Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Tightwad tuesday: go veggie

Have a vegetarian dinner once (or more) a week to cut back on meat costs on your grocery bill.

Monday, July 28, 2008

My favorite neighbor

Back in college I got a lot of flack from my roomies because around the house I would occasionally burst into song, and it was always:

It's a beautiful day in this neighborhood
A beautiful day for a neighbor
Would you be mine
Could you be mine
It's a neighborly day in this beauty wood
A neighborly day for a beauty
Would you be mine
Could you be mine
I've always wanted to have a neighbor just like you
I've always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you
So, let's make the most of this beautiful day
Since we're together we might as well say
Would you be mine, could you be mine
Won't you be my neighbor
Won't you please, won't you please
Please won't you be my neighbor?

I knew all the lyrics by heart and could even sing it on key. No mean feat for me. When my birthday rolled around, they gave me a copy of You Are Special as a joke. I loved it.

This morning Jim emailed me a link to an article about Mr. Rogers on CNN, and it plastered a big goofy grin on my face. Which is still there.

He was and is my favorite television personality because when I was four, I believed he could talk to me through the TV set. As in, I could ask him questions and he would tell me the answers. Yeah, I know. I outgrew that belief within months but not the magic of curiosity, optimism and kindness Fred Rogers embodies for me. It's gratifying now to see how timeless his simple but powerful messages still are, how my own kids love him as much as I did.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Tightwad tuesday: fix it yourself

Fix things that are broken. The public library offers many books teaching how to do basic “handy man” tasks like repairing loose furniture legs, fixing leaky faucets and toilets that run, and replacing plugs on electrical cords. My favorite is Dare to Repair: A Do-it-Herself Guide to Fixing (Almost) Anything in the Home, by Julie Sussman and Stepanie Glakas-Tenet. Try fixing appliances yourself before calling a costly repairman; many companies have 800 numbers you can call to talk to a service person.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Walk don't run

This morning I did my first walking-instead-of-running workout. Maybe I shouldn't have gone to the middle school track two blocks from my house where I used to run, but I like being able to keep track of how far I've gone. It was a good workout; I walked four miles, at just under a four MPH pace. But I couldn't help feeling a little wistful, in spite of the endorphins.

It probably didn't help having to try not to envy the two college boys who lapped me repeatedly with their easy, loping sprint. I just had to keep reminding myself they would have lapped me even if I had been running.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Getting old bites

I know I'm not even forty, but lately I've been feeling old. I first developed arthritis in my thumbs in 2001, during my last year of college, in which I spent insane amounts of time on my computer typing research papers (and apparently hitting the space bar far too often). For some reason, it disappeared during both my pregancies—there seems to be some evidence the pregancy hormone relaxin alleviates arthritis pain—and returned within a few months after.

Since December I've been feeling arthritis in my hips as well as my hands, but just in the last few weeks it's become extremely painful after I run. In training for the triathlon I was planning to do at the end of August, my runs are up to almost six miles, but lately it takes me two or three days to stop feeling joint pain after I run, even when I take large doses of ibuprofen (as suggested by my doctor) both before and after. The long recovery time has effected being able to do my regular workouts, and I've started to worry the pain could be indicative of greater problems.

On Thursday I got in touch with the nurse at my doctor's office and she confirmed what I feared: if I continue to run and cause pain, I'm doing irreparable damage to my hip joints. It devastated me to hear it, because I love running, and I was really excited to do another triathlon. I've been in a bit of a funk for the past couple days as I've tried to process this information, create a new mindset about working out (I can still swim and bike as before because of the low-impact nature of those sports), and move forward with a positive attitude. I'm also holding out with a faint hope that if I drop a significant amount of weight, it would alleviate the strain on my hips and maybe I could run again. But I'm not counting on it. In the meantime, I'm so very grateful I have come to enjoy biking and swimming and have already developed a fair amount of endurance in both. I'm also thinking it's time to investigate yoga and take advantage of the increased flexibility and strength it offers.

I'm realizing more and more how much I've taken my body for granted and been cavalier about my health and fitness. Those days are over.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Tightwad tuesday: re-bag

In addition to reusing plastic shopping bags, you can also save money by washing out and reusing sturdy zip-lock bags. Be sure to wash them thoroughly with hot, soapy water and do not reuse bags that contained meat. These bags are especially useful for moms who need to change diapers away from home. Keep a stash of them in your diaper bag or purse to dispose of smelly diapers or store soiled clothes.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Raspberry pie

On Wednesday I got a call from a friend who has a U-pick berry patch, asking if I was interested in fresh raspberries for $4 a quart. It sounded like a fun adventure for Jimmy, so on Friday afternoon, I packed up the kids and drove down to Mary's place, just inside the Yakima River Canyon. I was surprised at the longevity of Jimmy's enthusiasm, especially considering how hot it was. He ate a lot of what he picked, but quite a few berries made it into his bucket and between the two of us we had about a quart and a third before he said, "Mom, I think I'm done now."

Yesterday morning when I got home from my bike ride, I rifled through my collection of tried and true recipes and found my favorite one for raspberry pie. Jimmy had picked a few berries that were just this side of ripe, and it gave the pie a nice, tangy flavor. Oh, and the recipe calls for pastry for a double crust pie. I always use Martha Stewart's pate brisee recipe, because regardless of her questionable ethics when it comes to the stock market, the woman knows pie crust.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008


Along a short stretch of 105
that slows to 35
is a small town aptly named
whose few houses retreat
behind walls of leafy green
where somnambulant silver
suffuses through silent mist
suspended above crimson stained bogs
moss draped twisted thickets
open onto golden festoons of
scotch broom scattered among
brown grass crowned dunes
gradually give way to
flotsam strewn beach reaching
for crushing embrace of
white crested waves but
underneath all is gray.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Tightwad tuesday: shop ads

Get familiar with ad cycles at your local grocers. You can do this by checking advertisements in the Sunday paper or by going to the grocery stores’ websites. Then shop the ads to decide where you will buy what. The websites for just a few local and regional supermarkets here in Washington:

Monday, July 07, 2008


Every four years, during the year of the presidential election, my mom's family has a reunion over the Fourth of July weekend. We always gather in the tiny cranberry-growing community of Grayland out on the Washington coast.

In the early 1900s, my mom's grandparents, who were itinerant ministers, settled in Grayland. As their family grew, three of their four sons and their one daughter moved away. My mom and her family lived there until the early 1960s, when my grandfather got a job with the US Postal Service in Seattle. Her Uncle Walt, now in his 80s, still lives there, but his two sons David and Francis have taken over his cranberry farm.

When I was little, we used to spend Thanksgivings with Uncle Walt, Aunt Chris, David, Francis, their sister Anne, and lots of other family and friends who gathered in their home. As the oldest in my family, I got the special privilege of riding down with my grandfather and grandmother the night before in their station wagon with the fake wood paneling on the sides. Sometimes (if I had been extra well-behaved) we would stop at McDonald's in Aberdeen for milkshakes.

Grayland was always a magical place for me. Lying awake in Anne's bedroom, hearing the muffled roar of the surf pounding the shore a mile away, I was in another world. Part of it was getting away by myself, part of it was the holiday excitement, but mostly it was the ocean. I enjoyed dinner, visiting with cousins, playing on a zipline in the woods behind the house, but always in the back of my mind, I was waiting for the ocean. Usually we'd bundle up and drive to the beach after we were full of turkey, mashed potatoes, and Aunt Chris's wonderful pies. My parents would turn the five of us loose to run off all our pent up energy looking for sand dollars, moonstones, and glass fishing floats, before herding us into the car for the long drive back to Seattle. It was like heaven, wandering between the gray sky and the gray sand, with the wind and sometimes rain cutting through my coat. It never bothered me; I combed sandy expanses, loaded my pockets with exotic finds to spirit back home.

I think Grayland was the place that made me love the ocean, and I've secretly felt I could never stand to live more than a day's drive from it. Something about it goes down to my core, makes me feel more powerful, alive, wild. When I was landlocked during college in Utah, I always felt vaguely unsettled. Especially when I learned to scuba dive in a small municipal pool; that felt wrong on so many levels.

Last Friday morning Jim and I wrestled our own (much smaller) herd into the car and headed to Grayland. It was wonderful seeing my parents and siblings, as well as reconnecting with extended family who I hadn't seen since the last reunion, when Jimmy was just a toddler. But one of my favorite parts of the whole weekend? The last afternoon, right before we left, as I watched Jimmy discover the ocean for himself. When I asked him if he liked the ocean while we were beachcombing, he got a huge grin and a distinct twinkle in his eyes as he enthused, "Oh, yeah!"

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Sally bibs: part 2

My house has been languishing in disarray since I got over my nasty cold, and I finally jolted myself into the necessity of cleaning it by inviting friends over for dinner. Sad but true, the thought of company is what always gets me motivated to deal with dirt and clutter. But I'm finally learning to go with what works for me, so I foresee a lot of dinner parties in my future. Probably for the rest of my natural life.

Now that my dining room table is all cleared off, I had room to spread out my unfinished Sally bib project. In part 1, I prepped all the materials, and now it's time to fire up ole Gertie and get down to sewing.

Sewing and Finishing

Step 1: To make a strip of seam binding long enough to go around the outside of the bib, you will need to take two shorter strips and sew them together. Find two strips with slanted edges that fit together. Then line them up, right sides together, as shown above. Note how the points are not matched up but instead overlap and extend about a half inch. This is so that when you sew them together with a 1/2" allowance, the seam will lie exactly where the edges intersect.

Lay the pinned sections of binding on the throat plate of the sewing machine and line up the needle in the point of the "V" where the sections intersect. Set the sewing machine to about seven or eight stitches per inch (this amount of stitches per inch is referred to as "basting"). Baste in a straight line to the point of the inverted "V" on the opposite edge of the binding.

After the sections are basted together, clip the seam allowance down to 1/8", then fold the seam binding back into its creases and press the area where it was joined.

Step 2: Pin the seam binding (wrong side out) to the outside edge of the bib except for the curve around the neck hole. Gently stretch the binding to curve around the curved edges of the bib. Trim the ends of the binding so they are flush with the edges of the neck hole.

Using the first ironed crease in from the edge as a guide (approximately 1/2" seam allowance), baste the seam binding to the bib.

Now, fold the seam binding over the raw edge of the bib and on the unsewn side, tuck the raw edge of the binding under along the fold and match up the edge with the stitches of the seam where the binding was sewn to the bib. Pin in place, stretching to ease the binding around curved edges.

Stitch the binding down as close to the edge as possible, about 1/16" to 1/8".

Step 3: Pin binding to the neck hole of the bib, leaving 9"-long tails at the end on each side, as shown above. Depending on how long your binding is, you may have to sew two more sections together, as shown above in Step 1.

Trim off the ends of the tails so they are square.

Laying open the middle crease in the seam binding, fold over a small allowance (about 1/4"), as shown above on the right. Then pin shut, as shown on the left.

Position the needle in the middle of the tail section, about 1/8" from the edge, as shown above. Reverse stitch to the top (folded) edge. Shift to forward stitching and baste to about 1/8" from the bottom (open) edge.

Making sure that the needle is in the downward position, completely piercing the fabric, lift the presser foot, and rotate the fabric 45 degrees, so that the bottom edge is now lined up to be sewn closed.

Baste the bottom edged closed, and continue basting along the edge of the binding where it is pinned to the bib, approximately 1/8" seam allowance. At the end of the other tail, reverse stitch to reinforce the edge.

Voilà! a finished Sally bib.

And a happy baby, ready to dig into dinner!

Update: The reason this post is dated Wednesday the second but appeared on Monday the seventh is I was having issues with Blogger downloading my pictures sideways. Finally figured it out this morning (whew!)

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Ten months

Tightwad tuesday: vinegar

Vinegar is one of the greatest multi-taskers ever. Not only can you make a savory, low-fat salad dressing with it, but it is also the frugal housekeeper's best friend. Besides being inexpensive and eco-friendly, vinegar has the added bonus of being a natural insect repellant (cleaning your floors with it will deter those pesky sugar ants so prevalent this time of year). Here are a few basic recipes for homemade cleaning solutions using vinegar:

All-purpose cleaner: combine 1/2 cup ammonia, 1/3 cup vinegar, 2 Tablespoons baking soda, 1 gallon water. Glass cleaner: combine 2 Tablespoons cornstarch, 1/2 cup white vinegar, 1 gallon warm water. Toilet bowl cleaner: vinegar will remove most lime deposits without polluting water.

Other inexpensive, easy-to-make cleaning solutions:

Furniture polish: combine 1 part lemon juice and 2 parts olive oil or vegetable oil. Rug and carpet deodorizer: sprinkle liberal amounts of baking soda over a dry carpet then wait 15 minutes before vacuuming.