Cleaning out the closet…

We live in a small house with small closets. I have the “luxury” of having two closets, but it’s far from being an actual luxury. A tiny coat closet in the dining room holds all of my pants. It also holds our bath linens.

The rest of my clothes are in a somewhat larger closet in the office. Yes, it’s still too small to hold the clothes that are in the other closet. Weird, I know…  If our basement was finished I’d probably keep all of my clothes downstairs.

Anyway, the bottom of the pants closet has served as storage space to some of my personal belongings: photo albums, letters, banking statements, paper manuscripts, research files, and a plethora of paper handled bags.

I decided I was going to clean out this storage space this weekend so that’s just what I sat down to do today. I started by pulling out all of the paper bags. There were gift bags from birthdays and Christmas and bags from any retail outlet that gives out a nice paper bag with handles that I had shopped at since 2006!  I always feel like I’ll reuse it and I hate to throw away a nice bag, but obviously I don’t reuse them as much as I should so they all went into the recycling bin today without a second thought.

20160207_115956_resizedI had fun flipping through some old photo albums and looking back at days and friends gone by.  I also found numerous film negatives, still in their little plastic envelopes from the photo developer.  I kept a few just for nostalgic purposes and threw the rest away. I grabbed my phone and took snapshots of a few old photos of myself and my grandparents and immediately shared them on Facebook because they made me smile. One such photo is the one of me to the right.

I am 16 years old in this photo.  It was taken in the summer of 1992 as a cast photo for a production of “Hello Dolly!” staged by the community theater group in my home town that summer. It was custom to take photos of each cast member and put them on a bulletin board in the lobby for the audience to see as they came in. The photos were always black and white and they were either head shots of us wearing black tee shirts or we were in costumes and in character.

I played “Rudy” who was the head waiter of the Harmonia Gardens Restaurant. It’s a small role, and a bit upstaged by Louie Armstrong in the Barbra Streisand movie. It’s a very serious role and the director had me blow a whistle to call my waiters to attention in the restaurant scene. I also spoke with an accent. I took a serious photo with a smirk on my face and the whistle held up to my lips which actually made it into the local newspaper, but it was this “fun” photo that made it onto the bulletin board. The photographer was my best friend at the time and asked me to do my “Joker” face. But, yes, those are my real eyebrows!

The photo took me by surprise and made me laugh.  Ahh, youth and to be young again. It’s funny because I can still remember my opening monologue from my big scene. And I remember the fun I had and the friends I made as we staged and rehearsed the production that summer. I never did another play after leaving town in the summer of 1995, but those years I was involved in community theater were great.

20160207_152458_resized (1)I took a new photo of myself today just for the heck of it. You see, I’m usually the one behind the camera and I rarely take selfies. I am the camera. I even wrote a book about just that back in 2008.

And that’s a sad place to be in this digital age where there are no negatives and no photo albums to preserve those moments that made us smile. All of our photos are on our phone. I’m guilty of that too. Lose your phone and you’ve lost your history, and I’m not talking about texts or contacts. I’m talking about birthdays, track meets, Christmas, graduation, prom, anniversaries. Your Kodak moments are all there and digital and unless you post everything to Facebook like some people, they are easily lost.

It’s scary to think how convenient it is and how dependent we are on technology these days, but if the grid is wiped out it’s all gone.  All we have left are the photo albums and developed photos from the 90’s and before when one hour photo was the convenience and Mark Zuckerberg was in grade school.

Once the closet was clean and the trash was taken out I sat down with Ward’s letters and put them in order by date and read a few of them. I realized I have no photo of him, but that’s okay. I have the letters and I have memories. And those are better than nothing.

As for that photo of me, God, I look old. There’s a good reason I don’t take photos of myself right there!

Books and Letters

I started using Book Mooch again two weeks ago. It’s a book swapping site that allows you to get rid of books you don’t want, and earn points to “mooch” books you do want. It’s a free service, other than postage, and overall is a friendly community. I joined in 2007 and took a hiatus in 2015.  Over that time, I have sent 206 books and “mooched” 211.

Some of you might think you could never part with your books. I thought the same thing once. Other than falling in love with my Kindle several years ago, I’m not sure what changed my mind. I still like reading physical paper books and will always have a bookshelf in my house full of them, but I also enjoy sharing books so it’s very easy for me to part with them these days.  I still have books that I have had an emotional connection with and that I might read again some day. They are indeed like old friends that I enjoy having in my life.

Just this last week one of my books was mooched by a man named Richard who lives in an assisted living center in New York. I accepted his request and said a friendly hello and offered other books in the same genre to him if he was interested.  He replied with a polite thank you and told me that when he moved into the center there was only a small book case of books. He couldn’t bare to part with his 1100 books so he brought them with him and is creating a library for the 140 residents at the center.

I offered to send him more books from my shelf to help out. Richard thought that was nice and he offered to give me my point back for the book he had mooched from me. Each book you send on Book Mooch earns you a point that can then in turn be spent on mooching a book from someone else. So Richard spent a point to get the one book from me. That wasn’t necessary; I told Richard that I would be happy to send him an array of books and he could keep his point.

I was happy to do it and happy to get rid of more books and know they were going to a good cause.  Heck, I’d even give him some more of my mooch points for his cause because I didn’t need more books!  The site allows you to give “smooches” to charities and other organizations which is giving your points to them so they can mooch books.  I currently have 13 points, all earned just in the last two weeks from sending books out. So that’s 13 books that can be mooched.  Instead of having to list more books on the site to have to mail out when they get mooched, I picked about a dozen books from my shelf and sent them all to Richard.

Richard told me he is also starting a book club at the center and they want Pride and Prejudice and Zombies to be their first read! Richard and I both found that humorous. He asked if I had any copies of it, but I didn’t.  But I asked how many he needed because maybe I could help out with that too.  He thought six would do so a quick click on Amazon today and I had six copies sent to him.

I like doing nice things for people and I was happy to do it for a fellow book lover.  And now I have a new friend in New York who is also doing nice things for good people.  It reminded me of my pen pal, Ward, and the many books he sent to me in the mail over the years.

Today I received a letter in the mail from Ward’s friend who had contacted me to let me know of his passing. I had written to her just a few days after we spoke, thanking her for taking the time to find me. I also asked her if she could send me something from Ward’s house to remember him by, or possibly send me all of my letters or Ward’s journal. Ward told me once that he had written in a journal every day since he was a young boy.  I would love to have any of these things with her church’s blessing.  (Ward left his house and all of his belongings to his church.)

She shared in her letter that they had a lovely memorial service for him and planned to sprinkle some of his and his sister’s ashes in a cemetery in Memphis. The rest of his ashes will be interred in the columbarium in his church. She said she’d be happy to send me everything I had asked for and has chosen a small jade dragon from his house that she thought I would like.  They have not found his journals yet though. I suspect they won’t and that Ward might have destroyed all of them before he fell ill. I plan to write her a check to at least cover the postage and her troubles. She can donate it to their church if she chooses.

These occasions this week of books and letters reminds me once again how important our lives can be and how precious the time we spend here on earth with others. We all have such great opportunities to be kind to one another, but few of us do it. We are overcome by the stresses of our own individual lives, or we are selfish in our ways. And I may even appear that way to some. But those people don’t know me; they don’t really know me at all.  And that’s okay because I don’t do kind acts for those people. I don’t do them for any reason really.  I do it because it makes me happy. If kindness is an addiction, then label me an addict.

So be kind to one another. It’s a great day to be alive.

 

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Elton John’s A Single Man

Since writing about my record player purchase back in late November, J and I have hit just about every record store in the city and the first St. Louis Record Show of the year.  We’ve bought several albums online from Amazon and Etsy. and we’ve filled 4 crates with over 200 records.

We’ve cataloged and alphabetized all of them. We bought plastic dividers and plastic album covers too. And we hooked up an amplifier and speakers to the player. Now we spend time on the weekends just sitting back and listening and reminiscing, and discussing what albums we want to search for next!

We both have very different tastes. Some of it overlaps, and some things we buy are just because we suddenly remember that one single hit a band had that we liked way back when but we’ve never heard their entire album before.

Some are old bands we forgot about, or never listened to back when they were popular. I had the lyrics to a song stuck in my head last weekend and finally was able to figure out who it was thanks to some clever Google searches!

One artist I’ve put a lot of focus on is Elton John, who will release is 30th solo album next month. I’ve managed to collect 11 of those albums and his first compilation album from 1974.

I’ll eventually listen to all of them, so I thought it would be fun to start reviewing some albums, but not just Elton, this year on my blog. But I’m going to start with Elton’s 12th album,  A Single Man, from 1978.

What’s interesting about this album is that it was the first that Elton did without Bernie Taupin as his lyricist. But it’s 1998 reissue included 3 songs by Taupin. The album was certified gold the year of its release and later went platinum, but only had 3 singles released from it, none of which will immediately come to mind if I asked you to name five Elton John songs. Elton doesn’t even play these songs anymore in concert.

The most popular song from the album is called “Song for Guy” and is completely instrumental. It was a near-global success except for in the United States and Canada because it got upstaged by “Music Box Dancer” which was released in 1978 as well.

For me, this album has the classic and timeless sound of Elton that I grew up hearing on the radio through the 80’s and 90’s.  Elton knows his ballads and is a great storyteller! Just listen to “I Cry at Night,” “Georgia,” or “Strangers.” And the songs “I Don’t Care” and “Big Dipper” have that honky tonk beat to it that some older Elton was known for.

Overall, it’s a great album that I’ll definitely enjoy again. I still can’t believe it’s his 12th album though. Keep in mind it’s from 1978 and his first album came out in 1969. Yep, he averaged almost an album a year. He released two albums a year in 1970, 1973, and 1975; and finally took a break and skipped 1977. I have picked up 6 of his earlier albums so it’ll be fun to see how he improves or changes across these early years.

 

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More apps to help you save money

ibottaappAfter all the information I’ve shared the last two days about my plans to save money this year and how to make money with the online survey taking site Inbox Dollars, I completely forgot about an app I have on my phone that also helps save money. It’s called iBotta. A friend of mine turned me onto it last year.

It’s kind of a cool coupon-type app but instead of giving you coupons to use at the time of check out, it pays you back with rebates after you check out. The app lists different rebates that are available each month at a wide selection of stores like Kroger, Wal-Mart, Target, Dollar General, Walgreens, CVS, Family Dollar, Schnucks and more.

You select which items you bought and then you scan them to make sure they match. Then you upload an image of the receipt to earn the rebate. You can cash out the money via Pay Pal once you reach $20 or you can get paid via gift cards to places like Amazon or Starbucks.

And I know you are probably thinking the rebates are only available on items you never buy, right?  Nope.  There’s a wide variety of rebates available from bread, cereal, drinks (including alcohol), toilet paper, produce, medications, toiletries, and more. My favorites are the generic rebates that allow you to buy any type of product to earn it, like a loaf of bread. You don’t have to buy a certain name brand. Any loaf will do.

There’s also generic rebates for produce like carrots, mushrooms, peppers, apples, and more. And the rebates change each month.  And most of the same rebates are available across a wide variety of stores so you don’t have to go to a certain store to earn that rebate. Each rebate usually ranges from 25 cents to $1 or more depending on what the item is. The rebates for alcohol are much higher!

There’s also fun team exercises on the app. If you invite friends to sign up or your friends via Facebook sign up for iBotta, they become members of your team and you can help each other toward goals to earn more money each month.

receipt hogThere’s a second app that I actually just read about and downloaded on New Year’s Eve.  It’s called Receipt Hog. I can tell I’m really going to enjoy this app because I’m not limited to having to buy specific products to earn rewards.

With Receipt Hog, you snap a photo of any receipt and upload it to earn coins. Yep, any receipt! You earn a certain number of coins based on how much you spent and you can level up to earn more.

The receipts can be to any store too, including restaurants, supermarkets, closeout stores, beauty stores, health stores, dollar stores, and more. They just can’t be handwritten receipts and can’t be older than two weeks.

The coins you earn equal money. 1000 coins equals about $5. You can level up to earn more as you load more receipts. There are also sweeps you get entered in to earn more too.  And you  earn pulls on a slot machine for chances to earn more coins which is kind of fun.

I just downloaded this app on New Year’s Eve and immediately uploaded all of my receipts that I still had from Christmas Eve on. I had 200 coins in no time and have already leveled up twice. I’m at level 3. For under $10, I earn 5 coins, $10 – $50 earns 10 coins, $50 – $100 earns 15 coins, over $100 earns 20 coins. I also earn one sweep entry per receipt.

Since this is a brand new app for me, I’m still learning about it so if you have questions here’s a link to their FAQ.  But I’m already looking forward to uploading all of my receipts this year!

In February, I’m also going to add these two apps to my list of savings accounts.

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Blog. Money. Health. Write. January 2016.

So here we are. It’s January 1st. My 1st blog post of the year. My 1st blog post of the 12 posts I promised I’d post this year devoted to my 4 goals I listed for 2016 which are Blog, Save Money, Focus on health, and Write.  Sorry, this first post is going to be long!

I’m going to spend a big part of this post talking about goal #2 which is Money. I’d like to save $2,500 this year. A portion of this will be used for Christmas at the end of the year, and the second portion will either be saved or used to make a large payment on a bill.

I have 2 savings accounts and 2 money market accounts. My first savings account is with my primary bank, and unfortunately I tap into it quite a bit throughout the year. The good part about it is that $25 is automatically transferred to this account on the last day of each month.

The second savings account is rarely used. It’s with a credit union that I had financed my car with (more about that later).

My first money market account is also with my primary bank, so yeah, it’s been tapped into some over time. No money is transferred to it automatically. My second money market account is with my Capital One credit card. For the past few years, I’ve had money automatically transferred to it with each pay day. At the end of the year, I use this money as Christmas gifts for my immediate family. I like using this account because it’s out-of-sight and out-of-mind so other than checking to make sure the deposits go through I rarely look at it and I hardly ever withdraw from it until the end of the year.

I find that’s the best way to save money – pretend you don’t have it. So if I could make one suggestion to you on how to save money, though I’m certainly not good at it, it would be to have a savings account separate from your primary banking account that you access all the time. This way, you don’t see it as much and you are less tempted to tap into it when it isn’t right in front of you.

Now, here’s a second tip, and this is a tip I’ve seen online quite a bit in articles and other blog posts: Find some other way, in addition to your primary job, to make money. It could be a second job. Or mow yards. Rake leaves. Clean houses. Sell things on Etsy or Amazon. It doesn’t have to be a regular pay check, but it should be some sort of income that you could use to feed your savings. I actually have two! One is the royalties from the sell of my books, primarily through Amazon. The net isn’t much these days but it’s money that I haven’t relied on for a while and that I plan to put into savings this year.

inbThe other is answering online surveys. Yep. I started doing this online back in April. There are lots of sites out there that will pay you to do online surveys, but my favorite and the one I now use the most is inboxdollars.com. I like them because they will send you a check in the mail rather than you having to get paid by gift card. I earned $130 dollars with them in 2015. I’m hoping to double that this year. I’ll talk more about this in another post tomorrow, but trust me. It’s not a scam. You do have to devote some time to it but it does pay.

I also started utilizing cash savings near the end of 2015. Every time I had cash on hand, I put a bit in a cash box stashed away. Or every time I used my debit card, I would get at least $5 back in cash to put into this savings box. I liked doing this and yeah, I dipped into it a few times if I needed to but I liked having the cash on hand so that I didn’t have to use a credit card.

So here are my savings accounts and their current totals:

InBox Dollars Account: $9.29
Primary Savings Account: $20.00
Primary Money Market: $20.00
Credit Union Savings: $35.00
Capitol One Money Market: $76.17
Cash Savings: $55.00
Total: $215.46

I’ve already scheduled $25 to go into my Capital One Account from each of my two paychecks in January. And $25 will automatically be transferred to my primary savings at the end of the month. So that’s another $75 that will be automatically saved this month.  I think this goal for 2016 is off to a great start!

Now let’s discuss goal 3# which is my health, and by health you know I mean weight loss.  Ugh…I really should go back to the gym but it always feels like a chore and I really do hate paying for it.  I also hate the gym this time of year when everyone else has the same thing on their mind.  I’ve done it before and didn’t enjoy it then though I did lose weight because I did go because I was paying for it. Excuses, excuses, I know…So, what am I going to do?

I started using My Fitness Pal again two weeks ago just to get into the habit.  I updated my goals so that it lowered my daily calorie goal a bit. I’ve been reading lots of things online about diet and weight loss.  And as I said in my previous post, I’m really looking forward to Amelia Freer’s new book this month. Her last one really motivated me.

For Christmas, I got one of those stationary bike stands so that I can ride my bike indoors. I plan to set it up this weekend so I can start getting some form of exercise. When it’s warmer, I’ll start my walking routine again. I also got a free sample of the E06 Sports Bracelet which is like a FitBit so maybe I’ll try that too.

What’s my weight loss goal for the year?  I always start with 25 pounds. I haven’t weighed in yet today but I will. So for now, I’ll write more about weight loss in February!

Goal #4 is writing, and I’ve already started that too since Christmas. About a month ago we watched the entire first season of Man in the High Castle on Amazon which is about what America might be like had Germany won the second world war. It was a really interesting concept. There was a scene where a Nazi general takes his son to the doctor only to discover that his son has a serious disease. Leadership would dictate that his son should be exterminated but because he is a general the doctor agrees not to report the boy’s diagnosis.

This got me to thinking about the issue of euthanasia which led me to thinking about Jack Kevorkian.  Soon, I was outlining the idea for a new book in my head. Over Christmas, I read Jack’s bio which was a fascinating read and gave me lots of insight into the topic.

As  I said before, I won’t reveal a lot of things about this writing project other than what progress I’m making, but I’ve already started writing it. I’m only a few pages into it but I practically have the whole book outlined in my head so I’m looking forward to seeing what happens with it this year.

So that’s where I am on January 1st with my New Year’s Resolutions.  Hope you enjoyed my first blog post about it. Only 11 more months to go!

2015 in review

Thanks for making 2015 a fun year here on my blog!

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 22,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 8 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Christmas Putz Houses 2015

It’s been a busy holiday season for me!  I’ve been busy building houses…putz houses that is (also called glitter houses)! These are miniature “train set” size houses that I make from old greeting cards.

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A house I made this year for a coworker friend

I picked up this hobby in 2013 and made a few which I ended up selling to a friend that first year. Last year I made twelve houses and gave six each to my sister and mother as a Christmas gift.

This year mom and Sis will each get another six to add to their collection. And I made another six for an aunt who also liked, and I have a coworker friend who wanted a few.  So that makes just over 20 houses I made for this season!

That may not sound like a lot but it can take a few days just to complete one house. I usually start by tracing a house on the cards and cutting it out.  This usually takes thirty minutes to an hour depending on how complicated the house is and how many parts it has.

I then glue the house and let it sit while I cut out another. I often do this each night through the week. By the weekend, I have several houses ready to decorate with glitter, bottle brush trees, and figurines.

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One of my custom houses made from my own pattern. The sign post is a take-out chopstick cut in half.

My biggest problem this year was finding new patterns so I didn’t repeat the houses I made last year. I made a few from scratch including a barn and a castle. I use graphing paper to make the pattern. This is the easiest way to make sure all sides line up, but without a protractor most of the roofs are just a basic 45  or 90 degree angle. So I bought a protractor this year so I can make sharper angled roofs without having to rely on the lines on graph paper.

There are several websites online devoted to traditional putz houses where I’ve picked up patterns in the past. Pinterest is also a good source, especially if you search for “paper house patterns.” I have a Pinterest board devoted entirely to putz houses, mostly consisting of other images of completed houses that people have shared which I like to look at for inspiration.

$(KGrHqV,!ksE+7NtyKpgBQHWoDgH7w--60_35This year I searched several antique malls again to find miniature figurines and trees to decorate the houses. Last year I purchased quite a few from Etsy shops.

You can get lots of trees on Etsy at good prices, along with vintage style cupcake toppers which make for nice decorations outside of the houses.  I had lots leftover but I still wanted new stuff so that Mom and Sis don’t have duplicate looking houses.

You’d be surprised how hard it is to find those Department 56 style porcelain figurines nowadays. Years ago they were everywhere – even in dollar stores. Not this year! I got lucky and found a few bags of them in consignment shops a few weeks ago. I scored one bag of eight figurines for just $2.50.

assorted_frosted_green_bottle_brush_trees_1Hobby Lobby was also a good source for miniatures this year. They have a nice mini-tree section filled with tiny ornaments. I bought tractors for my barn, toy soldiers for my castles, some snowmen, and some whimsical cats.

I also like to buy larger bottle brush Christmas trees here because they stock them year round in the dollhouse section. All Christmas was 50% off already on the weekend I shopped here so that made it even better.

I also made a few houses with cardboard flatties this year.  These are small flat characters that are cardboard. If I found characters on the greeting cards that I liked, like a snowman or a child with a sled, I carefully cut them from the card and left a flap on the bottom that could be folded and glued down so they would stand up.  They lack dimension but still add character to the houses.

I did not have to buy cards this year though! I had plenty leftover from last year thanks to people giving them to me and thanks to after-Christmas sales where I picked up several boxes at dollar stores. It takes 2 to 4 cards to make one house, depending on the size.

If it’s a small house, I can get the walls from one card and the roof and base from another. If it’s a larger house with multiple pieces it can take two cards just for the walls, another for the roof, and another for the base. Sometimes I use different cards for bases just so they don’t all match and also to use up a single leftover card.

So what’s next now that this year’s “house gifts” are done?  I love to continue making them into the winter months sometimes. And some friends have told me I should try selling them. I’m not sure how well they do online and places like Ebay and Etsy charged listing fees.

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The bird and the snowman are miniature ornaments from Hobby Lobby

I’d really like to get them into a consignment or gift store. So that’s my next venture!  There are several places near St. Louis like Old Main Street in St. Charles or even Kimmswick that have gift stores where I think they might do well. It’s just a matter of reaching out to the owners to see if they are interested.

I’m also thinking of creating a separate blog devoted just to putz houses. Like I said, there are already some out there that are all about the traditional-style glitter houses so I’d like to maybe start a new approach. We’ll see what 2016 has in store!

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Just take those old records off the shelf…

So I bought a record player.  Yep!  And not the kind you find in a second hand store – that’s where I bought my raspberry beret.

71axzRXL2oL._SL1500_It was an impulse buy.  I was actually shopping for Adele’s new album (25) on Amazon and noticed that it was available in vinyl.  Wha???  I had no idea you could still buy “new” vinyl.  I was intrigued!

So I typed in “record player” on Amazon and found this Jensen model that was the top seller and most reviewed.  It was only around $40 so I bought it.  Then I went back and picked up Adele’s new album on vinyl too.

I was born in the late 70’s and by the time I started embracing music outside of sing-song tunes meant for small children or songs I learned from Sesame Street, the 80’s were halfway over and so was the love of listening to records. I admit it. I was from the cassette generation. And what did that do for us? First, it made music more portable. Remember walkmans? And it gave us options in the car when we didn’t want to listen to the radio.

Cassettes also gave us the chance to record the radio. Remember making mix tapes and how pissed you got at the DJ for talking over the intro music to each song?  Then there was the cassette single.  If you didn’t like the whole album (or didn’t have a enough money) you could buy the single.  I was a single junkie. I remember I had half of someone’s album on singles and a friend asked me why I didn’t just save that money and buy the whole album because I might like it. I didn’t have an answer other than those cool little cardboard sleeves that singles came in each had different covers that were pretty cool.

But just like records, cassettes were delicate and easily damaged. Remember sticking a pencil into the hole to wind it back up, or how pissed you got when your player ate some of the tape and you had to try to pull it out? But with cassettes we also slowly began to sacrifice the quality of sound itself. We made music convenient, but we didn’t make it better, and that holds true with CD’s and MP3’s. Don’t believe me?

Plug your iPod into your car and adjust the bass and treble. Turn both of them up!  You’ll be surprised at all of the little background nuances and melodies you are missing out on through your ear buds. I never really noticed until I got my record player and plugged it up.  I was amazed at the difference in sound quality.  And nothing beats that pop and crackle.

Yeah, it’s nostalgic. I laughed at the thought of getting some milk crates for my “new” record collection. Might as well get some paper lanterns and a papasan chair too, huh? But the older I get, the more I like to reminisce about the good old days and let’s face it, we all have a soundtrack to our lives and chances are your glory days were set to music you played on records.  Eight track folks, that’s another blog post!

So after the player arrived on Saturday, I hit the consignment shop and loaded up with some faves. Call me nuts, but I’ll be buying some more. And I’m not getting milk crates but I did buy some nice wooden record holders that are stackable.

I know why we got away from records and all. Yeah, it’s hard to skip to the next song. You have to flip the record when side 1 is done. One of the new albums I bought is on two records, both sides. One side only has 3 songs on it! You also risk scratching it. Records take up a lot of space too.  They aren’t very portable. But the sound quality is superb and what can I say…it’s fun!

So do yourself a favor and drag your old record collection out of the attic if you haven’t sold it on Craigs List already. And if you don’t have a record player, invest in this one. It’s one of the best impulse buys I’ve made in a long time.

 

It’s that time of year again…

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Traditional Glitter House

…when I start making putz houses, also known as glitter houses.  Traditional glitter houses are made from cardboard and usually painted and covered in glitter. There’s usually a small hole in the back where you can insert a Christmas light.  It’s an old tradition that goes way back; you can often find old houses in antique stores these days!

Three years ago I discovered them online when I came across a blog where a lady was making them out of old holiday greeting cards. I decided I wanted to start making them too. It ‘s a lot of fun and just another way I can satisfy my creative urges. I made a few that first year and sold them to a coworker.

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The houses I made last year

Last year I decided to make twelve houses and I gave a set of six to my sister and to my mother as a Christmas gift. They loved them and couldn’t believe they were hand made.

This year I’m making them again. My plans are to make at least 18 of them.  I’m going to give another six each to my sister and mom so they can “grow” their putz village.  And I have an aunt who thought they were so cute so I’m going to make a set for her.

The problem is there aren’t a lot of patterns out there!  You can find lots of pictures of putz houses online, but there aren’t a lot of patterns available. Sure, I can use the patterns I have and just use different cards so the houses look different, but I’d like for the shapes of the houses to be different too.

I even searched Amazon hoping to find a book of patterns but only came across traditional cardboard DIY houses that are already assembled and just need painting.  I did find some H-O Scale books with pre-printed houses in them that you cut and paste to build a village for your model trains. There are several different versions available and I scored an out of print used copy for 85 cents.  I’m hoping it hasn’t actually be used and maybe I can utilize it for patterns, but for less than a buck if I can’t, then no loss really.

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One of last year’s houses I made

I am experimenting more this year with being an “architect” and drawing my own patterns using graph paper. So far I’ve made a cathedral and a barn. I might also attempt to make patterns that mimic some of the houses I’ve found online that I like that I can’t find patterns for.

It’s almost impossible to make one house from start to finish because of waiting for glue to dry. Right now I have one house done that just needs glitter added.  And I have four others all in different stages either waiting on glitter or waiting on accents and bases to be added.

It’s a fun project to work on when I come home from work and I’m in front of the TV and don’t feel like doing anything else. I’ll post pictures of some of this year’s homes once they are ready!

 

 

Ingredients of a Healthy Relationship – Part 5

375x321_lose_weight_fast_how_to_do_it_quickly_ref_guideIt’s been 45 days since I went (semi) meatless and so far I’ve lost 13 lbs!  By semi, I mean I only eat meat at lunch at work, and even then it’s probably only 2 or 3 times a week and it’s always a healthy portion. And never fast food!  My favorite “meat” lunches are one of those flavored Tuna Select packs or a chicken sandwich.  But most of the time I’m eating leftovers from the night before so that’s meatless. Breakfast and dinner through the week, and the entire weekend, is always meatless.

My sister read a Facebook post of mine about it and told my mom. My mom told me she didn’t know I was dieting. I happily told her I wasn’t dieting! She was also shocked to learn I’d lost that much weight just by cutting out meat.  It’s been too hot to walk or ride my bike so there’s been little exercise involved either.  But that will change soon when the temperatures start dropping as we get into the autumn months. I know from previous diets and trips to the gym that eventually you reach a plateau where the weight won’t come off.  I think amping up the exercise regimen will help then.

Two weeks ago we actually decided to go out to eat at The Pasta House for lunch on a Saturday.  We went in thinking we’d just get soup and salad.  That all changed when we picked up the menu. I decided I wanted pasta con broccoli and minestrone. John picked a mushroom risotto to go with his soup.  And it was very tempting so we got garlic bread to go with it and an appetizer of mushrooms.  We thought the plate of mushrooms would only be about 12 pieces.  Wrong!  It was about 48 pieces.  We probably didn’t even eat a dozen of them.  But we finished off the bread, soup, and pasta and took the mushrooms home. Total bill, including two teas to drink, was over $50 after tip!

It made us sick.  Not only was the bill disappointing, but the amount of food we ate made us feel gross.  The money could have bought groceries for a week or almost filled up both of our cars with gas.  And we didn’t touch the mushrooms at home so those got thrown away.  And that’s pretty much how I felt about the whole experience. We ate too much and we threw our money away. J agreed.  We’ll never do that again.

Some of you might still not be convinced that this is actually working. Even Mom couldn’t believe J had been completely without beef since late June, but it’s true. He even picked out the bacon from a recent can of baked beans we opened for a meal and asked that I not buy that kind anymore.

I’ll be the first to admit, it hasn’t been easy. Not only have we changed the way we eat, but that required us to change the way we shop and the way we cook.  I’ve probably searched for more recipes online over the past month than I ever did before.  And I am also saving money when I go to buy groceries (I do all the grocery shopping).  Meat is expensive and that alone added about $50 to the grocery bill every two weeks.  Now I shop every weekend for fresh ingredients and buy less. I also try to plan meals ahead for the week, and I rarely did that before.

I’ll say it again…we aren’t dieting.  We’ve still been snacking on cookies. We still enjoy toast with homemade jam. We bought an apple pie a few weeks ago and had it with ice cream.  J made a homemade black berry cobbler for us one week. Potato chips are still a weakness. I still drink diet soda and J still drinks root beer. So we are still enjoying sweets and such, but obviously only in moderation.  Hey, I gave up coffee in February. I’m not about to give up cookies.