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How to Live Frugally

This seems to be a common search as of late, and it keeps popping on my blog “What does it mean to live frugally?” That blog was more of a rant on how we are treading the waters where we swim. I’m not sure I really know how to live frugally. I have learned a few things over the years and past few months, and those are:

  • Track your expenses (write everything down)
  • Create a budget
  • Use a Baby Step Method, I like the following:
  1. Create a $1,000 emergency fund
  2. Pay off debt (except house) with debt snowball
  3. Add to started emergency fund, finishing at 3-6 months of living expenses
  4. Retirement plan
  5. College fund for kids
  6. Pay off house
  7. Be charitable

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Misplaced Norm

See how high the snow comes up to our compost bin.  The bin measures about 3 feet off the ground.
See how high the snow comes up to our compost bin. The bin measures about 3 feet off the ground.

Living in Portland has allowed me to become accustomed to Green Christmases.  The first year I was here, it was so odd, seeing sparse Christmas lights reflected on a green backdrop of evergreens and grass.  The week after Christmas, we got snow.  It was like being home in Michigan again.  I realized why I like a White Christmas, if only for the aesthetics. Brilliant lights hung diligently on houses, now made more beautiful as they are reflected against a white backdrop.

A few more Christmases came and passed, and now I find myself used to the Green Christmas and black asphalt.  I have vague memories of driving in snow, cars stuck, and tires spinning out.  I am now more used to driving on damp pavement, braving rain, and tolerating the typical Portland mist that is so frequent this time of year. I have also noticed that every year the local meteorologists predict some type of snow storm.  Every year, at some point, it seems we get at least a dusting that shuts Portland down for a day or two.  Every year it comes when the meteorologists predict something normal, like rain.

So, I was quite skeptical this year when the reports began the week of Peter’s birthday, broadcasting loudly, “Beware! The Arctic Blast is Near!” Meetings that were planned were put on hold in light of this new forecast.  I scoffed it, and so did Peter.

But, on Sunday, December 14th, Portland became snow covered again.  Before Christmas, even.  And, this year, my excitement was slim.  The first year I was here in Portland (in 2003/2004 when the airport shut down for nearly a week), I was ecstatic!  I was so close to Michigan, still longing for a true White Christmas.  I was a little mystified and sad when my first Christmas in Portland sported a balmy 50 degrees.  And, now I’ve grown accustomed to it, so when we do get snow, it’s a little disappointing.

I was born in the U.P. of Michigan.  I have a memory of snow so high it was higher than the doors going outside.  My Uncle Steve had to dig a tunnel so that people could get to the barn at my Grandparent’s home.  (My mother says it couldn’t be a true memory rather a photograph of an event years before I was born.) Although I don’t like driving in the snow, I can.  I moved to Portland for balmier winters where I could still bundle up.  Snow, though, is in my bones. So, when I see this snow, it’s like, “So what?” We have snow.  It’s a bit odd since we don’t own a snow shovel, only a dirt shovel. The snow will be gone soon, and less than half shovel their walks. The threat of a lawsuit for having an unshoveled sidewalk doesn’t feel as strong as it would in Michigan.  And, here, everything is ice and hardly anyone uses salt.  They don’t even salt the roads.

So, I feel passive about this winter storm, this Arctic Blast. It’s something I am used to, but I am in a sea of people who accept not being prepared for snowy weather. It’s an extended vacation of sorts (although I don’t have a normal day job). The schools have been closed now for a week and a half. Businesses are closed. My husband still works though, as he punches a clock for the local transit authority. So, that too is normal, going to work in the snow. We’ve been measuring the snow through photographs. And, this time, it seems important to let Mother Nature take over and just enjoy what you can, relax, take a breath, and don’t rush. The Road Commission isn’t plowing our road anyway. So, sit back and enjoy this misplaced norm.

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Snowed In

So, we’re snowed in.  Today, we realized the 4-wheel drive on the Bravada is broken.  And, the chains keep slipping off.  That could make getting around a bit difficult since Portland isn’t as adept at clearing snow as say, Michigan, where we grew up.

Here are some photos we took over the past few days.  Portland has been suffering from this “Arctic Blast” since last week, beginning December 14th!

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I made butter the other night.  I’ll have to make it again for pictures.  I read on Instructables how to make butter after seeing a presentation at the Keep Portland Weird Festival.  It was so easy, even with my Black & Decker food processor.  All I did was pour about 1 cup of Heavy Whipping Cream into the blender and let it spin.  I thought I did it for about 10 or 15 minutes, my husband thinks it was only 8.  I checked it every few minutes for consistency to monitor progress.  I watched it go from soft cream, whipped cream, firm cream, and finally it separated and made butter.  We have a lot of the “Chinese Diapers” from when we tried to do cloth diapers that have now been relegated to face wipes for our son’s mealtimes.  As soon as the butter separated, I put one of those cloths over a large bowl in the sink, and then I dumped the contents of the food processor directly onto the cloth.  I pulled the ends up, and I squeezed.  What was left was a perfectly moldable, soft, very pliable, cylinder of butter!  Because it didn’t yield a lot, I used it for my garlic mashed potatoes.  I had even thrown in about 3/4 of a bulb of roasted garlic knowing at minimum I would use it for dinner.

Overall, the process was easy and fabulous.  However, for us, it is not cost effective.  It is nice knowing that I can make butter, though.

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You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods

I’ve been watching too much T.V. lately, which is made sadder given the season.  It’s Christmas time, and boy does the T.V. let us know.  They have amped up ‘goods’ and the commercials for them since September!  Three months before the season even begins!  I am Catholic, grew up this way.  We always start celebrating Christmas with Advent, which begins right after Thanksgiving.  Usually the first weekend in December.  It began November 30th.  For three weeks, we prepare for the coming of Christ, readying ourselves with penance and ritual for the Holy Day of Christmas.  The day Jesus was born, a celebration of the New Covenant and a New Life in Christ.  Christmas isn’t about things, it’s about being a kinder, gentler person, someone with sound morals and ethics, in an attempt to be “Christ like.”

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United Solar Ovonic

United Solar Ovonic is opening its doors in my hometown of Greenville, Michigan.  I was unable to find a press release stating as much on their site, but I did find the job openings.

Apparently, Greenville is slated to be in National News tonight on NBC Nightly News in an interview with Anne Thompson.  Maybe this 2-3 minute segment will shed more light on the deal.

I am quite skeptical about this proposed deal.  It’s a good sign that it’s a “green technology” using the old Electrolux/Frigidair/Gibson site.  But, I wonder if it’s just a green version of smokestacking.

I suppose, only time will truly tell.

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Values – Repost

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