Welcome to my blog

Please don't remind me that I'm poor; I'm having too much fun pretending I'm simply "living green" like everyone else these days.


Friday, October 31, 2008

Get an energy audit!

In order to cut utility expenses a person must first be willing to get advice from some experts. Start by getting an energy audit. It costs very little and gives plenty of advice. Even if you are a renter an energy audit can help save you money.

Energy audits in my area are done by the utility company. They start by doing a blower door test. Here is what it looks like. It's a plastic door with a blower that tells where you are loosing the most heat or cooling energy. The auditor will also walk around your house looking inside things and behind things to see where other gadgets can save you utility dollars. It's not a time for being embarrassed by dust and clutter..... because you are getting advice.... not a home cleanliness inspection.

My energy audit was about things I could do as a home owner to make my home more energy efficient. There are also ways to cut energy expenses even if you rent an apartment. I found out from the energy audit that I was loosing a lot of energy because I didn't have any insulation. Strange because when I bought this house it was supposed to be insulated. I went back to the original papers and sure enough it said fully insulated. It even described how much insulation. I did have an inspector look at the house before I bought it but I think he just wanted to get the fee because there are lots of things he didn't mention before I signed the papers. Over the years I have found the errors on my own. Without the energy audit I would never have known the insulation never was done. I'm not about to climb a ladder to get into the attic at my age.

If you get insulation all over your house you must also get air vents to lower your utility bill in the summer. Insulation to keep in the heat in winter and ventilation to get the heat out in the summer. I got 11 new vents in my house. This is one that was put on the back addition to my house. It's separated from the rest of the attic by the way it was constructed so it needed separate vents.

This is another vent for the addition in the back.

These are 6 vents put on the side roof of my house. The insulation guys cut the holes for the vents then used the holes to run the hoses inside where the other guys moved the hoses around to place the blown in insulation where it needed to go.

These are the three vents on the back side of the roof. The shorter portion of the roof is the addition. The addition doesn't have any attic space at all which is why the vents were put on the sides of the house.
Did you notice the security light? This was something the city gave away free about 10 or 15 years ago. Supposedly it was to help deter crime in this area. The light worked by coming on at dusk and going off at dawn.
I used it one time then removed the bulb so it would never work again. Why?? Well it has a 1000 watt bulb and no switch to turn it off. It was more like an overhead streep light. In one night it was using 8000 to 10,000 watts of electricity. In one month that could have added up to 30,000 watts. It was using more electicity than my whole house. It also put out soooo much light that it was like daylight shining through the windows at night. No one could sleep for the brightness. It was totally wrong for houses. It should have been a simple outside porch light instead.
Even if you are a renter there are things you can do to save energy. In my opinion anyone who owns property to rent should be required by law to make it energy efficient before they get a permit. Especially anyone who rents to section 8 people. But that's a different blog post to be saved for another time.
I got this new efficient shower head. Isn't it cute! A renter can change the shower head easily. The old one just screws off and the new one screws on. All you need is a pair of pliers. It's cheap enough that you could leave it for the next renter or save the old shower head to put back on when you move. My old shower head was the older version of efficient. This one is much better. No, it doesn't produce just a trickle of water. It gives plenty of water. It makes the water do more work with less used.

My water heater got a new jacket. This may be a little over kill since the water heater is in a heated part of the house but the way I feel about it is.... even a few pennies saved by using the jacket is a few pennies in my pocket.... not the utility company's pocket. Again, cheap enough it could be left for the next renter if you got one for your water heater in a rented apartment.

I also got some new energy efficient light bulbs. Changing light bulbs in an apartment is the easiest of all things to do to save energy dollars. I already have energy efficient bulbs all over the house. The ones I have are equal to 100 lumens of light but use only 25 watts of energy. Lumens are equal to candle light. One lumen equals one candle. 100 lumens means 100 candle lights.
Then I got to thinking.... do I really need bright light in the closets or in the porch light fixtures? No, I don't. So I got these. They are 60 lumens of light but use only 13 watts of power.
The ones I already had are not energy star but these are. I had planned to replace my older version of bulbs with newer energy star 100 lumens of light versions. I don't know what I was thinking, I picked up all 60 lumen kind instead of two different kind. Some of these are going back for exchange.... or maybe I will give these to my daughter for xmas and buy myself more.

See the difference in the bulbs? The new ones are very small next to the old ones I was already using.

Back when I first bought this house, I studied ways to cut expenses on utilities. I had to.... no other choice... because I was struggling to keep a roof over our heads. At the time, I did all I could by using the newest items on the market. Now days the gadgets are even more energy efficient so I'm once again studying newer ways to cut down. A trip to the hardware store, a search on the internet, a book or two from the library, or any other information I can gather helps me learn to cut expenses even better.
I still have several things I want to change. The only hold back is the finances. No, it's not easy to do everything all at once on a limited budget. The key is to start with one gadget. The savings from one can be used to buy another. The savings from two can be used to buy the next.... and so forth.
This current one big change to make my house more energy efficient has used up all my savings. Money I had been stashing away a few pennies at a time until I could pay to get the work done. I could be tempted to say that I have more money to spend on fabrics or clothing or even trips to bingo.... but I won't give into that temptation!
I will carefully calculate the difference between the bills from before and the bills after. The difference will be put into my savings account for more energy work on my house in the future. There is still a lot of things that can be done. I lived without the money before the changes, I can live without the extra money after..... especially when it means I can grow the money by saving even more money later.
Today's finished quilt. It's an inherited quilt.

It started out looking like this all over.

Now it looks like this.

A view from the back.

I worked on this while the insulation guys kept coming and going to do their work. Staying behind the machine meant I was out of their way. My house is now extremely well insulated and more energy efficient. I'm anxious to see how much better my house feels this winter and how much less it takes to heat it.
I have the 3 or 4 day quilt on the machine this morning. I plan to work through the weekend.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The next finished quilt. I'm trying to balance between an easy finish with a more difficult finish so I don't push myself too much. This one turned out to be a two day quilt.

I did line dancing on the black background.

I did a new design on the border. I really like this design. I'm going to use it on some other quilts.

I did a swag design on the inside border.

I did a leafy design on the yellow pieces. It sort of mimmicks the border design.

I did a flower power design on the stack n whack centers.

I have another easy one on the machine for today. After that I will be working on a 3 or 4 day one. By balancing between an easy and a difficult top I feel as if I'm making progress. To do only difficult ones back to back it seems to drag on and on and on, like I'm not getting anywhere. To do only easy ones back to back will leave only the difficut ones.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Ah yes, a finished quilt. The t-shirt quilt. Now the only thing left to do is the binding.

I did simple cross hatching all over it.

Things are finally getting back to normal for me. I have another quilt on the machine ready to go. I will be working as fast as I can without making myself overly tired. This recent illness seems to have robbed me of my strength. All I can do.... is all I can do.
We had a very little mist of sleet yesterday. Also, on the news last evening, they once again reported that we will be paying about double what we paid for gas last year to heat our homes this year. Between the news and the sleet yesterday it was a reminder for me that the insulation is very important to get finished. I had rescheduled the work and the guys are due here today. They say it will take a only day or two to finish. It can't be soon enough for me.
That will be the last of the energy upgrades..... until I save more money. Next will be to get new insulated siding for the outside and maybe new double pane windows. That's a future thing though. It will be very expensive and will take a long time to save. In the mean time, I still have some windows that need plastic put on them. I'll probably get some of that done this weekend.
Well, I'm headed off the the studio to work for awhile.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Today is my follow up visit with the doctor. I'm sure he will give me the ok to go back to work. I've got the first quilt on the machine so I can start working on it when I get home. Its a t-shirt quilt I pieced before my hospital stay.

Hopefully, finished quilts will start showing up on my blog soon.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

If anyone is interested in what my neighborhood is really like..... as far as getting good nutritional foods.... please go to this site. Bridging the gap. It's a pdf file all about the availability of foods in my neighborhood. I live in the west end area. Be careful though, the pdf file is large. It's 52 pages.

You can skip over most of it if you are not inclined to read about the troubles of a neighborhood (go down to about page 10) but pay attention to the maps of what we have in this neighborhood and the pictures of fresh produce available in our neighborhood grocery stores. If you read the articles surrounding the maps and pictures you will see that good nutritional food is non-existent in our area of Jefferson County, Kentucky. In order to find good foods we must travel long distances by city bus to get to the foods we need.

This article is about the problem I've struggled with in my quest to be both frugal and keep myself as healthy as possible. Being frugal and eating healthy in this neighborhood doesn't always work together as you can tell from my frequent illnesses. An hour or two by city bus to the closest really good grocery and carrying only what I can put into a pull cart or carry in my hands at the same time while traveling another hour or two back home on a crowded bus are not always an option.

I do have my daughter who takes me to the grocery on the other side of town when she can; but, between working, going to school, taking care of kids, and only one car in her two car family doesn't alway make it easy for her to take me shopping. Which is why I stock up on as many things as I possibly can in one shopping trip only three or four times a year. And is also the main reason I am so appreciative when a customer brings me fresh fruits or vegetables as tips instead of money. A couple of fresh green peppers, a banana or two, or even a bag of good potatoes given to me by a customer is like a bit of sunshine on a really cloudy day!

One thing that wasn't mentioned in the article is that it's easier to get a bottle of beer or liquor than it is to get a good apple in this neighborhood. A person only need walk a block or two to find alcholol products but it's at least an hour bus ride to find the fresh apples.

Even the farmer's markets mentioned in the article leave a gap. The foods the farmers bring are often the lower quality items that aren't sold to food processing plants and major chain stores. Transportation to the farmer's markets is also by city bus. This makes it hard for many residents to actually get the fresh produce. Those who live within a block or two can manage but bus riders often find it too hard to get there.

Well anyway, I thought maybe some of my blog readers might like a better understanding of why I shop the way I do and why it's so important for me to make the most of what money I have.
I am neither a home economist nor a nutritionist nor a financial wizard. There is nothing magical about what I do to save money. I wasn't born knowing how to save money. It was simply something I was taught and I was willing to learn. Anyone who has to live on a tight budget can do what I do. All you need do is keep an open mind and be very observant to learning newer ways to save a penny here and a penny there. Pennies add up to dollars.

By far, the easiest place to save money is with groceries. Now I'm not going to sit here type-talking to tell you that it will make you rich; but, it will certainly stretch the budget by a few pennies up to a few dollars each trip.

Someone once told me that in order to be wealthy I either had to earn more or spend less. Well, I've done both and I'm still not wealthy; although, I can see the logic.

In the old days, grocery stores wanted you as their customer so much that they would give you bonus stamps. The bonus stamps were put into little stamp books. The stamp books were exchanged for things from the stamp stores. Stamp stores were like department stores that used only stamps as money. You used the stamp books to get toys, household items, transportation tickets, and lots of other things. Oh how I wish they would bring back the bonus stamps!!!

So ok, enough of memory lane, back to the coupons.

Coupons are good. Coupons are like someone handing you a handfull of coins to spend. If you are very observant you will find ways to save money by looking through the ads and comparing it to your coupon stash. Like this ad for Pert shampoo this week. The ad even tells you that there is a coupon out there somewhere that you can use too.

And this ad tells you that they will give you a free toothpaste. Free is very good!

Yes, it's true that Pert or Crest may not be my favorite brands.... but brand loyalty is not an option when I need to stretch the budget. Pert and Crest do a good job of cleaning my hair and teeth just like my favorite brands. Why pay $6.38 for only two items when I can get both for only $.99 cents? I don't know about you but I think I would rather use the $5.39 difference for edible items on my list. By reading the fine print of this ad, I saw that I could buy 5 of each of these. This means I can get 5 toothpastes and 5 shampoos for a total of 4.95 before tax. That would be a year supply or more for me. A savings of $26.95 .... not a bad bargain.
So each Sunday I will sit down with the sale papers and the list of groceries I need to replenish and my coupons. I become very observant of the ads while looking for bargains. I will even read the fine print of ads. Sometimes I find really good information in the fine print. That's how I found out I could get 5 of the toothpastes and shampoos.

Before I actually start my grocery planning from the ads, I clip out and file my coupons. My sister in law also uses coupons but she does her's differently. She will go through the grocery ads, pick out the coupons from that day's inserts she plans to use this week, then throw the rest away. She's loosing money but I can't get her to change her habits.
I'm just the opposite. I keep every coupon.... for any item I might use if it was free..... until it expires before I will thow it away. I would hate to throw away a coupon for something then next week see it as a free item when the coupon is used.
One time a friend that refused to use coupons pointed out that coupons are not good bargains. Coupons are only offered for items that the manufacturer can't sell without coupons. She was only partly right.
Coupons are non-existant for actual good nutritional foods. Coupons are not offered for things like fresh vegetables or fruits or meats. Coupons are for non-edible or convenience foods. Things you might not other wise buy if it were not for the coupons. The manufacturers know you will feed yourself first and buy other items only when necessary. They are competing for your grocery money.
I use my coupons to buy my non-edible items as cheaply as possible so that I keep the maximum amount of my budget for food. My non-edible items are necessary but not nearly as important as my food. If I can manage to get all the non-edible items for free that's a bonus!
So here are my coupons all clipped out and ready to file.

I have this sorter that came in the coupon mom packet I got a few weeks ago. It's the only part of the packet I still use. I found the small coupon file just wasn't large enough for me. I save too many coupons for its size.

Here are my coupons all sorted using the sorter.

The catagories match the catagories of my binder.

My binder is simply a school binder I got from the discount table after school started and some baseball card holder plastic sheets. I actually got the idea for the binder from youtube. I don't remember who showed it though.

Clipping, sorting, filing coupons, then reading each ad to find the bargains is not a fast thing. A person can't be fast and observant at the same time. I tend to think of it as a part time job. I base my earnings on how much I am able to save for what work I've put into it. A few minutes will save a few pennies. A couple of hours will save dollars.

There are two ways I could handle the bargain I found on the shampoo and toothpaste. I could pass on getting these in the hope that my favorite brands might have the same deal. Or I could go ahead and get what is right before me and not have to buy any shampoo or toothpaste for a year. I will get it now.... while it's available. And I will get the maximum allowed. Because.... Might may never come true.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Survival cooking

You've run out of food and there is still days before payday.... how can you survive? Your kids are screaming "Mommie, I'm sooooo hungry" and you are feeling guilty because even your change jar is empty. You can't go out for fast food and seemingly there's nothing in the kitchen. Don't panic! You will survive. Don't get me wrong.... this is survival cooking..... not a healthy eating formula.

If you open any cookbook, of any type, you will see that the recipes use a tiny bit of this and a tiny bit of that to create a dish of some sort. There will be quarter teaspoons or tablespoons of some ingredients. A dash of another ingredient. A cup of others. I've never really seen a recipe that calls for a whole bag of flour or a whole bottle of a spice.... have you? Well, maybe. It would depend on whether the recipe was to feed a crowd of 100 or not.

So ok, back the the ingredients of the recipe book.

Now imagine that it's not a list of ingredients for a dish in a book; but rather, a list of items a person found in their kitchen when they thought the kitchen was completely empty. My point is that no matter how little you believe you have in the kitchen.... it could be the ingredients for a frugal new dish. Be willing to experiment with whatever you can find. If you write it down as you create.... from list of ingredients to how you prepared them.... then you've got the beginnings of your very own frugal cookbook. If your family likes what you prepared you can read your own recipe to fix it again sometime.

Basically what you do is go into your kitchen and pantry to look for everything you can find and put it in a list. No matter how small the amount.... it can help. List everything from a small scraping in the peanut butter jar to fast food ketchup packets to a limp piece of celery. Put everything into these 5 catagories.

Starches - anything that contains starchy food stuff. Pasta, potatoes, rice, beans, flour, potato chips, ramen noodles, etc.

Vegetables - a piece of celery, an onion, musrooms, cans of peas, frozen corn, etc.

Meat - slices of lunch meat, tuna, left over fast food chicken, left over half a stuffed pepper, cheese, eggs (cheese and eggs are considered meat for this formula), even a can of sardines if you have it.

Spices - pepper, salt, chili powder, italian seasonings, etc.

Odds and ends - Anything that doesn't fit into the other catagories. A can of soup, a can of milk, a bit of spaghetti sauce, a ketchup packet, mustard, butter, cooking oil, mayo, relish, salad dressing, etc.

Ok, you've listed everything you could find, it's time to start cooking. You will use one ingredient from each food group to make a one pot meal. How you cook it will depend on what you found. If the starch needs cooking, start that first.

Cut the meat and veggies very tiny. The smaller you chop them the better they will blend in the dish and feed more people. Add the meat and veggies to the starchy foods.

Now give it some flavor by adding a spice.

And lastly, you need something to make it slide down the throat. Starch, meat, and veggies tend to be very dry if you don't add something to make it slick. Add something from the odds and ends group. Or look to see if you have the ingredients for a gravy. Gravy will also make foods easier to swallow.

How many days can you go on this survival technique? It depends on how much you found and how well you combine them. Before using everything you found into one single dish.... try listing one ingredient from each group.... for one day, then another, then another, until you have nothing else left on your list. This will tell you how many days it will get you by.

For example: you found an onion, an egg, some rice, a chicken wing, and soy sauce. That's one day of stir fry. Another example: you found one potato, a bit of cheese, some beans, and slices of bread. It could be bean, potato, and cheese cassarole. Or bean and cheese hash browns on toast with gravy. Be creative! Mix and match things to come up with new dishes.

Use the right size pots

While I'm on the subject of survival food..... it always pays to use the right size pot or skillet. The larger the pot or skillet the more tempted you will be to cook too much. Or worse, make your survival cooking look like it won't be enough. A small handfull of noodles in a 3 quart pot will look kind of silly or should I say skimpy. Here is an example of a skillet I often use. It's a one person size skillet. That's one half of a boneless chicken breast cut into four pieces in the skillet. The skillet looks full doesn't it? The skillet cooks enough for me to have four meals.

Why did I not use my regular kitchen stove? Well I also want to save energy. This tiny skillet for this size ingredients is much better than my big stove. I also have tiny cast iron skillets that I use on the stove. I collect vintage cast iron pots and love the way they cook. I use the right pot for the right cooking.

Use smaller plates

While on the subject of right size...... a smaller plate size of food tends to make a person feel fuller than a larger plate size. Why? It's all in the perception. A small amount of food on a really large plate tends to look like it's not nearly enough and your brain believes it; but, the same amount on a very small plate makes it look like you are getting plenty and you feel fuller.

Don't believe me? Lets use an example. Have you ever eaten at one of those all you can eat restaurants? They give you a stack of plates so you can go back for seconds or thirds if you want. What size are the plates? Mentally compare those to the plates you use at home. Can you picture the difference?

Ok, at a fast food, all you can eat restaurant, you go up to the food counter and get..... oh maybe a tablespoon full of three items and a couple of tiny pieces of meat on your plate which appears to be over flowing. I know, those spoons the restaurant uses appear to be very large. They may be large but most of the time only a tablespoon lands on your plate. The rest is stuck to the big spoon. It's designed that way and is a deliberate perception thing done by the restaurants.

You eat what you got and go back for seconds. Again you put a spoonfull of three items and a little more meat on your plate and eat it. Now despite you eating only about getting 6 tablespoons of food and a couple of pieces of meat.... you feel extremely over stuffed after eating. It's all in the perception!

If you had gotten the same 6 tablespoons of food on a very large plate I believe you would have gone back for seconds anyway. It's a part of the reason many people over eat. There's something about second helpings that most people crave. So while you are planning your survival meals also plan to use your smallest plates.

After you have gathered and written a few of your own survival recipes you can also use them for frugal grocery shopping in the future. Add the survival recipes to your menu plan for a bit of savings. Give it some thought. I'm sure you will see what I mean.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I got an email asking if I had ever finished the rug I was working on during the power outage. Yes, I finished it. It's a hit or miss rug. As I usually say.... functional is better than pretty. Although I do think these type rugs are pretty too.

A very dear friend has been concerned that I may be in trouble financially because of all the loss of income lately. Believe me, I can squeeze a dollar so hard it's scream can be heard all the way from Kentucky to California! My thrifty ways have taught me to be a survivor even when there isn't any money. Sure times will be tough for awhile but it's not anything I can't handle. I may complain some but no way am I about to become homeless or go hungry.

I've always been taught to keep an emergency savings. I think the experts tell us to have at least 6 months of living expenses should we suddenly be out of work. I did gamble and spend my emergency funds on energy upgrades. That was a gamble I was willing to take. It will be to my favor in the long run.

A quilting income is always rather iffy. There will be money coming in as fast as I can quilt one month and no work at all next month. After 25 plus years of living with this iffy income I've learned to be very organized about my spending habits. Today I am broke because I've not been working and also because I spent so much on the house. Next week as soon as I get back to my machine there will be money earned.

A major part of my emergency funds is in the form of groceries. Just like one person might put twenty dollars into their savings account.... I will often put the same twenty into canned foods or non-edible items for my grocery stash. But, even if I didn't have a grocery stash..... even if it seems there isn't anything in the house to eat.... I can find a meal or two.

For example: suppose this was all I had in the kitchen.... what can I do with these?

1/2 an onion
2 slices of bologna
a limp piece of celery
a small handful of egg noodles
3 fast food soy sauce packets
a couple of wilted mushrooms
a sprinkling of flour left in the bag
1 bread heal slice

Don't see it? It's bologna, mushroom, egg noodle casserole. (is that spelled right?)

1. boil the egg noodles, remove the noodles but keep the water, it should be about a half cup
2. chop the bologna, celery, onion, and mushrooms up to very small pieces
3. cook these in the egg noodle water, add more water if it cooks away, keep it at about half cup
4. when these are cooked, remove them but keep the water
5. shake the flower from the bag into the water and add the soy sauce, cook this until it becomes a little thick like a gravy. How thick it becomes depends on how much flour you had.
6. When you have a gravy put all the ingredients into a casserole dish and stir
7. crumble the bread heal on top of the casserole, add a little salt and pepper
8. Put under the broiler until the bread crumbs are toasted

Yes, I did just make up the recipe based on what I had in the house. It's not what I actually have. it was to give an example of what is possible. I do have plenty to eat, just can't open my mouth for it yet. I don't remember where I first learned the use what you have technique. Probably from my grandmother. It works every time. It might not always be appetizing but will most certainly fill the stomach.

Lest there are those who might think I'm one of those people who die with a wealth of money stashed in the walls of my house.... I don't. I am thrifty but I do have bills like anyone else. Now I gotta go convince my friend that I'm going to survive.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Never trust the scanner!

Just look what I got from my daughter. She found it at an office supply store for only 99 cents. I put it next to my medium rotary cutter so you could get a scale. Isn't it cute!

Now I can always be sure I have my calculator with me when I shop. It's on the key ring with my house key. I never leave home without locking the door so I'm always going to take this with me too.

Why do I always take a calculator to the store? No it's not only just for the obvious of adding up what I'm spending. There is another purpose. You know how you put your groceries on the conveyor and the salesperson very quickly scans everything and drops it into bags then gives you the total? It's hard to know if they have scanned something more than once or if the right price is done by the scanner. The scanners can make hugh mistakes sometimes!

If you never check to be sure the register total is right.... how can you be sure you're not over paying? Never trust the register scanners!!!! The price changes are put in by a human being. Humans make mistakes. The sale price might not have been entered yet. The typest might have typed a double number. They might be thinking of something else while typing. They might have had a bad day and wanted to take it out on the boss. There are millions of reasons for human errors.

When I'm at the register, no matter how many impatient people are behind me, I know what my total should be because I used my calculator. If the register doesn't agree with my total I know something is wrong. I won't argue with the clerk because of the impatient people behind me. But, if the register total and my total are off by more than a dollar I will stand off to the side and check the whole receipt to look for a mistake. When I find the mistake I will go to the service desk and ask for a refund of the over charge. Even if it means a trip back into the store by the clerk to check the shelf price. The store clerk gets paid an hourly wage. It's the exact same amount whether they are walking back to a shelf or standing at the counter.... so it doesn't bother me to ask them to check a price.

Actually, the big chain stores make millions of dollars in profits each day because the scanners and the shelf price tags don't match and very few people actually check. I have never found a price difference to be in my favor. I started using my calculator to double check my register total a few years ago. I had bought some kool-aid along with some other groceries. The total came to over 70 dollars for a few packs of kool-aid, some bananas, a pound of hamburger, and a bottle of dish detergent. Shocked! Yes, you could say I was shocked. Shocked enough to never, ever forget it. It turns out the register charged 7 dollars each for the kool-aid. The person who had put the prices into the scanner computer had transposed 0.07 to 7.00. (Kool-aid was cheaper back then.)

More often than not the price on the shelf and the price in the scanner are off by only a penny or two; but, with millions of pennies everyday all over the country, that's a lot of profit for the big chain stores. Can you imagine how it would be if a person normally bought large amounts of groceries (like a months worth of food stamps at one time) and never checked the price of the kool-aid? They would have paid way over the correct amount but not thought twice about it.
Most people are way to busy to be thrifty. They rush into the store after work, grab a few things, then rush through the register to get home. Checking for mistakes are the last thing on their mind. In order to be truly thrifty you must adopt a slower life style. Slower meaning slow enough to check where your money is going. Slow enough to pay attention to everything that could be robbing you of your hard earned money. Especially at the grocery store.
Invest a little money for a calculator and use it. Also, make use of the in store price scanners. I will often stand at one of those price scanner machines checking several prices before heading to the registers. Sometimes the item on the shelf is not what is on the shelf tag. A clerk may have put the wrong item on the shelf or forgotten to change the tag. Or even worse, there isn't a shelf tag at all for the item.
I guess I should mention that I also take a small magnifying glass with me to the store too. Senior eyes can't always read the tiny shelf tags. Especially tags that are way down at the floor level. I'm often wondering if this is done on purpose by the stores. If a tag is hard to read there is more chance of a mistake being overlooked by the shopper. No matter how rediculous I look bending way over to look at a shelf tag..... with a fat behind sticking up in the air.... I'm going to check the shelf tag price.
I went back to the doctor yesterday. The drain tube is gone. He said it will take several weeks for the knot on my jaw to go completely away. There will be scaring inside too. I have another appointment for next Monday for follow up.

I'm still not able to open my mouth to eat a proper meal. I'm eating what I can get through a straw. Soups and things like that. I can tell from my clothes that I'm loosing weight.... I can afford to loose a few pounds, yea.

My daughter has been here to help with the house cleaning. I don't know what I would do without her. She plans to come back this weekend to clean and maybe help with window plastic. The trees are still green but cold weather is just around the corner.

Today I'm going to do some priority planning and make phone calls. Phone calls here and there are not too tireing. Thank heavens for wonderful customers! Some will be willing to postpone the quilting of their tops until later. This will help me a great deal. My budget is going to be rather tight for awhile but is something I can live with. I've had to get by on a lot less in years past.

Getting the energy upgrades on the house finished is the best thing I've done in years. The insulation still hasn't been done. It's my fault this time. Who knew I would have surgery right when they had planned to come work? So now I have to wait my turn again.

I'm doing a lot of thinking these days. Thinking is easy when I lay around most of the time. January is usually when I do most of my reorganization and goal setting for the new year. I've been thinking of changes to my blogs and to my webshots. I've been thinking of ways I can change my daily routines. I've been thinking of ways to reorganize for better efficiency in almost everything I do. Everything from grocery shopping, to teaching classes, to playing on the internet.

For a long time I've felt as though I were an expert at thrifty living. I mean really, I have gotten by on only $10 a week for groceries for a long, long time. The economy now has me rethinking my ability. The economy has changed lots of things, including what I'm able to buy with $10.

I'm absolutley sure I can be even more thrifty if I work at it. The main thing that I want to do is share what I know with others. To pass along my knowledge while I still can. I'm sure a lot of what I know is also known by many other people who are my age; but, there are young uns out there who have never been taught to be thrifty. I'm hoping the young uns can benefit from what I put into my helpful hints blog.

Ok, now my thoughts are racing again. Images of blog changes are dancing through my head. Maybe I should go make some notes instead of sitting here type-talking. Or start making a few phone calls.


Sunday, October 19, 2008

I want to thank the people who sent me well wishes the last few days. I read the messages this morning. It made my heart feel good to know there are those who wished me well.

I'm back home after another surgery and bunches more antibiotics by IV. The second surgery was to drain more of the infection from the area. It wasn't drained enough the first time.

I'm on an antibiotic regimine for the next few days and have an appointment in the morning to remove the drain tube.
I have doctor orders to not quilt for a few days. I'm to rest, which is what I would do even without doctor orders. The after effects of anesthesia always keep me in a semi sleep stage for several days before it completely wears off. I'm not going near any machinery until the effects are completly gone and I feel safe to operate it. No sense in me taking a chance on sewing or cutting a finger because I'm not fully aware of what I'm doing.
Since I can't quilt for a few days I'll work on some things that require non-lethal tools. First thing after my appointment tomorrow I'll make phone calls. My jaw and throat are much too sore to talk right now. I need to explain the situation to my customers. I'm sure some of the customers will be willing to give unquilted tops as xmas gifts and bring them back to me in January to finish.
My quilt came back from Innovations. It didn't get any ribbons. Why am I not surprised? Most people want to see a quilt that is so heavily quilted that it can almost stand up by itself. They also want to see the quilting more than the fabrics. I'm different. I like the quilting to be almost invisible so that the actual fabrics and design of the quilt are the showcase. I like using almost perfect matching thread so that the quilting gives texture but doesn't really show other than that. Oh well, there will be other contests and other opportunities to win a ribbon.
I think its time for me to go lay back down.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Yes, this has been the year from hell as far as my quilting goes..... can I ever catch a break?

If you have wondered where I've been the last few days? Take a look. Ellisa is wondering what the heck is going on with NaNa too.

Believe me..... this picture of me is a mild one compared to how I looked before surgery. The swelling and infection spread very quickly.
I came home last night. This moring I'm headed back to the hospital. From all indications I will probably be back in surgery again before the day is over. The swelling and infection has spread again. Will be back here when I feel better.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Today's finished quilt. It's a twin size.

I did a loose meander in the background and stitched around the hats to make them stand out.

A pretty bow in the corners.

Line dancing in the pieced stars. I'm showing it from the back because the thread doesn't show up for the camera from the front.

Another view from the back.

Why is it that toothaches always happen on the weekend when there aren't any dentists working??? Can 9 am Monday morning (today) get here soon enough??

I've been suffering with this since Saturday night. I called every dentist office in the phone book.... none have weekend hours. Right now my jaw is so swollen and tight that I can't open my mouth more than a tiny bit. I'm wondering how they will give me a numming shot to pull the tooth if I can't open my mouth? Or pull the tooth? I guess I will find out. I'm going to the dental school this morning. I plan to be standing there at the door when they open it. Hopefully somene will be late for their appointment and I can get worked right in.

I kept working on that quilt to keep my mind off the pain. I did take tylenol which helps dull the pain for awhile but it doesn't go away. It seems that the more behind schedule I become.... the more things happen to get me even farther behind. I'm not sure I want to deal with this level of stress anymore. I do love my work. It fills a creative need and provides an income; but the constant stress causes all kinds of health issues. From viruses to infected teeth.... all of it is worse when a person is stressed. I'm wondering how I will manage to get through the rest of the rush season when so many things seem to be going wrong.

I'm glad the guild meeting was cancelled this weekend. I wouldn't have felt like going.

One of my customers dropped off three quilt tops Saturday morning. She was out running errands and decided to stop by. She told me she was just getting over a virus. She had been in bed for the past 3 days but she felt well enough that morning to run errands and bring me her tops. She was caughing and sneezing. Awww geeze..... why didn't she wait a few days? Or at least give me some warning so I could put on a mask? So once again I've been exposed to an illness. I'm sooo hoping I don't get it too!! When I'm getting over an illness I wait at least 3 days before going around other people. I don't want them to catch anything from me.

As I get older I seem to be going back to my childhood when I caught every illness that came around. I had every childhood disease.... from rheumatic fever to measels to whooping caugh... if it was going around.... I got it. My mother told me that I spent so much time in the hospital and took so many pennicillin shots that if anyone in white clothing came near me I screamed. Nurses and doctors wore all white back then. White meant pain.

Ok, I've got to go take some more tylenol. Maybe if I start quilting I won't think about the pain so much. 4 more hours before the dentist's doors open.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Finally..... another finished quilt. No, I didn't finish piecing the three quilts. I felt I needed to get back onto the quilting machine for a couple of days to make myself feel better. It gives me a feeling of accomplishment when piecing quilts isn't going according to plan.

Picture quilts have their own difficulty in quilting them. This one has a papery type picture so no quilting can be done on it. I did simple stitch in the ditch around the picture then a lacy design to make it stand out among the background.

Then I did a meander in the background like the customer requested. I also sewed the binding onto the front so she can sew it to the back by hand.

Here is a view from the back to show better details of the quilting.

I hear more and more from my customers and friends how the down turn of the economy has hit them hard. Their investments have dwindled down and down. No one knows how long this is going to be getting worse. I hear them say they don't know what to do.

I must admit, I've never had an investment account. I never learned how to invest. When I was growing up I was shipped from one relative to another and into foster homes or orphanages. I never spent long at these places before being shipped off to somewhere else. I wasn't a bad child, my mother had a mental illness that had me going from home to outside care then back home again when my mother was well.

No one; in all the places I lived; ever took the time to teach me anything more than to have a simple savings for rainy days. Living on credit was the one thing I learned that should be avoided like a plague! I was taught to live on cash only except for a mortgage. As long as I can remember I've been a paycheck to paycheck person. I learned to stretch a budget when things were tight and to buy wisely when we had a little extra cash.

In my family women were taught how to handle a household budget... but nothing more. Right this minute, I'm not sure that was a curse or a blessing. While my friends and customers are looking more and more stressed over the economy taking away their investments; I see it as nothing more than making do with a much tighter household budget. Over the years I've watched some of my customers go on summer long vacations in other countries or buy 500,000 dollar winter homes in other cities. I did envy their wealth and being able to buy just for the sake of buying; but, right now I'm glad I never had those things. It would be much too painful to loose it.

The economy is hurting me too; but, in a different way than my friends or customers with investment accounts. I'm not seeing my savings dwindle or loosing a vacation home; I'm seeing my household budget get stretched tighter than ever before. While other people are watching stock prices going down; I'm busy watching grocery prices, gas prices, utility prices, and quilting supply prices going up and up and up. The higher things get, the less I can afford to buy. The recent wind storm and the loss of everything in my freezer hurt me just as much as someone loosing investment money. My food was my investment.

Over the years, while other people were studying stock market reports, I was studying cookbooks and alternative living books learning how to stretch a tight budget. While they were learning how to make their money grow, I was learning how to make a city backyard garden grow. While others were investing to become wealthy, I was investing in next year's food storage. I'm no longer able to have a backyard garden. There are way too many big tree roots to dig the ground up.

I'm so glad I listened to the angels whispering in my ears to get my house energy upgraded. The increased cost of utilities combined with decreased usage means I may come out just about even on the money used from my budget. Now that's what I call a really wise investment of my money. When it comes to investing, I've been reading websites just to understand what the news people are talking about. When it comes to stretching a household budget.... I'm an expert!

Friday, October 10, 2008

A sure sign of winter on the way.... fog and trees changing colors.

I worked all day to finish the t-shirt quilt yesterday. It was supposed to be a double size but when all sewn together it was only a twin. I miss figured somehow. Now I need to take it apart to make it larger. I sure don't like frog stitching and simply adding a border won't do. After realizing that I'd made a big boo boo; I decided it best to put that work aside to do something else. I started cutting the pieces for the next pieced top that must be finished before xmas.
It feels like months since I've worked with my quilting machine when it's really only been a few days.... only a week. Surprising how attached that machine and I have become over the years. My reason for stopping the machine quilting and concentrating on the piecing is like this.... if I run short on time; a customer can give an unquilted top as a gift then bring it back to me later to quilt it. They would be able to see what the gift really is; but, the recipient wouldn't understand a bunch of cut up clothing fabrics in a box.
I like to get the hardest work finished before I get tired from the rush, rush, rush of the season. If the quilts requiring the most work are done; the rest is smooth sailing. Although I do try to balance my time between a concentration quilt and a mindless quilt so I'm not burned out mid-way through the season.
I've another busy day ahead of me........ later.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Yesterday I finished the purple photo quilt top. It's now waiting it's turn on the machine. I then started on a t-shirt quilt and worked on it until about 11 last night. I did stop long enough to make a big pot of chili for supper. Most of it went into the freezer to be used for quick meals as the xmas rush advances. I ate a very small bowl of it... very cautiously. I wasn't sure it would stay down. That; along with a glass of orange juice, gave me some strength. I feel much better today.

I hope to finish the t-shirt quilt top today. I may have to call the owner since it's finishing up much smaller than she wants it to be. It's possible I will have to take it apart and space the t-shirts out more. Or I could add a border.... I'll have to think about it some more.

As I sat last night working; I happen to turn the tv to cspan. I thought it would be just boring enough to keep me from stopping to watch. Movies or evening shows have me stopping to watch and I didn't want to stop working. I never thought cspan would have me glued to the tv like it did last night. No, I didn't watch.... I just listened while I worked; but, my attention was fully on what was being said.

There was some type of economic panel discussion going on in washington. I'm not sure what it was exactly because I tuned in after it had started. Very interesting thoughts were presented by some top advisors on economics and the bail out plan. I learned a lot more from listening to this discussion than all the news reports put together over the last weeks. I'm hoping it will be repeated so I can hear the whole thing.

I'm getting a late start this morning so I won't type-talk more. Work must get done.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Ok, Saturday my computer leaves home to visit with a friend who worked on it to make it better. On Sunday morning my computer comes back. It is soooooo much better!!

Saturday, I looked through the quilting work to be finished by xmas and decided to finish piecing the remaining three tops I have left to do. I'm thinking if I get those finished it will greatly reduce the stress of staying on deadline. There won't be anything except staying on the machine to finish out the xmas rush season.

On Sunday afternoon this is where I am on the first top. The squares are almost completed..... when my stomach starts to feel queezzzy..... ugh. I had just finished drinking a milk shake from a fast food place.

Maybe that was it.... bad milk shake... OR someone had been around me that was sick. Either way by the end of Sunday I'm in bed with a bucket beside it. Nothing will stay down, not even water and I feel extremely thirsty. That's where I remained until yesterday afternoon. Geeze..... more days behind schedule. I'm finally able to keep something in my stomach although it's still just clear soups and juices.
Today I'm going to pick up where I left off with the purple picture quilt. I'm planning to finish it then see what is best to do next. I'm taking it one step at a time. If I feel weak... I will lay back down. This seems to be the hardest year I've had for a long, long time. I look forward to finishing the season and moving on. Hopefully, next year will be much better.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Bright red

This is today's finished quilt. They say the color red will make your heart pump faster. It sure did when I worked on this one. It's very bright! I love it.

I did a leafy design in all the areas. This one on the piano key border.

Another one on the sashing.

This one on the blocks.... taking advantage of the triangle piecing as a guide.

Just in case you can't see the block design well enough here it is from the back.

A couple of days ago my daughter commented to me.... "Mom, I thought you weren't going to work so hard this year". Then my friend Martha said... "I thought you weren't going to book so heavily this year". Then another friend said.... "You're always busy". These statements gave me reason to pause and reflect.

My waiting list for the next year is ususally half filled by December. I fully intended to not be so heavily booked this year. I even cut down the number of slots on the waiting list by half this year with the intention of having more time for a social life. I can't not schedule work to do. It's my living. It's what pays the bills.

Back in February when my grandaughter was born I got behind on my schedule by about 30 days. Days that can't be made up; so everything for the rest of the year is 30 days behind schedule. February quilts got moved back to March.... March moved back to April.... etc.

Then in March I got sick. It seems March is usually the time of year when someone with the flu will always come near me and I get the flu. I don't understand why some people feel the need to be around other people when they are sick. I'm alergic to the flu shots so the flu will always have me off my feet for several days. Once again the time I lost means work is pushed back.

Now I'm about 45 days behind schedule. So March quilts, which are really February quilts, are moved back to April. The quilts scheduled for March are moved back to May. The April quilts are moved back to June.... etc. Then there was the week Ike blew through here. Another week behind schedule.

It's like dominos lined up.... when the first one is pushed over the others fall too. Time lost cannot be gotten back.

I did stop putting names on my waiting list back in May or June because I knew everything would come down to the end of the year xmas rush being behind schedule. The trouble was that many slots were already filled with names.... commitments.

My grandkids in Alaska would like very much for me to visit them for awhile and see the sites of Alaska. One grandchild would like to take me on a hunting trip in the wilds. My kids here in Kentucky often ask me to visit with them for awhile and do things with their kids. My friend Martha would like for me to stay with her for awhile. The quilt shop owners would like for me to hang around there too. I see classes and retreats advertised all the time that I would love to do.

My sister in law would like for me to take her grocery shopping every week. My neighbors want me to get a car again and become their chauffer. Some friends would like for me to go to their house to give private quilting lessons. Some want me to go gambling everyday. Some want me to go to lunch and quilt shows. You see I do have lots of things I could do and that are much more fun to do.

So why don't I just take time off when I want to go have fun? Why don't I just stop quilting so much and have fun all the time? I do work at home and on my own schedule; so why not just take off when I want to? I have plenty of free time to be a chauffer or to visit every quilt show or take every class or go on every retreat or go horseback riding with my son and his kids every weekend or go on hunting trips in Alaska every summer... right? I mean really.... working at home gives me all kinds of free time, right?

Well.... without an income.... how would I pay for all these things? How would I pay for two burial policies? How would I pay for a headstone for my son's grave? How would I pay for a new water heater, furnace, and insulation? How would I pay for electricity? How would I give my 4 kids and 20 grandkids and 5 great-grandkids birthday and xmas presents? How would I pay the mortgage? How would I eat?

If I had an outside job at a factory or in an office I could just disappear all the time to go have fun....right? Every time my boss came to look for me I could be gone to a quilt show or on a quilt retreat or visiting with my kids.... right? Aw, come on.... how long would I keep a job if I'm never there to do the job?

Running a home business requires committment! No home business is going to stay operating very long if it isn't run.... as a business. A business can't stay in business if no one is there to do the work. Just like any factory or office; when the work gets behind schedule there will be overtime required of the employees to catch up.

Friends and family tend to think of machine quilting as an "interesting hobby". A hobby means it can be set aside in favor of more interesting and fun things. No one (except another machine quilter) sees machine quilting as a ligitimate business. A business that requires hard work and long hours and committment to doing a good job to stay in business.

When I went into the business of machine quilting; I gave up the luxury of paid days off and paid vacations and paid insurance that are enjoyed by those with outside jobs. I don't have a husband to work and pay bills for me either. For me; any day my machine is not moving is a day without pay. Speaking of which.... I best get the machine warmed up and earning today's paycheck.