Monday, December 31, 2012

Good cheer and Pez

Apparently, Santa reads this blog as he knew to get me Pez.  That sly little elf came in while my parents were visiting on Christmas Eve and left it under my pillow.  He is also, apparently, hanging out with the tooth fairy.

I had a great Christmas--my parents came over on Christmas Eve.  We did a total potluck.  I made the sides (salad and roasted vegetables with shallots), my father brought venison steaks that he marinated, and my mother brought pie (which was also my breakfast because HOW CAN YOU NOT EAT PIE FOR BREAKFAST).

We all converged on my sister's house on Christmas Day and I gave my niece and nephew coal.  Well, it was chocolate covered peppermint crunchy candies, but it was called coal.  Maybe I'm encouraging them to be naughty. 

This weekend, I saw my friends and their adorable toddler, my sister and her family came down to visit for breakfast (and learned first-hand the joys of the beach during December), and I apparently brought snowy weather with me down to the Cape, as it snowed on Saturday night.  I woke up to see snow.  I had to shovel.  This is rather unusual for the Cape, as it tends to turn to rain. However, as I was shoveling and contemplating tackling the large frozen solid chunks of show and slush the municipal plow threw up at the end of my driveway, a landscaping plow drove by.  It stopped, and the guys inside offered to clear the bottom part of the driveway.  They wouldn't take any money.  Now that made my day!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Around the internets: the naughty, the nice, and the bizzare

A day late, but that's okay.  Let’s get to it.

I like these Christmas lights! I think I’d be the only neighbor to find it funny and bake my admittedly surly-pants neighbor a cake.

Mayans in New York City are basically telling everyone to chillax, already.  The world isn’t ending.  Also, this end-of-the-world baloney is kind of insulting and gross and disrespectful of the Mayan people. 

A Texas man saw Jesus in a tortilla.  Looking at the picture, I see a breeching whale.  Rorschach tests are fun!

Semi-homemade isn't just for food.  If you want to give a gift with a personal touch, and don't have the time to make something, check out Lili's solution.
A NJ man brings home a tree too big for his house and uses the top to create a very realistic looking rooftop design.  Well done, sir!

Five gifts for under fives.

I could totally get a job here, as I cannot wrap gifts without them looking like they survived a rabid bear stampede.

Bryallen wants to know what you like most about Christmas.  Well, one thing that won't be on the list of favorites is my wrapping skills.

Have a wonderful weekend, everybody!

Friday, December 21, 2012

The world didn't end after all. But stay safe out there, everyone!

From, graphic artist Allison Morris. Thank you, Allison!
Holiday Hazards Infographic Well, the world didn't end after all.  Which I'm sure is disappointing to many people who kept harping on it and seemed almost gleeful at the prospect.

But there are still hazards out there.  Specifically, hazards associated with the holiday season.  So stay safe!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Things I don't miss

Nothing to do with the post, just a picture I took on a walk.
I don't have the wherewithal to write a long post today, but I did want to talk a little bit about what I don't miss these days.

As regular readers know, I moved closer to work.  Work is about an hour and ten minutes from where I used to live.  I miss my friends in my old town, my old condo unit (which was beautiful), and being a 40-minute drive (or a train ride) to the city.  That was convenient.  I miss my old church.  I miss being able to pop in on my folks easily (I can do it, but, you know, we're a little further apart now.)

But I did decide to go without things in my rental, since this is for about six months while I look for a place to buy.  Here is what I don't miss.

Cable TV. I don't even miss regular TV.  I will eventually get the cables to connect my DVD player to my old analog TV but for now, I don't feel I need it at all.

Caller ID. Actually, I do kind of miss that (it's great for screening telemarketers) but I'm not getting a lot of calls from them yet.  Also, saying "No thank you" and hanging right up (without giving them a chance to answer the "No thank you") is quite effective.

Shopping. I didn't do a lot of it even where I used to live, and it's not as if there aren't options here, but I still don't miss it. LOL.

Have you given up anything that you realized you don't miss? What was it?

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The news yesterday left me sick and sad

This is just terrible, although all too common. The gunman killed so many (including his own mother) and hurt so many.  The survivors are left with terrible loss, there are so many dead, and the gunman's family is left with grief and shame.  My heart just hurts.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A brief post about gender roles. With a Harry Enfield video.


Yeah, I'm going there.

The next person who insists that ladybrains can't handle engineering, science, or math are welcome to start sewing.  You cannot read those sodding patterns without having an engineer's brain.  You also can't do that stuff without being good with math or spatial reasoning (go on, try and take a two-dimensional pattern and make a three dimensional thing out of it without good spatial reasoning and math skills).  While we're at it, a lot of crafts require that stuff.

Have I mentioned that I do not do well with patterns or diagrams? My sewing classes, as fun as they are, are true exercises in character building.  I'm going to do this the way I relearned swimming as an adult--take the beginners classes over and over until I've got it down.  This may mean that I'm able to be reasonably proficient by the time I retire, but I will have fun doing it.

Enjoy the Harry Enfield video.  If you aren't familiar with him, look him up on Youtube.  He's a riot.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Before taking all of the personal finance advice out there, consider the issues

Maybe it's because I tend towards surliness, but when I saw this article in the Wall Street Journal, I startled everyone around me when I yelled HA!

The article itself is a good one--it points out the drawbacks to downsizing.  I don't disagree with the points raised (though if a grown child is going to insist--the way a few did in the article--that their parents hang on to a large family home that no longer houses six people, said child should take over the mortgage payments or shut up).

The thing is, I've given the side-eye to a lot of advice for years.  Not because it's necessarily bad, but because it's simple and doesn't take other things into account.

Move to a smaller home.  Sure. As long as your current home is maintained well and has good market value and you can actually sell it for the price you need (not want, not think you should get, but need).  Also, you have to make sure that the smaller home costs substantially less than the house you sold.  Selling a large home in a tony suburb of Boston isn't going to be helpful if you buy a condo in Beacon Hill.

While we're at it, 'downsizing' does not mean buying a house with the best of everything but has fewer square feet.  If you sell your large suburban home for a condo with a six-burner Viking stove and professionally designed kitchen, you're likely not going to save much if any money.  It does not mean, buying another home that is marginally less expensive than your current home.  If you are not going to come out way ahead, and if you are going to make a lot of upgrades to your new place, don't bother.

Also, this advice frustrated me because my place was already of modest size.  I could have moved right into the city in a much smaller place for more money.  No thanks.

I'm not saying don't do it.  But make sure it's actually an option and that you can keep to the spirit of the advice.

Move to a place with a lower cost of living.  This is great advice on the face of it.  Moving from an expensive greater metropolitan area to a more rural area far away (say, from metropolitan Boston to a small town in Kansas) will save you lots right off the bat.  You can sell your house, buy another place, and have lots of money left over.

What you will not have is your support network nearby.  This is what makes me tear my hair out about this advice.  It's one thing if you have a new job or another type of opportunity somewhere and you make a go of it.  Go for it.  When I was a kid my father got promotions and job opportunities that required us to move, and we went for it.  I can't see my folks moving to say, small-town Kansas just to save money, however.

Just moving out to where you don't know anyone to save money can backfire.  You'll be spending money to go back and visit family.  You will not have the family and friends you may rely on for emotional and practical support when things get tough, and you will not be able to give the kind of support you want when things get tough for them.  That can take a toll.  That can be quite lonely.  And not for nothing, but you aren't living in a bubble of pure math--you're a person with emotions and relationships and all kinds of needs that pure math isn't going to address.

Also, the things you may be used to--and that were actually quite cost effective--likely don't exist, or exist in the quantity that you may need.  Living out in a rural area means you have to drive more, much more, to get to the store or any place for entertainment.  Food prices are not necessarily lower.  Depending on where you live, the weather can also provide new hazards that you may or may not be prepared for.

I'm not saying don't do it.  But learn everything you can about the area before you take the plunge.

Buy at the thrift store.  Look, I like getting stuff from the thrift store.  I have some cute sweaters that I got from it. It's a great place to go if you need housewares.  But if I got all of my clothes there, shopping would be a full-time job for me.  So. . .if you have the time for that, go for it.  If you have kids and will be spending a lot of time shopping for clothes anyway, go for it.  I hate shopping and doing it like a job gives me hives.  I want to get the basic thing I need and clear out.

I'm not saying don't do it.  But be prepared to spend a lot of time doing it.  If you enjoy it, that's great; it's a good way to save money.  If you hate shopping, you'll resent the time you spend.

Buy a used car.  Generally I am for this (I bought my car used).  However, there are things to consider: first, if you don't have the money to buy a car with cash and will have to make payments anyway, you might get a better rate if you buy new (dealerships promote them with low rates).  A lot of used cars don't cost that much less than new cars--the insurance may cost less but not by that much.  If you want to save money and you want to buy used, you're going to have to buy very used.  Which is fine--I'm all for that as well! But it may be older than what you want.  (A lot of people who tell you to buy used seem to think that buying a car that's a couple of years old will save you a lot.  It really won't.)  Buy very used, and save money for maintenance.

Again, I'm not saying don't do it.  But know what you can spend in total (not what you can spend as a monthly payment--you don't want a six-year car loan) and figure out what you can get for that.  If you insist on having a car not older than two or three years old (in some cases four or five years old), see how much a car of the same model costs new.  

Move closer to work.  That's great (I did it, recently though there are risks in what I've done).  If you work in an expensive metropolitan city, moving closer may not be financially feasible.  When I worked in town, let me tell you, I lived as close as I could possibly live that I could afford.  That meant I lived out in the burbs. Yes, I wouldn't need a car in town.  But I'd be paying a lot more for a tiny place.  We all have our tradeoffs, of course, but I don't need to live in a city. (I lived in a mega-city for three and a half years; it was great but three and a half years were more than enough.)

Also, keep in mind, if the economy (or the nature of your work) has had you skip around a fair bit, and that skipping was not all done in the same city, moving can backfire.  You move and lose your job--then you get another one in city X that is 30 miles away.  You move and then you're laid off.  You get another job in city Y . . . you might just want to stay put and make the best of it until you feel a little more secure.

I'm not saying don't do it.  Just make sure you've got job security and that you're not painting yourself into a corner.

Okay, I know a lot of people with disagree with me on this, and just FYI, I get why.  I'm curious--is there personal finance advice that you don't follow or think is a little simple?  What is it and why do you feel that way?

Edited to add: Nicoleandmaggie have a post on a related topic.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Sew I'll do a project

See what I did there?  Good thing I've got a day job.

Anyhow, I'm taking another round of sewing lessons at this place.  I like Mikala, the instructor.  She's very patient and fun and encouraging, which is what I need since I'm frustrated very easily and a little on  the jittery side, which makes cutting patterns or fabric an adventure.

I'm going to make an apron.  I figured it would require me to use a lot of sewing skills but be doable enough that I could complete it by the time the classes were finished.  I also figured it would be something I could use--it doesn't require zippers or buttons (unless you want to add buttons as decoration, which I don't) and the sizing is pretty forgiving, so chances are I can get away with using it even if it's not perfect.  This is in contrast to a skirt or dress or shirt I may try to make which, if it's not done right, is going to look strange.

The fabric in the picture is what I'm using.  I picked it up yesterday.  I was going to get an  aqua in the solid color, but when I took the advice of a fellow customer at the store and draped the fabric bolts next to each other and walked back, I saw the brown in the pattern was dominant and that's the best color to use for the trim.  (The customer also declared the pattern I chose "darling" so I'm assuming I'm doing something right!)

The patterned one will be the main part of the apron; the solid brown will be the straps, ruffle (I'm not a ruffle kind of chick but this will be good practice) and pockets.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Ruth's Concord Grape Pie From Heaven

When I moved, I still had time left in my CSA/farm share.  I realized that it wasn't realistic for me to think I'd come up to the farm mid-week just for that, so I gave the rest of my summer share and my winter share to the minister of the Unitarian-Universalist congregation I went to. He likes to cook, is a good cook, and I knew that he and his wife would make very good use of the vegetables.

As a thank you, he made me a grape pie.

Now, I have to tell you that this pie is legendary.  Ruth, the woman who introduced it to him, was a community fixture--everyone knew her, and those who never met her before she passed away certainly have heard a lot about her.  She was one of those people who personified the town they lived in, became a quasi-institution.  When she passed away, the church was overflowing with people who came to pay their respects.

She was also known for her grape pie.

This pie is delicious.  If you like Concord grapes, you will love this pie.  If you are not into Concord grapes, or kind of shrug at grapes, don't make it because, well, grape pie is not easy to make.  You have to remove the skins from the grapes, which sounds like a pain (I haven't made this, so I'm assuming, but the good reverend had confirmed when I first learned of this pie that it is a fair amount of work).  But if you enjoy them, and/or your family or friends do, it's well-worth it, especially if you know of where you can pick them fresh. (It's just as tasty with store-bought grapes.)

Ruth  shared her recipe for the grape pie with the good reverend.  The good reverend made the pie for me as a thank you and shared the recipe with me. 

I had my parents over for dinner in the house I'm renting, and we had this for dessert.  We very much enjoyed this!

Concord Grape Pie

6-plus cups Concord Grapes
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
 2 tsp. lemon juice
1/8 tsp. salt
Oat streusel* and one 9" pie shell or two 9" pie shells, depending upon what you prefer.

Wash grapes and remove from stem to measuring up.  Remove skins by pinching grape at opposite stem.  Reserve skins.

Place pulp in saucepan and bring to a boil; cook a few minutes until pulp is soft.  Put through a straer or food mill while pulp is hot to remove the seeds.  Mix strained pulp with skins.  Stir in sugar, flour, lemon juice and salt.  Place grape mixture in pastry lined pie pan.  Sprinkle on Oat struesel or cover with second pie shell.  Bake in a 425 degree oven for 35-40 minutes. 

*To make Oat streusel, combine 1/2 cup quick cooking rolled oats, 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1/4 cup flour.  Cut in 1/4 cup butter or margarine to distribute evenly.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Around the internet--the Powerball edition

So, as my U.S. readers may have heard,there were two winners for the Powerball drawing.  The jackpot, the biggest it's ever been, was up to almost $580M (the biggest was another lottery, MegaMillions, at $656M); the cash payout amount was almost $380M.  For my readers outside of the States, Powerball is one of our national lotteries. We have a fair number of lotteries here but Powerball--I believe--has the biggest jackpot.  Though I may be wrong.  I'm not a gambler.  I went to Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun with my folks once, browsed the shops and got a roll of quarters not for the slots but for laundry. I am boring.

You might expect me to get all sour-faced and scold people for buying chances in a lottery that they have no chance of winning (the chance is so tiny that it may not exist) but frankly, it's good entertainment.  As long as you're not blowing your grocery money or the mortgage or rent on it, have at it.  I'm of the same mind as Donna on this one. And as long as you're aware that the chances are small to the atomic level, then I will not call it a "tax on the stupid" like some personal finance writers.  It's just a bit of fun.

But. . .there are things you need to be aware of in case you do win.

First, winning doesn't guarantee happy endings.

In fact, if you are separated from an abusive jerk, they may try to get the money.

And you may notice that the people in your life change, even if you don't.

Here are things you should do if you win.

What are your chances of winning and having to worry about this stuff if you play? You can find out here.

And please! PLEASE. I don't mean to be negative, but you're not going to win. (See the aforementioned link to see how slim your chances actually are.) Do not mistake playing the lottery for a retirement plan.  It's a bit of fun. That's all.  Treat it as such, indulge in some daydreams, but get back to the business of living your actual life, which has its own challenges and rewards that you'd miss if you actually won that thing and found everyone and their dog trying to separate you from your winnings.

Also--if you are worried that you or a loved one might have a problem, read this. And this.  And check out Gamblers Anonymous.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

A sinful treat

I hosted a friend of mine for dinner before I moved.  She brought the ingredients for dessert and I have to tell you, this was heavenly! Or kind of sinful.  Either way, it was good.

Everything in this pretty much goes by threes:

3 Bosc pears
1/3 of a cup of apple juice
3 tablespoons of dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons of butter

Slice the pears in half and core them.  Bake them in a 400 degree oven.  While they bake, whisk brown sugar in the apple juice over medium high heat until the sugar dissolves.  Add the butter and whisk that in.  Pour sauce over the pears and bake for 35 minutes.

Serve pears on vanilla ice cream, with the extra sauce poured over it.  Delicious!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The things we hang on to

When my grandmother died (back in the early nineties), my father and her other children asked the grandkids to come to her house and take things we wanted.  We felt funny about it, like it would be disrespectful.  My father finally pointed out that if we didn't use her things, they'd have to sell them in an estate sale, so if there was something of hers we wanted, we should take it and that it would be better for these things to stay in the family.  So I did take a few things.  We all did, though there were no fights over her stuff, as I recall.

I took some things that were pretty and some things that were completely unromantic but very useful.

My stovetop percolator was hers.  It makes excellent coffee.  I don't drink coffee much outside of work, but when I have people over I'll put a pot on for them.  I like this much better than the drip coffee makers.

My grandmother used to serve shrimp cocktail in these glasses if we were having a special meal at her house.  When I was a kid I didn't like shrimp so she put fruit salad in mine.  (Sometimes I want to go back in time and dope slap my younger self--shrimp is delicious.)  When I first took these, I thought they were wine glasses until I remembered the shrimp and fruit cocktail.  Your blogger is not a worldly woman, readers.  If I have people over for dinner, I'll serve ice cream in one of these, or yogurt and fruit.

Yes, the silverware was hers.  Well, I think it's stainless steel ware, actually, but you know what I mean.

I love these teacups.  There is nothing like drinking tea out of a tea cup, and my nana had some good taste when it came to teacups.  I especially like the black one and that's the one my friends go for when I give them free reign to choose their cup.  Great minds think alike, eh?  My nana never broke these out.  They were in a cabinet on display, but like many people, I think she felt like she had to "save" them for special occasions.  If I could go back in time I'd tell her that porcelain doesn't go rancid if you use it for your afternoon tea and that she should enjoy that.  Then again, maybe she couldn't relax with them because she was worried they'd break.

I have a silver teapot of hers that I need to polish.  It's very pretty.  It's not very practical--I don't typically serve tea out of it--but I like it.

I have a small sugar bowl and creamer that was hers as well.

Most of the stuff I took were things that I would use every day.  I use those teacups quite regularly. There are a few things I don't use a lot--the teapot and the dessert glasses, for example--but I do use them.  And when I use her things, even if it's the humble stovetop percolator or the silverware, I think of her. If I absolutely had to get rid of things, I know that many of these things could easily go, but I can't let them go.  I think of her when I use them and I remember things about her that I would have forgotten by now.  Honestly, I'll probably hold on to these things until I'm on death's door myself.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Easy ginger stir fry

I made this before I moved--a friend of mine came over for dinner and brought wild rice from her coop.  I made a stir-fry.

I like stir-frys though I've come to the conclusion that you need to thicken them up a little bit with a small amount of corn starch.  I put in a lot of ginger and garlic for the base, added some soy sauce and a splash of fish sauce, and some of the stock from the dried mushrooms that I reconstituted.  I then added a tablespoon of corn starch and whisked it until it was smooth.

These are very easy to make.  I kept this one basic and vegetarian, and used tofu, which I love.  Since some things cook more quickly than others, I start with the things that take longer to cook or that do well and impart lots of flavor while cooking.  Anything that overcooks easily--like leafy greens (such as the bok choy in the picture) or anything I want to remain somewhat firm (like the peppers) I add towards the end.  I added stuff I got from my CSA--bok choy and tatsoi and peppers.  I also made some beet greens.

I liked having the flavorful sauce as the tofu absorbs it.  Stir-frys are a go-to meal for me, though oddly enough I hadn't made one in a while.  I was glad to have rediscovered this option.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Adventures in mulch

I'm renting a house for the next six months while I look for a more permanent place to live (read: buy).  The house has a small yard and the street is tree-lined, which means I've got my work cut out for me when it comes to raking.  Fortunately, the yard is small and it's good practice for if/when I buy a single-family home.

I have a garden plot through work, and it's huge.  My forays into seaweed mulch produced mixed results--it does wonders for the soil, and it kept the weeds to a minimum, at first, but then I ended up with a prairie in my plot anyway.  My father always made a mulch pile with grass clippings and leaves, and it was very effective.  Weeds are sparse in the garden, and the soil is very well fed.  So I bagged the leaves I raked and made a mulch pile.  It was pretty big, but I know that after snow, rain, and decomposition that it would probably to down to a third of its size.  I walked back to my car thinking, Sheesh, I hope I can rake a few more in the yard when I slipped on the path.  Gah, I've got to be careful, all of the paths around the plots are slippery with leaves--


Well, take a wild guess how I spend that morning! I raked some areas around the plots up and piled those leaves on top of my leaf pile.  And I'll probably do that a few more times.  No one who has plots there use them--they prefer weed barrier or seaweed.  I'll probably still scout out seaweed but it's nice to know that yes, leaves are an option.  I'll have to get some lime to add to the pile--there are a fair number of oak tress in my neighborhood, and I heard that oak leaves are a little acidic. But I hope this will make the garden a little less weedy.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Changing circumstances and simplicity

I was thinking this morning about some of the stuff I do--and that I've recently been able to do more of--and how it could all change if my life circumstances change.

Most people, if they get married or partnered up or if they have kids, figure their lives will change.  The late nights out, the impromptu trips, the impulse purchases all tend to diminish.  (With me, that stuff diminished a while ago sans partner or kids, but you know what I mean.)

I'm not married or partnered, and I don't have kids.  But I can see even the unglamorous stuff I do getting shunted aside if I was to get married or have kids, depending on the situation.  Right now, the laundry I hang is my own.  I have time to work in the garden because I don't have to take kids to sports or activities.  I can eat whatever I want because I only have to take myself into consideration, not a spouse or partner.  (I know some people who will. not. eat leftovers, no matter what you do with them.)  I could see myself turning my TV back on if I had kids because frankly, SOMETIMES MOMMY HAS TO PEE AND YOU KIDS NEED TO SIT STILL FOR FIVE MINUTES SO I CAN DO SO.  (I'm not a mother.  But I have babysat and lemme tell you, the TV was a godsend when I needed to use the facilities.)  As TB pointed out in the comments here, they use the dryer and don't line-dry.  He likes the idea, but he's not the one who's doing the laundry.  As Nicoleandmaggie pointed out, sometimes growing up with things a certain way turns you off to it.  Growing up with line dried clothes doesn't always mean you want to continue that.  Sometimes it means you love the convenience of the electric dryer.

You and your partner can start off with the best of intentions, but then reality hits you full in the face.  People get tired.  Sometimes you just want to get takeout because you do not have the spoons to even make a simple dinner.  You use the dryer.  Maybe you don't garden (as much) because you're pooped on the weekends or your taking the kids to games or activities. 

I guess you can push certain things, but it can be exhausting if you are the only one willing to do them.  Or if you're the one tasked with doing them.  Or if continuing to eschew something just makes things a little too hard.

So, I'll put it to my readers who are or who have been coupled up, and who have kids: what changed when your circumstances changed? How did they change? What stayed the same? Were there things you wanted to do that your family was opposed to--and were you able to have them come around?  For me, I'm just speculating, as it's just me and the cat.  What changed for you?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Small pleasures: line dried clothes

I almost always hung my clothes to dry, even when I lived in my condo.  I had a drying rack that I set up and put every article of clothing I could on it, and then hung others up on hangers to dry that way.  The only things I tended to put in the dryer were sheets and towels--sheets, because I didn't have the room to hang them, and towels because the dryers went for a certain amount of time anyway and I figured I'd throw them in there if I was drying my sheets in there.  (Oh, and I would dry my comforter in the dryer, too.)

I'm now renting a house, and I was so happy to see a clothesline set up out back.  I have made very good use of it.  I used the dryer once--it started to rain one day when I did a sheet wash--but that was it.  Otherwise, I have used the clothesline.  Even though it's getting pretty raw outside. 

First, my clothes and linens smell heavenly.  There is something about drying things outside that really does beat drying them inside--the fresh air seems to get into the clothes.  Second, they will last longer--the lint that ends up in the dryer comes from what you were drying, after all.  Although I dry my clothes on the clothes rack even if a line dry outside isn't an option, it's nice that I now have that option for sheets and towels as well.  (I am not against buying another condo, but I have to say, condominiums and homeowners associations really tend to side-eye clothes lines.)

I know some people don't like the fact that jeans are stiff and towels are scratchy after being on the line.  I don't mind, actually.  The towels soften up pretty quickly once you use them and the jeans soften up once you wear them--though I've never found them to be like cardboard or anything.

I had recently finished a book where the author was musing about doing different things to save the earth (instead of unbridled hedonism like yours truly). She couldn't bring herself to line dry things because of the scratchy towel issue and the fact she was self-conscious over neighbors seeing her underwear fluttering in the breeze.  That did occur to me to at first--I'll be honest--but then I thought, well, line drying used to be a thing.  Everyone did it.  It was no big deal.  Heck, when I was growing up, my mother did it (she finally stopped when we had an influx of Japanese beetles that would cling to our clothes and linens).  If someone is going to gawk and point at my underwear, they should be prepared for me pointing at them and mocking them for being pervs.

I'm no purist though.  I'm not going to lecture anyone who doesn't do it.  I'm well aware that it's a lot of work, that the weather doesn't always cooperate, and that some people just plain do not like doing it.  That's okay, as far as I'm concerned.

So readers, do you air dry your clothes? 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Around the interwebs--the eclectic edition.

You can donate to Hurricane Sandy relief efforts at the Red CrossTreeHugger had a post up about where to give and how to volunteer/help. 

Did you know that the Wampanoag Nation actually has several thanksgivings throughout the year? Yes. Yes they do.  Thanksgiving was perhaps a first-time thing for the Puritans who came over here, but it was a well-established thing with the Wampanaoags. 

Belinda's chickens produced the first egg today.

Make Argentine Chimichurri sauce on the cheap. Apparently, it goes with just about anything, including a humble baked potato.  I'll be tucking into Thanksgiving leftovers next weekend, so I will give this a try.

The Wall Street Journal Talks about the new rules of flirting.  One woman got into hot water when she "flirted" (actually, engaged in ribald conversation) with a guy at a work event--his wife was none too pleased.  Maybe dial that back at work.  I think a good overall rule is to be friendly to everyone and interested in what they have to say. I do think that flirting with your spouse/significant other is a good thing.  That's when you should really amp up the wooing, during the time that people take each other for granted.  Flirt! Tell them they are hotties.  My parents still flirt with each other.

In the same neighborhood, 16 Ways I Blew My Marriage.  I think this applies to both genders.  Though since I'm not married or in a committed relationship, maybe I should shut up.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Yankee Swap Conundrums and Tips

Yankee Swaps--also known as white elephant gift exchanges--have become quite the staple of workplace Holiday celebrations in North America.  I tend to be scroogey about workplace holiday celebrations because not everyone celebrates these holidays (and it puts them under pressure) and not everyone can afford the money or time to participate in this stuff.

However, my current workplace does this in a way that is a lot of fun.  We go out to lunch (they pay for it) and we have a $5 Yankee Swap.  The gift cannot be more than $5. (A pricey gift is side-eyed, hard.) We all think joke gifts are awesome (HINT TO COWORKERS WHO ARE READING THIS I WOULD TOTALLY KILL FOR PEZ I AM SO NOT KIDDING I LOVE PEZ). 

Basically, my workplace keeps the swap in the spirit in which it was originally intended--used or cheap items, gag gifts, fun little things.  It's all in good fun and we have a blast. 

Unfortunately, at other parties and with other people, the original intent of the Yankee Swap (a funny and inexpensive party game) has been forgotten.  I've heard some people at other events get awfully stroppy when a participant gives a gift that is obviously below the "reasonable" limit of $25. Well, a) not everyone has $25 to spend on gifts (and this may not be the only party they're attending--this adds up), b) not everyone has the time to get gifts for loved ones and random people at holiday parties and c) even if participation is optional, some people feel like they have to participate. 

So, for party throwers and participants, a couple of requests:

Times are tough.  The holiday season is expensive at te best of times.  Please--institute a low price limit.  $5 is a reasonable price limit.  $25 is not. 

Don't buy something that is obviously over the price limit.  You're going to make everyone else feel badly and let's face it--your missing the point of the party game.

Please be gracious.  If a participant has obviously regifted something or gone to the dollar store, keep your displeasure to yourself.  Don't even complain to someone after the event.  Why? Because it might get back to the giver and they'll feel awful.  Not to mention the fact that you're missing the point of the swap, which at the end of the day is a party game.  Not a chance to show how you can get a $25 gift that Martha Stewart would approve of. 

And you know, keep in mind that if your biggest irritant is a subpar swap gift, your life is pretty sweet.  I'm just sayin'.

Now, for participants who are engaging in a Yankee Swap, you have several options open to you. 

You can make the gift you'll give.  Even if you don't can, sew, craft, or build, you can put something cool together.

However, maybe you do not have the time or the inclination to make anything.  That's okay! There are still inexpensive options open to you.  I just follow a few simple rules:

Unless it's a gag gift, I make sure it is consumable or useful and gender neutral.  Even if someone say, can't eat nuts or drink caffeine, the gifts they get can be offered to guests or re-gifted with a good chance of being used.

Here are things you can get for a Yankee Swap:

Don’t be afraid to regift.  If something has been obviously used, then don’t give it away.  But if you got something from another Yankee Swap or from someone that you haven’t used, don’t feel badly about regifting it.

When in doubt, stick to consumables.  A pretty gift bag filled with packets of nice hot chocolate, teas and coffees will be welcome—even if the eventual recipient doesn’t drink those things, they can offer it to guests.  It won’t take up room and gather dust.  You can also give a small container of dark chocolate, a gift card to Dunkin Donuts, a container of spiced or roasted nuts from the grocery store, box up a variety of instant soup packets for the days they want something extra with their lunch. . .small things that they can eat or easily regift.

Or, if you’d prefer to get something someone wouldn’t consume but would still make good use of, consider these options:  a neutral colored scarf, a small travel umbrella, attractive reusable shopping bags, a keychain with a mini-flashlight (good for people who park in the dark and/or who have cats—cats love to chase the light beams), a funny (G-rated) magnet, a travel mug, a windshield cover (eliminates having to scrape your windshield), a phone charger for the car. . .think small but useful.  These things tend to be more expensive than $5, so shop carefully.  Me, I tend to prefer the consumables for the price--these things are more than $5 on average.  But if your swap has, say a $10 limit, most of these would fit comfortably into that limit.

At the end of the day, if you're throwing a party and having a swap or participating in a swap, keep in mind--these are supposed to be fun party games.  Nothing more.  So have fun.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

I'm back!

Wow, it's been a wild and wooly couple of weeks.

The move went well.  I hired movers--my friend offered to help but honestly, I am at the age (as are my friends) where moving large pieces of furniture and trying to maneuver a rental truck would be cumbersome, back-wrecking, and time consuming.  I figured I'd spend the money and have professionals do it.  I am not exaggerating when I say this was the best cash I have ever spent! 

Two of the three movers bickered like an old married couple.  It was funny.  One of them was a little bossy but I was glad of it because he didn't skimp on things like padded quilts to wrap around furniture, etc.  I was moved out of my place and moved into my new place by the afternoon.  They were even able to strap my deep freeze with the food in it and move it as my place is just a little over an hour away.  So that was good.

My cat did not like the trip but she seems to like the house I'm renting.  Heck, I like the house I'm renting.  It started its life as a cottage, was winterized and had a second floor with one room added on, and the landlords are friends of mine.  It has a small yard, a holly tree, is within walking distance to the town center, fifteen minutes away by foot to the beach, and ten minutes by car to work.  The dining room has a china cabinet with glass doors; that's where I put my dishware.  I left some things packed in boxes--I plan to only live here for six months (that's how long the lease is for) while I look for a new place to buy.  So I don't want to unpack things that I'll only use once or twice--I'll make do for six months and save some trouble packing.

Closing the sale on my condo was a nightmare.  Hurricane Sandy hit beforehand (and I got a call from the lender's attorney wanting to know why I couldn't print and scan/fax something over to him when everything was closed due to the hurricane.  Hey, sparky, you look out your window yet today??)  Let's just say that I was vindicated in pushing to fire our old management company (oh. my. profane. demons.) Let's also say that the lender's attorney had a requirement that other attorneys said, somewhat diplomatically, were highly irregular.  (He eventually dropped the requirement since it could have nuked the deal.)  We closed, later than originally planned, but we did close.

But it's over.  And I'm happy about this.  My poor attorney more than earned her keep with this one.  Yikes.

Weather-wise--well, I was worried because of Sandy.  I thought we'd get flooding from tidal surges, but we were okay.  I didn't even lose power, and there were branches down (one road was impassible because of branches, etc.).  Other people did lose power but got it back.  Then came the next night, when there was a cloudburst that did more damage in my neighborhood than the hurricane.  I lost power for eight hours and there were a bunch of trees down.  Exciting times! Then we had a Nor'easter which was also exciting--I got to drive to my old town to fill out paperwork that night, and when I drove back the next day for the closing, I saw it had snowed.  (It doesn't snow much where I'm living, as the ocean keeps the air just warm enough to turn it to rain.)

We got off lucky though--I have been shuddering over what they're dealing with in New York and New Jersey.  Ugh.

And of course, I voted.  I was happy to see a line.  There should be lines for every election.  

You'd think I'd be blogging like a madwoman what with all this newfound time with a shorter commute, but I do not have cable (I may get internet, we'll see) and so use the library and WiFi hotspot.  I'm sorry, but my last cable bundle bill was $160 for TV, phone, and internet.  TV basically features reality shows with rich people fighting over stupid things, the phone I use but I could (and did) get a cheaper deal away from cable and the internet was getting slow considering how much I was paying.  It wasn't worth it to me. 

Okay, that's what I've been up to.  I hope you've all been well.  I will catch up on my blog reading--I have been terribly remiss and I'm sorry I just dropped off the radar.  I did make some delicious dishes and will soon write a post waxing poetic about my friend's honey and my other friends pumpkin rolls.  Also, last night, I met a woman who spins her own yarn.  She spins her own yarn! I cannot even.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Moving, packing, and culling

It's been really busy.  I've been packing, and getting rid of stuff, and packing some more, and uncovering other things that I should just get rid of because I have not used them, and packing. . .

I got home last night after working a little late and I was so tuckered out that I didn't get all that much done.  According to the guy from the moving company, I don't have a lot of stuff to pack up but I feel like a hoarder right now.  He didn't think it would be that onerous when he came to give me an estimate.

I gave a lot of books to my church for their book sale (part of the church fair).  I also gave them some champagne glasses I bought years ago and that I've used maybe three or four times.

There are things that I don't need but that I'm holding on to because of sentimental value, and I do make a point to use them because of that.  But I still have some things that I'll be happy to be rid of.  The rest of the stuff will go into boxes, and a lot of those boxes will stay sealed and stored for the next six months or so while I look for a new place to buy.  I can get by on very little for six months.  Honestly, I got by on very little for longer than that, so. .

(Okay, Ma, if you're reading this I am not going to live like a monk, I promise.  I just hate unpacking just to pack things up again.)

I know I'm making the right move but I'm still a little melancholy about this.  I lived here for 13 years, and I have friends here and family close by.  This is actually the first time I've been sad about a move--I've left the country before quite blithely and came back to the US quite blithely and never had second thoughts. I will be much more well rested, certainly, since I'll get home from work before six o'clock.  I got home after seven last night.

I'll be glad when I'm moved into my new place and the closing on my condo is done.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Tag, I'm it.

Carol over at Tales From Spring Cottage tagged me.  The rules of this are simple: link back to who tagged you, post eleven random facts about yourself, answer their eleven questions, ask eleven new questions, and tag other bloggers with 200 or fewer followers (post on their blogs to let them know).  The original rules called for people to tag 11 bloggers with fewer than 200 followers, but like Carol, I will do a greatly reduced amount.

Okay, here goes.

Random facts: I love black tea, I never liked fish until I tried sushi, I know naughty words in seven languages (including American Sign Language), I am deathly afraid of cockroaches and waterbugs to the point where I hyperventilate, I had a student in Japan who used to draw pictures of farts in class, I am very stubborn, I saw the original version of The Wicker Man and loved it, I used to live in Japan and have been missing it terribly lately, I can crack many of my joints, I am hungry quite a lot of the time, and I have always wanted to hunt but I'm a klutzy wimp.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Frugal Halloween costumes that don't require T&A

Sexy Halloween banana? Really??
It's coming up to Halloween again, which means that if you have a costume/fancy dress party to attend and you're a woman and you're buying a costume, it's going to be difficult to find a non-sexy costume to wear.*  Want to be a lizard? Well, the men's costume is a baggy zip up job that covers the wearer and looks like a lizard.  The women's costume is a micro mini-dress with a plunging neckline and thin spaghetti straps and low back.  I have seen my share of lizards and none of them seemed remotely sexy to me.  Maybe I've never seen ladylizards, though.  Maybe the ladylizards are at the salon getting botoxed and are too busy shopping to ever make an appearance.

Anyway.  If you are not pleased with the selection of Halloween costumes out there, you think they are too expensive, or you just had no plans to go out until the very last minute, never fear! You can actually throw together a costume with minimal cost and no sewing.

Zombie: This is so easy.  What I love about zombies is that they will never be a love interest, you cannot be a sexy zombie (unless you're being ironic) and if you don't feel like talking you can stay in character and just growl and moan.  If you've had a few and can no longer walk properly people will also figure you're staying in character.  Or that you're actually a zombie.  Which would be pretty epic.

To be a zombie, put some white powder on your face, smear some ugly greenish or gray eyeshadow over it (lightly), go a little darker around the eyes, and maybe smear some red lipstick around your mouth.  Wear some old clothes with holes in them.

Witch (the fabled scary one, not the actual Wiccans:.  This is easy, too.  Most witch costumes that are sold are for sexy witches.  But all you really need is a long black dress and the pointy hat.  Maybe a black wig if you want.

Energizer bunny: This was an awesome costume I threw together last minute years ago.  I actually had adult-sized footy pajamas.  I got bunny ears.  I had a small drum.  I was done.  I was also really comfortable and thus in a great mood all night.

Cat or mouse: Matching shirt and pants.  Cat or mouse ears.  If you don't have the ears, get a fabric headband, cut out the shapes of the ears with construction paper, and staple them on.  Draw on whiskers.

Vampire: buy the fangs, wear all black.

Stepford wife: Yes, I wore this.  It is technically a sexy costume but I was so insufferable while I was wearing it that every dude in the party ducked under the nearest table.  I wore a dress, kitchen gloves, and carried a duster.  And I said, "I'll just die if I don't get this recipe" over and over and over again.

Pirate: A ruffled blouse, jeans and boots, and a bandana tied around your head should do the trick.

* I am not against sexy costumes per se--I've been Catwoman before, though she's kind of supposed to be sexy (as well as scary)--but I'm against the trend that makes it a thing for women while men don't seem to have this pressure.  A man's lizard costume doesn't feature spandex shorts in a lizard print with boots and no shirt for men.  It's a zip-up-cover-him-all-up-looks-like-a-lizard-job.  The woman's? Not so much.  If a man's doctor, lizard, and devil costume isn't going to showcase all of his skin, then the woman's shouldn't have to, either. And if women have the "option" of being sexy, we should have the option to not be.  And men should get this same "option" to be sexy as well.