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Blog: Pam's Pennypinching With STYLE

Pam's recounting of how her ancestrally thrifty habits have helped her in modern life in ways none of her foremothers could have imagined!

Showing 16 posts from December 2008 for this blog.
New Yr's Eve
Wednesday, December 31, 2008

We have finally gotten up to the boat up in Oxnard - and it has been warmer than I thought - (altho today 12/31, it's foggy and chilly) -

We have been thinking about New Yr's Eve, which we spend up here - and finally decided to hang out with the crowd up at the clubhouse here - They plan to grill outside - and there is even going to be a spread - So we picked up some champagne - the Chandon was on sale and then some Barefoot bargain bubbly...

I have never been able to justify spending $100 per person for New Year's Eve!  They are advertising $55 per person as a bargain! We have in years past just found a local joint and danced rock n roll - we are going to stay close to the harbor - but there are options if the clubhouse is too quiet...

I had planned my wardrobe for a restaurant or such - not for the clubhouse - but we went to the thrift shops of Main St. Ventura and I somehow picked up a top with gold embroidery at the neck (from the Limited, it says)  for $.95!!  which I can wear with jeans & glittery sox for $.30 (and a scarf at the Dollar Tree) - with the glittery shoes that I brought along and my gold toned jewelry.  That should do it....And we also picked up two 2000 fairly sturdy champagne flutes for $.10 each....At least we will know which drinks are ours.

We hit the local Dollartree and 99 Cent Store - and I got some more headbands - stretchy wide ones in gray/blue/black - if they weren't so cheap, I couldn't afford the variety - and they do rescue my hair! And I bought more of the lotion my hubby got for Xmas that he really liked - Found sets of short ladies sox at the 99 Cent store - and some of my garlic pills - and we picked up cleaning supplies, etc. They also had some Revlon lipstick - and I picked up one darker shade which seems to blend well, and three of the little combos. 

When I was in the drug store I checked and the regular price for Revlon lipsticks is $7.99!!  But I rarely pay that much - seems that I can make do with my favorite colors from Wet N Wild and what I can glean from the 99 Cent Store and other bargain outlets.  Whenever I see a good deal, I stock up and that seems to take care of my needs for the most part - except for mascara  - and I even got mascara at Big Lots along with my Revlon makeup  kits - (eye/lip/cheeks) for a couple of dollars.  Maybe I compensate quanitty for savings - but I don't think so if a lipstick goes for $7.99 or even 1/2 that on sale!

It is fun to look at the real prices.  I never pay them anymore - I wonder how people do...And we could never afford to go away over Xmas if not to the boat - our cottage by the sea - not when rooms at choice areas are $150/night....I hate spending that much on a room and a BED.  As my mother used to say, all you do is SLEEP in it!

Also found some more pulp fiction at a junky thrift store - included a novel from 1915 - which was quite charming - I like older popular novels sometimes...literary orphans, they are....

We end up going shopping up here - as it is easier to bop around - yesterday we went up to Carpinteria and strolled up the main drag - and I window shopped in the nice antique store - and picked up a necklace for $5 (on sale from $17!) from one of the tony dress shops & some used books from the library bookstore - Then we went for a walk on the beach and watched the sun go down - until it got chilly and we drove to the bluffs and watched the sun go into the sea and Mark took pix with the camera in my phone (I can't work it yet - but it is curiously nice to have with one...)

It was a weekday so we could go to the happy hour at the local joint, the Whale's Tail - and have their "readjustment hour" specials (selected items are 1/2 price & well drinks cheap, too) and some cheese and crackers, and a glass of wine for me - and look out on the lights in the harbor.

Oh, and on the food front, last night I cashed in my free dinner coupon for Boston Market which I received for being a Bzz Agent and in the Boston Mkt campaign- On account of it being a freebie - I got the meat - and Mark used the coupon for $3 off a dinner over $7 - so we got the whole thing for 1/2 off or $10 - such a deal! The steak was great, too and even at full price a good deal....

(And I think hubby used coupons for Subway at lunch - I am training him to use coupons for fast food....)  We have been having breakfast at home at the boat - Mark can go up and get hot coffee from the clubhouse and he bought a great soy milk creamer by Silk that has a vanilla flavor - & good for us, too.

All this makes me think of my mother - On our road trips we would have cereal for breakfast out of the little cardboard boxes they used to have that could even serve as bowls. (I ate mine dry.) and we would have picnick lunches - She even brought a little Sterno stove so she could make hot coffee or tea.  Almost camping, without the tents - just as the boat is sortta camping - but with a heater!

She taught me lots of valuable lessons - and they have served me well.  It amazes me that so many folks seem to have slept through the home lessons on thrift!  They can't do things like sew on buttons!  Amazing!

I certainly know how - and looking at my description of our Xmas vacation time, we are doing very nicely!  Happy Holidays to you, too -

Any stories on how you pinched a penny or 2 to make your holidays a great time?

P.S. Do you know that if greeting cards are a bit too large for a nice envelope - you can haul out the papercutter and trim them just a bit on both sides- so that they fit...? Did this at Xmas - but it works around the year.

Cheers to you again!  Let's hear how you all spent New Yrs.

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Playing with Fire
Saturday, December 27, 2008

By S.Californian standards our current weather is just glacial.  We  have been putting on the heaters and piling on the blankets and dragging out the sweaters.  (On Xmas Eve I finally got to wear my find of a Norwegian sweater to church for the evening Xmas service...)

And - ugh -  I have the start of a cold, which I am trying to squelch - Gargling with hot salt water for a scratch throat.  So that precludes going up into the snow TODAY.

I have been enjoying taking out our stock of candles.  Hubby unearthed a silver candelabra I had picked up as a potential prop at a yard sale - and it was perfect on the Xmas table for the hand-dipped red tapers I had found at the thrift shop.  They do burn nicely and I started them early to burn off the slight drooping on top, which had made them bargains to begin with. Then, of course, no one could tell.  And the candelabra looked so fancy with the great heirloom china plates and my Grandmother's silverplate (which somehow came out of the silver bags relatively free from tarnish - which I don't get, as the last time I looked at them, I recall they were on the black side - ??).

I have been grouping candles around the house - first for mini-"altars" to remind me to send good thoughts to an ill friend across the country...but they do generate heat, too.

As I have said before, I am fascinated by those candle heaters - and I have just rigged up an aluminum pie plate via a ceramic angel's wings against a brass lamp over a grouping of pillar candles - and it is heating up.  And I put another tin behind a candle I have in a wrought iron holder - which is also radiating a bit of heat. (I am being very careful - none of these items is hot enough to be dangerous, I don't think - but I am watching them!) And all of the pillar candles are on glass plates which also catch the wax. And since matches seem to be in short supply - I am relighting the candles with old toothpicks!

Actually, I just turned off the heater!

What is it about playing with fire?  a primitive instinct - just make sure if there are kiddies about that they don't get into it!  We are all adults here, and no pets - so no problem.

It is like tending a group of little fires and as close to a fireplace as I will get in my little Hollywood apartment.  By the end of the year and this season of light, I bet I will have burned all the candles on hand right up and will have to stock some more....

Trouble is that I have  made our living room area enough like a ski lodge that I am quite happy to sit here in my comfy chair and read and listen to music.  But haven't you noticed that the Xmas TV  fare has run to the macabre?  Either sugary kid's stuff or famous murders - are they all cynics or what?

It's hubby that's antsy - but he's off to the music store to spend the gift card he got unexpectedly - Oh, did I say that I WON a Macy's gift card from one of my bargain fashion sites? Hasn't come yet - but hope to get something now that post-Xmas prices have been slashed....

So I am very grateful for all - and content - incipient cold or no...





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Wrapping & So On
Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Finally got to wrapping hubby's present(s).  And had a little brain storm.  I had the fairly plain paper from the liquor folks and I made big gift labels, cutting out portions of old Xmas cards that were in the Xmas box! Then I addressed them, glued them to the box, and voila! Gonna save the cards from next year for that!

And I reused boxes of the presents that had been sent to us via UPS to box up the things, if only to disguise the shape a bit! And when the gifts are open, I will try to save some of the paper and ribbons to use again! The great thing about gift bags is that they are practically immortal and can be used (carefully) over and over! I am actually using the stash of Xmas bags from last year.

I also put some of the small present s in a nice basket in our tree area - it organizes them and looks very nice, too.

Put the cards that came on a ribbon board shaped like a big Xmas stocking, that I got on sale last weekend ($2).  It's red satin with a green top with green and red satin ribbons across - and you can slip the Xmas cards under the ribbons.  (That's something you could make yourself at home.)  I like ribbon boards. It also has a loop, so I have hung it like a stocking on the bureau in the livingroom (with a heavy paper clip) - which decorates a plain wood surface - and helps, because we have so little room here & and the wall space is almost taken over already.

Husband says that it's real cozy here - and I am happy to have achieved that.  Taking out the good china and such from storage for Xmas dinner at home.  I want to make it very special. 

Men don't get the "good china" bit - but it does make it festive! I have some I inherited from my godmother and items from my grandmother - it makes me feel connected and with family, somehow. My mother used to do that and take out the things in the china cabinet for special times- no china cabinet here - but we have a credenza of sorts - and with a little trouble can unearth things.  My domestic treasures.

Feel close to my mother this season - with all the practical skills she taught me resonating in my head - perhaps it's because I saw snippits of "Grey Gardens" last night - about the aunt and cousin of Jacqueline Kennedy on the Bouvier side who slipped into living in squalor in a manse in the Hamptons.

The film and the resulting musical revel in their excentricity - but somehow I found them so helpless.  I mean, they had a great house and land and some nice things left over - couldn't they have been more resourceful? The house looked great, with a lovely staircase...but they let it go to rack and ruin.  Is that marvelous excentricity?  I just saw them as cats who had been domesticated, the claws cut, raised on Fancy Feast and delicacies who when left in the wild went slightly feral.

It's my Scandinavian background - my grandmother's place was neat as a pin until she died in her 90's. My houskeeping is nowhere as good!  But I can sew and cook and just make DO, and I take pride in that.  If those ladies were so clever, why couldn't they have done a bit better and lived at least in gentile poverty?  They say there was no madness there, but I do think I see it.  Squalor is a madness of sorts in and unto itself.  But enough of that - I think it's the bag lady specter that looms in the shadows for many women as an ultimate dire fate....Again  - Basta! Let's be grateful for our domestic blessings.

Here's to a warm, tidy and comfy Xmas everyone!



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Almost Xmas!
Tuesday, December 23, 2008

It's almost there - my hubby is off & he thought tonite was Xmas Eve!  But I have one more day to wrap presents (after finding them) and getting last minute cards & tiny gifts out.

Hubby unveiled a luvly new Oriental-style rug for the living room - like the other small ones he had found.  I am still in mourning for my old Persian rug & these are very nice, albeit new.  I AM coloring in some of the cream parts of the rug with permanent blue marker -  to give it that bit of punch!  Makes it look more like my old Persian one...dark red/black/cream with some blue is a tradtional color mix.

Also picked up some long needled pine on our walk around a Valley neighborhood near my therapist - the imprint on the sidewalk says 1925 and it is a lovely area, all leafy with mature trees and full of flowers even now in December.  The pine went into one of my pine arrangements to fill it out!

I recycle my cards year after year - and put the ones I don't send in my Xmas box.  Some edges sometimes get creased - or they don't fit the nice envelopes - so I took out the paper cutter and cut off just enough on each side so one card would fit into the nice lined envelope (you really can't tell the card was trimmed) and I trimmed an edge of another card.  Took out my red felt calligraphic pen to address the cards & write my greetings inside.  Makes my handwriting look great!

Also put together a gift bag for my elderly neighbor lady - she is living on a VERY limited income - and has had a hard life - so I try to give her holiday touches - as I said here before, I made a pine bough arrangement for her - and put an Xmas decoration on her door (which is right across from mine).  For the gift bag (recycled from a gift to US - those gift bags seem immortal) I put in all sorts of samples that I have been given - packets of Tide, shampoo, conditioner, fancy soap, lotion, some vitamin packets, a sample of a heat pack for her joints and so on...Almost ALL of it came from my freebie hunting!

Have to wrap hubby's presents - we are being so good this year and putting every package we receive under our tiny tree! Using the gift wrap the zany Makers Mark people gave us - and such NICE ribbon, too! (altho if you look very closely the snowflakes are made out of whiskey bottles! and the ribbon has their name on it - all which is hysterial because my husband has been sober for almost 20 years!)

We are playing Xmas music out of our collection of CDs and tapes. I had no idea that we had that MANY.  In Christmases past the 99 Cent Store had lots of Xmas CDs, and I bought the whole series for us and gave away CDs as Xmas presents.  (My brother got a Jazz Xmas CD at Thanksgiving which I had found and put in the Xmas box.)

Going to dig up my Xmas sheet music and try to play some on my concertina! And we are planning to go to the "midnite" service at our church which is actually at 7:30 - a curious hour. No special music as in years past - but I can sing Xmas carols with the best of them, and what with the diva in residence ailing, I do know that they need my musical input....

Was telling my therapist that this is the best Xmas I have had in years.  Maybe it's the change in my drugs (I AM bipolar, but not the axe murderer kind)...but whatever it is - I am really enjoying it.

I wish the same for you ALL!



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Homemade Xmas
Monday, December 22, 2008

My hubby and I were wondering whether to go out to dinner - as we did last year - but somehow this year a dinner at home seems more appropriate.  We got Cornish game hens, which are a good alternative for 2 people - and are planning a nice menu.

This is going to be FUN!  I am going to take out the good china, which I rarely use and the nice glasses and the serving dishes and do it up proud!

The apartment is all decorated and homey - and we will just spend quality time a deux (the 2 of us).  This is one of the advantages of a happy marriage!





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The Scent of Xmas - on the Cheap!
Thursday, December 18, 2008

It's quiet here after the storm -

Yesterday, besides the candles, I decided to put some spices in water to boil on the stove to make the place smell Xmasy and frankly to add some warmth to that part of the apartment at the same time! - I found powdered cinnamon (and then some stick cinnamon) and added powdered cloves.  (The real cloves are probably better, but that was all I had.) If I had had orange or tangerine rinds, I would have added that, too - but I substituted some lemon extract I found in the cupboard - wonder what THAT was from?

And much to my surprise my hubby NOTICED when he walked in the door!  And reacted very favorably! So much so, that he put the rest on the stove AGAIN this AM...

And I found my pine oil - and put some on my pine boughs, as they don't seem that piney, somehow. Which combined nicely with the spices.

Hubby sniffed and said that "It smells like a ski lodge." And he LOVES ski lodges! So now I know how partially to satisfy his ski lodge urges.  There is actually so much snow around L.A. in the mountains this year, that we probably WILL actually GET to a ski area - but we will more than likely stay in a motel - so I plan to bring at least the pine oil with me for atmosphere. (& maybe I could put cinnamon in the coffee maker? I like cinnamon in my coffee anyway.)

Another taste note:  you can make nice "special coffee" by adding cinnamon and nutmeg and milk and dry cocoa( and maybe vanilla)  to regular coffee!  For a party, you might want to add a candycane to stir it with.  (As I have mentioned before, you can economize on your Starbucks habit by getting regular Americao coffee and adding the spices and milk and sugar at their little side bars.) 

Isn't there also rum extract that you could add here - or to your eggnog - even it it comes from the grocery store -it has rum flavor and non-A enough for my 12 step husband.

Financial crisis or no - this looks like the best-smelling Xmas in a long time!


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Season of Light
Wednesday, December 17, 2008

It's dark and rainy here - unusual for S. California! So I have the heat on and am dressed warmly.  I originally set up some candles to remind me to send prayers of healing to my friend's cousin back East - and they are set up on my desk as I write and do my internet stuff. 

The candles are so cheery!  I am taking out my star candle holders and my tea lights to put in them - I had read about making a heater out of candles for an emergency in a winter cabin (Whole Earth Times circa 1984) - and I do think that these SEVEN candles together are producing some heat for me.  Anyway, they are festive.

One of the candles is a slightly faded light blue pillar candle - and to doll it up I put 2 metal Xmas tack pins in the shape of Xmas trees  I had found  on it and added some glittery material to the candles with straight pins.  So now it fits in nicely.  You could easily do something like that yourself.  Just watch the candle burning down to anything that might be flammable - the metal pins are fireproof!

Mark sent out the Dollar Tree Xmas cards to his folks last night - They actually were nice designs and 20 for $1.  I did have to check the quality of the paper, tho - some other cards had designs I liked, but the paper was too flimsy!   (And the address stickers were freebies, too!) These are modest cards - but nice, anyway! I have had difficult getting discount Xmas cards that I liked this year....I don't think anyone from his family reads this, so we are safe!

Read in the Marie Claire website that it's been proven that spraying with hairspray is the best preserver of Xmas trees.  I had used it for the autumn leaves I had made a Thanksgiving display out of - but hadn't thought about my pine boughs - Now they are all sprayed! Gotta look for my pine essence to get more of a piney scent around here.

Enjoying the seasonal music on the radio.  Still don't exactly know what we will do for Xmas - I would like to go to church and then maybe out to eat to a traditional restaurant...and then maybe spend the rest of the weekend up at the boat.  Wonder how long the rain will last.  The fashion sites also remind me that New Year's Eve is coming up - No idea what to do about that! The last few years we have found R&R places up at the boat - maybe we can this year, too.  I do like to dance R&R.

 P.S. Bad news - there was a flood at our storage area.  Ugh. I am definitely going to go for compensation for damages, if it's only free space for the next few months!



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Are we prepared?
Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Reading in my yahoo Waste Nothing group about folks trying to cope with no power for days back East.  Some had fireplaces - wood or gas - but others were totally dependent on utilities. 

Maybe we should think about being "off the grid" as they say.  It's not so much a deal for me, as I live in S. California - but we have flashlights and candles and oil lamps in case of emergencies - One of the Waste Nothing members suggested running things off car batteries -

A while back I even saw instructions on the net for making a heater powered by a candle - it was a matter of putting one can inside another and conserving the heat generated by the candle - I have several on to remind me to send good thoughts to an ill friend back east - & they do generate some heat....

We have some space heaters - I close off some of the rooms to maximize warmth and I dress more warmly - and, of course, we pile more layers of blankets on the bed at night  - although I have always liked sleeping in cold rooms...

Here in California it's more about having water if it gets shut off - and we do have some stashed in the closet - and food in the larder - even if it is beans - I like to think about it as if it were camping at home - we have tents to put up if we were forced outdoors! And remember in Third World countries they call defecating in a plastic bag a "running toilet"!  No problems with the other - but the solid waste has to be handled with CARE, as it can spread disease.

I see horribly poor African countries suffering because of a lack of basic hygiene and wonder why they just don't boil their water - but that probably is middle class of me - I would rig up a solar cooker if I had to - or a candle heater! 

This is a weird topic for this time of year - but I so find myself grateful for living here and now in the USA.



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Closer & Closer to Xmas
Monday, December 15, 2008

My husband and I had a fun weekend - Saturday we did our annual gig as Santa and Mrs. Claus in the very windy Channel Islands Harbor for their Xmas celebration and passed out candy canes and posed for photos with the kids.  The kids are always so cute.

As usual, I did my own Mrs. Claus costume, and I piled on the layers under my vintage green velveteen coat, making me a bit more of a butterball than usual - but I WAS warm! At the Dollar Tree, I even picked up a rose fleece headband, the sort skiers wear around their ears, which I put under my fancy and glittery hat to keep my head warm.  Santa, of course, was covered by his snowy beard and wig under his Santa cap!

My husband Mark downloaded some darling Alvin & the Chipmunk Xmas songs from the inernet - gratis - and we played them on a little boombox hidden in Santa's green mesh bag.  Gee, the Chipmunks are so cute and happy, even a Grinch would have to smirk a bit.

Now I am back to tweaking my Xmas decorations - I had a straw wreath I had picked up somewhere & I twisted a bright red Chinese decorative string of what look like silken firecrackers around it and topped it off with a nice pine sprig I found at the Dollar Tree (meant as a topper for a package?). Turned out surprisingly well.  (Cost  = whatever the wreath & string were + 99 cent decorative sprig.)

I also have some of my collection of large pinecones scattered about. (You know, on a pedestal of some sort, you could even make a tiny desk tree out of one with a few beads and glitter. )

Figurines and decorative objects look better on pedestals, somehow.  I have an Austrian angel carving I have put on a lucite cube I found at a thrift shop - and another little angel figurine looks more impressive on another stone base I had - from an old incense burner....In the 60's they often mounted sculptural pieces on wood blocks -  maybe you could find some for your seasonal or regular pieces to make them stand out.

Also had some candy canes left from what Santa handed out on Saturday - so I put them on my little apartment tree and even my pine bough arrangement - along with some ornaments - Who needs a big Xmas tree?

Sad to say, the cousin of a dear friend of mine in Virginia is gravely ill - it's worse than thought at first - I am burning candles and incense to remind me to keep both of them in my heart and send prayers and good wishes their way...

On another note - I just discovered which offers you a chance to give themed parties with them providing party things for you - sometimes nuts and a DVD of a new show - sometimes Ziplock bags.  And you can invite everyone and keep track of the rsvps through their site, too.  That's an excuse to have people over on their dime...I do like freebies...

There is SO MUCH Xmas stuff at the dollar stores - You could go gaga with it all.  But maybe if you are a careful shopper you can find some nice pieces to add to your Xmas collection...And ornaments do make nice little Xmas presents, too.  We just received a very cute one from friends of ours. Remember to get a big cardboard box or 2 out for storing your Xmas decorations after the first of the year!  (Liquor stores have great sturdy clean boxes for the asking, you know. PAY for boxes? Me? Never!)

We used to live in an apartment complex and people TOSSED Xmas decorations (some of which, I have to admit,  I rescued. ) If you are moving or something like that - please think of donating your extra usable stuff to a thrift shop! It's charitable and green all at once. And that might even go for gifts you get which you couldn't even re-gift - someone out there might like it....

There is a carol that goes "in the bleak mid-winter..." and I think it will be for many people this year... so I want to make sure that I make at least a modest charitable donation to help the helpers...(You can check charities out - according to the L.A. Times  - at, Charity and the Better Business Bureau ( they remind us to keep the receipts for tax purposes...)








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Cheap Ways I am Decorating my Little Trees
Thursday, December 11, 2008

My apartment has never had room for a tree - so I have a collection of little trees from 12" to 18"  to 3 ft. to put around the place.  They look nice grouped.

This year I found some ingenious ways to decorate them.

  • I used hair clips that had hearts and red buttons affixed to them (probably from an old photo shoot, as I inherited them from a designer friend of mine).  I put the bigger ones on the 18" tree and the smaller ones on the 12" tree - and the green  fuzziness of the 18" tree and the silver fringe of the 12" tree hid the hair pins quite nicely - Voila - ornaments and in scale!
  • Also had furry hair elastics in red/blue/white, which I twisted into figure 8's and put on the branches of the green tree.
  • On the green tree - I also used a white hair bow for the top - and draped a purple stretchy bead bracelet around the top branches.
  • On the 18" wooden tree which has 2 sides which fit together - I draped stretchy bead bracelets (also from the designer trove) across the branches - which ended up being quite in scale, too - I put a star ornament upside down on the top with some putty stuff - and draped other bracelets and even an old beaded headband on the tree.
  • Final touch - I took wine charms I could never figure out what to do with and hung them on the wooden candle holders of the small  18" tree to try to disguise them, as I don't have candles around.  They are wine-themed - little cheese/corkscrew/grapes, etc. - but they are also beaded and the wine theme isn't obvious unless you look very closely!
  • I also filled out the 36" tree with a set of  99 cent santa boot ornaments I got a few years ago and never used, out off the Xmas box -
  • Used the black cardboard top of the tube my spirits mfg sent me the wrapping paper in, as a base for the silver lurex tree - works and looks better than the old one -
  • Used the Maker's Mark ribbon to make red bows for some of my regular figurines and trees - as it's nice ribbon but it says Maker's Mark all over it - which luckily can't be noticed from afar.

That and the pine boughs/branches which I picked up at the garden center - gratis. And the poinsettias my husband bought me - and the one string of white lights.  It does look Xmasy if I do say so myself!

And somehow it's all the more gratifying because of the thrifty ingenuity!  Could you find some baubles and beads around the house to add to your tree this year?



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The Holiday Season Continues & Blog Input & Asking for Help
Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Have to put this in the "holiday" category - as the whole atmosphere seems to be full of it this year...

But what I wanted to comment on was some of my reading of the frugal blogs I read regularly.  

One topic was about worrying and how not to - I agree that worrying yourself sick does NOT help. It seems to contribute to brain fag and paralysis and an inability to cope - so even in the worse case scenarios, don't go there - DO something! The worst thing you can fall into is a stagnant despair....CALL a hotline or your government reps or a charity if all else fails! But DO something.  In my experience there ARE resources out there, but they aren't optimally coordinated and require a certain amount of digging on your part.  So go for it and by all means get whatever you are entitled to get! (in L.A. you can dial 211 for referrals.)

And don't be piggy, if you do get benefits - not only is it the better way to go, but you will probably also receive better care and more attention from the people giving relief, too - as you will be the well-manned exception and it will mark you out as not a scam artist, but someone who deserves a helping hand. 

I remember when I got relief after the Northridge earthquake from the Salvation Army.  I certainly could use food donations, so I took that - but I refused any clothing, as I had quite enough and someone else needed it more than I did.  This so impressed the people at the center that eve though technically I was supposed to be referred to another center, they bent the rules and gave me my bags of food anyway!

Sheer "poor" greed is very unbecoming and smells of scam and I don't advise it as a viable route...Just be frank and factual about your predicament and try first to go to organizations which you are somehow affiliated with - your church - your union or work group - an advocacy group for your health problem,a neighborhood health clinic and so on...Here you can often say that you were there for others in the past and this is just your time to receive.  (And then remember to try to go back to supporting them when you get back on your feet.)

I find thinking about these resources tremendously reassuring myself - because I know that they can be there for me when I am in need....I did have a hard time a few years back before I was married, and I was in the position to ask for a bit of support - and was very grateful when it was forthcoming! And I even got food stamps as a grad student years ago...

Some of this comes up because I read about the discomfort of some regular moms at the sort of demands which had ended up on the charity "giving tree" in their small town bank! Tags for 4-year-olds had requests for iPods and high ticket items, which the moms weren't even giving their own kids this year! This is unbecoming entitlement behavior - and frankly, just creates the opposite effect of creating charity! 

We need realism, boys and girls - It would have been more creative for a group of tags for a - say, iPod or game console fund for a family of kids!  That would fly, perhaps!  And remember that there are perfectly good used bikes. etc.  - which, of course, would be less expensive! and have the virtue of being less attractive to thieves!

I think in this society, there is so much excess, even now, that you can create a holiday for yourself on a budget - if only with freebies you snag by sitting at a library computer! Or things you make or cook up yourself...Just saw another medical miracle program based this time in Indonesia, and you see how LITTLE excess there is there - so we have to count our relative blessings!








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Xmas & winter & all that
Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Seeing that my apartment is just post WWII, as I have calculated -  and in California - we don't have real heating as I always did in the East - but then, we really don't need it very much - so we are making do with some electric space heaters and dressing warmly - One thing we don't have to budget for it heating oil, thank heaven!

Fighting off a slight ear ache with homeopathic drops and sent to the health food store for some more - (they do work) - and picked up some samples while I was there - and some Wellness vitamins -

Playing Mrs. Claus with my husband and have to hunt up the missing pieces of my costume.  Luckily I wore the hat to a commerical audition recently, so I know where that is (no, I didn't get the job...) It's always a question of how cold it will be up there - hard to tell....Luckily included in our deal is the rental of my husband's Santa suit - so that is taken care of - I am only a supporting character here!  And we do get some money before Xmas- always nice...

We are really not spending much $ at all this Xmas - most of the decorations are recycled/cheap/free (the pine branches and the wrapping paper from the whiskey mfg.)

Maybe I will just send out ecards - has lots of nice vintage ones.  (That's where I get lot of my pix.) I used to be so busy at Xmas that I just sent out New Year's cards in January - the only downside is that you fall off some people's xmas card lists....but if you are too frazzled, it IS a thought!








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Xmas is a Comin'
Monday, December 08, 2008

The apartment looks very Christmasy!  What with the pine bough arrangements and the string of lights my husband put up.  He also bought me 2 little bargain poinsettias at the local garden center, because I had been yearning for them... (when we got the pine branches)  Isn't that sweet?  Live poinsettias are so lovely and you can even re-plant them after the holidays - they make nice greenery as a house plant...

Just a note - did you know that poinsettias are native in Mexico and were a sacred flower for the Aztecs? It's interesting to see the outside poinsettia bush which is just turning red...

I am counting down to Xmas with the 2 German Advent calendars my sister in Germany gave me.  One is teddy bears in the snow and the other Munich santas! That is such a nice tradition ... I suppose you could even make ones with your kids....all it needs is little windows for all the days...

Also lovely music on the classical radio - the plumber was here working and he commented on how nice the music was!

There also seems to be a lot of free holiday music down loads this year -There are some at Amazon - and a Yo Yo Ma cut at Walmart (???)  Get your techie kids working on that!  You could easily compound a nice homemade Xmas CD....

The litle digital recording devices available now are quite good - We had one to record our church choir - and then made a CD out of our recordings - How about recording your own holiday choir music?  It's amazing the sound quality from these little devices!

I do miss being actively involved in Xmas music this year.  The church is between choir directors, which doesn't seem to bother them at all...and the organist is trying to keep it all together and getting frantic.  I have offered to help out  - even to stage a last minute pageant sort of thing - but, I don't know, their minds seem to be elsewhere.  I, for one, really love holiday music and think it makes those services....

What other frugal news?  My husband took a big load of back laundry to the laundromat which came come 1/2 dried - so we took out the drying rack & put it in the tub to dry out all the socks and underwear - The drying rack does hold almost a whole load of wash!  

I wonder what people do with those whiz band bathrooms that have those ultra chic odd saucer-shaped basins and weird tubs - don't they ever do hand laundry?  Where can you can things to drip dry?  Guess they don't ??

We even have a little portable old washer I picked up at a boat swap meet - real 50's technology - a STEEL basin - But it does require some effort which I haven't been up to lately...I SHOULD do sox & undies in it to save the quarters for the laundry machines (as I have done in the frugal past)! Well, that's always a thriftier way to go - like sewing up the holes in my around-the-house socks!

We are not that disorganized - just cluttered.  I watched an organizing show on TV which was trying to organize a young man in a loft - Whew!  He just had undifferentiated heaps everywhere! 

At least I put the kitchen stuff in the kitchen and the bath stuff in the bathroom and the office stuff in the office space and so on. To get it all mixed up makes me crazy.  And the Xmas stuff gets put away in the Xmas box and the gifts are in the gift bag or box - it maybe behind stuff - but it is THERE.  So perhaps that's organizing on a basic level.  And when I CAN'T find things, I begin to CLEAN.

And you know, even though there is more in the Xmas decoration box - what's out may just be enough.  This Xmas seems to be the just enough Xmas - no? The homemade homey just enough and isn't that nice Xmas.....








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Xmas & Gifting & Theory of Shame
Friday, December 05, 2008


First a thrifty update - I was able to find some gratis pine boughs (branches to you) at our local garden center, where they were trimming their Xmas trees.  Brought them home and filled a large glass cookie jar with them (made a good, large, heavy vase) and also made some smaller arrangements.  Had a decorative wooden box of sorts, and put two large prescription bottles in it for the water and then put in the boughs. 

NOW I know what to do with all those old prescription bottles! I have used a small one, which I mean to cover, to hold my emery boards and gloss, etc. -  and I now realize that they would be great for flower arrangements in less than watetight containers - as you could put the plastic medicine bottles inside to hold the water!.

Also made a small arrangement for my neighbor - I took an old Xmas candy tin I had saved and put two bows over the candy name and filled it with small pine boughs wrapped in silver paper - I then made a snowflake out of the same silver paper and used some old candies which were covered with shiny red foil to make little "ornaments" and hung them on the boughs with small paperclips. Just big enough for her to put on her shelf by the TV - it did turn out great.

Saving interesting newspaper and magazine pages to use in wrapping my presents. Also delving into ribbon stash,  some of which came from the Xmas box.

Still filling up my sample and gift bags when I get samples in the mail or find them around the house.  Think they will together when presented artistically will make nice gift collections

So on to the THEORY AND  PHILOSOPHY  of pennypinching:  I was reminded of the psychological aspect of thrift once more when I surfed onto a woman's site that appeals to upscale females (which shall remain nameless...).  In the comments they were discussing Xmas gift giving ,and many of them were lamenting that they had a hard time affording it and how difficult it all was for them.  It occurred to me that these women were largely suffering from SHAME that they weren't able to participate in gift giving on the financial level they either were used to or felt they should be able to.  (And I countered by commenting about thrifty ways to cope.)

I think it is really often SHAME of your financial situation which keeps many from realistically confronting their financial realities and shaping their life in a way they can afford that also meets their needs. 

Makes me think of an article in the L.A. Times a few years ago about an homeless ex-upper-middle class divorcee down on her luck who lived on the tony West Side of L.A.  in her car and spent her days in upscale shopping malls, wearing her old silk scarves and washing in their ladies rooms.  When her plight became known, a goodhearted reader from the less fashionable EAST side of town offered her a place to stay - and, do you know, the woman REFUSED the offer because she didn't want to leave her old Westside turf?

Really - what SENSE does that MAKE? So you can't live on the West Side (the better side) of town?  Find something undiscovered you can AFFORD and give it your own chic! and take the free lodging until you can get yourself together to get a job and save money for a place!  That is how one SURVIVES and eventually can prosper again.

A bohemian friend of mine joked with me recently that we have been cutting back for so long that there's nowhere to cut anymore.  Although, that's really not true.  One can always shave off a bit here and there, I find.  Being crafty and indulging your artistic side certain helps to keep costs down, especially at this time of year.

How do even your snobbier friends know whether you are being frugal or going the Martha Stewart route? I thought that when I brought my arrangement of autumn leaves for Thanksgiving. It was very Martha Stewart and CHEAP, too.  Now, I know enough not to blab that the lovely ceramic vase was snagged at a rummage sale for $1!   But I don't feel any SHAME about it - I just feel thrifty and CLEVER.

One a therapist of mine asked how I felt standing in line to recycle my cans with the more, shall we say, "colorful" people of the neighborhood.  I think she wanted me to admit to SHAME - but really, no kidding, I just felt interested in the scene, glad to get the money for the cans, and GRATEFUL that I was doing better than some of those folks!  (Not to say that I showed up in my better clothes or struck a superior attitude for this recycling gig - that creates resentment one does not need.)

As my bohemian and artistic friend and I also discussed, it takes a LOT to embarass us these days! Mere indications of possible social drift in a downward direction won't do it to us.  Not that I will downplay the importance of social markers, the value of gift-giving, or keeping up appearances.  But all means, play sociologist and hit the social markers (In your own way) that you feel are important. My wardrobe has that function, for me. And witty but thrifty gifts. I participate in holiday rituals - but just not on the level of a retail markup.

One of the more important concepts that I learned in my undergraduate anthroplogy class was that of "real" versus "ideal" culture (i.e., your wedding vs. Princess Diana's).  I might also add that there are other calibrations you can use to mark your acttvities.  I see it in people "going green" whereas I just got old stuff (now vintage). I see it in the "Back to Simplicity" movement - and in the returning of many woman to the lessons of their mothers and grandmothers who had to pinch a penny in their day and did it without a qualm.

So, if there is a snob attack, you could even be a pain and counter with a "higher and mightier" argument!  Ha!  So there, you overconsuming status-conscious Grinches!  We little folks in Whoville intend to have ourselves a very merry Xmas one way or the other (and if it doesn't suit you, too bad, green meanie).





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Xmas Starts & So Does the Thrift
Thursday, December 04, 2008

Being old-fashioned, I really don't like to think about the holiday season (except for shopping for it!) until after Thanksgiving.  Makes it more special for me, somehow.  But it's December and the time has come.

My husband went into storage and got some of our Xmas things - and it's nice to see the lovely pieces that I have somehow managed to collect over the years. And bargains all! I even saved some Xmas cards that never got sent, which will go to folks we didn't know last year...and I am thinking about making some for the immediate family.

The whole holiday season is such a good time to be thrifty in comparison to the general public.  A friend of mine & I were joking over the phone that there is nowhere to cut back more - but you know, there always is...I am not buying any more Xmas things this year, for example, as I have absolutely no need! And I an trying to empty out my gift box for presents as much as I can. (I save deals and little presents in the gift box throughout the year.) There are also Xmas-themed gifts which got put away with the Xmas trimmings, and which are always good for a present in the last minute.... (But I decided that I would wear the Xmas socks myself instead of gifting them.  I deserve it! and they are fun.)

I have always saved money on Xmas wrappings, either getting it from dollar stores, or by using other papers - such as the ends of telex paper way back (It had a nice blueish color) and the comics and maps and posters and all sorts of other papers.   And I recycled wrapping and bows from my own gifts, and even rescued some from office wastepaper baskets!

This year I am collecting nice colorful newspaper pages with holiday themes, and pages from my free magazines to wrap gifts with.  Much to my surprise, I also just received some wrapping AND ribbon from Maker's Mark spirits.  The design IS snowflakes made out of bottles - but you wouldn't know if you weren't clued in and looked at it with a magnifying glass!  They even threw in red ribbon - so I am fixed for THAT.  We also picked up some bows at a thrift shop and have some from last year.  Ditto ribbon.I

I also have some real pinecones that I have collected and a sprig of juniper.  Real greens and natural accents are so nice at the holidays. One year when I was a student, I got pine boughs from the junk pile at an Xmas tree stand - free - and piled them up on the cornices we had at our apartment.  It made the place smell so good.

Also, the first year out of college, when we were really broke, I made a paper tabletop Xmas tree with a cone I put gold paper leaves on and some other colored pictures for ornaments, with a star at the top.  It really was very pretty.

Because I have always lived in a small space,I have a collection of little trees I put around the apartment, since I don't really have room for a large one.  But I would like to get some pine boughs to put in a vase - just for the aroma.  (Don't think they are free anymore, tho...)

My mother used to make Xmas ornaments out of walnut shells which she opened just enough to put a string or piece of yarn in as a hanger, and then glue together.  Some of them were gilded with gold spray paint, and some were natural.  They lasted for years...

We also used to string popcorn - and even cranberries once. I bet you could string all sorts of natural elements - berries and little pinecones and pods and such - gilded or not. 

Still hunting freebies and if you have a blog such as this, if you mention YOYO lipgloss, which I am sure is terrific and comes in yummy flavors - you will get a freebie.  (Go to or find it in I think  Boy was the mailman perplexed with the tubes of wrapping paper from Maker's Mark! Have to think of a nice use for those sleek black tubes, too.

Oh, and has free downloads of holiday music on their site - but I couldn't manage to do it, somehow....

There is so much Xmas stuff on the net - downloads and activities for kids - coloring books and games - and gift tags and cards and projects...Except for the high cost of INK you could make do with internet downloads! Ever thought of downloading music for a kid relative or friend if you have the capability and burning a special CD for them?  Everyone likes Xmas music - and NPR has free downloads of eclectic music on their emails almost daily....Or you could get a talented kid/friend to do it for you!  They love to show off their tech skills, and you might learn how yourself just by watching. 

So put your thinking cap(s) on - and one way or the other by never stepping in a big box store like Walmart, you, too, can have a very merry thrifty Xmas!


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Avoiding the Crowds
Monday, December 01, 2008

Never had understoong why people line up to get into stores like Walmart - and now there is even more reason to avoid THAT - physical DANGER. 

It used to be that it was crowds in theatres stampeding which is the reason that public places have so many marked fire exits. Crowds have a mind of their own and can be deady.  I read somewhere that if caught in one, the best place to be is on the edge of the crowd -  But I just avoid them altogether -  Of course, I am shorter than normal (5'3") - and have always felt overwhelmed by large crowds.  That poor security guard that was the victim of the crowd of shoppers in the East!

But I have also found, other than safety - that avoiding the crowds allowed me to get into the cracks, as it were, and find the deals there - which are anomalies, after all, not fitting into the conventional pattern.  Stopped at the Good Will at Santa Paula on the way to the boat. (Apparently Steve McQueen used to hang out in the Santa Paula airport!  And it once was lemon capital of the U.S., too - )

This Good Will seems to get a lot of merchandise from mass merchandisers, like Target - altho lots of them are discounted ENUF for me!  But there is new stuff to look for. 

This trip I snagged a 1/2 dozen of Hanes underwear - quality stuff - a bit conservative, as they are all white - but serviceable and a really good buy, as Hanes undies are at least $3 each.  (I have also seen new Hanes merchandise at the 99 Cent Store in L.A.....) And got a new Hanes tee - in a lovely apricot color.

This GW has 2 dollar racks - and usually good bargains there - so I found a FLAX linen shirt in a orangey weave for $1  - and a nice nautical t-shirt.   Also found some good books - and - what looks like a Japanese wooden bucket - I had to convince my hubby about that one - but I got it knocked down to $5, cracks & all - and then it couldn't be resisted. (Sometimes you CAN negotiate prices, even at thrift shops.) At present the bucket is holding laundry!  And I bought a nice ornament, which I think I will put into an artsy gift thing as an Xmas gift for our neighbor at the marina, who gave us a very nice boat lantern after we had admired his!

It's alway nice to have little generic Xmas presents around for the last minute.  I have my sister-in-law some of those at Thanksgiving, as she might as well get use out of them.  She received two nice largeish metal ornaments - one a gift box and the other a mailbox that opened (with t-bags inside) plus a jazzy Xmas music CD (it always seem silly to get Xmas music AT Xmas, when you won't play it for a year later - no?) Bargains all - the ornaments were originally $5 each and the CD - how much would that be? And I actually got the ornaments for $.69 each and the CD for $.99!  And no one but my readers is the wiser....Altho if my sister-in-law reads my blog, I am unmasked...

I think I have to say that part of the object of my pennypinching is to live a good life with my slender purse.  So I look for deals and bargains and freebies! I could, of course, be entirely austere and have 2 pairs of shoes and one black handbag - but what fun would that be? 

I came close to a scolding for spending money by a colleague after  my "new" suede purse was espyed -  I really do think that he thought I had spent a lot of my hard-earned money on it and I know I had spent less than $10! Ditto on the sports sweatshirt I had on - which I had gotten in a thrift shop for $4 or less.  But he comes from a world where people actually DO spend money like that - so it's not surprising!

Now, I know that retail these things would be pricey - Perhaps $50 for the purse, at a minimum, and maybe $30 for the sweatshirt!  But on the other hand, I have to hand it to my colleague - he is disciplined enough to take advantage of all his credit card perks and hotel points - and his Thanksgiving vacation in Hawaii was FREE. So it can be done. (My sister is the same way - and has given the family free airline tix with her Skymiles and such )

I am trying to WIN a vacation - as our travel part of the budget goes to our boat! (which we use as much as possible).

Making a lot of things this Xmas - maybe will do my own Xmas cards, as I haven't found any deals on ones I like - I have craft paper stashed that should do for that project.

I know I am chronicling my thrifty way thru life here - and I haven't been as philosophical as I have been.  Do you like to hear about my travels in thrift - or would you like more "Theory"?  Let me know.

The holiday season is starting - and somehow I think I will enjoy it very much this year....








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