Thursday, October 16, 2014

Truthiness Tote Bag

Given the state of my finances from living on student loans and graduate stipends for the past two years, I've decided that if I'm going to give out Christmas presents this year, I'm going to have to make them myself.  Or, use the credit on Amazon that I have from selling back my employment law casebook (woot!).

Since I spend all day in front of my computer, I'm trying to find ways to not be in front of my computer all night too.  As part of this, I've resurrected my old cross-stitching skills that were honed over many summers sitting quietly at my grandmother's house, where I could not go outside else I catch chiggers or polio.  But while these childhood projects were limited to making Christmas ornaments (in July, of course...), that doesn't seem to be exciting or interesting, and I totally did that for my husband's family last year.

My favorite site for patterns has to be Subversive Cross Stitch. A friend let me know about the book a few years ago, and it's been in the back of my mind that I should track down a copy for some time.  Which I did.  And you should too.  And while I want to stitch all of the patterns, there's only so much need I have in my life for samplers, which is why making gifts works with my new lifestyle.

My brother recently moved to his first apartment.  I figured he could use some of those reusable tote bags for going grocery shopping and what-not, so the first project was defined.
Pattern, Supplies, Blank Tote
 I decided my brother needed a Colbert-inspired message to cart his groceries to and from the store in his Red State.  Once the pattern was downloaded (although, these are sometimes hard to read if your color printer isn't the greatest and you can't tell the difference between similar shades), I got out the embroidery floss, and found a very basic tote bag from A.C. Moore that has an Aida cloth panel embedded that's ready to be stitched.  With a half-off coupon, I bought the tote for $6.50.  Sadly, I then found out that Joann's Fabrics carries the same for $8.99, so their Columbus Day 50% off any one item coupon dropped the price to $4.50.  Total project cost (assuming you have a decent supply of floss on hand) - about $10.

I'm pretty happy with the final result.  I'm trying to think of a good second theme for another tote (which I purchased for $3.60 by using a friend's employee discount at Joann's... in exchange for being on the tote bag recipient list).  Total time - one lazy Saturday afternoon of watching college football.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

South of the Mason-Dixon Line

I have been trying to come up with good things about living in the Washington, DC area, and so far, being in the most expensive city in America the same time that my student loans have entered repayment, it's been hard to see the good.  One thing, though - the growing season is much longer.

Behold, the October tomato.

After discovering that the apples in the nearby orchard were not yet ready (seriously?  Aren't apples a September crop?), we discovered that the pick your own tomatoes were still up and running.  Sure, this was two weeks ago, but we finally got around to using the 20 pounds that the DH insisted on collecting.

When life hands you tomatoes, can some salsa.  Made a quick batch of corn & black bean salsa, added lime juice to maintain acidity, and into the water canner for 20 minutes.  Then again, *someone* in the house has already eaten through a third of the batch, so perhaps the 20 pounds of tomatoes actually wasn't enough.

It's your basic salsa recipe from a reputable canning source (Ball Blue Book, your local Land Grant University Extension service) to ensure that you are not going to kill yourself, then adding a can of black beans and an ear of corn taken off the cob.  I do add an extra tablespoon of lime juice just to make sure I'm preserving the acidity of the original recipe.  It might be a good idea to actually test the acidity of your salsa before canning, but if someone plans on eating all of it in the next 2 weeks, this becomes less and less critical.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Welcome to your Adult Life!

It's been a while since I've posted anything.  Since January, I managed to finish graduate school (yeah!), find a job, move to a new city, and start to get the pieces in place for my real, adult life.  In addition to getting to call myself an Ivy League-educated economist (no, seriously, I am), I now have all the trappings of a middle class lifestyle - crushing debt loads and the postponement of major adult milestones because of it.  However, unlike most people in my generation, the debt load will be fine once the husband finds a job.  Actually, once that happens, it should only be about 2 years before we're completely free of student loans and credit cards, which is wonderful... once that happens.  After putting off real life for us both to attend grad school, I'm just a little impatient, but I know it's going to work out soon (but I kind of want to stop renting and buy a house).

We're now in Washington, but I'm not sure I've completely warmed up to DC yet.  Watching football today, I miss Saturdays in Champaign, and it's just not right to be in October and see the leaves on the trees still being green.  While the Mall area of DC is gorgeous, there's no giant lake nearby, and I miss the sound of waves.  Baltimore's harbor can make do in a pinch, but there's really nothing better than a stroll along Lake Michigan with a bit of a chill in the air.  Trying to figure out how much time I can spend back in Chicago during Christmas, and maybe whether I can sneak out of town for a long weekend soon.  The one downside to having more free time with the end of grad school is that I have more time to be homesick.