Fancy Thrift, or Little Projects to Combat Cabin-Fever

Prior to being under house-arrest quarantined, I dropped off donations at a charity-run store. As usual, I went inside afterward, hunting items on my long-term shopping list.

It was a successful search.

First, I found cornucopias for my friend Sissy, who asked me to keep an eye open for a Thanksgiving centerpiece. Nearby I found deer candleholders to match the motif of my winter linens, which checked off “post-Christmas candleholders.”

Then, I hit the jackpot: a folding screen.

Continue reading

Quarantine: Day Two

Well, today was incredibly strange. I was prepared to stay inside for the week, but I was forced to go the post office. There was a problem with renewing a post office box, so a mask-to-plexiglass** meeting was required. Fortunately, there was no one in the office when I went in and the whole transaction (and collecting two packages) was finished in less than fifteen minutes.

(Note to a friend: Thank you again for the N95 surgical masks. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have been able to leave the house!)

I was already getting stir-crazy this weekend, when I felt lousy and couldn’t focus on reading, let alone writing. Today, feeling a little better, I decided to take down the decorations except for the Nativity (aka nacimientos aka creche). It’s a pre-emptive strike against the blues I might feel on Christmas Eve. Except for a few years when my parents were in Florida or Texas, I have always gone home for Christmas Eve and Day.

My mother called an hour ago, said I sounded good, and suggested maybe I should come home for my quarantine. I said no; it’s better to wait it out. When I talked to my father, he told me, “You’re coming home before New Years.” My parents are the least demonstrative parents in my circle of friends, so it’s rather strange that they’re taking my absence this hard.

Then again, I could be a blubbering mess later this week. Time will tell!

**As opposed to face-to-face.

Garden Update

It’s snowing. Detroit Metro expected 2-3 inches by midnight. I’m glad it didn’t arrive until after Thanksgiving.

It’s the sort of snow that is compact and just wet enough to stick to blades of grass and outdoor furniture. Concrete and asphalt retain enough heat to stay clear.

Today was allotted for putting away the porch furniture, which I did.

Planting the crocus bulbs in front yard went well; the backyard, no. I thought the guy on the parallel street would stay indoors instead of burning yet more leaves.

He started a burn-pile next to the road and went back inside. Smoke all over my backyard; those crocuses went into the porch-pot with the mums. Here’s hoping it will be a pretty display in the spring.

With the layer of snow and wilted leaves, all the flaws of the garden become clear: Sinkholes, mole-mounds, and invasive plants that were hidden by invited guests. I’ve sure got a lot of work for 2022!

The Worst Tradition

I like the look of wrapped presents. I know there are people who eschew it for giftbags – lazybones, they are! My aunt Delphine, who is has a wonderful eye for flower arrangements, created some of the most beautiful wrappings I’ve ever seen. When I was seven or so, she taught me how to curl ribbon. (Like the skill of swirling a stack of cocktail napkins without using a highball glass, it’s been strangely useful.)

Over the years, I developed a good eye for judging how much paper to use. I can create a “box” with heavy paper and sharp folds. Crafting tags and flowers out of scraps of paper and ribbon is my specialty.

Please don’t think I’m bragging.

I HATE wrapping gifts. Although the results are lovely, it’s tedious work. When our family’s Christmas gatherings were bigger, it took HOURS.

Somehow during my college years, my father created a tradition of me being his personal wrapping helper. And by “helper,” I mean that I do it myself. At first he used to quietly lead me to the gift-hiding place for the gifts he bought my mother. He would hold the ribbon down with one finger as I tied it and filled out the tags. Somehow it morphed into him lying in wait until I bring in my bags and take off my coat – at which point he directs me to the basement hidey-hole.

One year, he surprised me with presents already wrapped. A group of teenagers were raising money by gift-wrapping at a popular mall. But malls have gone the way of the dodo and Covid-19 has destroyed any group fund-raisers.

Back to the Old Ways it is!

‘Tis the Season

I finished shopping more than a week ago and the last gift arrived by mail. (Hooray for used book stores!)

My youngest sibling, our parents, and I exchange gifts. They’re usually practical or, as my mother says, “Consumable.” They give us the pleasure of taking turns opening wrapped packages in the company of the giver.

Baby Bro and I got in the habit of buying each other a childlike gift in addition to a regular one. Tree ornaments have been my go-to choice; e.g. Curious George ornaments in memory of his beloved childhood pal. He buys me the oddest things, from a frosted souvenir glass of the sort that were popular when we were tots to a children’s book of verse containing “The Owl and the Pussycat.”

It occurred to me many years ago – even before I settled into La Casa de Tontería that I really didn’t want anything for my birthday or Christmas. I mostly want people to be with me or, if that’s imposdible, to think of me.

The Covid-19 pandemic – which closed my school yet again – has intensified that sentiment. Presents aren’t as important as people.

Imagine my confusion when I received an unordered package. In it were two funnels and a silicone mold. Then my friend M’e the Fashionista texted “Happy Marmalade Day!” That fictitious holiday is her excuse to spontaneously buy something and send it to a friend. What she sent was an icecube tray that makes huge diamond-shaped iceballs. It’s ridiculous and unpractical, but it’s in the freezer now.

My Year of No Buying… April Fools!

Sorry about that. Also, Happy Easter and Felices Pascuas!**

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Last week my favorite puertorriqueño gave me a couple of suggestions, including that I jump on the “Year of No Spending” bandwagon and give details.

“It is going to be very funny if you do,” he wrote.

After considerable thought, I decline. First, I have a tendency to focus on a task to the exclusion of everything else, including sleep and common sense. Second, I foresee having to spend a bundle on certain home replacements in the future.

Case in point: I awoke one night thinking cats were fighting outside my window. No, it was the fan of my furnace screeching. It has subsided, but it’s only a matter of time…

However, I am intrigued by the idea of tracking my expenses. I did that 2013 in order to create a better budget on a “frozen” salary.

I have done a month of low-spending.

And a few years ago I followed a Canadian blogger who challenged herself to live as cheaply as possible. Each month she posted the results as a spreadsheet as well as a tally by category.  As I recall, she ended one year with less than CA$5,000 in expenses. I admired her experiment and wished she’d left her blog up for future reference. She had some oddball tricks that couldn’t be done by just anyone, such as moving across Ontario one summer to an off-season dorm room and being paid in food to babysit a young relative. But she also had great tips on simple one-bowl meals and entertainment.

So maybe I could track my spending and add it to my monthly updates. (And yes, I know the March update is due. But it’s a holiday!)


** Note to anyone thinking of telling me that “Easter” is derived from a pagan goddess called Esther (the nemesis of a god named Fred Sanford):

Everyone knows the English liked to apply their old words to new things; e.g. the North American orange-breasted robin is a delightfully musical thrush named after a shrill, squeaky flycatcher native to Europe and Africa.  (The photo above is of a North American robin’s nest and its distinctive blue eggs. It’s a free-use WordPress photo because the nearest nest appears to be in the upper reaches of my maple.)

Outside the Anglocentric view, the words for today’s holiday are variations on “Passover”,  such as Pascua in Spanish.  Even in English, the Resurrection of Christ is called “The Paschal Mystery.”

If you feel the need to argue, let us focus on food names. We can ramble at length about squashes known as either courgette, zucchini, calabacita, OR zapallito. But do NOT get me started on turnips, Swedes, and rutabagas!

The Factory is not closed for me…

As faithful readers may remember, my job as a Quality Control Inspector at the Young Human Factory underwent a transformation this fall. I was put in charge of teaching English to members – or potential members – of the Middle School Mafia. A daunting task, but I am buoyed by the vision of them communicating without grunts, egg-flinging, and ritualistic doorbell-ringing.

For the same low price, I now deliver eight more hours a week of service AND the daily 53 minutes of preparation time was eliminated. But it has really helped my time management, since I have so little.

Weekends are not my own, nor vacations. Continue reading

Unresolutions for 2018

In keeping with not-ancient tradition, I have a short list of resolutions I reject. In 2018, I won’t…

…hit the gym more. Thursday I withdrew my YMCA membership reluctantly because of the great staff and great facilities, but the 45-minute drive after work is terrible. Let’s see what exercise videos and hand weights can do.

…stay on trend. The public library is full of books I haven’t read, my wardrobe is  professional if not inspired, and everyone is too mesmerized by their phones to notice mine.

…try a new hobby. Until I cross everything off the Big To-Do List, hot yoga and parasailing must wait.

What about you? What are resolutions you just won’t make?

 

 

 

Don’t mind(ful) if I do: Cleaning like a Zen Buddhist monk

In my Sunday reading, I read a good article on Soji, a practice at some Zen Buddhist temples. I found it interesting that everyone must stop after 20 minutes, rather like the 15-minute sessions used for squalor-prone people overwhelmed by the thought of cleaning their homes.

If you’re wondering if I went searching for “How to live like a monk” – why no, I didn’t. As usual, I followed a link from another topic: mindfulness.

Several of my friends have gotten interested in it, including a teacher who taught squirmy elementary students ways to focus on the task at hand (especially tests).  I was even trieked talked into encouraged to join a “intuitive eating” class by Rodale Press. One of the first lessons involved Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindful Eating Exercise, otherwise known as the Raisin Meditation. If you’d like to try it for yourself, UC Berkeley’s Great Good in Action has the background, how to do it, and why it works.

(A list of Rodale’s 21-day Challenges is here. If anything looks interesting to you, save yourself 20% by typing MINDANDBODY as a coupon code. Rodale sent me the code after I enrolled and encouraged me to share, so help yourself!)