Tuesday, May 26, 2009

I wanna hang a map of the world in my house. Then I'm gonna put pins into all the locations that I've traveled to. But first, I'm gonna have to travel to the top two corners of the map so it won't fall down.
Mitch Hedberg

We don’t have a map in our house with pins poking out. Instead, we have magnets stuck to the fridge.

The first year Tim and I were married we decided to document, magnetically, our travels. We don’t smoke, so ashtrays were out. We don’t drink so there went the shot glass souvenirs. You can only get so many keychains before they rip your pockets or make you sound like Captain Kangaroo on the run. And really, who can afford $25 a t-shirt for everyone in the family?

We proudly announce the newest members of our fridge family: magnets from Leavenworth, Snoqualmie Falls, Space Needle, and Forks, all in Washington. Other attractions that we visited also sold magnets, but we tried to keep our purchases to a minimum. You can’t eat a magnet.

Enjoy the photos of the beautiful Pacific Northwest!

Happy Kid's first view of the Pacific Ocean

If you don't know why this is important, ask a teenage girl

Alki Beach--Tim's childhood playground

Seattle Skyline and omnipresent ferry from our harbor cruise

Mariners vs. LA (we won't say who won)


Space Needle

Snoqualmie Falls

Leavenworth, WA

Monday, May 25, 2009

And the Winner is...

Janice Hunter of Sharing the Journey! This was an easy selection since Janice was the only one who entered. :)

Janice, please send an email to foreignquang at gmail dot com with your mailing info and which types of Lipton you would like to try and your five boxes will be on their way to beautiful Scotland!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Bluest Skies You've Ever Seen...

...are in Seattle!

I'm showing my age a bit because I am old enough to remember the TV show "Here Come the Brides." The next line, if I remember correctly, went "And the hills the greenest green, in Seattle."

Utah has its own kind of beauty, but it's the kind of beauty that requires a fondness for the "ugly section" of the crayon box. Burnt Umber. Raw Sienna. Tan. Mahogany. Maize. Sepia. The section that boys used to color animals and buildings.

Seattle gets the fantasy section of the box. The kind that girls use to color fairies, unicorns, flowers and princesses: magenta, orchid, carnation, periwinkle, thistle, turquoise, mulberry. And the greens: pine, olive, spring, yellow, forest, sea, shamrock and asparagus.

Most of the yards I saw on my seven day Seattle fest were impeccably groomed and maintained, the owners taking full advantage of the splash of color available to people who live with plenty of precipitation.

I have a new love in my life and my husband is not even jealous. It's his hometown.

Friday, May 15, 2009

My Comfort, My Lipton

Psychologists often speak of something they like to call “comfort foods.” Comfort foods are those foods they say, that make us feel all warm and fuzzy inside. These foods supposedly have the ability to make a stressful day at work seem not so bad, or they can make you feel loved after your best friend has just told everyone how fat you look in your new dress. Mashed potatoes and gravy, Jello, and chocolate are typically listed as the most popular of the comfort foods. I’d like to add my own favorite to the list: Lipton’s Chicken Noodle Soup.

What is Lipton Soup? As Jeremiah’s dad likes to describe it, it is simply “Cardboard and Water.” To me it is much more than that. It is chicken bouillon, cardboard and water. He actually forbade me to eat it when I was pregnant with Jeremiah, saying that no son of his was going to be born addicted to paper products.

I first remember eating Lipton Soup in my mother’s kitchen when I was about 3 years old. Although my memory may fail me, it seems as if this kitchen had yellow walls, and for some odd reason, I recall watching “Felix the Cat” while sipping my soup one afternoon. The scent of Lipton soup cooking can even today take me back to that time.

In high school, I was an early riser since I had to walk to my bus stop 7-8 blocks away, and be there by 7:10 am. My mother and I had a conversation once about breakfast food, and why some foods were deemed acceptable foods for breakfast, while others were not. My teen-age reasoning told me that if I wanted to eat Lipton Soup for breakfast I should be able to, after all, what makes it any different from cereal? My mother agreed and soon I began waking up at 5:30 a.m. to the smell of Lipton Soup simmering on the stove. (My mother was an insanely early riser at 4:30 a.m.)

Lipton Soup was also popular among us Campbell children as a Saturday afternoon lunch. We’d eat Lipton Soup while watching American Bandstand. An exciting feature about Lipton Soup was the fact that after you emptied the contents of the package into the boiling water, some of the bouillon remained stuck to the inside of the foil package. We would argue over which child got to lick the inside of the Lipton Soup package. What a delicacy! What a treat!

Sometimes we would try to sneak a piece of the dehydrated chicken before it reached the boiling water. It was fun to eat chicken that crunched. If we got bored with the standard soup, we at times would throw a loose handful of Minute Rice into the pot. Mom tried on occasion to break my Lipton Soup obsession by sprinkling diced onion into the mixture. Bad mommy, bad mommy. I guess that was her way of ensuring that she could eat the whole pot of soup by herself.

Now I have children of my own. Megan has no real interest in Lipton Soup. She prefers cooked vegetables and what she calls “healthy food.” Kylie has asked me to send boxes of the soup to her in the mail. It seems as if it has become a comfort food to her as well. Jeremiah as a toddler loved for me to make him Lipton Soup, but he erroneously said, “Mom, make me some Ramen.” Apparently he had Lipton Soup confused with some soup that is nothing more than cardboard and water: Ramen Noodles.

Even today, when I am sick in bed, and my husband asks if he can get me anything, I force my eyes slightly open to croak " I...need...Lipton."

I have witnessed my own mother partaking of comfort foods. But how anyone could choose a baked bean, tomato and cucumber sandwich over a bowl of Lipton Soup is beyond my comprehension.

It's contest time! To win five, yes FIVE boxes of Lipton Chicken Noodle Soup, simply write "I love Lipton" in the comments box. The winner will be chosen in a totally random drawing by Jeremiah blindly drawing from all entries thrown into a used Walmart bag (hey, I'm green. ) The drawing will be held on Monday, May 25, at 10:00 a.m. MDT. All entries must be dated before that time. The winner will get to pick whether they want Lipton Chicken Noodle Soup, Lipton Noodle Soup (Chicken broth but no chicken,) Noodle Soup with Extra Noodle, or Ring-o-Noodle.

Photo Credit: http://www.liptonnoodlesoup.com/

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Living a Scentered Life

Lilacs picked for me by a little girl named Anne

It's surprising how much memory is built around things unnoticed at the time.

~Barbara Kingsolver, Animal Dreams

Have you ever been running errands about town, steeped in the mundane, almost as if on auto-pilot, when suddenly, you catch a whiff of something subtle, something so faint as to be barely noticeable, and you are taken away in your mind to a long ago carousel ride? The ride upon the pink and blue beribboned pony on a gilded pole. The ride where your brother stood crying as you came round and round again because he was too small. The ride where you decided to jump off the carousel because you felt sorry for his sense of abandonment, falling into the dirt and gravel, skinning your palms and knees.

What took you to that far-away place, to a time you thought you had forgotten? It was something so fleeting, so evanescent that your brain seems foggy as it tries to pinpoint the stimulus.

Aha. There it is. You turn around and see a small brunette girl that you had passed on the sidewalk, about five or six years old, holding her mama’s hand in one of her own and something else in her other. Cotton candy.

Smell is a powerful sense. It warns us of sour milk, rotten meat, and fermented pineapple.

For me, it is more often associated with tiny pleasures in life, those things as Robert Brault reminds us at the top of this blog, that become our most powerful memories.

My favorite scents often have root in a sweet childhood memory. Sensing them today takes me to a place of a mother’s love, a cherished friend, or a day on summer vacation.

Here are a few of my favorites.

Vicks Vaporub [being cared for by mom when sick]

Cinnamon [Mom baking cinnamon and sugar dough from leftover pie crust]

Lily-of-the Valley [grew against our house as a child]

Lipton Chicken Noodle Soup [this deserves a post of its own]

Catholic Church incense [Midnight Mass at Christmas]

Eau de Infant [or the “new baby” smell]

The air after an Iowa thunderstorm [summer evenings]

Libraries and bookstores [learning!]

Ponds Cold Cream [Mom]

Wintergreen Lifesavers [Chomping them to make sparks in the dark]

Peppermint [Christmas candy canes]

Vanilla [cooking with Mom]

Anise seed [Mom let me chew these]

Black Licorice [yum]

Baked Apple [and I don’t even like apple pie]

My dad’s spaghetti sauce [ I still don’t know how he does it]

Root beer [going out to eat, rarely, as a child]

Lilacs [my childhood home had lots of them]

Chef Boyardee Homemade Cheese Pizza [Mom would wake us back up at night to see if we wanted some]

Kindergarten paste [school]

Crayolas [ I still love coloring]

Peonies [ they say “Iowa spring” to me]

Fudge cooking [ mom’s rare delicacy]

What are yours?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Sign My Guestbook!

There is a new feature at the bottom of this page--my guestbook!
Please take a moment to plaster your glamor shot and dazzle us with your wit.
A photo or graphic is required.

And to make sure you're keeping it clean (I know, I'm a killjoy) I will be approving photos before your entry appears, heh, heh, heh.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Tools of the Trade

Writers enjoy the thrill of creating that delicate balance of a word well placed, a paragraph well crafted. Marketers thrive on it, financially. It’s all in how an ad is worded that means success or failure for a product.

Take the common bath pouf, or poufy as many of my female friends like to call it. It’s just a ball of plastic netting, scrunched together to become the greatest bath invention since heated water. By squirting a dime-sized blob of liquid soap onto a wet poufy and squeezing, hundreds of thousands of tiny bubbles emerge to create lather thick enough to cover your entire body in sweet scented suds. The name “pouf” evokes feelings of luxury, of elegance, of France.

My son’s poufy is a bright cheddar yellow-orange with a duck’s head on one end and cute little flipper feet at the other. Yes, it was bought a few years ago when it was appropriate for a child to have such a juvenile poufy. But now, the duck is dingy and my son is ten. I told him a short time ago that it is time to get him a more manly looking poufy, maybe something in a Transformer black or bright Lego red.

Last night while shopping for teacher gifts in the lotion and body wash aisle, my son noticed something in the men’s section.

Jere: (pointing to something black and red) Mom, is this a man’s poufy?

Me: (noticing that the poufy was black and red) Yes.

Tim: Except that men don’t call them poufies.

Me: (looking at the label) Well, let’s see what they do call them. Aha! It is the Axe Detailer Shower Tool!

Can you believe it? THE DETAILER SHOWER TOOL! Yes, that delicate balance of a word well placed. A marketers dream. A man’s reason to never have to use something girly.

Shower tool indeed. A poufy by any other name is still a poufy.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Bloggers With Heart

Two bloggers have recently touched my heart by exposing theirs.

Janice Hunter of Sharing the Journey recently re-posted my piece on hunger and Project Rehema, with permission, and added her own thoughtful words as well. If you haven't gotten to know Janice, please pay her a visit. Her site is full of "soul food and support" as her tagline says. I got to know Janice through sites that we mutually visit. Writer Dad, Blogopolis Blueprint, Motivate Thyself, and Collective Inkwell are just a few of the blogging hotspots where we've bumped elbows and said, "Hey, I know YOU!"

Daisy of Namas Daisy jerked my tear ducts this Mother's Day week with a beautiful poem on mothers we are thankful for and mothers we are mindful for. I would like to issue three challenges.
1. Please read her poem
2. Ponder those characteristics of mothers we should be "mindful for." See if these descriptions fit any mother you know, or even someone you don't know yet.
3. Do something to touch the life of one of those mothers this weekend--a mother who may be stressed or struggling or raising children on her own.

Do you have bloggers who have touched your heart?

Monday, May 4, 2009

How to be Frugal Without Being a Scrooge

Do you consider yourself a frugal person?

Do you enjoy seeing how little it takes to “get by?”

Do you have no other choice?

Either way, it is important to approach frugality with the right attitude, especially if you have children.

I don't work (for pay) so it is necessary for us to limit our spending. My husband and I have decided that we would rather do without luxuries than to have a ten-year old boy fending for himself after school or all summer. I am a firm believer in the old Proverb
“… a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.” [29:15]

We were comforted in our decision to have me quit work after we watched two of Jeremiah’s friends suffer the consequences of not having a parent at home. These young boys (my former students) were free to roam the town after school and began shoplifting from local stores and stealing money from family members. Sometimes, just because a ten year old can be left alone, doesn’t mean he should be.

How do we as parents live a frugal lifestyle without adopting the “bah, humbug” syndrome? How do we help our children adopt a frugal lifestyle without them feeling like they are suffering? See 5 tips below that have helped me over the years.

1. Do “with” and your kids won’t notice the “without.”

If you “do” lots of things with your kids, they won’t really complain about what you “don’t.”

  • Make dinner special by serving your food by candlelight. We do this a few times a year, but you could do it for birthdays, holidays, special accomplishments or even to reverse a “down in the dumps” day. Spending 50 cents on new brightly-colored candles is way cheaper than McDonald’s.
  • If you’re doing without cable or satellite TV to save money, make a big deal over watching your favorite shows online. Teach the kids to pop the popcorn and dig in for the evening. We frequently gather round Tim’s computer to catch the latest Lost, 24, and Dancing With the Stars episodes.
  • Make a family event out of going to the library to check out free DVD’s. Our local library lets us check out 3 DVD’s for a full week. Jere loves spending 30 minutes or so digging through the library collection.
  • Take meals outdoors! Throw a blanket on the front porch or in the backyard and serve everything alfresco. (And make sure you’re telling the kids you’re eating alfresco. They’ll think that’s cool.) Don’t forget breakfast. Kids will always remember eating warm pancakes and sausage out in the early morning chill.
  • Affording school lunches can be a problem when the kids want the latest Lunchable or pudding pack. At our school we have some creative mothers who save money and create a lunchtime sensation as well. Every day I see bananas and oranges with love notes from mom written with Sharpie on the peel. The other kids get jealous. Some mothers send lunches in brown paper sacks decorated with all colors of markers. I see lots of sandwiches in dinosaur or heart shapes, or carrot discs carved in the shape of a flower. Kids with creative lunches don’t feel left out.
  • Let kids plant their own garden. They will feel like contributing members of the family when they get to pick tomatoes, carrots or peppers that they have grown. Even if you are lacking in space, many veggies can be grown in containers on the porch. Plus, you save money!
  • Get together with other families throughout the summer for softball games at the park. We do this 2-3 times during the summer. It’s much cheaper than pro games and we usually do a potluck picnic. Can you imagine the memories you help create for your child when he gets to tag an adult “out?”
  • The most valuable 75 cents we spend every week is on our local newspaper. It is full of free or low-cost community events. We have gone to concerts, parades, art shows, dance performances, health fairs, car washes, animal shows and sporting events for free. Your child will never feel deprived with a life so full of learning and fun.

2. Can’t afford a vacation? Re-Word it!

At one point in my son’s life, he was getting a little discouraged. It seemed like all of his friends were bragging about their upcoming vacations. Some were taking a trip to a resort with several other families, others were going to Disneyland, and another went to Alaska.

“Why don’t we get to go on a vacation?” he whined.

Tim and I got creative. Maybe we couldn’t go on a two-week vacation somewhere exotic, but we could swing a day-trip somewhere on a Saturday. We planned several day-trips throughout the summer, but called them “vacations.” Jeremiah looked forward to them with excitement---it didn’t matter that we were only gone a day, he was going on “vacation!” When his friends talked about their vacations, he had his own to brag about.

  • We found a local lake about an hour away and spent the day playing in the sand and surf. Total cost, besides gas? $8 to get in.
  • We got up early one morning and drove several hours away to Bryce Canyon National Park. We hiked a little way into the canyon, took lots of pictures of the beautiful formations and spent about $15 on souvenirs.
  • There is a play area about 90 minutes from our house. Whenever we passed it, Jeremiah would look longingly at the go-carts, batting cages, mini-golf and arcade and beg to stop. Our usual answer was, “Not today, but maybe someday.” One Saturday, we told him we were going shopping. We lied. You should have seen his face when we pulled into the arcade parking lot instead. It was one of his favorite “vacations.”
  • Tim’s sister owns a cabin in Utah’s wilderness. We stayed overnight, but touted it as a “vacation.” Cost---$0, plus gas.

3. If you work for someone else, work hard at your job.

What does this have to do with being frugal? A lot! I have this philosophy that says,

“If you must work for someone else, then make yourself his or her
valuable employee.”

By coming in earlier, staying later, being honorable and ethical, finding ways to increase profits, having a great attitude, and representing your boss well, you will make more money. In times of enforced frugality, more money is definitely a plus.

By working hard, I eventually made it into management positions in whatever job I had.
Higher position= more money. Bosses generally love to reward high-functioning employees.

  • At one job, during a time of difficulty, my boss gave me the option of closing the store, or staying open to deal with customer complaints about the situation. I chose to remain open and get bombarded with angry consumers. My boss gave me a $500 bonus. Being ethical paid.
  • One boss gave me a free car. I’m still driving it eight years later. See odometer picture above.
  • Another boss sent me to another city for training. He told me to take along my husband and son. He paid for us to stay overnight in a hotel and paid for all our meals. The city was only 2 hours away so staying in a hotel was not a necessity. Mini-vacation! Hot tub included!
  • I received a new wireless color printer from my boss, “just because.”
  • Same boss also told me to pick out whatever I wanted for $500. I got a new camcorder and groceries for the next two weeks.
  • Free laptop.
  • Had Christmas totally paid for one year because of sales contests that I won.
  • One boss gave me a $500 check as a “thank you for all that you do.”
  • My husband won a performance contest last year at work and we got an all-expense paid trip to Lake Powell to stay on his millionaire boss’s houseboat for a weekend.
  • I promise you I do not offer my body in any way to get these incentives.

4. The love you give always comes back to you.

Love people. It’s that simple. When you realize that each person you meet is a one-of-a-kind entity, it’s easy to do.

I realized this during a moment of profound introspection many years ago. I was especially appreciative of my friend, Tracie. You know, I thought, you are one of the few people on this earth who gets to know her. There will never be another Tracie. How privileged you are to be on the earth at the same time she is. I now think this thought with everyone I meet. But what does this have to do with being frugal?

More than you might think.

If I visit a business more than once, I make it a point to get to know the people who work there. I am one of those strange people who asks bank tellers, grocery clerks and librarians for their names. Why not? The love you give always comes back to you.

  • By getting to know the local bank tellers I won $50 to an Ace Hardware store. They called me when the bank was running a contest with prizes donated by local businesses. “You have to come sign up. Maybe you’ll win something!”
  • The same bank tellers called me to tell me they were having a customer appreciation day. “Come over and get some free lunch!” I took hubby and son for free sandwiches, chips and drinks. We also got some free pens, pencils and t-shirts.
  • A grocery store clerk that I had befriended stopped me. “We’re giving away a Dutch oven. You have to enter.” Won it.
  • The parades in our county are a goody-fest, with water bottles, t-shirts, pens, pencils, Frisbees, beach balls, cups, and other promotional items being thrown into the crowd from the floats. Many times, I have had things thrown right to me because I had taken time to get to know the business owner.

These are just a few examples of how caring about other people comes back to you. Call it Karma, call it The Secret, call it the universe balancing itself. I still call it love.

5. Bless your children with the abundance mentality.
Never tell your children. “We don’t have enough money to do that/ buy that/ go there.”

Always explain it as, “We choose to do other things with our money.”

When children grow up hearing, “We don’t have the money,” they develop the poverty mentality. They grow up thinking that they are deprived. They wonder why others “have” while they “have not.”

Children with the poverty mentality sooner or later end up with the “entitlement” mentality. “The government owes it to me.” “After all I’ve done for my boss, I deserve more.” Once your child latches on to the entitlement mentality, you have very little hope of ever having a happy child. Nothing is ever good enough, or even simply “enough.” They always feel a lack.

A woman I know is a manager of a business. She employs many adults who have the poverty/ entitlement mentality. Recently, the business decided to reward its employees by giving them and their immediate families (no matter how many in the family) tickets to a water park, valued at about $35 each. Instead of gratitude, the manager mostly heard this:

“Are you paying for my gas to get to the water park? I shouldn’t be punished because I chose to accept your offer.”

“So and so has seven people in her family. I am a single woman. It’s not fair that she gets seven tickets while I only get one. Can I invite six of my friends?”

“What if I don’t want to go to the water park? How are you going to compensate me?”

“Can I have the money instead?”

“Why are you discriminating against people with smaller families? Everyone should get the same amount of tickets no matter what.”

You owe me. I don’t have enough. I deserve more.

Sickening, isn’t it?

Tell your children the truth. You do have enough. You simply choose not to buy a new 52” LCD HDTV because it’s more important that mom is home with her children. Or you choose not to go out to eat at restaurants because it’s more important that daddy pursue his dream of starting his own business.

There is enough to go around. It’s all about choices.

For me and my house, we choose to be frugal and we choose to be happy about it.

And just so ya know....I spent 5 minutes driving back and forth in my driveway so I could capture the shot when my odometer hit 200,000.

Do you have any frugal tips of your own to share? I'd love to hear them! Please put them in the comments section.
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