Use Your Muscles

The more you are willing to use your own muscles to do something, the less you have to own.

You can knead your dough like this:
kneading dough

Or this:

You can get to the store like this:

Or like this:

I’m not ready to give up my washing machine yet.

Six Reasons to Prepare & Eat Dinner at Home

soup & bread

This is one of those activities that checks all the “enough” boxes: enough money, enough fun, enough time with the family.

1) When you prepare your meal at home, you are eating in the most economical way. For many families, this is the simplest way to save hundreds of dollars every single month.

2) When you prepare your meal at home, you can fix it exactly as you and your family like it whether you are preparing low-fat chicken breast pizza or low-mess cheese sticks and sliced apples for your toddlers.

3) Eating a meal together is one of the strongest bonding things humans do together. You did want to bond with your family, right?

4) With the proper attitude, eating as a family can be a fun part of the day. Sure, you want to teach them table manners, but even that can be done in a playful way. Growing up, my brothers and I had some stiff rules for table behavior. But, if one of us caught another not following the rules, we could send them on a lap around the kitchen. We learned quickly, we could miss out on seconds if our misbehavior was poorly timed. It is a great time to share what has occurred during the day so far, plan for the rest of the week, and just be together. Doing so creates a family culture, a shared history…..a bond.

5) It doesn’t have to take a lot of time to fix a family dinner. (Remember the toddler dinner of cheese sticks and apple slices?) Do food prep on a day off work, to make things smoother later in the week. There are slow-cookers and stir-fries and simple sandwiches. Reality is, you can have food on the table faster than it would take to go through the drive through at the local fast-food place.

6) Cooking with your family can also be a fun time. Teaching kids to cook, sharing the creation of the menu and the meal, more good times.

Benefits of No TV

A co-worker, who just learned that we do not have a single TV, was asking? “How do your kids deal with it? Are they upset?”

The short answer is No.

The long answer is that when they were pre-school age, I bought a TV, thinking it would make it easier to recruit babysitters. But the quality of our interactions was so much poorer, and then the kids didn’t want to do anything besides watch TV. So when the eldest left for college, I sent the TV with him. We has the blasted thing for about 7 months.

The kids found other things to do. They made forts with the couch cushions, they read lots and lots of library books, one of them created comic strips for several years, we built a tree house, they rode their bikes in a nearby park, and each of them took up at least two instruments.

They did watch TV at their dad’s and friends’ houses, and they had the satisfaction a few times of telling the teacher that they couldn’t do the assigned homework because they didn’t have a TV. (This was always accompanied by a note from me verifying it was true.) Once or twice, I overheard them bragging to a friend that they didn’t have a TV at home.

It is hard to know for sure, but I think they are more creative and disciplined than they would be if we did have a TV.

2014-04-04 19.02.37

The band performing at the Black Sheep Café last Friday night.
2014-04-04 19.01.58

Minimalist Medicine Cabinet

Now that my daughter is away at school the medicine cabinet is all mine. Here is  what it looks like without her stuff.

2014-04-02 10.19.05

Top shelf: cotton swabs, Ibuprophen, retainer.

Second self: basket with floss, toothpaste, toothbrush, mascara, comb, nail clippers and grooming scissors.

Bottom shelf: body lotion, foundation.

Skirt Alteration

As I mention earlier, I bought a long skirt at Goodwill with the intention to alter it to suit my purposes. This will be a cool alternative to shorts when the summer heat sets in. My alterations are to make the skirt knee-length and add a pocket. Here’s how I did it. The original skirt:

2014-03-24 12.19.13

I measured 21 1/2 inches from the waistband and cut with pinking shears.

2014-03-24 12.28.55

2014-03-24 12.32.24

I saved part of the lower remnant to make a pocket.

2014-03-26 17.39.03

I used a portion from the front placket with a buttonhole and facing under the fold. These details will add to the pocket usefulness and strength and the work is already done for me.

2014-03-26 18.05.55

Here is the pocket pinned in place. If you look very carefully, you can see the black pin heads. I attached it with a simple running stitch and then went over it again with another running stitch, filling in the gaps of the first. This strengthens the pocket and looks a little more finished. I added the button, hemmed the skirt and the whole thing took me about an hour, including stopping for photos.

2014-03-27 14.58.36

Here is the finished skirt and the Goodwill T-shirt I plan to wear with it. A new summer outfit for a little less than $10.50, plus my time.


This is another wisdom tooth surgery savings post. You can just skip it if you find this kind of thing boring.


When I last posted I was still $526.76 from my goal. Then I canceled my safety deposit box, which was due for renewal in March saving $40 this month and every year thereafter. Then I custom-fitted a sheet to my bed, by hemming it myself. If I took it to the tailor, it would have cost $10.

Yesterday, I worked an extra shift for high bonus pay. There was a lot of driving involved which is reimbursed at 0.55 per mile and I have four hours of mandatory meetings next week, which will boost my next paycheck by an additional $480.

And, there is still three weeks till the surgery, so I can keep on saving.

I did spend some extra money in the past week–$200 for some new high hat cymbals (expected and saved for) and tickets to a theatre production for me and middle son –$174. That was unexpected, but I’m sure I’ll be able to cover it.

Wisdom Teeth Progress

Here’s the progress I have made in coming up with the $1,131 up-front cost for middle son’s wisdom teeth surgery (I will get reimbursed from health insurance eventually, but we get a 5% discount if we pay the day of surgery.)

Sunday: I guess the warranty expired on our drinking glasses, as three of them have broken in the past week. We still have three left and six mugs, so I am not going to replace the drinking glasses. We have plenty of dishes to drink out of without resorting to just putting our open mouths under the running tap. Though middle son does that anyway. Money saved: $21.59. Middle son wanted a haircut- used my trusty Wahl clippers, saved $18.00.

Monday: The check for books I sold at the National Hospice conference came in. $82.50. I bought my entire summer wardrobe at Goodwill for $17.05. I will need to alter the skirt before I can wear it. Here’s what I bought, and what it would have cost if I bought it new:

Columbia T-shirt. Retails new for $30, though they are selling them on their website for $20 now. I paid $3.49, so savings of $16.51.

2014-03-13 17.03.54

Sheer dress shirt: I have seen something similar at TJ Maxx for $15.99, I paid $1.74, savings-$14.25.

2014-03-13 17.05.48

Caldwell Creek skirt: While my skirt may be twenty years old (guessing by the floral print) it is in like-new condition. I found a similar length floral print on sale at the Caldwell Creek website for $90. I paid 6.49 for my skirt. Savings-$83.51. I will have a future post about how I am altering it to suit my needs.

2014-03-13 17.04.39

Liz Claiborne top: Mine, new with tags still on it $3.49. From the JC Penny website, a similar top retails for $36, and is on-sale for $27. I saved $23.51.2014-03-13 17.04.15

Black sweater: I have bought similar items at TJ Maxx in past for $25.00. Mine was $3.49, saved $21.51.

2014-03-13 17.05.27

For the rest of my summer wardrobe, I will use the few items left from last year and also, I plan to cut off a pair of black jeans that are getting faded to make shorts.

Tuesday: Free movie (Girl Rising) on a topic dear to my heart. Plus I got to connect with some really cool people. If I had just gone to a show at the multiplex, it would have been $10.50 with out any of the bonuses. Youngest son came down with the same viral infection I had a month ago. Instead of progressing to pneumonia, his morphed into a bad cough with a total body rash. Itchy. So in addition to his antibiotic, he is taking the generic for Benadryl, that I had lying around the house. I could have bought more….but I let it get down to the last tablet…and then the rash was gone, saving me $4.31. Also, I got rear-ended a couple of weeks back–no physical harm to anyone involved and she has insurance, which is paying for the repair of my vehicle and a rental car while mine is in the shop. The rental car company tried to sell me some extra insurance, in case I crashed their car, at $10.59/day. No, thank you very much. Savings $31.77.

Wednesday: Canceled my fitness membership. Saved 19.99 for March and 19.99 in April. I will walk in the park near my home and walk to some of my errands and do body weight (push-ups, squats, etc.) exercises at home. Also, today, got a check from the consignment shop for an article of clothing they sold for me. $6.00

Thursday: I have been helping a friend with a big de-clutter project. It is a two-hour drive each way to the friend’s house. When I left today, she gave me $40.00 for gas.

$453.53 accumulated these past five days toward the goal. $526.67 yet to go.


Just when you are enjoying a thoughtful reverie, life intervenes and it is back to work.


Middle son is getting his wisdom teeth removed on April 14th. There are three, possibly four impacted teeth, which means that parts of the procedure fall under the dental insurance and parts of the procedure fall under medical insurance. The oral surgeon is charging us $2,262 for the privilege and the kid’s dad is responsible for half. If we pay cash on the day of surgery we get a 5% discount.

Which means that I need to come up with $1,131 cash on April 14th. I am starting today. I got a check in the mail from the insurance company for the original evaluation– $132.80 and youngest son needed a haircut, which I did in the kitchen with the hair clippers I have had for several years saving $18.00 including tip. Alright! $980.20 to go….

Shampoo Economics

Youngest son asked me to buy him a different brand of shampoo. The one we had was “volumizing” and his thick, curly hair is self-volumizing. I sensed a teaching moment.

We went to Target and I asked him to find a shampoo that he thought would meet his needs. He looked up and down the aisle, overwhelmed and shrugged, “I don’t know.” I found a popular brand shampoo with a label indicating it would create “sleek and shine.” Would this one be OK? He shrugged, “Maybe.” It was $5 for 22 oz. I pulled off the shelf another shampoo from the same company that was intended for “volumizing.” I asked him to compare the ingredient list. They were almost identical. He said, “Maybe, I could get a man shampoo.”

I found a bottle of Head and Shoulders advertised for men. $7 for 23.7 oz. One shelf down was a bottle of Head and Shoulders-not gender specific. $7 for 23.7 oz.

2014-02-27 16.54.51

Exact same ingredients.

2014-02-27 16.55.11

Further down the aisle, I found 3 bottles of shampoo marked down for clearance. $0.67 for 15 oz. each. I opened the lids and let youngest son smell the fragrance. Would these be OK? “Yes.”

2014-02-27 17.23.19

He was such a good sport about it, I bought him a bag of potato chips.



For the past 40 years I have worked very hard. Set goals, made plans, achieved goals. Set new goals.

During my recent illness, I realized that there isn’t anything that I want in my future more than I want to be in the present now. I do not need to work so hard. Just wake up and see what the day brings.


Did you hear that? It was a lifetime of struggling and wanting and pushing getting sucked out the space capsule of my life and into deep space.

The sun is reflecting off my neighbor’s house, just barely above the horizon. There is a squirrel that just found a nut he buried between the flagstones of my backyard path. He has shelled it and eats it on the path.

I am afraid that I won’t remember how to do this when I go back to work. Then, I remember that it was work that first taught me how to just be. When you are caring for a dying person, after you have given the morphine and changed the sheets and counseled the family about what is happening, then you just be with them. Often, that is the most important part of the work.

I can do this! I can do this! I am positively giddy with excitement.