Category Archives: Money

Pollyanna versus the Money Monster

Lyda here.

Oh, that old Money Monster keeps growling at my door. I’ve been working on taming it for more than three years. It still growls at me, but the actual bites have gotten less.

Things were bad. Really bad. “Life completely fallen apart and losing everything” bad. I felt the Monster crushing me in his slavering jaws, and I surrendered all hope.

Fortunately, I have amazing friends and family. They didn’t let me spend the rest of my days curled up under a park bench.  They helped me, pulled me, pushed me, to deal with the immediate stuff. They were there for me every time I started to give in to the despair.

Once the immediate crisis was resolved, I still had to deal with the fallout. I just felt overwhelmed. I had to take one day at a time, slowly rebuilding my life from the ashes.

This book, Money Drunk, Money Sober, by Julia Cameron and Mark Bryan, helped so much. I have been working my way through it over and over again. Every time I get flustered or frustrated, I just return to the book. I cannot recommend it enough. It should be required for everyone.

Even figuring out where to start rebuilding my financial life was scary. This article helped me. My favorite part is The Prioritizer. This works for anything, not just financial goals but life goals. It can help you prioritize organizing, what movie to see first, or anything else.

There are tips of all kinds at CNN Money: Money 101.

Making manageable realistic goals helped a lot. Baby steps. I’ve been paying off debt for three years. It continues to be a priority. Now that I have the debt-repayment in hand, I can focus on some other steps.

Like improving my credit score.

This week I went on Credit Karma and checked my credit score. You can do it on their website for free. You can also see and print out your three credit reports.

I can see that I’ve got some old stuff on my reports that should have been cleared, so my next step is to work on getting these items removed.

One step at a time.

I’ve made a lot of progress, but it feels like there’s still a long hard slog to get where I want to be.

But I know I can get there if I just keep moving. Slowly is okay. Pausing for a while is okay. Even moving back a bit once in a while is okay. Crawling under a park bench and staying forever is not an option.

One of these days, I will look that Money Monster in the eye and realize that it isn’t really a monster. It’s just a beast, and a beast can be tamed. A beast can become an ally. The Money Beast and I can work together.

One of these days…



Pollyanna’s Lack of Resolve

Hey, Anna-Liza here. Looks like I’ve been letting Lyda shoulder the whole burden here lately. Maybe I should make a resolution about that. Then again, maybe not.

I’ve always been a bit skeptical about the whole New Year’s resolution thing. Like most people, I’m perhaps too aware of my weaknesses. Whenever it comes to resolution time, my tendency has been to try to completely reform my character, get really enthusiastic until the second or third setback, then decide I’m just a miserable failure doomed to a life of mediocrity and give up, beating myself up thoroughly in the process.

So. Not going to do that.

Then again, while the start of a new year is sort of an arbitrary marker created by humans, with only a vague corollary anymore to the natural world, there is the general awareness of an ending and a beginning, and the whole “fresh start” thing has its appeal.

Laurie Perry, aka Crazy Aunt Purl, seems to have come to the same conclusion about resolutions a tad ahead of me. A year ago, she whittled her resolutions down to two, with a good bit of tolerance and realistic goals about acheiving them. She even allowed for setbacks and backsliding, smart woman that she is. She did really well with them, too, even with some really scary life-stuff to contend with along the way. This year, she has a longer list, but I like the fact that several of them are things she is going to try out, rather than things she’s committing to do forever. Like Zumba. (Which does sound fun. About the only kind of exercise I like involves yoga or dance).

Last year, I didn’t make any resolutions. Then I made my Bucket List (and Half-Bucket List – time’s running short on that one), which seemed to cover a lot. This year, I’m thinking about a few things I might want to change about or add to my life , but I haven’t actually decided if they’re really “resolutions” or not.

Health: I’ve never done really well with the health-related resolutions, maybe because I really do enjoy pretty good health. My diet could be better, but it’s not awful. I don’t get enough sleep, and I definitely don’t get enough exercise.

I don’t much care for working out – it’s just boring. I have been a fan of Nia for years, but even that has palled on me. The yoga studio in the basement of my office building offers a really good discount to people who work there, but I can’t seem to drag my ass to a lunchtime class a couple of times a week anymore. Pathetic, no? But it’s hard to give up things I really love to do in order to make time for something that feels like a chore. Giving up work or even more sleep is not an option.

Sleep? Oh yeah, that. I’ve finally realized that I really, really need some quiet time while I’m still awake, all to myself, every day. Frequently, the only way I get it is to stay up after everyone else has gone to bed. Not getting it and trying to schedule it all for the weekend makes me a cranky girl – which isn’t good for anyone, believe me. But I need sleep, too. And I need to get up by 6 AM to have any hope of catching the bus on time on weekdays. Quite the dilemma.

Diet, well … I’m not exactly Captain Willpower. Most days I mostly choose reasonably healthy stuff, but I can’t resist at least a small sweet thing after lunch and dinner, or fried food. Or almost any kind of potato dish, especially if it includes cheese, sour cream, or bacon. Or bacon, for that matter. (I won’t ever consider becoming a vegetarian, because I can’t am not willing to give up barbecue or bacon).

Craft/creativity: I would like to post more regularly here, but I know better than to make it a resolution. I would also like to have more time to craft, get more things finished, stop promising stuff that stresses me out, and try some new things. I think this one will be more of a list of things I’d like to try, too. One thing – I definitely want to do more designing.

Digression warning: did you see that I’ve got another post up on Knitting Daily? It’s about designing, and it’s here. My pattern, the Casual Flair Cardigan, has been downloaded over 12,500 times!

Then there’s just general life stuff. Family, personal growth, community … let’s not even talk about money.

So, I think this is going to be my list of resolutions goals ideals things to keep in mind. In no particular order:

  • Secure my own oxygen mask before helping others with theirs.
  • Do at least one creative thing a day, even if it’s just one row of stockinette or choosing a pattern for some stash yarn.
  • Stop and ask myself, “Is this more important than my goal of … ?” when I am considering spending money, effort or time on something trivial or just “extra.” Remember that the answer may be “yes.”
  • Say “thank you” and “I love you” more often.

I think I can handle that. And if some days I don’t, hey, I’ll still be keeping them in mind.

Pollyanna Celebrates Twenty-Eleven

Lyda here. Hippy Gnu Ewe to all y’all!

First, I have to share this Chem Time Clock – a wonderful thing for the science geek in all of us (especially My Brother the Doctor who loves both clocks and chemistry).

And now for something completely different…

I got a great exercise from an email from Naomi of You can get her emails too – just sign up for them.

One of my teachers used to give us a similar assignment every January. Here’s my version of the assignment (which I was reminded to do thanks to Naomi):

1)  Think of the three or five or ten best moments of 2010 for you personally. Yes, this is hard, isn’t it?

2)  Now look at what is underneath the good stuff. Is there something similar, something that connects them? Or a couple of things?

3)  Now, think of the same number of the worst moments from 2010 for you personally. Easier, yes?

4)  Now look at what is underneath the bad stuff. Is there something similar, something that connects them?

For me, my good moments were related to:  Deep Connection, Full Commitment, and Honoring my Self. Thanks to Naomi, these words are now on a sticky note on my computer, to help me remember that this is what I want.

I discovered that my bad moments were connected to not honoring my self (especially not speaking my truth and not taking care of myself), not keeping my commitments to myself or to others, and feeling disconnected. Hmm… Funny how that works.

I also found that I still have work to do on some familiar problem areas – I mean, growth opportunities. Specifically, money and self-care. I think these two things are part of honoring my self and keeping my commitments to myself as well as to others. So, once again, these are areas that I will be working on this year. Oh joy.

Here we go, into Ides of January…

Scary, kids. Feel free to hold hands.

A Pollyanna Tutorial: Make Your Own No-Sew Everyday Napkins

Hi, Anna-Liza here. Frugalista and craftista that I am, I don’t like spending money on throwaway items, and I do like making stuff. When making stuff actually saves me money, is low-stress, and lets me reduce my negative impact on the environment, and makes my life feel more luxurious, all at once, that’s Happy Dance time.

So without further ado, Making Your Own No-Sew Everyday Napkins.

First off, there are some choices you’ll need to make – size of napkins, and what they’re made of. Remember, these are meant to be used every day. It feels all fancy to be using cloth napkins for everyday meals, which is a really nice feeling to have. At the same time, they cost hardly nuthin’ to make and to maintain. So, while there are some practical considerations which I’ll explain directly, also consider what you like – colors, graphics, feel.

I tend to make my napkins small – between 13″ and 15″ square, depending on the fabric. My kids seem to have an easier time with that size, and it’s more than adequate for wiping mouths and hands. However, it’s a little small for full lap coverage. If you want a napkin that will entirely cover your lap, you’ll need something at least 18″ square. How many napkins you’ll get from a width of fabric will depend on a few things, not least will be the actual width of your fabric! Keep in mind, you’re not likely to get exact dimensions.

The next choice has to do with what kind of fabric you choose. Obviously, you want something that’s machine washable and dryable. For this particular project, an even-weave, not-too-heavy cotton or cotton/poly blend will work best. Go for a blend with more cotton than poly. You will want to avoid knits, very heavy fabrics, or weaves that don’t rip evenly along a straight thread.

As far as color goes, dark, busy prints hide stains best. Solid colors will be the worst for stains showing. (Of course, I will be demonstrating with a light floral with a lot of white background, just to be ornery. But hey, the fabric was free).

Sometimes, there will be things that won’t come out completely in the wash, usually oily stuff. Unless you want to be throwing away your napkins and making more pretty frequently, which sort of defeats the purpose, something that hides stains is definitely better.

If you want to be really frugal, use an old sheet. I have some that don’t fit any of the beds I currently own, as well as some that are worn too thin to use in some spots, but have a lot of good fabric left. These will make excellent napkins, and odd-shaped leftovers can be used as rags or patches for mending things.

If it’s a sheet, you’ll need to trim off the bits. Elastic and corners if it’s a fitted sheet, hems if it’s flat. Whether it’s a sheet or yard goods, you’ll need to take off the selvedges. The easiest way is to snip about an inch into the fabric next to, and parallel to, the selvedge edge. Then just rip the thing off. Square up the ends the same way – snip and rip.

If the fabric isn’t pretty much rectangular at this point, snip & rip some more to take off any odd flaps or tags that are left. Once you have a rectangle, roughly measure it to see what you have to work with. Or, not.

Next, fold the fabric lengthwise, either in quarters or in thirds. Sometimes I’ll fold it in half and then in thirds, if it’s wide enough. Whatever gives you approximately the size you want in a napkin.

Folding lengthwise in thirds

Snip & rip, making your snips right at the folds.

See? Thirds.

Snip ...

... and rip!

Last, more of the same, but this time you’re folding, snipping and ripping in the direction perpendicular to the way you were before. There will be more folding.

Don’t go all superhero on yourself and try to rip more than four thicknesses of fabric at a time. First, the snips might not line up so well and you’ll get more size variation than you might want. Second, you might hurt yourself! Nursing wrist or shoulder injuries is no way for a craftista to be spending her valuable time.

Better than therapy!

You’ll need to tidy up hanging threads and stuff, then you’ll want to wash and dry your new napkins. This will get rid of any last bits of thread or lint, plus “finishing” the edges nicely. You don’t need to do anything to the edges at all, but you can hem them if you’re really that much of a masochist you want to.

Washed, folded, ready to use. No hemming required.

I’ve been using my first set for several years now, and I’ve only recently needed to make new ones. The first ones haven’t worn out, but they’re getting a bit dingy. I’ll keep them to use when we have spaghetti or something else that stains, but I’ll use my nice new ones for everything else.


Pollyanna’s Gonna Make a Lot of Bread

Hey, Anna-Liza here. I recently acquired a slightly used bread machine from Craigslist, and made my first loaf with it today. Which is already almost gone. W00t!!

To back up a bit, South African Knitting Buddy (hereafter known as SAKB) is a really good cook, and I especially admire her baking. In addition, she has superhero budgeting powers, and feeds her family of four (well) on a budget of $50/week.

I know.

Now, we’ve talked about how she does it, and a large part of it is her absolute lack of reliance on convenience foods. She makes almost everything herself. Okay, I think she probaby buys canned tomato sauce (on sale, of course), but she makes all their spaghetti sauce, salsa, stuff like that from scratch. And bread. BTW, I am not the only one asking her to blog about how she does this. She just says “But it’s SO BORING!” If you don’t agree and want her to blog, too, let me know.

Now we both agree that it’s not likely I’ll be able to go quite as far as she does with the “no convenience foods” lifestyle, but there are some things I can definitely do. No matter how tight our food budget has gotten, I’ve always bought good bread. I don’t want my kids to get addicted to the pasty cheap kind. Unfortunately, the kind of bread I like is $4.50 or more a loaf – usually about a one-and-a-half pound loaf, but still. And SAKB says she makes all their bread – just as nummy and healthy as what I buy – for about $1/loaf.

Geeminy Christmas. And I used to bake my own bread … back before kids. And I was good at it. But as enjoyable and satisfying as making bread by hand was, the reason I gave it up was because it was so very time-consuming. Hence the bread machine, which SAKB says she couldn’t do without for making bread on the scale that she does.

I think I’m going to have to wean myself and my family off convenience foods gradually, a few items at a time. Bread seems like a really good place to start, since with a machine all it takes is remembering to put the ingredients in the machine and set the timer. Sort of a convenience food after all, only better.

So I mentioned to Knitting Sprite (chatting on Facebook) that I wanted to find a good bread machine, used and reasonably cheap. And she immediately responded with a link to a Craigslist ad, for a used machine for sale in my own town – turns out, only a few blocks from home. Clever Sprite.

I brought it home the next day. It’s an Oster model 5839, makes up to a 2-lb loaf. Also makes dough for stuff like pizza crust , which I plan to try. I set it up last night to have fresh bread this morning, and it worked perfectly. I awoke to the aroma of bread baking, and the loaf was done at 8:30. I made a hearty multigrain whole wheat bread, and it came out perfect. And, as I mentioned, the whole 2 lb loaf is almost gone. In fact, as soon as I post this I’m going to go make another one, and I plan chicken stew to go with it for dinner.


Once I have the bread-making rhythm down, I’ll add making my own spaghetti sauce. Another thing I used to do and was good at and gave up. What was I thinking?

Pollyanna’s New Year

Hey, Anna-Liza here. My New Year’s plans include being Darlin’ K-less at midnight, as he has a fire gig up in the mountains and won’t make it back until after midnight, but that’s okay – it’s a great gig. And taking my kidlets to a pajama party with friends, where Darlin’ K will join us when he can with prudent driving. (Y’hear that, K? Prudent driving. It won’t hurt us at all if you’re half an hour later than you thought you’d be – the point is to get there in one piece. And that goes for everyone else on the road tonight).

But I digress. Speaking of which …

Did you know that January 1st is Lyda’s birthday? Yes it is. She’s going to be starting this year with some really significant changes, as you know if you’ve been reading our stuff. She’s had a rough 2009, and her personal year begins with the western world’s year, so maybe wish her a double Happy New Year, eh?

And to you, too. Everyone I know has had a rough 2009, except maybe my daughter who carried and gave birth to her daughter in 2009, you might just recall. So for all of us …

A very happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year to you and yours, in every way possible. And may we all remember to love and take care of one another. Welcome, 2010!

Pollyanna versus the Sprinklers of Doom

Lyda here.

Well, maybe they weren’t Sprinklers of Doom per se, but they did go on about halfway through my yard sale this morning. I had to laugh, and the people who were shopping helped me quickly cover the sprinkler heads with bins and such, so we didn’t get too wet. At that point, I declared a 1-cent sale and a lot of stuff went off to new homes. Only dripping a bit…

Fortunately the books didn’t get wet. That’s what matters, right? And they all went off to new homes with bookaphiles.

We were up at 5:30 a.m., and started carrying stuff out of the apartment pretty much right away. One of the Resident Sith Master’s friends got here at 6 a.m. to help, and the neighbor loaned us a hand truck to cart the stuff down to the street.

I swear, y’all, there were people there as soon as I put the first thing on the grass. Every time the guys brought a fresh load, these people started scrabbling through the boxes like we’d hidden diamonds inside. It was wild! But they bought a lot of stuff so I was happy.

After the first rush, there was a short lull which gave me time to actually unwrap the stuff and put it out. Then more people and more, stopping their cars any which way and grabbing stuff and standing in line to pay me. It was a yard sale frenzy out there!

I learned long ago, the secret with a successful yard sale is put them out early and price things low. I didn’t sell anything for over $10 – even RSM’s old bike went for $5, although I could have sold it ten times over. Most of it went for $1 or less, and people walked away happily with boxes of stuff.

And it was all over by 8, although I had to wait for someone to come pick up some big things they’d paid for. I paid my helpers more than they expected, and all together still cleared almost a hundred dollars.

I left the remnants on the grass with a “FREE” sign. Hopefully it will all be gone by nightfall. And I won’t have to pile it in my car and take it to donate. Cut out the middle man.

I’m achy and sore from all the work – we spent yesterday packing and clearing stuff too – but I feel like we’ve made a lot of progress toward the move. 

Next step: finding a new apartment. Scary, kids! It’s not finding a place, it’s finding one that’s in my budget and that will take the cats too. Sigh.

For now I’m off to the recycling center, as there’s a pile of bottles and cans in my garage. My now almost-empty garage.

Soda bottles and cans of course.

Although mimosas would have been nice this morning. And a margarita sounds terrific right about now.

But I digress…