. And I actually just bought a thrifted sweater for its buttons. This one was more expensive ($15.00). But it has six gorgeous wooden buttons from Ireland and a wealth of wool. I may just unravel that one and turn it into something else. Maybe something like this.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about the difference between being frugal and being cheap.
They are not the same thing. In fact, they can sometimes be just the opposite. I love the current description of frugality from Wikipedia:

Common strategies of frugality include the reduction of waste, curbing costly habits, suppressing instant gratification by means of fiscal self-restraint, seeking efficiency, avoiding traps, defying expensive social norms, embracing free (as in gratis) options, using barter, and staying well-informed about local circumstances and both market and product/service realities.

We are frugal but we are not cheap. We believe in living the good life less expensively. But the good life for us may be different than the good life for others. Our good life is time spent with family, exploring our planet, eating delicious slow cooked food. It is reading and writing, thinking and creating. It's walking through the park on a warm spring day. It's drinking cocoa and watching Tom and Jerry with two sick kids (yes we moved on to the cartoon network).

And, finally, I want to end with a little linky love:

Check out Molly's homemade plastic bags. How cool are they?

And look at these fun nursing covers ... I may have to make these for the next set of pregnant ladies coming down the pipeline. I also love the way she packaged them.

And finally check out this great video found via Soulemama's blog.

Happy Tuesday all!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

On My Sleeve

Today was a typical March day, gray and drizzly. I sat in the living room and watched the rain come down. Our holiday lights still hang on the front of our house ... only 10 more months and they’ll be relevant again.

This week the laundry multiplied like an internet virus -- exponentially. A mysterious pair of jeans appeared in my closet. They are not mine. I tried them on. The pockets started halfway down my buttocks and extended to my thighs. I suspect they belong to one of my son’s friends but no one is willing to claim ownership. Apparently people come to our house and leave without their pants.

My children are sick. All three of them. They’ve been out all week. Their occupied pajamas are adhered to the living room couch cemented with Spaghettios, a lack of personal hygiene and the funk of illness. Not willing to kick invalids off the television I’ve watched more Zack and Cody than I’d care to admit. Briefly I conned them into watching the Food Network; Ace of Cakes and The Barefoot Contessa. It was good while it lasted.

I had no place to sit with the kids splayed about so I moved my reading chair into the tv room. I’m rather enjoying my special spot but there is no space to move around. Minimalism is not without its merits.

All week my lymph nodes have been swollen, tender. I’m cringing, waiting for the crash of illness. Each day I expect to wake with the horrendous virus that has set up residence in each of my children. And yet it hasn’t hit. I’m fighting it off ... so far.

Tonight were having steak sandwiches with black truffle butter and arugula. I’ll continue knitting my February Lady Sweater. I’m on the lace portion. It contains an error. My error. I accidentally repeated a row several rows back. I’m leaving it as it is. I’ll wear my imperfections on my sleeve. Because it is what it is ... sickness and health, good times and bad. We can't have one without the other.