Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Good news

It was a Very Big Deal to come back from taking Audrey to her first dentist appointment yesterday morning and find an email from this fine publication waiting in my inbox, offering to publish one of my poems in their upcoming fall issue.

The poem in question is a revised version of this, and I love the cosmic rightness of it being published in a magazine from my Nana's hometown.

Almost as much as I love the exhiliration of getting published again after 15 years.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Tightwad tuesday: ask and ye shall receive

This is on my mind because for the past month we've been looking for a "big girl bed" for Audrey. I've put the word out to family members and friends who frequent yard sales, I've scoured the classifieds and Craigslist postings, and finally, I posted an ad on my local Freecycle group.

A couple days ago, someone who had seen my post emailed me, saying he had a bedframe, mattress and box springs. He sent us some pictures, we arranged a time to pick it up, and last night Jim and his brother-in-law Jared drove up to Cle Elum to get the bed. It's old but barely used, and is perfect for our needs.

My sister Dorothy and I had a conversation on this topic about a year ago: if you have a need but are worried you don't have the resources to buy or do it on your own, put that desire out into the universe—ask for what you want, instead of just waiting for it to fall into your lap, or hoping someone will notice you need help and offer it—and what you need will come to you.

I think this is a true principle, regardless of one's religious beliefs (or lack of them): when we have the humility to admit we need help and ask for it, we open up a place for that need to be met. It's empowering and emotionally healthy to give ourselves permission to ask for what we need, and it places the responsibility to act squarely on our own shoulders, while opening up our hearts to the possibility of goodness and generosity in the hearts of those around us.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Tightwad tuesday: economical exercise

In my very first Tightwad Tuesday, I mentioned that walking is one of the best bargains ever because it requires no special equipment, no memberships, no outlay of cash. Few forms of exercise are so adaptable in terms of fitting your schedule and personal needs; you can walk fast or slow depending on your fitness level, at any time of day, with others or alone, in most kinds of weather, and no matter where you live.

Walking is an economical form of exercise time-wise, too, in that you can work out getting somewhere you need to go or while burning off tension when you're feeling stressed. Personally, I love to go first thing in the morning while my husband and kids are still in bed: I don't have to worry about child care; I can plan, even pray, for my day while I'm walking; and I still get home to eat breakfast and shower before the kids are up so I feel like I hit the ground running.

There other ways to get a cheap workout, too. Consider getting a membership at the local community pool instead of a fitness club or gym. Many community centers also have an exercise room with machines and weights, and offer quarterly and yearly passes, as well as punch passes (so you get a discount but are only paying for when you actually work out).

Check out exercise videos and DVDs from your local library, especially if you are considering purchasing some. You can find out if you enjoy exercising in your own home and discover if you are actually motivated using that method. Library loaners can help in determining what form of exercise works for you (pilates? yoga? aerobics? martial arts?) before you commit to a purchase.

Just remember: the key is to be creative. And honest. If there's one form of exercise you really prefer, it will be worth shopping around to find the best prices, and then investing in quality equipment so that you will actually work out. Because being healthy is one of the best ways of all to save money.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Tightwad tuesday: know your cash flow

Nothing gives you a reality check like seeing in black and white where your money is actually going. Personal finance software is a valuable tool because it provides all kinds of graphs and charts that show you exactly how much you spend on what (the caveat being, of course, that you do have to be unflinchingly honest in tagging your purchases; e.g. those new red patent peeptoe pumps don't really belong in the "household items" category).

For a long time Jim and I used Microsoft Money to track our expenditures, but last month Microsoft announced they would be discontinuing Money, so Jim started shopping around for new personal finance software. There are a lot of good options on the market, but if you really want to cut costs (like we did), you may want to consider one of the many free financial programs available online. (Incidentally, we decided to go with also has a great little article about using electronic budgeting tools as a springboard to make over your budget and really get a handle on your spending.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Anniversary quilt

Ever since I made my first quilt right before Audrey was born, I've been wanting to do a bigger one for our bed. Making a quilt to commemorate our wedding anniversary seemed appropriate, and the sixteenth anniversary was a logical choice, since a square quilt will nicely cover our king-size bed, and a completion goal of May 2011 would give me plenty of time for the ambitious tasks of piecing a large quilt by machine and then quilting it by hand.

Back at the end of December, I started sketching. My color palettes (warm tones of orange and yellow, and cool tones of blue and purple) were inspired by some of my favorite flowers: lilacs, hyacinths, hydrangeas, irises, poppies and marigolds. After repeated rearranging and several designs I scrapped completely, I came up with the sketch above.

It's the same arrangement of pieces as the squares in Audrey's quilt, but the colors are grouped to create a completely different design, and the sashing and borders are also different.

The middle sixteen squares are surrounded by a modified "piano key" border, which will be made from 1" x 4" strips of fabric from the same palette sewn together but in random order.

Outside of that is an 8" border I had originally intended to be contrast fabric (a fabric that picked up all the colors from both my palettes), but after some browsing online, I realized it was going to be virtually impossible to find a fabric with all those colors (or even most of them) together. So I looked in some art books and online at Aztec and Mayan textiles and stonework, and came up with a sort of "Aztec key" design that I could plot out in 1" squares of fabric for a mosaic effect that would accomplish the same purpose as the contrast fabric.

On the very outside, I added another 4" piano key border to bring the quilt's dimensions to 96 square inches, which should cover my bed nicely.

For the past six months I've been collecting fabrics here and there, and just this week I got my final piece. Now the fun starts!

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Cheap cherries, part 2

I've mentioned before what an Alton Brown fanboy Jim is. A couple years ago he saw the "Whithering Bites" episode of Good Eats and ever since, he's been dying to try out Alton's improvised dehydrator made from a box fan, bungee cords, and furnace filters. I know—furnace filters?

Our recent windfall of cherries provided the perfect opportunity for Jim to finally make the dehydrator. Right before lunch we created a little assembly line with Jimmy pitting, me slicing, and Jim arranging the cherries in the filters. We prepped a batch of about three or four pounds of cherries, two 20" x 20" filters full. It takes around 48 hours for the fruit to dry out, which means it'll be a warm night in our bedroom without the box fan... but it should be worth it!