NaBloPoMo #30: (not) My Money Sunday

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Today is supposed to be My Monday Sunday, but as it's the end of the month, it is going to take me a day or two to get my ducks in a row. So, another Show Me Saturday?

I've been using the exact same type of planner for nearly 10 years. I buy one every January, and "decorate" it all year. Wanna see the 2008 version?

Front:

2008 planner cover

Back:

2008 planner back cover

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NaBloPoMo #29: Show Me Saturday

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We just took Belle to her new home.

I know I should be thankful, and it's not that I'm not--I like the home a lot for her and I think they'll do well together.

But I'm really, really sad.

belle with stuffie 2

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NaBloPoMo #28: (not) Feminism Friday

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It took me two hours to clean my kitchen this morning. Then we went and bought a new dryer. Really, it has been a very trying day. So, rather than even attempting anything well thought-out, I present to you the difference between Mark and I:

Leftovers by Mark:

mark leftovers

Leftovers by Grace:

grace leftovers

Really, that tells you all you need to know.

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A rare moment

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I don't usually do this, but I'm feeling ridiculously thankful and full of love tonight.

mark and grace 5

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NaBloPoMo #27: Love Thursday

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I don't think Huey realizes this is the same creature he spends half of his waking hours chasing after and howling.

huey and atticus

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

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My new BFF

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black box wine

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NaBloPoMo #26: What I'm Reading Wednesday

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It's here!!


Can I Sit With You Too? is the second collection of stories from the Can I Sit With You? project (www.canisitwithyou.org). These new tales represent an even wider range of schoolyard experiences, including best friend disappointments, new kid fears, harsh discrimination, living with disabilities, and emerging sexuality. By sharing moments from kindergarten through high school, these stories once again remind us that we are not alone: chances are, if it happened to you, it happened to someone else, too.

Buy Can I Sit With You Too? Right Now!
Support independent publishing: buy this book on Lulu.

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NaBloPoMo #25: Thrifting Tips Tuesday

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So the big present-giving extravaganza holiday is approaching us (at least, it's approaching those of us who choose to celebrate it). And I have one piece of priceless advice for you in that regard:

Thrift your gifts.

Yes, it is OK to give thrifted gifts. It's not rude, it's not cheap, and it's not gross. It is frugal, environmentally conscious, and thoughtful. And anybody who thinks otherwise can pretty much bite me.

Now, let me back up and say that I do have a different threshold for thrifted gifts than for non-gift thrifted items. I want thrifted gifts to either a) be new; b) look new; or c) be something so cool it doesn't matter that it isn't new. I don't, for example, generally gift thrifted clothing unless it has tags on it. However, one year I got my mom three much needed sweaters--one Eddie Bauer, one Land's End, one Ralph Lauren--all from the Goodwill, all new with tags. If I didn't tell her they were thrifted, she never would have known the difference. This year, I am giving Mark's mom a gorgeous antique Irish linen table cloth, which I got at the bins. It isn't new, but it is in wonderful condition, and for something like that, I'll make an exception to the new rule.

There are some big advantages to thrifting gifts. Clearly, it can save you money. Possibly more importantly, it reduces the time you have to spend in retail shopping centers this time of year. You're also able to find things you might not otherwise find. However, it is much more work than buying new. I've been looking for Christmas gifts on my thrifting trips all year long. If you want to get each person on your list something that will really knock their socks off, and get it used, you are going to have to put in the hours.

Here are a few tips for thrifting for gifts:


  • Start early. This is going to take some time.

  • Take a quick look at anything you see that is new with tags/packaging. Not everything will suit someone on your list, of course, but everything is worth a second glance.

  • Have a list of who you need to buy for, but not necessarily what you want to get them. You will have to be flexible.

  • Make use not only of regular thrift stores, but of used book stores (my step dad's presents always come from here!), consignment shops, etc.

  • When you are deciding how much to get someone, the thrifted price isn't important. Don't feel like you have to give more gifts just because you are giving thrifted gifts.

  • Accept to begin with that you will likely not be able to thrift for everyone on your list. Sometimes, you just can't find something thrifted, or you want to get something specific and it isn't available. That's fine. The idea here is to cut down on buying new stuff, not necessarily stop it completely. Do consider handmade and local gifts for those you aren't thrifting for, though, for the most economically and ecologically responsible holiday shopping.

  • Never underestimate the value of wrapping. A collection of things that are just "eh" unwrapped can be transformed into a great gift with a little creative packaging.

  • If available, swap! Have you thrifted something that you can't use or gift, but someone you know can? Swap it for something they've thrifted, or something they've made, that you can use. A lot of my gifts have come to me this way this year, and I'm so stoked about it.

Looking over my gift list this year, I think I've got about 1/4 thrifted gifts, 1/2 handmade ones (either by myself or from swapping), and 1/4 still to buy for. I haven't bought anything new yet and don't plan to. That makes my holidays pretty damn happy.

How about you? Are you thrifting any gifts? What would you think about receiving thrifted items?

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NaBloPoMo #24: Making Things Monday

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Can you believe this is our last Making Things Monday? Don't be sad, though--I really like doing these posts, so I am going to keep them in my regular, post-NaBloPoMo, rotation.

Today we're not doing bath products; I'm actually going to show you something that was quite a bit out of my comfort zone. This was one of those occasions when I got in over my head, but I think it ended up OK. I participated in a swap in which a participant asked for a daily activity schedule to use with her little one. After looking at some examples online (all of which involved sewing and quilting), I thought "sure, I can do that!" Even though I can't quilt. Or sew. Or cut a straight line. I still am not at all sure why I thought I could do it, except that I had an idea in my head of what it should look like. As if I have some kind of amazing power in which my thoughts become reality. Not so much.

So I had to figure it out. After several false starts, I figured out a way to do it with no sewing and without buying any materials (though I definitely used things that not everyone has on hand).

First, I took out a stretched canvas I bought on sale years ago, with the idea of using it as a collage backing, and a large piece of thrifted felt. I cut the felt to size and, using my handy-dandy staple gun, attached it to the canvas.

activity chart 2

Once my background was attached, I used a ruler and a pencil to separate it into 12 sections, one for each hour the chart would include.

activity chart 4

I then covered each of my pencil lines with a strip of thrifted rick rack, attaching it with more staples on the back of the canvas.

activity chart 5

I put another strip of rick rack vertically on the board, to mark out a place for the hours.

activity chart 6

Then I dug out a set of sticky felt letters and numbers I had, which were leftover from some project I did several years ago. Not all of the numbers I needed were available, put with a little scissor work, I was able to make them. I then attached them to my chart.

activity chart 8

Now the backdrop was done. I needed icons for activities. I turned to my trusty computer, Googling clip art for various things (i.e. "playing" and "napping"). Once I had images for everything, I uploaded them to Flickr and used Piknic to add words to them. You can see all of the images I used here.

Once I had all of the icons set, I printed them out on to some transfer paper I had leftover from making custom day of the week panties as a Christmas gift a couple of years ago. I then ironed them on to some more thrifted felt and cut them out. Once they were stuck to the chart, I was finished!

activity chart finished

The recipient tells me that she's actually putting the images under the rick rack lines, in order to hold them on better. That, of course, would work as well. In general, though, the felt should stick together enough that you could do it either way.

I like that I was able to do this project without buying any new supplies, and I like the kid-friendly way it turned out. If I had it to do over again, though, I'd do it a bit differently--I'd make the icons and the numbers a bit smaller, so the chart doesn't end up looking so crowded. And I might draw or paint the lines on to the felt background, rather than using the rick rack. All in all, though, I'd say this project was successful, and the recipient seems to like it.

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NaBloPoMo #23: My Money Sunday

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Today, my focus turns away from my personal finances and on to the household's finances. This is probably something the more financially savvy among you have been doing forever, so it's not news, but Mark and I have been keeping track for the last 9 months (since February, but, for the most part, excluding August, when I got lazy about tracking) of how much we're spending in each category. We've mostly been tracking, rather than budgeting, though we do refer to this document as our budget. This morning, I took a look at the record of our spending in a few of our more flexible (and more problematic) categories, to see how far we've come and what our averages are.

I am not pleased.

But first, the good news:

Gasoline expenditures.png

The first thing I looked at was our spending on gasoline, because we really did make an effort to cut back on our driving when the prices started to spike. What I saw was a bit puzzling--months of one-tank spending ($44 in September?) followed by months of three tank spending ($140 in October). We didn't go anywhere in particular in October...Then I realized that more than reflecting our driving, this reflects the dates on which the bills came in and were paid. Our average spending over these months for gas was about $108/month, which, given the prices gas has been at, seems reasonable to me. Not a lot of concern here.

Grocery expenditures.png

The category I was the next most pleased with was groceries. Though we hit an embarrassing spike of over $500 in June, we've been progressing since then, and we went amazingly low in October. Our average grocery spending was about $339/month, which is not great, but not terrible. That's about $11 a day, or $5.50 a day each. Can't complain a whole lot about that.

Except when I see where we made up for it...

Eating out expenditures.png

Yes, we spent an average of $277/month eating out. There is no excuse for that. And, while we did a bit better over the summer months, we were up to a ridiculous high of $415 last month. And it's not even like we're going out to nice meals--these high numbers are mostly due to ridiculous numbers of pizza orders and coffee shop stops. We have to work harder on that.

Pet expenditures.png

People are often asking me how much our menagerie of pets costs. Well, here you go. They cost an average of $219/month over the past nine months. That's for food, vet care, litter, etc. Everything except for Leo and Ata's pet insurance, which is a separate budget category and adds about $35/month to the total. That $461 spike in April was when a bunch of pets needed to have their annual check-ups and vaccinations at the same time. We're going to have a similar spike this month, as both Leo and Illy went to the vet on Friday, for a total of about $325.

This category just kind of is what it is. We don't spend extravagantly on our pets. We buy them very high quality food and get them quality preventative vet care, but the cats use generic litter, I make the dogs' treats, and their beds and toys come from the bins. Having as many pets as we have is just expensive, no matter how you slice it.

Misc expenditures.png

This last category bothers me the most, because it's the most ambiguous. Misc. I might as well have called it "Target," because that is most of what it is. Everything we buy collectively that is not food or pet care. And it is wildly divergent, with monthly bounces. I suppose that's because a lot of what we buy in this category is needed every other month? I don't know. I do know that an average monthly spending of $272 on stuff I can't quite put my finger on is too damn much. The only thing I know that goes into that category every month is $6.95 in online bill pay charges. Can we really be spending $265 in an average month on toilet paper and deodorant? The mind boggles.

And so, there you have it. An eye-opening exercise, and one I suggest you do if you haven't. Before I did it, I thought pets were a bigger problem than they are, gas was more expensive than it has been, and we were doing better with regards to eating out than we have for months. These things are very good to know moving forward.

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NaBloPoMo #22: Show Me Saturday

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I'm not in a writing mood this evening. Currently, I am in a have a rum and Coke while Mark makes dinner and we listen to Bob Marley mood. Later, I will most likely be in a snuggle up and watch a documentary mood.

So, a couple of pictures to show you what I did today:

asleep with huey 2

dyetyke 4

Phenomenal tie-dyed long underwear by Dyetyke.

Hope you're having a good weekend!

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Analytics

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Do any of you use Google Analytics? After years of not wanting anything to do with tracking my traffic at WINOW, I started up a couple of months ago. It really is fascinating. I've learned:


  • I get about 200 visits per day.

  • Folks stay an average of just under a minute.

  • About 59% of my traffic is from referrals, 34% from searches, and 7% direct.

  • The most referrals come from a large message board where I have a link in my signature and Frog's blog.

  • The search term that most often get folks here is "Duggar family." The next most commons search term is 10X less likely.

  • 79 people are subscribed to my Feedburner feed.

It's not horrible, being a C- list blogger.

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Making things

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For those who have been interested in my Making Things Mondays, you should really check out this round-up at One Pretty Thing. There are all sorts of links to recipes and tutorials to make your own bath stuff, most of them much better done than mine. Enjoy!

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NoBloPo #21: Feminism Friday

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Remember my Women Making History series? I've been wanting to revisit it. In particular, I wanted to highlight some of my favorite entries. These are the ones I was most pleasantly surprised by, or most impressed by, or just most into. So, without further ado:

Top 5 Women Making History (in no particular order)


  • Nellie Bly (1864-1922): Gotta love a muckraking journalist, and Nellie Bly was one of the first women to really get into it. I knew nothing about her before the series.

  • Dorothy Day (1897-1980): I love Dorothy Day. She basically believed that everyone deserved a chance and that it was her privilege and responsibility to do whatever she could to help. The world needs more like her.

  • Dolores Huerta (b. 1930): I'm a big sucker for a labor activist, and Dolores Huerta is one of the best.

  • Dian Fossey (1932-1985): Another personal hero of mine, Dian Fossey revolutionized the way we think about primates. She was a scientist, a radical, and a hell of a woman.

  • Dorothea Dix (1802-1887): This one was a sad story I knew nothing about previous to doing this project. Dix was a very early activist on behalf of the mentally ill. And she died in a mental hospital.

Wanna read about some incredible women today? There's a place to start.

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NaBloPoMo #20: Vintage Thingies Thursday

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First, an announcement: Vintage Thingies Thursday has a new home, at the blog of Coloradolady! Thanks for hosting, Coloradolady!

Now, what I have for you today:

wooden box outside

I picked up this inlaid wooden box (which is, for some reason, very difficult to photograph) at the bins. It's small--about the size of a pack of cigarettes, or a bit wider--and I originally thought it was a really cool old cigarette case. When I opened it, however:

wooden box inside

I found the inside was blue velvet, with a small indentation, as if something should rest there. The first thing that came to my mind was a monacle, as it's about that size and shape, but really, a monacle box? I didn't think much on it, though, as I was very interested by the objects I found inside.

wooden box inside 2

There are two stamps, one American, one Danish. I did a Google search, but couldn't find either of them. I found some 5 cent stamps with Washington on them from the 60s, but they are different than this one. Any stamp folks out there who can help me?

The really crazy thing, though, is the tiny locket. You can't see it very well, due to my poor photography, but it contains two very old looking pictures, one of a man, one of a woman. If my history is right (and honestly, who knows?), the pictures are late 19th century.

What do you think? Any ideas on the origins or timeline of this strange box and its contents?

Editing to add: Thanks to a tip from Coloradolady, if found the US stamp--turns out it is this one, which was made from 1916-1922!

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Other people's blogs

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I've gotten behind on blog reading again, and as I'm catching up, I am stunned and amazed and shamed and inspired by the posts other people make. Here are a couple you should read:

This post, about depression, at Breed 'Em and Weep, resonates with me in its every word.

Take a minute to think about someone confounding in your life, a friend who does not answer the phone when you call, a friend who does not respond. Chances are good it's nothing about you--it's simply about physics. There is a finite amount of energy, and your friend may be hoarding it, so she can offer what she can to the people who need her the most: her children.

Tanis at Attack of the Redneck Mommy writes about her encounter with a truly horrible woman at a store, and by the end I am audibly cheering for her.

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NaBloPoMo #19: What I'm Reading Wednesday

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OK, it's Wednesday, so let's talk about books!

First, I finished The Great Gatsby. I was underwhelmed. I think what disappointed me was that I started it thinking I'd finally learn about the missing pieces of a story I basically already knew, just from references to it in other things. Well, turns out there are no missing pieces--I really already knew the whole story. There's just not too much there. It reads like something intended to be serialized and make money, not like a Great American Novel. I've definitely read other Great Novels of the same time period that were much better (Sister Carrie comes to mind). That being said, I did like Tim Robbins' narration, and the letters of F. Scott Fitzgerald at the end, read by Robert Sean Leonard, are really interesting. Next I'm taking a little break and listening to David Sedaris' new one, When You Are Engulfed in Flames.

And I am still slogging through Personal History. I mislaid it for a couple of days, so I haven't read much on it for a bit, but it is getting a bit more interesting now that Graham is talking more about running the paper herself (I'm currently in the mid-60s). Sure seems like a lot of build-up just get to to Watergate, though, which is where I (and, I'd expect, many readers) most want to go.

While I couldn't find the Graham book, I started A Walking Fire, a novel by Valerie Miner suggested to me by a friend. It's a Vietnam-war era retelling of King Lear. I'm only a chapter or two into it, so I don't have many thoughts yet.

All of that, however, is just preamble to what I really want to tell you about today. I spent a little chunk of time last week doing some editing for a book that is set to be released via Lulu this week. Do you all remember me telling you about the fantastic Can I Sit With You? Well, it was so successful that the wonderful creators, Shannon and Jennifer, have put together a second installment, Can I Sit With You Too? I've read the stories and I'll tell you--it's definitely worth buying. It would make a great Christmas present for adolescent family members or friends. The best part? The proceeds all go to SEPTAR, the Special Education Parent Teacher Association for Redwood City, California. Watch the Can I Sit With You website to see when it will be available, and to preview some of the stories that are included.

So, what are you reading?

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NaBloPoMo #18: Thrifting Tips Tuesday

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One thing folks ask me about fairly often is where to thrift. So today here are some pros and cons of different thrifting options. Keep in mind that this is all my opinion, and there may be regional differences as well.

Garage/yard/rummage sales
Pros: often the cheapest option; money goes directly to individual people; limited merchandise so it's easier to look through
Cons: seasonal; have to get up early; I always feel pressured to buy something even if there is nothing I want
Best for: kids' clothing; toys; sometimes cheap furniture

Consignment stores
Pros: nicer merchandise; clean; organized
Cons: expensive; limited selection
Best for: when you need something specific quickly

For-profit thrift stores (e.g. Savers/Value Village)
Pros: usually clean and well-organized; things have often been washed; often open more hours than charity shops
Cons: giving money to a corporation; higher prices
Best for: people who aren't comfortable with thrifting

Large/chain charity thrift stores (e.g. Goodwill, Salvation Army)
Pros: large selection; sometimes low prices (very store dependent); supports charity
Cons: lots of crap to sift through; less convenient hours; poor organization; supports charity you may disagree with
Best for: just about everything, if you are willing to look

Large/chain outlets (e.g. Goodwill Blue Hanger)
Pros: very cheap; lots of choose from
Cons: dirty; tons of junk; not organized at all
Best for: everything on the cheap

Small/independent charity thrift stores (e.g. church stores)
Pros: usually higher end selection; clean; well-organized; can be cheap
Cons: limited hours; limited selection; priced vary widely
Best for: older things, particularly dishes

What do you think? Where do you prefer to secondhand shop? Why?

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Cluster

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One of the other participants in NaBloPoMo whom I have been following very closely is Rachel at Crunchy Turtle. In particular, I've been interested in her journaling tips on Mondays. Today, she talked about clustering, something I've done before, but not for years. Actually, it's been years since I've done any sort of writing exercise, much to my chagrin. So I thought I'd give it a try. I did it just the way Rachel describes, without stopping for three minutes, writing down whatever came to mind. This is my cluster:

money cluster.jpg

Not sure where to go from here, but hopefully Rachel will tell me!

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NaBloPoMo #17: Making Things Monday

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Today on Making Things Monday, we're making oatmeal bath bombs. These are great because they are both fun (fizzy!) and good for your skin. The ones that are shown here are mini-bombs, which are good for kids, who may have less bath water, or for adults, who can use however many they want to customize their baths. The same recipe can be used for larger bombs, however.

ingredients

Your lineup of ingredients may be getting familiar by now. You'll need oatmeal, baking soda, citric acid, almond oil, essential oil(s), and a spray bottle full of water.

utensils

Unlike most of my recipes, this one does call for a bit of specialized equipment in the form of a food processor. You'll also need a bowl, a stirring spoon, and measuring cups.

oatmeal in

Measure a cup of oatmeal into the food processor.

oatmeal in processor

Process the oatmeal. You're going to want to give it several minutes--the idea here is to get it as fine as possible. The more fine it is, the less grit you end up with in the bath when you use the bombs.

baking soda in

While the oatmeal is processing, measure a cup of baking soda into your bowl.

citric acid in

Then measure in a bit less than a cup (maybe 3/4 cup) of citric acid.

powdered oatmeal in

Add the processed oatmeal.

dry ingredients

Mix up all the dry ingredients. Make sure to work out an citric acid or baking soda lumps.

oil in

Add 1/4 cup of almond oil.

lavender in

After you mix in the almond oil, add your essential oil or oils. In this case, I am making simple, kid-friendly lavender bombs.

all ingredients

Once everything has been added, the mixture will look something like this.

spraying water

Spray on and mix in just enough water to make the mixture stick together when you apply pressure. You want to use as little water as possible. Using too much water will initiate the chemical reaction that makes these fizz, and they will fizz right out of your molds. Depending on the humidity in your house and how much EO you use, you may not need any water at all.

filling molds

Pack the mixture into your molds. You want it as tightly packed as possible.

full molds

Your filled molds will look something like this. Let them set up for about 24 hours (until they are completed hard), then pop them out of the molds. Use 1-2/bath for kids and 3-4/bath for adults.

Now, the math:

Organic oatmeal is about $1.29/lb. A pound is about 5 cups, so these bombs us about $0.26 worth.

My Costco bag of baking soda was about $5 for 12 lbs. A cup is about .4 lbs, so $0.17 worth.

The best price I've found on citric acid is $2.25/lb at Snowdrift Farms. A cup is about .5 lbs, so our 3/4 cup is about $0.84 worth.

Best price for sweet almond oil is $4.75/lb from Majestic Mountain Sage. Our 1/4 cup is about 2 oz, which is $0.60 worth.

Finally, the best price I've found for lavender essential oil is $4.90/oz at Majestic Mountain Sage. This recipe uses about .2 oz, so $0.98 worth.

All told, that's $2.85 to make 30 .3 oz mini-bombs, or 9 oz of bombs. $0.32/oz. Not bad! I don't believe Lush has an oatmeal bomb with which to compare this, but if they did, I'm pretty sure it would cost more than that!

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Party at my house

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At about 9pm last night, I looked around at my companions and found that I must be very boring company indeed.

curled up ata 2

sleeping huey

belle on bed 2

sleeping illy 2

Were it not for Leo, I may have gotten lonely.

leo on the couch

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NaBloPoMo #16: My Money Sunday

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Mid-month statistics:

My goals this month were to have 16 days with no spending at all and not to spend more than $150 total on flexible items. Up until yesterday, I was doing fine. Between the first and the fourteenth, I had 9 no-spend days, and I spent a total of:
$44 at the Goodwill
$32 on bath product supplies
$19 on food/drink
$10 on postage
$5 on new headphones
I also earned $19 online, so my spending minus my earnings totaled $91.

Then, on the 15th (yesterday), it all went pear-shaped. Not counting what I spent at the art show (which I think Mark and I will probably split and which I decided was going to have to be an exception already), I put out another $56, which brings my monthly total to $147. Out of my $150 goal. Halfway through the month.

Drat.

There is no way I will make that $150 budget this month. Just the postage I am going to owe on things that have to go out in the next week will be at least $20.

So I'm just going to have to do what I can to stay as close to budget as I can. And, to be fair, even if I spend $200 or $250 this month, that is going to be a great improvement over the past few months, especially since I am slowly gathering Christmas gifts.

Someone remind me that this is a marathon, not sprint?

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NaBloPoMo #15: Show Me Saturday

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Today's Show Me Saturday is a Day in the Life post. Well, it's today in my life. My life is not usually as busy as today was. But it was good, and I took a few pictures along the way.

4:00 AM: The alarm goes off. I curse and put my head under the pillow. Mark, who has to catch a plane at 6, gets in the shower.

4:30 AM: Mark drags me out of bed to drive him to the airport. I pull on a sweatshirt over my pajamas and nearly forget my glasses and we're out the door.

5:00 AM: I drop Mark off at the airport. It's surprisingly busy.

5:15 AM: I go through the drive-through of just-opened McDonald's and get myself a sausage biscuit as a reward for being up so early.

5:20 AM: I return home, feed the dogs, eat my McMuffin, and check my email.

5:45 AM: I go back to bed, being sure to spread out all the way on to Mark's side.

10:00 AM: Alarm goes off again. This being a more reasonable hour, I actually get up and get in the shower.

lav honey lotion10:15 AM: I get out of the shower and cover myself with my favorite in the world lotion, Pennington of Bath's Lavender Honey. I bought several tubs of it when I found it at Ross last winter, and I can't find it anywhere else, including online, so I am hoarding it. Does anybody know where it can be found? Seriously, if you can find me this stuff, I'll marry you.

10:30 AM After getting dressed and brushing my teeth and all that jazz, I let the dogs out again and sneak Belle into the car when the others aren't looking and she and I take off for the monthly "Hound Hustle."

hound hustle 210:45 AM: Belle and I arrive at the mall where we're doing the Hound Hustle. By 11, total of 14 volunteers and about 18 beagles, all of them adopted or currently up for adoption, have gathered to walk around the mall. We stop often and talk to people, accept donations, hand out flyers, and do whatever we can to raise awareness of rescue. It's a lot of fun, if slightly exhausting. Belle is both overwhelmed and thrilled at all the attention and wary of the other dogs.

12:45 PM: Belle and I get home from the Hound Hustle. She immediately sacks out, while the rest of the pack crowds around me and sniffs me for signs of all the other dogs I've been petting. After I get everyone calmed down, I sit down at the computer for a few minutes and rest while scarfing down a couple of pieces of leftover pizza.

1:15: I take off again, headed downtown to Art from the Streets.

1:30 PM: I am excited as I head in to Art from the Streets. This is my fourth year attending and it's absolutely one of my favorite Austin experiences. This year doesn't disappoint. I see work from my favorite artists from past years (including Zebra and Howard Cook) and discover some new folks as well. I set both a budget and a number of works I could buy before I left.

hunt drawing3:45 PM: Budget in tatters, I leave the show. I have purchased six pieces. At least two are intended as gifts, though, and they are smaller than the pieces I've bought there before, so that, at least, is good. I'm particularly enamored with one artist, Penny Hunt, whose work I have not seen before (that is her pen and ink drawing you see at the left--one of the pieces I bought today). Penny is currently incarcerated on a seven year sentence. Her work is shipped to the show covertly, and she uses make-do supplies, like colored pencils steeped in boiling water as paint. She uses her proceeds to buy things for herself at the prison, and also to buy things to give to her fellow inmates. I think her talent is amazing, and her story only makes it more exceptional. I buy two of Penny's pieces, as well as one from Zebra (the third of hers I have purchased), one from Zebra's partner, John Curran (the second of his I've purchased, it is intended as a Christmas gift for Mark's sailboat-loving father), one from Dennis Williams (whom I've admired before but never purchased from), and one from Clif Taylor (whose work I hadn't seen before and who had a whole series of watercolors of roller derby women).

cupcakes4:00 PM: On my way home, I stop to buy dog food. Then, I head to the grand opening of the north Austin location of Hey Cupcake! A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of trying their wares at their south Austin Airstream, so I've been watching the construction of the new location with great interest. There was a long line, but everyone was festive, there were balloons, and it was a good time. I bought four cupcakes. From the top left, they are: red velvet cake with cream cheese icing, vanilla cake with chocolate buttercream icing, carrot cake with cream cheese icing, and vanilla cake with vanilla icing. I also got a cup of coffee, amazingly enough, my first of the day.

4:30: Since I'm on Burnet anyway, I decide to stop by a couple of the charity thrift shops I usually miss (since they aren't open in the evenings). I don't buy anything. My taste for these kinds of shops, where the treasures have already been picked out (and priced accordingly) has lessened considerably since I've started digging through the bins myself. For example, there's a super cute 70s Pyrex serving dish I'd love to have, but it's $20. Not going to happen.

5:30 PM: I come home, drop my stuff, and immediately dive into the cupcake box. While messing around online, I devour the vanilla-on-vanilla cupcake. So, so tasty.

5:45 PM: I sit down to watch the Arsenal v. Aston Villa match I DVR'd from this morning. I also play with the dogs, feed the dogs, and speak to Mark on the phone (his poster presentation went well).

7:00 PM: I switch from the soccer over to the Discovery channel and settle in to watch a couple of episodes of the Duggars. I am both horrified and fascinated.

8:00 PM: I eat dinner--macaroni and cheese with canned chicken and frozen peas--out of the pan. I drink a lovely Ace cider with it. Then I put on my pajamas and settle in to watch a movie.

The rest of the evening will be me on the couch with whichever dogs claim the space next to me. It's been a lovely day, but I'm exhausted.

So, what did you do today?

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Thrifting and the economy

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A couple of days ago at Secondhand Nation, Carrie posed this question:

Are we thrift fanatics inadvertently making a statement about the absurdity of an economy built on novelty and competitive envy?

For herself, Carrie said, thrifting is simply about economical shopping. She also linked to this article, published earlier this month in the L.A. Times, in which author Judith Freeman writes:

Thrift stores are places where not only the poorest of the poor shop but where one can also see the incredible turnover in the products Americans have consumed and then discarded, often perfectly good items that simply don't get used any more. In thrift stores, you see the evidence of our gluttony.

A bit back, I asked WINOW readers why they thrift. Several of the comments mentioned frugality/economy as the primary reason for thrifting. And, I think, for most people who thrift, it is. I spend a lot of time in thrift stores, the the majority of the people I see there seem to be there either to buy for resale or to buy practical type things for themselves or their families. There are also, of course, the occasional trendsters who are there to find funky one-of-a-kind clothes or strange records on vinyl, but they are the minority. The majority seem to be thrifting because they need to.

Which worries me. Why? Because pickings are getting slimmer, even here in thrift mecca. While this may well say something good about digusting American over consumption (that people are buying/replacing less and thus have fewer things to donate), it could also have an ill effect on those who have grown dependent on the perfectly good cast-offs of the average over-consumer.

What do you think? Is this something worth worrying about?

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NaBloPoMo #14: Not Feminism Friday

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I don't feel like posting about feminism today. Let's talk about the odd collection of stuff I came home from the bins last night with instead, OK?

goodwill 111308

Here you see the following:


  • A large stuff goose. Dog toy that lasted all of 10 minutes. $0.75

  • A cute brown shirt for me, $1.25.

  • A stack of a dozen of these cloth diapers, all with liners, all in very good shape, $0.50 each. These are to be embellished (or maybe not) and gifted to baby-having friends/family.

  • A small blue jar for packaging some sort of bath product, $0.25.

  • Three embroidery kits (I'm still trying to learn). $0.50 for the little one, $0.75 each for the two big ones.

  • A small stuffed mushroom and a small stuffed rhino. Dog toys that have lasted slightly longer. $0.50 each.

  • The oddest thing: a stack of six large fabric envelopes. I can't figure out what they are for. They are made of cute, heavyweight decorator's fabric, one side print, one plain, and they are sewed together on three sides with the fourth open. And they're huge--about 3'X4'. Some kind of cushion cover? Anyway, they'll make fantastic dog bed covers. $1.50 each.

Trip total, including tax, was $21.92.

And the curious tabby cat, as always, is free.

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NaBloPoMo #13: Vintage Thingies Thursday

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trimaway diet scale, 1965

This is one of those things that I just couldn't not buy, even though I have absolutely no use for it. A new-in-box 1965 Pelouze Trimaway Diet Scale Kit. It includes an information booklet ("the complete precise dietary control guide for those who have a trim look in mind"), a small, not-very-accurate scale, a plastic measuring cup, and a plastic bowl in 60's neon orange.

Who weighed their food in 1965? I thought that horror was a recent invention? To those VTT who were alive then, do you remember anything like this being popular, or is this thing unusual?

For more VTT fun, see the Apron Queen!

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NaBloPoMo #12: Not What I'm Reading Wednesday

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I'm still reading the same book I was last week, so let's make bubble bars instead, shall we?

Making Things Monday redux!

bubble bar ingredients

You're going to need baking soda, sodium lauryl sulfoacetate (NOT sodium laureth sulfate, that's different, and I will get to that in a minute), vegetable derived liquid glycerin, cream of tartar, and essential oils. You're also going to need a bowl, spoon, and measure devices.

bubble bar mixture

In your bowl, mix up equal parts baking soda and sodium lauryl sulfoacetate. The baking soda is what makes it fizz, as well as being good for irritated skin and keeping things together in the bars. The sodium lauryl sulfoacetate is a foaming agent. However, unlike the evil sodium laureth sulfate, it is plant derived (from palm and coconut oil) rather than synthetic. It's also a "large molecule," rather than "small molecule" ingredient, which means it shouldn't irritate your skin (you can read a bit more about it here). Start with maybe one cup of each. Then add a couple of tablespoons of cream of tartar. The cream of tartar is there to help the bubbles keep their shape. Then add a couple of tablespoons of glycerin. The glycerin is to soften your skin and clean you, as well as assist in the bubbling. What you'll likely end up with it something that looks a bit like the bowl above--sticky, but not quite wet enough to stick together. Add the essential oils at this point. I find, for whatever reason, that I need to add a bit higher EO concentration to these bars than I do to melts or scrubs.

spritzing with water

Once your ingredients are mixed, spritz them with water just until they're wet enough to stick together. You want to use as little water as possible. If you use enough glycerin and EOs, you may not need the water at all.

molding bubble bars

Then pack it into your molds. I use silicon shaped cupcake molds (or I use one of them--this is the only one I have and I really need some different ones). You want to pack it in as tightly as possible. Don't be afraid to use your fingers.

bubble bars in mold

Once everything is packed in, it will look like this! Let them set up for about 24 hrs in a dry place.

bubble bars

Viola! Bubble bars! Crumble them up under fast-moving warm bath water and luxuriate!

Now, the math:

Baking soda is cheap. I buy big bags at Costco, which are, I believe, about $5 for 12 lbs. A cup is about .4 lbs. That makes the per cup cost about $0.17.

Sodium lauryl sulfoacetate costs $6.75/lb at Majestic Mountain Sage. A cup is about 1/4 of the container, or 4 oz, so I'd say $1.69 worth.

Cream of tarter is $9.69/lb from Frontier. The two-three tablespoons in this recipe add up to only about 1.5 oz, so that's $0.91 worth.

Majestic Mountain Sage sells liquid vegetable derived glycerin for $4/lb. Again, three tablespoons is only about 1.5 oz, so this recipe only calls for about $0.38 worth.

As always, the EOs are the expensive part. How much they cost varies widely based on how much you use and what types. A favorite bubble bar of mine from Lush is the Amandopondo Bubble Bar. It is scented with lemon, orange, and rose, so lets us that as a comparison. Orange EO, as we know from Monday, is cheap. This recipe would use maybe .2 oz, and it's $2.79 for 2 oz at best price, so that's $0.28 worth. Lemon is pretty cheap too--best price is found at Snowdrift Farms, and it's $4.49/oz. If this uses .2 oz (which is a generous estimate), that's $0.90 worth. Rose, however, is not cheap. The best price I've found for 5% rose in jojoba oil is $5.99 for .5 oz, at Frontier. If this recipe uses .2 oz, then, it's $2.40 worth.

Add that all up and this batch of bubble bars costs approximately $6.73 in a lemon-orange-rose combo. That's for 6 bars weighing slightly under 3 oz each--we'll say 16 oz total.

In comparison, the bar I linked to at Lush is $6.65 for one 3.5 oz bar. My per oz cost is $0.42, Lush's per oz cost is $1.90. To top that, the third ingredient in Lush's bar? Sodium laureth sulfate.

I win again!


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Remembrance

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red poppy

This year just drawing to a close has been very eventful. Germany and Japan surrendered. Pres. F.D. Roosevelt passed away and Truman succeeded him. The World Conference was held in San Francisco. And now in Dec. our Sec. of State Burns met with delegates from Russia & Eng. in London and have decided many important things. They are showing that people of the World can get along.
--from the diary of Dora Gearhart, December 31, 1945

Great-grandma Dora was lucky. All three of her boys went overseas (two to Europe and one to Japan), and all three of them came home again. Great-grandma Grace, for whom I was named, was less lucky. Three of her boys went as well. One never came home, and one came home weighing 76 lbs, after spending two years as a POW. Years later, she worried again as her youngest son served three consecutive tours in a jungle in Vietnam.

Remember.

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NaBloPoMo #11: Thrifting Tips Tuesday

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First, the trip I took to the bins over the weekend:

Goodwill 110808

What you see here is:


  • A half dozen wide-mouth pint canning jars with lids, $0.39 each. These are for packaging sugar scrub.

  • A patchwork stuffed elephant. This was intended to be a dog toy, but Mark took a shine to it and decided to take it to lab and make it his totem. I think it was $0.75.

  • A vintage dish I'll tell you a bit more about in a minute, $0.25.

  • Seven small (new) green glass bottles with corks, perfect for reed dispensers, $0.15 each.

  • A cool tin mug advertising British Navy rum drinking, $0.39. This will be for a shaving mug set I will make.

  • A set of six block printed postcards. Not sure what I'm going to do with these, but they were too cute to pass up, $0.50 for the set.

Total spent, including tax = $5.72

A bit more about that cool vintage dish? Well, this is what it looks like close up:

Front:
bowl close up

Back:
back of bowl

It's a soup bowl from the Blue Heaven collection made my Royal China Company in Sebring, Ohio. Looks like the pattern dates from the mid-50s to mid-60s. It's not worth anything, but isn't it cute?

Now, I was thinking about what I wanted to do for thrifting tips today, and I decided I'd share my top five thrift scores, and tell you what "lesson" I learned/you can learn from each one. These aren't necessarily the most interesting things I've ever thrifted, but they are the ones most likely to be considered "scores." Generally, this means they are the most valuable. They're all from the last five years or so, since I am not blessed with a particularly long memory.

#5: Wolky Barcelona Shoes
Last fall, while meandering around the North Lamar Goodwill, I spotted a pair of black Wolky Barcelona shoes. Upon further inspection, I found them to be a) size 11 and b) clearly unworn. These shoes are not at all my style, however, I knew Wolky was a good brand and they were my mom's size and looked like something she'd like, so I picked them up (I think for $5.99). Turns out they are $200 new. I gave them to Mom for Christmas and she rarely wears anything else now.
Lesson: Always buy exceptional new stuff. Even if you don't want it personally, you can gift or sell it.

#4: Ergo carrier

When I first started going to the bins a couple of years ago, I walked by one day to find a man (clearly a "professional") fingering a tan Ergo baby carrier which looked to be in excellent condition. Holding it upside down, he muttered "what the hell is this?" before throwing it to the side. At which point I scooped it up and paid $1 for it. Then I sold it on Ebay for $80.
Lesson: Know what you're looking at.

#3: Little People Village
Last spring, while digging through garbage at the south Blue Hanger store, I noticed a very beat up and possibly moldy vintage 1973 Fisher Price Little People Village box. Just to be sure, even though I really doubted there was anything in it, I peeked inside. And inside was a nearly mint condition Little People Village with 99% of the pieces. I hauled to the register, paid $1 for it, and took it home and sold it on Ebay for $70.
Lesson: Always look in the box.

#2: Columbia Sportswear parka

One evening last fall, I was sifting through the clothes at the north bins location when I spotted a tag. I always look at things with the tags still attached, just to be sure. This tag led me to a Columbia Sportswear parka, retail value about $150. Thinking there must be something wrong with it, I nearly put it back. I mean, who gives a new with tags parka to the Goodwill, and if they did, why would it not sell in the regular store and end up in the bins? But I looked it over and didn't see a thing wrong. You never know what people will throw away. Now said parka hangs in my closet, waiting for a time when I live or visit somewhere cold enough to wear it. It got a test drive in Norway last January, though, and did great.
Lesson: Sometimes it's not too good to be true.

#1 Table
My very favorite thrift find ever happened just after we moved to Austin. We moved from a small, shared apartment in Portland to a much larger house of our own here, and we didn't bring some of our crappy old stuff with us, so we were pretty low on furnishings. After exhausting ourselves and finding nothing we both liked and could afford in any of the furniture resale stores we tried, we were driving home when I spotted a small, crappy looking thrift store on South Lamar and insisted we stop. We almost turned around at the door--it was that uninspiring--but since we'd already stopped we went inside. At the back of the store, surrounded by four horrible ripped up woven cane 70s-style chairs, was a rectangular, solid maple butcher block kitchen table. The sign said "table and chairs, $150." Mark and I talked to the person running the place and told him we'd pay $100 for the table and they could keep the chairs, which clearly didn't belong with it. He had to call the shop owner to make sure that was OK, but our deal was eventually accepted. That table, with "new" (from Craigslist) chairs, sits in our kitchen today and I full expect it will continue to do so for the rest of our lives. It's a solid, beautiful, perfect piece of furniture. This is the closest thing to it I can find online. Yep, for $1,250.
Lesson: Always stop at one more store.

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Give yourself a break

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Recently, I've read a few really good blog posts about the importance of taking the time to enjoy the small joys and treats in your life. I'm almost sure one of them was at SouleMama. I know one of them was Sara's "Feeling Rich in a Broke Economy" post from On Simplicity. And it's gotten me to thinking about what types of things I do to treat myself in a healthy way.

Well, today I had a rough day. There was some work-related stress, but mostly it was just one of those days when I hate being a girl, if you get my drift. So I came home and made myself a cup of hot chocolate with Scharffen Berger cocoa, local unhomoginized whole milk, and an extra large shot of Cointreau. Then I drew an extra-hot bath, threw in a few of my new creation, fizzy bath baby bottles (they'll be in the shop soon), and laid there for about an hour, reading.

Yep. That'll do it.

How about you? What do you do to give yourself a break?

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NaBloPoMo #10: Making Things Monday

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Today we turn away from food and back to where my true heart lies--bath products. In specific, we're going to take a look at how to make sugar scrub. Sugar scrub is one of those things that is SO easy to make that once you see how it's done, you'll feel silly ever buying it again. You don't even need fancy ingredients--you can make it all with household stuff (and I'll note those substitutions). This is definitely the place to start if you want to make your own bath stuff. And it would be a good project for kids, too, I think--fairly inexpensive and no melting required!

ingredients

These are the ingredients used in my sugar scrubs: organic brown sugar, organic white sugar, organic honey, apricot kernel oil, sweet almond oil, and essential oils. For the sake of this example, we'll be making my personal favorite scent combo, orange clove.

hardware

This is the necessary hardware. This recipe is by volume, not weight, so no scaled needed. You will need measuring cups, a bowl, a spoon to mix it with, and, in my case at least, a pipette for EOs (since one of the bottles I'm using doesn't have a dropper top). I have a separate set of measuring cups and spoons and mixing spoons that I use for bath stuff only, but it isn't necessary in a recipe like this--everything is food safe.

white sugar in

Add a cup of white sugar to the bowl. In my area, organic white sugar is about $0.99/lb regular price. A cup of sugar is approximately 1/2 lb, so this is about $0.50 worth of sugar.

brown sugar in

Next, add the same amount of brown sugar. This too is about $0.99/lb for organic here. There are about 2.5 cups of brown sugar to a pound, so this is about $0.40 worth. The sugars make up the exfoliating capacity of the scrub. I use a combo of both types because they have a different grit level and I think they work best together. Some people may prefer just one or the other, though, and that's fine, the recipe will work the same way.

honey in

Then add 1/4 cup of honey. The honey is for it's antiseptic and skin-clearing properties. Organic honey has a really wide range of prices, but my local stuff is usually about $4 for 12 oz. 1/4 cup is approximately 2 oz, so this is $0.67 in honey.

apricot oil in

Next, add 1/4 cup of apricot kernel oil. With the almond oil, this will make up the moisturizing element of the scrub. My current best price for apricot kernel oil is $5.70 for 16 oz (from Majestic Mountain Sage). A cup of oil is about 8 oz, so 1/4 cup is about 2 oz. This recipe, then, calls for about $0.71 worth of apricot oil.

almond oil in

Finally, add 1/2 cup of sweet almond oil. If you don't want to spend the money for these special oils, all 3/4 cup of oil can be substituted for an oil you already have. It won't work quite as well, but it will work. It has to be an oil that is liquid at room temperature, though, so coconut oil is out. Personally, I wouldn't want to use corn or canola or vegetable oil either. Light olive oil, though, would probably work fine, as would sunflower oil (which is what they use in a lot of commercial scrubs to keep costs down).

Majestic Mountain Sage also has the best priced almond oil I've found, $4.75 for 16 oz. Since 1/2 cup is about 4 oz, this is $1.19 worth of almond oil.

ingredients mixed up

Now that everything (besides the scents) is in the bowl, mix it up. It should end up looking like this. If it looks too wet, add a bit more sugar. If it looks too dry, add a bit more oil. In general, though, a proportion of 2 pts sugar to 1 pt honey and oil seems to work about right.

adding orange oil

Finally, add your scents. I'm using a disposable pipette here to add orange essential oil. The best price on this stuff I've found is from Snowdrift Farms, who sell it for $2.79 for 2 oz. I'm using maybe .1 oz here, so it's only about $0.14 worth. (No, relative cheapness is not the reason I love orange oil so much, but it sure doesn't hurt!)

adding clove oil

Since it has a dropper top, I add the clove bud oil straight from the bottle. The best price I've found on this oil is also from Snowdrift Farms, and it's $4.95 for 1 oz. Again, this is about .1 oz, so $0.50 worth.

If you don't want to shell out for essential oils, you have a couple of options. You can leave your scrub "unscented," in which case it's mostly going to smell like whatever oil you use, or you can use something else to scent it with (maybe vanilla extract?).

jarring

Once you have mixed in your oils, your scrub is complete and ready to be jarred. I like to put mine in thrifted or recycled class jars with lids. You want it to be in something fairly airtight so it doesn't dry out. If it is in a decent container, it should keep fine for several months.

finished product

Voila! The finished product!

The total cost for this scrub (not counting the jar, since I'll assume that's recycled from something else) is $4.11, for about 16 oz. My favorite commercial scrub, the sugar cane body scrub from Alba Botanicals, runs about $8.79 for 10 oz. And it's not even a most-expensive brand! So my scrub, made with all-natural ingredients, is about $0.26/oz, and theirs is $0.88/oz. Pretty clear which one I'm going to choose! (It is worth noting, however, that making this scrub with more expensive essential oils would raise the price considerably--these are among the cheapest EOs you can get.)

As always, if you just don't feel like making this yourself, please stop by Crushworthy. I'd be happy to make it for you!

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NaBloPoMo #9: My Money Sunday

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It's Sunday again, and that means we talk about my finances.

Last week I gave an overview of where I am and where I've been in the last year. I got a lot of very supportive and positive comments regarding the progress I've made in paying down my debt, which I very much appreciate. I'm afraid, though, that's I've made it seem easier than it is. It's hard. Every day. The truth is that I hate to think about money. I love to shop. While I know being thrifty and frugal are good things, they aren't things I enjoy in any way. I'd much rather not worry about it.

I think this is something that sets me apart from a lot of the thriftiness/frugality/debt pay down bloggers I am reading lately. A lot of them actually seem to be enjoying the challenge of living on less. From what I can tell, this is the big difference between those bloggers and myself. I see it as a challenge, for sure, but not a fun one. It's not a game I at all like to play, and I haven't lost of my taste for shopping in the least. I wonder, sometimes, if I'll ever really be effective at living simply and frugally without developing the aversion to buying and collecting stuff that some of the bloggers who inspire me seem to have.

Christine at 10Notes is one of my favorite simple/frugal living bloggers. She's recently written about the thrill of bargaining. Her post, while fascinating, was completely alien to me. Asking someone to charge you less than the posted price for something? Really? Wouldn't even occur to me. Ms. A at Living Without Money posts nearly daily about the ways in which she avoids spending. It is clear that it's not just a necessity for her, but a challenge she relishes. While I can and do put some of her tips into practice, I just can't imagine feeling the elation doing things on the cheap seems to give her.

So here's what I wonder: is there something innate that makes some of us enjoy the challenge of living on less and some of us just slog through it? If it's not innate, how can I learn it? I try to look at not spending as a game, seeing how many days I can go without parting with money or how little I can get a given item for, but I don't find it fun. In fact, if anything, I find it depressing. How can I change that?

What are your thoughts? If you are belt-tightening recently, or have been dedicated to living simply and frugally for years, how do you feel about it? Does it thrill you? Did it always? Guide me, wise readers!

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NaBloPoMo #8: Show Me Saturday

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It is a lovely Saturday morning at my house.

perfect cup of coffee

I have the perfect cup of coffee.

rising cinammon roll dough

I'm making old-fashioned yeast cinnamon rolls, from my mom's recipe. The dough is on its first rise right now.

mark and leo watch the footie

Mark and Leo are watching footie on the couch. And I could probably tell you more, but I am going to go join them.

Have a great Saturday!

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Pay It Forward Friday

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pay it forward friday button.jpgDudes! Fun new weekly carnival. Iowa Mom is hosting "Pay It Forward Friday." Basically, it's a way to find new blogs by following the path of a blog you already read. Excellent! I'll give it a try this week and hopefully work it into my weekly rotation.

OK, I'm going to start with my friend Laurie and her blog LaurieWrites. If you don't read it, you should--Laurie writes very, very well. The post I commented on there today was one about Laurie's tattoo, which is super cute. Turns out Laurie feels the same way as I do about her tat(s).

From Laurie's blogroll, I headed over to Oodleday, where I commented on a post about Baz Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet, a film both I an Oodleday's Lauren love.

Then, from Oodleday, I went to Dooce. I know that's probably a cop-out, but that's where I ended up. I didn't leave a comment there, since her comments aren't generally open, but I did read her Month 57 Newsletter to Leta, and it made me teary.

Where'd you go today?

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NaBloPoMo #7: Feminism Friday

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Top Five Myths About Feminists

  1. Feminists are ugly. Feminists are not ugly. Well, I'm sure some feminists are, just like some of anybody, but I know a lot of very attractive feminists. And there are some famous attractive feminists as well. Ashley Judd? Charlize Theron? Geena Davis? Ani DiFranco? I rest my case.

  2. Feminists hate sex. The feminists I know, whether they are in same-sex or different-sex relationships (or single!), do not hate sex. They enjoy sex and they have sex. They have all kinds of sex, single and partnered, and often enough they even get pregnant and have babies.

  3. Feminists have no sense of humor. This is possibly the wrongest of all of the myths. Feminists definitely have a sense of humor. Some of the funniest people I know are proud feminists. So are some famous funny people, like Tina Fey and Margaret Cho.

  4. Feminists suffer from group think. Given the years of impassioned discussions and arguments I've had, both online and not, with other feminists, this one always makes me roll my eyes. Feminism is not a theory, or an ideology. It's lots of them. For as far back in feminist history as I'm aware, there have always been lots of divisions and disagreements in "the movement." It's likely one of the reasons certain goals have been thwarted as long as they have. There are socialist feminists, liberal feminists, radical feminists, eco feminists, etc. etc. etc. Not so much with the group think.

  5. Feminists hate men. This is probably the biggie. No, most feminists do not hate men. Some of us likely do, and I'd go out on a limb and say some of us have every reason to. But most feminists have lives that include men that we love and respect. Feminism isn't about hating men. In fact, it's not really about men at all. That seems to be the part that people have the worst time wrapping their heads around--something that isn't. about. men.

So there's the top five myths I can think of. What about you? Are you a feminist? What myths would you add?


Additions suggested, a running list:


  • Feminists are not/do not want to be mothers.

  • Feminists are intimidated by masculinity.

  • Feminists are lesbian separatists.

  • Feminists do not shave their legs/wear skirts/wear makeup.

  • Feminists are just looking for things to be offensive.

  • Feminists burn their bras.

  • Feminists are pushy and demanding.

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Help Huey?

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Huey close upRemember I told you about Huey, the beagle/porpoise cross we've been fostering who likes cat boxes? Well, it turns out that Mr. Huey needs some surgery. It's nothing huge--he blew out his ACL and it needs to be repaired. It's a fairly common surgery for dogs and has an excellent success rate. Huey will need several months of post-surgical recovery time, but Mark and I love him to death and will be happy to have him into the spring. After that time, there is no reason to believe that he won't go on to leave several more happy and healthy years.

The problem, of course, is that the surgery isn't cheap. As I believe I've mentioned, Hound Rescue has been really swamped these past months--the worse the economy gets, the more dogs are in need. Right now, HR just can't afford a couple of grand for a beagle surgery that isn't life-saving. So, for at least the time being, we're in a holding pattern. Huey is on three legs and we're trying to raise funds.

If you can, please consider helping Huey out. If you click on the Huey button in this post, or on the sidebar, you will be taken to Hound Rescue's donation pages (through Paypal). If you can make a donation, that would be great. Please indicate in the comments that it is for Huey's surgery. And if you can't give but want to help, or want another way to help, please grab the button and post it on your blog or online space.

Thank you!

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NaBloPoMo #6: Vintage Thingies Thursday

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In celebration of the first meet-up on this blog of two favorites, NaBloPoMo and Vintage Thingies Thursday, I have a good one today!

Mom as a suffragette

The photo you see here is of my lovely mama, dressed in her Halloween costume for this year. Is that not the coolest costume ever? I adore that my mom still dresses up. This costume, in particular, was inspired by the school bond initiative they were trying to pass at the school where Mom works. And it passed by a SEVEN vote margin! How's that for your vote counting?

Suffragettes!

Mom didn't dress up to get out the vote alone! This picture shows her co-conspirators (a good family friend on her right and my aunt Joan on her left) and the other side of their signs.

Clearly these costumes are meant to represent something vintage, but that's not why I am showing them to you today. There IS something vintage in them (besides, of course, the lovely ladies themselves). What is it? Guess in the comments and I'll update later and tell you!

Update: If you want to know what the vintage item is, it's after the break!

The vintage item is my mom's hat! It came along, with about a dozen others, from the home of my grandmother's mother. None of the hats were dated, but the one mom is wearing in this picture is probably from the late 20s or early 30s--so it's about a decade "young" for the costume, but still definitely vintage!

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Goodwill, 11/05/08

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I didn't find anything amazing today, nor is this a great picture, but since there are some readers who have expressed interest (and indeed, to keep me honest), here's the yield from tonight's Bins trip.

goodwill 110508

In this photo, you see:


  • One patchwork sari-esque throw, from World Market, $2. Now resides over the back of the leather chair in my living room, for the purposes of deterring cat scratches on leather.

  • Two yards of green and white toile fabric with a ship/island theme, $2. No good reason for buying this.

  • Two small (antique?) tin angel candle holders for a Christmas tree, $0.25 each

  • A small metal meat tenderizing mallet for Mark, $0.25

  • Four handmade items of children's clothing--a smock, a jumper, a reversible vest, and an apron, intended for my small friend Y.'s Christmas present, $1.25 each

  • Four new cotton print Cost Plus napkins, always useful at my house (we go through lots), $0.50 each

  • Two new looking and I think handmade U Florida Christmas stockings. These are going to be filled w/ homemade treats and given to my Florida alum neighbors for Christmas, $0.50 each

  • A pair of new looking Old Navy wide leg jeans for me, $1.25

  • A sleevless Merona no-seam undershirt in army green, for me, $1.25

Total spend, including sales tax: $16.51

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Morning

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All around the blogosphere, my favorite bloggers are sharing their joy at the election results. People are telling the stories of last night's laughter and champagne, they are talking about the speeches, they are describing the first moment when they realized it was really going to happen.

I was going to try not to add to it, but I just can't keep still.

My mind keeps coming back to the same phrase:

It's morning in America.

Obviously, it is a comically huge misuse to connect this particular phrase with what has happened over the past 24 hours (and the months before). And I hope Reagan is rolling over in his grave, because this phrase does speak to how I feel today.

The last 8 years have been, in many ways, like a long, dark night, filled with horrifying dreams from which we can't wake up. And then, last night, that man, a man of a new color and a new path, stood up there, and he smiled, and he spoke, and day dawned. And now, it's morning in America.

He said, poignantly, I thought, that this is our time. What are we going to do with our day?

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NaBloPoMo #5: What I'm Reading Wednesday

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I'm a reader. Always have been. And I'm also a big organizer and maker of lists. So, of course, I love Goodreads. Are you on Goodreads? If so, make me a contact! If not, sign up and then make me a contact!

I use Goodreads to keep track of what I am reading, when, and how I like it. You can see this on the blog down on the side bar. My goal for 2008 was to average one book per week, so 52 books. Right now, I'm at 44 for the year, including 2 I am currently reading and 6 I didn't finish. Probably not going to make that goal. Oh well.

I am not a multi-book person. I like to read one thing at a time. However, I do have one book and one audio book going at any given time, as I listen to the audio book in situations when I can't read (like on the bus or at the gym). Here's what I've got going now:

personal history cover.jpgPersonal History by Katharine Graham
I bought this autobiography of Katharine Graham, the publisher of the Washington Post during Watergate, several years ago at the Goodwill. I'd heard only good things about it (I think it won a Pulitzer?), and I love memoir and autobiography in general. I never picked it up, though. Then, a couple of weeks ago, I read Sara Nelson's So Many Books, So Little Time. In that book, Nelson reads Graham's autobiography and enjoys it. So it inspired me to dig my copy out and pick it up.

I'm only about 100 pages into it (it's a pretty long book, about 650 pages I think), and so far I'm unplussed. At my current point in the book, Graham is still in college at the University of Chicago, and it has just been page after page about how rich and fucked up her family was. Which is fine, I guess, but I'm ready to move on and have her actually do something. I'll try to stick with it for at least a bit longer--I know the bare bones of her story and I'd like to see what she has to say about the parts that actually were interesting--but if I have to flip through many more pages about her mother's art world connections and Republican party campaigning, I may jump ship.

day i ate whatever i wanted.jpgThe Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted: And Other Acts of Liberation by Elizabeth Berg
My iPod is currently playing this short story book by Elizabeth Berg. For several novels now (Open House, We Are All Welcome Here), I have kind of liked Elizabeth Berg. I don't love her, but I find her books enjoyable and slightly off-kilter. So, when I saw she had a recent short story collection out, it sounded like perfect gym listening. Goodreads describes this book as "exhilarating short stories of women breaking free from convention." That may be a bit strong, but that's mostly what it is. Cute stories about women doing things they aren't supposed to do. A lot of them are about women who are struggling with age and/or weight-related issues, and it's handled pretty well. Their is nothing mind-blowing here, but it's funny and easy to listen to. So it is perfect gym listening. I have two and a half stories left, so I should probably finish it in the next few days.

On Deck:

To read: American Eve: Evelyn Nesbit, Stanford White, the Birth of the "It" Girl and the Crime of the Century by Paula Uruburu

To listen to: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, read by Tim Robbins

Update: I just listened to the second to last story in Berg's book, "How To Make an Apple Pie." The book is so-so, but that story is fantastic.

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NaBloPoMo #4: Thrifting Tips Tuesday

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I've been asked, quite a few times, whether I think my success in thrifting comes down to luck or skill. Honestly, I don't think it has a whole lot to do with either one. It's something else entirely. Or, actually, a combination of things. So today, for our first Thrifting Tip Tuesday, I am going to tell you what I think you need to be a good thrift shopper.

To Be a Successful Thrift Shopper, You Need...


  1. Good thrift stores: Often, people will say that there just aren't any good thrift stores in their areas. This may or may not be true. I think that there really are some areas that don't have good thrifting. More often, though, folks don't know where to look. In general, it has been my experience that you find the best all-around thrifting in mid-sized cities with large college populations and stable economies. Austin, of course, fits this bill perfectly. In big cities, it sounds as if (my personal experience with this is actually limited) the better stores are found in the suburbs. I'll do a whole post about the types of stores you may encounter and what you might find there later in the month, but for now, the #1 thing you need to be a successful thrifter is a place to do it.

  2. Time: Thrifting is not a quick process. It is very difficult to make it work for you if you are unwilling or unable to put in the time it requires. For some people, this may mean visiting the same store or stores several times a week. For others, it means garage sales every Saturday morning. For me, what it means depends on how seriously I am thrifting at a given time, but lately 1-2 trips per week to the bins. And it's not just about going often, it's about willing to put in the time while you are there. It takes a while to sift through mounds of useless crap to find that one worthwhile thing, and you have to be willing to do that sifting or you aren't likely to score many great purchases.

  3. Patience: This kind of goes along with time. If thrifting is about anything, I'd say it's about patience. You may not find anything you even remotely want for hours, days, or weeks. You have to keep going out and looking, or it won't work. This, I think, is why most of the best thrifters are people who get off on the process itself. I like looking through other people's trash. And when you aren't finding anything fantastic, looking through other people's trash is exactly what thrifting is. So, if you don't already really enjoy that, then you have to cultivate amazing patience.

  4. A running list: It is a common mistake of beginning thrifters to go out one day with a list of things to find and then be disappointed if they don't find anything from their list (or if they only find one thing). This is a new store mentality, and it must be erased. By all means have a list, but it needs to be a running list. Whenever you think of something you'd like to find used, add it to your list. Every time you go thrifting, keep your eye out for all of the things you've listed. Don't expect to find all, or even any, of them. The list here isn't a tool to tell you what you need to buy before you stop, it's a guide of what you should be peeling your eyes for. Finding something from your list, especially something that has been on your list a long time, is cause for celebration, not a routine event.

  5. Willingness to compromise: As well as looking at list-making as a long-term, rather than immediate, venture, you also need to look at it as a more general venture than you normally would with first-run stores. For example, my current list entries include "something to use for a bathroom trash can" and "containers for sugar scrubs." Were I planning to buy these things new, I might have "small lidded stainless steel trash can" (my ideal for the space) or "16 oz glass jars with hinged lids" (again, my ideal). Putting a priority on buying things used has many advantages, but it has disadvantages as well, and one of the biggest ones is that you sometimes need to compromise on getting exactly what you had in mind. This can be a good thing too, though, as it can help you to be creative and consider using things in ways you wouldn't have considered if finding just what you had in mind was easy.

  6. A creative eye: On a somewhat related note, another thing you need to develop if you are going to thrift shop successfully is a creative eye. The majority of the things I bring home from thrift shops have been passed over by tens of other people. Why? Well, either they don't need that item, or they don't see the potential in it. You want to become someone who sees the potential. This can be tricky, as you end up with way too much stuff and no money if you see too much potential, but it's important also to have an open mind. Some people have this naturally--you know these people, they're the ones who can see a pile of popsicle sticks and honestly see a sculpture or whatever. I'm not like that naturally. In me, as, I suspect, in most people, the creative eye has developed over time. And I still mess up, a lot--I bring home lots of stuff that is just, in fact, crap, and I likely pass by great stuff. But the more you do it, the better it gets. This is also a place where I think reading thrifting blogs and seeing the cool stuff other people pick up helps.

Those, in a nutshell, are the things I think you need to be a good thrift shopper. Obviously there are other things that help as well, but those are the big ones to my mind.

Now that you've read this little intro, tell me--what other thrifting topics would you like to see me address on Thrift Tips Tuesdays? I can think of a lot of different things to talk about, from more general stuff like this post and my thrifting philosophy post, to more specific things (like the post I did a while back about thrifting for clothes while plus-sized). What would you be interested in reading?

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NaBloPoMo #3: Making Things Monday

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My original intent with Making Things Mondays was craft tutorials, and I do have a couple of those planned, but today we're going to take a detour to the culinary and I'm going to show you how to make one of the things I bake really, really well. All the better that it's something that other folks often seem to have problems with.

Yep, we're making apple pie.

A disclaimer: this is how I make pie. This is not the only way to make pie. I don't claim this is the best way to make pie (though it may well make the best pie I've ever had). This is just my way. Learn what you can, use what you will, no need to argue about the details.

Also, this recipe assumes that you do not have a food processor. If you do, I absolutely recommend that you use that instead of cutting in the fat by hand.

OK, let's get to it.

ingredients

First, assemble your ingredients. You're going to need apples (I used organic Granny Smith's from Costco this time), white sugar, white flour, shortening, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. Already we're in controversial territory--yes, I use all shortening in my crust. However, if you prefer butter, or a combination, you can substitute one-for-one in this recipe. I won't mind. Also, I use ground nutmeg. Alton Brown (and Mark) poo-poo that and say I should grate it from a real nutmeg nut, but frankly, I don't wanna.

peel the apples

Next, unsurprisingly, you peel the apples. Depending on the size, I use about 5 apples. 6 if they are small. You want to end up with a bowlful of slices.

peeled and sliced apples

Then you slice them up. This is another place where recipes differ. I like my apple pie to still have recognizable apples in it, rather than a sort of apple filling with just tiny pieces of apple, so I slice them. If you like it the other way, just dice them instead. If you do slice them, though, make sure to slice them fairly thin, or they won't cook all the way through and they'll give it an odd chewy texture. Some people coat them in lemon juice during this step, so they won't brown, but I don't think it's necessary, since you're about to mix them with sugar and flour and spices anyway.

add flour

Add about 1/2 cup or a bit more of flour to the apples.

add sugar

Then add about a cup of sugar. Use white flour and white sugar--pie isn't supposed to be good for you. Also, the amount of sugar will vary a bit depending on how sweet you want it to be and how tart your initial apples are. A cup is just where you start from, you may need to adjust either way.

add cinammon

Next add about 1.5 to 2 tablespoons of decent quality cinnamon. I really, really love cinnamon. My apple pie is spicy. If that's not your thing and you just want a hint of cinnamon, you're going to need to reduce this quite a bit. But don't. It's better this way. Really

Also, when I'm not photographing my process, I don't actually measure these spices. You make a few pies, you know how much is the right amount. So don't feel like you have to measure.

add nutmeg

Add about 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg. Unlike cinnamon, you really can have too much nutmeg, so be careful here.

add cloves

Next, add about 1/3 teaspoon of cloves. Again, if you don't want spicy, cut or skip this step. If you do, you can also use allspice here, I just didn't have any. Be careful about amounts, though, as too much cloves isn't really something you want to contend with.

finished filling

Now mix it all up. It should look like this. If there isn't enough dampness in the apples to make it look like this (like if they are really under ripe), you may need to add a very small amount of liquid. You can just use water, but it would be better if you used juice, or melted butter. My apples were pretty ripe, though, so I didn't have to do that here. If you do, be careful--you're not going to need much.

flour for crust

Now that the filling is done, turn your attention to the crust. This, by all accounts, is the hard part. But it's really not that hard. We'll do it together. First, measure 2 cups of flour into a bowl.

salt for crust

Next, sprinkle a few good pinches of salt in. I can't tell you exactly how much, because measuring salt makes no sense. A few good pinches. Then stir it up.

shortening for crust

Next, measure in a cup of shortening. Yep, a whole cup. Like I said, pie isn't supposed to be good for you. If you want to use butter, that's fine, use the same amount, just make sure it is cold and cut it up into smallish pieces before you add it. No matter what fat you use, the ratio should be 2:1 flour to fat. Might be different if you use lard, actually, I don't know, I've never used lard.

cut in shortening

Then you cut the shortening into the flour. Here I am doing it with a pastry cutter. If you are fancy, you do this with a food processor (6-8 one second pulses should do it). If you don't have either of those tools, you can use a fork. Some people use their hands, but I'd recommend against that, just because your hands are really warm and you don't want this to warm up any more than it has to.

like wet sand

When there are no more large clumps of shortening (like, bigger than a pebble), stop. Your objective here is to do this for as short at time as possible. In fact, that is your entire objective for the crust from here on out--do as little as possible to it. The less you do, the more flaky it will be. So just cut it until the big clumps are gone, as you can see above, then stop.

add ice water

Now get a glass of ice water. Don't just use cold water from the tap, use ice. You want it to be as cold as possible. Add it very slowly, a couple of tablespoons at a time, stirring just a couple of times in between to see if it will stick together yet.

crust all together

As soon as you've added enough water for the dough to stick together, as shown, stop. No more water, no more stirring.

roll it out

Time for the messy part! Get out your rolling pin and board. Aren't mine nice? I got them for Christmas last year. Doesn't matter if yours are less nice, though, I made a lot of pies using a Goodwill rolling pin and a counter top before I got this set. Put about half the dough on the floured board and roll it out until it's pie-plate sized/shaped. Like stirring, rolling is something you want to do as little of as possible. You only get one shot--do not, under any circumstances, clump it all back together and re-roll it because you don't like how it's turning out. You're better off to throw it away and start over if you get to that point. The thing to keep in mind here is that it doesn't have to be perfect. It doesn't even have to be very good, actually. Doesn't have to be even, pretty, or the right size/shape. This is going on the bottom of the pie, and if you end up having to make it with 57 patchwork pieces, that's fine. Just don't overwork it.

shape the bottom

Once your dough is rolled out, pick up with floured hands and line the bottom of your pie pan with it. (Why yes, I am using one of these pans, thank you for noticing!)

shape the bottom 2

As you can see, my crust does not fit the pan perfectly. No big deal, just shape it the best you an with your fingers.

filling in crust

Once you have your bottom crust formed, fill it up with your apples. You want to full to the brim here, because they're going to cook down some.

Next, roll out the other half of your dough just like you did the first half.

cut the top crust

Then, using a sharp knife, cut your rolled out dough into strips. This may be easier if you make sure your knife is cold first--stick it in your leftover glass of ice, that should do it.

lay in strips

Lay your strips across the top of your pie. Piecing them together is fine if some of them aren't long enough.

make a lattice

Some people weave the strips together to make a proper lattice. I think that's a waste of time and my dough is generally not together well enough to withstand that (which is fine, because that means it flaky). So just lie your vertical strips on top of your horizontal ones. Nobody will care.

seal the edges

Unless you had enough dough in your bottom crust to seal the edges (I never do), run a strip around the edge of the tie and press it against the internal strips to make sure the edges are sealed. This is to prevent your filling from running out the edges, and to create a bit of a crust edge. I don't particularly like the big crust edges on most pies, though, so I don't go overboard here.

sprinkle on some sugar

Finally, sprinkle a couple of teaspoons of sugar on top of the pie. Some people use an egg wash here to make things all shiny, but I think it's a waste of an egg. If things seem dry, rub a little water on the top crust before you sprinkle on the sugar.

into the oven

Now into the oven! 400 degrees is a good place to start. Middle rack. If you're concerned about the pie boiling over (i.e. if it's top is way over the top of the pie pan), put a foil-lined cookie sheet underneath it to catch drips.

kitchen mess

Now you have to clean up the kitchen.

grace's yuck face

This is how I feel about that.

pie!

However, in about 40 minutes (don't use a timer, just keep checking on it until the top is golden brown), you'll have this.

Worth it, yes?

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The Winner!

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I'll get to my Making Things Monday post shortly, but in the meantime, I have a winner for my Bloggies Giveaway Carnival Contest! I ended up with a fantastic 135 entries to win an Introduction to Crushworthy Grag Bag, and the winner is Becky, who likes ylang ylang! I'll be emailing you shortly!

For everyone who didn't win, if you'd still like to try out something from Crushworthy, please do! For the rest of the month of November, mention this blog post in your order on Etsy and I'll take 20% off. Deal?

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NaBloPoMo #2: My Money Sunday

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It's Sunday, and we're going to talk about money. Specifically, mine. Specifically, at least today, debt.

Have you noticed that little (badly done, Mark says) line graph over in the sidebar? That's my 2008 debt pay down. Here's a bigger version, updated just this morning:

What that tells you is that as of January 1 of this year, I was a total of $11,351 in debt. Credit card debt, that is. I also have a student loan, a car loan, and a home loan. But this is just about that really bad nothing-to-show-for-it debt. Anyway, at the beginning of this year, I was pretty far in. Farther than I've ever been in before, even through student and post-student brokeness. And even though I was pretty successful at juggling it from 0% interest card to 0% interest card and making payments and never really paying much to owe, it still weighed on me. So I started actually trying to pay it down. The chart shows my progess. As of today, my credit card debt load is $4,437. This means I've paid $6,914 in 11 months, or an average of about $629/month.

That's not bad, it's really not. But it's not as good as I'd hoped. In January, my goal was to have the debt gone in 2008. Given my income constraints, that would have been really difficult, but I'm still not quite as far as I'd hoped I'd be at this point. Still, I've been making steady progress, and I have the debt nearly 2/3 paid, and down to a number that doesn't give me cold sweats, so I'm not complaining too much.

For the last few months, I've been slacking a bit. I've been making payments, but not to the degree I should be, and I've been doing something really bad--charging things to another credit card when I run out of money towards the end of the month (I make my debt payments at the first of the month). Though I have thus far paid that card off every month and not added to my debt, I know it's a dangerous and not particularly smart path, so I want it to stop. That's my #1 goal this month--no credit card charges. And that means living with a budget.

Let me pause to tell you, in case you are new here and haven't read my rantings on this subject before, I am very, very open about money. I use real numbers. I think the social phobia we have about discussing our incomes, expenses, etc. in real terms is stupid and counter-productive. However, I recognize that some people feel very differently, and that's fine. Nobody is asking you to share your digits here, and if you are uncomfortable knowing what my take-home pay is, you should probably stop reading this post. In fact, you should likely just skip Mondays.

OK, disclaimer in place, the budget for November:

Take home pay: $3,297

Fixed expenses:
Joint: $2,000 (this is the amount I contribute monthly to our joint checking account)
Student loan: $227
Credit cards: $700
Savings: $100
Gym membership: $11
Total: $3,038

Variable expenses:
Prescriptions: $75
Spend money/cash: $150
Total: $225

Pretty simple, isn't it? I just keep telling myself, all I have to do is come back to it and make sure I am following it, and everything will be fine. That shouldn't be difficult, should it?

If you are like me and having trouble keeping a handle on your money, I really recommend blogging about it. It may not make for fantastic reading material for your readers, but it provides a level of accountability that I haven't been able to get anywhere else.

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NaBloPoMo #1: Show Me Saturday

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Since this is my first post this year, and I am hopeful that I have a few new readers (maybe some of you from the contest stuck around?), I thought it might be a good use of my first Show Me Saturday post to introduce you to the players here in the What If No One's Watching saga.

First, there's me. I'm Grace, and I'll be your host. I'm a 29 year old Oregon native, transplanted in Austin, Texas by reason of education. My Austin-education is over (Masters in Public Affairs that I plan to never use), and my partner's is nearly completed, so we'll be moving on here within the year. I work as a University number cruncher, which is not my passion but does me just fine for now. My actual intellectual passion is U.S. history, and I'm still playing with the idea of getting a Ph.D. in that field some day. My non-work passions are dog rescue (more on that in a minute), reading, movies, crafting, thrifting, and, recently, the English Premiere League (football).

cranky mark drinks wineNext up is Mark, my partner. Mark and I have been together for seven years, and we were friends for four years before that, so we've known each other pretty much our entire adult lives. He's a fantastic human being, even if he doesn't think so. He's a Ph.D. student in neuroscience, and he's very, very smart. He's also truly good-hearted, which he sometimes tries to hide. He's into gourmet cooking and home repair, as well as sharing my passions for dogs and soccer.

Leo close upThe next eldest member of our family is Leo. Leo is a rescue dog. Mark and I adopted him in August of 2005 (read about it here). At that time, we thought he was between 6 and 8. Three plus years later, it's clear he was definitely closer to 6 than 8, because there is no way he's 11 now. 9, maybe. We don't know what Leo's mix is, though we're always game to hear a guess. The current best-guess is Pyr/Old English Sheepdog.

Leo is basically my soul mate in dog form. I loved our previous dog, Chance, whom we lost way way too soon, but Leo...Leo is something else. He truly makes me believe in miracles.

fat atticus 2Our next addition was tabby cat Atticus, in September 2005. We adopted Atticus from a PetSmart, where they were housing cats that had been moved out of shelters to make room for animals orphaned by Hurricane Katrina. It took me a bit to sell Mark on the cat idea, but I really wanted one, and then I met Atticus. His name was Sam then, and he was about 4 months old. All of the the other cats were mellow and friendly. Sam jumped out of my lap and made a mad escape into the store. Yep, that's the one I want. He continues to be alternatively cranky and affectionate, and to love Mark and only barely tolerate me. (You can read Atticus' story here.)

Ata likes to read 2 1-1-2003In January of 2006, we added our second dog, Atakan (pronounced Ah-tah-kahn, called Ata). Ata is another rescue, this time from the next county over's county shelter (read his adoption story here). He was a pathetic case when we adopted him, but has grown into an absolutely beautiful Anatolian Shepherd. With a kind of strange personality. Honestly, if Leo is my dog soul mate, Ata is Mark's. He's socially phobic, yet sort of outgoing. He's a guardian breed with a fear of thunderstorms. He's weird, and atypical and totally awesome.

At this point, with our two dogs and our cat, we thought we were done. The perfect pack. But things happen...

Comfy EsmeWe inherited our tortie cat, Esme, when our good friends moved to Europe. They wanted to take Esme, who they'd adopted not that long before they learned of their move, with them, but they were moving into a small apartment with their two big dogs, and poor Ez wouldn't have had a good place to escape the dogginess. So, in October 2006, she came to us (read that story here). And I will tell you absolutely unequivocably, Esme is my favorite cat. She's our most low-maintenance animal, spending most of her time chilling on or under our bed and in our bathroom, but she's extremely cuddly once she gets to know you (unlike Atticus, she doesn't make a game of showing you her claws). Give her something soft to stretch out in a sunbeam on and let her drink from the faucet when you brush your teeth and she's a happy, happy cat. I adore her.

After Esme, with two of each, we really were done. We were fostering dogs (all of whom have great stories, spread out over the last couple of years--click on the "Dogs" category on the sidebar if you want to read those), and we had a full house. But thing still happen...

kittens playing with illy 4The thing that happened next was Illy. In October 2007, this incredibly scrawny, sick-looking Siamese mix cat showed up in our neighbor's yard. Said neighbors have two great dogs who are not cat friendly, so they brought the scrawny cat over here to ask for our advice/help, since they knew we have cats and do animal rescue. And we said we'd take her (read about it here). We made a cursory effort at finding her people, but she had pretty clearly been stray quite a while, and nothing came of it.

Come to find out, a couple weeks later, that the cat, who we'd dubbed Illy after the espresso company, was pregnant. It was impossible to believe--she was SO little--but there you have it. So we took care of her, she thrived (all she really needed was to be fed, she was already pretty friendly), and in December, she had four healthy kittens (read about them here). She was a great mama, the kittens did wonderfully, and we adopted them all out by Valentine's Day. But kept Illy, who has since grown extremely fat and rules the roost here at our house with an iron paw.

That wraps up our permanent crew. But we do have two long-term temps right now, so I should probably introduce you to them as well. We have been fostering with a local organization called Hound Rescue (see that button on the side bar? Click it to give HR a chance to win some cash!) for a couple of years now. We typically only have one dog at a time, and we often have larger dogs, rather than beagles, but this time we have two beagles.

belle in basketBelle came to us in June, from the city pound, where she had been owner surrender (read about that here). She's one of the nicest and most well-mannered dogs I've ever met. She won't get on furniture, even with an invitation, even though the rest of our crew goes where they want when they want. She's not loud. She's gentle and calm and just fantastic. Plus she's Leo's BFF--they play non-stop, which is wonderful to see in a dog Leo's age. Belle has clearly had a hard road, and she has some scars to prove it (most significantly some pretty advanced cherry eye, which isn't bothering her, but doesn't look so great), but she's come out an incredible dog. She's one of those foster dogs I'd be happy to keep.

huey 2Our more recent addition is Huey P. Long, who came our way in September. Initially we were only supposed to have Huey for a few days before another foster would take him, but the rescue is overrun right now (hard economic times will do that), so we've needed to hang on to him. Huey is very, very fat (he weighted 62.5 lbs on the day we picked him up, hence the name I bestowed him with the minute I saw him). He's also old (9 or 10 is the best guess) and has a host of medical problems (a horrible ear infection when we got him, bad teeth, various lumps and bumps, some skin conditions, arthritis, and most recently a torn ACL which will have to be repaired surgically). Despite all of that, he's a joy. He's active, friendly, and seems to have no idea he's old or sick. He's probably a long-term boarder, given his host of issues, and honestly, that's fine. He can be a bit of pain (likes to bark at the cats), but he's a super sweet dog, and we're enjoying having him.

Whew. How's that for a first post of the month novel? Hope you got through it OK, and now that you've been introduced to the players, you will know who I am talking about when I write my posts for the rest of the month. Welcome to NaBloPoMo at What If No One's Watching. Happy to have you!

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