The Day A Friend Corrected Me


I’ve been thinking about this blog post for months, the problem is, every time I start to write it, another friend chooses to forward face their child and I don’t want them to think I wrote it because of them. Here’s the thing: if this post convicts you, maybe you’re feeling convicted because you reasoned the same way. To some extent, forward facing your toddler is a preference. Statistics, and in some states, laws, recommend AT LEAST 2 years, but most states, despite American academy of pediatrics research, recommend (not require) AT LEAST 1 year and 20 pounds (minimum. That’s minimum.)

Look up your state’s laws here. If you’re unhappy with your state’s decision, contact your local state representative.It’s also beneficial to contact car seat manufacturers, they are very supportive in lobbying for these changes. — thank you Krystina.
I’m writing this post not to make other parents feel…

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I don’t have the clothing to be poor

I live in a very poor area. Most of the people around me are of an age where we would expect them to be retired, and many others are living on disability payments after years of working in the lumber industry. It’s an area of small houses, low rent apartments, and lots of social service assistance.

Fourteen months ago at Christmas we were a bit low on cash, and decided to use one of the social service supports that are available for Christmas presents for children in low income families.

To do so, I had to do the following:
On one day, I had to drive in my car about a mile from the nearest bus stop, park, find an unmarked pop up canopy on the roadside, and pick up a numbered ticket. Based on the number on the ticket, the worker told me approximately what time my number group would be called to be helped. I was glad for my good sneakers as I paced back and forth hunting for the location of that canopy.

The day of the giveaway, I had to drive my car that same mile from the nearest bus stop, and another half mile before finding an empty parking space. I don’t own rain boots, so instead of hiking through the field in a direct line to where I needed to be, I walked the long way around on the sidewalk. I found my number group about three blocks from the front of the line – we were not going to be called anywhere near the time we had all been told. No chairs or windbreaks in this line that stretched approximately a quarter mile long. While my shoes were good, they were not intended to be worn in cold weather for an extended amount of time. I wished I had warmer socks.

After a while it got colder, and I had to put my coat on over my sweatshirt. Once the sun went down it got colder. I layered up with the earmuffs and scarves I had brought as the line inched slowly forward. The wind began to blow and I wished my coat had a higher collar.

My fingers got numb from holding the folder of papers I would need to show to prove I had custody of the children for whom I was requesting presents. I wished I had gloves. I own work gloves, but it didn’t occur to me to bring them. Most of the others in line had warm-looking knit gloves. I eventually put the folder between my coat and sweatshirt, and warmed my fingers in my waistband.

Three hours after my group’s expected call time, we were finally moved forward into the building, a 4 minute walk from the line’s staging area. What a relief for my hands and feet to be inside! I showed my paperwork, which was all in order, and I was assigned a volunteer who walked me through the process and made sure I received wonderful items that were just right.

Then I exited the building with my bag of gifts, and walked the four minutes back to the line, which still stretched a long distance into the night. I wondered how many of them had warm socks, gloves, and a coat with a high enough collar to block out the wind. For the truly poor, such things may be a luxury. But in order to get access to this particular Christmas charity, such things were important and borderline necessary, because it only got colder as the winter evening wore on. This isn’t a dig at the charity, if anything it is a commentary on just how much charity like this is needed because of the sheer number of folks who need its help. And with that large number of people, there certainly wasn’t anywhere inside that so many people could wait. It quite probably outnumbered the seating area in the neighborhood high school’s gymnasium.

As I trudged the 10 minute walk back to my car (walking the long way around on the sidewalk to avoid the marshy open field, because I don’t own rain boots, remember?) I also wondered at the number of people who wanted to access this charity, but could not because of mobility issues. A motorized wheelchair could have made the trip, but an elderly person using a walker? Probably not.

By the time I reached my car, my hands and feet were numb again. I placed my bag on the floor, and gratefully warmed my extremities in the heater before setting off for home. I was grateful for my car as I thought of the people there who probably had to walk another mile to get to the bus station to get home. I hope they could afford warmer clothing than I had. I learned that night that there is a cost to being poor, and it often comes in unexpected ways, like a wardrobe warm enough to wait outside in long lines before you can receive charity.



Unusual things at Goodwill and what they’re used for

Have you ever seen one of these at Goodwill, and wondered what the heck it was for?

Ravioli mold with rolling pin

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This strange-l0oking pan is far from the only strange thing that shows up at Goodwill that really has a perfectly normal purpose – if only we knew what it was! In this case, it’s a ravioli mold. Aren’t you glad you know that now? It’s used in cooking, even though I most often find this one thrown in the bin with the ice cube molds.

A ravioli mold is really easy to use, too.  First you place a thinly rolled sheet of pasta over top of it, and put filling over each of the divots. Then you cover with another thinly rolled pasta layer, and use a rolling pin to press the two layers together. Flip the whole thing over, separate any edges still adhering to each other, and cook according to your recipie. Want additional details? Check here:

How about this one – anyone know what this is and how to use it?

French Bread Pan

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It’s a french bread pan. You make your bread dough, mold it into the correct shape, and place it into the trough to bake. This pan will hold three loaves at a time. It ensures that the bread gets that nice crusty texture all the way around, not just on the top.  (Pic from: I’ve seen several of these at my Goodwill, usually in with the hardware instead of the baking items.

How about these little things? Each is about the size of “O” you can make with your thumb and forefinger:

Meat grinder parts

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Meat Grinder parts - tasin

image from

They are all parts to a meat grinder. Check this link if you want to see how they all fit together: You use a meat grinder to turn large chunks of roast into ground beef. (Or ground lamb, pork, etc – whatever you start with, obviously.) At my Goodwill, meat grinders and their parts are common enough that they’re usually found in the kitchen area where they belong.

What have you found at your local thrift store, that YOU recognized even though nobody around you did?

I was surprised by “Here Comes the Boom”

It was billed as a mixed martial arts fighting movie, full of punches and blood. And because the main character is also a high school teacher, we’re led to expect put-downs and toilet humor. Also a sexy woman the main character was always asking out, so you know what to expect from that. So I was very surprised when I found out one of my friends had gone to see it – and what’s more, she liked it!

So I went to my trusty movie spoiler source: and looked it up. And what I found was that “Here Comes the Boom” is really an adorable movie! Full of hope, overcoming challenges, silly music, and friends supporting each other – even when they think the task is impossible.

So since it was showing in our local dollar theatre, we went to see it – and really, really, really LOVED it.

Yes, there are some punches. A small handful are shown on screen. Yes, there is some blood. About two thimblefuls. There is no sex, at all. There aren’t even any swear words! The sum total of the potty-type humor is an episode of vomiting which you see coming from a mile away and which is actually an important plot point. I was thoroughly astonished. But the point of the whole movie is people pulling together to make the impossible happen. The intention is to benefit a particular friend. But in trying to help him, they make life better for whole groups of people.

If the movie had been advertised to show what it really was, I would have paid full price to see it. As it is, it’s one of the movies I’m going to buy to keep in my library.

I highly recommend seeing “Here Comes the Boom” to anyone who wants a fun movie!

The horror of mirrors in movie theatre bathrooms

Mirrors. Like many people, I have a love/hate relationship with mirrors. I use one to apply my makeup, but ignore the tiny wrinkles at the corners of my eyes. I use one to style my hair, but carefully avoid looking at the grey hairs while doing so. I use them to adjust my clothing, but don’t want to see the size of my waist.

Looking at a beautiful image of myself in new clothes or with a new hair color is worth it. Noticing that the person next to me looks better makes it worse.

So why oh why do they put such LARGE mirrors in the restrooms at movie theatres???

It never fails. I go to the movie – one I’ve been waiting to see for some weeks. Fully half the people in line are teenagers, rowdy and flirting with each other to some degree, as teens do. Every one of them is gorgeous, because when you’re over 35, you realize that everything you thought was ugly as a teenager is actually just a uniqueness, and that every healthy young person is actually stunning. The shiny hair, the bright complexions without wrinkles, the effortless movements are all graceful. I get my ticket and proceed to the theatre to watch the show. Then on the screen, every woman is skinny and beautiful with flawless skin, impeccible hair and makeup and clothes. That goes for the commercials, the previews, and the feature movie. Of course they’re skinny and beautiful, they’re paid to be. Of course the hair and makeup and clothes are perfect, they have a whole staff to make it that way. If they were normal they’d be in an office, not on a movie screen.

So full of images of beautiful teens and women by the end of the movie, I proceed into the restroom, where in every movie theatre I have ever visited, a whole wall is dedicated to one of the largest mirrors I have ever seen. It starts at hip level, even with the skinks, and extends over my head. I glance in the mirror as I pass, and am immediately struck by one fact –

I look nothing like all the images of teens and women who have filled my eyes and mind in the past few hours.

Nothing. The differences stand out to me. The haircolor that needs retouched. The wrinkles that are now showing because the tissue (used in laughter or tears at the emotion of the movie) removed some of my makeup. The waistline that is flat or convex where every other waistline I’ve seen in the past few hours is concave. All my faults – real and imagined –  are displayed to me in this mirror. They stand out all the more because of the differences between the images I so recently put into my mind vs the images I see in this mirror.

Somehow I never remember to avoid looking in that mirror.

Why do they need those mirrors to be so large? Other than dressing room mirrors, they are the only ones I see in public that show so much. I mean, they are low enough they are below my hips! Why? Large mirrors are expensive – more expensive than tile for that much of an area. I have no idea why large mirrors in movie theatres are so prevalent.

I can’t imagine that the large mirrors bring them any business, and they just might be keeping some business away. (Especially in the snack area – who would buy snacks after seeing themselves in that light?) One of life’s mysteries I guess. For me, the mirrors in the bathroom would be a good feature for a horror film!

Have you had an experience like this? What are the mirrors in your movie theatre like?

The dilemna of the toothbrush

Have you ever dropped a toothbrush in the toilet? Was it yours or someone else’s? Is there ANYTHING you can do to a toothbrush that has been dropped in the toilet so that you would use it again afterwards? You could rinse it. Douse it with Listerine. Run it through the dishwasher. Run it through the washing machine with bleach, even! You could boil it. And yet NONE of that would be good enough to get you to use it afterward!

On the other hand, we trust our dishwashers implicitly. We can eat something imminently spoilable, like mayonnaise containing raw eggs, and smear it all over a plate. Lets say it was at lunch, and you put the plate on the counter in a stack of similar plates. Then you do the dishes after dinner, but you have one of those nifty dishwashers where you don’t have to rinse them off, so you just stick everything in the dishwasher. Then you load it up and go to bed. The next morning you go to unload it and Uh-Oh! Something jammed and all the dishes are still dirty. You definitely would not eat the mayo off that plate, would you? It’s been sitting out so long it likely has all sorts of food-borne illness germs in it. You don’t even want to touch it because it’s “gross”.

But then you unjam the dishwasher, run it, and cheerfully take out the plate and eat breakfast from it.

What a cognitive dissonance we display!

I have a relative who refuses to share soap in the shower. When you visit for a week, you have to bring your own bar. She won’t share bath towels either, she assigns you a towel and you get the same one every time you visit. The best present anyone ever gave her was a shower soap dispenser – you put liquid soap, shampoo, conditioner into the compartments and they dispense single-use amounts when you press a lever. We don’t have to bring our own soap anymore! But it’s OK to share dishes, glasses, and silverware. And sheets. Just not soap or towels.

Personally, my weirdness is that I can’t use my bath towel or clothing if they were set on the toilet. Even the back or the closed seat. I can go outside and shovel rabbit poop, I can scoop litterboxes, in my currently lifestyle it’s impossible to avoid contact with poo. But if my clean bath towel is placed on the clean lid of the toilet, I put it in the laundry and get another.  I know it’s weird, but I don’t feel clean touching something that used to touch the toilet.

Certainly everyone has something weird like this in their psyche, don’t they? Please tell me that’s true. I’d hate to think I’m the only weirdo out there! But I come by it honestly, remember I’m related to that relative who won’t share soap.  🙂

Why it’s a good idea to pay attention to your kids

I’m sending you over to BlogSpot to read a post written by a dear friend of mine who experienced two extra-good reasons today to pay attention to her three-year-old son.  Hope you enjoy it!

My Mii is fat!

There’s a story behind this. Of course.

It started with last fall’s challenge to myself. I wanted to improve myself, to do things I would not normally do, to work on making myself a better person. Sounds good, right? Well one of the things I did was join a gym and start going regularly. And one of the results of going to the gym was that I became annoyed with the fact I did not lose any weight.

None. Not one single ounce.

I was working out, working hard, sweating buckets, improving my strength and flexibility, but I did not lose any weight at all.

Coupled with this was a doctor’s visit for something innocuous. But while I was there, I was stuck in the office for a loooooooooong time. So I was reading the charts on the wall, one of which was a BMI chart. And I discovered that according to my height and weight measurements, I was obese.

Obese. Me. Seriously?

I’m strong. I can lift 50-lb bags of livestock feed. I don’t lead a sedentary lifestyle. I am outside every day with the animals. I don’t ignore my health. I eat natural foods made from scratch, with plenty of vegetables. I’m healthy. I work out 2-3 times a week, strenuously. I can touch my toes. Heck, I hiked up to the top of Pikes Peak mountain in Colorado less than 2 years ago! In my mind, none of those things are congruous with being obese.

Was her chart incorrect? No, I went home and Googled other charts, and there was no difference. It took a while for the knowledge to really sink in, but it finally did.

I am obese.

Even my Wii gaming system knows it. The little icon representing myself (my “Mii”)  on the Wii Fit is fat. They automatically take my weight and height and make my Mii proportional to that.

I hate it. Instinctually I know I do not look like it does, but I also acknowledge that I do not look like I did when I was 29 either.

Obese just doesn’t look like I once thought it did. One doesn’t have to be in a wheelchair, incapable of walking more than a few feet, before they’re considered obese. One doesn’t have to sit on the couch all day eating fast food, to end up being obese. It can happen slowly, in a healthy and strong person. It can creep up on you when you think all is as it always was.

I am not plagued by any of the health issues that often accompany being obese. My blood pressure is great. I’m hardly ever sick. I don’t have trouble doing exercise. I just have the extra layer of fat over parts of my body. And for that I am thankful.

But in what ways might my life improve if I were no longer obese? I bet I would have better flexibility if I had less fat to maneuver around. I bet I could pick up 75 lb bags of livestock feed if I got rid of some of the weight I’m carrying inside my skin. I’m sure there are more, those are two that came to mind most quickly.

I don’t know what the future will hold now that I have internalized this realization. But I’m not happy with the way things are, and I will change them.  I have not made any lifelong changes yet. But I will.

I think I look forward to seeing my Mii get skinny as much as anything! Sometimes the small things matter. 🙂

Why I don’t do “extreme couponing”

A commenter on my recent “grocery shopping on a budget” post asked me why my way of shopping was better than using the “extreme couponing” method of shopping. Well, I love watching the Extreme Couponing show. Love it! I approve of just about any (legal) way people have found to feed their families without breaking the bank. And I do get caught up in the excitement of wondering if they figured everything out correctly. Did they remember all their coupons? Did they find all the correct brands and flavors and sizes that their coupons were for? Did the store change their coupon policy since this person set up their saving system? I cheer when the bill for hundreds of dollars of groceries ends up being just pennies.

But. (You knew their was a “but”, didn’t you?) But I don’t shop that way.

You remember the old mantra “You are what you eat?” Well, I still believe that. I also believe that the types of foods we choose to eat can (and do) have particular effects on our bodies. Diabetics are told to eat certain amounts of carbs and proteins to keep their blood sugars even. People with vitamin deficiencies are told to eat more of certain kinds of foods to get their levels to balance out. Some research has been done that shows the human body reacts differently to different types of sugars and fats.

Well, I am not diabetic, but I don’t like the “sugar crash” feeling that I can get if I eat too much dessert at the buffet. So maybe I should watch my protein and carb ratios even though I’m not diabetic. And maybe one can avoid a vitamin deficiency by eating a variety of foods to begin with, rather than waiting until after there is a problem to do so. And maybe I should not be eating “new” kinds of sugars and fats until a few generations of research has been done on them to see how the human body truly reacts to them over time.

I also believe that excessive soy consumption can affect your testosterone and estrogen balances. Of course, nobody seems to be able to define “excessive”. So I choose to eat only miniscule amounts of soy. Same with hormones in beef and milk.

Personal story here – my body doesn’t like it when I drink milk. I stopped drinking it about 10 years ago and lost ten pounds in a week. I had been drinking plain skim milk, 8-12 ounces a day, so calories isn’t at fault here. My body reacted badly to the milk. Even now, if I eat too much cheese (like pizza three days in a row) I get really bad body odor. The kind that showering and deodorant doesn’t solve. (Baking soda helps, though.) I wear two types of deodorant and reapply every 12 hours after a few days of cheese.

But that said, I can drink raw milk, and eat raw milk cheese, without those complications. Huh. Gotta be something in the factory farmed, pasteurized and homogenized, stored-in-plastic milk that is affecting me. Not the milk as it comes from the grass-fed cow.

It’s taking me a long time to get to the point. My point is – I don’t eat food I don’t recognize. At least I try not to. If it’s plain food, like an apple or a fish, it’s fine. If it’s processed a little, like lunch meat or pasta, I read the ingredients and decide whether to eat it and it’s OK about half the time. But if there are ingredients I don’t recognize, or ones I do recognize but don’t choose to eat – well, that’s the end of me purchasing that item.

And unfortunately, all those coupons on the extreme couponing shows … they tend to be for those processed, boxed, shelf-stable items with ingredients I can’t recognize or ingredients I won’t put in my body.

Hydrolyzed soy protein? Nope. No soy at all when it can be avoided.
Hydrogenated oils? Nope.
Corn syrup? Not when I can avoid it with an alternative that uses regular sugar from beets or sugarcane.
GMOs? Nope. definitely not. Too bad we don’t require them to be labeled so I could tell. Until we do, I do my best to choose brands I believe are safe, or meat from organically raised animals.
Meat that was fed antibiotics and hormones? Nope. I’m glad some uses of them are prohibited in animals. (No objection to an animal fed antibiotics to help it recover from illness, I just object to routine use and off label use.
Wheat protein isolate? Really? What is wrong with the rest of the wheat kernel? Seriously, just leave it be.

That does mean my life is slightly more complicated. I make my own pancake batter. Not difficult at all, just an extra step for the mornings we want pancakes. But have you tried finding a boxed mix that doesn’t use hydrogenated oils in it? And I’ve stopped making my favorite boxed mix of brownies for the same reason. I don’t get to stock any breakfast bars in my cabinet anymore, because I can’t find any without soy in them. So breakfast takes longer and can’t be eaten in the car while I drive anymore.

Some things I haven’t given up yet. Like Coke. Yummy Coke. I know it’s awful for me. I take comfort in the fact that I drink Coke from Mexico when I can get it – real sugar instead of the fake stuff. I think it tastes better too. And I avoid the diet stuff with its aspartame. I do what I can.

I typed out a long list of food items in that recent blog post of mine. To the best of my knowledge, I’ve seen coupons for only three of them – the egg noodles, the pasta sauce, and the Ranch dressing. (And I may not have seen one for the noodles, since I buy the store brand and not the national brand.) I don’t ever see coupons for fresh vegetables, or fresh meats, or tuna fish. Or milk or bricks of cheese. Or bags of potatoes. Or spices from the bulk bins.

Instead, the coupons are for boxed cereal, canned pastas, heat-and-serve meals, desserts, chips, gummy worms, energy drinks, artificial marinades, cheaply made breads, shredded cheese, laundry detergent, diapers… things like that. Things I just don’t buy. I would have no problem switching to shredded cheese instead of bricked cheese if I could get it cheaper, but I don’t want to give up my homemade meals for ones full of sodium and preservatives, even if they were cheaper or even free.

It’s important to note that this does NOT mean we spend a lot of money on food. Quite the opposite. Whole, natural foods that you prepare and cook yourself are often quite inexpensive. You can read my Grocery shopping on a budget post for details about that.

And so I don’t do extreme couponing. My mother coupons, so she’ll occasionally send me a coupon she finds for sugar, or a natural type of bread, or butcher paper. But that’s pretty much it for coupons for me. They’re a great cost-saving device, IF you eat the items they send out coupons for, which we do not.

More free stuff from Craigslist

If you’ve read my blog for very long, you know I love free stuff from Craigslist. And that the stuff I get for free isn’t typical at all. Ready to hear my latest find?

I answered an ad that was written something like this: Wanted – someone to come to our store and pick up kitchen scraps, and take them away to be composted. We’ll give you a loaf of bread for doing it.

OK, that’s a little odd, but I’m a lover of all things related to compost, and my email address doesn’t get enough junk mail yet (can you read the sarcasm in that one?), so I responded. They actually wrote back, and it ended up being a really good deal!

What they wanted was someone to come to their all-natural, local, and homemade bread shop, pick up organic vegetable cuttings, eggshells, and coffee grounds, and take them away. In return (I get a return for taking away something I want???) they’ll give me one of their loaves of bread each time. And they want this done twice a week. Ding, ding, ding! I’m the winner! I went in for the first and second times this past week, and it really does work the way they said. I take away two full 5-gallon buckets and a loaf of artisan bread, and a few days later I return with two empty 5-gallon buckets. And repeat.

First I tried multi-grain sourdough. Yummy! And next I have a rosemary potato bread that I haven’t sliced into yet.

Awesome. Just awesome.

Before I encourage you to answer strange-sounding ads, I’ll say this: ALWAYS exercise caution when dealing with people you don’t know. For this, after emailing a few times to be sure we all agreed on the “job description”, I walked in the main door of the business during regular business hours for my first in-person meeting and to pick up the first pair of buckets. No way would I have agreed to drive up to the back, up an alley, after they closed – or any other stupid location or time that would have put me into danger.

That said, I’ve gotten several good deals from answering ads posted in public places (like Craigslist). Sometimes speed matters – being the first one to answer gets you things when the person just wants it gone. Other times being the right fit matters, so I always include a little of my personality when responding to ads. And I’m always, ALWAYS, polite, well-spoken, and pay attention to my spelling and grammar. And I always thank the person for taking the time to consider me. Considering each of these emails as a mini job application can’t hurt, and I believe it often helps. The person offering the free thing is the one who gets to choose where it goes – and I do what I can to make her decide to give it to me.

Hopefully you can use some of these tips to think outside the box and score some unusual free things yourself. Leave me a comment if you already have!