Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Monday, September 22, 2014

Cleaning Out the Refrigerator!

Some months don’t go so well. I write this on the 22ndof the month which has 30 days in it and I am down to $30 which will go in the gas tank. Now keep in mind, WE DO HAVE SAVINGS, but my goal is to live on our income only. So today I took a look at the refrigerator and saw many items that just needed to be put together. Some for now, some frozen for later.

I have food, the freezer is full, and by most standards, it all looks quite fine. The question will be what to do with what I have on hand.

The first thing I did is throw out items with aspartame. In my pantry, I had a box of store-brand Splenda© and a good quantity of those little packages that you put in water bottles, to make lemonade, raspberry tea, peach tea, and lots of other things. I have given that up and I am not drinking diet soda anymore either.

Next I put up some tomatoes in the freezer for winter. I’m so done with tomatoes now! I also froze some gazpacho that I had made from other tomatoes, peppers and a cucumber, and you can only eat so much of that at one time before it’s tiresome. Anyway, those things are out of the visual that we have when looking in the refrigerator.

I cut up strawberries for us to use for breakfast cereal or snacking.

I started looking at some dates and tossing. This wasn't much—two freezer biscuit items which expired almost six month ago. We all know what it looks like when you try and open them! There was some cottage cheese that needed to go also. I found some old cheese in the back that was past it’s time. I have plenty of cheese for sandwiches or crackers!

I had some chicken that I had made with Ragu© sauce last week and I wanted to make a Waldorf salad, so I washed the chicken off—yes, that is what I did! I did keep the spaghetti sauce in a container for (maybe) future use. So I had chicken, one apple, several grapes, and added marshmallows, nuts and mayonnaise and have that for tonight’s meal. Didn't have any celery or broccoli which I normally put in a Waldorf salad. Oh well.

Then I thought, let’s just take a look at this pantry and see what can be done? I put canned cherries in a graham cracker crust—all store brands—and we have that for dinner also.

We have plenty of milk, eggs and bread, and meats and vegetables in the freezer.

All that’s left is creativity.

I think we’ll do just fine!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Considering Amazon Prime

Some time ago, I mentioned looking at Amazon Prime, which is priced at $99 per year. For this, you get two-day FREE shipping and good prices on certain bulk items. My daughter and son-in-law use it for many things, diapers being a biggie. As per my understanding from this article from Living Well Spending Less, you have to buy five items on a scheduled rotation. I looked at her list and of course there are other items, but other than toilet paper, we just don’t buy that much of anything to total five items.

Another perk is the ability to stream videos, and access to the free Kindle lending library. I wouldn't mind watching videos, but we are already paying for that with U-Verse (we have already discussed in a previous blog that I am not fighting the telecommunications battle) and I would have to watch 20 videos a year to make it worth it. Honestly, I don’t watch that many movies.

The Kindle lending library would be attractive, but I can borrow electronically from the public library that I pay taxes to support.

So, for my place in life, I can’t find enough reason to use it. However, I can definitely see its value for other families, and that may include yours! So, don’t rule it out! Free shipping is my favorite thing!

P.S. I do use Amazon for other shopping.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

For The Love of the Game

My Dad, with the octagon OB
in the background.
I remember being a little girl and going to softball games to watch my Daddy play. I’m sure I played with the other little kids, and Mommy bounced baby Benny on her lap. I don’t remember one single thing about the game itself.

The year I turned seven (1960) my Daddy took us to our first Reds game at Crosley Field. I had watched a few games on TV and was aware of the “star power” of Frank Robinson and Vada Pinson. I was in awe of seeing “real” baseball players. A seven-year-old doesn't last long listening to the radio, but I walked to the candy store, and bought lots of bubble gum with baseball cards in them. This probably gave me my first visual interest into the players and teams.

I remember the Reds playing in the 1961 World Series. That really piqued my interest at a time when I soaked it up like a sponge. During those elementary school years, I learned more about the game itself; the teams, rivalries and leagues. I continued to chew that bubble gum and buy those cards. I never traded.

Both my parents loved the game—I didn't stand a chance. Dad played at Olive Branch High School, and Mom was friends with baseball players in Springfield. I’m sure it’s an interest they shared together in the early years.

One of my absolute all time favorites, of Mike laying
down a suicide squeeze, with another Mike coming home!
Benny’s myopia kept him from playing baseball, and we certainly didn't understand that during those years. I know Dad was disappointed, but it’s what it was. After moving, I played softball, but I really wasn't very talented at it. I just tried my best and made some lifelong friends.

As a family, we continued to go to games at Crosley Field each year. It always was a great family activity and we loved it. We sat in the “moon deck” sometimes, to save a little money. It never mattered to me.

What is this thing I have with
left-handed batters?
When I got to high school, I "went steady" with a guy who was on the varsity baseball team. I was a junior and he was a senior. I guess you could say I was a “groupie.” I went to every game, and can remember sitting in the car in some miserable place with his mother. Spring high school baseball can be brutal in Ohio—I've been to games called for snow. I thoroughly enjoyed that year, and when he and I began talking seriously about a life together, while other girls were planning their college careers or something else, I was planning on following a guy around in the minor leagues, if we got lucky.

There REALLY are not very many 17-year-olds that think like that!

Well, of course, that didn't work out (although we have a wonderful relationship today and he approves this message) and life moved on. I continued to follow our high school team my senior year, at least to the HOME games.

Riverfront Stadium was built between my junior and senior years in high school, 1970.

The college years brought new friends, many of whom were Reds fans and the Big Red Machine was gearing up. We weren't any richer than any other college kids, and we would pile into someone’s semi-operational vehicle and go to college nights, and any other special cheap night. We parked ten blocks away at a cheap place and ate 25 cent hot dogs. I didn't drink beer. I think we went a couple of times on someone’s sibling’s straight-A tickets. We would do anything to get to the game.

During 1975 and 1976, the years the Reds won the World Series (plural), I was 22 and 23 years old.  I graduated in 1974 and lived in another town through most of the summer of 1975, but moved home September 30, 1975.  I had no job, so by golly, I could watch every game of that 1975 World Series, the series that all others are compared to in Cincinnati. The big joke is that I met my future husband on a travel night of the series, because otherwise, I would have been home, planted in front of the TV with my Dad, who was recuperating from a heart attack. I guess it was meant to be, because I just wouldn't have been out while the ball game was on! Period.

My husband-to-be was not the dyed-in-the-wool fan that I was. His Dad played ball, and I guess was a pretty good pitcher, but he was a farmer and there wasn't much time for watching TV baseball games. However, the man had a transistor radio with him at all times, so he was listening to games. Living between Detroit and Cleveland, he was an American League fan, which he and I teased each other about for many years. (My father-in-law was buried with his transistor radio)

By the time we were married, there was much more baseball on TV. I watched it. Wanna spend time with me? Watch baseball. Period. He was converted.

During the early years, we went to many games with friends, and we didn't sit in any moon deck or nosebleed seats. I worked in a bank and could sign up for free tickets to several games. We usually went to Farmers’ Night with my in-laws. I talked my father-in-law into attending a National League game. Land sakes!

I remember the sickening feeling I had when Tony Perez was traded and the Big Red Machine was bit-by-bit dismantled. When I heard that Tony had been traded to the Phillies and would be playing in Cincinnati in April 1983, I ordered tickets. This I wanted to see. We were part of an ovation that lasted about ten minutes. It was awesome! I don’t remember who won the game, I just remember the welcome of Big Doggie back to Cincinnati. (I also remember being at work in 2000, when my co-worker—also a baseball fan—got the word of Tony’s Hall of Fame election. I told my co-worker I could now die in peace!)

I was eight months pregnant on Johnny Bench Night in 1983. All we could get were nose-bleed seats and I think Jerry and I were in one place and Mom and Loren were in another. It was September 24th or something and I was so darned hot I had a beer. Not that I needed to, but I didn't dare go down those steep steps to the bathroom.

A little girl being raised right.
Opening Day 1985.
During the years the kids were little we didn't get to Cincy much. I remember my daughter liked “Buddy Bell.” (I think she liked the alliteration, she was four. But come to think of it, later she liked Bret Boone, so maybe she had something for players named B). We took Joel at a young age and he DID understand the game, because he had so much more exposure to the game and commentary on TV. It’s so amazing how kids soak up these things.

Then, there was a shift from going to games in Cincinnati, Ohio to games in Enon, Ohio. Jess played girls softball several years and Joel played little league.

I like to tell the story about Joel at 6, when his t-ball team was practicing on the grass because the field was wet and we were making do. Joel was playing second base and caught a line drive and ran to second and then to first and got an unassisted triple play. We adults looked at each other and thought, “Did we really just see what we thought we saw?” It was not a physical feat, it was a mental feat. The other kids were picking dandelions.

Another favorite of my son, playing
against the school (system) in which
he would later teach and coach.
That began thirteen years of walking tacos and hotdogs. Little league, traveling junior high league and high school JV his freshman year, and then took over first base for varsity for three years. I always did like first basemen. There was spring high school ball and summer ball. When he was 15, he started his 10-year stint as an umpire. I missed very few games that he played in, but I did draw the line at umpiring. Oh, I saw a few, but I mostly heard about his umpiring from other parents. They were pleased, and that was nice to hear.

It was a small town and I can remember him coming home from umping a game of 5th and 6th graders. He said, "You know you live in a small town, when you are umping a game and the pitcher is the younger brother of your former girlfriend, the catcher is the younger brother of your current girlfriend (now wife) and the batter is the younger brother of the second base umpire." Yeah, life was like that.

Last year, when they reunited the position players of the Big Red Machine, one of my college friends got tickets and she and I were there. It was completely awesome and one of the best baseball memories of my life. It MIGHT happen again because they are building a statue for Tony Perez. You never know. I’ll be there, regardless.

Next year Great American Ball Park hosts the All-Star Game. That’s a pipe dream, but I’d love to see the Home Run Derby.

Yes, I have been to Cooperstown, and did not have enough time to spend there. We were on a group tour of New York State and City and I would like to return on my terms.

Big moments in baseball that I remember exactly where I was:
  • Sobbing on New Year’s Eve 1972 when I learned of the death of Roberto Clemente.
  • At my Social Work Practicum watching TV when Hank Aaron hit his home run in April 1974. In September of 1973, I ordered tickets for a Braves game in left-center field.
  • Watching the game that John McSherry died in (Opening Day 1996) with my children. I knew he was dead immediately. Try telling that to your kids.
  • Letting the kids stay up when Cal Ripken, Jr. broke the longevity record.
  • My choir director wondering why no one showed up for choir the night Pete Rose got his big hit. (The man was from Alabama. What would he know?)

Well, the professional season is almost over and I will watch the post-season, depending on who’s playing, and I rarely root against the National League, but you never know. I do wish Derek Jeter well.

I love this picture too. #1 played for
a team in my son's league and we
watched him grow up. Here he gives
a high five to one of the kids on the
World Series Championship team
from Chicago.
Why do I continue to love and watch the game? Why do I choose to watch the Little League World Series instead of a movie or other program? Because somewhere in my soul, I love the walk-off hit-preferably a home run-and watch grown men act like little boys when they play a little boys' (and now girls'!) game. I love the strategy and I love the skill of the game. To some people, it plays too slow; but there's something about the mental battle of a pitchers' duel that I love. Certainly, I still have my favorite players, (not always Reds) and always will. I can tip my hat to a fine defensive play, even if it results negatively for our team.

There are changes coming next year. I don't know what will happen; but I know I will still love the game.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

A Different Look At Thrift!

I was inspired recently to think some entirely new thoughts about thrift and development. The article that I am referencing is HERE, so it would be interesting to peruse. Spoiler alert: the article is written to young parents; but the information is valuable to all. It’s really about how we think of ourselves.

In a nutshell, the authors warn that if all you get is the bottom of the barrel, leftovers and hand-me-downs as a child, you will have less self-esteem as an adult, because you were never “worth” getting something new. It doesn't matter what the “thing” was, this is an ongoing process.

This got me to thinking about myself and my childhood and others that I know intimately. This theory is certainly not foolproof; and sometimes as adults, deprived children become completely opposite and then have problems with debt.

My mother is still alive and reads this and I think it is safe to say that I was raised in somewhat of a thrifty home, but it was the 1950s and life was going pretty well. I had new clothes every year for school and Christmas wasn't Christmas if there wasn't half a room of gifts from Santa. (That does NOT mean deals were not in the equation) My mother and father socialized frequently with their friends, and life was good.

In my teens, things got tougher. They had a surprise baby when I was ten and my brother was eight, necessitating a move to a larger home, and I don’t have to tell anyone that kids get more expensive when they are teens. My brother had a hollow leg, there were activities with prices, and we just wanted to DO things.

This was the first time I understood the “austerity program.” This might have been a term my parents brought with them from living during the depression, but my Dad worked on commission and times could be good or bad. We learned to do without, but there was a better day too! Needless to say, I learned to be frugal, but it didn't affect my self-esteem. My needs were met.

Contrast that with the child whose parents always talk about how “tough” life is, and consistently wears the hand-me-downs from older sibling or cousin. After two decades of this treatment, how easy would it be for them to feel like they have less worth?

Obviously, the answer lies in between and in a balanced fashion. I am not addressing poverty, which is another blog entirely, I am addressing attitudes toward thrift.  In my humble opinion, practicing thrift in one area frees up funds for “treats” someplace else. My mother-in-law used to say, “You have to have some money to save money,” meaning you can recognize a deal and act upon it. The first thing to do is have that excess fund with which to work in the first place.

And, while no one knows this except you, it means saving on toilet paper and dish detergent to be able to buy that special outfit for someone in the family. Or saving by refurbishing or repurposing, in order to have something else that is NEW. Maybe being thrifty in order to be able to give—that’s another blog.

If there is anything I have tried to say with this blog, it’s this: Thrift is not for thrift's sake alone. It’s not to leave a boatload of money for our kids. It’s the concept of not wasting money on some things (which are marked up ridiculously) in order to be able to buy something for ourselves or our loved ones today! I may involve delayed gratification, and that is certainly character-building at any age.

Read the article. I’d love to hear how thrift affected you as a child and as an adult.