Monday, May 31, 2010

Living Carefully in A High-Income Neighborhood

Are you living in an area that demands more to live there? I know all too well what this feels like. For the past twenty years, we've been residents of Douglas County, Colorado -- considered one of the highest-income counties not only in Colorado -- but the country.

And if you're wondering -- are we rich? Nope.

Here's a helpful post from one of Money Saving Mom's associates on thriving in a high income area...even when your income is a bit less!  Lots of good tips.

Hope you had a good Memorial Day.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Holiday Cooking for A Crowd

I come from a long line of huge families. Little Brother and I were the only ones in our family. (Good thing -- any more, and we might have killed each other.) But my mom was the youngest of eight, who, with our family's exception, had 5-8 kids themselves. Since my oldest cousin is now in his sixties, with grandchildren of his own, and youngest cousin has 13 kids herself (I am not making this up), get-togethers have a zany quality that suggests the Marx Brothers married into the Three Stooges. People talking excitedly about politics and religion. (Anyone with Cumings blood seems to love to argue!) Teenagers slouching around, heads, minds and earbuds elsewhere. (Unless a cute boy is around.) Kids running everywhere, needing napkin wipes, owie kisses and trips to the bathroom.
My dad, a very quiet man, and Husband, equally quiet, viewed all this mayhem with amusement. They would settle down by their favorite person for a long, tranquil chat (for Husband, it's often Cousin Phil), keeping an eye out for when the paddles finally slowed down, and the homemade ice cream was done. A circle of kids, still damp from the swimming pool, hovered nearby, waiting for spoonfuls of the icy stuff, or a chunk of watermelon. All this while the humid breeze slowed, and the red-orange sun slowly went down.
   We still have crickets (but no's too dry here), and the wading pool's been exchanged for a hot tub. But I still love a good family get-together.
    Memorial Day, we'll be doing just that with old friends, the Robbersons, who used to babysit our girlies when they were little, along with some other old friends. Making up food for a crowd doesn't frighten me -- I grew up with a mom who catered, and have done more than a little of it myself, including weddings, graduations and ten years of luncheons for senior citizens. (One of my great joys in life is watching Daughters #1 and #2 both take on their own catering jobs -- Daughter #2 is doing a wedding in mid-August.)

    Tricks that have helped me:
*Buy everything on sale. This may mean buying early and stashing in your freezer or pantry...but it's worth it. If you must pay full price, don't buy it.
*Arrangement is more important than you think. A platter of vegetables, ranged with sprigs of rosemary. A tomato rose, blooming by the bowl of dip. Green sliced kiwi, arching around the salad. Edible flowers, ranged around the cake plate. These are simple to do, but make equally simple meals visually exciting. 
*Serve pitchers of drinks. Pop in cans can really add up, but lemonade or punch, with a spritzer or can of pop or a kick of pomegranate juice added at the last minute, tastes great and costs much less. If you must serve soda, buy some of those large plastic bottles and put them out with cups.
*Keep your veggies and fruit as fresh as possible. That's what gardens and farmers' markets are for.
*Make one or two fancy dishes -- don't worry as much about the others. The simpler dishes will only draw attention to the lavish ones. This took me years to learn. Making all of your dishes elaborate, highly sauced or nitpicky-done will be the culinary equivalent of everyone talking at once...and no one listening.
*If the main course is expensive, add a cheaper, filling one. Soup and/or chips and dip will keep people from gobbling down that New York Strip you've mortgaged your budget for. So will baked potatoes. Scooped out, then restuffed with sour cream, cheese, onion and chives, they become "twice-baked" -- and elegant. Vichyssoise sounds wonderful -- but it's just potato-and-leek (onion, if you're desperate) soup.
*Keep kid-friendly foods on hand, no matter how elegant the rest of the meal is. Nothing will steam your good mood faster than to see a kid eat one bite, then throw away the rest of that lovely NY Strip. Don't let them do it -- keep burgers and some hot dogs on the grill, as well. Serve your adult guests that cake you worked so hard on -- let the kids help themselves to the chocolate chip cookies, instead.
*Always have extras stashed away, just in case you run low on food. Bottles of pop, dry mix for lemonade or punch, instant tea. Chips and salsa, jars of sauce, grated Italian cheese, pasta. Canned crab that can be quickly converted into a hot dip with crackers. Canned or dry soup. Boxes of cookies. These all help stretch out what you've got, and can go back into the pantry for future use.
*Set out nibbles after dessert. These need not be elaborate -- a bowl of nuts, apples polished shiny, a box of Really Good cookies or chocolates. They go well with tea, coffee or that last sweet lacing of lemonade from the pitcher's bottom. Even more, though, they say, "You're important to me. Let's stay awhile and talk."

Cheap Healthy Good has their own take on this subject, especially for feeding a group of fussy people. Well worth reading...

Happy Memorial Day weekend -- and remember those many soldiers who gave of their lives and themselves so we could celebrate freedom.

image courtesy ace clip art.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Purex 3-in-One Laundry Samples!

I got to test these out when they first came on the market...and they're fabulous. Seriously. One sheet -- toss it in the washing machine, along with your dirty clothes. They provide the soap and well as a handy dryer sheet when those wet clothes go into the dryer! How convenient can you get...

What I especially liked about these, though, was their versatility. They're much handier for vacations, camping and getaways than lugging along soap, etc. -- or having to try to figure out where to get cleaners without buying a big box. Household tip people suggest keeping a dryer sheet in your suitcase to minimize odor and keep out bugs. Keep one of these sheets, and you've got a quick way to do a last-minute wash, as well!

Get your own two-pack FREE by requesting them here.

NEW Giveaway!

It's a new contest! Blog readers liked the Carolina Pad collection giveaway so much that I'm doing it again --

take a minute to leave a comment on any of the posts for the next few weeks, and you're entered to win a "Chat Bundle" of Carolina Pad's "Chat" collection -- including a binder, 1-subject notebook and three 2-pocket folders. (In fact, it's so new that it's not on the website yet! But each item is covered with stylized words and letters...perfect for a returning-to-school kid or writer of any age.)

You can follow Carolina Pad on Facebook , or Twitter (@carolinapad). Contest ends June 10, and we'll draw a random winner soon after.

Take a minute to let me know your favorite Carolina Pad collection...or:
What would you use your "Chat" collection for?

Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Free Magazine Subscription -- And It's A Good One!

Run, do not walk, to this site and nab yourself a FREE 6-issue subscription to Ready Made magazine. It's part crafts, part home dec, part woodworking, art and sewing -- and a heck of a lot about repurposing items, making do, and redesigning. You'll be amazed at how much it broadens the possibilities of what you can do with your clothes, furnishings and home.

Both girlies have found this mag refreshing and helpful, too. Quick, hurry before all the subscriptions are gone!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Food for A Buck

Could you do it? These people lived on $1 a day for their food costs -- and quite successfully, too. (A plus: they also cut way back on their junk food eating...and lost weight.)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Junk Mail Conquered! (Or at Least Reused)

Is your junk mail piling up in a dusty corner? Try Grocery Cart Challenge's ten suggestions on what to do with junk mail, from a handy funnel (just cut a corner of the envelope) to ethnic jewelry. Kewl...

Daughter #2 just said (about her father): "He's got to let his mind just wander sometimes. It's old enough to be out by itself..."   !!!!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Secret Clinical Strength!

Samples are here, courtesy of Walmart. This is great stuff, if you have trouble with this area of your life. Very effective!

Be sure to stay in the neighborhood before you leave They have other samples worth requesting!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

95 Thoughts on Frugal Living

95 collected posts on a variety of frugal subjects,  thanks to Rowdy Kitten. They range all over the place, from transportation to jobs to food to...

Take your time, and enjoy!