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Monday, May 31, 2010

Friday, May 28, 2010

Frugality

I recently wrote about my trying to stay out of the supermarket for a month. I made 27 days. I had eaten the last bagel and was down to one can of cat food. There were still many lunches and dinners left, but, alas, no breakfast. As expected, my bill was high, but still below the monthly average for this year.

This led me to my most recent attempt at frugality. Through the years I've gone on these binges. When I discovered that juice drinks were subject to a sales tax, I switched to plain juice which was not. Then I realized that whole chickens were cheaper per pound than different parts, I learned to cut the chickens into legs and breasts for meals and wings and backs for soup. At one time, I even bought large pieces of bologna and cheese and sliced them myself. All of this made me feel good. I was saving money, yet still providing good meals.

When something was on sale, I would stock up There were times when we had 10 cans of coffee or many boxes of cereal or 12 cans of tuna fish in the pantry. You get the picture. Some fresh vegetables are freezable, so I would stock up on them so they would be available all year round. You get the picture.

My latest foray into frugality involves using stale bread. Today I got the bright idea to make croutons, partly because when I went to the supermarket last week I forgot them and the home made bread went stale. I cut them into cubes, diced some basil and thyme (from my garden) and garlic, added them to oil. Then I put the bread, oil and herbs into a plastic bag and mixed them well and put them in the oven to toast. They're not too bad, I should have made them smaller. Maybe next time.

Now, what is the next way to cut waste?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

City Fix

A few weeks ago I took a trip into the City and went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I just love wandering around the museum. My first stop was the Temple of Dendur. They've done a wonderful job reconstructing it.


Then I went up to the roof where they had a maze constructed of bamboo. They also made a walkway up through the bamboo, but I didn't try it. It looked too much like a roller coaster track and I'm not fond of heights. I'm really surprised that I enjoyed being on the roof.

It was a beautiful day, not too warm and no wind. It was relatively clear too, so I got some good shots of the skyline around Central Park.



There's no place like New York City.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Hair

As they say, timing is everything. Yesterday I went up to Queens to have my hair done. Earlier in the week I was tempted to cancel the appointment since it came out great. The waves went just the right way and it was shiny. I knew it wouldn't last so I kept my appointment.

When Connie asked how I wanted my hair done, I said the usual way - blown straight, away from my face with wispy or side bangs. As usual, she did a great job.

We started talking and she suggested that I have the highlights done at my next appointment and then I mentioned that I'm looking for a change. I'm bored with my hair. She suggested that I let the layers grow out, which I'll try.

I can't understand why I didn't mention this in the beginning. I would have my new style now instead of waiting 6-8 weeks.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Happiness

To some and with apologies to Charles Schultz happiness is a warm puppy. To me, today anyway, happiness is a frozen bagel.


Lately I’ve felt that my monthly food spending was much too high. In addition, I found that I was wasting and throwing out a lot of food while also eating too much in the form of much too large portions. I realized too that I’d fallen prey to supermarket advertising gimmicks. If it’s on sale, it must be a good buy. And, if it’s a good buy for one, why not buy three or four. Of course, once in the store, I couldn’t stop with just the sale item. I might as well stock up on other grocery items.


As a challenge to my ingenuity and to cut the waste, I decided to stay away from the supermarket for a month.

My freezer had been well stocked with meat, chicken, fish and vegetables, the pantry had enough staples like rice, soup and that old standby, tuna fish. I’ve been living out of them for almost a month and it’s been going quite well. I’ve experimented and tried a few new recipes. Dinners and lunches have been great. Breakfast not so much.


Today, it looked as if I would have to give in and shop. There didn’t seem to be anything for breakfast. The milk was getting pungent since it was in the refrigerator too long. I didn’t dare have cereal. I didn’t feel like cooking eggs so early in the day, besides there was no bacon or sausages. All the frozen waffles, pancakes and muffins were long gone. Even the freshly baked bread from last week was stale. What would I do? It was time to rummage in the back of the freezer. Maybe I could find a stray muffin hiding there.


As I moved the chicken aside very carefully to avoid an avalanche I spotted it. One lone package of Lender’s Onion Bagels stuck in the back. I’m good for a few more days. AND, right next to the bagels, I spied some coffee. Now I won’t have to give up my caffeine.


What could be a better way to start the day than cream cheese on an onion bagel and a steaming hot cup of coffee? Sheer bliss!

Of course, now that I’ve used up most of my reserves, the next grocery bill is going to be a doozy

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Obesity

I was reading an article, or I should say a commercial, in today's Wall Street Journal. This commercial pointed out the dangers of childhood obesity. I'm sure some of their facts are correct, but they don't apply to all.

In their opinion, heavy kids are at higher risk of developing allergies. I dispute that. I was a heavy, chubby, fat (choose your favorite adjective) child. I do not have, nor have I ever had any allergies. My son who at times was chubby also has not had any allergies.

This article/commercial also said that physical fitness is tied to academic success. Again I object. My son who is brilliant, was always at the top of the class, won a scholarship for high school and again later for college was the original couch potato. He did so well in elementary school that his principal wanted him to skip 8th grade and go right into a very prestigious scholarship high school in Manhattan. He chose not to and went to the high school of his choice and did very well.

Maybe I should have pushed him to play sports. If I had, maybe he'd be the next Bill Gates or a great scientist or the world's peacemaker. Should I apologize to him?

I don't believe that obesity is quite as bad as we're being told. No amount of legislation, label calorie counts, removal of soda and juice from schools will solve the problem. All of us, adults and children alike need more exercise. Until parents feel comfortable that their children playing outside are safe they will be couch potatoes and there will be a need for exercise. Just the simple act of putting sidewalks in rural areas will encourage walking which is a very good exercise.

I admit that I don't walk as much as I should, or would even like. Rural areas and suburbia are just not "foot friendly". It's annoying to get into my car and drive less than 1/2 mile to get to a store. If we had a sidewalk I could walk to the store, help the environment, save gas and get more exercise. But, that's a campaign for another day.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Day of Nothingness

Did you ever have one of those days when you didn't seem to accomplish anything?

I got up this morning chock full of energy and ambition. But something changed. After my one hour German lesson, I started playing - Bounce Out, Spider Solitaire, etc. Then I forced myself to go out and buy a bottle of wine for our Wine Club meeting tomorrow. From there I bought more herbs - thyme, parsley and oregano. I just put them in a large planter with water and put them in the bathtub.

The rest of the day was spent playing computer games, except for dinner. I made a nice dish of scallops with a lemon butter sauce. It was quite good.

Now, it's after 10:00 pm and I still have some papers on the couch that have to be put away and others to be filed, but I have no desire to do it. I think I'll just sit back and put my feet up. Tomorrow is another day, I'm sure I'll have more ambition.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Jazz and the Economy

Tonight the local high school jazz band came to the community to play. They are so good, and so young. The band came in 3rd in a statewide competition and two of the members won special awards.

Because of the economic situation and cutbacks, this may be their last year. I have mixed emotions about that. As a fan and parent, I feel badly for them, but as a taxpayer I have no problem with the cutbacks. I guess another reason that I don't have much sympathy is that, since my boys went to Catholic schools through high school we paid for all the extras like sports. I'm sure, if they had wanted music, we would have paid for their instruments and lessons.

I also realized something tonight. I like jazz even though it is very loud.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Strange News

I just got home from a Board Meeting in the community. It deteriorated into a shouting match. Fortunately, I had some off-the-wall news that gave me a good laugh.

You've probably heard already about the Iranian cleric who is blaming promiscuous women who wear revealing clothing for the many earthquakes around the world this year. He claims that women who don't dress modestly lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society which increases earthquakes.

Then, last month a decorated Gulf War hero receivd a letter from the Veterans Affairs Administration that said, "We are working on your claim for menstrual disorder". That's very nice of them, but the claim was submitted for fibromyalgia and was submitted by Glenn McBride a 40 year old man from Roanoke, VA. The VA is notorious for bungling health care benefits. Because of Mr. McBride's experience with the VA, he was very explicit on the form for SERVICE CONNECTION FOR FIBROMYALGIA.

Mayor Bloomberg of New York isn't content with playing food policeman with the citizenry. Now, he wants to increase their appreciation of art. First, there were the Gates, a succession of orange cloths flapping in the breeze. Then, he tried to rival Niagara Falls by having an 80 foot high waterfall under the Brooklyn Bridge. Unfortunately, the drifting saltwater it churned up ruined the River Cafe's garden and ravaged mature trees by the score.

By far the worst that I can think of is the latest. The mayor, in his infinite wisdom, has allowed Antony Gormley to put cast iron men in Gormley's likeness on building tops and ledges in the city. One such figure was perched on the 86th floor of the Empire State Building. It looked so much like a suicide attempt that it drew many police to the area. They could have been put to better use fighting criminals, not trying to save a suicidal statue.

The mayor seems to think that orange sheets, fake waterfalls and suicidal statues will draw tourists to the city. With all the wonderful sites in the city, the museums, architecture, zoos and shows there is no need for such "art" It adds nothing to the stature of NYC.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Weight Lost and Found

Around October or November of last year, I lost 5 pounds. They stayed lost even through Christmas. Lately, I've been finding them, one at a time. I found them all, along with one or two more.

Today, I decided to get serious about my weight. I'm going to follow the Weight Watchers plan. That is the best diet since you eat a wide variety of food. I just love the first day of a diet. I usually have so much motivation and energy. I've done more work around the house in one day than I did in the last week. It feels so good.

I just wish I could have this energy and motivation all the time.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

CORRECTION

I just saw yesterday's picture. Here is how the chair should look.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Men in my Life

I know this is a more appropriate post for Father's Day, but I realized something today while I was assembling some patio furniture and the thought won't keep 'til June. Maybe then I'll write about my mother. A few weeks ago I saw a great bargain - two chairs with ottoman and a side table for a wonderfully low price. I jumped at the offer.

Naturally, they came unassembled. Today I decided to finally assemble them. I'm still having trouble with the table, but the chairs and ottomans/ottomen are finished. And it's not easy tightening screws without ruining a manicure. Then I realized the impact of the two men in my life.

When I was a child, my father would let me hang out with him in his small workshop (which had been the coal bin before the oil heater) in the basement. There I would watch him work, or when I got bored play with the various tools. This was so long ago that they weren't power tools so they were safe. He even let me (with his help) make a toy covered wagon for a neighbor child. We made it from an old cigar box and some wheels he had laying around the house. When I got really bored I would sweep the floor which never got clean.

Even though he tried to domesticate me by giving me a subscription to GOOD HOUSEKEEPING magazine when I was 11, he also wanted me to be handy and take care of things for myself. The day I got my license, he took me outside to show me how to change a tire so I wouldn't be stuck anywhere.

Fast forward to my husband. He was the opposite of my father. My husband wasn't very handy. He did try to do things around the house, but rarely finished them. It was very frustrating at times when it felt like I had to do everything. If I wanted anything assembled, I had to do it. Christmas Eve, I was the one putting the toys together.

Now, however, because of my early training with tools and my having to assemble household furniture, I'm able to read and follow directions (when I want to) and assemble my own furniture. You know, very few things are delivered fully assembled.

Over the years I have had to assemble bookcases, tables, desk chairs, shelving, etc. I did take it easy when I bought my latest desk, I paid extra to have someone set it up.

I thank both of these men, one for his patience in letting his little girl play in his workshop and the other for his unhandiness which resulted in my learning how to take care of things around the house.

I took some pictures, I hope they show up. All I can see while typing are the codes. All the assembly was done on the kitchen table, I don't have a workshop. Hopefully you can see that Burnie is already trying out the chair. There is also a picture of the box and how everything should look. It's pretty close.





Friday, May 7, 2010

Heroes

It's been almost a week since those two t-shirt vendors saw the smoking car and spoke to a mounted policeman. Initially, we heard that there was only one vendor, Duane Jackson. I now know there's another - Lance Orton. They are both Viet Nam veterans. Good for them! They are true NY heroes.

The police responded along with the bomb squad and fire department. They evacuated Times Square, not a simple task, quickly and without panic. Although, from my experiences in New York, I'm not surprised there was no panic. New Yorkers take everything in stride, leave an affected area quickly and orderly. I've been through major blackouts, train breakdowns and 9/11. Everyone walked quickly and calmly away from any situation, even helping others.

Sometimes NY gets a bad rap. Yes, sometimes we seem rude when, in fact, we're usually just rushing or thinking of something else. Unfortunately, there are also times when some people ignore a crime or victim and those are the times that get the publicity.

I do have one complaint of the coverage of this event. Some in the media seem to feel sympathy for the bomber. They say he didn't find the American dream, he quit his job, lost his house and had other defaulted loans. Doesn't anyone realize that if you quit your job, you won't have money to pay your mortgage. Traveling to Pakistan several times also makes a big dent in your finances.

I just realized that I've gotten off track. This started out being a tribute to the heroes of last Saturday - Lance Orton and Duane Jackson who served our country again. Thank you men.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Shoes

It's that time of year again. Time to clean out the closet and switch from long sleeve sweaters to light weight tops. It's also time to put the boots away and take out the sandals.

And that's my problem. I discovered yesterday when I was switching shoes that I have too many pairs of summer shoes. I have the usual sneakers, flats and several pairs of sandals. I don't know how I managed to accumulate so many pairs. I've run out of shelf space for them, the extras are in a pile on the floor of my closet.

My latest theory takes me back to my childhood. You see, I've always had big feet. I can remember walking from shoe store to shoe store along the shopping district on Jamaica Ave. in Queens. They rarely had age appropriate shoes for my size. My mother didn't think that an eight year old should wear a 1" heel. I remember one time when I was about 9 or 10 I wanted so badly to be in a procession in church and we had to wear white shoes, but my shoes from the previous year didn't fit and the stores hadn't started selling their white shoes. I cried when I was told that I couldn't be in the procession. The woman downstairs, married with a child, offered to lend me her shoes. My mother agreed and for that one occasion I was able to wear a 1" heel, and the shoes just about fit me.

I'm still affected by those shopping trips. Whenever I visit a shoe store, I ask if they have my size (11W) in that particular style. I never sit down or take my shoes off until they bring out the box. That's one of the reasons I buy most of my shoes from catalogs, they have a wide selection of sizes.

So now, when I see shoes in my size, I buy several pair at a time. After all, you never know when that size will be available again.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Garden 2010

Today I finally finished planting my herbs. When I first bought them, I didn't buy enough pots or potting soil. I made many trips to the store for more pots, then more trips for more soil. Then, of course, there was the problem of space in the kitchen because it was too windy to put the plants outside.

Because I bought so many, I forgot about three and two died. I don't feel too badly about one of the dead plants. I don't know why I bought it. I don't have much luck with dill. I now have basil, oregano, tarragon, coriander, marjoram, parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. I also bought a strawberry plant that had lots of blossoms and a few berries. One of them was ripe the other day. It was wonderfully juicy and delicious. Hope I get more.

I planted three rose bushes in the ground and now know why I prefer container gardening. My back as so sore, and then there is the problem of getting up after kneeling on the ground for several minutes.

Now all I need is lots of sun and to remember to water every day.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Dryer Update II

I'm so happy. Today I finally got around to doing laundry. So far so good. I did three loads of laundry tonight and they all dried well and quickly. I hope this is a sign of things to come.