How to furnish a three bedroom apartment for under a thousand dollars

First, as I have told Dick repeatedly in the past couple weeks, next time we move I am packing up every single hanger and spoon, not to mention every ziploc, clothespin, and roll of duct tape. I’m tired of going to Walmart twice a day, six days a week, for essential items like caffeine-free Mountain Dew and special holiday dark chocolate mint Lindt truffles.

At Thanksgiving I was bragging displaying my humility and thrift by sharing how cheaply we were able to furnish our apartment. Cousin Suzy, rather meanly I thought, said I was as bad as Uncle Barry. Horrors! Uncle Barry took me to SeaWorld when I was really young; other than that he’s pretty cheap. And by cheap I mean extraordinarily stingy. As in a real tightwad. And, apparently, I’m coming right along. Except I don’t think I’m as good at saving as he is. I have no idea where all that money I save goes. Probably to Walmart.

Here are a few tips for furnishing inexpensively: 1) Craigslist.com (make sure you type it in right; other similarly-named sites are just scary; trust me, and don’t click on the personal ads. Please.), 2) Local classifieds online; in Utah, that’s KSL.com, 3) garage sales, and 4) (and most important) Let your super-generous family and friends know that you are super-poor and deserving. Also, Freecycle.com is cool if it’s available in your area, as is Salvation Army (or DI, etc), but those places can be really depressing in large doses. Use caution.

Amazing furnishings at Chez Dick and Jane

king-size bed — 215, bedding from Marcy

computer desk — free for hauling it away; cool black paint from Marcy

wood table and five chairs — 65

toddler bed with mattress and bedding — 35

27-inch flat front tv — 100 (could’ve gotten a better deal if we’d held out till after Christmas, but we’re weak).

hutch — from Marcy

single bed — from Mom (I took a bedskirt too; hope that’s okay).

fancy Italian crib — from co-worker in NYC 7 years ago (thanks Leslie!)

two endtables — 35

tv stand/cabinet — 25

couch and chair — 125 (looking for a couch made me long for and really appreciate the leather couches Grandpa Dave gave us in Florida; why didn’t we strap those to the top of the minivan — that would’ve worked, right?)

girl’s dresser and two mirrors — 100

two barstools — 50, computer chair — 50 (the only new items we bought; we’re serious about sitting)

washer and dryer — 250

dishes and random kitchen items — from Mom, Grandma, and M-I-L (thanks for sending my rice cooker!)

miscellaneous items from Walmart and Target — 7 million, 536 thousand dollars and 2 cents.

Dang. We didn’t really make it under a thousand, but, not counting the millions of miscellany, we were just fifty over. Not bad. We did bring our computers and dvd player, ete, from Florida.

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I had to sic the kids on Dick to convince him to get a tree before Decemeber. But I’m compulsive about taking it down right away, too. We’re agreed that it has to be a real tree; I got a blood oath from the Christmas tree man to plant five new trees for this one.

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That curtain is hiding not-beautiful panty doors. Mostly I just like the color and saw the curtain (still in the package) for $2 at a garage sale. I think we have better pantries and closets in this 1247 square foot apartment than Marcy does in her mini-mansion.

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Check out the cool black desk. Dick discouraged me from painting it, but now he loves it!

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Those lamp shades feel just as suede-y as the bedspread. Thanks, Walmart!

Who’s a potty prodigy? Or do I mean savant? And a Christmas Ornament recipe

Susan used the potty at Old Navy yesterday. Twice. And it was her idea the second time.

I couldn’t have felt prouder if she’d won the National Book Award. Later she had an accident, though I don’t think there was anything accidental about it when it was obvious she’d been storing it up for hours. But at least Dick was home to deal with it.

We’ve had our suspicions that her “accidents” are merely a ploy to get into the tub (don’t worry, it’s not like she is bath-deprived, it’s just that she would like to bathe five times a day). So Dick let her stand in the tub while he sprinkled cold water on her. What can I say? It was bedtime. Our favorite time of the day.

Spot is walking! Really walking this time, lurchingly, across entire rooms. I cut back to once a day nursing, and now we’re back to 2-3 times a day. I’d like to get back to my regular underwear and the occasional dress. Wait, what am I saying? I have no great desire to wear a dress! Nursing is just about more than nutrition. I don’t think she needs to nurse anymore, but she still needs her mommy, and I need that gooey feeling of being able to give her something no one else can. As long as we’re breastfeeding, she is my baby.

Sally is doing great at school. She is irrationally, but not consistently, compulsive about her homework. We made cinnamon ornaments for FHE with another family in our new branch last night. Sally and Susan had a lot of fun using the Christmas cookie cutters. We found Christian symbolisms for the tree (eternal life), star (star of Bethlehem), and angel (obvious), but unfortunately could not find any way to tie gingerbread men into the true meaning of Christmas. Oh well. It was fun to get to know our new friends. They are going to have us over for chicken curry to reciprocate. Who loves Indian food?

Cinnamon Ornaments

Needed:

1 cup Cinnamon

1 cup Applesauce

2 T white school glue

other spices as desired (nutmeg, cloves, allspice, etc)

Wax paper, cookie cutters, skewers or chopsticks for impaling, ribbon for hanging.

Mix thoroughly. Roll or pat out to 1/4 inch thickness on wax paper. Cut with cookie cutters or other improvised tools. Poke holes (make sure they go all the way through) in a part of the ornament that won’t break off (if you put a hole in a gingerbreadman’s head it’ll probably be too weak to hold; you know how men are). Allow to dry for 24-48 hours or in a low oven for a couple hours. Enjoy!

Fun with Dick and Jane

Every day people tell me they don’t blog, they don’t blog about their children, or they won’t let their children blog, because they’re worried about internet predators. I say Internet Predators, BRING IT ON.

Just kidding. I want to protect my kids and respect their privacy, but at the same time, I think everyone (even moms! and kids!) should blog.

As a parent you have to balance risk and reward. Do you let your kids ride in a car? Probably you do. Do you make wearing a seatbelt a condition of riding in a car? I’m sure you do.

So, I say blog, but blog wisely.

For me, today, that means switching to fake incredibly clever fictional names for my kids and husband.

(It’s harder than you think to come up with incredibly clever fictional names. Naming them in real life is nothing compared to choosing the names that will be immortalized once What About Mom makes it big).

And I have to be honest. Terms like “Princess” or “Monkey” or “The Boy” or “Big Sister” sound a little too precious — especially the royalty ones or the “Little Man” stuff. Of course my daughters would love it if I called them Princess Ruby, Ariel, and Mean Guy, but I told them we fought a whole revolution to get rid of those Disney Princesses.

Then — what’s a good name for your better half? I tried to think of a Monopoly name for the Man, but June snagged the best one for Marvin Gardens. At Rocks in My Dryer, Shannon uses two great names — Hubs and Mr. Dryer. So I thought about Mr. Mom, but I wouldn’t want to give the impression that my husband has any clue where the vacuum cleaner is (or the grocery store, for that matter).

And then there’s my love-hate relationship with pearls and pot roast. I want a theme for our names, but what? Who or what are we? Who am I? Basically, though I call myself a “writer/editor” when I’m feeling perky, or a “homemaker” when I’m feeling righteous, I’m basically a 1950s-style housewife.

Not a glamorous desperate housewife with a big house and a small body, but, really, a June Cleaver-type without the pearls and high heels (or the bra, usually).

Inspiration came, as it often does, from a book — this time one my daughter was reading. Even if she did resist my diligent reading instruction for the first six years of her life, she can now READ. Last week she read a few Dick and Jane books, et Voila! We are now the Dick and Jane family. I know Dick and Jane were brother and sister, but I am not the first to conceive of them as marrieds (see the Jim Carrey movie!).

Beyond the obvious appeal of being able to refer to my dear, dear husband as Dick legitimately, it’s just a simple and elegant solution. My three daughters will now be Sally (6), Susan (3), and Spot (1). Dick can’t get too mad about his name, knowing that Spot is named after the dog. (What’s more, President Hinckley calls his son Dick).

I’m curious to know what (if anything) you do to blog safely. In the meantime, I’ll keep posting pictures, because while sticks and stones may break my bones, the photoshopping of images will never hurt me. (I hope).

Recently watched

House has been a bit (quite a bit) disappointing lately, and Dick and I are dawdling in our watching of the final season of Alias. We have three episodes to go, and for once, I’m not dying (or not really being killed, get it?) to see what happens next. Luckily, Blockbuster stocks old TV shows, even old shows that only played for one season, including possibly the best high school show ever, Freaks and Geeks.freaks-and-geeks.jpg

I love the characters because they act the way real kids act. They don’t have the fake sophistication and cynicism that taints several John Hughes movies, even the best high school movie ever (Some Kind of Wonderful), and that really became distracting beginning with Beverly Hills, 90210.

Maybe Freeks and Geeks succeeded in portraying honest conflict and motivation because it was set in 1980. Sad that even 1980 is the good old days now, a gentler time when only the ‘bad’ kids have sex and drink beer. When a kid finding out that his dad is having an affair is devastated, and more significantly, surprised and disbelieving.

Can somebody just please tell me why we didn’t have a mathlete team when I was in high school? Melinda and I would’ve rocked the mathletes!!

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Surprisingly not as bad as it could have been, or much better than it had to be . . . Transformers. I can’t say that I played much (at all) with Transformers as a kid. I don’t think my little brothers did either. We weren’t a Transformer or Barbie type family — oh, how the times have changed. And speaking of movies, and Barbie, Barbie as the Island Princess is pretty good too. Not as good as Princess and the Pauper, of course, but that one set a pretty high standard.

transformers.jpgTransformers was really entertaining. The female love interest was a bit (quite a bit, or in other words, extremely) slutty, but the hero was suitably earnest and humble, yet capable of great things when pressed into the service of mankind. Optimus Prime sounded a bit too much like a Cecile B. Demille God. I think we even got into a discussion of Christ-centered analogic works versus areligious mythologies (like Lord of the Rings). And Dumbledore being gay — was J. K. Rowling hoping to get more conservative Christians upset about her wizards? Afraid sales are slumping from lack of controversy?

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What I would give a great deal to see, almost, but not quite, seven years of servitude:

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Jennifer Garner and Kevin Kline in Cyrano de Bergerac on Broadway. I saw Cyrano first as an impressionable NHS student on a bus trip to Cedar City, Utah. My shirt was wet with tears as we left the theater. Of course, I’ll cry, embarrassedly, at anything, but still. Gerard Depardieu’s French version is great, even if his Roxane is pretty blah, and the play itself is greatly lyrical (in English anyway, I can’t read French, unfortunately). I might have to watch Steve Martin’s version again for a fix of some sort, and now that I know about it, I’m greatly sorry to have missed Christopher Plummer in the musical version. Angela and Laura, maybe you guys could see this and sigh once or twice for me?

Adventures in yogurt making

I used to think, back when I was young and arrogant, that cooking was a pretty lame pasttime, a drudgery to be endured by downtrodden housewives. And sometimes it is a chore to throw together one more dinner on a tight budget. But, while I like a good greasy fast-food meal as much as my kids do, I hate the average store-bought prepared entree and frozen vegetables (except corn and peas) and most canned goods and even store-bought staples like bread and tortillas.

After I went to Europe I had another prepared food to sneer at: yogurt, or what goes by the name of yogurt in most American grocery stores. Could there be any yuckier, low- or non-fat, too sweet awfulness?

(Now obviously, if I had the budget to buy gourmet brands, I’m sure the wonders of the American supermarket would be more appealing. But I digress.)

I’ve learned to make bread and tortillas (flour not corn), and noodles, and freezer jam. I haven’t found a noodle recipe that’s worth the effort, but the others are. In Cairo I made spaghetti sauce from actual tomatoes and cottage cheese from actual milk. And since my favorite restaurant right now is Bombay House, I make a mean saag shorba.

We’ve been staying with (“staying” sounds better than “living;” I think it sounds slightly less moocher-like) Marcy now for a couple months, and it’s been good for my culinary pretensions. Marcy’s a good audience; Dick likes and eats anything I make (he better!), which unfortunately means I don’t always know if something is really good or if he is just really hungry. Marcy is more critical (in a good way), and she appreciates, better than a man (besides all those Emeril-wannabes) how much work goes into a meal.

Marcy’s kids have to drink special milk and have butter slathered on every piece of toast because they’re weight-ally challenged. We don’t have that problem in our family, but I was happy to figure out how to make high-fat yogurt, with, incidentally, less sugar.

Jane’s Yogurt

Ingredients

1 quart milk (skim-whole; some people actually use water and powdered milk–what’s the point? Whole tastes best, obviously)

1/4-1/2 cup sugar (1/4 cup for plain yogurt to be used in savory dishes; 1/2 for just-right eating yogurt)

1/2-1 cup heavy whipping cream (I figure if you’re going to the trouble of making something, you might as well make it super-yummy, but, you can leave this out altogether without endangering anything).

1/4 cup plain yogurt or yogurt starter (can be purchased in healthfood store, I assume; we just use regular plain yogurt)

flavorings, as desired

Directions

Bring milk almost to a boil (one website said 185 degrees; I think boiling is like 212, but I don’t have a thermometer and don’t really care to get one at this point, so “almost to a boil” works for me) and then take off heat. Stir in sugar and cream. Allow to cool to almost room temperature (this takes about an hour or so. The same website said 110 degrees here, but I just stick my finger in periodically ’til it’s the same “warm” as the water I use to proof yeast). Stir in plain yogurt and pour into two mason jars (a 1 qt and a 1 pt jar work perfectly) and seal with some of those cool white plastic mason jar lids they sell now (how great is it too throw out all those rusty metal ones? You can store it in any glass container, and plastic might work too). Incubate overnight in an oven with the oven light on (just like you would sourdough starter). Add any pureed fruit or vanilla extract or other flavorings; I think it’s pretty perfect just as it is, even before it’s been chilled. Keep refrigerated.