Recently in NaBloPoMo '08 Category

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?


2008 planner cover


2008 planner back cover


That's an awesome pinup sticker on the back!

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NaBloPoMo #29: Show Me Saturday


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


You did a good thing.

Of course you're sad, I understand. But Belle will love her forever home, and perhaps now there's room for another hound to help! I'm sure you've given her the best start in her new life, that's a wonderful thing. You should be proud of yourself. Foster families are the best!!


Awww, I'm so happy for Belle! She's a very lucky girl.

What a wonderful (though no doubt bittersweet) Thanksgiving gift!

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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.


He has a very thoughtful approach, but I like yours, because I am all about the mashed potatoes.

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NaBloPoMo #27: Love Thursday


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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NaBloPoMo #26: What I'm Reading Wednesday


It's here!!

Can I Sit With You Too? is the second collection of stories from the Can I Sit With You? project ( 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


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?


I think I've only ever been given thrifted books - however, I prefer them to new books, generally, as long as they are in decent shape. I also give used books quite regularly.

Otherwise, aside from regifting (often of gifts my students have given me to people who will like them more than I), I don't believe I've ever thrifted a gift.

If there were thrift stores here, I'd give it a try. One of these years, I guess.

Usually I don't do thrifted gifts because I'm worried my family thinks I'm cheap or that it's dirty (silly, I know). I did once give my brother, who is a huge hamburger lover a thrifted t-shirt from Burger King (it said "home of the Whopper") just as a joke. He loved it!
If I would find the perfect thing for someone I would get it, but only if I knew they were looking for it anyway. I wouldn't mind getting a thrifted gift at all, as long as it's really something that suits me and not thrifted out of laziness. :-)
And I guess it would work well to keep things that could be a gift separate throughout the year and get it out in December. Usually you run into things when you're not really looking. Or at least that's my experience. If I had to find gifts now with so little time I don't think I would find anything good. :-)


I go to garage sales all year, and I can usually spot the items being sold that were received as a gift. We even have a saying at our house: "If there were no gifts, there would be no garage sales." Love your gift guidelines! I hope people will come to realize that anyone can walk into a store and buy something, but a good thrifted gift took more thoughtfulness and creativity.

I always thrift at least half of my children's Christmas gifts every year. I am able to find some very unique and special things and my kids don't know the difference and wouldn't care if they did. I occasionally give other people thrifted gifts, but only those close to me that I know appreciate them. I'd never give certain people in my life thrifted presents because I know they would be grossed out and think I'm a cheapskate, rather than see the thoughtfulness and care behind the gift.

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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.


What is that thing? I can sort of discern the use of it for scheduling out days, but I'm not 100% sure.

Also, you need a liquor bottle icon on there for "booze it up".

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NaBloPoMo #23: My Money Sunday


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.


I use to aggregate all my accounts and track all my spending. Now that you can customize your subcategories I think it is really easy to use and keep track of exactly what you want to see.

Grace, do you use some sort of software to track this or something else?

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NaBloPoMo #22: Show Me Saturday


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!


I love that dog sleeps on your legs, all lumpy and everything...that is a dedicated pooch.

You look fantastic in the long undies. :)

That picture of you in the tie-dye is great!! Made me laugh and I love the colors. Just what I needed this morning after a sleep-deprived night. :-)


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NoBloPo #21: Feminism Friday


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.



Love your blog, for a week or so it just dissapeared, I wasa bit dissapointed about that.

Great to see you back


My thanks for this good work.
When any aspect of history is buried, expunged, or forgotten, it is not history, but a series of anecdotes.
My mother and grandmother were both remarkable women in the greater sense. Nana had the first car in Oregon to be owned IN HER OWN RIGHT by a woman. she had many other memories that I was too young to rember. Mom Sold magazine subscriptions at 13, went to work full time at 14 got a scholorship at 17, Joinedthe WAAC at 23 as a private, at war's end was a captain in the WAC. Raised me til I was big enough to protect her instead of the other way around and returned to the Civil Service. She retired in 1981 and served her causes until her death . Lesson learned from them is Never dismiss anything as beneith notice.

Thanks again
Doug Polhamius

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NaBloPoMo #20: Vintage Thingies Thursday


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!


I have no idea on the time set of these great items...but my imagination can run wild....I can just imagine a young couple in love, the young lady wearing this sweet locket her love gave her....and she kept the stamps from love a special box. *SIGHS*
I can not imagine parting with this at all. Lucky you. I love it. The locket especially.

I did a search on ebay, this seller looks to have the same stamps. you might want to search his listings. Maybe he knows something about the stamps, and maybe you can see which ones look more like yours.

I would guess it was for a pocketwatch? Just a guess tho.

I also would say pocket watch
case. Jewelry/watch cases
were lined in velvet and nice fabrics years ago.
Also the locket might be the fob to the watch. The locket has a heavy clasp which is similar to most watch fobs, I've seen. Jewelgirl

That's amazing, I love mysterious finds like this... I was coming here to say pocketwatch, but Jenny B beat me to it!

Thanks, I used to work in the
jewelry trade, and I still
love jewelry of all kinds..
Heres my other blog if you
missed it Jewelgirl Loves

It looks like it once housed maybe a bracelet?

I would also vote for a pocketwatch. And how intrigueing, those pictures!! You can make up whole stories about those people, and how it all came in that box and ended up in the bins.


Ooh, I second Christine's suggestion. If you ever need writing ideas, just pick something that you found at the bins and write a story about how it got there!

What an interesting "mystery"! The box itself is very pretty too...let us know about the stamps, please.

Wow - a vintage treasure hunt! What a romantic notion!

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NaBloPoMo #19: What I'm Reading Wednesday


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?


- Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruits & Vegetables (just got it)

- Pagan Christmas (good so far)

- Yule: A Celebration of Light and Warmth (also just received)

Since you just finished The Great Gatsby, you should put The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian in you TBR pile. I love his book and this one has a particular Gatsby connection you might enjoy.

With your focus on gender issues, you would probably also like his books Midwives and Trans-Sister Radio (one of my all-time favorites).

I just finished American Wife by Curtis Sittenfield. I loved Prep by the same author but haven't loved either of her other books.

Set This House in Order by Matt Ruff. The main characters have multiple personalities. It is awesome.

I'm reading Gospel Hour by T. R. Pearson. This is the first book of his that I've read, and I l-o-v-e love it!

The Crazed by Ha Jin. I don't love it, but I like the pace of reading it inspires - the last couple of books I read dragged a bit.

Thanks for the hard work and the citation! Barring hiccups, the books should be buyable by Wednesday 11/26.

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NaBloPoMo #18: Thrifting Tips Tuesday


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?


That is THE best collective list I've ever seen. Excellent, Grace, and thanks!

We only have flea markets and thrift stores here. The thrift stores are always associated with a charity and often have people with mental disabilities or social problems helping and giving them a chance to get some work experience.
There are secondhand stores for profit but usually they're called antiques stores.
I like both equally because chances to find nice things are about the same here.


I'm lucky enough to live in an area with year-round yard sales, and 99% of my thrifting is done on people's driveways. I love the personal interaction and knowing a little bit about where things come from--the story is as important to me as the stuff!

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NaBloPoMo #17: Making Things Monday


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.


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.


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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NaBloPoMo #16: My Money Sunday


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.


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?


It's a marathon, not a sprint! ;-) What's $19 on food & drinks? The cupcakes and coffee etc? I would totally have gotten those cupcakes, they looked delicious, but to be honest, buying snacks and stuff while out is always a budget challenge. It usually doesn't look like a big deal until you add it all up (which you did). Grabbing things from your own pantry works better, as well as always bringing a bottle of water!
And perhaps $44 at Goodwill is too much. But hey, you didn't ask for a review. So sorry about that. I hope the rest of the month will go according to plan!!


I blew my budget this month too - buying a new iPod. That sounds like a really stupid decision, except with all the time I'm going to be spending in the hospital, it was more of a necessity for my sanity than irresponsibility.

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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?


WOW, I'm exhausted just reading that. Although the art and cupcakes look amazing!

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NaBloPoMo #14: Not Feminism Friday


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


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!


That's the kind of random thing I always HAVE to buy too. And I think people have always been crazy about their weight. We just actually have reason to be since we're all fat now... LOL

I was born in 1950, but I don't remember anything like this. Everybody was always trying to fatten me up back in the sixties. Those were the days. Now, I could use this kit. The market is flooded with weight loss products now, but I think what you have there might be rather rare.

I suppose a lot of women back then were still wearing corsets and trying to achieve the tiny waist Dior invented with his New Look in the late '50s, so I can imagine the scale and trying to be slender goes with that. But it's a really fun item, perhaps it will be worth something someday (or perhaps already is!).


I totally need that! I don't want it, but I definitely need it! lol. I do have a slim look in mind ... Some of the older weight loss stuff is funny. There have always been diet fads from sitting in hot springs to slapping your fat. Some of the old ones are a hoot. You should see this old Weight Watchers cookbook I thumbed through in a thrift store once - basically, if you didn't like Jello, there was nothing for you to eat in this book! lol.

I think Christine is right, I think a lot of women were transitioning out of corsets about that time. I remember my mom still wore one then.

I remember my grandma had one of these when she was on weight watchers. this looks really well taken care of , love that it had the box.

It IS horrible to weigh your food...but I guess it's better than weighing myself! :) Great interesting find.

Women definitely dieted in 1965-it was the age of Twiggy! Many women wore girdles-think tummy control pantyhose except the stockings were separate.I think this diet set was actually a healthful one for a balanced diet rather than a fad diet-I bet the grapefruit diet was from about this time.

How quaint...i don't remember them, probably coz i was only a kid then & didn't have a weight problem ahahaha!!

Oooh they are lovely!!

Ooooooh, this is weight loss
kitsch at its best!!!! Yes
the weight loss thingie has
been going on forever! Great
complete set with box!

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NaBloPoMo #12: Not What I'm Reading Wednesday


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!


I am learning so much, Grace. Can you maybe share one day some of the resources you learned all this fabulous bath stuff from?

I'd really like to make soaps. Got any secrets or resources for all natural?

You are wise to be afraid of lye. The stuff can do you mighty big harm. A friend of mine who does make bar soap uses a full on respirator. It's very noxious stuff.

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NaBloPoMo #11: Thrifting Tips Tuesday


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:

bowl close up

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.


That elephant is so adorable, lol!

Grace those are some awesome finds!

Wow - you are awesome! Very impressive and totally inspiring. I must say that Austin has the best thrift and antique stores! I was just there in September for the first time and I thought I'd found my mecca. Oh btw good find on the jars - you can use them not only for your scrubs but for canning. They normally sell for $1 each around here in Toronto - or more!

Those are awesome finds. You posted about the Ergo and Little People on MDC, I remember. And that Ergo for $1, I'm still jealous!
Great finds. We have a similar table from the '20s made from (the now forbidden) tropical wood, we paid around 400 dollars for it at an antiques store, we all love it!


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NaBloPoMo #10: Making Things Monday


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!


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.


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?).


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!


OK, do you just massage this into your face and it exfoliates it? I'm a little beauty-product-retarded so bare with me. Looks divine though!

I would love to make this. Well at first I wanted to eat it until you added the not so tasty sounded items. I had one of these once with cinnamon and it was heavenly. It was so expensive that I used just a dash so that I could make it last extra long. I'm going to have to make myself some of this.

Grace, thank you so much for this post. It's a brilliant idea and your step by step instruction is so detailed and wonderful. I am a first time visitor and I can't wait to read more!!!

Oh, this looks excellent. The last time I had anything like this for myself was three years ago or more. I really should make some. Thanks for posting!

Oh, cutting out the lotion step is nice!

Also looking forward to next monday.

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NaBloPoMo #9: My Money Sunday


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!


Grace, altough not intended as a funny post, you still made me laugh because I do know what you mean. I have this wishlist of things I'd still like to do in this lifetime and one of those wishes is "going to Hawaii for a vacation without having to think of money". Really, lol! I may see asking for a discount as a sport now, but in my heart, I will always be the reformed spender. I think the longer I've been working on living frugally, the more "real" it seems to become (like Dr. Phil says: behave your way to success). It would really hurt now if I went out to buy myself shoes for hundreds of euros/dollars. I'd still love the shoes, though. Just not the spending. :-)
I don't know how long you've been on the path of paying off debt and being frugal, but if it hasn't been too long let me promise you it will get easier. But I've posted on my blog too about not really BEING a frugal because it's not my nature. And sometimes it gets on my nerves too, or I worry that I'm depriving my kids (or myself, haha). But in all, I choose being frugal over spending because it feels a lot better in the long run. It's thinking long-term instead of instant gratification.


I have never budgeted ever. I always just 1. buy the cheapest possible version of whatever it is I am buying (not to the detriment of quality, but you know, the generic, the less frilly thing), 2. research all purchases extensively, 3. live without cars or cable, 4. hem and haw about buying anything. basically, if i need something i wait as long as possible to purchase it. I have lived in new york for over two years now and have yet to buy a dresser, because i have not found the PERFECT dresser, for the ideal price. The only reason I have a tv is that someone gave it to me for free and delivered it. things like that., 5. just don't go to the store. ever. it's pretty easy. wait until you need like 5 things before going there. 6. I never ever keep snacks in the house. I didn't get them growing up, so it's kind of natural. But I never buy shit like that. I basically only buy meat & veggies & seltzer.

I realized my comment was bizarre, when I was walking just now. I guess, what I meant was less "tips" and more description. I don't intend ever to belt tighten. I just feel more guilty about spending money when I make less money. So I do it less. I have always saved money because the idea of not having money in my checking account would worry me more than spending money would be worth. When people describe living paycheck to paycheck it FREAKS ME OUT. I can't imagine it.

Yet, as I said, I have never consciously budgeted. I have lived on less than 10,000 a year, and many times that, and I don't feel like I was deprived either way. The idea of carrying a credit card balance is repugnant to me--it was just never presented as an option, so I would never think to take it.

In terms of entertainment, I can find tons of free things to do so I never think to pay for entertainment. I eat out a lot, but almost never buy anything more expensive than 5-10 dollars a meal. I never buy anything more than 20 dollars without waiting a few days.

My sister and I were discussing this, as her money issue is buying LOTS of things that are cheap (which I am guessing is yours too?). I think the whole "for every one thing I buy, one thing leaves the house" rule is helpful for that. Also I think she justifies buying things by saying they are for someone else, like "oh I can use this as a present!" or "oh I can make this food for my dad."

I think it's totally in born and a lot of it is shame based, I am not going to lie. It would pain me to buy plane tickets without many days of research. That's insane. it wastes my time (which is worth a lot more), but honestly, pulling the trigger on that sort of stuff PAINS me. It pains me to buy things. It worries me to not have the money to survive for many months on my own if I had no job. I don't want to have to depend on someone else if a worst case scenario happened tomorrow. That's just how my mind works.

I dunno how you make that true for you. I guess the "holding a credit card balance for more than one month is not an option" could be useful?

This is funny! I hate saving money. I'm really bad at it. It's so hard for me to tighten my belt and not spend money. But... I'm doing a good job as a personal finance and frugality blogger!

I sooooo identify with this! I hate having to be frugal. HATE it. I don't find much of a thrill in finding things cheaply, just annoying.

I would love to feel like budgeting was a fun challenge or thrill. I don't. I find it a constant trouble to remember to behave as if I'm poor when my credit cards allow me to behave otherwise. I'm not a huge over-spender, but I have my weak spots (iTunes!) where it's like struggling with amnesia to keep budgeting foremost in my mind.

I had to come back and read the comments this morning, your post kept me thinking. When I read everything, suddenly I had this idea that makes me grin, but perhaps it's true: in order to stop buying or being really frugal, one would have to REALLY love money more than stuff. The concept of really loving money always gives me an uneasy feeling, like being greedy or a Scrooge or doing anything to get more. I guess with stuff you can make it seem less negative by -for example- deciding it will be a gift or for the house. Perhaps the book by Suze Orman is something interesting to read (haven't read it myself because the library doesn't have it and it was 39 euros in the store and I thought that was too expensive, lol)? It's called "Women & Money" I think. Get it from the library! ;-)


I so hate budgeting and being frugal that I moved to South Korea where I can pay down debt without having to do any major budgeting. And any frugality I practice is the result of cheaper prices here. However, with big travel plans and medical costs, it's going to be time to tighten the belt. Conviently, I think I'll be too sick to go out and spend money, though I will be buying a new iPod asap. Must have music and mine is broken.

I think it's not loving money more than stuff, Christine. It's (for me) loving the security of money! :)

Also, I was thinking the only saving thing that makes me feel good is CHANGE saving. I know there's some account you can get which every time you debit something, it rounds it and puts the rest in a savings account. I just take all the change I have and put it in a bank and then cash it out. You could make that your budget for fun stuff or just save it?

Sorry to hear that it has got you down. I am lucky enough that I am happy living frugally, but I think it is an appreciation that developes over time. After a while you may get used to the lifestyle you lead and find that simpler things make you happy or that shopping doesn't thrill you quite the same way it used to. Maybe just allow yourself to feel the way you do now and accept that slowly and gradually things will change. I do have one suggestion, though: make a list of things you truly love that will make you feel good or special, and are also free - or cheap. Then when you feel down, you can treat yourself to an item on the list.

As you know, I've pretty much always been good at living frugally. With the exception of one year when I brought home a very comfortable salary, I've pretty much done it out of necessity. Still, I think that even someday when I'm doing better than just making ends meet, I'll enjoy living frugally, because it makes me appreciate things the things that I do get. Every un-absolutely-necessary purchase feels like a splurge. Maybe it's possible for some people to really appreciate everything they buy, even when they buy a lot, but I don't know if it'd work that way for me.

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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!


I am just loving these. It's like looking through the peep hole in your door. FUN!

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NaBloPoMo #7: Feminism Friday


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.


oooo, here's mine: feminists don't want to be homemakers, mothers or stay-at-home mamas.

I have found it difficult, as have many of my friends, to balanace my feelings of feminism with my desire to stay at home with my children. I feel like the popular notion of feminism looks down on these roles, like we can and should be doing something else with our lives, even if what we absolutely choose (even given the world as our option!) is to be at home and be a mother.

How about "feminists hate manly guys"?

or "feminists hate manliness"?

I wish there were a word other than "masculinity" or "manliness" I could put in there, but hopefully the generally point can come across.

Another one: that feminists are always looking to be offended

Believe me, people, we don't to look very far or try very hard to find things that are offensive to women. I see/hear/read about numerous examples every single day. A much as some people would like to believe otherwise, women don't go out looking for trouble...trouble finds us just fine.

Another one: feminists burn their bras! This myth began from a misguided reporter who minterpreted what was going on at the rally and then it was printed in the paper and the rest is history. Other myths: feminist are lesbians, pushy, demanding and radical. Thanks for this post btw - it's a good one!

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NaBloPoMo #6: Vintage Thingies Thursday


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?


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!


What a cute post. Love the costume. You mom looks like a lot of fun.


Your mom is so awesome! I love this idea, especially before the big election!

I adore your mom too. How much fun would it be to dress as a group of suffragettes?

Is the design of the banners the vintage thing?

Looks like they had a great time too!

It's the HAT???? And I thought you were calling your mom vintage! LOL

What priceless the hat :)

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NaBloPoMo #5: What I'm Reading Wednesday


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.


I *love* Audiobooks. They are my saving grace on long car trips and sometimes the only way I can get in reading. I love reading but sometimes there just aren't enough hours.

I use right now to keep track of my books. My goal this year was 25 books and I'm safely at 33. These past few months have been slow coming for a few reasons.

Where do you get your Audiobooks, Grace? I've gotten all mine through the library. Do you know of a cheap place to download audiobooks?

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NaBloPoMo #4: Thrifting Tips Tuesday


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?


WOW, I am learning so much right now. My brain hurts and my eyes are dried out from reading. I read through the plus size post also and thought it was just excellent and so true! It's so hard to find my size in thrift stores that I don't really bother.

I'd love to hear about some of your favorite finds and also general stuff and tips. This post has been incredibly helpful to me.

Good list! For me, a lot of it boils down to--you have to show up. Then all your other points--patience, creativity, the running list--come into play. But first you have to open yourself to possibility and just show up. Which, since this is so darned much fun, is easy!

I think it comes down to luck and getting "that feeling" -- I just know when something good it there... Great post.

These are great tips!Something useful I've found is...a lot of items on shelves that are in boxed packaging aren't necessarily what is pictured on the box. Sometimes when I open them I find something really good inside and vice versa. In other words, look in the box!

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NaBloPoMo #3: Making Things Monday


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.


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.


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?


I have a ton of apples from my fruit share and some of them are too sour so I was thinking of piemaking. how convenient for me!

Man, that is one beautiful apple pie! And my kitchen always looks like that after I bake, it's my least favorite part too.

Very worth it! You should contribute it to Holidays by hand's food edition.

Very nice! I have some pie info to add. I've heard that the best pies use more than one variety of apples to provide a more interesting taste, but I've never done that. I DO use brown sugar because I think it provides a richer, autumn-ier flavor. Lemon juice (about a tablespoon) is good for the apples not to keep them from browning, but to provide a subtle kick if they're old or not as tasty as you want them to be. My new habit is to open up a hard lemonade, dump about 1/4 c. onto the apples, and drink the rest as I make the pie. And I'm a total crust-weaver. The day I memorized the Joy of Cooking instructions for a woven lattice was a proud one indeed.

Love love love this post! Can you keep these ones coming? :-)

I am not a pie person at all, but holy cow this post made me want to try my hand at making one! So fun!

Mmmm, very beautiful. I have no intention of making a pie, but I enjoyed seeing your process.

(Victory pie!)

This is how I imagine a classic American apple pie to look like. :-) Not in the mood to bake today, but I'm sure I'll try it soon! Our Dutch version has a much sweeter crust, btw. Delicious too. :-)


I have a tip for cutting fat into pastry: if you don't have a pastry cutter or a food processor, use 2 butter knives. One in each hand, aim them at each other, and cut into the fat, slicing the knives away from each other. You'll get the pebble effect quickly and efficiently.

Lovely pie. Can you fedex a piece? I have coffee.

Krupskaya, I always mix up my apples when I'm making a pie. I like to use a majority of apples that are good pie apples (usually a mixture of 2 varieties), and then at least one sauce apple. The sauce apple disintegrates into thick liquid yumminess, which compliments the intact pieces very well. I definitely recommend it! Fun post!

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NaBloPoMo #2: My Money Sunday


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.


As a family who is working hard to whittle down debt, as well, I commend you for all of your hard work! That's amazing that you have been able to get your CC debt down that far in such a short period of time.

I think you deserve a huge thumbs up for paying off so much of the debt. It's incredible you were able to do that in less than a year!! You'll get there, it will just take a bit longer (which is only natural in the current economy). And I appreciate you're so open about what you make and such. You earn quite nicely, if I may say so. :-) My husband always says it makes no sense to save if you're still in debt. Don't know what the experts say about that though.

PS: hang in there with the credit card thing, don't use it!! You can do it!

Fantastic job in paying down your debt. I hope you are giving yourself the credit you deserve for managing to pay down over $600 a month...especially based on the income you listed at the end. Good for you!

This post, for me, is like seeing some mythical beast, like a leprechaun or unicorn. I'm all, "what? what was that? did I really see that? was that a willpower or a discipline? holy moly! I thought those were just stories they told me as a kid to frighten me!"

So keep on keepin on, unicorn. It's pretty impressive.

Giving a standing ovation! Good for you, Grace. That's a lot of debt you've reduced and there's still two more months left this year! Stay away from the credit cards and stick to your plan. We're watching you! Tee hee.

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NaBloPoMo #1: Show Me Saturday


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!


I loved reading everything about you and your family! How cool you're a foster home to those dogs. I'd like to do that one day, once the kids are bigger and we have more space. I love dogs. And you're 29! You spring chicken. ;-)


Greetings from the blogosphere. I'm also participating in NaBloPoMo, as I have done for the past 2-3 years. In addition to writing my own blogpost each day, I try to leave a comment on someone else's blog. Curiously enough, I start at the end of the alphabet and work my way up. At any rate, your blog title intrigued me, so here I am. Stop by The Zone sometime and say hello!

Love the menagerie you have there!

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