Sunday, July 23, 2017

Simple Sunday-Goal Update Number One

This summer I'm joining other bloggers  including Andrea and Tamara on their summer fun journey. and sharing my summer goals. . Once I can figure out the technical logistics of the link up, I would love for others to join me. Meanwhile, this is my first update.

You'll notice that my bucket list seemingly does not have a great deal of self care alternatives.  I'm not denying myself!! A few months ago when I acknowledged that removing my own toenail polish was causing me pain and distress, I moved self care stuff to my health care budget. So monthly pedicures and massages are now a regular part of my life-just as an example:
  1. Complete three handmade gifts by mid September.  I'm far ahead on this. In fact I'll be taking the yoga mat bag and the Texas Rangers wall art with me in August-since it does not good to give a baseball fan gift in December.
  2. Hire someone to stabilize and fix our poor pergola and then get estimates on winterizing the thing. I've not even begun this. There is such a housing shortage here, as well as a shortage of contractors that I figure I will be better waiting for fall and telling folks I am in no rush.
  3. Spend at least one full hour daily just enjoying the yard, patio, and dogs.  Yes, yes, and yes. This one is easy!
  4. Learn how to use our gas grill. Not yet, but I've been promised a tutorial
  5. Turn all the remnants and unused stash in my studio into saleable items. Working...I've shared some photos here and I'll be putting more here and on my instagram page. 
  6. Go to exercise class two days a week (2 hours each of Silver Sneakers and Yoga). Yes, although I'm finding the yoga is not really yoga but "yoga stretch", so I'll probably be searching for a separate yoga class.
  7. Read at least two books each month that are out of my comfort zone a bit. I'm reading Mr Mercedes (out of my zone as I don't do Stephen King), and then I'll be reading the book below for my "Resist group" next month.  
  8. Take two full day or overnight driving trips in July, August and September and aim for one in June. Yes, because in general I assign Friday as day trips, even though they are in the greater area. No, because I doubt anything until late August will be over night-which is fine.
  9. Plan two summer short trips, one to the sand dunes of Colorado and the other to Montana.  While they are planned, an added trip to Texas and the heat will certainly put the Sand Dunes off until cooler weather.
  10. Complete the introduction and two chapters at a minimum of my DIY Craft book. Yes, and now editing before I share with others and do testing.
  11. Completely dig out and streamline my bedroom and studio. The bedroom is done except for disposing of the Goodwill bags and purchasing hanging closet shelves for my sweaters.
  12. Get seven hours of sleep every night. Yes!!!
  13. Have a "use it up" July.  I've done great on the use it up part, not quite as well at the no spend part (Thanks Prime Day!), but continuing, continuing.
  14. Hire a housekeeper and a Handy person (or a housekeeper who can caulk and such). Yes!! She has yet to start but I found a young woman who is a jack of all trades, and just charges by the hour, be it for deep cleaning, caulking the bathroom or whatever.
  15. Start and Finish the Genealogy Course through the Great Courses.  Started but not finished.
  16. Take an introductory weaving or felting class. Yes. My weaving class will begin when return from vacation.  
  17. Do something small for each of my kids by mail each month. Yes, succulents and indoor sky diving.  In August I'll take them to this gourmet chef restaurant.
  18. Hit the beach in August when I travel to Texas again to see daughter and grand puppies. We'll see if I do this in August or in the fall. My main goal is to check out a snowbird location and I'm wondering if cooler weather might not be a better time to judge what I think (I have plenty of outdoor and large lake experience in north Texas, so my ocean call this year is not as big as other years.)  
  19. Entertain outside at least once each month. Have not done this and don't feel bad about it. It's too darned hot, even with an outdoor fan
  20. Look at finding a way to have more of a capsule wardrobe, but one that does NOT involve project 333. Yes, and I'll be sharing this, as well as having a "what I wore" series once a month.
  21. Find out about local politics and become involved with the folks in my local party and chapter who are actively becoming involved in the midterms and raise my hand. Yes. The book above is for said group, I've been involved with the Dems in my district as well.
And there you have it. I'm allowing myself the laziest summer in record (I've been averaging a book every two days) and I'll be gone for three weeks in August. Since many of these goals are house and home related, nothing much will happen during that time except for dogs, swimming, dining out, and fun.

But that's okay.  Because, well, fun.

Friday, July 21, 2017

The (Frugal) Summer Slow Cooker-Low Country Boil (aka Frogmore Stew)

For half the year, I tend to use my slow cooker(s) constantly. That's right, I have three slow cookers. Four if you count the little one that makes three servings or appetizers. I cook in bulk a couple days a week at minimum, I use them for entertaining, and for cooking for the shelters.  I normally have used my slow cooker only in the slow months. Soups, stews, chili, cacciatori, and a bunch of other meals that are not best served in the summer.

This summer I've joined a challenge to use my slow cooker at least twice a week for summer meals, which meshes with my goal of cooking two bulk meals every week so folks can eat as they are home. It's also a money saving choice.  In our very hot summer (99 almost every day), chili was not going to work. And the slow cooker lets the house stay cool. Never mind the frugality of using less electricity and being able to use non-steak cuts of meat or having to grill in the heat.  
We did not throw our stew in paper towels, but rather settled for bowls and crusty bread! (my slow cooker sits in the darest corner of my kitchen, so this is a stock photo)

Last week, I typed in "summer slow cooker" and found this website. I made a barbecue chicken recipe that took four hours in the slow cooker. It goes without saying that during the summer I am unashamed to say that I rely on deli salads and breads to fill our "starchy" components. This week I wanted something more entertain-y for the weekend. I ended up finding this recipe for a Low Country Boil! Is it the exactly the same as the restaurant in Beaufort?  Probably not.  Yummy?  You Bet!  Frugal? Everything on sale or on hand except for the shrimp (and I tend to go to on the generous side on this), as well as being much cheaper than taking six people out to dinner. So good that I may try and make Paella in the slow cooker later this summer.

Next week? Back to the more traditional-barbecue country ribs cooked on high in the slow cooker! And just perhaps, cornbread in the second slow cooker?  Who knows.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Embracing a New Big Project (and Turning Nothing into Something)

In the past year I have not been into making large quilts as I have in the past. I've shared fewer creations on the blog. I've completely given up quilting as a business, and I have a ladder (literally) full of quilts that need to be done-and more in the closet.

I've not felt badly about backing off from quilting. I've embraced knitting. I amped up my volunteering by half a day for almost two years (and now have drawn back). I've been setting aside time to play with my art supplies that I was gifted (my first two projects were nothing more than drawing at various angles and shades so I could see what my pencils could do). I'm writing more, and about to start a second blog and a craft book. And last but not least, I'm finding that I sometimes prefer quick results in life. In other words, all is good.

This is generally my style of quilting, and this pattern from their web page is on my short list of things to make!
Last  year though,  I promised myself that I would make one large quilt as a gift each year and one for me. Sounds reasonable, right? This year, I am gifting my older brother a quilt-and my older brother loves those-as he calls them-old timey quilts. The ones our grandmothers made?  With the million tiny pieces at an angle? In the main, I am a semi modern quilter who prefers bright or super pastel colors. But I give other people what they want, realizing that mine is not the only way!

Vintage fabrics for a vintage quilt
 So. I am making my brother a double Irish chain bed quilt for Christmas.  I am.  I am. Quilters will understand what I just said. For the uneducated (just kidding folks, just kidding), the pictures below will give you an idea of what I am talking about. My thinking right now is that I will make the quilt like the dark blue pattern below, only "scrappy", using these fabrics on white and adding more greens. Or perhaps using these fabrics and a solid green background. Either way, that's many cutting of little pieces and many hours of sewing. You know that taking bites of the elephant thing? That's where I'll be, once I start this puppy.

Like this, only with many different fabrics?

Or like this but with a green background?

I somehow think this is too bright and modern!
 Most of the time I enjoy making smaller, unique projects that are either usable or celebratory (meaning holiday-ish). But occasionally I like an intensive larger project that I can go back to in between working on those small creative projects.  I already have one very large knitting project in my never ending log cabin blanket - which is due when I finish it.  The trick of course, is to start that big project early enough that you are not panicked in the end. And so, this July has literally become Christmas in July.

Putting remnants into blocks, and playing as I go!
But first, I need to spend a little more time sorting, organizing, and making some of those scraps and leftovers into real "stuff". So far I've made everything from simple two sided napkins, patchwork place mats cut from small pieces, cocktail napkins and some squares I'm still playing with that will be made from fabric scraps.

** I've committed today to posting a picture daily of something upcycled or saved from scraps on my Instagram page (link top right), and I'll also be posting pictures of my big project here and there, so feel free to stop by and check them out!

And now, to cut, measure, cut again, have dinner, put my feet up and start that new Michael Connelly novel that came out today!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Simple Sunday-This Week In Retirement

Today it's been a mere 85 instead of 95 or a hundred or so outside. This has meant that we've eve been able to leave some screens open and that at two PM the air has yet to go on in our well insulated house (admittedly our comfort level with air tends to be in the upper seventies).

This afternoon I have my monthly meeting at one of the two "Resist" groups I belong to where we will be talking about mid-term elections, and then I will go to church. My extra meeting means that my simple Sunday will be cut short and that dinner will be an "everyone fend for yourself night" of leftover beef roast, pork tenderloin and barbecue chicken.  In the summer my church moves it's 11 AM service to an hour earlier-and since I'm a slow riser I move to the late afternoon service for the summer

This has been a wonderfully quiet, mainly down, summer week. I am truly loving this summer of slowness:

What I Read:  I just finished the newest Linda Castillo Amish mystery, Down a Dark Road.  Earlier in the week I investigated a new to me author, Allison Brennan (the Max Revere series). I rate this series as just okay, after reading the first two books. Next? Either Mr. Mercedes or the new Michael Connelly mystery which is a new series.

What I watched/am watching:   Let's just say I am not one of those folks waiting for the new GOT season to begin later this evening.  This week has been a little psychotic I admit. I've been watching World of Dance.  I also watched the four part series The Defiant Ones, about the birth of Dr. Dre and NWA, as well as music producer Jimmy Levine (Tom Petty and more). For  those wondering why I would watch a series that is at it's heart about rap and hip hop, let me say that I like ALL music. And my kids came of age in Washington DC at the height of both the rap and MTV era. So not only do I love all kinds of music, I have been known to walk through the house when frustrated singing the lines from Gansta's Paradise! And because my son is watching Battlestar Gallactica for the first time, I'm getting a refresher course.

What I'm listening to:  I'm gonna give y'all a little hint here. Amazon music unlimited has as many if not more choices than Itunes. I spent my time this week making two rock and blues playlist and what what I called my "classic sorta" list which includes Gershwin and Slaughter on Tenth Avenue (my favorite short piece of modern classical/semi classical music).

What I worked on this week:  Not a great deal, truth be told. I'm continuing to work on my green shawl and in fact have gotten pretty far on the darned thing.  Today I'm going to cut out a yoga mat bag out of star wars fabric to make for my daughter and take down in August, as well as pillows for her sofa.  I worked a little bit in long hand on my craft book and also took a few pictures of family photos and memorabilia. ***For this summer, I promised myself that I would eat healthy, excercise every day, meditate every day, do some kind of computer time and spend some time in the house-and try to work on one project if the day moves me. So far this is working well, and given me lots of summer downtime.

What I accomplished:  The decluttering of my bedroom and my studio seemed to be a never ending job there for awhile. I'm doing both rooms because my studio is small and some large things are stored in my bedroom. My bedroom is not perfect but at least I know what needs to be done.  I'm not an expert but I'll add that it worked much better for me to first go through closets and drawers and jewelry boxes even though it added to the larger mess and then to start on the larger areas. I also managed to both exercise and do yoga four days this week with my pain level fairly low.

What I've Cooked:  Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Except for two pork tenderloins yesterday. This week coming I hope to get back to that goal of two meals a week. Heck, and maybe even do some baking.

What surprised me this week: I was reminded that small changes can reap big rewards, in this case when it comes to waking up. For years I have gotten up, grabbed this little tin and a soda, and crawled into my big chair to wake up. Problem was, I was wasn't awake enough. Being a night owl is worse, but my sleeping medication makes waking up a half an hour or so process, even when I'm "up".  My solution? Take that previously purchased cooler, add a coke, two hard  boilded eggs and a mini donut or roll and take them to bed. While many readers may be saying "What a lazy girl..." right about now, it's made a huge difference. That extra hour to forty five minutes in bed let's me wake up, have some basic nutrition, pray and meditate-and THEN face the world. Without dragging stuff from my nightstand elsewhere, and without having to "communicate" before I'm ready.  This small change is a win. And remember that bed table I got in May for Mother's Day?  This is a chance to use it!

Notebook, small tablet, candle, prayer beads, and paper. My "morning basket".

Today I am grateful for:  My religious community.  While I don't discuss faith or church often on this blog, I am incredibly lucky to have found a progressive church and one that has a huge sense of community within the church as well as without. I did go to a couple churches prior to this one, and this is not my so called neighborhood church, which is why when I do on rare occasions discuss church, I encourage those who are unhappy to keep on looking. 

First Photo-morning to silver sneakers to lunch to moves (you can do that cause silver sneakers is not high energy and because you don't sweat here in Colorado)

Obviously I need more selfie and the mirror experience!

What else:  I think I've shared with all of you that I have begun using a "fluff and fold" service, where the clothes get dropped off on Monday and are returned some time Thursday. This was a smart decision, and the money trade off I made (more later) was worth it. Only it coincided with my closet downsizing. So for the next week or so, I am doing a "what I wore and where I went" kind of thing in order to make sure that I have the outfits I need. I will probably make this a post when I'm done, but be warned. I am not a fashion blogger and I have chosen a deliberately casual lifestyle.

And what's coming this week?: You'll notice there was no road trip this week!  Next week, girl's day out will be to the Botanic gardens (budgeted for through a membership) and the Calder exhibit. And many photos I am sure.  Elsewhere?  I'd like to get some baking done, get started on that yoga bag. Add another book chapter, and that's it as far as goals and outings this week.

Happy Sunday to all!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Five Frugal Things 7/14

  1. I went to the movies  and to dinner and paid with gift cards from Swagbucks. After a coin toss between Baby Driver( hilarious, absolutely hilarious) and Planet of the Apes, we chose the former. And then set calorie requirements  aside to go to Red Robin and  have a gourmet burger. One that was so filling I had no need of salad or fries. Purchasing gift cards through Swagbucks is also a wonderful point earning option. Two of my books groups meet at Panera, and I go see movies monthly, so I often purchase these gift cards to earn points, just as I get travel gift cards at Kroger to earn fuel points
  2. I spent an afternoon cutting leftover pieces of fabric and unused fabric into items to sew for gifts. Since I am a girl of opportunity, I decided my "family gifts" for the upcoming holidays will be seasonal napkin sets. I also cut out a yoga mat bag for my daughter (not a surprise).
  3. I did a small amount of spending to save on Amazon Prime Day and purchased a Wi-Fi Fire tablet for thirty bucks. I'm now using my very large tablet like a laptop, with it connected to a hard keyboard, and needed something smaller than a large tablet but bigger than a phone for notes and such. When it comes to Amazon, my experience after this second year is that luggage, tools, devices and a few other things have deep discounts-the rest, not so much.
  4. I managed to avoid purchasing a book for book group for myself-and everyone else.  This was my month, and a couple months or so I chose American Gods as our discussion book. Along comes the TV series, and wait times for the book now run in the months. A quick group email confab, and the book of the month has been changed to Mr. Mercedes, more than available in the library. Of course, this will also be a TV series with Brendan Gleeson, but so far the demand is not there.
  5. I "played the system" and got mainly free health care products (mainly vitamins and supplements) from Target. I combined a gift card deal with Target Cartwheel and paper coupons to get free stuff.  You just have to know how to work the deals (which took me all of about ten minutes before getting into the store). I may have to write about that one. Pictures later.
And so it goes.  What, if any, were your frugal wins or fails this week?

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Frugal Gifting-Anatomy of A "Winning" Project. (And that prime day thing)

Folks, two people have tried to leave comments and have apparently had them dropped. This may be a one time or server thing, but please let me know if you are unable to post, or unable to reach me by email!  Should you want to contact me by email, you can use either  or This info is also on the side but I never want anyone to have difficulty reaching me in any way!  Thanks so much as always for stopping by.

Sigh.  While this is still a designated no spend month (a post coming about that, I promise), today I fell down the rabbit hole into the evil empire that is Amazon Prime.  All joking aside, this was a planned spend.  For fellow bloggers and readers that have Alexa, you'll understand when I said one Echo Dot was not enough.  And, while we arent ready to give up cable due to the sports streaming issues, an Amazon Fire stick had been at the top of the shopping list for awhile. Because the frugal retiree likes instant gratification as well as the next person, instead of waiting for two day shipping, she drove fifteen minutes or so to the big mall. The one where Amazon has a pop up-and came home with all devices.

Seriouusly though folks, a quick perusal tells me that if you don't need tools, big TV's or Amazon devices there is not that much there. But then again I'm not looking for anything else, so my perspective may be different.

Meanwhile.  I am one of those folks that buys things I like. That means fabric, decorative paper, shrimp and lobster, you name it. Yesterday I showed my daughter my star wars fabric that was purchased because my kids love Star Wars as adults and it was on sale. Do I know what I will do with it?  No.  My daughter is mainly different as was my husband. Decide what to get and then get the stuff to make it-and nothing else. Opposites do attract. 

Knowing that all of John's family lives in Texas and love the Texas Rangers (baseball), I had grabbed up a pile of fabric some time back when Hancock's went out of business. I took it home and set it  on a shelf.  A couple weeks ago, I was beginning my decluttering/organization and pulled it back out, took and photo and shared it on Facebook with friends and family.  My sister-in-law sent me a  message and asked "Is there any way you could turn this into something for my wall?".  She and her husband are huge sports fans and have an area with recliners and a big TV and sports memorabilia and art.

I'll admit, I had to think on it for more than a minute. I mean, this was fabric. I'd already made her placemats and napkins and the like, and I understood she needed to go another way. But how to make this into a "picture"?  Most wall art is of a different kind.  Fortunately, my mental computer and Pinterest gave me a solution.  I would cut the fabric in the shape of the picture frame. Then I would cut out a solid piece of fabric in the shape of the state of Texas and attach it to the front. I'd add a couple pieces of embellishment, and put Texas Rangers in modern stickers on the front.  

While it did take me a while to think of what I wanted to do, this will end up being the perfect gift for Susan-and frankly, one that almost anyone could do. 
  1. It wasn't costly, in fact, it will end up being fairly cheap. Even if I had had to buy both pieces of fabric, a few bucks would have covered that.  I purchased a fancy baseball button to be the state capital for a couple dollars and the same for stickers. In fact the most expensive part of the whole deal was the shadow box style frame-which one can find for a dollar or two at any given thrift store on any given day. In my case I had it on hand.
  2. It requires basically no skill. I cut out a piece of fabric slightly bigger than the frame. I cut out a piece of fabric in the Texas shape.  (by printing a map, cutting it out and reversing it). I attached my Texas in red by ironing on via a piece of paper that was sticky on each side. I could also have attached with fabric glue. While my next step is to sew around the edges to adhere the red,  that could be left as it is. Or the edges could have been sealed by getting a cheap tube of fabric paint and putting it around the edges.  The point is, anyone, including readers and kids, could probably do this particular project. The effort was in the deciding what to do, not the doing.
  3. It can be changed around. I could have gotten red white and blue paper and solid red paper and made that into a frame. If I had any art skills whatsoever, I could have painted the thing. On card stock or a piece of paper. And for now, I chose a black picture frame in order to match her decor. But it would also have been fun to get a cheap white frame and maybe "antique" it with some read and blue. Again-a dollar or so at the max, paying full price.
  4. And most importantly, this is a wow, because frankly, team wall art costs a fortune if you were to purchase it at one of those memorabilita stores, or even on Etsy or at craft fairs. Heck, even one of those painted found boards are much more costly. When I make gifts, I usually try to make a knock off or a better version of unique and one of a kind gifts. 
So far I have pulled out the fabrics, run to the store and grabbed my glittery buttons and stickers and tentatively pulled an old frame from my many picture frames. Not counting the store trip (which was done as part of my weeky errands), the active doing time was about fifteen minutes to cut the fabrics and five to iron on the red Texas. So this is a low effort, work on it when you get time gift as well.  And since it's hot and I have alot of inside time, well.............!!  

Because I'm doing a step by step instruction on this for one of my women's groups, starting on Thursday (tomorrow is knitting and happy hour), I'll be posting step by step pictures of everything I've done on Instagram (see the button top left)

And because I'm the Frugal Retiree, everything for this project was pulled from my fabric "pantry", from fabric only purchased on sale. Purchased items like this stickers and buttons, were purchased using a gift card earned from Swagbucks, making this a zero-cost gift (more on that later).

And because I am NOT a Texans fan as such (coming from Baltimore Orioles country before the Nationals even existed), this is a labor of love, as well. I may have to make another one-but I wont be cutting out an Oriole shape any time soon.  A big "O" perhaps?

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Go To National Parks? You May Want to GetThat Pass Sooner Rather Than Later!

My apologies to all. The former researcher extraordinaire fell down on the job this one. It looks like we are talking anytime they decide to make the change between now and December (the park service refuses to commit, lol). Nevertheless, for the newly sixty and above, realize that it does that awhile for the application and if you are traveling, please do not wait.  Onward and forward.
Happy Sunday everyone!  It's almost twelve and I'm typing from bed after little sleep, thinking about grabbing a nibble and another nap.  Either way, at a hundred degrees out this is an inside day for the next few hours.

Meanwhile this is a public service announcement. Some of you who have annual park tickets may have received this notice, and others may have read it. But since we are in that last half month before rate increase:  Right now, seniors pay 10 dollars for an annual, go as often as you can park pass.  A lifetime pass, I might add

Starting the first of August, folks, that lifetime fee jumps to $80.  That's right $80. I happen to  think that $80 is still a scary good deal if you visit very many  parks over a the years as some of my fellow bloggers do.  And if that were the only lifetime fee option, I would absolutely pay it, even thought I generally hit two parks a year(this year Yellowstone and one in Texas).  As I understand it, that extra money is put into an endowment for park purposes. But still if you don't have a pass and have been meaning to get one, you may want to take advantage of that special price while you can, do it this month.  Got it?

Now go enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Simple Sunday-Goal Update Number One

This summer I'm joining other bloggers  including   Andrea   and   Tamara   on their summer fun journey. and sharing my summer goals. . ...