Wednesday, January 21, 2015

My Frugal Accomplishments

Monday, I received a check for $17 for writing a tutorial about rebuilding a carburetor (after Googling “what is a carburetor,” then “how to rebuild a carburetor”).  It was unusually warm for January, so I decided to walk to the library, and then swing by the thrift store to spend my income-stream money.  I had a dozen library books to return, and they didn’t all fit in my backpack, so I put them in our wheelbarrow, after power-washing it in the garage.  It’s a two-mile trek to the library, and the wheelbarrow was listing pretty seriously to the right, so I returned home after a block.  I put half the books in my backpack, and the other half in the ticking-striped front-pack I used when my son was an infant.  It smelled faintly of breast milk, Desitin, and optimism, and I slung it on happily.  I hurried to the library, realizing I looked a bit like a post-menopausal suicide bomber.

After returning the books, and checking one out (the book jacket promises that I’ll never buy graham crackers again, once I realize how easy they are to make), I stopped at the thrift store.  First, I donated the ticking-striped front-pack, and scored a 30-percent-off coupon.  I then bought an over-sized Fiestaware mug, an unopened package of embroidery floss (50 colors!), a flannel sheet that I’ll use to make 36 cloth napkins, a maroon sweater-vest from Lands’ End in a boys’ husky XL that I think will fit me, and eight Mason jars (they’re actually less expensive when purchased new, but they’re “greener” when thrifted) (not literally…literally, they’re blue).  I couldn’t carry everything, so I called my work-at-home husband, and he picked me up.  We stopped for Mexican food, because we love Mexican food, and because it was a special occasion (MLK Day).  I used a coupon, but tipped generously.  I took half of my enchiladas home, and cooked them with eggs the next morning.

Tuesday, after a delicious and economical breakfast, I walked to my neighbor’s house, and offered her two homemade pumpkin muffins in exchange for a 4-inch sprig of rosemary from her indoor herb garden.  (Recently—after Halloween—the same neighbor gave me four carved pumpkins in exchange for walking her Labradoodle for 20 minutes.  I cooked, pureed, and froze the pumpkin, and later used it to make the muffins.)  She agreed to the swap, and I immediately used the bartered rosemary to make Rosemary White Bean Soup.  (For my birthday, my sister gave me a Door Snake that she filled with white beans, but I already have a Door Snake, so I cut the new Door Snake open, poured out the beans, and soaked them.  I then cut the Door Snake fabric into 5-inch squares, and tucked them into my quilting cubby.)  When the soup was done, I took a photo of it, and attached the photo to a thank-you email I sent my sister.  My husband and I enjoyed the bean soup for lunch.  (To be honest, he didn’t specifically claim to have “enjoyed” it.)

I put the leftover soup in the thrifted over-sized Fiestaware mug, and walked to my aunt’s house, a block away.  It was a chilly day, but the hot soup kept my hands warm.  While I was visiting my aunt, I trimmed her polydactyl cat’s claws, and—to show her appreciation—my aunt gave me a box of empty baby-food jars (the cat is a picky eater).  I returned home and organized my office-supply drawer, using the jars.  She also gave me a cutting from an aloe plant.

Wednesday, I got word that my great-niece lost her first tooth and had her very-long hair trimmed.  I requested the tooth and the hair trimmings from her mother (my niece).  She agreed to the request (“whatever”), and I dropped by midmorning and picked up the tooth and the hair.  I then cut two 3-inch circles from the Door Snake quilting squares, embroidered my great-niece’s initials on one of the circles, and stitched the circles together using embroidery floss.  Right before I finished the circular stitching, I stuffed the hair and the tooth inside.  I added a small loop for hanging, and I plan to give the ornament to my great-niece next Christmas (it’s very cute…the fabric is red plaid).  Tangentially, my niece (the mom, I mean) recently began using flannel sanitary pads (guess who made them for her?!?), and I asked if I could have some of the “soaking water” produced, because I read that it’s excellent for plant watering (I was thinking about the aloe start), but she said no, and I respect that.

At 2:30 that afternoon, I had an appointment with my OB/GYN (who happens to be my best friend from high school!).  In exchange for an Annual Exam, I gave her a pint of apple butter (made with gleaned apples), a halter-style gingham sundress for her school-aged granddaughter (made with fabric inherited from my mother-in-law), pumpkin muffins for her staff (see above), and a handwritten haiku about my vagina (matted and framed at JoAnn’s, using a gift card and a 50-percent-off coupon).  (The haiku was matted and framed, I mean.  Not my vagina.)

Thursday, there was a snowstorm, and I stayed home.  I watched a few youtube tutorials, located a box of nitrile gloves in the home-improvement closet, and expressed my dog’s anal glands.  I sent a group-email offering to express the anal glands of friends’ and neighbors’ dogs, but there were no takers.  There were some off-color jokes, but no one was willing to rototill my garden this spring in exchange for a monthly Expression.  There were also some off-color jokes about “rototilling my garden.” 

That afternoon, when a young Hispanic man knocked on the door and offered to scoop our driveway and sidewalk, I was enthusiastic.  I gave him a list of a dozen tasks that I would trade for snow removal, including data entry (QuickBooks), medical transcription, button replacement and zipper repair, small-group non-kosher catering, and—of course—anal gland expression, but he insisted on ten dollars, cash.  I think if my Spanish were better, I could have made my case. 

Friday, I made a coupon book for my husband’s birthday, with one coupon for each year he’s been alive.  I included coupons for his favorite meals and desserts, for his favorite…wifely duties, for pretending to listen when he talks about Pink Floyd, for not gagging when he puts green olives on his turkey burger, for remembering to wish him a happy Aphelion Day and a happy Perihelion Day, for laughing when he shares a Brian Regan line, for refraining from rolling my eyes when he calls me to his computer to see yet another photo of Emilia Clarke, for loving him even though he refuses to concede that Rush Limbaugh has no redeeming qualities, for watching all three Bourne movies in one sitting…that kind of thing.

Saturday morning, after staying up late and being inspired by the hunkiness that is Matt Damon as Jason Bourne, I asked my husband to cut my hair.  “Scary version?” he said, which made me laugh (even without a coupon).  He used my Dollar Tree scissors, finished in less than a minute, and I looked nothing like Franka Potente or Julia Stiles.  I didn’t blame him.  “It all went sideways,” he said, and I laughed again, there in the bathroom.

That afternoon, my sister and I went to Walgreens, suspecting that the price of Christmas candy had been drastically slashed.  90-percent off!  Better than expected!  We bought everything that wasn’t obviously for Christmas (so we could pass it off as Valentine’s Day candy).  We bought 82 boxes of chocolates for $26.  Once home, using red construction paper from my art-supply stash, we made 82 heart-shapes with the words “From a Fellow Traveler” scrawled across the front.  We drove 40 minutes to a neighborhood near the homeless shelter, and began handing out boxes of candy.  There were requests for money, cigarettes, sex, real food, and transportation, and one suggestion that we take our privileged white asses back to the suburbs, but no one turned down the chocolates.

Sunday, my great-nephew visited, and we made cookies.  He wanted to make snickerdoodles, and I had cream of tarter, so I said yes.  I substituted whole-wheat flour for white, brown sugar for granulated, olive oil for butter, flaxseed for eggs, baking powder for baking soda, and nutmeg for cinnamon.  I’ve been “shopping from the pantry” for a while, so stocks are getting low.  We’re out of salt, but I suggested omitting it, after considering using fish sauce.  “Are they supposed to get all flat like that, and touch?” he asked as they were baking.  “That happens sometimes,” I said, which wasn’t a lie.  They were tasty!  I washed out a baggie and sent some cookies home with him, for his family.

That evening, my husband and I went to my brother’s house and watched several episodes of “Game of Thrones” on HBO.GO.  I took some of the snickerdoodles-in-bar-form, a quart jar of hot spiced cider, and some sliced meatloaf from lunch.  We ended up taking all of that (and more) back home, ‘cause their snacks were better.  We had fun, though!  It was a good week!

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