Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

"For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord."

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Silver Spoons

I found it! I found the perfect gift form my three year old niece. Even at such an early age, she has developed a strong interest in cooking. She loves to chop vegetables with a butter knife, stir muffin batter until it's tough as rubber, and knead bread dough (although she calls it "squeezing" bread dough). So, when I saw that there is a new children's version of the best selling Italian cookbook The Silver Spoon, I grabbed it.

Now when she helps her mommy with lunch she can make Tuscan Minestrone Soup, Rigatoni with Meatballs or Chicken Stuffed with Marscapone. Well ... maybe she'll can start with the Banana Cream. There's time. In a couple years she'll be ready for the 1,264 page original.

Total Cost: $20 ... but right now it's 20% off at Barnes and Noble with another 10% off for members. Buon appetito!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Advent Conspiracy

This video was shown today during the Advent prayer service at school. The message is great, and the cause is worthy. Please click here to watch.

Total Cost: $0 to to talk, read, play or sing. (That's a savings of 450,000,000,000!)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Give Us This Day

I have been searching for a good gift to give my neighbors. The trick is, it has to be something I can make and something that can be enjoyed by all -- the retired couple in #1, the handyman in #4 and the crazy guy in #7. I finally decided on quick bread when I saw these great gift tags from Persimmon & Pink.

Now all I have to do I bake up seven loaves of Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread, and I'm done!

Total Cost: About $5 for the ingredients, and $0 for the gift tags. (I'm going to make my own.)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

1 New Message

To: Reader's of my blog
From: RissieGrace
Subject: Cute Movie

Hi all,
I've been at school late every night this week grading papers. While I work, I watch shows on hulu, and I found this Christmas themed one tonight.
Very funny. Had to share. Hope you can enjoy it too!
Merry Christmas Season!

Total Cost: $0 to break the silence while I check in homework.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Well Said

I found this cartoon by Rick McKee on this morning, and I thought the message was particularly good ... especially in light of the topic of this blog. :)

Friday, December 4, 2009


Last weekend I went to see “The Blind Side” and it was wonderful. I left the theater feeling happy and hopeful, thinking about all the great things that I could do to make a difference in someone else’s life. The movie obviously showed the stark contrasts between rich and poor, but it also contrasted grateful and ungrateful, patient and impatient, thoughtful and thoughtless.

One part that I found very striking was when Michael was picking up discarded popcorn after a volleyball game because he had nothing else to eat. It doesn’t take much to help someone in a situation like that. Even someone who is living large on a small income can help. Besides, happiness is the real goal of life, and happiness is not about what we have, but what we share with love.

Anyway, Ruben Navarrette apparently felt the same way about the movie and wrote about it in his column. It’s a good read – especially the part about giving his kid a paper route for Christmas.

Total Cost: $10 for the movie ticket, and in the words of Leigh Anne Tuohy, “you can thank me later.”

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A Wish Fulfilled

I don't know if you've noticed, but I put a wish list on this blog. It's a reminder of things that I want, but don't want to pay for quite yet. Anyway, one thing on the list was a Stanley Cooler Combo (thermos and lunch box set). I know it might sound weird for a fashionista like myself, but I love the Stanley line. There is something so American about carrying your soup in a stainless steel-double walled-vacuum insulated-rust proof bottle with a lid that doubles as a cup. And then ... if you throw in a large lunch box for all the extras like bread, cheese and cookies to share you have the right equipment to turn lunch into a feast.
So, I put it on my wish list, and guess what! My mom already had one! She picked it up at a rummage sale sometime in July -- for about $5. She saw on this blog that I wanted one, and now it's mine! Hooray!

The wish list worked! I'll have to keep it updated.

Total Cost: $6 to my mother. $5 for the set. $1 finder’s fee.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Count Down Begins

Today is December 1st, and children all over the United States are pulling out advent calendars like the one above. It’s a fun tradition that often makes the wait for Christmas even longer.

As for me, I don’t have an advent calendar, but I do have an advent activity list. My goal is to do each of the things on this list before Christmas.

1. Put up a Christmas Tree
2. Attend a Handel’s Messiah Sing-Along with Nora
3. Put up a ribbon sash for Christmas cards
4. Go ice skating
5. Hang a stocking for St. Nick’s day (December 5)
6. Go to the First Presidency Christmas Devotional
7. Watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” with friends
8. Make a wreath-like-thing for my front door
9. Give hand made gifts to neighbors
10. Drive and/or walk around to see neighborhood lights
11. Make gingerbread cookies with red hots
12. Watch “A Christmas Story” with my parents
13. Make and give out pepparkakor on Saint Lucy’s day (December 13)
14. Go to a Christmas concert
15. Send out Christmas cards
16. Have hot chocolate with homemade marshmallows
17. Tell family stories around the fireplace
18. Help out with dinner at St. Ben’s
19. Go caroling
20. See a nativity display
21. Go out and look at the stars on the longest night of the year (December 21)
22. Read the Christmas story out of the Luke 2
23. Make wheat berry pancakes for the Schows
24. Call the people I love and let them know (that I love them)
"This Christmas, mend a quarrel. Seek out a forgotten friend. Dismiss suspicion and replace it with trust. Write a letter. Give a soft answer. Encourage youth. Manifest your loyalty in word and deed. Keep a promise. Forgo a grudge. Forgive an enemy. Apologize. Try to understand. Examine your demands on others. Think first of someone else. Be kind. Be gentle. Laugh a little more. Express your gratitude. Welcome a stranger. Gladden the heart of a child. Take pleasure in the beauty and wonder of the earth. Speak your love and then speak it again."Howard W. Hunter

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving ... wherever you are!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Rissie Grace is Thankful For …

Thanksgiving is tomorrow and I’m spending it with my family. The various responsibilities have been doled out, and we’re each doing something that we are fairly good at. Nora is making the deviled eggs and the twice baked sweet potatoes potatoes. Mother is baking the pies and fixing the stuffing. Daddy is mashing the potatoes. Spencer is opening the can of cranberry sauce. As for me, I’m responsible for the turkey, the brussel sprouts AND setting the table.
Setting the table for thanksgiving is really one of my favorite things. It’s nice to pull out all the plates, silverware, glasses, napkins and candles that never get used at any other time. It’s also fun to make place cards, and tell people where to sit (like we’re at a wedding with 500 people). The place cards shown above are from Martha Stewart (left) and Country Living (right), and they are both very nice, but I like this idea from Blonde Designs. They put a card at each place with the person’s name and a space for them to write what they are thankful for. Even better than that, they have provided a template so you can make your own.
Now, let’s see … what am I thankful for?
· family
· friends
· faith
· job
· books
· car
· peach pie
· ikea
· a hot shower
· magazines
· a blanket right out of the dryer
· hand cream that smells like jasmine
· a laugh that makes my sides hurt
· etc. (this could go on all day)
Total Cost: $0 for a place card that reminds you to be truly thankful.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


I love the idea of Thanksgiving. Preparing a delicious meal while watching Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, setting a lovely table, remembering all our blessings, eating slowly (or slower than normal), playing some sort of game, watching some sort of game, doing dishes together and then slipping into unconsciousness after finishing a piece of pecan pie.

It’s gonna be great! What are some of your favorite things to do on Thanksgiving?

Total Cost: $0 to “look-forward-to.”

Monday, November 16, 2009

All Put Together

Did you know that on National Geographics website, you can do jigsaw puzzles? All of that beautiful, award winning photography just sitting there for you to put together. A very nice alternative to solitaire or online sudoku.

Total Cost: $0 ... and you never loose a piece.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Snack Drawer -- Before

Among my friends at school, I have a reputation for having beautiful, healthy and appetizing lunches. It's all true. I like delicious food, and I try to make it look as good as it tastes. The only problem is, this has not extended to afternoon snacks.

It’s worse than it sounds. I don’t like the tasteless, prepackaged, preservative laden snack foods found at the grocery store. So, my snack drawer lies empty. But that doesn’t stop me from getting hungry and heading down to the break room to scavenge for tasteless, prepackaged, preservative laden doughnuts. I am ashamed.

To remedy this, I’ve decided to do a snack drawer overhaul. I am now on the hunt for beautiful, healthy and appetizing snacks that are also shelf stable. Do you have any ideas?

Total Cost: $5 a pound for dried apricots … it’s a start!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

There's no such thing as a free lunch ...

... but aparently there is such thing as a free breakfast.
Last night I got a text from Suzie -- "tomorrow there are free hotcakes and sausage @ mcdonald's from 6 - 9."
Free? Yep!! Is there a catch? Nope!!
Well, this I had to see. I pulled into the parking lot around 8:00 while on my way to parent teacher conferences, and could tell by the length of the line that I was in the right spot. When I finally got to the counter I meekly asked for the free hotcakes and sausage meal. The girl handed me a bag full of food and I was on my way. A free breakfast! sweet.
Now, I have to say that eating at McDonald's doesn't exactly meet my criteria for "living large," but it was warm and yummy and free. It could be worse.
Total Cost: $0 for a truly free breakfast.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Neat and Comely

Ah fashion! It is the great dichotomy for every frugalista. How does a clever, beautiful, fashion forward woman look amazing on a small budget? There is much to be said on this subject -- and I hope to say a lot of it -- but tonight I will be brief.

Keep it clean! Remember this description of some very happy people: “they did not wear costly apparel, yet they were neat and comely.” (Two points if you know where that quote comes from.)

Total Cost: $0 to think about doing the laundry.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Gotta Walk

The sun is out and I'm going for a walk. See you tomorrow!

Total Cost: $0 for a dose of vitamin D.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Folded Up Nice and Neat

This week in Geometry, we have been talking about the mathematics of origami. The assignment was then to make something out of paper using the the basics of geometry. The things they came up with (i.e. found online) were quite lovely. There was a lotus, an antelope, an owl, a heart, a rose and a cup (just to name a few).
Origami is so beautiful, it can be used in decorating. It could add interest to a bookshelf, window sill or table. Take the Irish Elk by Robert Lang. Wouldn't that look lovely on a shelf next to a collection of National Geographics? How hard can it be to make something like that?! All you have to do is follow the marks on the fold pattern!

Hmmm. Maybe I'll just stick to cranes.

Total Cost: $3 for a ream of paper to make 1000 cranes ... for luck!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Give Me a Lecture

Anne Fadiman is one of my favorite writers. I’ve read Ex Libris a couple of times, and frequently quote from it when I’m trying to sound funny AND smart. So, when I heard that she would be speaking at MCW about her book “The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down” I knew that I had to go. (I haven’t read it yet, but I know the gist of the story.)
I like lectures and book tours. They are a great way to get involved with the community AND learn something new. Since this particular lecture was given at the medical college it was primarily directed toward members of the health care community, but even as an “outsider” I still gleaned some important points that I can apply to my own work. For example, she said that doctors should try to see the illness from the patient’s point of view. This can be done by asking “you” questions – how do you feel? what do you think caused this illness? what are you trying to improve your health? Each of these questions allow the patient to be more involved in the care process. As for myself, I can ask these questions to students to let them be more involved in the learning process – how do you feel about class? what do you not understand? what are you doing to understand it better?
After the lecture, there was reception where I discussed with friends and had Ms. Fadiman sign my notebook. All in all, a good Monday night.

Total Cost: $0 for pearls of wisdom and three cookies (yes, I had three).

Monday, November 2, 2009


When I started college my parents told me not to “major in minors.” I think that was good advice for choosing a career, but not for choosing food. In fact, when it comes to food, I think it’s a good idea to do the reverse. That is, go big on vegetables, grains, etc. and go light on steak, chicken, lamb, etc. Not only is it cheaper to eat this way, but I’m pretty sure it’s better for you.
This past weekend I found some brussel sprouts at the farmers market, and roasted them for dinner. Pretty good if I do say so myself.

Total Cost: About $1 per serving when you make the "side dish" the "main dish."

Friday, October 30, 2009

What I Wore

I was "the sky" for Halloween.
I don't know about you, but I think the resemblance is striking.
Total Cost: $0 to wear what was already in my closet and give it a clever name. (Thanks for the idea Gwen!)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Carafe By Any Other Name

I really do like beautiful things. I like things that add a touch of elegance to my life of protractors and staple removers. That’s the reason that I drink water out of the carafe that sits on my desk.
I wanted a water carafe ever since I saw Katherine Hepburn using one in the movie Adam’s Rib (that woman could make anything look good). I think it gives an air of sophistication and refinement – whether it’s sitting on a work desk, a restaurant table or a bedside stand. (A definite improvement on a Dasani bottle with the label ripped off.) So anyway, last year I finally bought one (on sale) and it has been a fixture on my desk ever since.
I was pretty proud of my tasteful beverage service … until today. A student finally got up the nerve and asked “um … why do you drink your water out of a vase?” ouch. It’s a carafe! A CARAFE! Oh well, Katherine would like it.
Total Cost: $17.50 for a touch of class … no matter what my students think.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

My Home is My Castle

A few years ago I learned that Balmoral Castle – the vacation home of the British Royal Family – has no central heating. So to stay warm on those cold Scottish nights they sleep with a hot water bottle. So do I!!
On cold nights in Milwaukee, I use two hot water bottles. The first one goes down by my feet and the second one is clutched to my chest like a teddy bear. I sleep nice and warm, while the rest of my empty apartment freezes. Zzzzz.
Total Cost: About $0.25 to heat the water give myself the royal treatment.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Difference

Jean Chatzky recently wrote a book called “The Difference: How Anyone Can Prosper in Even the Toughest Times.” Or as I read it -- “The Difference: How Anyone Can Prosper on Almost Any Salary.”

In the first chapter, she talks about four different types of people – the wealthy, the financially comfortable, the paycheck-to-paychecks and the further-in-debtors. As I looked over the criteria for being in each group, I discovered that I am somewhere between being financially comfortable and paycheck-to-paycheck. That is, I spend less than I earn but I don’t have $240,000 in investable assets.

Well, that’s nice, but what can I do to change? What can I do so that I can truly be financially comfortable? Well, as luck would have it, the point of the book is to teach people what they can do to change their financial caste. To this end she gives a list of twenty indicators that wealthy people generally share. The more of the indicators you have, the better off you are financially. So, I am working on my indicators. So far I’ve got eleven out of twenty. That’s pretty good. Right?

Total Cost: $16.47 on Amazon for a financial personality test, or $0 at your local library.

Monday, October 26, 2009


I think by now it’s obvious that I like free stuff. I think it may also be obvious that I like quality free stuff. Well, I found something today that is quality, free AND beautiful. How can you go wrong?
Jessica Hische is a designer, illustrator and typographer who has been making hand-crafted decorative initial caps to be used to beautify blogs all over the world. The only thing she asks is that you give her, Jessica Hische, credit. Not a problem!
Of course, making a beautiful blog isn’t my only reason for liking these hand-crafted decorative initial caps by Jessica Hische. I think they would also make a lovely alphabet book for a certain pre-pre-schooler I know.

Total Cost: $0 to make my blog look like a page out of Cicero. Thank you Jessica Hische!

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Supper Club

"What should I make for dinner tonight?" It’s the age old dilemma. Well, last night I didn’t have to answer that question … because of the supper club. Several weeks ago, I was having dinner with some friends and it was so yummy and so fun and so friendly that we decided to do dinner together every week. There was some trouble getting started, but I think we're getting better.
Last night was Beth’s turn and she did great! On the menu was chicken parmesan with mashed potatoes and a glass of kiwi-strawberry-cranberry juice. It was all very delicious and filling. After eating, we played the “draw-a-pig-personality-test” game -- apparently, I am a detail oriented optimist. It was a lot of and I can’t wait ‘til next week. Thanks Beth!

Total Cost: $15 when it’s my turn. $0 when it’s someone else’s turn.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

To Warm Up Cold Hands

It’s cold today … and rainy too. I feel absolutely chilled to the bone. I think that means it’s time to start a new crocheting project. What should it be? A scarf? A pot holder? A blanket for my bed? The afghan that I started for Janet two years ago? Whatever it turns out to be, it will be nice to have my hands busy while I watch TV. Crocheting is one of those few activities that requires no brain power but where you can still produce something beautiful and useful. It's the perfect activity for a cold day when you're done thinking.
I've decided. It’ll be a blanket for my bed. (Sorry Janet.)
Total Cost: $4 per skein for the good yarn. $1 per skein for the bad yarn. $0 per skein for the yarn in my Mom’s attic.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Pick Me Up

The other day on Regis and Kelly, Anderson Cooper commented that he does not drink coffee. He said that he finds the best beverage to get him going in the morning is a tall glass of ice water.
I must agree. Every morning, first thing I do is have a tall glass of cold water to get my blood flowing. Yum! Not only do I drink water in the morning, but water has always been my beverage of choice. It is nature’s perfect cocktail, and it goes with everything. Clean. Clear. Crisp. Cool. Free. Water.
Total Cost: $0 for my morning java. (It sure beats the $4.50 for Starbucks’ Venti Mocha Frappuccino.)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Let Me Put It On My List

I love lists. All sorts of lists. Do lists. Shopping lists. Song lists. Wish lists. They’re all great. They help me to organize my life and keep things tidy. So, in that spirit, I have devised a list for this blog. From here on out, I will try to organize my thought on frugality to fit into one or more of the following categories.

* To eat/drink
* To make
* To do
* To see
* To wear
* To buy
* To live-in (housekeeping stuff)
* To read
* To give
* To celebrate
* To appreciate
* To be
Have I left anything out? Please, please let me know if there’s some other category that you think I should include.

Monday, October 19, 2009

What would you do ...

... for a free t-shirt?

I am currently teaching an engineering class, and it has definatly been a challenge. Fun ... but a challenge. I feel like I never have enough time to find activities, buy and prepare supplies, contact speakers, grade papers AND teach my other classes.

There are upsides though. I get to be a part of student ideas, creations, conversations and competitions. PLUS, I get some pretty sweet free stuff. Like the t-shirt I got at the Marquette Celebrates Women in Engineering field trip we took last week. The conference was good and I got some great ideas. Now I can wear the t-shirt with pride.

Total Cost: $0 for t-shirt ... but I had to teach engineering to get it.

Friday, October 16, 2009

A Bowl of Popcorn

So. It’s Friday and I am worn out. Absolutely worn out. All I want to do is sit on my bed with a bowl of popcorn and relax. Maybe I’ll watch a movie, or read a book, or do a crossword puzzle, or flip through a magazine, or listen to music, or call a friend. Whatever I do though, it will have to be done while I sit on my bed with a bowl of popcorn.

I feel more relaxed already.

Total Cost: Not even $1 for the popcorn.
(munch, munch, munch)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Pay What You Can

Four of my favorite words: pay what you can. The Milwaukee Rep has a pay-what-you-can night for each of their plays. The idea is a great one. For the actors, it’s a full on dress rehersal. For the public, it’s a cheap nights entertainment.
I just barely missed seeing “the Year of Magical Thinking” last night. Boo. Oh well, I’ll read the book and catch the next play for sure!

Total Cost: $5 suggested contribution. (The ticket are $25 at regular price.)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Zucchini Season

It's late summer, and there is zucchini everywhere. Everywhere! People are giving the stuff away there's so much of it. So, what better to eat when you're on a tight budget? Thank you summer!

My favorite zucchini dishes are grilled zucchini, stuffed zucchini and zucchini bread. In fact, tonight I'm going to make and freeze a bunch of zucchini muffins to snack on at school. Do you have any favorite zucchini recipes? I would love to try them.

Total Cost: $0 for the zucchini ... if you know the right people.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Bastille Days

This past weekend was Bastille Days here in Milwaukee. It’s a street festival that is celebrates all things French. My mom and I went down to hear the dueling pianos, and then got taken in with all the yummy food, hot shopping and the fantastic people watching – there were beignets, fortune tellers, roving revolutionaries and a giant model of the Eiffel Tower. Very fun.
Total Cost: $0 to get in, $15 to eat. Vive le Milwaukee!