Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Early Voting as Emergency Preparedness

As we speak, Americans living on the East Coast are now facing the daunting task of clean-up following the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. Their homes are destroyed, their power is out, and many have lost loved ones or are dealing with serious injuries. And the presidential election is just a week away.

Today, I heard a news story detailing issues that are facing New York City in terms of their readiness to hold normal election activities on Nov. 6. Power outages and water damage could affect many locations meant to serve as polling stations, and transportation outages in the subway system pose serious obstacles to voters. City officials are discussing how to deal with these issues and are contemplating possible solutions, ranging from providing electrical generators to opening substitute polling locations for citizens whose polling stations are inaccessible.

Of course, many people in every state have voted early, myself included. I voted on the campus of the community college I attend, and I am so glad that I did. I even got a special voter sticker, which I wore proudly all day, and then retired to mark the day on my calendar.

Early voters in the affected areas are now afforded the opportunity to spend their time dealing with damage in their neighborhoods, visiting injured loved ones, or spending their time in prayer.

A lot of people are "Election Day Voters," and I understand that. Voting on Election Day is exciting, especially if it's your first time. But from a practical standpoint, voting early should be a priority. The point of voting is to choose our leaders, not to have a cool experience. By voting early, you ensure that your voice will be counted, in spite of potential illness, natural disaster, car accident, etc etc. You go and vote, and then you're done. You no longer need to worry.

Barack Obama's grandmother died the day before election day in 2008. She never got to see her grandson become president, but her vote was counted. She voted by absentee ballot, and was sure to mail it off plenty early enough. She was prepared.

From what I understand, it is too late to request an absentee ballot, at least here in Nevada. But you can still vote early. I wasn't able to find a nonpartisan site with early vote locations, but I know that you can visit Obama's site, and it can show you where to vote early. If you live in Nevada, you can find your early vote locations at the Secretary of State's website.

I encourage you to vote early. It could be your only chance.

Monday, September 3, 2012

My First Swap Party

About a week ago, I held my very first "Swap Party." I invited a few friends over and encouraged everyone to bring some food as well as any clothes or accessories they didn't want any more. There was no specific theme, and the whole thing was pretty casual. It was easy and everyone had fun. Here is what I did, as well as how I might improve for the next one.

Planning: I scheduled the event for a Sunday evening. I have many friends who work in retail environments, which close around 6 or 7 here in Reno. So people began arriving around 7, with the last guest coming around 7:30.
I bought plenty of food and drinks, although I probably should have bought fewer drinks, since one guest brought quite a bit of soda to contribute to the potluck.
I brought out some items of infrequently-used furniture to use for the "fixtures" of the party. We had plenty of space for everything, but one wall hook in particular was overloaded and fell down. Next time, I think I will add a tension rod to the bookshelf unit (it has no inside shelves, only the top was used) for better hanging space.

Invitations: I used Facebook to invite friends for the party. A few people who aren't on Facebook were invited by phone. This seemed to work okay, but I really wish people would respond to the Facebook invite, even to say they weren't coming. I understand that Facebook has changed the way invitations are handled on the website, so maybe a lot of people just didn't see the invitation. Or maybe, when someone RSVPd with "no," I didn't see it. I'm not sure.

The great thing about this type of party is that you can really invite anyone. I invited all of my local female friends and relatives. It is a unique opportunity to declutter, socialize, and shop at the same time. They brought a fun mix of styles and tasty treats. I promised everyone that I would donate any leftover items to a local charity.

Theme: This first-of-it's-kind event didn't have a particular theme. I encouraged everyone to "bring any unwanted items that another lady might enjoy." This translated to a very diverse shopping experience for everyone. We had a lot of clothing and accessories, as well as books, electronics, cosmetic and toiletry items, and household items.

I would like to have another swap party in early October, but I would like to emphasize a costume theme. Everyone should feel free to bring anything they like, just like last time, but I would love people to bring anything that could help make a fun Halloween costume. Wacky clothes, makeup, and accessories are more than welcome!

I think I am comfortable with hosting this type of thing every 2 months or so. Each event could have a particular emphasis.

The Flow of the Party: When everyone started arriving, food and drinks were out in the kitchen, so they could serve themselves buffet style. If someone had brought something, I put it out with the rest of the food. Most everyone sat at the dinner table and got to know each other. I had put out a book called Would You Rather? For Women as an ice-breaker and everyone really enjoyed it.

Meanwhile, I took everyone's contributions to the living room to be placed out on the "sales floor."

This table held jewelry and toiletries. It's just a folding table that I keep for those times when you need a little extra table space.

This table held household items. This table actually lives in my living room all the time, and was commandeered for the swap party.

This poor bookcase was used to hold the various books that people brought. It doesn't have shelves inside, so I used the top. Next time, I will create hanging space inside the cabinet part.

The couch held shirts and pants/skirts, organized by type.

These plastic hooks held dresses, belts, and a coat. The one with the coat kept falling down. :(

The whole thing looked great. My friends were all willing to help with setup as well! Everyone commented on how my living room looked like a real thrift store. 

After everything was set up, I joined everyone at the table and we all ate and played more "Would You Rather?" Then someone suggested that they wanted to go browse the shop, so everyone got up and looked around. It seemed like everyone found a few things that they wanted. After a little more chit-chat, people started to go. It wasn't terribly late but everyone seemed to have had fun. 

Leftovers: Once everyone was gone, I had a lot of leftover items. So, I packed them up in paper grocery bags (save for a few things I kept for myself!) and, the next day, I called the charity I had in mind, a local domestic violence shelter. It turns out that their storage was currently full and they were unable to accept any more donations at the time, but they referred me to another group, a women's substance-abuse treatment center. They, too, happened to be full and referred me to Big Brothers Big Sisters. Luckily, they were not full and even had a drop-off center really close to my house. I gave them all 6 bags full of various items, and from what I understand, BBBS sells the items to the local Savers stores to raise money. 

I am so pleased with how it went. I would definitely do it again. Have you ever hosted or attended a swap party? Tell us about it in the comments!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Well, THAT Sucked ... A Week of Disappointments

How awesome would it be if life was made of sunshine and rainbows? Pretty awesome, at least I think so. Not that I would know, because LIFE IS NOT LIKE THAT. And this week was one such example.

Over the weekend, I took a vacation with some girlfriends to Las Vegas. We had a great time. Upon arriving home, I sat my bags down on the kitchen floor and took a seat at the table to talk about my trip. Grant listened, and so did my kitty, Abercrombie.

After looking at pictures and telling stories, it was time to open my mail. I saw a letter from my college and though Super! It must be the letter giving me the okay to come pick up my diploma!


It was a letter to inform me that, after an audit of my course history, I need 7 more credits to qualify for my AA.

Dang. What a letdown, after going through the ceremony and buying photos. After telling everyone I has a college graduate. After my mother was moved to tears with pride. All of that, for nothing. Boy, did that hurt.

I wanted to sit outside and get away from the stress for a minute, but you know what was out there? My fledging garden, which had been eaten to death by pests. So there I was, with no degree and no garden.

Surely, this must be a mistake, I thought. But upon review of my course history, I was ashamed to discover that the college was right. I was missing 7 credits. I misunderstood the graduation report. How embarrassing.

So, back to community college I go, for one more semester. Not sure how we are going to make it all work, but we have to. And then, at long last, I will be able to attend the university.

I hadn't felt so down in a long time. But having talked the situation over, Grant and I are optimistic about our future. Things are going to be okay.

Have you ever left a movie theater in the middle of the day? No matter how cloudy it is outside, it is always much brighter outside than it is inside. Upon stepping out into even the cloudiest of days, we have to cover our eyes because it seems so bright in comparison to a dark theater. And life is sort of like that. It is hard to appreciate how bright things are until you have emerged from some darkness.

Readers, try to keep things in perspective today. Remember that feeling of stepping into the light.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Queen of Leftovers - Breakfast Meat

As you may have previously read, I hate food waste. It makes me really upset to throw away food. I get this from my mother. So, I like to get creative with my leftovers, and make a point of using them up.
Last night, Grant and I ate at a local restaurant. He had some kind of manly breakfast platter boasting 3 kinds of meat - ham, bacon, and sausage. It also came with biscuits and gravy and hash browns. He definitely had leftovers. As you may have also previously read, I love cooking leftovers.
So, this morning, I wanted to use that meat up for breakfast, because I love hot breakfast on the weekends. I looked in the fridge and also noticed some green onions that need to be eaten, so I chopped a few up.

Lastly, I took out some canned biscuits and prepared them to normal package directions.

I arranged the meat, the little bit of hash browns, and the green onions in a pan on medium heat. This is pretty simple, I just turned the items periodically until everything was well-heated. The meat had plenty of grease in it, so I didn't add any oil to the pan. In my opinion, reheating it on the stove has better results than using the microwave.

Voila! I served this on the table with a little butter and jam for the biscuits, and it was really good.

Now, readers, what do you think about a leftover cooking blog? Should I branch "The Queen of Leftovers" into its own blog? Should I keep it as a weekly feature here on Good Morning, Sunshine? Tell me what you think in the comments.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Cheapskate Confessions #1: Gift Wrap

This past week, my lovely and talented brother, Kevin, turned 20. Seems like just yesterday I was changing his diapers...

Anyhow, I bought him some aviator shades. He works as a sign waver and needs lots of protection from the blazing Nevada sun. I was lucky to get a few pairs of glasses for gifts at a going-out-of-business sale for the kiosk I worked at last Christmas.

In my family, gift wrap has never been a terribly serious situation. Since there is no pressure to make something look spectacular, I can be a bit on the frugal side! :) To make things even easier on me, I reuse things like tissue paper, gift bags, and ribbons. And I am not above removing the ribbons from things such as Victoria's Secret shopping bags to reuse later. Those particular ribbons are the perfect length for what I am about to show you.

 Small Gift Wrapping for Dummies and/or Cheapskates


You need: a small gift, two sheets of tissue paper, and a ribbon Just place the gift in the center of the tissue and pull the paper up around it, like you're putting your hair into a ponytail, and hold it tight with your fingers. Be sure not to wrap it too tightly, or you risk breaking whatever you are trying to wrap and/or ripping your tissue paper.
 Next, take your ribbon and tie into a little bow around the top of the gift. I try to leave a little tail sticking out of the bow to make it easy for the recipient to open the gift.


You can now proudly present your gift to the lucky recipient, knowing that you wrapped it yourself in a method that is both frugal AND eco-friendly! I hope they love it! Kevin loved his sunglasses!


 Thanks so much for stopping by!

 What do you do to reduce your cost and footprint at gift-giving time?

Monday, April 2, 2012

Adventures in Avoiding High Fructose Corn Syrup

Yesterday, Grant and I went grocery shopping. We got some ice cream, and Grant wanted some chocolate sauce to put on top. HOWEVER, all of that stuff has High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) as the first or second ingredient. Yuck!

Disappointed, we walked on, but then, Grant had a smart idea and took off at a surprisingly fast pace toward THE BAKING AISLE.

"Follow me!" he said, "I have an idea!"

Grant is SERIOUS about his chocolate. So I knew he had a good plan. We get to the baking aisle, and he grabbed a bag of chocolate chips! Yes, they cost more. But guess what? No HFCS! Hooray! Our journey toward eating more naturally continues!

Tell me, what little victories have you enjoyed lately?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Don't Trash It, Fix It!

Hello again!

The other day, as I pulled my sunglasses out of my purse, I made a terrible discovery. My sunglasses had lost a screw!


Now, I have had these particular glasses for a long time. I COULD have just chucked them and bought a new pair for pretty cheap. But I didn't want to. For one, I really like these sunglasses. Additionally, all that had really happened was a screw had gone missing. I knew I could easily find an eyeglass kit and replace the screw.

Fixing what we can is the ultimate middle finger to the culture of consumption. It's a way of rejecting the status quo. And it is SUCH an empowering feeling. Seriously, successfully repairing something provides a unique kind of boost.

It is also good for the Earth. Now, rather than fossil fuels being processed into plastic, a factory turning the plastic into glasses, spewing pollution into the air, and all the transportation required to facilitate this, I bought a repair kit that can be used to fix this exact problem 9 times, AND saved my favorite sunglasses from the landfill.

Here is my kit, purchased from Dollar Tree. Other sources of such kits include grocery stores, optometrist offices, and other companies with small giveaways. These little kits are good to have around. I plan to keep mine in my sewing kit.

This kit contains 3 tiny screwdrivers (1 phillips and 2 flatheads), a cute little magnifying glass, a lens cloth, 9 screws, 2 replacement nose pads, 4 stick-on comfort cushions, and 2 "plastic starters." (I have no idea what those are for. Do you?) All of that in a cute little box.

Fixing the glasses was pretty easy once I got the arm positioned such that I could place the screw. I didn't even use the magnifying glass. They are now as good as new, although all of this fixing has me thinking that I might want to touch up the chips on the frame with nail polish!

Take a look!

Thanks for stopping by. Have you fixed something recently, instead of just replacing it? Tell me your story in the comments!