Archive | December 2012

The Temporarily Frugal Life

Part Two 

Lucinda in first grade.

Lucinda in first grade.

 Now, it is that week between Christmas and New Year’s and there is a lot less money left in our pockets than days left until the next pay-check.  I will have to be frugal.  We have some left-overs from holiday meals and plenty of rice to make stir-fried everything.  We were careful to stock up on some of the food basics – we have a second refrigerator out in our garage – so we should be able to avoid the lure of the single-item grocery store trip which never ends up with us purchasing just that one item. We have lots of cheese and milk and eggs and potatoes.  You may have different “food basics” than I do, but what I mean to make clear is that earlier in the month I put some thought into what foods we needed to stock up on to make it through this last week of the year.

In all honesty, it’s not like I am only frugal this one week of the year.  I already water-down my shampoo and the liquid soap at my bathroom sink and tear my fabric softener sheets so that one sheet can soften four loads of laundry.  I will keep turning off lights in rooms we aren’t using and keep the thermostat low and only wash full loads in the dishwasher – which won’t help with this week, but will make the next pay-check go farther in January when the bills start rolling in.  While those are good frugal things, they won’t save me any real money during the last week of the year.

 In my life, my best chance of being frugal this week lies in staying home as much as possible.  If you’re young and/or single, this advice might not work for you, because you might save more money by visiting all your friends and relatives, watching the DVD’s they got for Christmas and enjoying their heat, lights, hand-soap, toilet paper, and (of course) helping them clear away the holiday left-overs.  But, over the years of raising a family, I have noticed that if I don’t leave home I don’t spend as much money.

A look at the calendar shows me that I can stay home Wednesday and Thursday and then again on Saturday.  So, if I must mail something or put gas in the car I should do it on Friday when I need to put in some volunteer hours at our local museum and will already be driving the car.  To be smart and frugal I need to feed my family meals that don’t require me to go to the store for ingredients – use up what is in the ‘fridge and pantry.  For entertainment I should be watching movies that we already have on DVD, some of those old favorites, and I can pop some popcorn right here at home and make up some tea (hot or iced) to wash it down with.  If I get antsy I can get started knitting something for my daughter’s birthday next month using yarn I already have. 

 If I take the camera out in the fresh snow and snap some pictures I can print out some personalized cards for those unfortunates with end-of year birthdays. I can use some of my Christmas gifts – find free down-loads for my Kindle, print photos for my new picture frame, enjoy that box of chocolates, and indulge in some luxurious pampering with my bubble bath and manicure set.  Finally, if I allow the books and movies and games and family members and computer-access and warm beverages I already have in my home to keep me entertained and happy this week I will be more likely to leave my car in the drive-way and not burn gas unnecessarily or risk accidents on the icy roads.

Tonight I have a pot of hot tea on the stove – it costs much less than soda pop and is easier on my teeth and stomach.   I used some spices in a small pan on the stove to make the whole house smell wonderful. Supper was a casserole using left-over ham from Christmas and some of the cheese  and potatoes I had made sure to have on hand.  For exercise I used some free-weights we keep here at home and moved around the house – including the stairs.  My entertainment today has been talking with family members, reading, answering e-mail, and watching some comedians on YouTube. 

Being frugal doesn’t have to be depressing.  Usually, I find it uplifting to realize that I have it in my power to make smart decision and save money for my family.  I like mending our clothes so that we don’t have to rush out for new things.  I like making our own food so that it is fresh and healthy.  I like checking on YouTube for ways to make things or fix things using the supplies I already have on hand.  Doing this makes me feel like I am a valuable member of the family – and society as a whole.

 Some people call it being “green;” to make do with what you have and re-use and recycle, but my grandma taught me that it was just the way good people had of being responsible.  How do you feel when you repair something instead of throwing it away?  What odd things do you save to use later?  Do you think it is just a normal part of life or do you consciously choose to make “green” life-style decisions?

Frances Eavenson abt 1972 Garden City ID Grandma as I remember her.

If you haven’t already, please see Part One: When I am Frugal, an earlier blog post.

When I am Frugal

Part One:

What did you do the last time you were frugal? Did you count toilet paper squares and limit yourself to just three or four? Did you refuse to print out any photos so you wouldn’t waste the ink (that was drying up in your printer) or the photo paper (that you had already bought) so no one got to see the adorable pictures of your babies until they were a year older than that? Did you buy canned goods by the case? Did you cook all your meals at home?

When I am being frugal, I do that last one more than anything else. In the autumn of 2011 my husband and I decided to really stock up and ended up with a pantry full of canned goods including a case of sliced, canned carrots. We had never bought canned carrots before. I didn’t have any recipes that called for canned carrots. Neither my husband nor I cared for the taste of canned carrots all by themselves on the plate. It is tough to be frugal cooking food that you don’t actually want to eat.

Sliced carrotspeas

I had to become creatively frugal. If you’ve ever made five meals from one baked chicken, you know a thing or two about cooking in a creatively frugal manner. The first step was discovering that if we drained and rinsed the carrots several times we were happier with the taste. Then, we needed to experiment with recipes. My mother had taught me how to make hamburger stew many years ago but I always made it with fresh carrots and potatoes. If I was going to use canned carrots, I decided to try canned potatoes as well. Wow! I discovered that you can make a good hamburger stew in record time if you use canned (and rinsed) carrots, canned green beans, and canned potatoes mixed in with the browned ground beef. Chop in a few celery leaves and add a small can of tomato sauce and your usual herbs and seasonings (minced garlic, dried onions, Italian Seasoning mix, salt, pepper) and you have a very tasty meal in far less than half an hour. I also started using rinsed canned carrots in casseroles, soups, and my pasta-tuna salad. I’m thinking I may take it full-circle and make some gluten-free carrot cake using my rinsed canned carrots.

My frugal side always shows itself during the month or so before Christmas. I keep thinking that I should be able to make more of the Christmas gifts that we give. So I start knitting. Knitting would be fine if I didn’t get almost done with the project and run out of that color of yarn and have to go back to the store for another skein – so I can use 15 feet of that yarn and look at that left-over skein for a month or two, fretting because the project wasn’t truly frugal unless I can come up with another use for that yarn.

As it gets closer and closer to Christmas my brain gets an odd twist to it and I start remembering odd bits of Christmas ornaments and projects that we did when I was a child. I remember that we made bubble bath using Epsom salts and a little of our mother’s favorite perfume – but I can’t remember the exact formula. I know that you can either use a large can wrapped with yarn to hold Christmas cards or fold the pages of a Reader’s Digest and spray-paint it gold to make… something oddly shaped and golden.

With my brain twisting and straining to be ever more creative I begin eyeing the cardboard tubes from the center of my toilet paper, positive that with the right imaginative flare I could turn it into a very exciting gift. Note, I wrote ‘flare’ not ‘flair’ because by this time, my brain is burning some odd genetic fuel that got its start in the Great Depression and was preached to me by my maternal grandmother. I am fairly certain that if they had only had toilet paper back when she was young my grandmother would have invented 200 really amazing gift ideas to be made using those cardboard tubes.

toilet rolls to trim

I have actually, over the years used the center from rolls of toilet paper to make Little-Drummer-Boy drum ornaments for our tree.  As you can see from the photo above, I have also placed a cardboard roll in a used knee-high nylon with some scented bath salts and hung it from our toilet paper holder as a cheap room-deodorizer.  More recently I have filled a shoebox with these empty tubes all standing on end, stuffed them with rolled up papers (torn pages from catalogs or old word-search books), and then poured melted wax over them to make fire-starters for our wood-stove.   A couple of years ago I used them for starting plants – put some newspaper in the bottom of a small box, fill the box with the empty tubes, pour potting soil into each tube, tuck a seed into the soil, water them, and keep them in a warm sunny place until you can plant your seedlings in the garden – empty paper cups from fast-food places works for this as well. I keep looking at that picture, wondering if I could paint those empty tubes that I have stacked on top of the toilet paper and make a cardboard cannon out of them – maybe for an Independence day decoration?

I have saved the little cardboard boxes that some of our Halloween candy comes in, turned the boxes inside out and glued them back together, and wrapped them in netting tied with a bow and called that a Christmas tree ornament.   The Christmas we had a puppy and a kitten living at our house I even made all of our ornaments from felt because the tree kept getting knocked over and I didn’t want to keep cleaning up glass from broken “real” ornaments. First I made ornaments from homemade play-dough – they looked so nice the puppy ate them and then was sick all over the living room from the salt in the dough – then I made the ornaments out of felt because the dog wasn’t interested in eating felt and I was really tired of cleaning the floor.

That brings me to a thought that is perhaps the core of my personal frugality – laziness. I can be frugal as long as it is as easy as spending money. If my dinner can be on the table faster at home than if I were to go out – then I will make that hamburger stew with canned vegetables. If making my own unbreakable ornaments saves me from cleaning up (or stepping on) broken glass then hand me the felt, the scissors, and some glue! And sometimes what I am saved is the effort of guilt – I don’t have to feel as guilty for eating all those Milk Duds from the candy bowl if I used the boxes they came in to make Christmas ornaments!

So, what have your odd moments of frugality saved you? I do hope you will tell me. Maybe I will learn something.

Part Two – The Temporarily Frugal Life coming up next.

“It’s the end of the world as we know it…”

2012 JULY 089I have to admit that I really didn’t give much thought to the world ending on December 21st.  Yeah, I do think that the world is getting close to the end, but I could be right or I could easily be wrong.  Just because I am finally getting old enough to see more of the evils in the world than when I was young doesn’t mean that the world hasn’t always been pretty evil – it just means that my focus has been elsewhere. 

When you are raising small children your focus has to be on the one who just dashed out the door heedless of the road and traffic just seconds away.  When the military is moving your husband from a base in North Dakota to a base in England your focus is on making sure all of your stuff arrives, your children adapt, you get a vehicle you can drive – if you can figure out how to drive on the opposite side of the road from the side you were trained to drive on. When your teenage daughters start dating, and breaking up with their boyfriends, it can seem as though the end of the world is happening every other week or so – but it isn’t, and you adapt.

When I was a teen I talked to my grandpa about the end of the world prophesies.  He advised me that every generation has thought that the world was going to end with them – and kindly didn’t point out how conceited that makes us sound – but that it somehow keeps right on going, yet, the end of our own personal worlds occurs with our last breath.  We all have an end to our world coming, and Grandpa encouraged me to live my life so that I was prepared for that, should it sneak up on me unexpectedly.  My grandpa was the most important man in the world to me until I met and fell in love with my husband, so I took his words seriously and tried to teach my children to live the same way.

Recent political and world events have shaken me and made me draw even closer in my faith in God and study of the Bible.  When I read the Bible I discover that evil governments and evil people aren’t the invention of the 20th Century.  Remember that the Christmas story ends with the baby Jesus being taken to Egypt because King Herod wants to kill Jesus and has all the boy children in the kingdom age two and younger put to death.  Remember that Daniel was in the lion’s den because of political intrigue.  The Bible isn’t a bunch of white-washed goody-goody stories; it tells us that the world has been evil for a long time and God has been working hard to rein it in while still allowing us to have our free will.

For many years now I have believed that if we just made our voices heard that things would be different.  I believed in public discourse and political discussions.  But it seems that the more access we feel like we have, the more our elected leaders manage to place roadblocks in the way to stop our message from getting to them.  I don’t really trust the political process any more, because no matter what we do it seems that our leaders just go their own way and ignore the laws and the rules.  When I write to my congressmen I get form letters in return that seem to say, “Thanks for writing but I’m going to do things my own way.”  Now, it just doesn’t seem to me that God is leading me in that direction any more.

As I look around me I feel less and less like I have a calling to make a difference in the world at large and more and more a calling to make a difference in the world right around me.  I think this is a blessing.  I don’t want to feel responsible for the garbage going on in our world today; but I am responsible to make sure that I reach out in love to the people around me. 

By nature I am an encourager and my gifts are needed by the people who are hurting and can’t see all the good that God placed in them and in their lives.   God leads me to look past my own feelings and speak His encouragement to others –  without regard for whether I think they deserve it or not, whether they did something which offended me, or if they are glaring at me, or if they smell bad.  Yeah, I really do need that many reminders of what it means to “look past my own feelings.”  As the spoiled-brat baby of my family I can be so good at justifying my doing what I want to do rather than what God is nudging me to do that I need to re-word it until it gets into my brain and my heart and I can respond to God’s call and begin to feel the love that He has waiting for me to share.

If my world did end today I think I would be ready.  But my kids would be praying that it came by a huge meteor crashing in and destroying my house (when I was the only one in it) so they didn’t have to sort through all my stuff.  As a mother my concerns are for my kids, will they be ready when their times come?  And, will they forgive me if a meteor doesn’t burn up the house and they actually do have to go through all my stuff? 

See, this isn’t an altar call, so I don’t have to keep it all reverent, I can toss in the real me at every turn.  I hope you are ready to meet the end of your world, too, and if you aren’t you can contact me or contact someone whose beliefs you trust.  But, mostly I am posting a blog that reflects me at this point in time and at this point in time these are my concerns.  I am a terrible housekeeper, and have ADHD to boot, and the more I work at it the worse my house seems to get.  All of which is no encouragement at all to me to keep working at it!  I pray and I ask God for help and I may get one load of laundry done before I switch to work on one of the many things God has taught me that I am good at.  That leaves the housework – just here waiting for the days when it is suddenly not so difficult or daunting, and there are some of those days. 

So, I fully expect that when God calls me home I will leave a lot of loose ends that He will get to deal with.  But He is God!  He can and has handled a lot worse things than my messy house.  And Praise the Lord I can go to my eternal home knowing that He knew the perfect time to take me away.

And you? How did you face the end of the Mayan calendar?  Did you have a big party?  Did you watch the skies?  I hope you take a moment and tell me about it.

Finding the Self-Discipline for Editing

73x73-2Yes, I wrote a novel in November during NaNoWriMo.  I called it “Drawing Out Anna” and it is a Regency Romance novel with a strong Christian theme.  I exceeded the 50,000 word requirement for NaNoWriMo within the first 20 days.  Though I am starting to feel more like I’m bragging, I feel I should mention that I wrote more than 75,000 words and finished the novel in the 30 days of November, just like I planned.  So far so good. 

But, it was always understood that I would have to do my editing in December.  This is where I am meeting with a hang-up.  NaNoWriMo is over.  There is no computerized counter telling me how many pages I have (or have not) edited today and how many I need to edit by the end of the month.  There is no applause, no feedback, no friendly competition.  There is just me and a huge stack of paper.  There wasn’t even the huge stack of paper until today.  Yes, it took me until the 18th of December to get off my duff and print out my novel.  I was pretending that I could edit it from the computer files, and I probably could have – if I had opened the files and gotten started!

Today, for no reason in particular, I finally opened the computer files and decided to print a copy of my book.  First I printed the stupid alignment page that my printer was whining about since my husband changed the color ink cartridge last weekend and hadn’t done the alignment.  Then, I let it align itself.  Next I printed approximately 40 pages and the printer decided it was out of black ink.  Not realizing that this printer doesn’t lie to me like the old one did, I told it to bear with me for another few pages.  It quickly became clear that the printer wasn’t going to play that game and not even one page came out in good shape.  I got to re-print those few pages, after I changed the black ink cartridge, of course.  But, I showed it!  I didn’t print the stupid alignment page again.

I printed through page 212 and then my brain forgot what it was typing and entered 100-and-something instead of 200-and-something.  The printer obediently spit out approximately 15 pages from the middle of the book – pages that I had already printed.  Tempting as it was, I did not have a temper tantrum.  I just got more paper out and went back to printing.  Finally, even with my brain getting muddled and the paper jamming a time or two and the printer sneaking in an alignment page printing when I thought I was telling it to print chapter 10, I got my book printed.

In case you don’t know, 243 pages of a book that YOU need to edit is a daunting heap of paper.  I think I would rather write another book than dive into editing this one.  But I could not, and would not, inflict an unedited book onto the public – and I really do want to get this book published – so, edit it I will.  It won’t sound like much to you, but I have edited the first 8 pages now.  Whew.  It isn’t quite as scary now that I have made a start.

My biggest challenge is making long sentences shorter and more concise – mostly by chopping them into two sentences.  Then there are continuity issues – is it early spring or late spring?  Does the hero continue to have light brown hair all the way through the book?  Besides that, I have to make note of any place where I have made an assumption regarding the era – those places will require a bit of research to make sure that Jane Austen really had written Sense and Sensibility by then, and that the regiment I say my soldier was in actually survived the war… things like that.  Research is rather fun, though, so I don’t mind that.  What I really mind is trying to figure out how to take a sentence that came straight from my feminine brain and helping it make sense to masculine brains and other female brains that work more efficiently than does my own.

It feels good to get past my tendency to procrastinate and get some work done on my book.  I hope that you are able to get busy doing your work, too.  There is a certain energy that comes with making progress, and I am enjoying it.

I have a question for you – what is your favorite way to do research?  Do you find people who lived through something and speak to them in person?  Do you do a Google search?  Do you head to the library and spend hours in the reference section?  What have you researched recently – and for what purpose?  Thanks for reading along and for answering my questions.

December Wedding

More than thirty years ago now my husband and I had a December wedding. I’ve finally begun to notice that a lot of my friends also had December weddings. So, maybe this is a good time to talk about giving gifts that aren’t for Christmas this time of year.

What are good wedding gifts for a couple who gets married just before Christmas? One of our gifts that we are still thankful for on an almost daily basis is a simple crock for holding kitchen utensils. It isn’t imaginative, but it is extremely handy and got us started right away on a habit of having things that we use frequently right out where we can find them easily! My maid of honor got us this gift, though she signed the card as coming from her parents and the rest of the family, but I know her parents were traveling home from Alaska just before my wedding and wouldn’t have had time to shop, so I know this great gift idea came from Cyndi.

Another unimaginative extremely useful gift was towels. We were college students, we had one, maybe two towels each – we needed those boring things! In my experience newlyweds take a lot of showers. We also got sheets. I can tell you exactly who got us those sheets – Muriel Martin – and I remember it because I hadn’t given bed-sheets a single thought while I was making my wedding preparations. I didn’t even know what size mattress we had on our bed! That was a great gift, as was the gift certificate from my sister-in-law at Christmas which we used to buy more sheets – newlyweds change the sheets a lot, too.

I also really appreciated candle holders and candles because I was a romantic bride who wanted to make candlelight dinners for my husband. That can be a dangerous pastime without the correct equipment. I tried making some of my own, which was not my most brilliant idea, so I was grateful for the proper candle-holders we were given.

One thing we were NOT given that we really wanted and felt like we needed was a clock. When you have one you think of it as just an average wall clock. When you don’t have a clock your eyes get frustrated searching the walls for the time and you quickly begin to believe that a basic, everyday wall clock is essential to getting to college classes on time. When my aunt asked us a couple of months after the wedding what we hadn’t gotten that we needed “a clock” was my first and only response.

What newlyweds don’t need is casserole dishes.  That was especially true in my case because between my mother-in-law and my grandmother I wasn’t allowed to take food to any potluck until the military moved my husband and I to a base a thousand miles from home!  We got about six casserole dishes as wedding gifts.  I still have too many casserole dishes – even after raising four daughters and moving around a lot with the military. Those casserole dishes don’t break as easily as you might think.

Newlyweds also don’t need electric can-openers. No one does. That is my one “green” pet-peeve, and it’s mostly because I don’t like listening to the electric motor whine. It always seemed to me that it was actually faster to use a wall-mounted hand can-opener than to use my electric opener – all I really liked was the magnet on my electric can-opener, and the newer wall-mounted hand cranked openers come from the store with magnets already attached.

My last gift idea for December newlyweds is gift cards for boringly useful things – like a tank of gas when they get back from their honeymoon and have no money to make it to the end of the month, or maybe for a dry-cleaning service to have the tuxes or wedding gown professionally cleaned and stored, or for books at their college bookstore, or extra minutes on their cell-phone plan.

There is no shame in giving a boring gift as long as it is useful. We certainly got our share of lovely and/or imaginative gifts, but most of those I can’t remember who gave them to us, or I can’t remember using them for more than one or two times. For example, we got the cutest, tiniest cut-glass salt and pepper shakers I have ever seen – still, we have only used them once. We also got silver napkin rings in the shape of roses – I think we’ve used those twice.

For wedding gifts this December I ask you to be memorably boring and get gifts that your bride and groom will use and use and will happily never have to admit to their mothers-in-law that they lacked the foresight to have on hand.

Just Getting Started

I wanted to title this “You Found Me!!!” but then I realized that very few of you will have “found me” on the very first day when this blog gets started… so that would be a waste of words. After all, it isn’t as if I am actually lost. I want you to find my blog, but I can be patient and stay busy building enough content so that when you do find your way here you will have things to read and look at and will hopefully decide that this content is something you want to find again and again.

It is now December, but I spent the entire month of November doing NaNoWriMo – which means I was writing a novel in a month.  I got well started and realized that my novel wouldn’t be finished within the 50,000 words that NaNoWriMo required to call me a “Winner!” so I gave myself the challenge of writing a 73,000 word novel in November.  I passed the 50,000 word goal by November 20th.   To my personal shock, and that of my daughters, I finished my book in 30 days.  In fact, my un-edited novel contains over 75,000 words.  While that is amazing and fabulous – and it was a LOT of FUN – that means that my December includes wrapping gifts, signing cards, making Christmas candy, attending holiday parties, and … editing my novel.

Besides finding interesting bits of information to share I will also share with you the reality of being a writer here in my blog posts.  I will go off on tangents sharing whatever is filling my brain on that particular day.  I will also let you know what research I had to do to make sure that my historical novel is as accurate as possible.  I may even tell you how cute my grandson was today – though that won’t happen very often because if you talk about one kid then you have to mention another and … well, really this is about ME, not the babies.  Let them write their own blogs if they need more attention!

So, I humbly thank you for reading this and for finding me.  Thank you for either bearing with me as I start blogging – or for going to the trouble of reading back through the archives.  I already know that you are special to me.  You read this far – maybe you even laughed a time or two – so we are allowing our minds and parts of our hearts to meet.  What a rare and wonderful experience!  Thanks for being here with me.

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Fleeting moments in a world that that runs too fast.

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the J.O.Y. factor (e)

"A joyful heart is the inevitible result of a heart burning with love." - Mother Teresa

CATHERINE RYAN HOWARD

She turns coffee into books so she can afford to buy more coffee. And more books.

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Of Stories and Histories

thehopefulheroine

believing in the power of story

Lucinda Sutherland

Light Christian fiction author sharing real life.

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The latest news on WordPress.com and the WordPress community.

Yvonne's Contemplations

Fleeting moments in a world that that runs too fast.

Rose's Road

...To Fame,... To Fortune, ... To Babies!

This is Ruthie O

Musings about Social Justice, Pop Culture, and Other Stuff

the J.O.Y. factor (e)

"A joyful heart is the inevitible result of a heart burning with love." - Mother Teresa

CATHERINE RYAN HOWARD

She turns coffee into books so she can afford to buy more coffee. And more books.

The Rook & Ragbag

Of Stories and Histories

thehopefulheroine

believing in the power of story

Lucinda Sutherland

Light Christian fiction author sharing real life.

The WordPress.com Blog

The latest news on WordPress.com and the WordPress community.