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Grandpa’s Flag Pole Ornament

November 19, 2009 • Paige

When I was a child, my family visited Grandma and Grandpa in Cumberland, MD every summer. They lived in an interesting old house on McMullen Highway. I could go on for days about how wonderful it was to be there, but for now I’ll just tell one true story.

Grandpa had a flag pole in the front yard, and every morning he would raise the American Flag, and then take it down and fold it up nicely every day at dusk. I remember one year when I was about five or six I heard everyone outside in the yard laughing about something. Dad was shading his eyes and looking up, pointing at the top of the flag pole. Mom was cackling hysterically. I heard “isn’t that sacreligious?” among the giggles.

I went outside and looked up at Grandpa’s flag pole, expecting to see underpants in place of the flag, but it all looked normal to me. As usual, I saw his American Flag at the top of a white pole with a gold ball style topper. Mom wiped the tears from her eyes and told me the ball on the top was a toilet tank float. Storms the week berfore had knocked down the flag pole and the nice topper was missing. Instead of going to the hardware store to buy a new one, he rummaged around in his garage and found something he already had. I didn’t know what a toilet tank float was, so she took me inside the house to show me the floater inside the tank. Grandpa was always good for a laugh.

Now that I think about it… it just makes sense. This is just how my Grandpa lived every day of his life. He kept all of his screws and nails in empty pickle jars. The cinnamon candies he gave us came out of a re-purposed instant coffee jar. The quilt on his bed was hand made by Grandma, made with fabric cut from clothing that was no longer wearble. They had everything they needed, and lived comfortably on their tiny retirement income. I learned SO much from them about using what you have. They both died when I was a teen, but I think of them every time I pull a jar out of my cabinet to store something. I don’t have a flag pole in my yard, but if I did you can bet I’d have some re-purposed item as an ornament on top, just for Grandpa.

Categories: Personal Posts
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Frugal Kitchen Step 1: Learn to Cook!

November 13, 2009 • Paige

The best thing you can do for yourself and your family is learn to cook – KNOW what goes into your food. Don’t be afraid of your kitchen! The most significant area of your life where you can save money is groceries and food. Learning to cook can be fun, and you WILL save money!
A sit-down restaurant meal for a family of three costs at minimum $30, and fast-food meals run about $15. With a little planning, you can serve a full pancake-house style breakfast for about $1 per plate. Every time you cook a meal at home, you will save money. That is a sure thing!

(Left: November 2001 – My first apple pie – mostly from scratch. You can see that I blobbed dough from scratch on top of a pre-made crust. It was SO good, though! )

If you don’t know your way around the kitchen, start with simple dishes and build your cooking skills over time. Shop thrift stores and garage sales for cookbooks with very simple recipes that involve fewer ingredients and steps. Don’t be afraid of trial-and-error. Every good cook has made their share of mistakes. Keep notes on your successful experiments so you can repeat them later!

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Thanksgiving Holiday Table

November 7, 2009 • Paige

Holiday table decor on the cheap!

With Thanksgiving fast approaching, you probably already have everything you need to dress up your table laying on the ground outside. The possibilities are endless if you use your imagination combined with whatever you have on hand. Look through your cabinets for table cloths, ribbons, scrap fabric and nick-nacks that will dress up your home.

Send the kids outside to hunt for the most beautiful leaves and pine cones in the yard. Make sure to brush off any dirt and shake out any bugs before bringing them inside! Ask the kids to arrange leaves in a fan pattern under the plates and place pine cones on saucers or in bowls in the center of the table. We used tea cups and saucers to create candle-holders and to give our decorations some height.

You can help your children cut leaves from brown paper bags, construction paper, or anything else you have on hand. If your child made a turkey or any other fall art project – by all means put it on the table for everyone to enjoy. You will miss those hand-turkeys and stick-pilgrims when your little ones are grown. The little boy in the photo at the right is a teen now, and if I ask him to make me a turkey hand, he’ll roll his eyes and say “MooOOoooommm…. no way.”

If you’d prefer a more grown-up look, layer fall colored paper or fabrics under each place setting. Place a pillar or taper candle in a bowl, then layer sweet gum balls or pine cones around the base of the candle. Place votive candles in wine goblets, then tie a ribbon around the stem.

Categories: Being Frugal
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