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Monthly Archives: January 2012

The Compact

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I don’t make any excuses for being frugal. I am both by circumstance and by choice, and I’ve learned to some extent to curb my acquisitive side in order to feed my thrifty side. I like saving money more than I like buying stuff.

I’m sure my family is horrified by my thrifty ways. I shop at the Goodwill, discount stores, I’ll take free things, and I’ve been known to trash pick from time to time. I pick up pennies (and dimes and nickels and quarters) I find on the ground, and I check the change slot on vending machines. I save my change, stray dollar bills go into my secret fund, and I take pop cans to the recycling place every so often. Here in Iowa, there’s a five-cent deposit on cans and bottles and I’d rather get that money back, and have some added to it with anything I might pick up along the way, than throw money away. All that squirreling away helped pay for a vacation two years ago, my car, a doctor’s visit or two (I have no insurance so just an office call is spendy), gifts, and on and on. Little things add up.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about following The Compact to see how hard or easy a prospect it might be to pledge not to buy new for a year–with a few exceptions, of course–because it would both be an interesting experience and because I suspect I follow it fairly closely anyway. I didn’t buy much new last year–some clothes I was in pretty desperate need of, gifts, shoes, that kind of thing. And yarn. Oh dear. There was yarn.

I’m still in the thinking stages on this, but I’m leaning toward giving it a go, and have mentally prepared a list of the things that would be exceptions. Food and medications, of course, along with home and personal care items, whatever the cat needs, socks and underwear, and shoes. I just can’t bring myself to buy used shoes. I’ve tried it and it creeps me out and really, there’s no amount of Lysol spray that can de-cootify used shoes. Clothes, bedding and the like  can be washed before use and it’s good as new, so that’s not a problem. All of my current bedding came from the Sally Ann or was given to me and I sleep just fine.

Should gifts be exempt too? I’m not opposed to giving something used if it’s an item the recipient would appreciate and use, but I am opposed to giving some craptastic junk just because it’s cheap. Thoughts?

I’d be interested in hearing of your thrifty ways, if you have them, so please respond with your experiences. Until then, I’m off to pinch some pennies.

Closing in

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Yesterday marked my 95th blog post. The 95th in 95 days. That’s either an accomplishment to take pride in or kind of weird, but whatever it is, I feel compelled to continue on to 100 in 100 days, after which I may take a bit of a rest. I’m pretty certain I want to keep blogging, but perhaps not at quite the same pace.

I’m not much of a goal setter, and that might well explain why I’m where I am in life, or it could be that I’m just exactly where I should be. I don’t think so, really, else I wouldn’t be so itchy to get out of Dodge, but the notion of aiming toward that 100 mark has stayed with me for some time now. It wasn’t even on the radar when I started the blog. I don’t know what was, other than I had the need to write. I still do. I’m not sure where I became aware of thinking of 100 posts in 10o days, but whenever it happened, it took root and it’s been growing since. It was something to aim for. A goal. And now that I’m closing in on it, I’m both a little astonished and pleased that something I’ve set out to do looks feasible.

I’ve found in other areas of life that having some short-term goals, and having them written down–and there’s that whole “writing is magic” thing again–has helped me in getting some things done instead of perpetually farting around about needing to do whatever it is and never quite getting around to it. To-do lists have been most helpful in the de-crapping I’ve been doing, and you know? it’s felt really good to cross tasks off my list. Why it’s taken me so long to figure this out remains a mystery, but better late than never, I guess.

On my list this week are tasks in the de-crapping project, some knitting that needs to be finished up, and walking. Nice warm weather (for this time of year) is forecast and I don’t want to miss it. I’d also like to get my bike in riding condition, and I need to work somewhere in there, too.

Closing in. Getting closer. Hitting some goals. It feels good.


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I spent most of yesterday afternoon moving things. Up and down the stairs, carrying heavy, awkward, bulky things, loading them into my car, dragging them into my house, putting them away–and I’m sore. My friend, the subject of yesterday’s post, gave me much of what she wasn’t able to take with her on her move to another state.

I’m grateful to get these things. It seems, initially, that bringing a lot of things into the house when I’m working through my own things and lightening the number of my possessions runs counter to the spirit of the Great De-crapping. Not so.

The food she gave me left me with a nicely stocked pantry. I was given a chest of drawers, which will replace the plastic bin unit I now store my unmentionables in. More room equals no more cramming, and just maybe I’ll clear out the unnecessary unmentionables. A slip? Really? I haven’t worn a dress in ten years, so why do I need a slip? 20 pair of white socks? Maybe I should back off on buying them for a while.

Best of all, I now have a bike. I’ve wanted a bike for ages but somehow never quite came up with the money. My car would need attention or the cat needed to go to the vet or some other thing siphoned off the money meant for a bike, but now–I have one, and it’s just what I wanted–a single-speed cruiser with back pedal brakes, and it’s turquoise! Happy day!

I wish my friend could have taken all of her things with her. I’d rather she have these things than me, but that couldn’t be, so I am grateful to have and use them. When I do, most especially when I’m out on my bike, I’ll be thinking of my generous friend and wishing her a windfall, something that will benefit her and make her happy, too.


I’ll see you later

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I’ve had a lifetime of goodbyes, as we all have. Some I’ve been eager to say. A few have been hard. I had such a goodbye yesterday.

This one was bittersweet. On the positive side, this is a fresh start for my friend, and I can’t be anything but glad about that. She’ll be moving to Colorado to join her boyfriend there, and he’s a peach. I have no doubts that this will be good for them both. So I am happy for her. For him, as well.

But. I will miss my friend.

We met through a long-defunct Meet-up knitting group. The first couple of times we got together with a few other knitters, she sat, head down, knitting away, only speaking when someone asked her a direct question. She seemed nice, but so quiet, and I didn’t quite know what to make of her. About the third time the group was to meet, it was just the two of us, and I wasn’t all that enthused at the prospect. She was half my age, quiet, almost painfully shy, and we had nothing in common except knitting. I thought it was going to be awkward, to say the least.

I sat down and said hello and I don’t know what happened but we started talking and kept talking, about everything and nothing, and some two or three hours later, an unlikely friendship had been formed.

Over the next couple of years, we’d get together from time to time for long hours of knitting and talking that passed in a heartbeat, and I always left feeling glad of the time with her, but I didn’t really know how much she’d come to mean to me until this week, when she told me that the plans to move had all come together, almost too quickly, and she’d be leaving at the end of the week.

I stopped by her place one last time yesterday, to pick up a few items she won’t be taking with her and to say goodbye. We’ve never been huggers, but we did yesterday, and I didn’t want to let go. But I had to. I didn’t want to tear up, either, but I did. So did she. When I left, I couldn’t say goodbye. It was “I’ll see you later.”

Safe travels, friend. Be happy. I wish that for you more than anything else. Be happy.

And I’ll see you later.

Freeplay Friday

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I have a crush on you, sweetie pie.

Not you, him. This guy whose video I’m posting. I know, there was that brief period when I was withdrawn and sulking over his unfortunate choice of life partner, and there are moments when I’m still just the tiniest bit bitter that he married Nicole Kidman instead of me, but mostly I’ve gotten over it and I do wish them well. Mostly.

I still have a crush on him.

And I’d love to have someone say something like this to me and mean it.


The Great De-crapping of 2012

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It’s been a pretty good week in de-crapping and I’m feeling better about the state of things here. Still a long way to go, but I’ve made a dent.

I have a staging area in the basement where I pile stuff that needs to go and while it wasn’t quite taking over that part of the basement, it was encroaching until a day or two ago. I filled up one large garbage bag and three grocery-sized bags with clothes, books, and craft supplies, and headed to the Goodwill. Gone! out of my house and, I hope, into the homes of others who need those things.

Yesterday I ushered out a large shopping bag filled with trash. Over the next few days, some yarn and knitting books will be passed along to knitting pals, and I hope to get several tote bags full of magazines out of here by the end of the month.

The magazines were all free, and a big part of my “it’s cheap or it’s free” entertainment policy. Free, you say? Yep. Here’s the deal: my public library has a magazine exchange. The idea is a pretty simple one–you bring in magazines you no longer want, put them in the bins provided, and whoever wants them can take them. It’s a popular feature of the library, and I can’t go there without pawing through those bins to see if my  favorites–Real Simple and Readymade–are in there.  Since it’s free entertainment,  I’ll load up on anything, really, that piques my interest, but therein also lies the problem. I don’t mind bringing a stack of mags home, but taking them back when I’m done with them is no fun at all and they tend to pile up. To an embarrassing extent. Ahem. Out they go.

So, overall, a pretty good week and month in de-crapping, and I have plans for next month. Stay tuned. It’s gonna be fun.

UPDATE: one bag of yarn and two (two!) bags of magazines are outta here!

Lyrical Wednesday

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I dream of this. Long for it. The long winding openness of the road spreading out in front of me, back roads beckoning, the escape from the everyday-ness of the everyday. This was offered to me once, this “let’s just get in the car and go” kind of adventure, and it’s one of the big regrets of my life, that I didn’t go when I could have. When I should have. When I might have taken flight.


by James Tate

for K.

Like a glum cricket
the refrigerator is singing
and just as I am convinced

that it is the only noise
in the building, a pot falls
in 2B. The neighbors on

both sides of me suddenly
realize that they have not
made love to their wives

since 1947. The racket
multiplies. The man down the hall
is teaching his dog to fly.

The fish are disgusted
and beat their heads blue
against a cold aquarium. I too

lose control and consider
the dust huddled in the corner
a threat to my endurance.

Were you here, we would not
tolerate mongrels in the air,
nor the conspiracies of dust.

We would drive all night,
your head tilted on my shoulder.
At dawn, I would nudge you
with my anxious fingers and say,
Already we are in Idaho.

I’m not an addict. I’m not!

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So you recall yesterday’s post about the blanket I’m making? I worked in the ends last night and am dithering a little about what color or colors to use for the border. It’s a delay tactic and I know it and I don’t care. As much as I’ve sometimes moaned about this project and the endless knitting and how long it was taking and those freaking long expanses of garter stitch, I have absolutely loved this project. LOVED it.

This has been one of those rare convergences of pattern, yarn, and color choice that, combined, add up to perfect. That doesn’t happen too often in my world and when it does, can you blame me for wanting to hold onto that for a while longer?

I’ve mentioned the melancholy that comes with the completion of any project I’ve loved and I’m sure feeling it now. I’m not saying I’ll frog my blanket just so I can knit it again, but–I’ve been looking at yarn and dreaming of starting another one, despite what I wrote yesterday about rebound romances. I’m craving the satisfaction of knitting a big honking warm blanket, of always having something on the needles that I can just pick up and knit on ’til the cows come home, of having my knitting basket full of yarny love, peace, and fleece . . . so okay, I may be slightly addicted to this pattern/recipe/way of knitterly life. Again, I don’t care. I love this project. What’s more, I have a stash and I have (clean) needles and I know how to use them, so you will not be astonished if another one finds its way onto my needles and into my woolly little heart.

I must knit.

Almost finished

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It’s been a long-term project, begun in October 2010. It’s a well-traveled project, too, as I’ve mentioned before, having gone with me each trip I made to see Mr. F. Not much ever got done on it while I was there, but it was there if I needed it. My security blanket.

It was meant to be a Christmas gift in 2011 and I wrapped it in tissue paper and put it in a gift bag, ball of yarn and needles still attached, along with a note saying I’d finish it soon.

Somehow I didn’t think it would be this soon, even though my goal has been to complete it by the end of January. Of this year.

I put the final stitch in it last night as I was watching Downton Abbey, then bound it off while watching Upstairs Downstairs (the new series. I’m watching it only because my local PBS station is showing it following Downton Abbey. It seriously lacks the sparkle of the original series). My blanket still needs a crocheted border–I’d considered an applied I-cord, and while it’s not difficult, it would take approximately forever and more patience than I have to do that much I-cord–so crochet it is. Ends will have to be woven in as well, and if I were a fastidious knitter, it’d be given a gentle bath before it’s given to its recipient, but I’m not that fastidious so it’s going with a little dirt on its face.

That last stitch was both an accomplishment and a bit of a sorrow. I’ve loved this knit, though sometimes it was a bit of a slog, and sometimes I thought it’d never be done. But I’d be lying if I said anything other than I’ve loved it. The colors, the yarn, the soft squishy warmth of it, the simple but lovely garter stitch–nothing but knit, knit, knit–that resulted in a thing of beauty–how could I not love it? This is easily the largest and most satisfying thing I’ve knit,  but now it’s almost time to let it go and that makes me a little melancholy. That’s the inherent risk involved in loving anything or anyone, though–there is nearly always a time of letting go.

My impulse is to start another one right away, but there’s a danger in jumping back in too quickly. Those rebound romances seldom seem to work out, so I’ll bide my time. There may come another time when I’m ready for this kind of long-term commitment again, or maybe not. It’s hard to say right now. But time will tell, as it does in all things. Until then, I have the joy of what has been.

The details:

My blanket is based on the Moderne Log Cabin pattern, though I did my own variation on it, mostly knitting to the end of a skein or two to get my blocks to the sizes I wanted them. I used Brown Sheep Lamb’s Pride yarn, a lovely blend of 85% wool and 15% mohair that is soft and warm and knits up beautifully. The colors are Creme, Spice, Grey Heather, Charcoal Heather, and Deep Charcoal.  I cast on using (probably) size nine needles and did the knitting with size 8s, then bound off with size 9s. I used Clover Circular needles, my favorites, in lengths ranging from 24″ up to 48″. The almost finished product is nearly full-size bed sized and should be plenty warm for the perpetually cold recipient.

That's a lot of knitting.

I’m kind of proud of this.

Too much

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If I were to choose a phrase for the past week, it’d be “too much.”

There’s been too much:







Computer time.

I could keep going, but you get the idea. All this “too much-ness” has left me in kind of a funk for a few days, but there are a few simple ways for me, and you, if you’re in a funk too, to break out of it.

1. Move. I don’t mean pick up and move somewhere else, although that might work, too. I mean just get up and get in motion.

2. Act energetic. This is the old “fake it ’til you make it” strategy, and oddly enough, it works. Energy begets energy. Act like you have some and you will have some. Try it. I’m going to.

3. Change your perspective. Sit somewhere you don’t normally sit. Get out of the house or your office or wherever you’ve been spending the majority of your time lately and go somewhere different.  Take a walk or a drive someplace new.

4. Do something for someone else. Plug someone else’s parking meter–only don’t let the meter fiend catch you. Apparently it’s not exactly legal around here. Hold open a door for someone else. Buy a cup of coffee for the person in line behind you. Pay someone’s fine at the library.

5. Choose to eat what’s good for you, and just until you’re almost full. I learned a while back that overeating diminishes the pleasure of eating, though I seem to keep forgetting it. I also keep forgetting that the foods that leave me feeling best are the least processed. This morning, though, I chose to have a couple of clementines with my breakfast and their sweet juiciness was a great way to start my day. As a bonus, that wonderful citrus scent still lingers.

I’m making it a good day, and one where there’s only too much of the good stuff. Happy Sunday to you!