Custom Search

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Check out "I Am the Working Poor" and Maybe Win Some Books

A while back I was whining about needing more frugality blogs to read. Some of my favorites have closed down, alas. Somehow, I happened upon "I am the Working Poor." This is a thoughtful, wonderfully written blog, with much food for thought.

The blogger is giving some books away. These are famous frugality books. I don't want to win the books because I've already read them, and have a serious book accumulation problem.

But if YOU want to win them--or even if you just want to read the blog--go HERE.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Time to Buy Real Estate?

Just reading CNN and came upon this article. Australians are buying US rental properties in depressed markets as investments. Places include the usual suspects: in addition to Tennessee, which is featured, we have Florida and Arizona.

Could this mean that if you have cash (as the Australians seem to), the best thing would be to buy another house in addition to your underwater home bought during the bubble?

My mother's Florida condo, bought 16 years ago for the price of a Long Island ranch home, is now worth less than the initial cost, while the Long Island home, I'm sure, is worth much more, in spite of the bubble.

Somewhat facetiously, one could call this dollar cost averaging with real estate. The only problem, of course, besides the risk of any real estate investment, is that you need wads of cash. Which Australians do, evidently.

Is this a mad idea? Would you buy rental property in depressed markets if you had some cash?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Debt Settlement: More Consumer Friendly

Thankfully, I have no debts to settle. Nevertheless, every few days, I get a robocall: "Are you in credit card debt? We can help reduce your debt."

The other day, I was talking to my Goodwill friend Joan (our friendship is based on the fact that we share a shoe size): she is retired from Bellsouth, gets social security, and works as a sub at the high school (even though she is not a college grad!), so I always figured she was OK financially. Not so, as it happens. She told me she confined her shopping to Goodwill so she could pay off her credit card debt. Then she said, "I was in so deep I was going to one of those companies..."

"Don't do it!" I exclaimed. "I have a colleague who signed up about 10 years ago and is in worse shape than when she started."

"I know," said Joan. "I have a friend who worked with Wells Fargo and she ended up losing her house."

These people are not your friends, in spite of the rhetoric.

Thanks to the new more consumer-friendly financial regulations going into effect, debt relief companies will no longer be able to collect fees up front.

"Consumers who are very deeply in debt and don't know how to pay it down are trying to do the right thing by signing up with these companies, and they end up paying thousands and thousands of dollars in fees and filing for bankruptcy anyway," said Lauren Bowne, a staff attorney at the Consumers Union. "Now, that shouldn't happen anymore."

Sounds like Joan's friend and my colleague.

If you need to get out of overwhelming debt, see the classic tome.

I learned a lot from this book. It is a masterpiece. And no fees to questionable organizations.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Frugal Last-Minute Halloween Costumes

As an extremely self-conscious and awkward person, I flee from costume occasions. However, I have a daughter who is neither of the above and who prides herself on costuming creativity. are two of her ideas, presented here without her permission. Please do not make use of these ideas if you are going to a Halloween party in Tuscaloosa.

Idea 1: FRIDA KAHLO. A genius idea! Miss Em has been pining for an embroidered Mexican dress for a long time. I kept saying that I could find one in a thrift store. Then, after years of no success, I encouraged her to go out with an adorable exchange student from Mexico. This year, within a week, I found two Mexican dresses at Goodwill, where they are classed as nightgowns, and so sell for $1.99. With a unibrow, drawn-on or natural, your costume is complete.

Idea 2: WOOD NYMPH. This was Miss Em's costume last year. All you need are some artificial flowers, some real leaves, some brown and green clothing. And--this is the hard part--a good hand with makeup. Check out Miss Em and her two beautiful friends here.

Honestly, I don't know where this costume genius comes from. EVERY YEAR I had to be a beatnik: my mother supplied me with a big sweater and a cigarette (!) in a holder (!).

Do you have any ideas for frugal Halloween costumes?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Local Cooking vs Frugal Cooking: Can the Twain Meet?

Miss Em is lucky enough to be in a college program that involves an occasional invitation to a catered meal at a faculty home. These have themes and, being a hungry girl with an interest in food, she recently chose one on eating with locally sourced products. (UGH--I can't believe I just used the word "sourced"--so pretentious.)

The food, as expected, was great: catfish po-boys, marinated cabbage, and other items I can't remember.

While she was there, Miss Em got into a conversation with a proponent of local eating. She mentioned that she came from a frugal family that liked to cook and eat. The expert opined that cheap food was part of the problem: the Dollar Burger masks its true costs, which include health and environmental costs, in the way that the food is raised, produced, processed, transported, and so on.

Meanwhile, in a frugal and environmental move, I took a New York Times Magazine from the free bin at the library. The magazine, from the depths of the financial crisis, had an article about a New York City family that TRIED to eat local and organic foods from the Farmer's Market. In that quest, they purchased a chicken that cost $35.00! The article also mentioned that their toddler-son chugged through a half-gallon of farm milk ($14.00/gallon!) a day. I'm not even going to get into the question of whether anyone should be drinking that much milk (I say no). Anyway, the family had to give up these pure foods in the face of financial woes.

I think the University locavore was conflating CHEAP food and FRUGAL food. CHEAP food is not good in large quantities: hot pockets, pizza bites, and the like, in addition to fast food items.

FRUGAL food can include local food. I can buy local seafood, greens, and citrus. I do, all the time. Perhaps I SHOULD buy local dairy items, but I have a cheap attack on these.

At the same time, I would faint if my dear spouse purchased a $35.00 chicken. Or if my children consumed $7.00 worth of milk per diem, each.

If it's true though that local food really is better for you (aside from being better tasting) and if the prices mentioned in the New York Times article are on the level, then there may be a food and nutrition gap between richest and poorest much like the widening income gap that has been in the news so much of late.

AND NOW FOR the $64,000 question: would you spend $35.00 on a chicken?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Debt Busters on CNN

It's wonderful to read about people getting out of debt. I love to see all their tips and strategies, all honey to the frugal heart.

So, check out this feature on CNN, which presents 8 "get out of debt" stories. You may faint when you get to the last one. The woman explains how "negotiating" with her credit card companies got her debt (incurred when starting a business that failed) reduced from $110,000 to $39,000! Honestly, if it were me, I would be too embarrassed to put my picture and name out there for all to see.

However, I don't need to go on; the comments do that for me. The others featured are so responsible and honorable. Love their stories.

Am I being too hard on Melody?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Progress Report: Duchesse's Challenge, Very Boring Post

Soooooooo, Duchesse suggested that some of her many admirers undertake one of those wardrobe challenges: 6 items, 10 items, whatever. She calls it "Express Checkout."

I didn't really think this would make a big difference for me. I am not a huge retail shopper and, in fact, probably should spend MORE on clothing than I do.

I started early (Monday Oct 11) and decided to add till I got up to 10 items. So far, I have worn 8: black jeans, black ponte pants, black turtleneck, charcoal turtleneck, cream top, and 3 long cardigans in black, magenta, and green.

This hasn't been hard EXCEPT that I keep spilling things on my clothes. TWICE I dropped a cracker with peanut butter on my entire ensemble, necessitating two washes.

The OTHER hard thing is that I am going crazy trying to decide on the last two pieces. I am so indecisive. I might wear a red top tomorrow, but then I'll only have ONE to choose.

When can I stop?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Frugal Entertainment: Tim Laughlin and Tom McDermott

These are the musicians we heard on Saturday, at an elegant home out in the country. The house was large, so there were more people than usual. Total cost: $12.50 per person plus a dish for the pot luck. I am grateful to be on the email list. I can't believe I can attend such events.

Tim Laughlin on clarinet.

Tom McDermott on piano.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Egg and I: For College Cooks and Others

I am going to start posting my College Cooking posts here too. Not to name any names, but CERTAIN PEOPLE WHO WERE SUPPOSED TO HELP ME HAVE NOT DONE SO.

EGGS just seem to be in the air these days. On the College Cooking front, I have this report. Always on the lookout for stove-free cooking options, I discovered this little item.

Really, this is silly. However, I spotted one at Goodwill for 99 cents, so I bought it. It's definitely worth 99 cents. I put some of the beaten egg for the pasta frittata in each side, cooked for a minute, added some cooked pasta and cheese, and finished it up. Then I folded it closed: tada! a very pretty fake omelet.

I think this would actually be good for microwave-only cooks: there is little clean up, really; it produces an attractive item (so important for solo eaters); it can accommodate all kinds of leftovers, and so on. Next time I use it, I'm going to try beating the eggs IN the contraption, for even less clean up.

Further on the egg front. I unearthed a cookbook I've never used.

Here is a knock-off of one of their recipes. I have probably already revealed my insane love of mashed potatoes, so it should come as no surprise that this one is on my to-do list.


* 3 cups mashed potatoes, heated through
* 4 eggs
* Coarse salt and cracked black pepper
* 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
* 1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs such as parsley, chives, oregano, or thyme


Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Divide the mashed potatoes into four individual baking dishes. Make a deep well in the center of the mashed potatoes. Crack an egg directly into each well. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Sprinkle 1/4 of the cheese over each egg. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until eggs are done to your likeness.

Remove from oven, garnish with fresh herbs. Serve immediately.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Egg and I: Pasta Frittata

Last month, I reported my pot luck triumph with egg salad. As a rule, I wouldn't bring egg salad to a pot luck, but it was on the list of items from which to choose. It happened that I was the maker of the BEST egg salad.

Tonight we are going to a music event, organized by some wonderful people we know. Mark and Peggy are music lovers who were habitues of a jazz cafe just minutes from their home. Post-Katrina, the cafe was no more. So instead of griping (my usual response), they created a monthly musical evening, at the home of a volunteer. Everyone chips in for the musicians and brings a dish.

We used to be on the alternate list, but we have ascended to the regular list.

Because we are near New Orleans, we get some wonderful and well-known musicians.

I am making pasta frittata, which you are supposed to do with leftovers, but I had to start from scratch.

12 eggs
half pound of linguine, cooked
some tomato sauce
some homemade pesto

In case you don't know how to make one, here is a frittata recipe.

This made a big sucker, but I have the coordinated Mr. FS to help me. He is very proud of his ability to flip a frittata.

Last time I brought a frittata (this was potato/leek) to one of these events, it was a success. Another benefit is that the frittata is easy to transport and tastes good at room temperature. No one else has ever brought one.

Now, of course, I want to re-read The Egg and I.

Or how about the book my friend Charlotte gave my baby boy?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Pasta with Caramelized Onions, Greens, Breadcrumbs

Since I learned how to make caramelized onions in my slow cooker, I have been on the lookout for recipes using them. Today I saw one in the New York Times.

3 tablespoons butter or olive oil

5 anchovy fillets

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2/3 cup bread crumbs

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus additional for drizzling

1 yellow onion, halved from stem to root and thinly sliced crosswise

Kosher salt and pepper

1 pound Swiss chard, ribs removed, leaves chopped

1/2 pound whole-wheat pasta, such as fusilli.

1. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Add 3 anchovies to the skillet; cook until melted, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute. Stir in the bread crumbs and toast until golden, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.

2. Wipe the skillet clean and return it to a medium-high heat. Add the oil, the onion and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until very soft and caramelized, 15 to 20 minutes. Chop the remaining 2 anchovies and add them to the skillet. Cook until melted. Add the Swiss chard, a handful at a time, and cook until wilted, about 4 minutes. Cover and keep warm.

3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions. Drain well. Toss with the chard mixture and bread crumbs, season with salt and pepper and drizzle with oil.

Yield: 2 to 3 servings.

This is a treasure of the recipe because it has more than one frugal component: in addition to the onions, it uses breadcrumbs. PLUS greens. We always have breadcrumbs because Mr. FS is a long-time baker. And it just so happens we have greens in the garden, though not chard.

Needless to say, I plan to make changes: regular old pasta and no anchovies. I am going to make this in a few days, but the recipe looks so interesting that I wanted to share.

Also, see how much time you save by having caramelized a bunch of onions in your slow cooker? Life is good.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

I Am Scrooge: Unicef Halloween Bag

Please don't hate me. But I just hate stuff like this.FEED Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF Bag at HSN supports UNICEF Nutrition Programs

FEED Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF BagTrick-or-Treat for UNICEF supporters can collect in style this Halloween with the first ever FEED Trick-or-Treat bag to benefit UNICEF. This special edition bag was created by FEED Projects, a charitable company with the mission of creating good products that FEED the world, in honor of the 60th anniversary of Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF. This fun burlap carrier is available exclusively at HSN—a leading multichannel retailer reaching more than 95 million US homes—and this Halloween.

Malnutrition is the underlying cause in up to half of preventable deaths of children under five. Yet, there is hope. For each $13.20 FEED Trick-or-Treat bag purchased at HSN or at, HSN will donate $3.50 to the U.S. Fund for UNICEFto support UNICEF's nutrition programs for children. Each bag purchased will enable UNICEF to provide one child in the developing world with an entire year's worth of micronutrient powders. These powders are easily sprinkled over food, instantly fortifying a child’s meal with essential nutrients to help give him or her the best start in life.

FEED and HSN are Proud Supporters for the 2010 Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF campaign. For more information, visit and

Click here to see a recent video of Lauren Bush of FEED Projects at HSN, speaking about the FEED Trick-or-Treat bag to benefit UNICEF.

I got a notice from Garnet Hill, the upscale catalog company. In my kids' younger days, I wouldn't buy the gift wrap, candy bars, and so forth. I just gave a donation to the school. Honestly, shouldn't we give $14.00 to Unicef and let our children carry grocery bags--or pillowcases, as I did--for Halloween?

What do you think about such charitable endeavors/consumerism? Neat or not?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Financial Independence= X times 25

Once again, Jacob of Early Retirement Extreme gets me thinking. Assuming that the oft-touted 4% withdrawal rate from your savings/investments will likely last forever(?) and will accommodate inflation, Jacob points out that you can take an expense, multiply it by 25, and see what you need to amass in order to support your lifestyle.

Here is what he says on food, obviously a need.

What about food expenses? These can range from less than $50/month per person to more than $500/month per person.

Required savings for $50/month:

$50/month = $600/year food expenses. This needs $600/0.04 = $15000 in savings. Whereas $500/month = $6000/year needs $150000 in savings. That’s a lot!

Aiming for the lower figure of $15000 is doable in a foreseeable number of years. After saving $15000 one NEVER needs to worry about food again. One is financially independent of the food expenses.

I like this model, because it tells me that I can save for retirement bit by bit, accommodating first NEEDS (shelter, food, utilities, transportation, healthcare) and then wants (too many to mention here, mostly revolving around TRAVEL).

It also might make me think twice about the many small purchases to which I succumb. Recently, for instance, I have NOT bought a Greek wool hat (for Mr. FS), a Chico's linen shirt, a really nice comforter, and STOP...this is getting embarrassing.

Even though each of these things is ONLY around $3.00, if I forgo, say, 5 a month, I will have eliminated $4500.00 from my retirement needs. Not to mention, the clutter that comes from bringing in 36 new items per year.

Do you think it helps to "multiply expenses by 25" to see what a retirement plan amounts to, or do you think it a silly gimmick?

I love it, myself.

Monday, October 11, 2010

5.25% Checking Account: Not Buying It

Today I received a tempting email from my credit union: 5.25% checking! That's amazing these days: my Vanguard money market is at .1% (if that); my high-yield savings is at 1.3%; I am considering a 1.9% CD.

With La Cap's All Access Advantage checking account, you have the chance to earn dividends as you make purchases.* With no monthly fees and no minimum balance, it's a great way to make the most of your checking account. It's just our way of showing you that we care about giving you the best rates and services possible.

Open an Account Now

*APY = Annual Percentage Yield. La Cap Checking (Share draft) Accounts are variable rate accounts. La Cap may change the dividend rate for your account as determined by the credit union Board of Directors. Dividends are posted and compounded monthly. No minimum balance required to maintain the account. Applicable fees and conditions could reduce the earnings on your account. Qualifications to earn dividends: - 25 or more non-ATM debit card transactions posted per month: - 5.25% APY on balances up to but not exceeding $5,000 - .15% APY on balances exceeding $5,000. If qualification stated is not met: - .15% APY on entire balance.

Read the fine print. The offer is only for your first $5000.00 and you must make at least 25 non-ATM debit card transactions per month.

Let's do the math. If you have the whole $5000.00, you can get about $262.00. That's nothing to sneeze at.

Let's do the math some more. The earnings total about $5.00 a week. That's much less tempting. I don't have a debit card; I don't buy something 25 days of the month. For $5.00 a week, I can do other things that I enjoy more than keeping track of debit transactions.

I can go to Big Lots and save $5.00 on food. Ditto for looking at the grocery ads and planning my menu around something on sale. I can check 2 movies out of the library. I can hand wash a sweater rather than sending it to the dry cleaner (I do that anyway). You get the idea.

Since I find keeping track of things extremely stressful, I don't use that supposed Holy Grail of frugality: the grocery coupon. I don't know how to sew and am glad that, because of a small fire in the home ec room, I never had to finish my skirt, since I was on my way to getting a bad grade.

There are so many ways to be frugal! Aren't we lucky that we can find ones that suit our temperaments? Which are your favorites?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

LL Bean Hunter's Tote Bag: On Sale, as toted by Andre Leon Talley

Far be it from me to encourage unnecessary shopping. But LL Bean is having a Friends and Family Sale. 20% off if you have their Visa (I do); 10% off and free shipping if you want to use any old credit card. Code is LLBFRIENDS10. Good though Tuesday.

Normally, I scoff at a mere 10% or even 20% off. But LL has some items that NEVER go on sale. Like their Hunter's tote. I wrote about my tote search a while back; you can see my deliberations, plus a pic of the LL tote here.

I ALMOST got the camo tote (and was going to get orange monogramming, as suggested by Duchesse), but chickened out, and got plain old olive drab with black initials. I got the one with the zipper. It IS a great tote, except that the handles are a little short; I'd like the option of using it as a shoulder tote while traveling.

Embarrassing confession: I have become fascinated by the review sections on many websites. The customers definitely have distinct personalities, depending on the store. LLB customers are generally pleased, but very crabby about any perceived lapse in quality, as indeed they should be.

In the reviews for the tote (the non zipper version), there is a one that divulges the following W magazine-worthy tidbit:

A magazine-editor-friend-of-mine has this tote, and one day saw Vogue's Andre Leon Talley carrying the exact same bag in the elevator!

I wonder if ALT went for the camo, the black, or the olive?

I never heard of LL Bean till I went to college. I didn't understand why everyone had the same sweater and nightgown. But now their fame has spread far and wide, beyond the sphere of preppydom, to the point that every 3rd grader in my little town insists on one of their backpacks.

I resisted for a while, and finally bought one (navy) for Frugal Son. He uttered a sentence that has since become part of the Frugal Family lore: "I have reached a level of normality I never dreamed possible." Even then he knew I was pathologically frugal.

Meanwhile, 14 years later, he has his second backpack, which was replaced as per LL's guarantee about 7 years ago.

So, use the code if you see something you desire. Do you buy anything form the famous purveyor of preppy classic and not so classic?

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Paring Down the Pantry: White Bean and Pesto Soup

I don't understand it. I hardly spend any money on groceries, yet my pantry, which includes freezer, fridge, and REAL pantry, is STUFFED. I am aware that Thanksgiving is only about 6 weeks away.

I love Thanksgiving. It is a holiday based on a family meal. It is marked by great sales on staple foods. It yields wonderful leftovers, including and especially, broth.

As I did last spring, I am limiting my expenditures to $25.00/week, to force a paring down.* Mr. FS and I have the day off, so we looked through the freezer: steak, meatballs,various vegetables, tons of ratatouille from garden eggplant, tons of lemon juice from tree, shrimp, and, WHAT'S THAT? How embarrassing: BROTH from November 2009. We defrosted it and it was OK. We also found some frozen white beans.

I whirled the possibilities around: white bean soup with lemon, white beans with shrimp (a nouveau-Creole dish that proved somewhat disappointing), white bean bruschetta, white beans with tuna, eventually settling on WHITE BEAN SOUP with PESTO.

This is from a seemingly forgotten cookbook author: Perla Meyers, whose first book
The Seasonal Kitchen made a huge splash. Yes, you can now buy it for a mere 8 cents plus shipping on Amazon. How I wanted that book, first published when I was in college.

The white bean soup is from another book, The Peasant Kitchen. (OMG someone is selling this on Amazon for $247! Sadly--for me--there are other versions available for a penny).

I won't give you the exact recipe, since I didn't have the right amount of anything. I threw into a pot some of those caramelized onions from my slow cooker, added the frozen white beans, broke off a chunk of frozen stock, and added a few canned tomatoes. After a while, I pureed it with my trusty immersion blender. Then I cooked a few handfuls of macaroni in the puree. When that was done, I added some PESTO we had frozen last month.

Note that because everything was either frozen or canned, I didn't have any prep work. Such is the blessing of the freezer/pantry.

Do you ever cook like this? Send me a list of your ingredients and I'll see what I can come up with.

*No sooner did I make a vow than I broke it. I just ordered a 50 lb. sack of oat groats.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Frugality, Decluttering: Paradise

OK. So I've been teaching George Herbert, wonderful 17th-century poet. Went to class. Heard the B-word. B is for BORING.

I ditched my plan and showed them this poem first.


I Bless thee, Lord, because I GROW
Among thy trees, which in a ROW
To thee both fruit and order OW.

What open force, or hidden CHARM
Can blast my fruit, or bring me HARM,
While the inclosure is thine ARM.

Inclose me still for fear I START.
Be to me rather sharp and TART,
Then let me want thy hand and ART.

When thou dost greater judgments SPARE,
And with thy knife but prune and PARE,
Ev’n fruitfull trees more fruitful ARE.

Such sharpnes shows the sweetest FREND:
Such cuttings rather heal then REND:
And such beginnings touch their END.

I said, "What do you think is going on with the words at the ends of the lines?"

Then I looked down at my book for a while, using the trick of silence I learned when I taught at a Quaker college.

Eventually, a student said, "It's about pruning and paring, as he says in the next-to-last stanza." Yes!

Now, look at the title: through PARING, you get to PARE-ADISE=PARADISE.

Certainly, I didn't go into Renaissance literature because of the religious content: it just so happens that sixteenth- and seventeenth-century British lit is IMHO the greatest ever, and not just because of Shakespeare.

And isn't it true that PARADISE is all about PARING DOWN, whether one is talking about frugality or about decluttering one's space or wardrobe?

My blogpal Duchesse, by the way, is challenging us to limit our wardrobes, another kind of paring down.

How are you paring down these days?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Frugal Preppy: Preppy Frugal

In betwixt and between grading this and that, and reading George Herbert, I am continuing my search for frugal gems in (seemingly) non-frugal places.

Imagine my surprise when I came upon a plug for frugality in a preppy blog! The writer, known--natch--as Muffy, evaluates various preppy offerings and discriminates among the many shades of preppy, from the vrai to the faux.

For a whole lot of reasons, by chance and by choice, I am very, very far from preppyness, or preppydom. When I went to college in 1971, I couldn't understand why everyone at my purportedly left-wing college was wearing the SAME Norwegian navy sweater with little cream dots. Or why all the girls on my floor--save me--had Lanz nightgowns.

Anyway, I found a wonderful paean to frugality chez Muffy. With pictures of various items in both their new incarnations and their holey, fraying, mended older selves, Muffy avers that even the older versions are atill serviceable, and still (her word) loved.

And I love this acknowledgment of the preppy paradox: A frugality combined with an appreciation of more expensive items, and Why well-off people embrace and expect the use of well-worn items.

Love: that must explain why I am drawn to the still-worthy and serviceable, but sometimes worn, and definitely unloved items I see at thrift stores. In fact, over the past year, I've gotten two of those iconic LL Bean Norwegian sweaters at Goodwill: a grey with navy pullover for Mr. FS, and a navy with cream cardigan for me.

Speaking of paradoxes and love, George Herbert writes beautifully of both. Here is the last poem in The Temple):


Love bade me welcome, yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-ey'd Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lack'd anything.

"A guest," I answer'd, "worthy to be here";
Love said, "You shall be he."
"I, the unkind, the ungrateful? ah my dear,
I cannot look on thee."
Love took my hand and smiling did reply,
"Who made the eyes but I?"

"Truth, Lord, but I have marr'd them; let my shame
Go where it doth deserve."
"And know you not," says Love, "who bore the blame?"
"My dear, then I will serve."
"You must sit down," says Love, "and taste my meat."
So I did sit and eat.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Salt Water Gargles and Colds: Frugal Healthcare

This one is dedicated to Mr. FS: he has been gargling with salt water, lo these many years. Most of the other old wives' remedies to which he subscribed have been proven false. But this one has been endorsed by no less than the New York Times.

According to the Mayo Clinic, for best results, dissolve half a teaspoon of salt in a full glass of warm water and gargle the solution for a few seconds before spitting it out. Adults who want a more palatable remedy against cough and sore throat can try mixing warm water with lemon and honey. No need to spit it out.

THE BOTTOM LINE Gargling with a saline solution can ease symptoms of a cold.

Oh, how I love when the frugal way is the good way.

For a good read, check out this former best seller. Frugal Son liked it a lot.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Skirting the Edges of Too Frugal?: Garbage Edition

Now that the temperature is no longer in the 90s, Mr. FS and I ventured out for a stroll through our neighborhood after dinner. As I mention now and again, my neighborhood is filled with big fancy houses and little tiny houses. There are even some medium-sized houses, such as the one in which I reside. I like the diversity, so unlike the cookie-cutter suburbia in which I grew up.

It happened that one of the streets has garbage pick-up tomorrow. As an amateur sociologist I find it interesting to scan the recycling bins. People drink so much alcohol and diet coke!

You can probably see where this is leading. To add a bit of suspense, let me ask: have you ever read Laurie Colwin? I love her fiction, which features urban people with lots of education and interesting careers. She also wrote wonderful books on cooking.

One of her novels, Happy All the Time, features a character named Misty Berkowitz. I kind of identified with Misty because she has these great one-line zingers, not that I could ever have thought of them. Misty is also sullen and moody, just like me. In spite of her moodiness, the wealthy Vincent Somebody-or-Other falls madly in love with her. He lives off a trust fund, but works as a garbage analyst, writing important studies.

One of Misty's zingers to her garbage analyst is "Rich people make me sick." I can't remember what prompts this comment, but it does not deter the smitten Vincent.

Anyway, Mr. FS and I passed the once-beautiful, now falling-down house, that, according to Frugal Son who knew two of the girls who lived there, has rooms filled with garbage.

We went by the new, fancy house that sold for almost a million dollars. It was built on the site of a house that was torn down. A man who had killed his mother had lived there after he was released from a mental institution. The new house is quite ostentatious. There, next to their garbage can, was a giant cardboard box. I stepped closer to investigate. I never did figure out what was originally in that box, but I saw a grocery bag filled with hangers. At the top of the bag was a new-looking pair of white shoes.

Now I don't wear white shoes, but I took them anyway. I will donate them to Goodwill, where someone will be delighted to get a pair of Sesto Meucci flats.

We continued on our walk, stopping to talk to people who run a business called Holistic Pet Care. When we got home, I said to Mr. FS, "I'm going to go back and get the bag of hangers. The thrift stores are always asking for donations of hangers."

So I walked back and got the bag. Once I was home, I peeked inside. Under the hangers--neatly folded--was a pile of clothing, quite current, from Talbots and Rickie Freeman for Teri John. The latter, especially, were of the genre I call "rich lady clothes."

UGH. Why don't people donate these things? How horrible to just throw them out.

What would Misty say?: "Rich people make me sick."

Misty, by the way, ends up marrying the garbage analyst.

If you need some wonderful escapist reading, check out Laurie Colwin.

Her real masterpieces, I think, are her books on cooking.