Sunday, October 2, 2022

Eating and Crafting and Sewing and Eating and Repeating.

 It’s no secret around here that I like to eat.  I also like really good, true fine dining, one of a kind foods. Not to discount the steak and lobster duo at the Outback, but it’s not my primary goal when dining. And I almost never, ever spend money on anything like fast food . Except of course, when I’m out of both eggs and bread and have an early date to dog sit while my daughter goes to the football game (this happened this morning).

My little (well, 140 thousand little) suburb town recently added to it’s limited “one of a kind” type restaurants. Osteria can be found in a small house. It seats only 22 at a time, is open five days a week, and has a limited menu that changes daily. Unsurprisingly, it is almost impossible to get a reservation. Unless someone likes you and mentions to the manager that it’s your birthday soon. Last Friday, my daughter and son in law and I ended up going to a limited celebration seating, wondering if our little very pretty hole in the wall would live up to the hype.

Mainly I was eating so these pictures are not food mag quality!

Let’s just say that we are already looking to repeat reservations (they open on the fifteenth of one month for the following month and reservations are generally gone in ten minutes at most). Three appetizers, three mains, three desserts and a bottle of wine later, we were waddling out the door, as well as planning our next trip. The silence during the dining (except for the moans) was deafening. The highlight of my meal was a seasoned rabbit stuffed specialty pasta. Discaimer: I eat all game and where I live rabbits are destructive pests that destroy grass, gardens and trees. They offered up birthday cake, but I decided the lemon and pine nut Italian style cheesecake was what I needed.

Lest you think I am a total food snob, I spent the majority of my past week (except for the actual birthday itself)”doing lunch”. The Saturday following, two friends invited me to Texas Roadhouse (I CAN NOT cook steak, truly I CAN NOT) where steak and all the other good things were had, and the week continued onward in the same vein, including the first group lunch for my new women’s group.

Seven, (or is it eight?)days later, said celebration time ended with a visit to a dried wreath making workshop that included wine and apps, followed by Greek food, which I had been longing for.

I guess I’ve decided the older I get the more I need to party. Or at least eat and create. I need another lemon meringue pie.

While we're talking creating, I’ve managed to make both cute pillowcase and custom kitchen towels, but I am definitely behind on the rest of the bazaar front, so later this week I’ll need to jump on that bandwagon.

After I’ve helped price the things we’ve already made, decide what baked goods I’m going to contribute (casseroles would be a mistake, coming from me), unpack the large grocery delivery coming tomorrow, and visit my friendly PT.

I love the guy, I do. But with my osteopenia and other balance issues we have started some serious, weight bearing strength exercises and 24 hours plus after my visit require some recovery (we’re talking ten pound weights on my ankles, friends).

I was invited to go to the local Arboretum with some friends on Wednesday. But it’s a good three hours plus walk, multiple climbing on and off a trolley car, or a wheelchair ride. All of which will either slow down the faster friends, or require extra effort above and beyond. Since this is just a casual group, I will probably beg off.

Because I really want to do all the things, but sometimes I need to take care of me, or consider others before I jump into the fray.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Football, Pain and Creativity!

 Welcome to Texas. In local climate parlance, we are somewhere between False Fall and Second Summer but I THINK we have left Hell’s Front Porch behind. Meaning the next two weeks are high eighties or nineties but triple digit you know what has left the building. We hope anyway.

My upper arm/shoulders are a little sore, thanks to the double whammy of another booster and my senior flu shot. Other than that, not a symptom. Except for the fact that they both itch like the devil and scratching while the shoulder hurts required adept fingers. Heavy enough to deal with the itch but light enough not to make the soreness worse.

Fall fabrics and kitchen towel fabrics and kids fun pillowcase fabrics. Time to sort and put away!

I was thinking that it’s been awhile, or more than awhile since I shared any form of creativity here. From me or others. In my defense, I have been a drawing, painting, quilting fool and am making inroads on learning my loom. But all of that has been set aside so that I can sew goodies for our bazaar on the 22nd of October. So I have been mass cutting and mass sewing a whole bunch of things with all the fun and leftover fabrics.  Pillowcases, hot pads and casserole sized hot pads, coasters, kitchen towels (from flannel fall fabric and terry), Christmas gift card holders and larger fabric envelopes for gifting. I can’t remember what else right now.

Just a couple things I put aside to get for me!

All this of course, in the midst of a previously mentioned serious pain flareup. I am searching for a doctor ( for pain management and for my disintegrating bones). For the loyalists who have been with me long enough to remember this old post on the knee, or this one I am now considering injections again as well as minimal surgery (only considering, as I don’t think it will help with the other issues). Whatever happens, I need to move past Tylenol Arthritis and on to the big guns. Tylenol 3, Cymbalta, Lyrical and maybe Gabbapenten have been looked at so far. I’ll have to ask why tramadol is not in the mix for bad flare ups. This is where I add that I am in a family of medical people, I don’t abuse drugs and yes, I do know what I’m doing.

Moving back to creativity though, I am making time in the Great Sewing Month to knit myself a big shawl, and to challenge myself to a couple of Pinterest projects and make them my own. I just so happen to have frames missing glass and or backing thanks to the move (buying glass is as expensive as a new frame on sale), and while I might have to get a couple floral pics as well as a skeleton unless I have some laying around, the rest of the stuff is all at home and on tap. I don’t want to copy these, just use them for inspiration, see what I come up with and try to keep my fingers away from the hot glue.

But for today, I think I’ll read all day, since that’s what I’ve mainly done so far.  With the old 71st birthday coming up soon, I have both a book lunch and a happy hour tomorrow (the latter the first social happening with my new retired women’s group), a family outing Friday night at a hole in the wall gourmet restaurant that only seats twenty, and a Saturday lunch at Texas Roadhouse. They’ve promised there will be no dancing or standing on tables (if they do, they’ll be dead to me).

As for Sunday, let’s just say I’m watching football. Only watching. The past two weeks I have been part of a pool. Picking the winning teams (ten bucks a pop) with the winner getting 350 because the pool is so large. In two weeks I have yet to hit fifty percent so this week I am sitting out. I would have done better if the Colts had actually performed as I thought they would, and the same for the Broncos, but what is, what is.

I still love football.

Friday, September 16, 2022

Making Fun

This picture has absolutely nothing to do with today's post. Just an early Birthday gift from a friend who know I consider Lemon Meringue pie and lobster to be their own food groups.

For those of you who are aware of the “spoon theory” of chronic illness and pain, this has been a week with few spoons. Today I was picking up meds at Kroger and I walked out with two Home Chef meals, a roasted chicken, two ready made sandwiches, chef salad bowls, and premade snacks in containers. My lack of energy means more money and more trash. Big sigh. I need a chef.

Recently I have learned, or re-learned I guess post pandemic, that many (most, perhaps) people don’t road trip the way I do. Some people, it seems, plot their trip, get in the car or RV and drive from point to point, perhaps stopping for gas or a drive thru or eating in the car.

I, on the other hand, generally make my reservations to be after five or so hours driving, no matter how much light there is. Because invariably, I am going to see a sign that says “Cathedral of the Plains”, or “Largest prairie dog in the world” (both on I70) or something similar, and want to pull off the road and see it. Or I may have packed a picnic lunch, stopped at a nice rest stop, and decided to enjoy the sun and people watch for a while.  Or take the dog on a walkabout when I traveled with the dog. 

Don’t get me wrong. The destination calls me, or I would not have taken the trip, be it a day drive or longer. But the trip itself is, in my experience, at least just as important. And as much as an adventure. And I ALWAYS enjoy my trips. Even if there are hazards, even if the sights weren’t what I expected. Because I love the doing part, as well as the viewing part.

With a nod to Donna's blog today, I’ll add that for the most part, this is how life goes around here. All the people who comment on how beautiful my quilts are have not seen me draw. Or paint. Or experiment with mixed media, or make jewelry. Or do creative writing and poetry. Or make body products. Or other things. One of those things I no longer do at all as it doesn’t call to me. The others I do. Not necessarily well. But because I am enjoying them. A couple I have gotten better at. Some I never will.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the making, and the mess. Put simply, I like to make stuff. And do stuff. Some of the stuff I am really good at making or doing Some of the stuff I am not good at although I will get better at it. And some of the stuff will not improve, but I keep on doing it, just because it’s fun. Even though no one will see it, even though I may not keep it when I’m done. Because the fun part is in the doing.

If you like playing the piano, keep playing the piano. Whether you improve significantly or not. And if you want to try a hobby or a class or something else, try it. Most things are pretty cheap to try. You’ll like it and try it again, you’ll hate it and try something else, or some variation thereof. Just as there’s nothing wrong with liking something even if you don’t always get better, it’s also okay to try something for a while, have fun, and then move on to something else.

I am that mother. The one who said okay if after two seasons her kid wanted to play soccer instead of softball. Signing up for sports or dance or scouts or any of the dozen other things they did was not a lifetime or even a high school commitment. If it was fun, they did it. If it wasn’t fun, they quit. Supplies were sold, and recycled (most of the equipment we got was through a sharing system and it simply got shared). The end result of this relaxed, non committed style of parenting is that there are a couple things each kid likes and does well. But there are also a plethora of other things that they like to do occasionally, understood or learned from and formed a basis for their opinions later in life. And living life in this way did not lead them to be unable to commit or work hard.

I’ve rambled more than I planned here. In the end, there will be some things you love, and some things you want to learn more about and get better at. Sometimes you will find something that fits both sides. But it doesn’t matter. As long as you are having fun, keep on having fun. You don’t have to show your stuff, share your stuff, read your stuff or even keep your stuff when you’re finished, as long as you had fun at the time.

Results are fun and nice, and make us feel good. But the doing part alone can also make us feel fun and nice, and equally good. Even if the results look like fingerpainting. Trust me.

Coming up next:  Gabba or Cymbalta or Lyrica?  The time has come.

Friday, September 9, 2022

Saving and Spending

Thank you to everyone for the thoughtful comments on my previous post. I do appreciate that some people make mistakes and overspend. Some of us make mistakes because we don’t have anyone to tell us, were never taught and or did not educate ourselves at the time. In my case, the “money management” mistakes I made at the beginning of my widowhood were saved by my pension and SS but perhaps should be a lesson for others:

To wit, at 55, I put ALL of my husband’s benefits into an IRA except a few thousand dollars. Literally. I mean, hell, I was a federal employee and only fifty five.  I would work and it could sit there. I never found another job (I was fifty five, had dependent kids, and was already unable to do any “standing” jobs such as retail). I had kids to support, a move to make cross country, a new home to provide, and so on and so forth. I ended up needing that money, and pulling out a bunch between fifty five and sixty two. Which would have been forgivable. Except those capital gains. Capital gains on taxes had me owing the IRS almost as much as I had taken out. And here as the movie says, ends the lesson. Even intelligent, mainly frugal, thrifty, smart people can make really stupid financial mistakes.

And now, a few thrifty things of the week.

Thrifty?  Not Thrifty? You Tell Me:  I have managed to keep the grocery budget at under $400 for one person. And have budgeted a goal of $350 to $400 through the end of the year. Nationally I am unsure if that is good or bad, so I guess you all will tell me!! That does include a few things like dishwasher tabs and detergent, but not personal products which I get from Amazon. I do eat meat, drink soda and enjoy wine. I also eat almost anything so I am willing to substitute beef for lamb for chicken for pork as needed, and I live in an area where most foods are in season most of the year. I eat a high protein diet that includes eggs and meat every morning and move on.

Also, this budget includes prepared meals like Home Chef Fresh and Easy and a local company called Front Porch pantry that delivered home cooked meals for two as well as the occasional order in. Not included is eating out. I put some of my local food prices at the bottom for comparison.

I got it cheaper: I hit up the local independent thrift store and found two pairs of good jeans and two “department store designer” type tops for twelve dollars. I actually went to look for a bunch of small pretty storage containers like tins and metal and good baskets I could paint and I also got some of those.  I'm a follower of the blog the Non Consumer Advocate, and while I am never going to buy nothing but undies and food new, I am committed to used first when it comes to decor, linens, clothing and such for the rest of the year. I did see lots of large sized bright men’s dress shirts I could have turned into fabric, but time was short.

I found new ways to save (not spend):, I literally just today found out that while my library does not offer the Washington Post, it does offer something called Kanopy which offers me ten free movies per month, and unlimited plays of the Great Courses and I am now watching Optimizing Brain Fitness.  Also a library benefit is a Rosetta Stone membership to supplement my German Pod Youtube classes and a Creative bug crafting classes membership.

I got it free (sorta):, I got my annual pair of orthopedic shoes from Medicare. Yes, you can get one free pair a year depending and they measure your feet with a machine. They’re clodhoppers, having inserts and being padded and all but at this point I will take any heavily padded shoe.

And because there always has to be an “Oh Darn!” in the mix, I may end up paying full price for a prescription I left somewhere and need refilled before its date. Hopefully it will not be too much as it’s a generic thing. Live and learn, live and learn.

And now, for comparison, a few of my north Texas prices this week:

80 percent ground beef 2.49 on sale

Bakery muffins four count 3.98

Generic butter 3.98 at Walmart

Boneless chicken thighs 3.48

Regular large white eggs 3.47

Happy organic eggs 5.68

One pound of strawberries 2.98

A pint of blueberries 3.18

Honeycrisp apples 2.92 a pound

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Older and Poorer

I am a woman who is comfortable, hell, more than comfortable in retirement. 

Anything I have not done in the past few years has been COVID or fear of flying related for the most part (with the two intersecting more than once). I can eat well, go to restaurants, go to the theater, travel, take care of my medical needs with ease (although that two hundred a month Jardiance bill was enough to kick start me in more ways than one).

 I’m not going flying first class to the far east or South America anytime soon. I'm not buying a designer outfit or a diamond ring or even an RV.  But in terms of both daily expenses and wants I tell myself no pretty rarely and when I do it’s as much about minimalism or sustainability or my own personal energy.

Some of this is true because chose to marry. Not all but a large part. Much of this is true because of my husband’s career. I did have some mismanagement issues early in my retirement (forced retirement before retirement age with minor children is an experience, let me tell ya). But I would not have had the money to raise kids without the job I could not find after I cared for him, or help them to go to school. I would not have had a pension, I would most likely not have had the savings I have or even the amount of monthly Social Security I have, had I not been married.

If I had not met the person I was supposed to be with, or never met anyone, if I had remained a single mom on the equivalent beginning teaching salary. Things would be much different. would 

A single parent, albeit an educated one, working in recreation management and child care with a borderline okay income and no benefits. Whose husband left one day and took everything with him. Who actually loved her job, loved her kid and mainly actually loved her life. A life that at that time, the most important financial time,  was without benefits, savings, child support or health care. Things might have gotten better. I believe I could  have progressed, gotten promoted, maybe found a way. I like to think so. But I'm smart enough to know they also might not have. At 32 with a kid entering grade school, nothing was going into the bank. And nothing was going into the bank anytime soon, even as a thrift shopping/cook from scratch/free entertainment mama. 

I was in a field that low pay and minimal benefits, getting no child support and no help. Saving 100 dollars a month would have been laughable. And would have been for a good while. I could have been one of those people working and slogging away until 70 (if I were physically able, which I am not). 

My husband just worked a regular federal job. But two incomes, even if one was much lower and even if there were two kids, made the difference between saving and not saving. For retirement or anything else. And a whole bunch of other things, financial and otherwise.

Which is why when I see men and women like I was then, now at 65 or 70, while I cannot relate the same now, I understand where they come from. And how they got there. And who they are. Women and men who worked in a school system and weren’t allowed to contribute to SS. Who were single parents whose partners disappeared, or could not or would not contribute. Who were disabled. Who had jobs that paid no benefits and whose income was swallowed by the price of making less. Or the cost of Cobra if they were let go early. Or, or, or.

My sister has a good education and a relevant degree. She is a hard worker, a really hard worker. She worked for a large newspaper in a two newspaper town for a great many years.  Eventually the newspapers combined and her newspaper was the one liquidated and the people set loose. With a couple months salary and no golden parachute, she was let go. She was not able to find a job that was much more than minimum wage for years, probably equally due to age discrimination and the dying newspaper business.

 The jobs she found were always through temp agencies or contracting jobs, minus sick leave or sick pay or medical benefits or vacation benefits. I paid for her to come and help me when John died.

In 2005 she had a decent investment account. That is long gone, all used to live on. To pay her mortgage, to pay her health care costs as she was now unemployed. Since 2007 she has constantly and consistently looked for work that is meaningful, pays decent and will keep her employed. Until the post pandemic employment jump she had not had a job with benefits. She had a very bad car accident with a severe concussion and could not even afford to have an MRI (I found about this afterward).

 She is talented, skilled, and of a certain age. Her head is barely above water. She most certainly will have difficulty when she can no longer work and is living on only SS based on her personal income and the hundred dollar or so pension she will receive from a decimated newspaper benefit. Until she got on Medicare I had no idea when she had seen a doctor for anything non-emergent. She is 67 and still working full time.

There are no choices she could have made differently. She did everything right. She went to college. She got a decent paying job in her field with benefits. Being a newspaper, she lived with deadlines and working all shifts and rotating holidays. When she was laid off, she looked for a job and collected what unemployment she could. 

She was willing to do all kinds of things even as a senior with lousy hips and some health issues. She has worked in a plant center, done call in customer service from home during the pandemic, worked in a photoshop. She sold her home and moved into another home with two people. Every single time she has been ahead, that ahead has disappeared, though no fault of her own.

My sister is not an exception friends. She is the rule, when it comes to low income retirees. I am sure all my readers can talk about someone who has run off and spent all their money and is now broke and or looking for help from family members.

 Those people made the wrong choices. But my experience is that they are not the norm. And life is not all about “living with your own choices”.

I do not feel guilty about where I am in life or how I got here. I enjoy my lifestyle. But I am unwilling to blame or judge others who are struggling and not in the same place. I would rather do what I can do to help them. Whenever I can. Wherever I can. Because life is not about us and them.

Friday, September 2, 2022

Frugal, No Waste. Sustainable Friday?

 Today I was getting ready to write this trusty Frugal Friday post that I’ve been writing more on than off since I started blogging a decade and a half or so ago, being the so-called frugal retiree and all.

And I’ll be writing this one, and another one, and another one. But it’s come to me that much of what I write about in this area about what I am thinking and what I have done has as much to do with waste, sustainability, up cycling and use of time as well as money and things. Even as on some level I concentrate on the pennies-especially as inflation heads straight towards us, even in fairly low cost Texas.

Which is my way of saying bear with me if this normally bullet point post is more rambling and longer than usual as I maybe find a different voice when it comes to this topic and post.

No waste and also money saving: This week, I removed all the damaged parts from donated shirts, sweaters and jeans and then cut them into pieces of fabric sorted by size. While I was there,   I also went through my fabric and pulled all the unmatched fat quarters and small pieces of fabric (fat quarters, five inch squares, ten inch squares, just strips and pieces that were offcuts). I want to contribute a bunch of fabric pumpkins  with cork stems and flowers and Christmas ornaments to the church bazaar, (where the money all goes to the homeless) and this way no money will be spent by me plus I may get to make an abstract art quilt or two while I’m at it.

Money saving mainly: I’m eating down my single retiree  style small freezer and pantry to make room for a big fall shop in two weeks (which will definitely include the Pumpkin Butternut Squash Pasta sauce and the Pumpkin Cheesecake popcorn at Aldi!!!!!). I did get a few things to finish meals and add to that food creativity, like sour cream (Planning to experiment with making stroganoff with beef stew meat in my freezer. A review will be coming). Other than that no new money will be spent until the11th in the food and sustenance area.

Saving precious retirement time: Not wasting time (along with knowing myself) has led me to skip those previously mentioned silver sneakers classes so far. They are not free for me, and wasting a gym membership of thirty dollars monthly for a class I’ll probably not attend often is not logical. Nor is the expectation that I will be fed, alert and responsive, decent and up to intelligent conversation at that hour of the morning. I’m doing very well at exercise and weight training at home at least for now. And as far as talking with people, it’s not the best way, I think:

Money saving and environmental: We’ve finally gotten some cooler weather at night, so I have been opening windows as soon as I get up for an hour or two (I need silence to sleep). Definitely helps with the cooling  and the bill prior to the still 90 degree days, but also increases the humidity in the house.

Eliminating Waste and Streamlining: Most of the time I’m not a fan of the spend to save philosophy except for “investment” items. But organization saves everything in my world. So my Amazon birthday list (which I will purchase for myself post the day as needed), includes some specific items like pantry storage for cans, fridge and small freezer storage and a couple coffee table type rotating spinners and a rack for stacking pans, as the filing tray wasn’t working. On the other hand, my collection of topless small boxes and tupperware has been free and has worked wonderfully for sorting all the minutiae of crafting (buttons/pins/clips/snaps/). So I figure I’m even in this area. Losing things, rebuying things that I have, and having things spoil. None of these are frugal or sustainable.

Money Saving: I actually had no part in this spend/save! I recently found out that every year or lease renewal, this community pays for carpet cleaning. I missed knowing that last year. Not really a freebie because, well, I pay rent. But a six month regular expense that will now not be out of my pocket so I'll take it!!

Freeing up Retirement time: Although I haven’t talked about it in awhile, I still am working on my once a month shopping and big errand goals in all areas of life,  so no shopping or spending will happen in the next ten days although I am working on the lists of things I need to buy and order then. This is working well for me. But admittedly I don’t shop or run errands to get out of the house or meet people (I do have other things I do for that) or for exercise.

No spend and just plain fun: Everytime I thought of it in the past year, I did an email signup with a company I liked or used every so often (using a one off hotmail address). Most of those companies asked for my month and date of birth, and so I’m expecting some small “gift for me”during this birthday month starting today.  Including a surprise gift from Ulta/Sephora/Bare minerals/Aveda, an Arby Shake, a rootbeer float from A&W, free coffee/beverage from various places, free arrangement from Edible Arrangements, free Godiva chocolate gift, free Denny’s grand slam, free La Madeline pastry, free Panera, a free five dollar gift card from Ace (Plants!!), and more. Obviously there’s no way I will use or even pick up all of these in a month. But a goodie or two a week and I’ll be happy. And let me tell you, Godiva is high on my list!

Monday, August 29, 2022

Monday musing: Food Creativity, Fear of Flying, Other This and That


Slowly pulling out the fall decor.....

The weather has changed over from the 112 “welcome to the sauna” temperature, to plain old summer in fall in Texas weather (High nineties during the day and going down to somewhere in the seventies at night). I think my electric bill will thank me, and some days it’s even cool and humid enough to open my window early on. I still have to get out and walk early though. I waited till 10 the other morning and it was far too late so I only walked half way.

Other thoughts this Monday....

I ran out of bread and bagels  and rolls on Thursday and eggs on Friday and was wayyy too lazy to go out to the store or even place an order for delivery. Which resulted in two glazed donuts both Sunday and Saturday that were pulled from the freezer, sloppy joes meat with a potato I baked and a few other fun things. Creativity can be messy including with food. I did make a quick trip to my favorite store (Aldi) fo get needed items and a chef salad today!

I’m considering flying to Denver for Thanksgiving, which would be my first flight (bar one) since I returned from Germany. It would be faster, I suppose. And not require a hotel. But I couldn’t bring anything there or back in terms of large gifts (read king size quilts and such here). And in my current state of claustrophobia and so on it would require valium at a minimum. Something I have never taken orally in my adult life (I’m sure I’ve had some in an IV prior to surgery at some point).

It would seem that I now have Osteopenia. I will probably write a post on this later. It would have gotten caught earlier I am sure, if it were not for the fact that I already have degenerative disease in one leg from hip socket to the toes and I already have pain that is similar to severe shin splints in my lower leg. For now, my provider wants me to take D3, Calcium, walk as much as the already bad leg will allow in a day with a goal of an hour (ha!!) and consider walking with ankle weights around the house sometimes because my walking will always be limited.

I’ve been working on the budget for the next quarter and looking at my expenses. Folks I don’t know about you, but the subscriptions, the subscriptions. Washington Post, New York Times, Netflix, Prime, Kindle Unlimited, one paid channel through Prime that varies (Acorn or Britbox or PBS Masterpiece or the German channel), Quicken, a couple local publications. There are probably some missing there, and the only one I can see letting go of is Quicken which I may and do it manually since I no longer have the issues I did. And on TOP of that, I’ll be subscribing to HULUlive so I can watch football and the World Cup, at least through January.  I tell you!

And last but surely not least, this morning, I have been fall sewing (for the church bazaar in October) which has led to the need for some fall decor (97 degrees or no). So I put sewing and knitting and so on aside and pulled just a few (non-Halloween and non-Thanksgiving) things out to start changing the seasons. I just need to get a halloween tree.