Friday, July 9, 2010

Fiber Fever

Just one more you say....

so you can knit the pattern you really want instead of the one you though you wanted...

And into the yarn store you go.

No! no..., not that! Anything but that!

The dreaded unanticipated sale of silk yarn at 30-50% off.

First, the green skeins got me...

And, then the gold ones...

Thursday, July 8, 2010

I've been bitten

Do you have the hankering to own every model and variation of every knitting needle out there?

Do you use your floor as your filing space?

Do you stare at the ceiling wondering how many more shelves you can fit in so you can stack up more bags of wool?

Do you have library cards at multiple towns so you can gain access to more books on knitting?

Have you recently taken a tour of all the knitting shops in town and realized you thought they were all wonderful even though they all had, well, lotsa yarn?

Do you try to knit and type at the same time?

Then alas, you've been bitten by the knitting bug just like me.

It all started innocently enough at the library when a wonderful new book Custom Knits by Wendy Bernard came out. I was overwhelmed by the marvelous patterns, lovely prose, excellent color schemes, sensible directions, usable variations that I dashed into my closet and unearthed my ancient trove of knitting supplies from 20 years ago. A quick inventory of needles, a stock of patterns and off I went to tour the shops.

Oh my. At the first shop, I tumbled straight back into the arms of Rowan, my first true wooly love. Round and round I went from indecisive "oh, love that" to "yikes, feels soOo good", and "omg, Omg, OMG!" until I put in a special order for some Rowan cotton bamboo for a lovely tunic.

Of course, the delivery time was 8-12 weeks, just enough time to get me into some major trouble.

With itchy feet and itchier fingers, off I went to check out the other stores.

Geez, Walmart sells acrylic. Only acrylic. Well, I know where to go to pick me up some of that. They were out of the usual useful and inexpensive widgets like a row counter. Uh-uhuhn.

Better luck at the next joint where I hit the silk jackpot! Yi, yi, yi, yi, Yi! And they had plenty for all my patterns. I managed to get out the door with enough yarn for two major projects. It could have been worse. I might have qualified for the loyalty bonus on the first shot.

Time to start knitting....

3 weeks later...


Hey, it looks great. But I don't look like the model.

Better loose 30 pounds. Yah.

Uh...That shell just cost me $100 in yarn...

My shipment of yarn isn't due to arrive for another month maybe.

New plan... to the library (na, Na, na, Na, na Na, na - that would be the tune from Batman)

Need tiny projects knitted on tiny needles with intricate patterns and twisty turns...

Purses... don't need more purses, bah, humbug.

Socks. Yeah, like that's exciting.

Knitted flowers???

Shoes. I'll think about that later. Much later.

Baby sweaters... don't know no babies.

socks. boring.

hats? You've got to be kidding.

A knitted slipcover for my sofa. OMG. My sofa is 8 feet long. My shipment will come in long before then.

socks. Is there some obsession with socks?

socks. Maybe there is something to this.

Sock Innovations - I'm the pattern with your name written on it.

My name is spelled Lindy, not Lindsay.

I'm tiny and I'm intricate.

Oh yeah. You've still mis-spelled my name.

Take me home. Try me. I'm due back here in 3 weeks anyway.

Well, but only because I'm taking the Vogue Ultimate Sock Book too.


3 weeks later...

Dang, do my feet look fat?

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Don't throw it away!

1) Lotions and Potions - purchased a body lotion with lovely fragrance but found out at home that if you use it all over - it's kinda strong? Mix with a fragrance free body lotion and voila! Or just add a few drops of perfume to the fragrance free stuff.

2) What to do with used vegetable cooking oil? Its very unhealthy to re-use cooking oil more than a few times. Aside from storing it for later use as lamp oil, hot oil makes a great de-greaser. If you have greasy pot lids, brush on some hot oil until the grease spots run off. You can then clean the lid and it will be grease free. This works with bacon or Crisco too but it's harder to clean this if the oil congeals.

3) Old socks especially the very stretchy sports socks or the ones the airlines offer - these are excellent shoe covers. Keeps the dust off and keeps your shoes away from your clean cloths in the suitcase.

4) Old "Cafe Steamers" plastic containers - What can't you do with this one! The two piece container with the perforated insert makes soap dishs, drains nicely for plants and anything else. Reuse as a draining system for single servings of pasta, or add water to the bottom to microwave food without getting it soggy.

5) Those little shampoo bottles from hotels or plastic bottles from prescriptions, etc... - fill again with shampoo or other personal supplies. The most obvious use is travel but the real deal is the home emergency kit. You need 3-14 days worth of supplies for everyone in the family. Don't forget to jot down the expiration date. You can also put together personal pharmacy kits with small amounts of useful OTC products. It can save you money and your day if you've got something for whatever ails you on hand.

6) The tough, clear plastic bags with snaps or zippers - I find many pillow cases and sheets are packaged in these. Obviously these are always useful. Small ones are useful for creating kits (first aid, cosmetics) for travel. Larger ones are useful to holding dirty laundry in your luggage. Use as a dustcover. Got equipment to grommet handles onto these bags? Great totes.

7) Old sheets - if you sew, what can't you do with this? If you can't sew, try fabric glue. How about laundry bags for your delicates? Toss delicates and sweaters straight into the washing machine. As long as the dye can tolerate this treatment, the fabric will be fine. You will remember to use the front-loader with the delicate cycle for your woolens right?

8) Old shoelaces especially from sports shoes - These are just about the toughest cord I've ever encountered. I've used this repair a salad spinner (the kind where you pull on the cord and it spins), used these to replace drawstrings in sweatpants, laundry bags, the list goes on.

9) Filters for air purifiers - vacuum gently to renew. Even better, layer cheesecloth on the filter when it's new. When the cheesecloth looks like the lint filter in your dryer, throw this away (or look up suggestions for how to use dryer lint - just be sure you aren't allergic to this stuff). Generally, extends the life of your filter by a year.

10) Lemon or orange peels - zest it first thing. Dry the zest and it'll last for months in that old spice bottle you're reusing right? No need to purchase lemon/orange peel. Hint, drying goes faster if you use the leftover heat from your toaster/oven. Don't overheat. It's supposed to be slow and gentle.

11) Feel the need to stock up on crushed red pepper flakes, chili oil and whole red peppers for stewing? Notice it fades before you can use it all? For most people, it's all the same red chili. You can't taste the difference between the Facing Heaven chili's vs. the Tien Tsin vs. the Dundicut's can you? (Can you? You have my respect) Buy a bag of the whole stuff. Drop whole or crushed peppers into oil to make your own. You can use a blender or a mortar & pestle to crush the peppers.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Extremely Useless Frugal Living Tips

I feel like I'm part of a flight of lemmings, the recent economy has us all trying to think of ways to save economize.

However, I've been working on frugal tips for a long time, close to 20 years. Reading the blatantly obvious and superficial frugal living tips posted on the web are a huge waste of time. Most are obvious copies of tips from other publications.

Here is a list of some frustrating and useless tips.

1) Grow your own vegetable and herbs to save money.

Have you ever made pesto or pizza Marguerite? These recipes will kill most pots of basil after one or two dinners. And some of us who live in expensive portion of the country are paying top dollar for real estate. You want us to devote it to growing tomatos?!!!

2) Buy in bulk

Hey, I'm single. It will rot if it is perishable. And if it isn't perishable, it will cost you extremely expensive real estate if you live in an expensive portion of the country. How much pantry space do I want to devote to beans?

3) Buy in bulk and divide it up with friends

I've tried this. First, your schedules don't really ever match. Second, do you ever really agree brands and types of food? Astonishingly, people get really picky especially on items like TP or soap.

4) Clip coupons.

Hum. It takes about an hour to clip the coupons from the local circular... then add some time to each trip to the store to match the coupon to the desired items... Average savings for me... less than $3 everytime. It is easier and requires less focus to just use mass transit or a bicycle to get to the store. You save gas money, eliminate the need for a gym and since you have to carry all the stuff back, you limit any impulse items.

5) Make "free" presents for others by baking cookies or knitting socks or whatever...

Free??!! Have you seen the prices for butter or wool recently? What is your time worth even if you are unemployed? However, I agree this can be lower cost than an equivalent purchase.

6) Winterize or insulate your house to save heating/cooling costs.

This is not a useless tip. It's extremely valuable. However, it's been repeated so often, I hate it. Kinda like Madonna's "Material Girl". And, yeah, it's the first thing I do whenever I move into a new place.

7) Cook at home instead of eating out

See comment about tip 6. And doesn't this depend on what kind of groceries you purchase?

8) Use less energy by 1) washing in cold water or 2) use a clothes line instead of a machine

Obviously 1) you are not allergic to dust mites and 2) it isn't raining outside and 3) if you hang it to dry inside, you're still not allergic to dust mites...

9) Buy energy star appliances

By golly, is changing your appliances really that frugal? What if I change jobs and have to move?

10) Buying a coupon book to save money

Check those books with an eagle eye. I was offered a restaurant coupon book with close to 60% discounts had I used all the coupons. However, internet reviews of these restaurants revealed most were... less than exciting. Much less exciting than eating at home.

11) Avoid daily cups of coffee from those national chains....

Argh. Enough already. I never started this nasty expensive habit. You want good coffee? Use a french press.

Some frugal living tips that worked for me.

1) Accept lower quality of life and figure out how to get around this.

I paid less for a condo that was close to the railroad tracks and to the airfield. Yes, it is noisy. I wear earplugs at night that I picked up at the Amazon Friday sale for 75% off. You get used to the noise during the day.

And it doesn't have laundry hookups but has laundry facilities in the building next door. I spent $14 on a special laundry bag which will haul heavy loads more easily. But my place is quieter. And costs less.

I rent out my spare bedroom. What did I pay more for the spare bedroom? To get into the 2 bdrm, 2 bath single family entry level market and keep my property values stable.

On the plus side, it's really easy to use the train to commute to work. Free, too since my employer is generous enough to distribute annual train passes to employee.

2) CFL's have been written to death. LED's aren't really ready for prime time (although this may change within the next year). I use LED night lights with motion detectors. It extends the life of the CFL's by eliminating the need for quick short bursts of light (less than 15 minutes).

3) Rechargable batteries with a "smart" charger (one that will monitor the battery and recharge/discharge as needed)

4) Insulate your windows (after you've already weatherstripped). You can use insulating panels but the downside is complete light blockage or inconvenient removal. Others use window quilts or Roman drapes. If it is physically possible, why not just tuck your curtains under your blinds? It is quite effective.

5) Drinks are always expensive. Downgrade across the board. If you are drinking bottled water, switch to filtered water. Use the less expensive filtering option that gives you great taste. Those filters aren't really extracting all that much lead, arsenic or cadmium out of your drinking water because it's pretty safe to start with. What, you thought the water treatment plants don't have filtering technology?

6) Dieting is one of the most effective ways to lower your grocery and medical bills! Never eat out - the food is very fatty. And eat less! I'm not joking. I brown bagged my lunches, cut the volume of food consumed by 2/3 and went from gaining about 3-5 lbs per year to losing over 10 lbs per year. I don't have to cook as frequently.

7) Eating healthy is another effective way to lower your grocery and medical bills. Substitute beans for meats, oatmeal for processed cereals...adding poached chicken to my roster of recipes has been a real money, time and calorie saver.

8) You wanna save energy? Don't want to pile on another blanket/comforter and spend lots of money, ya da, ya da? Wear a sweatshirt and pants to bed. Want to take it to the max? The body loses the most heat from the head, neck, hands & wrists and ankles and feet. Wear gloves, socks, arm/leg warmers, a hat or scarf to bed. However, I am not so extreme that I wear my boots to bed.

9) Good cookwear saves time, money, is more energy efficient, offers higher performance and lasts longer. I once tested a decent quality vs. high quality skillet. The high quality skillet cooked the food in 1/2 the time. Plus the high quality skillet has a lifetime warranty. I'll be sending it back to the company for replacement. Just as soon as it wears out. I'm sure it will one of these decades.

10) The Internet offers free e-books, free movies and TV. Have you considered canceling your cable subscription?

11) Due to a generous employee phone plan, I eliminated the land lines at home (also at work but that didn't save me any money) and consolidated my personal and work cell phone accounts into one. It is a little confusing getting work calls when you're on vacation but I'm saving at least $40 per month. Check with your employer. Or consolidate your cell phone plan with family members.

Friday, July 10, 2009

How to move your address book on the MacIntosh

If you are like me you don't like to create a special backup or export file for every application. You just backup the entire hard drive to an external hard drive. This does add a few steps towards recovery of your address book when you upgrade to a new computer.

To recover your address book, you will need to do the following.

Go into your external hard drive and locate these files


Copy these files to the equivalent location on your new Mac.

From your backup, copy this directory


to the equivalent location on your new mac.

You are done.
Hope this helps.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Tires and the Ozone Layer

I'm a tree-hugger. I'm even willing to embrace them despite their obvious attempts to assassinate me regularly by blasting pollen in my face. So, I dutifully recycle, print duplex, and try to think about creative ways to use all those glass jars I've got. I brought my first CFL bulb close to 20 years ago. Obviously, I try to minimize my driving and it should not shock you when I fess up and say my 7.5 year old car has less than 35,000 miles on it. So I was distinctly annoyed when I discovered a crack in the sidewall of one my tires. The rating on the tire was about 50,000-60,000 miles.

What gives? Defective tires? Should I sue?

Consulting the ever-wise Click & Clack auto column, led to quite a trail of web discussions on the interaction of UV radiation, ozone and rubber. At the molecular level it's a bit complicated but at 30,000 feet pretty simple. After about 6-7 years, tires take enough UV damage that mileage is irrelevant. The rubber breaks down due to oxidation and your tires crack into pieces. The heaviest damage will occur at the sidewalls where the highest sun exposure occurs.

Grumbling about how my lifestyle changes had not delayed my tires from entering the wastestream and emitting mild screams of pain after missing the $70 coupon off the price of new tires at Costco, I vowed I would do sometime to extend the life of this new set. A fresh start.

Basically, I started looking for sun tan lotions for cars.

It really helps if you use the right keywords, try " UV protectants cars" in your search engine.

I promptly ran into numerous warnings about the products in this category. Apparently, while all of these products contain UV protectants of various efficacy, many also contain petroleum distillates which will damage your tires.

Damage as in dissolve the rubber.

Gah. Could it be true?

Off at the nearest Wally world, I started reading labels. Indeed, many of these products for tires boldly proclaimed the presence of petroleum distillates in their ingredient list.

What to do?

When in doubt, go to the people who will follow a product to the death. Who will form societies to discuss and compare the performance of UV protectants for tires. The fanatics. The antique car owners...

There I found several recommendations for a mysterious product called "303 Aerospace Protectant" designed to prevent UV damage on a variety of materials including tires. Not only had this product picked up recommendations from the websites of fanatical car/boat/RV owners but manufacturers were endorsing it. This seemed to offer better odds than picking up a random bottle off the shelf...

With confidence, I purchased a trial sized sample and applied some to the tires. I was quite proud of my strategy to extend the life of my tires and was sure they'd last at least a year or two longer. Well, I was sure until I picked up a nail in the sidewall of one of my new tires. Now, I wonder how long the warranty on my tires will last

Stick around, I still have 3 original tires. In only 4.75 years, we'll see if this product lives up to its reputation.

In the meanwhile, the stuff can be used to protect all your plastic, vinyl, rubber, fiberglass and a host of other materials. It goes on somewhat glossy and stays that way for quite a while. My dashboards have looked shiny and new for close to six months after the last application before I had to dust and refresh the application.

Not that it's about the gloss... i mean eventually the UV radiation will damage the plastic in the dashboard too...i apply it to surfaces where gloss is not an issue....really....honest...

Friday, October 17, 2008


Occasionally, I'm lucky enough to be, ahh..., forced to travel as part of my job. Shockingly, I don't have to travel very often. Just enough that the next trip seems exciting and not an exercise in physical endurance, sleep deprivation and jet-lag.

This time, the trip was to Cape Town, South Africa. The story of why I had to go there are best reserved for another time. Suffice it to say that flights from Cape Town back to the United States are some what limited. Ours was at 7 PM the day after our last meeting. Being a collection of maniacs and hyperactives, we all decided that we could handle getting up at 5 AM, check out of the hotel, hit the road by 6 AM and endure skipping breakfast so we could see one of Africa's famous safaris, then drive frantically back in time to catch our plane. The nature of the meeting produced a plethora of MD/PhD's for our adventure and one of them, knowing lots about the deleterious effects of low blood sugar, had the foresight to run into the closed restaurant and purchase food from a rather surprised manager. It's called leadership and clear direction. That's why we pay him the big money.

We hit the road only a few minutes late. The two cars were packed high with our luggage. It would be an interesting return trip since we had one more passenger in the second car that was on the return flight but only one car going to the airport. Oh well, cross that bridge later.

It was a lovely drive. At 6 AM-ish on a Saturday morning, Cape Town traffic wasn't too bad. We made good time out of the city and onto the highway. The drive through the African countryside was fantastic. We were frantically shooting photos out the windows of the car. Some of us were already bewailing the antiquated technology in our three year old digital cameras. There was the sunrise, the mountains rising slowly in the horizon, the clear, crisp colors, the lovely banana, the soft and chewy muffin, the nice sugary somewhat fake tasting but still awesome juice box...even after devouring breakfast, our stomachs were growling away. Unfortunately, it was dinner time in California and our tummies were not to be fooled or placated by carbs. Nope, they wanted protein. Suddenly, we felt keen interest in the exact species of each of the Big Five. The Bigger the Five, the better. And more precisely, were they edible? Saute, fricassee or stew? Up until now, we'd hoped the Big Five would be giraffes, rhinos, elephants, gorillas and lions. Suddenly, antelope, wildebeest, elands, kudu, springbok and other delicacies of the South African braai (or barbecue) seemed like the Big Five we really really wanted to shoot.

Luckily, we were distracted when the road turned from asphalt to dirt. Nostalgic stories of Australian and New York driving, legendary potholes and old cars poured out. I was one of those college students so poor I had never having owned an old car and felt a little left out. Somehow, stories of me jumping the ferocious teeth-rattling speed bump outside of the Chemistry building on my bicycle just didn't cut the cake. We were so enthused by those old cars that we drove straight past our exit. However, something about driving over a mountainous pass when the game reserve was on a flat plain ignited our suspicions and we turned back appropriately. That's why they gave us them advanced degrees. Ayup.

Once back on the correct turn off, it was only a short distance to the game reserve. We zoomed into the reserve via the back gate and drove around without any clear sense of what to do since all the directions were located at the front gate. But all was corrected when we randomly drove by the front gate. We pulled into the carport and popped out of the car just as two cheetahs on steel leashes walked by. As well-trained tourists are wont to do, we all whipped out our digital cameras and started snapping. Once the trainer with the cheetahs disappeared, there wasn't a soul in sight. But the guest area was phenomenal. We excitedly wondered just how much would it cost to change our flights and stay here one night extra? But we all had appointments immediately after our return to California, so it could not be...

We took a short walk around the guest area. It was clearly a luxurious place to stay with spic and span bungalows, outdoor dining, the large fire pit, a swimming area, an intriguing area with wire fencing and cheetahs...

The trainers eventually came out and shooed us away very gently all things considered. She warned us the fence wasn't actually strong enough to keep the cheetahs from knocking it down and flashing cameras might annoy...

We wandered back to the central guest area. We were all gear heads and loaded up with memory for our digital cameras. Actually, we ALL had laptops and could download our photos off the cameras on the spot and start all over again if we ran out. So we started snapping pictures of everything: odd sculptures in the garden, flowering succulents, trees, sparrows that looked like they'd migrated to the Cape from New York, the fire pit, the bungalows, the reserve's tour Land Rover, the coffee...


Five seriously jet-lagged tourists for the day converged on the coffee pot ignoring the enormous tea selection. The owner of the reserve smiled. Les Americans.

After a continental breakfast of caffeine and sugar, we meet our guide. To get the day off to a good start, we had a group photo shoot with our guide and the Land Rover. Then up into the Rover with plenty of blankets since the vehicle was open.

We began with a wildly exciting view of a pride of lions. Big sleek lions. Our knowledgeable tour guide knew all of them and their personal histories. Turns out there are "canned safaries" for tourists who want to shoot big game. As in, with rifles, not cameras. The safari operators raise big game specifically for this purpose. It's illegal of course, but Africa is a big place and quite a lot of people there are desperate for jobs and money. Lions raised this way are, err..., kinda overfed and lousy at hunting on their own. They aren't too good at running away from people or defending themselves either. The owners of this game reserve had decided to purchase these "canned" lions rather than let them be shot. Since, there is a an over-population of lions, these canned lions had been fixed as well. Now, lionesses stop going into heat when they are pregnant or nursing but these lionesses were fixed which meant they went into heat... the day we showed up. And a gallant lion has got to do his duty... for all of the ladies. Oh my. I do have some x-rated lion videos.

After all that action...


Right, the cheetahs were pretty calm compared to the lions. The herd (cheetos?) of cheetahs was pretty large. Mostly, they lay in the sun and enjoyed showing us their noble profiles. Occasionally, one would get up, stretch slowly, take a few steps and settle down again, all in profile. I'm willing to swear these animals knew they were being photographed and were modeling for us. Our guide, perhaps unaware of our morning transgression with the cage, told us that cheetahs only hunted smaller prey and generally did not regards humans as prey. Except for babies. Thus, cheetahs could be somewhat domesticated.

From the cheetahs, we proceeded to the more open reserve. There were quite a large number of species but these were the more nomadic varieties and we'd have to drive around to find them.

The first one we ran into was Grandpa, the oldest giraffe in the reserve. He was the big one who'd done his share to ensure giraffe survival and continuity in Africa. Now, the younger bulls held the alpha positions and he munched his hay in peace. But not before he gave us all a lesson in bladder capacity. We all wanted to video the performance but for once our chip capacity was not enough. Either we got Grandpa performing and give up on other photos until we got back to our laptops or we delete the video. Darn. 15 minutes plus...

After Grandpa, our guide drove us around to find the rest of the herd of giraffes. Now, I'm sure by now, you're wondering "What is so special about going on this safari? So far, every single animal is found at your local zoo under much more convenient conditions." This though crossed my mind too, although I must admit x-rated lion videos and giraffe restroom breaks were not something I'd ever seen at any zoo. But getting close to the giraffes was really something. You don't want to get too close, they kick something ferocious. Even the little baby giraffes stood taller than anyone in the group and clearly their legs could pack a wallop, even if they did have the most adorable eyes and longest lashes you ever saw.. I really got the full sense of adventure (aka, personal danger) when I looked at one of those giraffes and decided there was no way I'd outrun this herbivore if it decided to knock in my noggin.

After the lions, cheetahs, giraffes, the animals started to blur in my memory. It is blurry because my camera had a grossly inadequate zoom and all I can see for this sequence of photos is a bunch of rather blurry blobs. I guess this would be where the dazzle of zebras sprang past us... or the flock of ostriches zooming by... or the herd of springbok as they bounded past gracefully. My advice, if you really want to view your safari from behind the lens of your camera, bring a good camera. Otherwise put the camera away and use your eyes.

Luckily, the rhinoceros and Cape buffalo didn't do anything as undignified as moving. They stood or sat as the driver inched the Land rover up to their favorite bush/tree and let us gawk and snap away. I managed to catch some good photos and some good looks.

It was a half-day safari but felt longer and very filled with excitement. Part of what made the experience special was the landscape. It was dead flat with mountains on the horizon, a very large, scenic pond and indigenous Cape plants including the finbos . Our Cape Town host always praises the flavor of the lamb in South Africa because they graze on finbos and produces a uniquely flavored and delicious meat. I had some and it was delicious. Apparently quite a lot of other people agree as we drove back from the safari past what seemed like hundreds of miles of sheep farm.

Then, we heard a bump and the car stopped running out there in the middle of nowhere.

But that's a different story.