How to save money in a recession and be otherwise productive

I had a little realization this week. I was just thinking about how different things were a year ago, when I had an SUV and gas was going up like 50 cents a day. My credit card debt felt crushing. The economy wasn’t le suck yet, but it wasn’t fantastic either. I was just starting to understand that I could take control of my life and stop feeling like it controlled me.

Little by little I made a lot of changes. And now, things are better. Having just paid off a small loan I’m seeing slightly bigger paychecks. The debt has been dented. The car has been traded in for a smaller, cheaper one. I’m saving in advance of travel (what a concept).

Starting the crafty business did not make me rich, but it did give me something to get excited about.

All of this means that when I take a week with no pay next week I don’t have to despair. I’ll be okay. I’ll be okay when we inevitably have to do it again. And the other thing I realized is that if the debt number doesn’t go down this month, that’s okay, too. I can’t be upset at myself if a little thing like not receiving a paycheck interferes with my plans. I’ll do my best, but I can’t move mountains.

I think just reflecting a little and seeing that I really did make progress, even if it was slow, is so important. I need that confidence in a year when everything has been so overwhelmingly negative. I can do this. I am doing it. No doubt I won’t make the progress I could have made in a better year, but it’s pointless to dwell on that.

And the other thing? I’m running again. After rest didn’t help my twisted knee I just said screw it and hobbled through a walk with the dogs and a few steps jogging. The next day it felt better. So I ran a little bit longer. Then it felt a lot better. So I’ve kept going out, running a little longer every time. Chugging up hills, wiping away snotsicles. Laughing at how little I can run compared to how much I used to. But being proud nonetheless. I remember why I do this now, this crazy thing. It just feels so good when you conquer something that is so hard. The runners high is real, no matter how far you are to the back of the pack. And believe me, I am always there. So maybe, just maybe, I’ll be able to do that race in May that I was hoping for.

Baby steps, ya know?

Easy egg salad

In my opinion, the best egg salad is a simple one. There’s no need for shallots or celery or water chestnuts or any other crunchies that would mar the perfection of a creamy egg salad. My recipe has four ingredients, that’s it.

First, cover six eggs with water in a saucepan. Heat to boiling and then reduce until it’s still gentle boiling for 15 minutes. I don’t buy the take-it-off-the-heat method. The yolks always come out underdone for me. And don’t skimp on the eggs! It took me a while to get used to paying $3 or $4 for free-range organic eggs, but then I realized that $3 or $4 is really not much for 12 of anything.

After your eggs are done, dump out the hot water, transfer them to another container and add cold water. This makes them easier to handle. Drain off that water and set them in the fridge to continue cooling.

Then crackle off the shells and slice the eggs into 1/4-inch pieces.

Add in about half a cup of mayo (real mayo, please), 2 tablespoons of mustard and 1/4 cup of pickle relish. I say about because you can adjust it to however you like your egg salad, and I never really measure when I’m making this.


Loving: floral scarf

This is yet another item that I bought (at the Gap) for a photo shoot at work and then ended up keeping for myself. But really. How can I shop all the time and not find things that I would want to see in my closet?

Coonhound close-up

I like to take extreme close-ups of Sadie’s sniffer.

Her nose isn’t really that gigantic. But this girl was born to sniff. And bark.

Apparently coonhounds have a reputation for being lazy. She isn’t, until the sun goes down. Then there’s no moving her, no waking her once her eyelids start to close. We just hear the occasional doggie sigh.

Nature’s PowerBars

I learned how to make these when I was writing a story about raw food diets. They’re sort of like an energy bar that actually tastes good. The closest thing I could compare them to is a Larabar. They’re basically just nuts, dried fruit and coconut blended up in the food processor.

If you want them to be truly raw, buy all raw nuts and unsweetened coconut (I bought a real coconut for the first time to make this recipe, by the way, but you don’t have to). This time, I just tried to use up what I had left in my cabinets.

Raw fruit/nut balls

1/2 cup finely grated coconut
1 handful macadamia nuts
2 handfuls almonds
1 handful dates
1 handful raisins

Toss all of the ingredients into your food processor and process until the nuts have turned into fine pieces and the mixture is starting to clump together. The smoother the better, in my opinion.

Roll into 1-inch balls and then roll those in a little more coconut. I keep mine in the freezer – I think they taste better cold.

Not quite spring

This was taken a couple weeks ago. But we still have icicles…

Goodbye to the Rocky Mountain News

It goes without saying that this past year has been a tough one to work for a newspaper. We already knew that the Internet had changed our business model for good, and not in a positive way (yet), but when the economy took a nosedive, it sped up the inevitable changes that a lot of us weren’t ready for. And what I mean by that is you’re never ready for someone to say that your job or your entire paper, will disappear.

That’s what happened to the staff at the Rocky Mountain News in Denver last week. A talented staff that put out an incredibly good paper. I applied to work there once, back in 2004. I gave a terrible interview, and the job wouldn’t have been right for me. But I did end up working for Scripps, their parent company. They laid me off, too, in 2005.

There’s a compelling part in the Rocky’s goodbye video, when one of their reporters says that even when they were getting bad news from the company, several people in the room were reaching for their notebooks to write it all down. It’s what we do. It’s who we are. If you’ve worked in a newsroom, you know that even though the papers are different and the towns are different, the people are always the same. There are the curmudgeons, the workaholics, the guy who always wears Hawaiian shirts. As much as you hate someone for slashing your beloved prose, you cry together when you hear bad news. The bottom line is that we want to work, we want to do what we love. And we don’t want to be unemployed for any amount of time while the industry figures itself out. These are times when it’s hard to keep your chin up.

All I can really say is that I hope the newsrooms of the future, with whatever technology they employ, can open their doors again and let us all tell the stories we were meant to tell.

Vegetarian chili mac

This recipe was a happy accident. I bought my favorite vegetarian sloppy Joe mix, made it, and realized I had no buns to put it on. So I put it on mac and cheese instead, and it was really good. I make it often because it’s so easy to put together after work.

This is more of a technique than a recipe. You can use whatever boxed mixes or from-scratch recipes you like, but I prefer these:

The wheat pasta seems like a healthier choice, and it still tastes good.

So here’s what you do. Boil the pasta water, and while you’re waiting, saute some sliced onions in a little bit of oil. (You’ll be adding onions, brown sugar, chili powder and tomato paste to the sloppy Joe mix to make it yummier).

When those are done, add two cups of water and bring it to a boil. Then add the rest of the ingredients (I usually do 3 T. tomato paste, 1 T. chili powder and 2 T. brown sugar) and cook it all together for a few more minutes.

Usually, by this time the pasta has been boiled and you can put that together according to the package directions. Which are pretty much the same no matter which box you buy.

Spread a layer of mac and cheese on your plate and top with a big scoop of sloppy Joe mixture. Add some Steamfresh veggies to the plate and you’ve got yourself dinner.