Saturday, August 21, 2010

Taking Time to Breathe...

Without Breaking the Bank
One of the worst things about being in distress, financial or otherwise, is that we reach a point where we feel like we can't even breathe. Face it, even in good times, we need a break. When things are bad, we need it even more but don't think we can afford either the money or the time. We become exhausted and even depressed making it more difficult to to think clearly and make the good, rational decisions required to overcome our situation.
Today, my husband and I took just such a break. We spent the morning leisurely winding our way to the beach by way of every unfamiliar, seldom traveled road we could find. We wandered our way around neighborhoods, past farms and through absolutely beautiful, old-growth forests where the grandfather oaks stretched their giant, fern covered branches across the roadway with Spanish moss dripping overhead. Gradually, the growth began to change as deep within the shadows, palmettos made their appearance and the occasional pines were replaced with occasional palms and the shadows began to give way to open areas. Then there was the bridge to cross and the energizing smell of salt in the air and open sky with sea gulls gliding on the currents.
We arrived at the shore late in the morning, got refills of our coffee and sat in the car watching the waves for a while. Then we walked barefoot on the sand, along the water's edge, slow and easy, sometimes talking...mostly silent until an hour or so had passed and we agreed that we were both hungry. Our favorite place to eat has an open deck cafe where we were able to order at our leisure, linger over our meal and stay around to chat.
It tickles me to note that neither of us tried to "eat on the cheap". I never said to myself, "Oh, I can't have that. It costs too much." I wasn't actually thinking about price at all and hadn't intended to write this post. My intention for the day was simply to take time to breathe. Because of that, we started slow with a shared appetizer that was actually huge. We didn't order 'real food' until later and by that time, we were fairly well filled so we settled for hot, specialty sandwiches. Not counting gas, our total expense for the day, including drinks and tip was under $30.
As the clouds began to roll in for their usual afternoon thunderstorm, we headed for home, refreshed, relaxed and ready to face whatever tasks tomorrow or next week or the coming month places before us.

An available beach is not the key to giving yourself time to relax, refresh and breathe but, for me, spending some time close to nature is. I've found it while walking in the woods or along the bank of a creek or even spreading a blanket on the ground for a quiet picnic in a deserted park. Give it a try...and remember to take your shoes off.

You might also enjoy information on these links
No & low-cost ways to give yourself a boost
Tips on how to relax
5 ways to plan a low-cost retreat

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Canning - Jams & Preserves

Well, this has been a summer of good intentions gone to pot. Never did buy my bushel of peaches. The second crop of cucumbers and 50% of the tomatoes dropped dead because of the scorching heat. And I completely forgot about going to the woods for blackberries in July. But the blueberry crop was amazing, so much so that we ate almost as many as we picked and I was left with precious few for jam. But watermelon rind preserves are made from the part you don't eat anyway so I managed to get a few jars ready for winter. The recipe has been in my husband's family for 80+ years that we know of and was probably handed down from a previous generation before that. It's easy and except for the cost of the sugar, is virtually free.
Mary Ellen's Watermelon Rind Preserves
2 lbs. watermelon rind
1 qt. cold water
1/4 c. non-iodized salt
1 lemon
4 c. granulated sugar
2 1/2 c. hot water
Pare the watermelon rind and cut in cubes (no green, no red). Cover with cold water and salt and let stand overnight. In the morning, drain and cook in fresh water, to cover, until tender. Drain.
Mix sugar, hot water and thinly sliced lemon and add cooked watermelon. Cook until transparent (really transparent). Seal at once in sterilized jars. (Turn sealed jars upside down for 20 minutes or so. Then right side up to cool.)

Blueberry Jam
Berry jams are simple. Wash, crush & measure your berries with their juice. bring to a low boil and add 3/4 cups of sugar for every cup of berries. I always add a pinch of salt and a splash of lemon juice but don't know why. I just think it makes the flavor 'brighter'. Then cook and stir frequently until thick. Pour into sterilized jars and seal. Some recipes will tell you to process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes but I don't. I always screw my bands on tight & invert the jars for a while. Having been burned a time or two by a splatter of boiling sugar juice, I figure no germ could possibly survive the incredible heat. But it's up to you.

To protect jar lids from dust or to prepare them as gifts, replace rings with the white plastic caps available in canning sections or remove the ring and tie a piece of fabric over the lid, or you can hold a circle of fabric in place with the ring. I do this more with jams and jellies than with anything else, mostly to discourage me from opening them before winter. What a delight is to get a fresh taste of summer on a cold, dreary day.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Is This Blog Really a Threat to the Economy?

I'm right on the cusp of being a baby boomer, born two years too early, but I was none-the-less a war baby. Having been in advertising for 37 years, I've not only been aware of market trends but was a part of the industry helping to set and define them.

For several years, our impending retirement has been feared because apparently our sheer numbers would threaten to cripple Social Security and Medicare. I find this somewhat humorous as our numbers were established at the time of our birth, six-plus decades ago, but apparently come as a recent surprise. The gloom and doom predictions seemed to focus on our leaving the work force en masse' and resting on our laurels to take from society, for the remainder of our days, without making any contributions to it.

Governmental solutions include raising the retirement age to keep us employed longer, yet with unemployment numbers as high as they are, one would think that kicking us out of the job market as soon as possible might make sense. Oh, excuse me, I think I've made a major blunder as "governmentsl solutions" and "make sense" are rarely appropriate in the same sentence. I know that's sarcastic and ugly but that's my take on the situation as I see it this morning because...I have come across an article "Another threat to economy - Boomers cutting back?".

Give me a break! What is a Boomer to do? When we were first aware that Social Security might be in trouble down the road, we invested in our own retirement. How'd that work out for us? Our investments are down 40%. When we decide to continue earning a living...we are taking bread out of the mouths of young families who need our jobs. So we cut back, pare down, make do with less and now we are a threat to the economy because we are spending too little. Where is Jack Kevorkian when you need him? Sometimes I think the government would just like to shoot us. It's almost enough to make a person get depressed. Nah! Not really.

We may be old and starting to wrinkle. We may walk instead of run and parts of us that once were proud and perky may be headed south but there's still a lot of spunk left is us boomers. And even when the spunk starts to fade, we'll have a great deal of history to share and know-how to pass along. For the most part, we're an optimistic crowd. We've known bad times and good times have developed a sense of balance and more importantly, we've learned that satisfaction is internal and has little to do with McMansions and fancy cars.

So, I don't think my blog is going to destroy the country. I believe we can pare down and cut back and enjoy life just as much with a little more in the savings account as we did when we gave no thought to spending. And now, I'm off to make Watermelon Rind Preserves and Blueberry Jam...and I'm thrilled that I know how and it will cost me no more than the sugar that goes into it.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Still Finding Me...

and other lost items.

Every once in a while, it seems that my life spirals totally out of control. The past two weeks or so have been in just such a free fall. There were little things going on and big things going on and birthday one and birthday two and birthday three. All the while, there were bills to pay, shopping to do and meals to plan. At first, I muddled through, putting one foot in front of the other, completely on auto pilot. Still, the laundry piled up, the shrubs grew wildly, the weather turned sour and a presidential visit so disrupted my little beach town that my husband canceled our wedding anniversary plans.
I passed exhausted four or five days ago. Stopping to catch my breath only gave guilt a chance to catch up with me. The blog, the blog...I'm behind on the blog. Then I wondered why I was investing time in it anyway. Who reads it? Then I began to wonder why I do anything. I know these 'wonderings' to be a dangerous sign, a prelude to a meltdown of sorts, an excuse for a pity party.

But not this time. I closed the door on the unmade bed, curled up in front of a movie I'd wanted to see for ages, took the camera on a search to find some little beautiful thing, went for a swim after dark and made a list of things I actually like about myself.
Some time, after midnight, as I was scowering nooks and crannies for the minuscule sewing kit that needs to be included in a future blog post, I found my long lost cross. I had been so sure that it was in my wallet, awaiting repairs, when it was stolen from my purse some six years ago. It must have been only the broken chain. I was thrilled. In fact, I was so thrilled that I stayed up until 4:30 AM reading and rejoicing. It seemed that I had been given a sign, a chance to relearn the lesson of never giving opportunity to reaffirm the fact that who I am and what I'm worth is not based on what I do.

This morning, it is still raining, there is still crisis in the air, preserves waiting to be made and laundry to be done and another installment on "preparedness" to be written...and I still care. But I'm in no particular hurry and life feels so much sweeter when I am in control...of me.
You might enjoy this book, "A Weekend to Change Your Life" by Joan Anderson. I'm loving every page.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Back to School - OUCH!

I'm so old..............
that I remember when the school supply list was only 5 items long and parents actually enjoyed the annual back-to-school splurge of shopping for a "first day" outfit. Now getting the kids ready for school is a major budget item and, in this economy, can be a real budget buster.
Even though I'm past the age of enduring this agony myself, I've come up with ideas for my grown children that I thought might be of help to you...or at least an inspiration:
  1. If it's your tradition to begin school with a teacher gift, consider a nice apple muffin, or a thrift store coffee mug or a red water bottle personalized with the teacher's name. Place the gift in a brown paper lunch bag. Fold the top of the bag over once or twice, punch two holes in the flap and tie with red ribbon. Add a tag sized card with your child's picture inside and write, "my name is (?) and I'm glad you are my teacher".
  2. Thank goodness new clothes don't necessarily look new these days. Check out the parenting, child and teen magazines while waiting in the grocery checkout line to get an idea of what's "in" and what's not.
  3. It seems that pinstripes and the stone washed look is "out" but ornamentation is very much "in". Consider buying one of those dazzle, gem and stud kits to add new sparkle to old jeans and shirt collars. Add a ruffle of pretty patterned fabric to the bottom of of plain shirt or dress.
  4. Embroidery is also "in" and easy to do. If you can sew at all, you can embroider. Yes, you can. Spend some time in that section of a fabric or craft store and you will realize that it is not rocket science and a couple of needles and a few packets of thread cost next to nothing.
  5. Iron-on applique's are a super simple way to update something old and if you can't find some or don't like the ones you do find, make your own with a little "Stitch Witchery". It is also great for turning those sew-on embroidery trims into iron-on decorations.
  6. Don't forget tie-dying. If you child has a circle of friends, get them together with t-shirts they already own and have a tie-dying party and suggest that they all wear their new creations on the first day of school.
  7. If you live in a subdivision filled with children, arrange a neighborhood yard sale and have a neighborhood party the night before so that participants can buy from and sell to each other first.
  8. If you have teens, think college. Even if you have to drive to a neighboring college town, the thrift stores around a college campus are filled with young, trendy clothing, still at bargain prices.
But clothing is not the only nightmare expense when doing the back-to-school thing. Here are some links I found to sites that cover a wide range of back to school issues:

For Thrift Store shopping tips I never thought of click HERE.

THRIFTY CHICKS has innovative ideas for filling that staggeringly long school supplies list

GREEN BLOG has back to school suggestions that cover everything from healthy breakfasts and waste-free lunches to transportation, supplies and projects.

APRON THRIFT GIRL covers frugal ideas for back to school clothes from many perspectives including swap parties, bartering groups and freecycling.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Picture Frame Child's Chair

My daughter sent me a link to this adorable child's chair made of thrift store picture frames and a few lengths of 1"x 2". I couldn't resist sharing it. Just click on the photo to connect to the 'ohdeedoh' site for instructions and enjoy their other ideas.