Saturday, June 24, 2017

Thrifty Acres: Miraculous Messages From Heaven

Hello! I picked this book up recently at a thrift store:

I'm a sucker for book compilations that contain stories of "...Eternal Love, Powerful Connections, and Divine Signs from Beyond". And perhaps the main reason for this fondness is that I have a "Divine Signs from Beyond" story of my own. 

It occurred in early March 1998. My older sister, Ellen, had died of cancer less than two months before, and my husband had come up with an idea for honoring her memory: a family outing to a Detroit Tigers game. She had been a huge Tigers fan. 

Having grown up in Chicago, my husband is a Cubs fan, so he found  the perfect game for the outing: the Tigers were playing the Cubs at Tiger Stadium on June 24th. Ellen had liked the Cubs as well, and had attended one of their games at Wrigley Field with us years ago. 

In 1998, my husband and I were living in suburban Philadelphia, but were planning on visiting my family later on in March. We would bring up the baseball game get-together then. 

Shortly after my husband and I discussed the game outing, he got a piece of mail that struck us as unusual: an envelope from the Chicago Cubs that enclosed a copy of their season schedule and a form for ordering game tickets. Now, my husband had been to many Cubs games in his life, but the last one he'd attended had been well before we'd moved to the East Coast. It seemed very strange that the Cubs organization would send their schedule to someone who now lived nowhere near Wrigley Field. He hadn't gotten mailings from the Cubs before this.

But what was even stranger was the piece of mail I got just a few days later: a brochure from a sports souvenir shop located a short distance away from Tiger Stadium. "Come see us on the way to the Tigers game!" the brochure copy exclaimed. 

Good marketing copy to be sure, but I'd never even heard of the shop, and I'm not in the habit of buying sports souvenirs. So how and why did they even get my name and address? I had been away from Tiger Stadium even longer than my husband had been away from Wrigley Field, so there was no reason for the shop owner to think I'd be passing by anytime soon.

And, as with my husband's mail from the Cubs, I wasn't living anywhere near the shop. How on earth could I have been considered in its target market? 

I told my husband these mailings had to have been Ellen's doing. She was letting us know she wanted us to go ahead and plan the baseball game outing in her memory. He's not into such "life from beyond" stuff, so he poo-pooed that notion. But we did get the rest of my family on board for the event. Enough of us would be in attendance to get a group rate and our group name on the scoreboard during the game. 

And it turned out to be a quite a game! The Tigers came from behind to beat the Cubs 7-6 in 11 innings. Everyone in the family was happy except for my husband. 

But as he admitted later, he wasn't surprised that Tigers ended up winning. As they were beginning their rally, he claimed that suddenly he saw Ellen's face clearly in his mind. This dismayed him, as he interpreted it as a sign from her that the Tigers would win. So much for not believing in signs from the deceased! But he was right - the Tigers won, just as he had interpreted they would. 

By the way, we did the Tigers game family outings for a few more years after that, until it got to be too much of a hassle to arrange it. But my husband and I never got those game-related mailings again. I guess my sister just wanted to make sure it happened that first time!

And here's another freaky thing: I didn't remember the exact day of that game in 1998, only that it had happened in late June or early July. So I consulted my journal from that year - and learned that it had happened on June 24th. And I'm writing this blog post on - June 24th. 

Perhaps I got a nudge from Ellen to write up this post on the anniversary of that game! If so, well done, Ellen! We miss you.



Saturday, June 10, 2017

Thrifty Acres: Some Serious Garage Sale Shopping

Hello! Our daughter begins her grad school career next week, and in advance of that she signed a lease on an unfurnished apartment. Now, to fill it! She'd lived on campus all four years of undergrad life, which had meant a furnished room, of course. 

She's taking the furnishings from her bedroom here at home: desk/chair set, bed, dresser and another chair. She has some  kitchen supplies, for the last two years of her on-campus life were at a room-only residence hall (full-size kitchens on the premises). But needless to say, there are a number of gaps she needs to fill.

So she and I have been making the rounds of garage sales in the area. I think we could have done better if she was an earlier riser. As I'd told her, "if you snooze, you lose". Nevertheless, we made good progress in purchasing some things for her apartment - and as a bonus, I found a few things too! 

In no particular order, here are some of our finds:

A man sold us this coffee table and two matching end tables. Pretty solid wood, and just a few scratches that can be touched up. My husband was impressed, especially when I told him we paid $30 for all three pieces. I don't know how old the set is - a newer style than I prefer, but then again, our daughter's apartment complex is much newer than our house. 

This was the "big ticket" item from our garage sale excursions. She now needs a sofa to park behind the coffee table, but my husband rejected the idea of a secondhand version due to the possibility of bedbugs. I've seen pros and cons about this online, but I guess it's better to be safe than sorry. 

This was a fun find, and it didn't hurt that it were free. These may look like ordinary wooden spoons that one would use for stirring up something in the kitchen, but they were handcrafted by a man in southern Indiana to be played as a percussion instrument. There were several such bags for sale, and I liked that each was labeled with the type of wood used to make the spoons. Above, you see examples in black cherry and sassafras. How often do you know what tree your wooden spoon came from? 

These spoons will need to be seasoned, but the woman running the sale assured me that that can be done via food-grade mineral oil. 

This seller also had these on offer:

A couple of small hand-thrown dishes. I thought they  came from an art gallery or craft show, but no, the woman said she had made them at a pottery class. She obviously didn't care much for her efforts, since she sold them to me for 50c each. Since I know the seller slightly, she might have thought I was just being polite with my compliments, but I truly liked them. I'll keep one for myself and will give the other to our daughter. 

Our daughter had bought new sheets, so I scooped up this like-new set for our house. The woman who sold them to me said that most people now shun double beds, but there's no kings or queen in my house. The now-lowly full size rules when you own vintage bed frames (1920s to 1940s eras). We needed new sheets, so I was happy to find these, and at only five bucks. 

I'd show off more of my daughter's purchases, but they've been packed away in advance of the move. She was happy to find a kitchen canister set, still in its box, and some other small kitchen things.

But I can show off another purchase of mine, since it was a wonderful example of what I'll call secondhand synchronicity: 

Last weekend I'd admired the "lettuce bowls" sold by a couple of vendors at our Farmer's Market: plastic pots just like the one above, loaded with young lettuce plants. But at $13-$14 per bowl, I declined the purchase. After all, I had lettuce seeds at home; I just needed to get the planter. And that I did, for a quarter at a garage sale an hour later. My seeds began popping up a couple of days ago. I know that they won't like the heat wave that began today, but there's plenty of shade on our deck, so my lettuce blend should be okay. 

Of course, there's no guarantee that garage sales will yield anything that you want or need. I'm actually pretty fussy about quality and prices. I saw a very nice wicker rack that would have looked very nice in our daughter's apartment. The color and size was been perfect. But the seller was asking forty bucks. Nope! 

Another sale was rather sparse by the time we got there, but even though we didn't buy anything, I enjoyed the immaculate work area in a corner of the garage. Someone had set up a very orderly shelving unit behind a work table, with meticulously labeled drawers. It was a far cry from my father-in-law's system of small paper bags in his basement, each with a different nail or screw size.

At other sales I got to ogle patio decor, house exteriors and landscaping. And some of our garage sale trips took us down streets that were new to us. So all in all even the stops that yielded no purchases weren't a complete waste of time. 

And we came home with wooden tables, wooden spoons and more. Our serious garage sale shopping paid off!


Thrifty Acres:

Saturday, May 27, 2017

iHanna DIY Postcard Swap 2017 - Results

Hello! In a previous post, I showed off the postcards I'd made as a participant in the iHanna DIY Postcard Swap. Although I've yet to receive the last of the 10 postcards coming to me, the deadline for mailing them out occurred over a month ago. So I'll just show the nine I've gotten thus far.

From Texas, papers sewn onto a card stock base. I was thrilled to get this one because I recognized the artist's blog name mentioned on the back - Daisy Yellow. Tammy, the creative genius behind that blog, runs ICAD (Index Card A Day) every June and July, and I've participated in it a couple of times now. 

(Needless to say, ICAD time is coming up soon, so if you want to take part, go here to learn how you can do so.) 

Collage work from Olympia, Washington. 

Vivid blue and purple watercolors, with Zentangle-style designs at the corners. This postcard was sent from York, England.

Another overseas postcard, this time from Norway. The Little Red Riding Hood theme is carried out by the hand-drawn and colored girl and the linocut wolf. The words on the front are Norwegian for "Good day, Red-Riding Hood, Said the Wolf." (translation supplied by the artist). This design was done by a very talented person! 

This was postmarked from Arizona. The artist explained on the back that the phrase is from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's The Saga of King Olaf.

This was the first postcard I received in the swap, and it came all the way from Vienna, Austria. The artist had painted a beautiful scene of a lighthouse, and she added machine stitching and a butterfly embellishment. 

I loved this postcard, in part because it's similar in style to the collages I often make. I looked it over carefully to see what the artist had included: a foreign stamp, a piece from a sewing pattern, a portion of a book page, and more. I couldn't quite tell what the very thin copper-colored stuff used for the "belt" of the dress image was, so I emailed the Norman, Oklahoma artist (we're supposed to put our email addresses on our postcards for contact info). She emailed back her reply: it was wire taken from the innards of an old cellphone. She added that she loved using this wire and would be sorry when her supply of it was used up. I can relate!

Another Arizona artist heard from! This postcard features carefully-cut, fanciful flowers. I think they were snipped from magazine pages. 

As the artist explained on the back of the postcard: "The postcard is paper weaving from the various flyers I collected around Taiwan". Cool! 

I'd participated in the iHanna DIY Postcard Swap a couple of years ago, and at that time I was a little disappointed that I'd gotten no postcards back from people living in other countries. This time, I've gotten postcards from four foreign lands. I enjoyed that. 

And who knows, maybe my missing 10th card is on a slow boat from another country at the moment, and may show up yet! Until then, I'm happy with the nine I have received.



Friday, May 19, 2017

Thrifty Acres: Back To The Future With Reader's Digest

Hello! My love affair with vintage magazines continued with the another thrift store purchase of several(early 1950's-mid 1960's) Reader's Digest volumes. (The ads from the first purchase round were used in postcard crafting, as seen here.)

I love looking at the ads in these older issues and glancing at the stories to see what was on people's minds back then. But there was a special source of amusement in the February 1962 Reader's Digest:

This issue celebrated the 40th anniversary of the publication, so the above article did its best at predicting what life the in the US would be like in 2002. It made for interesting and entertaining reading!

Some of the forecasting was accurate, while other prognostications were way off. So here's a rundown on some of the hits and misses in the categories covered in the article:

The Nation:
Hits - it's true that "In 2002 the United States will certainly be more industrialized, more urbanized, than ever". And the projected population of California as being 35,000,000 is close to the 2015 figure of a little over 39,000,000.

Misses: Detroit's population has declined in recent decades; the article said it would have doubled by 2002. 

The "average worker" doesn't have a 28-hour week. 

Resources And Energy:
Misses - no, half of the US energy requirements aren't being met by atomic power, and thermonuclear fusion hasn't been harnessed either. 

Hits - increased speed for trains and planes was predicted, and this has come to pass, though not always as fast as what the magazine article mentioned. Electric cars were forecasted. 

Misses - some real doozies here - trucks are still on the road and not "museum pieces" (shipping via pipelines was suggested). And alas, we still don't have "rocket belts" for "short trips downtown". 

The City:
All misses here, as there are many suggestions for easing congestion, none of which have been implemented on a large scale. That is, unless I'm unaware of "people pods" that move suburbanites into cities via all-weather helicopters. And other than airports,I've not seen widespread use of moving sidewalks. 

Hits - many here: communication satellite for global television and telephone systems. Phone would have such features as voice recognition, remote control features, and other capabilities that are dead-on. The official quoted from American Telephone & Telegraph (when's the last time you saw AT & T written out like that?) was on the ball! 

Miss - foreign language translation systems aren't as advanced as what had been predicted. 

Hits - as predicted, organ transplants are much more successful now, and genetic research has advanced significantly as well.

Misses: alas, the expected cure for the common cold hasn't been found yet, and we don't have "a single injection, or pill, (that) will immunize us against all communicable ailments". 

Hits - it was predicted that man would reach the moon by 1970 and of course, we now know that this goal was reached a year earlier than that. But...

Misses - there's only one space station in action right now, not the multiple ones implied in the article. And there's not been manned missions to other planets. After all, even the following isn't true: "By 2002, trips to the moon will be commonplace." 

One BIG miss is something that would have fallen in the area of communication: the Internet. My husband is familiar with the history of computer science, and says that industry heads in that field neglected to forecast such widespread computer usage. So of course, it's not mentioned in this article either.

Still, "Forty Years From Now" was a fun read. Our daughter pointed out that Reader's Digest will be 100 years old in 2022, and she wondered what sort of issue the magazine will put out then in commemoration. Perhaps they'll have an article entitled "100 Years From Now"?

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Get Carded: A Card For A Commencement

Hello! Besides sharing our DNA and family history, our daughter now has something else in common with my husband and me: we are all alumni of Michigan State University.

As very proud parents, we trekked to MSU's Breslin Center yesterday to watch her receive her BS in chemistry. The ceremony, run by the College of Natural Science, ran as well as a well-oiled machine, so the roughly two-hour event went by very fast. My husband, who attends college commencements every year as part of his job, was most impressed. 

The occasion ended with a rousing version of the MSU fight song, which we all sang with great gusto. Then it was on to the final good-byes (for now) between her and her fellow chem graduates, and a celebratory meal out. 

When we returned home, a couple of gifts and a greeting card I'd made her were waiting:

Materials used:
  • white card stock
  • green and white scrapbook paper
  • illustration from the cover of the June 1960 issue of Reader's Digest
  • piece from vintage playing card with tulip design
  • graduation cap image stamped in black ink on card stock, then cut out and affixed to card
  • green glitter star shape
  • "Congratulations" stamped in black ink onto card stock, cut out, edged in green ink, then affixed to card
  • "MSU" cut from a page of one of their publications
  • textured paper scrap altered with green acrylic paint and gold glitter, then affixed to card
 The use of green and white references MSU's school colors, and there was just enough green in that vintage Reader's Digest color to make it work as a key design element. By a happy coincidence, the vintage playing card design has green and white colors, and the tulip pattern references the town in which our daughter grew up. (The annual local tulip festival began yesterday.)

Here's a close-up of the card:

I loved that illustration when I spied it during a thrift store run awhile back, and immediately knew I'd use it to create our daughter's graduation card. She didn't bat an eye when I told her it was from a magazine that came out when I was a mere 6 months old. By now she's well used to any and all manner of design elements used on the cards I make for her. 

And as for her future plans, this summer she begins the next chapter of her life with the pursual of a PhD in chemistry at Purdue University. She was accepted into several top-rated chemistry grad school programs from all over the country and spent a busy February/March touring these institutions. Ultimately it came down to research opportunities as well as cost of living factors. We know that any chemistry PhD program would have been lucky to have her, and now Purdue will be the luckiest. 

Congratulations to our daughter, and to all other graduates this spring!


Friday, May 5, 2017

Eats: 10-Day Green Smoothie Cleanse

Hello! I think I eat a pretty good diet - I cook from scratch so I can control the amount of sugar, fat and salt in our meals, and most days I get plenty of veggies. 

But there are times I get off track and don't eat as well as I should. This is what happened when we came home from vacation near the end of March. My husband and I ate healthily most of the time then, and did a lot of walking too.

The trouble began with our "souvenirs", regional goodies from some of the places we visited: chocolate-covered pretzels, more pretzels and a barbecue potato chips (all these treats came from small companies in Pennsylvania). And then Easter came along, with some candies from my husband. And so I ate them. That led to finding other chocolates around the house, which I also ate for dessert more evenings in a row than I should have. 

Ugh. I started to feel bloated and sluggish, and I didn't like that. So I turned to this:

JJ Smith's 10-Day Green Smoothie Cleanse.

I'd gotten this book, discounted, from Sam's Club a few years back. It looked interesting, but frankly a little scary: for 10 days, one gives up meat, dairy, caffeine, starches, sugar and alcohol. What is allowed: 10 days' worth of green smoothies (recipes and shopping list included), plus a few approved snacks: crunchy vegetables, hard-boiled eggs, small handfuls of  raw nuts, small amounts of nut butter with no added sugar or salt. Herbal teas are fine (stevia only for sweetening), and plant-based protein powder (no soy or whey)for the smoothies is optional.  Lots of water every day is part of the plan, along with a couple of suggestions for keeping things moving (if you know what I mean).

I wasn't sure how I'd do on such a strict regimen, even for a relatively short time period. Would I have enough self discipline? I wouldn't miss alcohol, but caffeine? I've cut back on the amount of coffee I drink, but I do still have some every day, and the other no-no's during the cleanse are a regular part of my diet as well. 

And I was worried about feeling weak from hunger and snapping at my husband. I could just see myself getting irritable as I fixed his dinners (I'm the cook around our place). 

But I was curious to see what results I would get. As it says on the cover: "Lose Up to 15 Pounds in 10 Days!" Wow - that sounded like a great weight-loss boost!

Other common benefits are supposed to be clearer skin, more energy, better clarity, better sleep, better digestion and a few more pleasant-sounding results. 

So, off I went shopping, ingredient lists in hand (various greens, various fruits, and a detox tea to be drunk every morning). That was 12 days ago, so now I can report on how it went.

I'm not going to lie: the first three days were very tough. I got a headache and the rest of my body felt achy at times too. Overall, I felt blah and out of it. But I still went for my usual fitness walk on those days, although a little more slowly. 

I tried to distract myself from food deprivation by keeping busy doing other things. I did some projects that had been on the back burner for a couple of years or so, ran longer errands than usual, and at night, listened to lots of great music on my new headphones (a surplus store purchase). All these distractions helped. 

I didn't really feel better until partway through the 5th day. It happened while I was going on my usual fitness walk: suddenly, I realized my joints felt more loose and limber than they had in ages. I definitely felt like I had more spring in my step! 

And it wasn't my imagination: the next morning, while doing my usual morning stretch routine (to try to keep those joints loose and limber), I felt more flexible than usual. Considering that I do these stretches first thing in the morning, when my body is at its stiffest, the difference was striking. 

And overall, I think that was the biggest benefit of this 10-day cleanse, that sense of feeling lighter and looser. I did sleep better, and I think my skin did look better, but that was hard to tell since my skin looked pretty good before this. I felt energetic enough that I didn't miss coffee at all! 

I was disappointed in my weight loss though: 5.5" pounds. Now, I know that's actually a lot for ten days, but it was still hard to read the glowing testimonials (in the book and in online reviews) from people who had lost 10-15 pounds, or more, while on the cleanse. I felt a little cheated, as if I had done something wrong. 

But as far as cheating, no, I didn't at all. Some of the dinners I cooked for my husband were entrees I don't like, so I wasn't tempted to sample them. But I didn't even as much as lick the spoon while making a rich dessert for some weekend visitors. And though it was hard to watch my husband eat pizza in front of me at a favorite local brewpub, all I had there was tea. 

The smoothie recipes were, for the most part, very delicious, and were quite filling. (I did add the protein powder, which helped, I'm sure.) Smith does encourage snacking as well, to keep hunger pangs at bay and to keep metabolism up. 

Did I lose less weight than a lot of people seemed to due to snacking too much? Not sure, as Smith is vague on just how big the snacks are supposed to be. But on other days, I think I waited too long to take a snack in between my smoothie "meals". And I think I didn't always quite drink the daily 64 oz water either. These factors could have slowed my weight loss down.

Then, too, it could be at least some of the testimonials were from people whose diets were worse than mine to start, so perhaps their bodies reacted more to a drastic change. (I'd already been drinking green smoothies off and on before I tried the cleanse).

The first few post-cleanse days aren't a call to pig out, of course: light eating and more green smoothies instead. And so that's what I'm doing. I'm still not sure how much of the no-no foods and drinks I'll partake less of from now on. I'm still fine without coffee,  and I don't crave carbs like I had before. 

And I don't know if I'll do this again since those first few days were such a drag. I'll continue with the green smoothies, though. The book has over 100 post-cleanse green smoothie recipes, and there's many other recipe sources as well. 

Or, I suppose I could do another round, only this time do the modified cleanse version (green smoothies for two meals, and one healthy meal consisting of salad, sauteed vegetables and grilled or baked chicken or fish).

If you'd like to learn more about this book, go here.