Monday, November 26, 2012

Shoe String Chic: Thrifting and the Frugal Girl

If you are a regular reader of this blog, then you know that just as the name implies, I don't think that vast sums of cash are needed to live a good life. Many things offer us priceless intrinsic value and fill life with its true richness and meaning. If there is a less expensive way for me to get what I want then that is what I'll do. You can live your best life possible even with limited resources. That thinking applies to my wardrobe. Clothing along with furniture is one of the places where an "investment" depreciates almost completely and immediately. It is my favorite place to be clever with money. The trick is to do it so well, that no one can believe your wardrobe is a second hand one.

I've been shopping at thrift stores since the mid 80s when it was just me and a bunch of homeless people. In those days you could still find treasures of the 50s and 60s, authentic Hawaiian shirts, vintage classics, and hippie garb that faintly smelled like pot. Today the scene is a bit different. Thrifting has become socially acceptable. And thrift stores have become big business.

Here are my rules for wardrobe slumming in high style:

All thrift stores are not alike. Digging through piles of dirty clothing is unappealing to me, even if the clothing is free. Generally, the Goodwill and Salvation Army stores have things sorted and organized neatly. It isn't all that unusual to find things with the store tags still attached, like this silk dress I scored last week. I was much happier to pay $4.99 than the original price.

Love this exotic silk tunic!
Dry cleaning is a myth for most things. I suspect a lot of quality items end up being donated due to the expense and extra time of cleaning. Most things will come out nicely with a hand wash in the sink or by using that setting on your washing machine. Even if you ruin a piece of clothing (which has never happened to me btw) you are only out your $3 or $4 dollar investment. The person who originally paid seventy to eighty dollars for the garment was less likely to take a chance with it.

Try everything on. Taking home a dozen "bargains" only to find out that ten of them don't fit, is disappointing.  Go prepared to use the dressing rooms.

Shop for fabrics that might be cost prohibitive if purchased new. All of the silk and cashmere in my wardrobe comes from thrift stores or antique shops. I'm defenseless against vintage silk scarves and cashmere sweaters or gloves.

Look for one-of-a-kind items. I like to look for the funky and unusual. Vintage handbags, souvenir scarves, or things that have delicate workmanship. You can buy a polyester top any day. Step up your game for thrifting.

Check things carefully. I am distressed by the amount of things discarded because their owners didn't know how to care for them. You won't be able to save a wool sweater with moth holes, but I've come across many garments that were worth replacing a button or stitching up a ripped seam. 

 A full 80 -90%  of my wardrobe is from thrifting and swapping. Clothing is one of those areas where you can spend next to nothing without sacrificing quality if you do it right.

       Being well dressed is a beautiful form of politeness.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Eastern Wisdom Meets Western Science

Turmeric, ginger, peppercorns
I'm feeling under the weather this weekend so my foggy brain is digging around in the archives. I've been drinking my favorite cold remedy and thought I'd share the recipe with you. You aren't guaranteed not to get sick no matter how healthy you are, but you can take steps to shorten the length of your suffering.

Western medicine sends us off to the cold/flu aisle at the drugstore for something full of ingredients we can't pronounce when we don't feel well. Eastern tradition tells us we might be better off in the spice aisle at the grocery. 

 Right before my daughter's wedding she came down with a dreadful cold. My friend, and fellow blogger The Food Maven sent me a recipe for a cure. It seems her mother was traveling in Ireland and was in a pub with a cold (her, not the pub). The owner, a man from India, suggested a spoonful of turmeric and honey. Mommy Maven followed the advice and was all better the next day! My daughter got better so I never did make it. Earlier this week I was feeling a bit under the weather myself and decided to try it out, but you know I had to do some research first.

I came across many variations on several websites, they all seem to differ slightly. I liked one posted by blogger Arun Shanbhag, who remembers his grandmother making this for him.

I prefer to cook it on the stove
Here is the link to his blog post: Turmeric Milk: Soothing Elixir, in which he explains the history and science behind this potion. I changed a couple of things. I'm a firm believer in the power of green tea (Read about the health benefits here) so I made power packed infusion (1 family size tea bag to 1/4 C. water) to mix the turmeric in instead of water. I didn't have fresh ginger on hand but I did have some of the dried/candied sort, and I used coconut milk because dairy products are known to increase mucus production, something we are trying to lessen, and have other negative side effects for many. In an update on his site Arun added this comment: "Scientists have demonstrated that when curcumin is ingested along with a peppercorn extract, the ability of our body to absorb and utilize curcumin increases dramatically, up to 2000%. "

I made a cup complete with peppercorns and took it at bedtime. I woke up feeling much better, and yes--energized! So I'm a convert. The dried ingredients premixed would make a great gift for a friend who's suffering from a cold. The fact that it's home made and wasn't concocted by a pharmaceutical company is comforting in its own way. Here's my version but the internet is full of ways to tweak it; find one that you like.

The Housewife's Recipe:

1/4 C of very strong green tea
1/2 ts turmeric
Power it up with peppercorns! Delicious!

1 ts candied ginger
1 ts honey
a few peppercorns, whole
a mug of coconut milk

Dissolve turmeric in hot green tea, add to milk with ginger, honey, and peppercorns and stir over medium heat until hot. Let sit for 5 minutes before drinking.

Cheers to your health!

*Of course if you have a fever or cough that doesn't go away you should see a doctor.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Bee's Knees: Local Backyard Honey

 If you've been paying attention then you will know that over the course of the spring and summer, and into the fall a little miracle has taken place.

Miracles take place all the time of course, but in our busy lives we often forget how miraculous the world is.

Wondrous and sometimes magical even. That was the main lesson I learned from the hive this year. 

I was hoping for a little honey. I hoped it would taste okay. I hoped I didn't ruin it somehow....

Such a lot of worry for something designed to make life sweeter.
In the end the bees and I kept our agreement. I tended them and they tended the honey. I was surprised to get 2 1/2 gallons which (aside from what I ate right off the frame) came to 24 half pint jars, 2 quart jars, and an extra pint for us to eat right away. I'd say for my first beekeeping season, my girls and I did alright. Looking forward to another hive and more honey next year...SWEET.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Day: A Mother/Daughter Tradition

Mothers and daughters share all kinds of special things. If we're all being honest lots of the special moments involve shopping and eating. But sometimes an unexpected bonding event works its way into a family. For us, one of those moments is election day. One of the things I hoped to instill in my kids when they were young was a love of country and a sense of the importance of good citizenship. I actually expected that once she was married and voting in her third presidential election she'd just go and do it on her own. But I got a call this morning asking when we were going. I'd actually already gone, but made plans to go with her anyway.

Gotta have that photo ID in Tennessee!
If only everyone was so excited about their right to vote. The poll workers were sure she was a first time voter. I am amused by the "Please turn cell phones off" sign. The Millennials are so not going to do that. And by the way only 18% of them (21-29) are going to bother to vote.