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 21 posts in the Christmas category for this blog.
Still Bargains to Be Had!
Thursday, December 22, 2011

Usually I have done all my Xmas shopping BEFORE Thanksgiving - but due to the fact we were unemployed last summer & beyond, I was behind....

So - I have been knitting fingerless gloves - or mitts.  I downloaded the easier knitting pattern I could find - FREE off the internet - & have been knitting away through my stash.  I even had to get MORE yarn from storage - which gives me a chance to go over my stash - Whew!  It IS large.  But yarn is so expensive, that when I see it for $1 or 2 a skein, I BUY it.  Hubby really has NO idea how much yarn is - especially if it's wool - & I wanted to make most of the mitts out of wool...At a pair of mitts per ball/skein or so - that would be $5-6 & I have knitted a LOT of them - 8?  That would be $40-48 retail (for materials) & I didn't pay 1/2 that! (And I picked up $1 hardback books at Dollar Tree to go along with them....)

Bargains do make me an impulse buyer, I admit....I picked up a cashmere/wool sweater in a lovely teal with a Saks label at a Goodwill in Santa Monica - It was pilled, but I knew I could fix that - & with some scouring with a special little de-pilling tool I have had for years, it's now very nice! (& for $6)...I also bought a wool felt hat for $1.98 (similar hats were in the Anthropolgie store nearby for $48-100!)

Hubby & I also stopped into McCabe's music store on the way to Santa Monica - & there in the bargain rack were all sorts of heavily discounted Xmas & religious music books - marked mostly $1 each & some for $2 - I calculate that we bought over $100 worth of music (per back label retail value) for less than $10!

We are recycling our gift bags & hubby dug up the gift wrap from last year - We are always very thrifty vis a vis wrapping.  I dug up the wooden African figurines I had bought for colleague over the last year & gave him a grouping in the recycled tissue & Santa gift bag from a gift hubby has received!  They were for his collection & he loved it!

We also have taken out our Xmas CD collection for the holidays.  A few years ago there were a slew of Xmas CDs at the 99 Cent Store & we stocked up.  So now, we have an extensive library of them - even Xmas Reggae! 

Playing Xmas music at a local church with a buddy of mine - so we have been playing & rehearsing.  Also, with my actress hat on - I have been cast in a project to be shot in January - so,in my own way, I have been busy!  

Treated myself to some skin care items with $10 discount from Amazon & $10 from Serious Skincare...which, I suppose paid for the shipping....I so rarely PAY for skincare items that I get sticker shock, & these were on the $20 or so, on the low end, too....But one has to break down every once in a while when all the freebies, etc., run out! 

We have to pay hubby's tuition for the renewal of his credential, too.  He did get into a pilot program through UCLA & it's $3000 instead of $6000 - but we still have to fork over chunks of $1500!  Had to put it on a new credit card (which has ruinous interest rates) - & we are pledged to pay it off FAST. On the bright side, we did have some money stashed for this purpose.....but credit cards DO come in handy sometimes....& since the cut in tuition is so great, we still come out ahead....

Oh, did I say that my friend & I went down to the Music Center at noon to hear highlights from Mozart's opera Cosi Fan Tutti sung by young singers? It was FREE. We even found a cheap parking space (a miracle downtown!) Such a lovely program! (That's almost the only way we get to hear such live music these days....)

And I am still getting my freebies (yesterday it was a sample of coffee) and magazines & I am reading my free subscription to the Wall St. Journal....(I like the liberal arts features.....)

So all is well here with us.  And I hope, with you, too....

Happy Holidays! Happy Winter Solstice! etc.






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Xmas Activities
Friday, December 17, 2010

Last week was taken up with digging out my Mrs. Claus costume for my appearance with my hubby at the 45th Annual Xmas Celebrations at Channel Islands Harbor, where we have our boat.   This year we had a tent, so I bought some decorations for it, so it wouldn't be so stark - at the Dollar Tree! and 2 elf hats, so we could put them on the kids when they had their pix taken with Santa. (Oh, & I had a few auditions, too - that can take up a day...)

We always have such a good time with the kids - Hubby is a wonderful Santa!  (And we make some extra holiday $, too!)

Then some friends of ours came up to see the Boat Parade.  It was so mild that we were quite comfortable all sitting on the deck of the boat to see the lighted boats as they came by. That's my idea of gratis holiday celebration.  They kids played in a pile of "snow" from a local ice-making plant  - & had free pix taken with Santa! And we adults had the boat parade.  All very festive!

Hubby used some of the cards I had on hand to send to his family - & I have been sending ecards - Altho I have to admit that I do like real paper cards to put around the house.

We have so MUCH Xmas music we have collected over the years! At least a dozen CDs! And there are lots of FREE Xmas music downloads - Check out for the addresses...

I don't know how much wrapping paper I have, so I have been collecting colorful pages from the newspaper and magazines and ads to spiff up my packages.  Reused my padded bags for sending Xmas presents (I save them over the year - as NEW ones are expensive...& bags can really re-used several times.) 

Put a scent card into an Xmas card because it was pretty & just festive.  I save the scent strips & usually make potpourri out of them by cutting them in strips and putting in a small basket...

Saw a pattern for making bows out of magazine strips - was it at  They have great diy ideas there. Also recycle the paper, etc. from presents we get, as we open them!

Did you know that you can IRON paper & ribbon & tissue paper?  Just put it on a very LOW setting & iron soem of the creases out & refresh the drimmings.

In the last minute we have also been hired to make an appearance as Santa & Mrs. Claus at the holiday party at the clinic of hubby's company - For years I did Xmas music & had a caroling quarter & have made $ doing that at Xmas - We entertained at a party last year....As  usual performing is never the problem - it's finding the gigs!

Have to motivate myself to make some kniffty knitter HATS for presents - It was too warm - but has gotten chilly again - so....

Are you all having a great time yet?







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Xmas Activities
Friday, December 17, 2010

Last week was taken up with digging out my Mrs. Claus costume for my appearance with my hubby at the 45th Annual Xmas Celebrations at Channel Islands Harbor, where we have our boat.   This year we had a tent, so I bought some decorations for it, so it wouldn't be so stark - at the Dollar Tree! and 2 elf hats, so we could put them on the kids when they had their pix taken with Santa. (Oh, & I had a few auditions, too - that can take up a day...)

We always have such a good time with the kids - Hubby is a wonderful Santa!  (And we make some extra holiday $, too!)

Then some friends of ours came up to see the Boat Parade.  It was so mild that we were quite comfortable all sitting on the deck of the boat to see the lighted boats as they came by. That's my idea of gratis holiday celebration.  They kids played in a pile of "snow" from a local ice-making plant  - & had free pix taken with Santa! And we adults had the boat parade.  All very festive!

Hubby used some of the cards I had on hand to send to his family - & I have been sending ecards - Altho I have to admit that I do like real paper cards to put around the house.

We have so MUCH Xmas music we have collected over the years! At least a dozen CDs! And there are lots of FREE Xmas music downloads - Check out for the addresses...

I don't know how much wrapping paper I have, so I have been collecting colorful pages from the newspaper and magazines and ads to spiff up my packages.  Reused my padded bags for sending Xmas presents (I save them over the year - as NEW ones are expensive...& bags can really re-used several times.) 

Put a scent card into an Xmas card because it was pretty & just festive.  I save the scent strips & usually make potpourri out of them by cutting them in strips and putting in a small basket...

Saw a pattern for making bows out of magazine strips - was it at  They have great diy ideas there. Also recycle the paper, etc. from presents we get, as we open them!

Did you know that you can IRON paper & ribbon & tissue paper?  Just put it on a very LOW setting & iron soem of the creases out & refresh the drimmings.

In the last minute we have also been hired to make an appearance as Santa & Mrs. Claus at the holiday party at the clinic of hubby's company - For years I did Xmas music & had a caroling quarter & have made $ doing that at Xmas - We entertained at a party last year....As  usual performing is never the problem - it's finding the gigs!

Have to motivate myself to make some kniffty knitter HATS for presents - It was too warm - but has gotten chilly again - so....

Are you all having a great time yet?







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Thot's After Xmas Window-shoppingnng
Thursday, December 09, 2010

Random thoughts after Xmas window shopping on the net & live in person -

  • Love Anthropologie - but not the prices! But I have many very similar things which I acquired at MUCH LESS.  Use their ads as inspiration, as many online crafters do.
  • Hardly believed it when I saw ornaments like the ones I had bought for $.25 at old lady thrift shops for @ $9 in an upscale boutique. My Xmas tree, altho small, is just as nice as the ones they were showing & not anywhere near as expensive.  Figure out how to duplicate pricey effects on the cheap.  Hint - a length of gold ribbon with wired edges makes a nice addition to a tree...
  • Dry weather/dry hair - finally making headway with my awful dry scalp.  From my internet research, I saw that one hairdresser was using Seabreeze on itchy scalps- so I got some and put it on the affected areas & then put on my coconut oil + olive oil & kept it ON - You can put it on before you go to sleep overnite - but as I am working at home, I have just kept it ON as much as possible.  Also think I beat what I think was a scalp infection with repeated applications of hydrogen peroxide - it's drying - as are the dandruff shampoos - so the applications of the oil(s) are even more important - & I can put it just on the affected areas & not dry out all of my hair & scalp.  All this has saved me a trip (& the $ of) a trip to a dermatologist!
  • Taking out the extra Xmas cards from previous years to use for folks who we didn't send that pattern to before.  Hubby sent out expensive-lking ones to his family (from a thriftshop) & I had a nice one for my agent, too.
  • You can spiff up pillar candles for Xmas (& other occasions) by adding those old stretchy bead bracelets & winding them around the candle. (Be careful if you are burning them, tho!)
  • You can add bling to your Xmas tree with your old jewelry - Even broken rhinestones & funky bracelets & necklaces look good on an Xmas tree....
  • Diet eggnog & pumpkin spice added to your coffee creates a budget & fairly low-cal eggnog coffee for the holidays.  A way to have eggnog without all the calories!
  • I really like the new healing ointment Carmex gave me as a blogger!  Nice weight for winter dry skin.

OK - back to the grindstone - Hope you are enjoying the holiday season as much as I am...

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Xmas Decorating
Sunday, December 05, 2010

The other night on the local news I saw a feature that supposedly was telling us how to decorate for the holidays on a budget.  Actually, they were demonstrating using $250 worth of materials and the whole job cost $1,000!!!  What kind of budgets DO these people have??

I have just put up my Xmas decorations, using items from Xmases past.  What's new?  Oh, a few $.50 thrif tshop stuffed animals, and a $.50 berry wreath.

It's been a strange Xmas this year.  Hubby found a lovely 3 ft. tree with lights that WORK in the trash of our apartment building.  (It's amazing what people toss!)  It's the nicest table tree I have ever had and is big enough to tie on my angel figure topper which in previous years has been on a shelf.  And since I have always had little trees, the scale of the ornaments we have is just right.  Also added some vintage glass balls that hubby found in a lantern that he bought in a thrift shop. 

Yes, I was a bit influenced by the "budget" segment, as I did take out some gold ribbon I had to make a swash on the tree to offset the golden angel.  Hubby picked up free boughs from the local Xmas tree stand (OK, he gave the guy there some money for a beer!) and we cut them up and put them in my larger glass vases.  Then I decorated the boughs.  Hubby had also picked up some small $3 poinsettias when getting the boughs - and I put the two of them together in the wide-mouthed art glass vase against the pine branches.  It looks super.  All it needed was a gold bow.\

I also took out red plaid ribbon I had saved from a gift last summer and made a bow for another vase full of branches.  The one branch  I didn't think would be special - turned out the best!  I decorated the branch (which was off-center) with some apple clusters and other  sprigs I had picked up at a thrif tshop a few years ago, and some small ornaments,.  Then I squeezed in an angel candle I have had for a long while that's damaged on one side - but in the boughs the damage is covered.  And then I put the whole decoration next to my computer on our desk, so we can look at it while we are working, and remember the Xmas spirit.


  • Ornaments on hand = 0
  • Pine branches = 0
  • Xmas tree = 0
  • Poinsettias = $3
  • Ribbon, on hand = 0
  • Stuffed animals + @ $1
  • Berry wreath = @ $.69
  • Gold nail polish = $1

TOTAL:        @$6.00!!!

Take that you budget TV decorating maven!! Of course, we were decorating only a small livingroom/office - but I am very proud of myself for keeping the costs WAY DOWN.

P.S.   As I write this, I am listening to one of our Xmas music CDs we have collected from the 99 Cent store over the years!  We have found all sorts of eccentric Xmas music there - including a rap one!

Oh, it's so Christmasy - hope you are in the holiday mood, too.



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Tis the start of the season
Thursday, December 02, 2010

With Thanksgiving day weekend behind us, the traditional Xmas season really begins.  I suppose people are rushing around frantically - but I, for one, have finished all my shopping! I make a point every year to start in September, and to get it all done by Thanksgiving.  That way, I can find real bargains, spread the cost over several months, and have a relaxing holiday.

It's also time to bring out my Xmas decorations, which I have accumulated over the years at all sorts of bargain outlets - dollar stores, thrift shops and so on.  I find that I can have much nicer ornaments that way than if I had to buy everything at full price!  And after the holiday they go into storage to be used over and over.  Gee, doesn't everyone do that?  It's so nice to take out old and treasured decorations.

This year hubby actually found a very nice tabletop artificial Xmas tree out in the trash of our apartment building, and brought it inside.  No idea why they tossed it, as it is perfectly nice - and actually nicer than any of the artificial trees we have had before! Hubby also brought in a bag of Xmas decorations that was stored, and we will decorate using those things. 

He even found a wreath we first bought a few years ago - it must be almost 5 - and I fluffed it up and put it up.  We bought it on sale years ago & I just thought it was the most beautiful one I had ever seen - & it still is lovely.  We don't put up the same things year after year, but just pick from what we have.  At the base of the tree is a little reindeer stuffed animal that I just picked up for $.50 or so at a Goodwill!

But I really won't be buying many new things this year.  We splurged on some (high-end to us) that we say are our Xmas gifts...We bought tickets to a concert at Disney Hall - the cheapest we could get - but still $50 for the 2 of us.  (2 more years & I will be eligible for discount Senior seats!)  

And I found an old clarinet that called out to me at a Goodwill.  I think it will be a nice working instrument. And I am practicing my clarinet again - even found some new beginning music at a used book store.  The instruments may need some restoring, but i am going to do as much as possible myself.

Hubby redeemed a guitar for $50 which is worth $300, from a pawn shop from a buddy who was about to lose it - and now HE has a nice instrument.  We also inherited a laptop, which we hope to use in place of the one his company took back.  We had gotten too used to having one!  We now have to unravel the mysteries of WiFi and hot spots and the like. Seems to work perfectly well despite being a few years old.

There is a free concert of French Noel music down at USC on Friday - which we plan to go to, and hope to entice some friends to go with us.  I am making an early resolution to go to more live concerts & have signed up for the newsletters of 2 local music schools, so we can be kept informed of student concerts.

We had a lovely Thanksgiving over at a friend's house - sort of a potluck, and we took home the turkey bones and the bits of meat leftover and cooked up a grand pot of soup.  Yummy. Nothing is better than homemade broth!  And all it takes is bones, what's left on them, a bit of salt and cider vinegar & a while to simmer on the stove.  It even heats up the house as a side benefit!

Don't send out very many cards anymore, altho I have some. (I even use up the old ones for people I hadn't sent one to the year before!)  It's such a convenience to send out ecards (there are great free ones at but I still like to have the real deal to put out.  My sister always sends me an Advent card from Germany - I just got this year's in the mail.

And then there are always ways to be crafty.  I have to go to the local hardware store to ask for fresh pine boughs that they trim off the trees they sell.  I have a few large vases to put them in and they have such a nice holiday scent and they are FREE.  There's a lot you can do with natural elements.  One of these Xmases I will spray a tumbleweed silver & make a western tree out of it!

Other than that, it's sort of quiet.  But that is nice, too. 

How are you all?  Well, I hope.







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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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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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Celebrating without Fuss
Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Europeans entertain a lot in restaurants, rather than at home - and since our place in the city is so small, we do that ourselves sometimes. 

We had Thanksgiving at an old French family Restaurant, Freres Taix, with booths and old-fashioned service - and for Xmas we drove up into the mountains of the Angeles Crest above Pasadena, CA to a lodge-type restaurant Newcomb's Ranch, on the site of ranch founded more than a century ago.

There were fireplaces, and a knotty pine decor and I brought candy canes to decorate the table and presents for our guests.  The food was great, too, and reasonable - and the atmosphere of the crisp chill air amidst the pines was terribly Christmasy, even without snow. (My husband is the designated driver.)

It almost made us feel as if we had gone away somewhere - and no dishes to wash up!  (which is great considering I am recovering from bronchitis).

The important thing about the holidays is to spend it with those you care about.  We were part of an Xmas Eve service at church - went home and exchanged presents and then went off to dinner on Xmas Day.  Easy and fun and our waistlines don't need the extra leftovers, either.

Especially since I was under the weather this year, I thought of ways to streamline the holiday routine - sending ecards along with a few greeting cards - using gift bags and tissue paper to wrap things - and thanking my lucky stars that I had started amassing holidays gifts months ago!

My husband and I dug up red sweaters we only wear around this time of the year in S. Calif - and we were set!

Now we have a little peace until we start making the rounds of family visits - but we will try to keep it simple - and FUN.

Happy Holidays!



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To Shop Retail or Not to Shop Retail
Wednesday, December 05, 2007

I have a free class at the Emeritus College of Santa Monica College (bless them) which means I have to drag myself across town once a week to the Third St. Promenade  - an affluent shopping.area. (We like to stroll and window shop there sometimes.)

The parking lot next to the College was almost full - so there must be a lot of holiday shoppers.  Driving home in the traffic, I realized that SOMEONE must be out there Xmas/holiday shopping.  My own gift shopping, as I have told you guys, starts in late August and is done by now except for a few finishing touches!  I loathe the hustle and bustle of the holiday crowd, myself.  It's not that I am a grinch, but there is ENUF to do around this season - so in one of my few efforts at practicality, I get it done earlier - which I have also found is easier on the purse. 

But then, I do most of my shopping at thrift shops and discount stores anyway nowadays.  The only time I have really shopped in department stores was when I worked downtown and window shopped on my lunch hour regularly - then I managed to find some great, super bargains. (Or when I worked as a fragrance model, ditto.)

Ironically, I find that I get so much BETTER deals at the thrift shops I frequent nowadays, that going into a regular store for clothing, books and so on is rarely necessary.  I see that the idea of a "thrift shop" Xmas may depress folks, but don't fall into that trap!  It's all psychological, anyway.  Why SHOULD you spend 10X as much for something retail as for something just as good you found in a thrift store? 

At our church's AIDs Memorial last weekend, I wore a thrift shop ensemble of a purple velour tunic (it had still had the tag on it!), black pants, a thrift shop belt and earrings - with designer thrift shop shoes, a leather purse I inherited from my mother - and, I confess, a beautiful necklace of Thai pearls/apua shell I got at a craft fair (for considerably less than it would have been retail in a boutique.) I looked great, and the whole ensemble, excluding the necklace cost - let's see - about $25?? 

 I couldn't have gotten the TUNIC for that - or even the shoes!   Who cares where they came from?  I have discovered that no one KNOWS  - the things do no not scream out "Thrift Shop"!  And surely little kids could never know the difference if a toy had been used before if it's in good shape. I LOVED my handmedown clothes when I was a kid - which probably got me off into the whole vintage clothing thing way before it was fashionable....

See, it's all a mind game.  You are not POORER - but SMARTER! I think of imaginary points going ka-ching when I score a deal and find it very satisfying to "win" at that game.  My husband is a teacher and I work part-time and we live in an expensive urban area - but we have a very nice life, complete with clothes and toys and musical instruments and a sailboat - because we don't play at the classic American consumer game, but go by different rules.  There is an old saying that "Living Well is the best Revenge." - I wouldn't say we are avenging ourselves - but as another saying goes - all's well that ends well - And living this way ends up very nicely for us!

So think about it!




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