Saturday, January 31, 2015

67 x 87 squares

Jeff and I are on an anniversary getaway to the coast. 
Thirty-five long and sometimes glorious years, thank you very much. 
I found a Living Social coupon for a fun motel in Garibaldi, down on the dock. It is an older motel but has been recently renovated and I really like it. The decor is tasteful. 

And Jeff thinks he needs one of these for his four fishing rods.

I wanted to know why he has four rods when he never goes fishing, let alone catches anything.
But he is tolerant of my many quirks, so I didn't press the matter.
Which is just as well, because later on we walked around the docks and the town and I ran across this treasure in an antique store.

Each square is one inch, and all 5,829 of them are hand-stitched together and then hand-quilted.

It was $75 and I wanted it.
Look, I said to my darling husband, can you imagine how many hundreds (maybe thousands) of hours went into this quilt and here it sits, all unwanted. Except for me.
And he understood.
We can use it out at the Ranch, he said. Let's get it.
So we did.

The store owner told me it was from the late 1800's and had been stored in a chest owned by a 90-year-old man who had just gone into a retirement home. She claimed most of it is flour sack cotton, but if that is true, it's from the 1930's or 40's. I am hoping that one of my quilting friends will know something about it. Either way, it kills me that some family member didn't love it and want to use it. 
But now it is mine.
And I love it and will use it until I die. 
And then one of my kids had better love it and use it or I will haunt them in nasty ways until they do.
The end.

Oh, and if you want a lovely peaceful and not too expensive place to get away from it all, try the Harborview Inn and RV Park in Garibaldi. They have lots of nice little extras such as cookies and hot chocolate in the lobby and a fire pit with s'mores and good company in the evening.
Really the end.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

I cry "Uncle!"

I attended an excellent couponing class last Thursday evening and it led me on a little trip down memory lane. You see, I was a master couponer for thirty years. Let me tell you what couponing used to look like for me.
Every Tuesday morning, the highlight of my week was walking down to the mailbox to get the Food Day, a free publication from the Oregonian. I would eagerly peruse the pages for recipes for real things that kids would eat, like chicken casseroles and chocolate desserts.

These days, it is more likely to be kale pizza or quinoa milkshakes, combining foods that God never meant to be friends.

There were columns that gave tips for cooking, gardening, home improvement, mothering, and everyday life. I was fondly remembering some of those personalities this morning. Do you recall Tamera Smith Allred, she of the constant angst and riveting family stories? Did you know she still makes a living telling those stories? You're welcome. I was gratified to see that she has aged right along with the rest of us!
And then there was Nancy Strope, the food editor. She was a lovely, down-to-earth woman who gave eminently practical advice for life in the kitchen. I clipped many of her recipes and learned much of my kitchen know-how from dear Nancy, who has long been dead. You can still buy her cookbook on eBay. I have half a mind to buy it.

And then there was Dulcy Mahar and her gardening column that was written with a zesty sense of humour, and who kept writing and making us laugh until cancer carried her off in 2011, after 22 years of columns. Her columns had titles like "20 ways to pimp your yard." How could you not love that?

My main victims in the Food Day were the coupon inserts. I made an art of quickly flipping through the shiny pages and ripping out coupons I deemed to be possibly useful.
No scissors for me. Scissors are for wimps.
I always had a pile of coupons that needed filing and would take them with me to gymnastics class, where I would sit and file coupons in The Box while watching my three adorable children performing their backward bends and cartwheels.

I always had a box, where the coupons were divided alphabetically by brand names. It was my lethal weapon against the grocery industry. Combining sales at about four different grocery stores with these coupons saved thousands of dollars on groceries over the years. Sometimes it was for survival, and other times it gave me extra money for fun.
The Box was worth more than gold to me and we had some adventures together. One time, I was driving our old Colt Vista and forgot that I had placed The Box on the roof. I happened to look out of the back window as I drove down the street and saw coupons fluttering in my wake. Luckily, it was a quiet street, so I pulled over and made the kids help me salvage as many coupons as we could.
Yes, I was that avid.

The Box was an escape artist, often hiding away in the grocery cart instead of coming home with me. A panicky call to the store would follow and, strangely, there was only one time that it went completely missing.
I may have been more than a little obsessed with my bargain hunting and couponing, because one night, when Jeff was angry about something I had done, he threw all of my coupons in the wood stove to annoy me.
True story.
Not to worry, it only took me a couple of weeks to get back to speed.

Store clerks either loved me or hated me. The former would congratulate me on all the good deals I had found and didn't mind using my homemade denim bags. The latter would scowl at the pile of coupons presented to them and wrestle with the denim bags as if they were a personal insult. You read it here: I was using fabric bags decades before it was fashionable.

I loved the challenge of couponing and often visited stores at night when everyone was in bed, just to wander the aisles and see what deals I could find. My friends all thought I was crazy, but I swore that no matter how financially comfortable we became, I would always coupon because I enjoyed it.

Well, here I am, eating my words yet again. I have almost, but not quite, abandoned couponing forever. Not because of our finances, or because I have grown tired of it, but because, like almost everything else these days, it has become overly complicated. It has become fashionable, taken over by bloggers and Extreme Couponers. It is no longer my private battle with grocery conglomerates, but a very public enterprise that requires a smartphone, numerous apps, a large binder, and the ability to read very small print. Nowadays, when I attempt to do battle with the Grocery Machine, I almost always get something wrong and end up having to return items to customer service or shamefacedly run back through the aisles to exchange an item for the correct one while the line behind me waits patiently.

So here it is. The end of an era. I pass the baton willingly to those who enjoy such an enterprise.
You know who you are.
But my denim bags are still going strong.