Shoe string Christmas

Perhaps this year more than ever, people are looking for ways to cut down expenses. Of all the expenses a person may have, Christmas is right up there. Holidays are especially tough when you are just making ends meet, whether because you are under-employed, on unemployment or just seriously trying to cut back and pay down debts.

Though if you are like me, you aren’t willing to pass on Christmas altogether. Whether you have kids or not, Christmas is often the time of year that people want to celebrate.

How to celebrate Christmas without breaking the bank

Gifts/decorations: Gifts probably take up the majority of the Christmas budget and they can be a challenge, especially if you have a large list or a big family. Places where you may find some bargains:

Thrift or consignment shops: If you are a diehard, savvy shopper, finding bargains and treasures in second hand and consignment shops may be right up your alley. My local thrifts shops are pretty good and I have found things like:

Prada handbags (under $10)
Art deco silverware
Christmas decorations (vintage and otherwise)
Christmas movies
High-end label clothing

Dollar stores are also good places to find:

Stocking stuffers
Some food items

Other discount stores: Stores like, Big Lots, Marshalls, TJ Max, Ross and box stores like Sam’s Club and Costco – often offer closeout items at deep discounts and you can get anything from designer clothing to movies and books.

Online merchants: Like Amazon, Ebay, and Overstock also offer items you might otherwise not be able to afford and can be great places to find vintage, unusual and hard to find items.

Cutting corners—when you’re really broke
I can hear you now, yes, all good advice, but what if you can’t even afford discount stores? Believe me, I understand and I’ve had some pretty broke Christmases myself. On my brok-est Christmas, all I could afford to send anyone was a Christmas story I wrote. I printed it on Christmas stationary and sent it to everyone on my list. It wasn’t fancy or expensive but it came from the heart and surprisingly it was a bit of a hit.

Yet another year I couldn’t afford a Christmas tree but that didn’t stop me and I decided to improvise. I found a good sized tree limb that had snapped off a tree in my neighborhood, spray painted it silver, put it in a tree stand and covered it with my large assortment of Christmas ornaments. Unconventional, yup, but in fact it was one of my favorite holiday trees ever. Following through on my nature theme, I collected pine cones galore (lots of pine trees in my area) and also spray painted those silver and gold and piled them into baskets with pretty ornaments. The cost was about $5 for the spray paint, everything else was just the effort and creativity involved in putting it together.

What about Christmas dinner?

One of the great things about Christmas is the food, but a typical turkey dinner for Christmas can cost a pretty penny, even if you cook it yourself. If you are a host or hostess for Christmas dinner, why not consider getting together with friends/family and do a potluck dinner? Each person is only responsible for one dish, which don’t have to be traditional – how about Christmas lasagna or Christmas stir-fry? The joy is in the sharing of the meal and contributing to it, not necessarily the menus. Pot lucks also reduce the time spent in the kitchen, saves money and maybe even makes the meal more festive because everyone has added to the feast.

Christmas cards

Not everyone sends them but for those who do, between the cards and the postage you can drop a good bit of cash. In lieu of traditional Christmas cards you could:

Send free ecards. There are several sites online that offer free e-Christmas cards from funny to sentimental – many of them quite beautiful and no postage.

Christmas postcards. Either buy them or have your own made. Places like Staples and Office Depot or local print shops can take a festive photograph and make them into personal postcards for a relatively nominal fee. And the postage for postcards is about 30% less.

Buy cards at discount stores. If you prefer to still go with traditional cards places like your local dollar store and Big Lots often have a large selection for mere pennies of what you would typically pay.

The bottom line
While most of us have our own image of what makes a great Christmas and we get disappointed when we can’t make that happen, it doesn’t mean that Christmas is impossible or miserable. The bottom line is this, where there is a will there is a way. You can create a wonderful Christmas on a shoestring if you want to and if you have to. And honest to God, sometimes those are the very best ones of all because we really had to be creative and resourceful to do so.

No matter what kind of Christmas you have, I wish for you the merriest and happiest—and that you are surrounded by people you love on that day.


copyright 2010

A Word About Comments

blog comments

We bloggers sure do love them, don’t we? I mean, let’s be honest, we don’t write our blogs to be ignored, we do want people to read what we have to say and we really want them to comment. However, not all comments are created equally.

I’ve been blogging a long time and those of you who know me, know that I rarely edit comments, much less delete them. That in fact, I encourage people to debate and even disagree with me. I enjoy debating and I will if I feel there is an honest debate being offered. Usually this is not a situation or problem.

But just so it’s on the record, here is where I draw the line: I won’t tolerate rudeness, out and out flaming or spamming and I prefer that commenters not put more than one link in any comment – particularly if it’s linking to their blogs because it makes me feel more like I am being an advertising venue for them than they are actually trying to contribute to the discussion. If the commenter feels the links are pertinent to the discussion and wants to add more than one link to their comments, they are free to email me and check to see if it’s okay. Believe me, if I think a link is pertinent I’ll be happy to link to you. Because again, any of you who know me, know that I have and do freely link to others’ posts and always have. It’s just the approach that makes the difference.

Bottom line is, I think it’s a matter of manners – you don’t go to someone’s house and put a billboard in their front yard advertising your business, right? In my mind, it’s the same thing – you don’t go to someone else’s blog to advertise your posts, you use your own blog for that. If your posts are good and pertinent, people will link to them usually without hesitation – so why force the issue?

Maybe some will disagree with me on this, and that’s fine – if you don’t like it, you don’t have to read or come back. But that is my policy and will remain so. If you want me to link to you, just ask – chances are I will say yes. I just like to be asked first. And that’s about it.

Thanks for reading.


It’s Been a Year

time passing

It’s hard to believe that it’s been more than a year actually, since I left the safe world of WordPress for self-hosted land. Though I would never delete this blog since it was my first born, so to speak, I have to admit the self hosted blog has become my favorite child. For many reasons.

While WordPress makes it easy for you to set up your own free blog and offers you many options, it just doesn’t compare to the options available to you. From thousands of themes that are absolutely gorgeous, to cool little plugins, widgets and endless varieties of layout and design. It’s actually a little overwhelming at first. In fact, in the first week of self hosting I was ready to push the delete button many times.

You own it. Now, there is certainly a degree of ownership with a free blog – it’s not like some squatters will swoop in and take it from you – but WordPress does have the final say on what you can and cannot post. Most of the time that may not matter – but there may be times when you don’t want to have to worry about being censored. Self-hosting allows you that freedom. You really do own every bit of your blog and I suppose it’s the difference between owning and renting a home. Because your blog is your home on the internet, in a way.

You can advertise or sell or both. Many people blog in order to just express themselves, or find like minded people and that’s a great and fun thing to do. However, a lot of us have products, intellectual properties, saleable goods, information products, what have you and that is verboten here. On a self hosted blog you can advertise and sell your wares to your heart’s content. Which is not to say you should stop writing content, because that is what got you where you are – still, it would be awfully nice to make a living from your blog, wouldn’t it? Or at least part of a living.

So looking back over the last year, all the trials and tribs – the learning curve that was sometimes way too steep and all the other things that took place to bring about the change – I have to say I wouldn’t do it differently if I had it to do over again.

I hope you’ll drop by and see the new place – it’s not quite so new now that it’s been around for a year but I always like it when people drop by. You know?

Writer Chick

Thank You for Being a Friend…


Okay kids, I am dog tired because I have moved, yet again, this weekend (there must be a comedy routine in this somewhere). The good news is that it looks like it will be a permanent address for a while (fingers crossed and praise Jesus) and my back will eventually go back into correct alignment.

So this is the part where I thank everyone who has been truly a blessing to me these past few whacky months. First of all, Zelda – for opening her home to me, her floor, her nine pets and her incredible ability to be there for her friends, no matter what. Despite our consistent disagreements about just about everything under the sun, I thank you for being a true blue friend for 20 years plus. You rawk, and since your short term memory sucks, just think how happy you’ll be every time you read this because each time it will be new.

To my old roomie and chum Leny, for hauling crap, finding chairs, endless lemons and a quiet place I can hide out in when I need it.

To my friend Kelly for her relentless spirit and the inspiration she has been to me in this last year. Your strength, humor and fortitude knocks me out. You are amazing – no matter what life does to your brain. Love you girl.

To my posse, Christine, Jess and Panther for being ever so patient and understanding of the delay of the resurrection of Theme Fridays, the countless emails, laughs, tears and comraderie. You gals are some very special ladies and I have nothing but admiration for you.

To Grit for his friendship, passing on his business acumen (from his usual unreliable sources) and boundless advice whenever I need it and sometimes when I don’t.

And to each and everyone of you for so many things – but especially for your understanding of my crazy fricking life – the good wishes, the comments and just bothering to click on the link and say hey. You mean more to me than you know.

And finally to Will, for bringing love back into my life – no matter how short lived. You never can have too much love in your life. It meant the world to me.


Here's a Plan, Stan…

And once again, Newt makes a visit to deliver a message. Like I’ve said before, love him or hate him, the man does make sense. Watch the vid:

To read the plan you can find it here. It will take all of 30 seconds to read and maybe longer to think about. The recent past election was supposed to be all about change and improvement, I’d like to really see that happen. But it’s not going to as long as we just blindly allow our leaders to do whatever the heck they please while talking out of both sides of their mouths. According to our Constitution, the government works for us, not the other way around – it’s time we put our foots down and get them to reverse this utterly absurd trainwreck.

Update: I went looking for an actual transcript of this financial behemoth and finally found one. If you are interested this link will send you to a page that will give you the full transcript of this bill. All 678 pages of it. I suggest you actually force yourself to read at least a little of it – we all need to know what our government is indebting us to, don’t we?

Oh and if you simply can’t bear to slug your way through the 600 plus pages of a largely unreadable bill, this article hits the highlights and gives you a good summary of what the bill is stimulating. Not sure there are any economists out there who would agree that this is stimulating but then the government doesn’t need agreement since they have all that power and such…

Thought for the day:
“A government big enough to give you everything you want, is big enough to take away everything you have” Thomas Jefferson

Mixed Bag #437

Okay, so first – here are some incredible photographs that a friend sent me. I was very impressed and really it’s nice to start the day off with something beautiful and awesome, right?

Amazing, aren’t they? And hopefully a good substitute for pics of the trip which I still have to transfer over from little computer to big computer (don’t hold your collective breath in other words).

It is day ten of my residency in my new home state. We have gotten most of (about half really) his stuff out of his old apartment – and most important of which was the office cubicle which he built and designed and is really quite ingenius. I’m secretly hoping I will get one built for me. Almost like having your own little spaceship, seriously… Anyway, most of the heavy, difficult stuff is moved, now we are down to boxing of books, books and more books and other box worthy stuff.

We have cable, internet and phone and have been inhabiting the new house for four days. I got in half my flower bulbs yesterday (once the yard got the idea who was boss, that is – very evil crab grass in there) – it was a perfect day- sunny, chilly and cloudless sky. At the very least I will have daffodils and irises coming up on the east side of the fence this spring. I plan to get the rest out front done by this weekend. Then I will put in the crocous in the back.

Will be crusing craigslist for stuff like a couch or something to sit on – which should be great fun with no budget. Haha. Ain’t life grand? Actually I kind of enjoy the challenge – it makes my blood course just thinking about how I’m going to get everything I need with no resources. I know, there is something seriously wrong with me, eh?

Yesterday after much torment and confusion, we finally found out why the internet connection did not like my pc and sorted it all out so that they are talking and have become good friends. I can’t tell you how magical it is to be writing this post from my desktop pc with my big 22 inch monitor and full keyboard. It’s like an early Christmas, I have to tell you.

We found out why it was so fricking cold in here – seems the chimney flue was stuck open and not seated right. So we cleaned out all the fireplace crud, re-seated the flue and the change in temp is amazing. It does seem that the heater actually does work, which was in question earlier. Also, it’s just nice to not have to sleep in you overcoat and boots, don’t you think?

Maggie and Boodie are adapting nicely – starting to get some winter coats happening. Though Boodie, being the fat and lazy creature she is, has spent most of her time burrowed under the blankets in the made bed and has become quite adept at concealing the fact that she is in there. The other day I thought I’d lost her, that she’d gotten out and was a frozen cat on a stick somewhere, when I spied a suspicious lump on the bed. She has gotten more extroverted though since she seems to have realized that Roomie’s (ex roomie I mean) evil cats aren’t about anymore. By spring she’ll be stalking squirrels outside I suspect.

Hopefully by this weekend we have all the moving stuff done and all the stuff over here. We will have to sort it as we go along. Next week, must find work, gig or job or all three. Otherwise there won’t be any Christmas around here to speak of – although worse things have happened and it wouldn’t be the end of the world, you know?

All in all, we are doing good – recovering, still exhausted but managing to get some sleep and make some progress. Hopefully, I’m back to at least semi-regular blogging too. I’ve missed it and you guys, believe me.

But that’s all the boring details of what we’ve been up to. See you on the rebound.

Why I Write This Blog

Not long ago, one of my fellow bloggers, Alex, offered to send me a list of questions to re-evaluate my blog – from the standpoint of what my goals were concerning it. I have to say that the questions were damn good and they covered a lot of ground – and frankly, I’m still grappling with the answers to many of those questions. However…

One thing I have realized or perhaps, re-realized is that there were a lot reasons I started it, a lot reasons I continued it, considered getting rid of it, went to self-hosting, and have kept at it – but beneath all those many reasons which are all valid in their right there is one over-riding reason that I write this blog. In a word – Communication.

I am very big on communication, I always have been and I always will be. I believe that it is not guns, wars, politicians, psychobabble, any kind of ‘ism’, social programs, tax dollars, medications, that is the universal solvent or solution – but rather it is communication. Not talks or summits or deals, or any of the crap that comes out of officials leaders’ mouths or people running to become official leaders, but real, live communication. Where people actually sit down and discuss an issue or topic, listening and then responding in a way that shows they have been listening and originating new thoughts, ideas, and solutions to the dialogue toward the end of reaching a real and true understanding. If people, no matter who they were, what they were or where they were did that, so many of the problems in the world would not exist. Unfortunately, I don’t believe there are a lot of great true communicators in the world or not enough of them to make the difference needed.

Sure there is a lot of talk, a lot of dialogue but not really much communication. Honest to goodness communication, where understanding is the ultimate goal. Anybody can talk. Not everyone can communicate. I don’t know why this is but I do know that it’s true. How many times have you experienced having a conversation with someone and then realizing that they really either weren’t listening or they weren’t understanding what you were saying? We all have. And it’s frustrating to feel like you have something to say that you want to be understood by another and know that it isn’t.

I talk about a lot things here – from the ridiculous to the profound. Big questions and little questions. Some of it is absolutely intended to make you laugh, brighten your day in some small way. Maybe make going to or sitting in that cubicle a little better. A small act, true, but one that can’t hurt. Some of it is to make you think – whether about current events, social issues, political actions, belief systems or just maybe even another point of view to consider. Some of it is to make you feel, Theme Fridays come to mind – I like the idea of enticing you into a different world where surprising and even happy things can happen, to enchant you, inspire you, or even make you cry – hey every woman knows that a good cry can be better than a bottle of Prozac any ol’ day. But ultimately, no matter what I write here my intention is to get you to talk – to exchange talk with me. To communicate.

The purpose of this blog is create dialogue of me with you, you with me, you with others – the whole nine yards. It is why I welcome each and every person who makes a comment, why I respond to each and every comment, why I link to you guys in my posts – and I kind of think, it’s why you come here. I am all about the communication, bringing people together to have communication and spreading the seeds of communication out there. I have often referred to this blog as my big kitchen table where there is always a place for anyone who comes by, where everyone is welcome and there is always a big pot of hot coffee brewing and usually cookies or something to nibble on. The more the merrier, as far as I’m concerned. I think of you all (no matter how well I do or don’t know you) as part of the gang, part of the family – we may not agree, we may even bicker from time to time but we’re still all for one and one for all to coin a terrible cliche.

So in the end, this blog is not about stats, or being a power blog, or selling crap, or writing pillar articles or forcing my views on anyone about anything. It is just about getting people talking to each other and reaching for that little bit of extra understanding while they are also reaching for that next doughnut.

As always, I thank you for reading, I thank you for visiting and I really really thank you for communicating and playing this game with me.

Heads Up

Hi Guys,

This is a quick one. Our dear friend and fellow blogger Joan Harvest asked me to pass on a message to you all. Sadly, her son has hit a rough patch and has reverted to drug use once again. Naturally, this is a distressing situation for Joanie and she’s not really feeling up to blogging right now. And she wanted you all to know that she is taking a few days to sort things out and will be back blogging then.

She loves you all and do feel free to send her an email if you like, to say hi and so forth. In her words:

If you could just let everyone know that Damon is in rehab, that I’m fine but need a little break from blogging but I will be back and if anyone wants to e-mail me that would be fine too. I just don’t want everyone to think I’ve disappeared. I also don’t want to put it on my blog. I have to respect Damon’s wishes. He has a friend who reads the blog and might tell others in town and he wants to just keep it quiet. I just can’t think of anything to write on my blog now. My mind seems to just be on Damon

So Joanie, you take care of yourself and if you need anything just let us know and we’ll be there for you, hon.

Life is Short…

This year has been a helluva experience – a lot of good, a lot of bad, a lot of suprises, a lot of lot of… And Jesus Christ, it ain’t over yet. I’m wondering if I have enough St. John’s Wort to last me. Probably not.

Life can turn on a dime, to coin a phrase (pun intended) and you never think any of that crappy stuff is going to hit your door and muck up your plans – but it does. And usually just when you think things are looking pretty okay.

I don’t particularly want to ruminate or lament about things – but I do want to say that life is short, sometimes much shorter than you think it’s going to be – so my friends, don’t sweat the small stuff and enjoy everything there is to enjoy in your lives while it’s here – while you have it.

If you’ve had a fight, make up with them, forgive them or get them to forgive you. A flat tire is just a flat tire. You can buy a new one pretty much anywhere. Blog stats, comments mean nothing if someone you love is in trouble. Give your dog an extra doggie treat, play with your kids, hug your mom, tell everyone you love that you love them. Go on the big roller coaster, drive too fast, let the wind mess up your hair, eat the chocolate or the fresh baked bread, the hell with the calories. Write with your heart, read with passion, appreciate the efforts of others. Be there for your friends, be there for yourself. Grab it all while the grabbing is good.

I love you all and thank you for being here, I’m here for you too, only an email away.

Calgon…Take Me Away….

Hey everybody, you may have noticed I’ve been a bit scarce the last few days. Frankly, I’m exhausted. This past week has been very intense and there has just been a lot going on. In a phrase, I’ve blogged myself into a frenzy. So, I’ve decided to take a few days off. Feel the sunshine, walk my dog, smell the roses, sleep in, eat some good food and just generally recharge.

A lovely bevy of bloggers has agreed to do a few guest posts and of course I will have a post for Theme Friday – so please treat them kindly and come and read them, they are all great and fun and I’m sure you know all of them. They are doing me a great favor, the favor of time and I really appreciate it.

Have fun, have a good week and I’ll see you all next week – hopefully recharged, rested and relaxed and maybe even with some decent posts.