On the Cheap

Who would have thought that living with flair could be. . . cheap!  I used to think that budgets and coupons and delayed gratification (blah, blah, blah) meant limitation.  But it actually offers me a different kind of freedom.  I’m free not to buy.  Imagine! 

Just today, my daughter and I made homemade hazelnut frappuccino drinks because you can make anything good with a blender, ice, and something sweet.  You put out some ingredients on the counter, start pouring things into the blender, and you ask–wide-eyed and smiling–“What can we make with this?” 

It was better than Starbucks.  I mean it.

Earlier, I took the advice of my world-traveling neighbor that you don’t need to buy expensive craft kits or distractions for your children when you travel in the minivan.

“You just need one thing,” she says.  This is the woman who drove her children from Pennsylvania to Washington in her minivan last summer.  “And it will cost you less than five dollars.”

“What?”  I’m taking notes.

“Pipe cleaners!”  She tells me that if you hand a child a bunch of pipe cleaners, they can make whole villages of imaginary animals and flowers.  “There’s no mess on the floor, either.”

I’m going to buckle them into their seats, hand them some pipe cleaners, and simply ask, “What can we make with this?”  

I like living on the cheap.  It’s never felt more creative.

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Journal:  How do you live on the cheap?

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Why Not? (The Story of the Green Apple Cupcakes)

This year, I’ve learned to be a little gourmet.  My children taught me that with the hamburger cupcakes.  I’m learning to try things that fall way outside of my natural gifts and abilities.

Take green apple cupcakes, for example.  My youngest can’t wait to bring in cupcakes to kindergarten this week for her birthday.  She wants gourmet cupcakes, just like her sister’s hamburgers.  We search the internet together and find a lovely cupcake blog that features green apple cupcakes. 

I’m nervous about this.  We get the ingredients for cupcakes, and then I’m told I just need green sprinkles, a pretzel stick stem, a mint leaf, and some brown sprinkles to resemble apple seeds.  I’m supposed to take a little spoonful of sprinkles away to make it look like somebody took a bite out of the apple!  I have to admit that, in theory, this whole thing has the potential to be adorable. 

Slow and steady.  I follow the directions, and voila! 

I’m so happy I could burst.  It’s the same way I felt when I followed the directions to thread my old sewing machine.  I sewed doll pillows with my daughter just by following directions.

Slow and steady.


Living with flair means we do things we wouldn’t normally do.  We enter unusual worlds (like sewing and baking) and find pleasure when we simply follow directions.

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Journal:  Is there a project I should try?

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Christmas Disorder (This Place is a Disaster!)

Gingerbread Disaster

I’m decorating gingerbread cookies with my 5 year old and her little friend.  A blanket of frosting and sprinkles covers the counter tops, and as I observe the smear upon the floors, the walls, and probably the ceiling, I exclaim: “This place is a disaster!” 

The small child before me, the one shaking bright red sprinkles upon everything but her gingerbread man, responds: “When it’s this messy, it just means we are working really hard.”

I consider the truth of her words.  The Christmas disaster all over my kitchen and living room–tissue paper in shreds, manger scenes all discombobulated, and crafts partially completed–I realize the beautiful work of Christmas and the mess we leave in our wake.  Our schedules are in chaos; our diets reconfigure to include ridiculous amounts of gooey treats; our family issues bubble up to the surface; our cats have scattered ornaments all over the house.  Messy, messy, messy. 

Sprinkles!

But something is happening in the mess.  Something beautiful and right.  When it’s this messy, something is working really hard. 

A lot of things about Christmas are messy–even Jesus arrives in the filth of a manger in the chaotic way that disorders a whole world back to order.

I’ll clean up in 2011.  Right now, I’m disordering the place into the kind of Christmas order we need.  When it’s this messy, something’s right.

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Why You Need Artistic Friends

I’m an embarrassment to the world of arts and crafts.  I’ve never even used a glue gun.  But when you spend a day with an extraordinarily gifted artist, you have to enter her world.

The artist enters the room wearing flip-flops decorated with bunches of green grapes–she made them for a wine-tasting party–and we all can’t help but notice them.  Soon, my girls are asking about these flip-flops, and the artist says, “We can make any kind you want!”

Next thing I know, we are in Wal-Mart buying bright flip-flops.  Then we are in a craft store buying miniature birds, butterflies, orchids, and lots of jewels.  Within minutes, the artist has the girls sketching flip-flop designs.  She hands me a piece of paper and some butterflies.

I’m wondering when the cameras pop out and tell me this is all one big prank.  I don’t do arts and crafts. 

But when you hang out with an artist, you learn to do artistic, whimsical, and spontaneous things.

It felt a lot like flair. 

I learned to inhabit that world, burning my fingers on hot glue and pricking myself on butterfly antennae.

Later, I wear these flip-flops outside.  Mothers and their daughters shriek with delight and want to know where we got our shoes.  I imagine a Red Sea of children parting in awe as my flip-flops walk by.  Those families are already at Wal-Mart and firing up their glue guns.  I’ve created a flip-flop revolution.

So I’m adding this to the list of spontaneous and supremely silly things:  dancing in my kitchen, learning double-dutch, and now, gluing butterflies on my shoes.  Living with flair means you hang around artistic people and make things every once in a while.

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