An Evening in Clear Lake, Iowa

My plan was to swim in Clear Lake and have a picnic on the beach. I imagined a game of Laser Tag or going through the Clear Lake Fire Museum, which is in walking distance to the 9/11 Steel Memorial crafted from an artifact salvaged from the World Trade Center after September 11, 2001. I thought we would cruise the lake on the Lady of the Lake, a picturesque paddlewheel.

David planned on sleeping in!

He may or may not have dreaded our last stop in Clear Lake, Iowa. He compromised by taking me shopping in Mason City and eating lunch at Pasta Bella. You can tell I am all about the bread!

Pasta Bella "An Evening in Clear Lake, Iowa" frugalfish.org

I learned a painful lesson at Pasta Bella. When the waitress asks you if you want a few minutes, take her up on it! They had 2 specials and David ordered one of them but I am a salad girl. I ordered the salad that had artichoke hearts and other ingredients I don’t normally have at home.

The waitress asked if I wanted to add meat to my salad: chicken, salmon, or shrimp. I cook with chicken all the time and I do not care for salmon. I ordered the shrimp. It cost $8.00 extra. Yikes! I regretted spending that much money on 6 grilled, jumbo shrimp! It was very good. (After lunch we went back to the hotel and relaxed.)

$ $ $ $ $ $ $ $

Our first destination in Clear Lake was “The Landing.” It was on the lake next to the pier where the boats dock. You could eat outside or in the shade.

The Landing "An Evening in Clear Lake, Iowa" frugalfish.orgClear Lake Pier "An Evening in Clear Lake, Iowa" frugalfish.org

David ordered the “Fish and Chips” and I ordered the “Hawaiian Chicken with Parsnip and Carrot Fries.” I love trying new foods when I eat out. (Now I know, I am not a fan of parsnips.) The food was excellent and they have live music on Friday nights.

Fish and Chips "An Evening in Clear Lake, Iowa" frugalfish.org

While we waited for our food I took a picture of my jewelry. I was wearing a ring that was a copy of Princess Diana’s wedding ring. I remember that royal wedding. I was jealous of all the pretty things but she died so young and so tragically 20 years ago. I am glad I did not have her life.

Memory Jewelry "An Evening in Clear Lake, Iowa" frugalfish.org

The bracelet was a gift from David’s cousin. His wife died from cancer and he shared all of her jewelry. I may not have a lot of money, but I have my health and that is everything!

$ $ $ $ $ $ $ $

After dinner, we went to the beach and took pictures. We enjoyed watching the antics of the kids who were there.

Clear Lake Beach "An Evening in Clear Lake, Iowa" frugalfish.org

Then we headed to the highlight of our trip –

The Surf Ballroom!

This is where Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and “The Big Bopper” sang their last concert. There was a marquee that had autographed guitars all along the top of it. I took several pictures and sent them to the guitar players in our worship band – just to make them jealous.

Memorial at the Surf Ballroom "An Evening in Clear Lake, Iowa" frugalfish.org

Surf Ballroom "An Evening in Clear Lake, Iowa" frugalfish.org

The pictures don’t do justice to all the posters, memorabilia, instruments, and autographed photographs of all the musicians who played there over the years. You just have to go see it for yourself! Don’t miss the outside display where you can hear Buddy, Richie, and The Big Bopper each singing their top hit. (Note: these were all before my time.)

Ready for Ballroom Dancing "An Evening in Clear Lake, Iowa" frugalfish.org

The Jan Graber Orchestra was there that night for ballroom dancing. David and I don’t dance. We shuffled through our first son’s wedding and I wanted to do better at our second son’s wedding next year. I figured in 4 hours we would figure out how to get around the dance floor without going in opposite directions!

David was not enthusiastic. We sat through the “Rumba,” the “Samba,” and the “Two-step.” (I posted updates on Facebook for my friend Paula who does know how to dance.)

When they played the song, “New York, New York,” they called for everybody to dance. We got halfway around the room when David said, “Oh, I twisted my knee!” We sat back down. He rested it for a little while and I did get to dance four more times. I think we only made it around the room once!Ballroom Dancing "An Evening in Clear Lake, Iowa" frugalfish.org

There were couples the age of our parents and three couples in their twenties. They knew what they were doing and it was fun to watch them. We found our own rhythm and enjoyed ourselves in spite of our lack of lessons.

The couples in the booth next to us were from Ottumwa, Iowa which is about 30 miles from our home. We talked with them most of the evening. One lady was the first bookkeeper for the Area 15 AEA. We told her our daughter-in-law worked for AEA when they first married and I was a bookkeeper at a local preschool and daycare for 18 years.

At 8:30 p.m. some of the older couples started going home. That was all the excuse David needed. It was starting to feel like Saturday night at Mom’s watching Lawrence Welk. (Who also played at the Surf Ballroom.) We snuck out because I had a cannoli calling my name. We bought desserts at Pasta Bella and saved them for after the dance.

Cannoli and Italian Cake from Pasta Bella "An Evening in Clear Lake, Iowa" frugalfish.org

$ $ $ $ $ $ $ $

Monday, on the way home, we filled up the van and used our reward money from our BP Credit Card, 20 gallons for $2.18. That made up for the shrimp!

Thanks BP Rewards Card "An Evening in Clear Lake, Iowa" frugalfish.org

Of course, if you make your husband go ballroom dancing, you will have to make one more stop before going home – “Guitar Center.”

David in Guitar Center "An Evening in Clear Lake, Iowa" frugalfish.org

My Frugalfish tips are:

  1. Be flexible with your plans; you might miss a few attractions.
  2. Take your time ordering. That last-minute addition could really cost you.
  3. Schedule in times of rest. It is a vacation, not a marathon.
  4. Enjoy what you do have and don’t compare yourself to others.
  5. Cherish your good health.
  6. Dance to your own steps and enjoy the music.
  7. Take time to get to know the people around you.
  8. Always get dessert!
  9. Save your rewards for your vacation.
  10. Be sure to stop at places your spouse would enjoy.

I was lucky, my husband made the weekend all about me! He’s a keeper.

Next week, on the first day of fall, I will give you a “Frugalfish Fall Home Tour.”

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Coping with Allergies

Ragweed pollen reached Iowa last week. When I got the pollen alert from the weather.com allergy tracker, I went right to the library and stuffed a grocery bag full of books. I won’t go back for two months. In fact, I will limit the times I leave the house until we have a killing frost.

The local Ragweed plants do not have to bloom for me to have problems. The pollen can blow in from Missouri and leave me in misery.

After I double the dose of my antihistamine, I made changes in three areas:

My bed. 

I spend one-third of my day in bed. I cannot afford to have any dust or pollen in the bed. On the days I venture out, I shower and wash my hair before going to bed. I sanitize all the bedding in hot water once a week and I use allergy covers. I also air the sheets for an hour each day, see “Allergies? Wait to Make Your Bed.”

Remove any gunk.

An effective way to remove the pollen is with a sinus rinse or Neti pot. I use “Johnson’s Baby Soothing Vapor Bath,” “Vicks Vapor Rub,” and a “Vicks Vapor Inhaler” to keep the air moving in my nose and sinuses. I gargle hot, salted water, take a tablespoon of locally grown honey, and use “Halls Menthol Cough Drops” to soothe my irritated throat. When it affects my lungs, I rely on prescription inhalers and a nebulizer. I found a neat trick a few years ago to remove the buildup in my eyes and eyelashes, see “This is Not a Shot Glass.”

Clean Everything.

Each day I spend a few minutes cleaning one room with a damp washcloth. I don’t want to move dust to the floor, I want to remove it. It’s amazing how much dust is lurking in corners and behind things. When I have an allergy flare, I have to play detective and go down the list of triggers until I find the culprit, see “Christmas Eyes.”

So…how does coping with my allergies save me money? If I let a flare go, I develop sinusitis, then bronchitis, and eventually pneumonia. I want to stop it in its tracks before it stops me in mine!

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Save on Senior Pictures

My nephew, Brayden, played “Pomp and Circumstance” for the last time on Sunday. Next year, he will be marching down to receive his diploma! There are many things to do before that last march on the football field and the first one is best done this month.

When my youngest graduated from high school, we couldn’t decide where to get his senior pictures taken.

We had three options:

Photographer 1 took the senior pictures of my first two children.

Photographer 2 is a close friend of the extended family. So close, that her family has attended our family reunion for decades.

Photographer 3 is a relative of my daughter-in-law. She took a family picture of us after their wedding.

They all are excellent photographers and we worried about hurt feelings. Then I remembered the deal I made with Photographer 1.

My oldest son graduated in 2005. I saw a picture of a 2004 graduate that captured her personality, taken by Photographer 1.

When I called, I told the photographer I had a senior and a junior. I asked her if she could make me a deal if I had my daughter’s pictures taken there the next year.

She offered me two free family sittings. I used the first free sitting for my extended family in 2004. I never used the second one.

I called Photographer 1 and reminded her I still had a second free sitting. I asked her if we could use it for my youngest sons’ senior pictures.

She said, “Yes!”

They base sitting fees on the different outfits worn for pictures. In his case, it was $25.00 per outfit. Derek wore a baseball uniform and three other outfits for his pictures. That saved me $100.00 in sitting fees.

Derek's Baseball Picture "Saving Money on Senior Pictures" frugalfish.org

Top Ten Tips

1. Book your appointment in June. Most photographers will have a reduced rate or throw in free pictures for early bookings. My sitting fee for my first son was 75% off because I booked in June. Every photographer has their own incentives.

2. If you have more than one child, ask for a deal and have all of them photographed by the same one. The pictures will have a similar feel because each photographer has their own style.

3. Limit the outfits your child wears. This is especially hard with girls!

4. Ask if the photographer has a “Participation Bonus”.  You get a free gift or picture when your child is wearing a uniform: band, sports, even FFA.

5. Have your child be a model for the photographer for a free or reduced sitting fee.

6. Order the minimum number of pictures needed. Make a list of all the relatives you are buying for and write the size of the print you want for them next to it. Buy a large print for yourself and an 8 x 10 or 5 x 7 for your child. Don’t order hundreds of wallets. Derek graduated with 129 other students. I ordered 100 wallets for Luke and had a stack left over. I ordered 88 wallets for Laura and used them all. So, I ordered only 88 for Derek and used them all.

7. You may get more opportunities for free pictures later in the year by writing a review.

8. In January they go on sale. They contact you to see if you need more photos, sometimes at reduced prices. You can also get a copy of your child’s portfolio or picture DVD at a reduced price.

9. Some photographers throw in a free bonus picture if you pay in full when you place your order.

10. You can also get free photos and other freebies based on the amount of money you spend, i.e. spend $200.00 – get one freebie, spend $300.00 – get two freebies.

$ $ $ $ $ $ $ $

If your photographer is a family member . . .

  • do not expect a free sitting. This is how they make their living. Be willing to pay full price and be grateful if they offer you a discount.
  • do not expect them to clear their schedule to accommodate you.
  • do not cancel at the last-minute, unless it is an emergency, and pay them the sitting fee anyway.

Being frugal is not about being cheap; it is about making the most of your money!

©2009-2017 frugalfish.org. All rights reserved.

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New Kitchen for Five Bucks

It started with chipped paint in between the bottom cabinet doors. That chip peeled and eventually became a hole. I only intended to fill the hole and touch up the paint.

Our cabinets are original to the house, 1971. When we moved the refrigerator to the corner, it left a 12″ space. There was an oak cabinet at the lumberyard that someone ordered and then changed their mind. We bought it and I painted all the cabinets white. The original cabinets were “pecan.”

The door fronts were similar enough that you didn’t notice it was a different cabinet – until you looked down. The toe kick was an inch higher than the “pecan” cabinets. It had bugged me for years and I decided to do something about it.

I found a piece of scrap trim downstairs. (I always keep scrap wood.) It wasn’t long enough or deep enough, but I nailed it to the cabinet anyway. I used a paint stirrer taped to the cabinet with duct tape to line up the outside edge.

Nailed on trim "New Kitchen for Five Bucks" frugalfish.org

 

 

 

 

 

Then I glued the trim to the bottom of the cabinet. I used scraps of wood and broke a paint stirrer in half, to support the trim while the glue dried. (I keep wood glue and wood filler on hand.) It took three coats of wood filler to completely fill in the seam.

Glued on trim "New Kitchen for Five Bucks" frugalfish.org

 

 

 

 

Wood filler in cracks "New Kitchen for Five Bucks" frugalfish.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

David asked if I wanted him to remove the handles and hinges. I said “Yes!”

We put these new handles on in the 90’s when I painted the cabinets white. They were black with just a touch of copper showing through. At the time, I was collecting copper to “warm” up the decor in the kitchen. But I am over that copper phase, it looked “country.”

Kitchen cabinet with copper hardware "New Kitchen for Five Bucks" frugalfish.org

We talked about replacing the hardware, but I liked the traditional style. I just wished they were black to look like wrought iron. He took them off on Saturday, and I spent the day scraping white paint off of them with a metal nail file and steel wool. I used craft paint that I had on hand to paint them.

 

David brought home a $5.00 can of Acrylic spray paint because he didn’t want the paint to come off from the metal hardware. I finished scraping and painting the hardware on Saturday night. We let the paint cure on Sunday and he sprayed them with acrylic on Monday night.

Tuesday, I finished touching up the paint on the doors and the seam of the trim I added. We put the doors back up and installed the handles.

When our son got home, I asked him to turn on the light and check out the cabinets. He said,

“Wow, it looks like a new kitchen!”

New Kitchen "New Kitchen for Five Bucks" frugalfish.org

I got a new kitchen for $5.00! In maintaining our homes, we forget the two most important items to use: time and elbow grease! I worked on the cabinets a little every weekday for 10 days. I spent 9 hours scraping and painting the hardware on Saturday. I believe that was time well spent.

You may find a project in your house that only needs things you already have on hand, time, and a little elbow grease.

©2009-2017 frugalfish.org. All rights reserved.

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What to Wear

By the time you read this I will be on my way for a “Weekend to Remember” marriage retreat. My husband asked if I would be interested in going and I said, “Yes!” Then he saw the cost.

I reminded him that when we married it was “For better or worse.” We are either working to make it better or it will get worse. He wasn’t convinced.

A few more conversations about no vacation since 2012, his two trips to St. Louis Cardinals games, a Hawkeye game, and the registration was “Buy One Get One Free” finally convinced him.

Then came the dreaded time to pack . . . what to wear. It was 80° on Monday but forecasted for the 60’s this weekend with lows in the 40’s. I got out my trusty list. Dressing in layers will keep me comfortable regardless of the temperature.

Dressing for the Weather in Layers

Over 80 Degrees – Sandals

Sleeveless Shirt & Shorts/Skirt (or)

Sleeveless Dress

70-79 Degrees – Sandals

Short-Sleeves & Shorts/Skirt (or)

Short-Sleeved Dress

60-69 Degrees – Closed Toe Shoes, Lightweight Socks

Short-Sleeves & Lightweight Pants (or)

Short-Sleeved Dress & Pantyhose (or)

Short-Sleeved Shirt, Skirt & Pantyhose

50-59 Degrees – Closed Toe Shoes, Lightweight Socks

Long-Sleeved Shirt & Lightweight Pants (or)

Long-Sleeved Dress & Pantyhose (or)

Short-Sleeved Shirt with a Jacket & Pants or Skirt/Pantyhose

Outer Wear: Lightweight Jacket

40-49 Degrees – Closed Toe Shoes & Medium-weight Socks

Long-Sleeved Shirt under Short-Sleeved Shirt & Jeans/Warm Pants/Skirt & Tights (or)

Two Long-Sleeved Shirts & Jeans/Warm Pants/ Skirt & Tights (or)

Example: Long-sleeved crew neck under a long-sleeved V-neck shirt or Long-sleeved button down shirt under a V-neck shirt.

Long-Sleeved Shirt with Jacket & Jeans/Warm Pants/ Skirt & Tights (or)

Long-Sleeved Dress with Jacket & Tights

Outer Wear: Lined Coat, Hat, Gloves

30-39 Degrees – Closed Toe Shoes & Medium-weight Socks

Sweater/Sweatshirt & Jeans/Warm Pants/Skirt & Tights (or)

Two Long-Sleeved Shirts under a Short-Sleeved Shirt & Jeans/Warm Pants/Skirt & Tights

Example: Long-sleeved button down shirt over a turtleneck shirt and under a V-Neck Tee Shirt or A Turtleneck under a long-sleeved crew neck under a V-Neck T-Shirt.

Outer Wear: Winter Coat, Hat & Gloves

20-29 Degrees – Closed Toe Shoes & Heavy Socks

Sweater/Sweatshirt over a Long-Sleeved Shirt & Jeans/Warm Pants (or)

Two Long-Sleeved Shirts over a Turtleneck & Jeans/Warm Pants

Outer Wear: Winter Coat, Hat, Scarf, Gloves, Boots (Carry your shoes)

10-19 Degrees – Closed Toe Shoes and Heavy Socks

Sweater/Sweatshirt over Turtleneck, Long John Shirt & Long John Pants under Jeans/Warm Pants (or)

Two Long-Sleeved Shirts over a Turtleneck and Long John Shirt

& Long John Pants under Jeans/Warm Pants

Outer Wear: Winter Coat, Hat, Scarf, Gloves, Boots (Carry Your Shoes)

10 Degrees and Below – Closed Toe Shoes and Heavy Socks

Sweater/Sweatshirt over Turtleneck & Long John Shirt  under Jacket

& Long John Pants under Jeans/Warm Pants (or)

Two Long-Sleeved Shirts (Crew neck, V-Neck, or Button Down) over a Turtleneck and Long John Shirt under Jacket

& Long John Pants under Jeans/Warm Pants

Outer Wear: Winter Coat (Coveralls), Hat (Face Mask), Scarf, Gloves, Boots. (Take Extra socks & Gloves)

(You can always remove a layer if it warms up more than expected.)

Note: Clothes made with breathable polypropylene, (i.e. Under Armour, Dri-Fit, ClimaLite, Drylete, Vapor Dry, Technifine or Cool Max), should only be worn for exercising outdoors, shoveling snow, etc. If you wear it for normal indoor activities it will transfer any sweat to the next layer, which is very unattractive! Blue Magazine, (published by Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield), Winter 2010

Wearing three layers, "What to Wear" frugalfish.org

I wore a blouse under a dress and a cardigan sweater over both.

My  Frugalfish tip is to combine the layers on the hanger before putting them on. You can line up the shoulder seams and sleeve seams easier on the hanger than on your body. Then put all three layers on at once. You can button the blouse after you have it on and will only need a little adjusting.

©2009-2016 frugalfish.org. All rights reserved.

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Worst Day of My Life

It started with a flashback of the worst day of my life and ended less than an hour later when I locked myself out of the house.

The worst day of my life started like any other day. I didn’t really like the outfit I picked, but I was saving my favorite outfit and it was okay for a Tuesday. I was sitting in Physics class getting ready to take a semester test when the principal came to the door and called me out into the hall.

“Your parents called. Your house is on fire. We are taking your older sister home. Do you want to go home or stay here?”

I chose to stay and take the test. When I sat back down, Tim asked me what was up because I was NEVER called to the principal’s office.

“My house is on fire,” I calmly replied, and started on the test. I was in shock.

We lived in a small town of about 500 people and the fire chief was my uncle. When learning of smoke pouring out under the eaves, the entire town showed up. The fire was inside the walls and the smoke didn’t come into the house until they punched holes in the walls to get to it.

Those neighbors from Batavia emptied every closet, cupboard, and drawer on the first floor. They carried every stick of furniture outside and later moved them to the barn. A 17-year boy my dad had mentored, (who was playing hooky), unhooked the washer and carried it out by himself. Our next door neighbor, Linda, was the last one out of the house. She removed the drapes from the six windows in the living room and dining room.

They saved everything on the first floor, but not upstairs. I stayed after school and rode home with Carolyn. My brother and sisters had each been taken home by one of our aunts. They bought them a change of clothes and kept them overnight.

The furniture was in the barn and Dad was up on the roof with a few men putting a tarp over the hole the fire left. I went home with my friend, Pam. She was the best! We were the same size and she loaned me her favorite tee-shirt with her name on it and a pair of slacks to wear to school the next day.House Fire "Worst Day of My Life" frugalfish.org

Wednesday, they let us go upstairs to our former rooms for one minute. They instructed us to grab anything we wanted to keep. They had a door propped open to hold up the roof joists.

Everything was wet, melted, and black with smoke. I ripped some pictures out of my photo album and a few things out of my scrapbook. I made my bed that morning and my pillow was just wet. I took it and went back downstairs.

All I had left fit in an 8″ cookie tin. When I open that tin, I can still smell the smoke. I never got to wear that favorite outfit again, but I got an “A” on that Physics test!

$$$$$$$$$$$$

Today I opened an email that triggered that memory. It was from everydaycheapskate.com. She was replying to a question about a family that lost everything in a flood. She recommended the free app knowyourstuff.org.

I didn’t even finish the email. I hit the link, set up an account, and downloaded the app to my phone. Then I started taking pictures. I didn’t clean up the house. There were dirty dishes in the sink. I threw up the covers on the bed and tucked them in and kept snapping.Picture of Bedroom, "Worst Day of My Life" frugalfish.org

I took pictures of every wall, inside of closets, and even opened drawers in the kitchen to record contents. I know it can all go up in smoke in a flash. I also know the agony of trying to remember what was in each drawer, how many tee shirts did I own?

When I finished inside the house, I took pictures inside the garage. Then I went outside and took pictures of every side of the house. That’s when I locked myself out!

This is not an ad for the app. I will not get any money from them. I am sharing my painful experience in hopes that it will go easier for you should you have a disaster.

  1. Don’t wait until you have time.
  2. Don’t clean the house.
  3. Just get the app and start snapping pictures.

You never know when all you have left will be held in a cookie tin.

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Block That Standby Light on DVD Player

I like it dark in our bedroom. I mean, pitch black. I have black, energy-efficient, light-blocking drapes and mini-blinds that I close. I have a piano book on its side in front of the TV to block the red “standby light” at its base. I turned the phone sideways to keep the standby light from shining toward the bed.

Our satellite box faces the black curtains. When it faced our white walls I would be awakened by a flash of light at 2:30 am when the updates arrived. Now the light shines into the dark curtains and is not reflected back to the bed.

My husband also likes a deep, dark bedroom. Before he turns in, he throws a black cloth over the radio alarm clock to block the glow from the time.

Imagine my disgust, when I moved a DVD player into the bedroom. It has a bright, red, standby light that is piercing. I tried duct tape, but that red light penetrated through it.Red Standby Light on DVD Player

I came up with a different solution…

Aluminum Foil Tape

Plumbers use this “peel-off tape” to block gaps in furnaces and air conditioner units. I used it around all the seams on my heat ducts and to secure the pipes under my registers to the floor.Aluminum Foil Tape on DVD Player

Now it has a new use…light blocking. I cut a tiny square off of one corner and taped it over that standby light. It worked. Not a red glow came through and I could get a good night’s sleep.No Light on DVD Player

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Gifts for Administrative Assistants, Not Flowers or Candy

“My boss made the coffee every day!”

Yes, I was spoiled during the two decades that I was an administrative professional. Not only did my boss make the coffee, he would dump 2 sugar and 2 cream in it, and bring it to my desk. Then he would go over that day’s tasks with me. (He made great coffee! I didn’t.)

Both of my bosses spoiled me. I would get flowers and candy, not only on “Administrative Professionals Day,” but also on my birthday and other holidays, too. When my health forced me to step down from my job, I had a cupboard full of coffee mugs from them.

“But my favorite gift was…a paper shredder!”

Talk to your administrative assistants today! Flowers and candy are nice, but they might want something else instead.

According to a poll at Corporette.com, the majority of bosses spend under $25.00 or under $50.00 on “Administrative Assistants Day.”

“Think outside the vase…er, box.”

  1. Software: Is there software that would make their job run more smoothly?
  2. Upgrades: Maybe they have sufficient software, but would an upgrade make them more efficient?
  3. License: Some software can be loaded 3 times on one license: 1) Office, 2) Laptop, 3) Home. If needed, pay for the extra license and let them load a program on their home computer for their personal use. The more they use it, the more proficient they will become.
  4. Electric Equipment: Another favorite item in my former office was an electric stapler. It may seem like a luxury to you, but after stapling 100 handbooks, it feels like a necessity.
  5. Equipment Maintenance: I loved the big, old-fashioned, guillotine paper-cutter we used. It could cut through several sheets perfectly. But those blades need sharpened and the screw on it may need tightened.

“An easy trick to sharpen and keep these blades sharp is to frequently cut several sheets of aluminium foil. Just pull out a sheet of foil and slice it 10 or so times into little pieces. Unless the blades are really worn out this should work. This, by the way, is official for many cheap cutters.”  boardgamegeek.com

“You never know until you ask.”

Money is tight and businesses may not have the funds for something new. You would be surprised how small things can make all of the difference, i.e. replace the broken blind that allows the sun to shine in their eyes late in the afternoon.

“Make it personal.”

Whatever you choose to do, remember to write a personal note in a card…even a plain “Thank You” note. You cannot do your job without them. Take a few minutes to appreciate their work.

Paper Cutter

 ©2009-2016 frugalfish.org. All rights reserved.

Decoration or Preparation?

I admit it; I got the candles out for decorations for Valentine’s Day. I decided to use my snowmen decorations along with the hearts.

I got out all of the wine colored candles to use in the kitchen because they would match the valance. I had a small table runner that I made using the same napkin as I used to make the valance.

I arranged the candles so the decorative side would be between the two doors. I thought it was just decoration, but it wasn’t.

$$$$$$$$

Saturday, I had just finished practicing when the power went out. Apparently something major got broken because it was out for 5 1/2 hours.

I told my son I was going to open the cupboard doors under the sink.

“Why?” he asked.

“If the power is off overnight, the pipes could freeze. The cupboards are not heated. If you open the doors, the air will warm up to the temperature of the room,” I explained.

When David got home, I reminded him that he could light the stove top with a match and cook soup for lunch. We hadn’t opened the refrigerator, or freezer, and I kept the sheer curtains open while the sun was shining in.

I grew up in the Adirondack Mountains of New York. We didn’t have “snow days;” we had blizzards that lasted 3 days to 2 weeks. We were always prepared. My family laughs at me because I keep 4 liters of boiled water in the closet and dry milk on hand at all times.

“What next?” my son asks.

“Report the loss of power using the landline phone mounted on the wall in the kitchen.” I dug the number out of my much maligned DayTimer and he made the call.

I read a book while I waited for the power to come back on. After 2 hours, I decided we might be in for a long haul.

I pulled out 2 of my retractable clotheslines and hung the load that had been in the washer on them. I brought upstairs a few items we might need: 3 sleeping bags, 2 oil lamps, 2 candles in glass jars, and 1 camping coffee pot.

We had just lit the last candle, when the power came back on.

My Valentine's Day Candles.

My Valentine’s Day Candles.

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Steamboat Dinner Cruise

Today is my birthday!

This year we did something different, when my husband’s birthday rolled around we put the money in savings. The money we would have spent on our anniversary went into savings, also. We did the same thing with my birthday money.

Instead of presents for those three events, we chose to do something on my bucket list. With those pooled resources we were able to take a “Steamboat Dinner Cruise!”

The Spirit of Dubuque Steamboat

The Spirit of Dubuque Steamboat

The SPIRIT has been showcasing the vast history and beauty of the Dubuque area for over 20 years with a variety of cruises to fit into everyone’s schedule. Cruising May through October, the SPIRIT of Dubuque has sightseeing, lunch & dinner cruises that would delight the entire family! www.dubuqueriverrides.com

We boarded the “Spirit of Dubuque” at 5:30 p.m. and were seated next to the entertainment. It was a 2 man band with: an accordion, electric guitar, a pedal bass, and a preprogrammed drum kit! The singer played the last three instruments.

Our musical entertainment.

Our musical entertainment.

I was a little bummed until I noticed the cabinet next to the band marked “Life Jackets.” I decided it was the table I wanted after all! The band won us over, by the end of the night we were singing along with them!

Sitting next to the life jackets!

Sitting next to the life jackets!

We walked around the top deck while the rest of the passengers were loading. It was in the 80’s and we decided to stick to the air-conditioned dining room after that.

The Dubuque Bridge over the mighty Mississippi.

The Dubuque Bridge over the mighty Mississippi.

They served: prime rib, chicken Marsala, party potatoes, green bean casserole, cole slaw, rolls, and mini muffins shot with caramel sauce.

The hostess had a note that we were celebrating our anniversary. She asked us how many years we had been married. We told her 33.

The band recognized each couple and announced the years of marriage and then sang a special song for each one. We didn’t know the one they sang for us, but they played our song earlier, “Could I Have This Dance for the Rest of My Life.” They also sang “Happy Birthday” to each one celebrating on the cruise.

We left Dubuque and rode north until we reached the locks and turned around. We didn’t notice any motion, until a boat sped by a little too closely and we felt their wake.

We turned around at the locks.

We turned around at the locks.

We were the last table to go through the buffet line and I did not have my sea legs! You notice the motion when you try to walk. A teenager laughed at me and I laughed along with her. After all, most of the people at her table were on their third drink and were walking much worse.

We passed the dock and went just as far south as we had gone north. We watched the sun set over the bluffs of the river and enjoyed the leisurely trip back watching the lights on the shore.

Watching the sunset from the steamboat.

Watching the sunset from the steamboat.

We docked and no one was in a hurry to disembark. When the band started to yodel, we decided it was time for us to go!

The best gifts are not items you have to dust. The best gifts have a memory attached to them. Every once in a while you should pay for an experience instead of paying for more stuff.

Saving money does not mean spending less money. It means setting money aside for something special!