Friday, January 28, 2011

The Crown Jewel

Did you see my Facebook posts about my Fayetteville laundry room?  If not, here they are:


Laundry Room Before

Laundry Room After

The other side of the laundry room!
I posted the "before" pictures to publicly shame myself as a form of motivation:  If I got it cleaned up, I got to post the beautiful "after" pictures.  If not, the ugly "before" pictures would live on! 

I should add that it all looks SO much better in the photos than it did in reality.  I look at the photos and I think, "That's no big deal!  I could clean that up in a snap!".  But that's not how the reality was!  I've spent about 8 hours in there so far and there's still more to do!

So, if you're not tired of hearing about my laundry challenges, I have a bit more to say about it!

Buried next to the washing machine is the crown jewel of my laundry room.  I found this little enamel-topped farm kitchen table in a flea market for $59.  Sounds like a lot now but, at the time, I couldn't pay it fast enough!  I was so afraid that someone else would buy it before I could get the cash out of my wallet!  It has a very unusual, original, apple green edge (as opposed to the usual red) and one cute little drawer. 

Buried treasure!


It may not be special to anyone else, but I ADORE it.  It makes me happy to see it.  The problem, as you can see, is that it's usually buried in laundry.  The best motivation I know of to clean out my laundry room(maybe even just slightly above publicly shaming myself with Facebook "before" in the hope of getting to post beautiful "after" photos) is that I might get to gaze upon my beloved table regularly.



I'm wishing now that I'd painted the underside of that shelf!  The lamp base was in my bedroom when I was a child. The old iron and the measuring bowl full of clothes pins belonged to various grandmothers.


I've even cleaned out the laundry bags under the table since I took this picture!  That means I can claim progress, right?

I'm currently scheming to add a shelf underneath.  If I do it right, I'll be able to fit four laundry baskets under there which will make it both beautiful AND super-functional!

Now I have the challenge of trying to figure out what is both practical and important enough to put in that little drawer!
 Come back Monday for a piece on how I keep grandmothers in my laundry room!  Well, I don't actually hold them captive in my laundry room, but I DO keep some of their memories alive there!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Something To Crow About!

I didn't really have anything to crow about this morning but I REALLY wanted to put up a blog post because it's important to me to post every weekday if at all possible.  So, I scrolled through my photos on my phone and found THIS wonderful thing!





I snapped this photo for my friend Susan while were were looking at houses recently.  She commented on it and I whipped out my camera and took a picture of it for her so we cold recreate it later!  I love the primitive simplicity and the bird motif!

This would be very easy to make out of totally free materials -- spray paint a frame black, cut up a couple of dumpster shirts, cut the bird shape out of some old dumpster pants perhaps, spend maybe an hour embroidering the letters, and put it all together! 

Then, try to think of some other sayings and images to assemble in the same way because these would be really great in a series!  Any ideas?  Anyone have a fun old grandma saying that needs to be immortalized?  I can hear my grandmother saying "The watched pot never boils"!  What did YOUR grandma say?

(I guess I did find something to crow about after all!)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

“Why do you write about how poor you are?”

“Why do you write about how poor you are?”

I was asked this question recently. At first, I let it shame me. But, as the question, and the venom with which it was asked, have lingered in my mind, some of my own truths have bubbled to the surface. I’d like to share those truths.

We are not our wallets or our bank balances. I am not ashamed of either because neither defines me. I am proud of who I am and what I can accomplish and the ways I find to survive despite what the numbers might indicate to someone who defines merit with dollar signs and decimal points.

I started my blog out of a desire to be genuine -- to write about what’s real, to process my own experience, and to voice something that many people are going through (or have gone through or will go through in the future). There is no need to struggle in shame and silence.

When I think about The Great Depression, I think about how people survived and about how the country eventually pulled itself out. I don’t think poorly of those who went through it. I respect their courage and strength and survival.

I would also like to assert that there is no shame in good, honest work. Period. I have great respect for anyone who gets up and goes to work and gives it their best effort – no matter how menial or low-paying the job might be. I’d much rather work and earn my own way than sit around, spoiled, and have everything handed to me. In the end, having it given to you doesn’t feel good.

In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter how I got to where I am. What’s important is how I get out.
I wanted to write a rags-to-riches story from the beginning (though I don’t need riches but I do intend to work my way to financial security). I wanted to capture the depths of the despair, to write about how I found direction, to detail the steps that led me out of it, and to celebrate the victory achieved in the end.

I write about how poor I am because I don’t intend to stay this way. Because, after I’ve dug my way out, I want there to be a chronicle left for my children and their children (and anyone else who cares or might benefit) that tells about how we all go through difficult times, that there IS a way out, and that this is a universal life experience that most of us will go through at one time or another.

The most important thing I’ve learned: I can be miserable and walk around all day every day ruminating on my misery. Or NOT. I choose not. It’s about living in the now. It’s about rising above. Tomorrow will come anyway and we will all die in the end so why make myself miserable when I can choose not to be? In turn, I am more productive and more successful at bringing about positive change and I am able to enjoy each day if I am not consumed with my own misery. This is a HUGE and incredibly valuable life lesson that I would never have learned without this time of struggle. Very Zen!

My blog is not about how poor I am. My blog is about creativity, resourcefulness, ingenuity, and optimism. Those are some of the best states of being that I know. If a little financial strife is the catalyst for these things, then I welcome it. I have been pushed by circumstance to be more of all of these. Isn’t this a phenomenon that occurs over and over in life – that challenges push us toward growth? I embrace that growth and the situations and experiences that create it.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Exonerating My Husband

The problem with writing a blog about money is that doing so tends to inadvertently implicate one’s husband.

For the record, I want it to be known that our financial situation should only reflect on Mark positively.  MY dire financial state has nearly taken us both out but it is mine alone in its origin.

To properly orient you to my financial situation, I would have to tell a tale that goes back over 100 years and involves many characters and multiple plot twists. That would be too complicated to write (I’ve tried!) and too exhausting to read (you wouldn’t want to!). I will mercifully spare you.

Suffice it to say, Mark and I agreed to a 50/50 split when we married. I was to pay for my house, cabin, car, and children. He was to pay the household bills. We agreed to contribute equally to the spending money.

Then the bottom fell out of my financial world. My previously secure income completely ceased. As in ZERO! Try losing most or all of your income and then try to hold on to everything you have!

Mark graciously stepped in to try to fill the gap in an impossible situation. He has worked day and night to help me. He has done without in huge ways. We have had to live in different states for most of our marriage. My situation has been a huge burden on him and one that many a lesser man would have walked away from.  If it weren’t for Mark, I would have lost everything.

Mark is the hero in this story. Don’t anyone dare think anything else!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Mel and Ann

While driving near West Fork recently, I stumbled across this fascinating ruin of someone's love, creativity, and resourcefulness.  Much to my daughter's chagrin, I just had to stop, jump out of the car, and take pictures!





It seems that Mel was pretty fond of Ann (or, conceiveably, Ann was very fond of Mel, but, for the sake of simplicity, we'll assume it was Mel!).  And Mel also seems to have been a pretty handy guy.  Perhaps, also, Mel knew that immortality is most effectively achieved in stone!



I love that Mel just foraged around on his own land and found the majority of the materials he needed to build a house!  I guess that's what people used to do all the time but the concept seems so foreign to methods of modern construction.  Knowing Mel, like I think I do, I bet there's a story about where the windows came from and I'd imagine that he scavenged the materials for that second floor addition that he never finished as well. 

I imagine the Mel and Ann were very happy here when the place still had a roof!

Also fascinating to me, if you can make them out in the photo, are the stone shelves that Mel built into the wall.  I'd bet that this was a pretty cool house in it's day.


This just makes me want to go out and gather stones!  I'm pretty sure, however, that after picking up fewer than a dozen stones, my enthusiasm would wane.  More kuddos to Mel who actually followed through with a big job!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Tales From The Thrift Store

Just a little proof that you can find AMAZING things at AMAZING prices at the thrift store (as if I needed to prove that AGAIN)!  Stainless steel dishwasher for $45!  I wish I needed one!  Do you?



Also at the thrift store:




I have this pub table (intended for use as a staging prop).  I paid $20 for it at a furniture store closeout because it has scratches.  I have wanted these bar stools to go with it for YEARS!  (In the photos there is also a regular-height dining chair which I already have two of and which I could also use!) The thrift store has 3 for them (which would do for now) for $29.99 less 25% which makes them $22.50 each!  They sell new for $99 apiece.  If they last until next week (which they won't because they will surely sell on Saturday if they don't go today!), they will be 50% off and thus be $15 each!  But there is no possible way in my current budget that I can justify spending $45.  Which just sucks! 

It is times like this when my determination to find a way kicks in and I set my sights on finding a way to get what I want (or something close that will suffice) for FREE!  For the moment, however, I'm eating my heart out!

Or, I could just sell the darn pub table and eliminate the problem! $50!  Any takers?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Coca-Cola Dinner

 Today's post is not exactly about FREE stuff, but it does chronicle some pretty cheap delicious fun!

My husband, Mark, is a great appreciator and collector of the Coca-Cola logo and Coca-Cola memorabilia.  For his birthday this year, I was short on money but wanted to make a bigger impact than last year (when I was also short on money and also on creativity), so I had my radar on for ideas.

Within a few days of launching my search for ideas, my ex-husband, Matt, came across a reproduction Coca-Cola bottle opener for free in a box of junk that he was transporting to be donated by a friend.  Matt knew that Mark likes Coke stuff, so he snagged the bottle opener and gave it to me for Mark.  Isn't that mind-twisting?  My ex-husband finding a gift for my current husband?  Will wonders never cease? (I hope not!)

I feel it is my cosmic duty at this juncture to expound of the virtues of friendly divorces.  I insisted from the beginning and repeated ad infinitum that we were going to have a pleasant divorce.  It didn't start out to be the least bit pleasant but, eventually, I think I managed to brainwash everyone involved to my way of thinking.  The Coke bottle opener is just proof that it worked!

So there's this Coca-Cola bottle opener and suddenly it was paired in my mind with a brainstorm:  what if we had a whole dinner of dishes made with Coke?  Emily makes a killer Coca-Cola chocolate cake and Mark's sister and neice are famous for their divine Cherry Coke Jello Salad and I knew there were more Coca-Cola recipes out there (because people are just weird that way!)  Perfect! 

The girls and I took all the Coke memorabilia we had around the house and decorated the dining room in red and Coke bottle green and Coke stuff.  I had to restrain myself from running out and buying a whole matching set of Coke glasses and I knew there are Coca-Cola dishes out there but I decided my regular white ones would do and, perhaps, prevent over-kill (I don't really believe that, but that's how I convinced myself not to hunt for and buy the dishes!). 

When the table cloth I had planned didn't work out, I remembered a green and white quilt that I found last year at a flea market for a mere $25.  It was perfect!  A little red added in here and there (red bandana napkins, a red wicker silverware holder, a old wire milk-bottle carrier painted red) and the table was all Coke-ed up!

I searched the internet for Coca-Cola recipes, trying to find a large enough variety to complete a whole dinner.  Vegetable recipes involving Coke seemed unlikely but I found some! 

Honestly, the combination of ingredients in most of the recipes sounded awful but I picked the ones that sounded the least disgusting and decided it would just be one big happy experiment whether it tasted good or not! 

Here is the menu I came up with (recipes are listed at the end of this post):


COCA_COLA DINNER MENU

Cherry Coke Jello Salad
Coca-Cola Marinated Pork Roast
Grecian Coca-Cola Green Beans
Diet Cherry Coke Lentils
Coca-Cola Morning Glory Muffins
Chocolate Coke Cake with Chocolate Coke Icing
Coca-Cola (in old-fashioned glass bottles)



Mark and I don't get to be together much due to work needs that require us to live in different states most of the time, so we didn't get to celebrate his November 19th birthday until Christmas Eve, but that made it doubly festive!

I was quite nervous that the Coca-Cola dinner would be more fun than delicious but it actually turned out to be quite delicious!  Mark says it was one of the best dinners he's ever had (but then, he's pretty talented with the compliments!).  I DO now find myself craving the Coca-Cola Marinated Pork Shoulder and the Cherry-Coke Jello Salad anytime they cross my mind so that says something!

We've decided to make the Coke dinner an annual tradition for Mark's birthday and we're open to other excuses as well!  For starters, we're planning to re-create the whole dinner for Mark's mother so she can try it too!  It might also be good for summer holidays like Labor Day or Memorial Day as well.  Or just make up an excuse!

Below are recipies and photos.  I regret that I just snapped a few quick photos of the dishes for documentation as they went on the table and didn't do the whole pseudo-professional photo shoot!  These photos are definitely not Gourmet magazine-worthy but oh well!  By the time it all came together it was almost 9 p.m. on Christmas Eve and we were HUNGRY!
*******************************************************************
RECIPES AND PHOTOS
*******************************************************************
Not pretty in this photo but this is the most amazing, melt-in-your-mouth tender pork you've ever eaten!  And the sauce, though a weird mixture of ingredients, is wonderful and perfect!

COCA-COLA MARINATED PORK ROAST

pork roast
1 small bottle ketchup
1 can Coca-Cola
1 envelope onion soup mix

Cover pork roast with a mixture of the other ingredients.  Refrigerate overnight, turning occasionally.  Bake until done.

********************************************************************



GRECIAN COCA-COLA GREEN BEANS

2 cans green beans (drained)
2 shallots
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
1/2 cup Coca-Cola
1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tablespoons vinegar

Combine ingredients.  Marinate overnight.  Serve hot or cold.

*******************************************************************



DIET CHERRY COKE LENTILS

1 pound lentils
6 to 8 cups water
2 cups diced ham (optional)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
12 oz. Diet Cherry Coke

Wash and sort lentils. Cover with water. Bring to a boil and reduce. Heat to a simmer.
Add ham (if desired) and onion. Simmer for 40-50 minutes. Add Diet Cherry Coke. (This will
produce a lot of foam.) Simmer for an additional 10-15 minutes or until lentils are
done.

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These muffins are delicious and very healthy!  They contain oats, whole wheat flour, applesauce,raisins, nuts, carrots, and zuchini... and Coke (but we can be in denial about that part, right?).
 COCA-COLA MORNING GLORY MUFFINS
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
5 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 T. canola oil
3/4 cup Coca-Cola®
1-1/2 tsp vanilla
2 cups finely grated carrots
1/2 cup finely grated zucchini
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Mix the oats, both kinds of flour and the salt together. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar, applesauce, oil, Coca Cola®, and vanilla. together. Combine the wet and dry ingredients and mix well. Fold in the grated carrrots and grated zucchini. Stir in the raisins and nuts, enough to distrubute evenly through the batter, but do not over mix. Spoon the batter into a non-stick muffin tin (makes about 9 or 10 muffins) . Bake in a preheated oven at 350° for 20 minutes.

*********************************************************************
Here I am completely violating my mother's rule that dishes such as this (and cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving) must be well garnished with lots of fresh parsley!  But this jello ring has a divine velvety texture and is massively yummy!  I prefer not to have to share it with anyone else in the future!  I want it all to myself!

CHERRY COKE JELLO SALAD

1 can cherry pie filling
2 sm. boxes cherry Jello
1 cup water
1 can Coca-Cola
1/2 c. nuts, chopped

Cook jello, water, and coke over medium high heat until the sugar dissolves.  Add cherry pie filling and nuts.  Pour into jello mold or 9x9 pan.  Refrigerate until firm.

********************************************************************



CHOCOLATE COKE CAKE

1 cup butter
1/3 cup cocoa
1 cup Coca-Cola
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 large eggs
1/2 cup milk or buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine first 3 ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring until butter melts. Remove from heat.

Combine flour, sugar, and baking soda in a large bowl; stir in butter mixture. Add eggs, and stir until blended. Stir in milk or buttermilk and vanilla.

Pour into a lightly greased 13- x 9-inch baking pan. Bake at 350ยบ for 25 to 30 minutes or until a pick inserted in center comes out clean.

CHOCOLATE COKE ICING
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup cocoa
1/3 cup Coca-Cola
3 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped pecans

Combine first 3 ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring until butter melts. Remove from heat; stir in powdered sugar, vanilla, and pecans. Spoon immediately over warm cake.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Other People's Blogs

Some mornings I get up and I make the fatal mistake of reading other people's blogs before I begin to write on my own blog:

http://www.dooce.com/
http://www.thepioneerwoman.com/
http://www.allthingshendrick.blogspot.com/
http://www.happinessisabutterfly.blogspot.com/

 
After which, I want to go back to bed, pull a fluffy down comforter over my head, and never write again. 

But, by the next day, I've slept and my etch-a-sketch brain has forgotten the complete intimidation and I foolishly peck out another blog post. 

Today is one of the former variety of days.  Tune in tomorrow for the latter!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Follow Me To My Other Blog!

If you arrive here by some means other than my Facebook links, you may be wondering why I haven't posted for the last couple of days.  I've been pondering finances over on my other blog lately!  You can find me there at http://www.thegreenbackanaconda.blogspot.com/!  Not sure where I'll post tomorrow so check in there if I'm not here!

Annie

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

This Blog Is Getting To Be All About Emily!



Emily's been up to her usual creativity lately!  Yesterday she went into my project room, found some available fabric, stole the fluff out of a large stuffed dog, and made a bed for Juliet!  No pattern.  No photo to copy off of.  Just Emily and her genius.  Juliet loves it!





Showing off this darling dog bed seems to have given me a venue to brag a little more on Emily's past creations!  So, here I go:

Once-upon-a-time, a younger Emily got inspired by the book The Velveteen Rabbit and whipped up a velveteen rabbit of her own:



 
Also a few years ago, Emily gave me one of her amazing Christmas gifts. 

I used to say, when confronted with children's request for things that were expensive, extravagant, or outside of the realm of possibility, "You want a WHAT?  Well, I want a PINK WILDEBEEST!"  The implication being that neither of us was going to get our wish.  So, Emily whipped up a pink wildebeest for me -- thus putting all things within the realm of possibility!  She foiled me again!



Now I say, "I want a PURPLE WATER BUFFALO!"  I expect I'll have one soon.


Monday, January 3, 2011

Disguising Utility With Luxury

Twice this week I have found myself with real estate clients, standing in front of a gaping maw of a problematic laundry area.  One was a hallway closet from which the bi-fold doors had been removed.  The other was a laundry "nook" right smack in the middle of the main bathroom of a run down 60's ranch.  Neither was the beautiful laundry room most people would prefer, if not dream of.  In both instances I said the same thing (and I MEANT IT!):  "What you do in a situation like this is find fabric that you LOVE and curtain this area off.  That way you get to look at the fabric you LOVE all the time!"

I know this because I have done this!  And I would love to have other venues in which to implement this technique because there are other fabrics that I adore!

Below is the entry hall coat closet in my house in Fayetteville.  You've probably seen this curtain many times (on Facebook or on my blog) because I often use it as a backdrop for pictures.  If you know me, you might not be surprised that it's a toile print.  I have to restrain myself from using toile in every room.  Even with much exercise of restraint, I've used it in four colors and in five different rooms in my house.  And I still want that red and gold chicken print toile somewhere too!  And the turquoise and brown toile too!  I'm hopeless!


Behind this curtain are hooks for all our winter coats.  On the high shelf are baskets for hats, bags, etc.  Below are six large plastic bin drawers for our shoes (SO nice to have the shoes near the door!).  

This next photo is driving me crazy!  I snapped it just to remember what was in the cabin so I can plan my next trip up there to clean things up (we let someone live there for awhile and they were disrespectful enough to leave it trashed) and now I can't get the edits to save so as to show you the properly cropped version!  But try to just focus on the pretty curtain.  It's a vintage blue rose pattern, very china plate-like, that I bought years ago at a garage sale for $10.  I still love it!  Here it is used to cover an interior window that was once an exterior window before they added on an enclosed sleeping porch/sunroom.  This curtain created both privacy and a backdrop for the bed.  I'm wishing I had an unsightly laundry closet that I could use it to cover!  It would just add some luxury AND I'd get to look at it often!




I have not forgotten that this blog is called FREEsourcefull.  I know that these large expanses of fabric can get expensive.  But they can also be gotten for minimal cost with good shopping of fabric store sales, lucky finds on clearance curtains, thrift store victories, or, sometimes, even dumpster miracles (see "Hampster Curtains" on this blog for a reminder!).

This same principle can also be used as curtains (obviously!), as a backdrop for a bed or sofa, as visual interest on large blank walls, in doorways, or as shower curtains.  On tip that really helps, especially to add elegance with shower curtains, is to hang curtains from floor to ceiling and from wall to wall -- not just at regular shower curtain height but all the way to the ceiling! 

This photos is from a staging job that I did.  I jury-rigged the shower curtain out of fabric that I had previously used as a tablecloth.  Ideally, if I had more of the fabric, I would have doubled the effect and put a curtain on each side, not just one.  Regardless, it's instant luxury!  And the house did sell!