Saturday, March 28, 2009

Music and YA

I've read several YA (Young Adult) novels in the last year that have a strong focus on music. The most recent was Audrey, Wait!, by Robin Benway. I get the connection with teens and music. At that age (I can't believe I'm old enough to use that expression!), I was obsessed with music, too. I knew all the lyrics, all the band names, the title of every song on the radio. These days, not so much. Other, much less interesting stuff has filled up all that brain space.

Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that I understand the connection between youth and music, and why music was such an important part of these books. Unfortunately, incorporating music into a book is a tricky thing, and nine times out of ten, it doesn't work for me. Music is sound. No matter how moving the lyric is, it can't give you the feeling of the song. In Audrey, Wait! we heard all about how amazing this song was, but I wanted to feel it, to hear it myself. And in a book you just can't do that. Every chapter started with a couple lines of song lyrics, mostly by bands I'd vaguely heard of but wouldn't know if I tripped over them. (Apparently, I'm not quite the hip 30-something I thought I was.) Out of the dozens and dozens of music references in the book, I recognized only two or three.

I realize that I'm not the target audience for Audrey, Wait!, Nick + Norah's Infinite Playlist, Adios to My Old Life, and other books like them. Those references are a lot more meaningful when you know the songs. But they also contain lyrics invented specifically for the book. There is no song to listen to. So in the case of Audrey, where this song is so important to the whole book (the title Audrey, Wait! is also the name of a song that becomes massively popular and changes the main character's life), it loses a little something for me. I keep hearing about this song, but what I really want is to hear the song. I want to jump around and dance with the characters. But I can't. Because it's just a book and there is no song.

That's one of very few ways that reading falls short for me. A good author can take me just about anywhere you can imagine. Except when there's music involved.

Thursday, March 26, 2009


So, I tried the shower curtain thing, and it worked! I threw it in the washer with a week's worth of dishcloths and a glug of bleach, and it came out ungunged and untorn. And as an added benefit, the bleach had some mountain clean/spring fresh/who comes up with these names? scent, and it's lingered on the shower curtain. So the shower is both unslimed and nice smelling. Yay! I priced liners at Walmart today, and they ran from $2 to $10. If I'd had to replace it I probably would have bought the $7.97 one, so this experiment has saved me $7.97! The old liner is in excellent condition, so I fully expect it to be around for at least another year or more with continued washing.

Walmart was a good deal for me all around today. I had my price book with me, and I found several things at a significant discount. Overall, I saved 27% over Kroger or Target pricing. And only two items were on sale, everything else was regular price. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean that Walmart is cheaper all around. I didn't do a full price shop, but for the items I checked there were just as many higher priced as lower priced. But I'm pretty well stocked right now, so other than milk (I got home and realized my milk was seriously out of date- poor planning on my part) I don't really need anything else.

To top off my day of savings, I took a bag of books over to Half Price Books and made $5. More money in my pocket and less stuff around the house collecting dust. Sounds like a win/win to me!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Cleaning Up My Act

Anyone who's ever been in my apartment will know that I'm not much of a housekeeper. Even before I got sick, I'd avoid the household chores as much as possible. Now it's just really hard to find the energy to do what needs to be done around the house.

I'm not sure if it's maturity or perversity or the sheer amount of time I spend staring at these four walls, but lately I've been trying to keep things up a little better. I was actually doing pretty good right before I went back to work- the Lyrica gave me the energy to do a few chores, and things were starting to look only semi-horrible. It all fell apart quickly once I started working more than a couple of half days a week. Actually, the whole work thing fell apart pretty quickly, too. (Did I mention I'm back on disability? The Crohn's and Fibro both went to hell as soon as I started working consecutive days.) So now I'm back to square one-ish, trying to beat back the tide of clutter and mess.

One thing that's working for me, and I can't believe it is since it's never particularly worked before, is making a list. On Sunday I made a list of 31 things that I wanted to get done this week. (The 31 isn't significant; that's just how many things ended up on the list.) Many of them are 5 minute or less chores, like emptying the dishwasher or taking the bathroom rug outside and giving it a good shake. A few aren't technically "cleaning" chores, but more general organizational stuff, like paying a bill that's due this week or depositing a check. I've made lists like this a million times, and often only managed to complete a couple of items before losing interest. This time I've done 10 items so far, and I have 2 items partially completed. (They don't get crossed off the list until they're completely done. For example, the whites don't "count" as being washed until they've also been folded and put away.) To be sure that the list gets finished this time, I only put down things that I knew I'd actually do. (I knew there's no way I would dust this week, even if I put it on the list, so I didn't put it on the list. See how that works?)

The one thing I'm most proud of accomplishing off that list is vacuuming. I know anyone reading this who doesn't have health problems is probably thinking "big whoop, she vacuumed". But for those of us with Fibro or related conditions, vacuuming is a Big Deal. It hurts. I had to take a Darvocet today because I hurt so bad from vacuuming yesterday. But I feel so much better emotionally, knowing that it's done. It had been a very long time since this place was vacuumed, and the floor was completely disgusting. I could have made myself a whole new cat out of the fur I pulled out of the filter when I emptied the vacuum canister. Pain or not, I'm going to have to start doing that more often.

My big goal for the day is to wash the shower curtain liner. According to some of the ladies in the frugality group on Rav, it is possible throw your shower curtain liner in the washing machine when it gets gungy and moldy, instead of throwing it out and buying a new one. I hope so, because once I've run it through the washer that's it. If it tears I can't put off replacing it. So cross your fingers. I know it's only a couple of bucks for a new one, but I'd just as soon keep those couple of dollars in my pocket, and anyway I don't feel like going out today to buy a new one.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Cheerful and On Wheels

I wrote this blog post long hand last week and never managed to get it typed up. Other, less cheerful, things interrupted. But I'm still working on it, it's still a goal, so I decided to put it out there anyway. So, here's last Wednesday's "Cheerful and On Wheels".


I'm stealing this blog title/attitude from Jennifer Crusie ( because it perfectly describes where I want to be: happy and healthy (cheerful) and out in the world living my life (on wheels) instead of grumpy and stuck in the house, which is where I've been lately. Also, because Jenny's writing always makes me happy, and I once flew from Houston to Boston just to go to one of her book signings. (OK, also to spend the weekend with my parents, but mostly it was for Crusie.)

I started with the "on wheels" part today quite literally. The car was due for its state inspection, and then I had to replace two tires. But at least I won't die in a horrible, fiery crash on the freeway tomorrow when I drive all over town for doctors' appointments and medical treatments. (Cheerful! On wheels!)

Also, I'm very happy that my critique group is getting together tonight for the first time since last fall. The two other ladies in the group are smart and kind and supportive and generally fun to be around. (Cheerful!) We're all writing in different genres, but the fresh perspective means that we often see things that the others miss. It gets me out of the house and socializing two nights a month, and that can only be good for me. (On wheels!)

I don't know how much of my own work I'll be sharing right away. It takes a lot of mental energy to write, and poor Daisy has been languishing for months. She's a great character, though, and I look forward to working with her again. Daisy is funny and smart (Cheerful!), and she's got goals that no fairy boss or supernatural race war is going to stop her from achieving. (On wheels! Big time!)

In fact, I could take a lesson or two from Daisy. No stinkin' disease is going to keep me down either.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Good Books

Apparently the expression "it never rains but it pours" applies to good things, too. Or at least good books. The library has been very good to me recently. I spent a good chunk of the day today in bed reading Dark of Night by Suzann Brockmann. And then I ran over to the library to pick up a couple of books that I'd put on hold- Bone Crossed by Patricia Briggs, The Sharing Knife: Horizon by Lois McMaster Bujold, and Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman. And last week I checked out What I Did For Love by Susan Elizabeth Phillips that I haven't had a chance to read yet. All are by favorite authors, except Hoffman who I've never read but wanted to for a while.

Maybe I'm just a giant book geek, but nothing gives me quite the thrill of reading a book by a favorite author. And nothing is quite so good as spending a rainy day tucked into bed with the cat curled up at my feet and a good book. It's been rainy and cold for a couple of days now. Ideal reading weather. Other than doing the laundry and a few other necessary chores, I plan to spend tomorrow the same way. Yippie!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Math Problem

If you have a 12 lbs cat who plows through a 4 lbs bag of cat food every month at the rate of 1/2 cup per day, or approximately 1 lbs of cat food per week, how long before you go broke?

Today I went to the vet to pick up more food for the cat. Before I bought anything I asked about less expensive options. I love my cat, and I want him to be healthy. A few years ago he developed a giant bladder stone that had to be surgically removed. We would both prefer he not develop another one. That means special (read: expensive) food. According to the woman I talked to, he's already on the most affordable option. So, since there weren't any other brands to try, I decided to save a few bucks by getting a larger bag. The optimal price was on a 20 lbs bag. But Mr. Picky might not eat it if it gets too stale, and the smaller bags are resealable, where the larger ones aren't. So I compromised with a non-resealable 10 lbs bag. Now I just need to get a container to keep it semi-fresh and pest-free, and I'll be all set.

Savings for buying the medium bag instead of the small bag over a 10 week period? $6.51, or approximately $33.85 over the course of a year. The savings for buying the large bag are even better, but it's only savings if he'll actually eat all of it, so we'll see how the medium bag goes first. And that's just at the vet's office. I need to price it over at Petsmart- I may save even more buying it there.

I also went ahead and put my Netflix subscription on hold. I have a whole Tivo full of stuff that I haven't watched yet- including today's Doctor Who marathon on SciFi. Woo hoo!- so it just didn't make sense to keep paying right now. The hold will be up in 90 days, so I'll re-evaluate then.

And, I made a few bucks off Amazon! Earlier this week I was shuffling things around on my bookshelf, trying to make room for my library books. It just wasn't going to happen. So I started pulling the stuff I knew I wouldn't be reading again to sell at Half Price. You never get much for anything there, but at least it's out of the house. And then I remembered Amazon. So I checked my pile. When I list stuff on Amazon I like to shoot for the new lowest price, or at the very least the second or third lowest price. Makes it more likely that you'll make a quick sale. Well not all of the books were worth listing, but half a dozen of them were. So I listed them, and I've already sold two! I've cleared $5 after paying for shipping. Again, it's not big money, but every little bit helps. Not bad for half an hour's messing around and a quick trip to the post office. And that's just a couple of the books I listed. With any luck a few more will go and I'll make another $5 or $10. And I still have ten or twelve books to sell at Half Price. That'll bring in another dollar or two. Next I'll have to go through my CD collection.

Between cutting bills and finding ways to earn a couple extra bucks, I've been able to save $81.93 this week. Not bad!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Negative Progress

I've been feeling kind of whiny and negative lately, and made a commitment yesterday to be more positive in my blog posts. So of course, I'm here today to complain.

I had an appointment with my Rheumatologist this afternoon. During the appointment she reviewed my meds with me, and asked why I was taking Lyrica. What do you mean, why am I taking Lyrica? You prescribed it to me. Don't you know? I left the office with a prescription for another short course of Prednisone, even though she just put me on one about 6 weeks ago. I was hoping to walk out of there with some new treatment or dosage change or something to help me get through the work day and allow me to go back to work full time. I might as well not have gone at all.

And just to make my day a little brighter, the toilet's broken and it won't stop running. I called to report it an hour ago, and no one has shown up yet to fix it. I'm beginning to wonder who's dog I ran over in a past life.

There was one bright spot in my day though. I had lunch with my best friend, who I hadn't seen in ages. I confessed to her something that I haven't admitted here yet. (At least, I don't think so. Gotta love the memory like a sieve.) I've been thinking, in a very vague "gee, wouldn't it be nice" kind of way, that maybe I'd sort of, kind of, like to try dating again. Maybe. To put this in perspective, the last time I went on a date we watched the first Harry Potter movie. In the theater. When I expressed my nerves at the thought, she pointed out that guys are people, too, and dating is really just two people spending some time together. According to her, by that definition we were on a date right then! We decided that since I was wearing a new sweater with a lot of cleavage hanging out, and that we'd both complimented each other on our hair, it was a very successful date. Now I just need to try it with a boy. Yikes!

Update: The toilet's fixed! If only the solution to my health problems (or my love life) was so simple.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Wading Through Mud

Today was another frustrating day. Sometimes it feels like the air itself is pressing down on me, holding me in place. It takes super human effort just to do the minimum. And that's mentally, too. I find myself groping for words. The other day I couldn't remember the term "caller id". I'm sitting there at my desk, floundering, a complete blank, while my boss smirks because I can't for the life of me finish the sentence I just started. I know that everyone draws a blank occasionally, but it happens to me all the time. I couldn't remember the word "optimistic" or the name of a business I'd just seen a commercial for either. I make lists, multiple lists every day. But a list can only take you so far.

I have another appointment with my Rheumatologist in a couple of weeks. I need to discuss all this with her. But before I do, I really need to figure out exactly what I want. "To feel good" isn't enough of an answer. Not if I can't articulate what is bad and what I want help with. The memory stuff is at least easy to describe. (Whether it's easy to treat is a whole 'nother question.) My second problem- the pain and fatigue- I'm less sure how I want to handle.

When I was first diagnosed, my doctor put me on Lyrica. It helped tremendously the first night. I woke up the next morning, and I didn't hurt. Until you've been in constant pain for months on end, you have no idea how amazing it is to wake up one morning with no pain. It didn't last long. I was hurting again within a couple of hours. But those few pain-free hours were bliss.

As I started to feel better, I started doing more stuff, taking better care of myself. That increased activity caused more pain and fatigue. So my doctor gave me a pain medication. Here's where I need to decide what I want. The pain medication she gave me is a narcotic. To me, it seems ridiculous to be taking a narcotic pain med for body aches. OK, so they're body aches with 'roid rage, but still. In my mind narcotics should be for agonizing pain. Rarely do any of my aches and pains reach the level of agonizing. It's just when you add them all together that they become more than I can take.

So. I feel that narcotics are stronger than what I "should" need. But when I do break down and take one- every couple of days or so- it only takes the edge off. It doesn't completely kill the pain. It often makes me dizzy and even less with-it mentally than normal, but it doesn't erase the pain. Clearly there's a disconnect here somewhere. The pills are strong enough that I wouldn't want to work or drive while taking them, but not strong enough to take care of my pain. I don't think that my pain is bad enough to justify them, but when I do take them they don't do enough.

I can ask for a different pain medication, but with Crohn's I have to be very careful which ones I take. NSAIDs and asprin can be dangerous because they can cause damage to the stomach and intestines with prolonged use. (And I don't see any of this going away any time in the near future.) I can ask for a higher dose of Lyrica, although I know from accidentally taking my evening dose of 2 pills instead of my morning dose of 1 pill that the higher dose during the day makes me really loopy and unfit for work or driving, too. So the only other option would be to try something else entirely.

What I really want is to not have any pain and therefore not need any of these medications. But that's not my reality. Why is it that dealing with the Fibro is so much harder for me than dealing with the Crohn's was? Maybe I had more energy to deal with the first diagnosis because I was coming to that fresh. I've had two years of bad health now, and I just don't have the energy to be sick anymore. Maybe the fact that Crohn's put me in the hospital for two weeks drove home the fact that this was a serious situation that I couldn't ignore. If I never get out of bed nothing much hurts. So if I stay in bed I can pretend the Fibro doesn't exist, right?

Yeah, I didn't think so.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Falling Over

Am I the only one who doesn't enjoy "springing forward"? Personally, I'd be more than happy to "fall back" a couple times a year. Urg.

I am excited about a recipe I'll be trying for dinner tonight, though. (I may be sleep deprived, but it's not all gloom and doom!) I found a link to it on another blog by a family that's frugal and gluten free. Glad to know there's more of us out there! Anyway, it's called Sausage Polenta Bake. I seasoned up some lean ground turkey to use as my sausage a little bit ago, and I'll start on the rest of the recipe in about an hour. I'll let you know how it goes!

I hit Super Target on Friday after work, and the results were surprisingly mixed. I was pretty tired, so I didn't check everything on my list. But what I did check was all over the map. Some things were way higher and others way lower. The general advice is to do groceries at the grocery store and toiletries at places like Walmart or Target. Well I haven't checked Walmart yet, but in many cases the toiletries were cheaper at the grocery store and the groceries were cheaper at Target! I haven't fully analysed my results, and I still have Walmart, HEB, and Whole Foods to price check, but between Kroger and Target, there doesn't seem to be a clear "winner". So I guess the days of one stop shopping are over, at least as long as I'm being frugal.

I was looking at the account options on the Netflix website, and discovered that you can put your account on hold for up to 90 days. That sounds like the perfect solution. I was looking at my DVD shelf this morning, and there are a ton of great movies and TV series on there that I haven't watched in ages. A lot of my favorite TV shows have new episodes right now, so there's always something to watch on the Tivo. And since I've finally made it through all the New Who, it seems like this is a good time to take a break. I'll probably want to start up again over the summer anyway, since so much of what plays over the summer is reality crap. (Although Leverage is coming back for a summer season. Yay!) It looks like putting the account on hold will allow me to come back at the same price, where cancelling and restarting gives me no price guarantees. So that's a bonus, too.

I finished the blanket I was working on for my mom's friend! I was worried because I ran out of one of the colors about 2/3 of the way through, but it actually looks like an artistic choice, not an oops!, so I think I'm OK. Now I just have to weave in about half a million ends, and then I can wash it and mail it. If I'm good, and the stars align, I might get it out in the mail on Tuesday or Wednesday. I'm sort of considering rooting through the stash and making one for myself. There's a boat load of Caron in my closet just waiting for me to find a project for it. But not right away! I have three baby sweaters to complete in the next 6 weeks or so. After that I can work on something for me. Assuming of course that someone else hasn't broken something or birthed something. I'm not holding my breath!

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Working the Plan

I started working on my price book today. I went to one grocery store and it took me two hours to write down the prices for everything on my list. Holy cow. This frugal living stuff ain't for sissies. One down, four more to go.

Tomorrow is dedicated to chores around the house. Am I the only one who feels like cleaning house is bailing with a teaspoon? I swear the sink magically fills with dirty dishes every time I walk out of the kitchen. It's unreal. Unfortunately, it's also necessary. Not only is it required for health and sanity, apparently it's also part of living frugal. I was reading The Complete Tightwad Gazette last night and came across the following: "Housecleaning. This should be your first interior design consideration." Bummer. At least I have a couple of audiobooks to listen to while I work.

In crafting news, I'm making great progress on the lap blanket I started over the weekend. One of my mom's friends had to go in for surgery to fix a broken hip. She had chemo and radiation a couple years back for cancer, and evidently it destroyed her bones. There wasn't a lot they could do because there isn't much bone left. The blanket isn't much, but it's the best I can do long distance. It's squishy and warm and cozy, and I hope it at least gives her some comfort. I really like this pattern. I modified it a bit. I didn't have the recommended yarns, so I used some Red Heart Soft from my stash. (Frugality!) It's the first time I've used this yarn, and I'm less than impressed. Because of the striping I've been into six different skeins, and I've come across at least half a dozen knots. There've also been several slubs- spots where there were odd lumps or wads in the yarn. It's knitting up into a lovely, cozy fabric. But the knitting experience hasn't been all I could have hoped.

Well, this has been a grumpy post, huh? OK, here's something funny. While checking prices at Kroger this afternoon I checked out cider vinegar. I'm not much of a vinegar person- I don't really care for the taste. But I've been looking for gluten-free bread recipes, and everything I've found calls for cider vinegar. They had multiple sizes, and of course as the bottles get bigger it gets less expensive per ounce. The 64 oz bottle was the biggest I could imagine using. But just out of curiosity I checked the gallon jugs on the bottom shelf. It was the same price as the 64 oz bottle. Twice the product for the same price! I don't know what the heck I'd do with a gallon of cider vinegar, but it's cheap! I've only just started checking prices, so I might find a better deal in a smaller quantity somewhere else. But in the meantime I'll be searching the internet for uses for cider vinegar!

Tuesday, March 03, 2009


Like everyone else, I'm worried about the economy and what it may mean to my job and personal finances. Six months ago I was in a much better position financially, but this disability leave pretty much killed my savings. It's a scary place to be- not well, in serious jeopardy of having my job eliminated, and no savings to fall back on. So I've decided to join the frugality movement.

My first step was to start following the money saving discussions on Ravelry. There are some surprisingly lively ones. Some of the suggestions (get rid of your car!) just aren't for me. Some of them (cook more from scratch!) I'm already trying to do. But there are a few things I'm considering.

1. Get rid of Netflix. Yes, I know I love Netflix. But as I ease my way back into a normal work schedule I have a lot less time to watch TV. Tivo commonly records two shows at a time, and sometimes it takes me more than a week to get around to watching something. In the summer, when scripted shows go on hiatus and it's reality programming 24/7, I can consider starting up again. But for right now, I'm not getting enough value out of the membership.

2. Get rid of a gym membership. I have been unforgivably lazy about this. I have a 24 Hour Fitness membership, and I literally haven't used it in years. I figure I've wasted at least a thousand dollars on this thing. It's time to go.

3. The library. The Houston library has an excellent selection, and I can reserve books online and pick them up at my local branch. It's like Amazon, except free! My taxes, and late fees, pay for this service, so why not use it? I received a couple of gift certificates for Christmas, and I'll use those for anything I absolutely must have. (Sarah Addison Allen's next book is due out this spring!) Once the gc's are gone, I won't be buying books for a while.

4. Unplug. I've heard this advice for years- unplug all appliances and chargers when not in use. I have a friend who goes so far as to trip the breakers before she leaves her apartment every day. I'm not prepared to go that far. If nothing else, I don't relish resetting all the clocks every day. But I do have my computer, TV, DVD player and VCR on power cords that I switch off when not in use. I just started this over the weekend, so I have no idea what kind of effect it will have on my electric bill. But I'm willing to give it a try.

5. Adjust the thermostat. This is one I've always done when I leave the house. Turn the temperature up in the summer and down in the winter if I'm going to be out. I've also tried to use the heat as little as possible this winter. I have hand knit socks to keep my feet warm and a cat to keep my lap warm. I'd rather throw on a sweatshirt and keep it a little cooler in here. I don't like sleeping with the ceiling fan on, but this summer I may try an oscillating fan in the evenings before bed.

6. A price book. This one is going to take some work. There are two grocery stores, a Super Walmart and a Super Target all within a couple miles of my apartment. I'm going to start tracking prices at all four places so that I can buy things for the best price possible. I've been working on a list of items I buy regularly, and I'm a little surprised at how long it is. Some of it is stuff I buy almost every week- milk, apples, lettuce. Some of it I only buy a couple of times a year- shampoo, toothpaste. I figure it will take a little while to recognize when something is a particularly good deal. But once I have a better idea of what the really good prices are, and get in a good rotation so that I can only hit one or two stores a week, hopefully I'll be able to shave some money off the monthly food and sundries bill.

My goal, because when you start a plan like this I think it's important to have a way to measure your success, is to put at least $5,000 back into my savings account between now and the end of the year. I'd love for that number to be $10,000, but I think five is more realistic. If anyone has any great money saving tips, I'd love to hear them. I believe my goal is achievable, but it's going to take some work and creativity to get there.