Saturday, November 29, 2008

Christmas Memories

It amazes me the things that become important as we age. This past week, our home was broken into. Not the one we live in now. One that we own and are moving out of. Someone actually took the time to sort through our Christmas ornaments and steal just what appealed to them. We lost 20 years accumulation of Christmas ornaments. Even though I repeatedly tell myself that it is just "stuff", I am hurting. I can always replace "stuff". I am not defined by what I own. But my heart is sore from this loss. It's like losing my home again. Christmas has always been my favorite time of the year. I decorate EVERYTHING! Even the bathroom! This year, it's going to be hard to do that. We've lost almost everything we had to decorate with. All the lights, the garlands, the beads and balls and baubles we've collected over 20 years. Some can be replaced. Others can't. Even if we were to buy the same items, they just wouldn't hold the same memories for us.

Lovely mercury glass ornaments we purchased for our children. Some with golden tinsel hangers and tiny little companion ornaments hanging from them. Beautiful nutcrackers and angels and santa's.

Crystal santa bells and santa figurines from around the world. These I had saved for my youngest daughter for her first Christmas. All she'll have now is the knowledge they were meant for her. I'll be haunting the Salvation Army store to see if I can find them for her. She so loved to move them around and change the display when she was young.

The train set for under the tree. Mark wanted one for years and finally got one from his best friend a few years back. He loves having a train under the tree.

The Hallmark Keepsake ornament from the movie "It's a Wonderful Life.". The tree is not complete without that one. The key ornament for the first Christmas we spent in a home of our own. It was cut to fit our door lock! The Avon carousel tiger ornament. Which happens to be the only gift in 20 years that my husband didn't know about in advance. I'll never forget the look on his face when he found it on the tree. I had told him they were sold out and then stashed it until the following year and hung it up! He was astonished!

The Dan Marino football hero ornament. We searched for 5 years to find that one. And dozens of other Miami Dolphins, Dale Sr. and Dale Jr. ornaments as well. Some that were one of a kind, brought back from vacations his family took.

A veritable blizzard of crocheted snowflakes in many sizes. They usually hang from the ceiling. Mark won't miss those, but I will. I shopped ebay for a year to collect those.

The tree topper my brother-in-law bought just for me one year. A lovely crystal finial that holds lights from the tree inside the top. I wanted a topper that was different than the one everyone else had and Brian listened. I loved that thing.

Every single beaded ornament my grandmother ever made for me or my children. That one breaks my heart. My grandmother died a year and a half ago. There will be no more ornaments from her. I saved every one and never let them leave the house. I'm scared to death to tell my mother these are gone.

The ornaments I bought each year for Cody. Every year, I've purchased another miniature ornament for him and stashed it away special. I wanted him to know, someday, that he was remembered every year along with his siblings. That whole box is gone. I can't stand it. I have nothing of his, but those were something that was meant to show him that I never stopped loving him. Someday, when I find him, I'll have to answer for the time we spent apart. I was hoping to share those with him then. I cannot understand why anyone would take those.

What really throws me is that someone actually took the time to take the string of lights off of our artificial tree!!! They were lights in motion, purchased at CVS in 1990. For Kevin's first Christmas. They stole every single ornament meant to go on the tree. Even the little shoebox sized storage tote of ornaments marked for my husband and myself.

I can comfort myself that some vitally important sentimental items are still here. The child's nativity set bought when the kids were very small. That baby Jesus has been in more places than you can believe. For years, that set was never put away because Jesus had school to go to. The dog chewed off the bottom of one king, and the shepherd never did stand up very well. Mary and Joseph look a bit frazzled from stress. The sheep and camel have been teethed on by every grandchild we have, now. That set currently occupies a space right at child's reach in our living room. My grandchildren will play with the same set their parents did. That comforts me.

The tree skirt that my mother-in-law made one year is still here. It's covered in gingerbread men, which are my favorite part of the season. Even the smell of gingerbread can make me smile. I'll be making gingerbread ornaments with my grandchildren this year. I can't wait.

My collection of Christmas music-which was found tossed into the trash can in the house, was saved. I can still listen to the Lettermen sing Christmas songs.

The village houses and accessories that we have collected over the years are still here. That one surprised me. If I were going to steal something, I'd have taken However, the totes were kind of heavy. I'm glad we still have those. They are a tradition started just for my husband. He loves those buildings and all the fun of setting it up each year.

The shoeboxes of ornaments purchased for the rest of my kids. Those, thank heaven, are still here. I cannot imagine having to explain to my kids what happened to their decorations. They are all moving out and starting their own lives. Lisa has already lost hers in a move. The other kids would be devastated to lose such an emotionally charged item right now.

The train rug my grandmother made. I thank God it is still here. It is all I have left that her hands have touched. I'd have totally fallen apart if it had been gone.

And the stocking collection. I know my family laughs and says I'm obsessed. For me, stockings and gingerbread are the things I like most about Christmas. I don't think anyone can ever have too many stockings. Last year, I got a 7 foot tall stocking shaped like a bear for my brother-in-law and filled it with his family's christmas gifts! I love stockings and everything about them. I have some that are as old as my mother! Some that she made, some that I made. Some that I collected and some that were gifts. I'll be buying more, but I share them now, as well. My stocking collection is still here. I think I can make them the focal point this year and get past the loss.

But I am staggered by the importance we attach to these "things". Especially me. I am the one who always says that "it's just stuff and we can always get more stuff.". Now, my heart is breaking over losses I just cannot understand. Things taken by people who actually know us, and know I would give them the shirt off my back if they just asked for it. Neighbors who lived in the same community with me for years have stolen my Christmas memories. Well, some of them. And they stole the ones I can never replace.........................

Friday, November 21, 2008

Losing a Grocery Store

I just found out that one of 2 grocery stores in the next town over is going to close. Two days from now, they will be out of business. They are not even going to stay open until Thanksgiving!!

It's sad, because that leaves only 1 store to shop in for that area. There is another one here in town, but I rarely shop there as the prices are noticeably higher than the one in the next town. And the store that is closing is the only place I can get my Kids n Pets carpet cleaner. (I LOVE that stuff!!)

The good news is, the owner of the other grocery store is buying the one that is closing. He intends to install a Dollar General or Family Dollar store in that location.

It's a sad sign of the times, though. That location has held several grocery stores in the last 10 years, and none of them can seem to compete with the other store in town. Now it's going to hold another type of store entirely. It won't have to compete with the supermarket. I'd be thrilled to pieces if they put a store in there that carried yarn and craft supplies. I'm not holding my breath, but I'd really love it.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

New Addition To The Family

Wow. My friend Monika gave me a pure-bred Himalayan cat as a gift! Her name is Schuyler and she is just gorgeous! The first night she was home, she slept on DH's chest all night long. When he woke up, he had the worst sore throat. I'm going to have to overhaul the vacuum cleaner so that I can vacuum more often. Having a long-haired cat in the house is really going to be an issue with his allergies.

I'll add a picture of Herself, just as soon as I can get her to sit still for one!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Hand made Christmas

This year, in the interest of frugality, we are trying to do a totally home made Christmas. As usual, we will not hit the mark, but we are getting closer! I've made several purses and tote bags as gifts, as well as started on hat and scarf sets for my grandchildren. Mittens and slippers will round out their home made items. Yesterday, I finished the hat and scarf set for Angela. I'd love to make her a pair of mittens to match! Since her favorite color is purple, her set is done in lavender, with white trim on the scarf and white spirals hanging from the top of the hat. It sort of looks like a ponytail on the hat! I still have to trim the hat brim for her, then connect them at the collar, so they don't get lost. I'll need more yarn to do her mittens, but I'm going yarn shopping this weekend anyway. I need about6 skeins of yarn and a mitten loom. And that still doesn't do the boys. It only does the girls, and finishes a purse. (note to self-buy 2 zippers for purses, and some buttons for kitchen accessory set)

I still have more canning and baking to do to complete our home made Christmas. As usual, there will be some shopping done, for stocking stuffers, toys for the grandbabies, etc. I'm even thinking of getting a few board games while they are on sale. We always need more of them!

In spite of everything, there are still a few people whom I have no idea what to make or buy for them. One son in law says he doesn't want anything. The other doesn't need anything! How on earth do you shop for people like this? I'm thinking that they both need good wool slippers. I have no other ideas, other than tools. Which I gave one of them last year!

I'm sure it will come to me. I just have to stop worrying so much.

I'm also participating in a Holiday RAOK program on Crochetville. I've seen several wishes I want to grant. Christmas cards are the easiest, as well as a few items I have in my Christmas stash that I can share.

I love this kind of Christmas. I'm already working on a few ideas for next year. With any luck at all, every gift I give next year will be one made by my very own hands.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Food Storage, part 2--containers

Wow. How to store bulk foods. Right now, my bulk purchases consist of things like flour and sugar and tea bags. Stuff for winter baking and comfort. I have no canister set. Don't want one. Most times, they are not air tight, and foods go stale or spoil. I am using Folgers coffee canisters. They are plastic. They are airtight. They have a built in handle. They are round. Round is the only drawback to these canisters. I'd prefer the pretty blue square ones, but I don't drink Maxwell House coffee! Other than that, they are wonderful. A 4 pound bag of sugar fits in one nicely. 2 of them will hold just under 10 pounds of flour. Soo, make bread and then store the I even have them labeled for cocoa mix, cappucino mixes, etc. Anything that should be airtight, but doesn't necessarily need to be in the cabinet. (since I find my cappucino mix in 2 lb bags at the dollar store, this is not as frivolous as it sounds.)

When I get around to buying bulk canned goods, I will probably buy them by the case. These can easily slide under the sofa, or stack 3 high under the bed with no problem at all. Just remember to date the top of each can and use them in order. Don't use the stuff you just bought and leave the older stuff in storage.

The secret to making food storage work is to work with it. Try new ideas and recipes regularly. Eat from your storage and shop to replace it, etc. Make meals from dehydrated items as well as canned and frozen. Learn what you do and don't like before you need it. Personally, if we wound up with nothing but chicken a'la king RME's, my husband would starve to death!

I'm also starting to research mylar bags and large buckets with O2 packets in them. There are many ways to re-package and store bulk purchases. Read up on them before you start. Get some ideas. Talk to other people who prep and find out what they like and why. THEN-try a few things yourself. See what works for you.

It's a process, like anything else. This week, look around your house and see what kinds of interesting locations you can find for food storage. Then start thinking about what you can reasonably store there. Don't forget to keep your food diary. Next week, we're going to figure out your shopping needs in order to start prepping your food storage list!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Yarn, and the serious lack thereof

As I've mentioned before, our trailer was recently robbed. 4 times. In one trip, the thieves stole my yarn stash tote. In the tote were about 40 skeins of yarn, a few balls of yarn and several completed Christmas gifts. I think I have managed to replace most of the gifts. However, I'm still missing the yarn. Alot. I started a purse last night and ran out of yarn after 10 rows. I know that tote had 3 more skeins of that color in it. Now I have to go to WalMart to buy more yarn in a color that I should have plenty of! I'm frustrated and angry and I want more yarn!!!

That's all I want for Christmas. Yarn, hooks and more yarn! Gift cards to craft stores. A gift certificate for Smiley's Yarns online sale would make me ecstatic! They have a minimum $50 order, but right now they have Bernat Galaxy yarn for 77 cents! They have Lion Brand suede at 65% off. I could quite easily spend $50 on that site. Even an Ebay gift certificate would be great. There are some wonderful handpainted wools on there that I want to play with.

I'm re-purposing the old linen closet for yarn storage in my craft room. (Formerly known as the sun porch. It's mine. Don't even THINK about putting your stuff out there.) I'm going to put a comfy chair out there, and a small side table, and LOTS AND LOTS of yarn. Then I'm taking a pot of coffee out there and I'm not coming out until my hands hurt from too much crochet. I want my yarn back!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Beginning Food Storage

Now that we are nearly all moved in and things are beginning to settle down, I can turn my attention to our food storage. Rather, the considerable lack thereof. We have no storage left at all. I even ran out of baking soda! (Of course, using it to clean with was not factored in before) So, I am looking at the space we have available, the circumstances that are most likely to make acquiring food difficult and how long they will last. Then, I can start to make a list.

The LDS church recommends a year's worth of food and water per person, per household. However, that may be a daunting thought when you are first getting started. Alan Hagan, a regular contributor to Backwoods Home Magazine and the Homesteading Today forums, has published a great article on getting started for $10 a week. Even with the currently rising prices, his plan has solid points and merits reading. You can find it at Alan has a great website of his own, as well. Many suggestions for food storage and back-to-basics living can be found there. Here's the link"

The easiest way that I personally have found to get started is to double up on purchases at the supermarket when something is on sale. For instance, if boxed Mac n Cheese is your thing, grab a case at Aldi's or purchase twice as many boxes as usual while it is on sale. If your favorite store has canned goods on sale, grab a case full. They don't all have to be the same when you are getting started. Mix and match till you have a full case EXTRA and put them away. We'll go over organizing food storage at a later date. However, it helps to mark the top of each can with the purchase date so you use them in order of freshness.

If you are lucky enough to have a freezer in addition to your fridge, double up on meats when they are on sale. Our local market has a "5 for $20" program every week. There are family packs of meats and I can usually buy enough for 2 weeks or longer for less than $30. Then just re-package them at home for freezing, remembering to date them all.

The important thing is to buy foods that your family will eat. Don't buy 50 bags of broccoli if you're the only one eating it. Buy what you will reasonably use in a year. Invest in a cookbook that will show new and interesting ways to cook the same old foods. Chicken is fine, but it gets boring after a while. Learn how to use it in other dishes. My family is nuts for my Chicken Curry recipe.

If you have favorite recipes, write them down and keep them. You won't always be the one cooking and you'll want someone else to be able to fend for themselves if they need to. My kids are all asking me for family recipes again lately. So, it's time to start writing them down and passing them along. The best part of this project is that it shows you what you eat the most often. Then you can see where to start doubling your purchases and storing your food.

Don't forget to store water. What will you do if the pipes freeze? If a water main breaks? How will you make coffee or pasta? How will you bathe or wash dishes? How will you flush? These things are important to consider at the very beginning of your food storage planning program. Store water in 2 or 3 liter soda bottles, not milk jugs. The disintegrate over time. Plan to store about 3 bottles per person, per day, for a 5 day period to start. In my house, that's 30 soda bottles of water! (Now, where can I put that so it's out of sight, but doesn't freeze on me?)

There will be more in my next post, but this is enough to get you started. Check out the LDS food storage calculator and other information available at this site:

Happy Planning!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Cleaning Item I Can't Live Without

OK, I know we are all supposed to be going greener, but there is one chemical item that I can NOT live without. I have white floors in my kitchen and bathroom. I also have a Mr. Clean magic eraser mop. I LOVE this thing! My floors look gorgeous every time I mop. I do have to remember to rinse the floors well, because there are chemicals in the sponge. Even dirt that gets ground into the tiles from moving chairs and stuff comes up! I'm going to try it on my kitchen ceiling, too. I burned a frying pan the other night and there is a smoke stain on there.

I'm trying to convert to greener options like vinegar and baking soda for most of my cleaning efforts. Turns out I can even use it for killing off fleas in the carpets! Gotta love a multi purpose cleaner that is good for the earth!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Budget is Not a Bad Word

For years, I have struggled with the idea of a budget for my family. Trying to plan one, stick to one, understand one, etc. The problem has never been my ability, it's always been my understanding of the word. A budget doesn't mean I can't spend money on things we need. It means that eventually, we will have money for the things we want. A budget is really just a spending and saving plan. It's a way to find out where all the money goes and when it needs to get there.

That being said, I am now planning our budget for the winter season, during my husband's layoff period. His unemployment will be enough to cover the rent and most likely the car insurance. Thankfully, all our utilities are included in our rent, so we don't have that to worry about this winter. We won't have to worry about heating bills or choosing between fuel and food. We are very blessed to have found this apartment.

I am looking for work, in order to help keep food on the table and pay the internet/cable bill. With hubby home from work, he needs something for entertainment. (I'm hoping he'll actually finish that book he started a year I'd like to also be able to install a home phone after the holiday season closes. Maybe even go with Vonage or something similar.

I am hoping that I will find work before the actual lay-off occurs. Otherwise, we will have to apply for foodstamps again. Even though we qualified financially last year, we were not allowed an open case. We still had a child living at home and were denied services that we qualified for because they were only going to be for a short period of time. The caseworker didn't think it was worth it to do all the paperwork for such a short time. Isn't what the system is for? To help you get through the rough patches? If I'd known that they would RATHER we be on assistance permanently, I'd never have gone to work and learned to support myself.

Personally, I'd rather support myself. I just want to be able to keep food in the house and keep up with the laundry and still have money to support my yarn

Soooooo, I am budgeting. I am creating a plan that allows for yarn money and still keeps the pantry full. How cool is that?

Monday, November 3, 2008

My Garden

I love the layout in my new yard. There is so much out there, in such a small space. And there is still lots of room out there for more! I have an asian pear tree, 2 plum trees, 2 grapevines, a veggie bed and some as yet unidentified plants in front of the grapevines. There is also a tree out there that we have not identified yet. I hope it's a fruit.

I want to add a compost bin, some tomato and melon trellises and a popcorn bed. I even want to put a bench out there. I've got a plan all written out in my notebook, and some planning going into effect. I'm even ordering my seed catalogs in advance!

A member of our homesteading board, Stan, is coming by to help me identify my plants, figure out what needs doing for fall and help me learn to be ready for next year.

Today, I'm going to research the feasibility of directly composting kitchen waste into the veggie bed for a few weeks before the snows come. Then I can mulch on top of that. That way, I will have fed the garden and still have time to wait for spring to build the compost bin.

My garden is really important to me, because it's the first step in becoming more self sufficient. Learning to grow and preserve foods that I use regularly will help lower my food bills, as well as stand me in good stead for a future in which food might be a bit more scarce than we would like to admit.

I'd like to add a few things to the yard and make it more productive for my household. I wonder if there is room for a rabbit hutch?

Why is it so hard to give something away?

For instance: I offered a twin bed to a friend whose child is sleeping on the floor. I sent the offer thru her mother, who is my dearest friend. Her daughter asked how much I was charging her mom for the bed and could not believe it when she was told that I wasn't charging her at all. Don't people get it?

About 2 weeks ago, I posted an offer for an entire living room suit on the local freecycle boards. I've gotten tons of requests for this furniture. Some want me to deliver it, which I cannot do. (no truck any more) Others have come, looked at it and decided against it. That's fine, it's their choice. However, the most recent has been the young person who showed up, needed a bigger truck and said they would be back in a few hours. Then they sent me an email saying they would be here the next day instead. Then they didn't show up at all, and asked me to hold the furniture for another week.

During this week, I did not have room in my home to finish moving out of my old place. I STILL have stuff over there waiting to be moved. However, I have much less, as I have had at least 3 robberies there over the last week.

This person was supposed to be here Saturday. I sent multiple emails asking for a time frame, so that I could get other things done this weekend, but got no responses. Saturday came and went with no sign of them. Sunday morning, I got an email claiming yet another "emergence" and that they would be here after 2 pm. I waited again, all day, without doing what I needed done away from the home. They never showed!!! They continue to tell me how desperately they need this furniture, but then continue to be rude and inconsiderate about my time and needs. They have been given both cell phone numbers, and have not called one time to offer an explanation or reschedule or anything.

Why is it that common curtesy has fallen by the wayside? Why is it so hard to give something away? This is nice furniture, it all matches, and it's comfortable. It IS in need of shampooing, as it was in storage for a long time. I like it very much. It is just too large for my apartment. It barely fits through the door frames, and it takes up way too much space. Offering it to someone who has nothing should have been easy, not a chore. When someone is giving you something, and giving up their plans and time to help you get it, it would be nice if you would at least call and let them know you are not coming that day.

I have now wasted 10 days waiting around for these people. I've been robbed of time and belongings. My blood pressure is through the roof over the stress of not being completely moved out of my old home. There are many things that I need to do over there before the snow begins to accumulate. The holiday season was not when I planned to start. Now, I'm going to be charged yet another month of rent over there because these people have dicked around for so long. So there is even MORE money out of my pocket. This free furniture is starting to become very expensive.