I’ve Got the World on a (shoe)String…

Okay, here.  Listen to Frank Sinatra crooning for a mo if you want to, and then come back.  Now, Frank has the actual world on a string, what with sitting on a rainbow and all.  I, on the other hand, have a shoestring.

Belts are extraordinarily tight in this house (and not just because I eat too many carbs).  Times are not so good (like I have to tell you this). If Barack Obama is re-elected, and we continue on this course, the deficit will be up to God knows what by the time he finishes his second term.  That makes me feel the way I feel when I open my credit card bill:  panicky. And horrified.  Yes, it was for stuff we needed (refer back to tight belts, above)–well, mostly anyway, but holy moly, it sure adds up.  I’m pretty sure this is what Mr. Obama says when he gets the deficit bill at the end of the month– “Well, it was for stuff that we needed–well, mostly anyway,  but holy moly, it sure adds up.”  But the problem is, I don’t think Mr. Obama feels my panic. Or my horror.

So maybe ask yourself how you are doing now, compared to four years ago.  Yes, Obama inherited a mess.  But boy oh boy did he make it worse.  Please, please, vote for Mitt Romney.  He’s good at this.  Our country needs a CEO, not a professor.  I feel so strongly about this! Well, okay, that’s the end of my stumping. I’d actually do more stumping if I got to wear a straw boater like Samantha Stephens did when she was trying to get a stop light on Morning Glory Circle.  And a sash.  I need a sash.

Moving on! Now, you know how much I love autumn, and my autumn decorations.  In fact you can read last year’s post on the subject.  It seems like every year (for the last, actually, four or so years) I have had to ramp up my thriftiness.  I have purchased no new fall decorations.  Any recent acquisitions I have I scrounged from nature.  There I was, in the park, a crazy lady picking up acorns from under oak trees.  But you have to see them–they are like little textbook symbols of autumn.  So perfect, and I couldn’t just leave them all there to be lawnmowered into oblivion.

And I love the big seeds from the California buckeye trees.  (By the way, the seeds are toxic, so don’t lick them or anything.)  In autumn, the tree produces this odd, pear-shaped fruit that is really just a husk for the seed.  The seeds look like burnished nubbins of wood. Very fall-y. You can also call the seeds “conkers.” Which we do.

Another natural decor item I’m putting to use are the rose hips from my garden.  I purposely did not deadhead the roses after their last bloom in the summer.  I wanted to see how all the rose hips would look, and they are so pretty!

Rose hips and Michael’s scented pinecones

They are perfect for standing in a vase or scattering in with conkers or acorns or, say, pinecones. In fact, I actually did buy one new autumn decoration, but it was cheap ($2.50!).  In Michaels they have mesh bags of scented pinecones.  I love how they smell, all cinnamony. The first day or two they are rawther pungent, but the scent softens pretty quickly and makes the area around them smell delightfully cozy.

While I was out foraging, feeling like a cross between Martha Stewart and Grizzly Adams, I came across these trees with the most beautiful berryish/seedish/flowerish things on them.  I picked just a few sprigs, came home, plunked them in a vase and, if I may say so myself, perfection!

So that, my friends, is this year’s autumnal decorating on a shoestring.  And I do kind of feel like I’ve got the world on a string when I have beautiful things around me.  And so much the better if my beautiful things were free!

And don’t forget–VOTE.

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Why, Exactly, is Mutton Dressed as Lamb?

Do you remember when we were kids, and women aged?  What would happen if hair dye was banned , if low-rise jeans weren’t sold in a size bigger than an 8, and we all cut our hair short?  What if plastic surgery was no longer allowed?  Men haven’t really changed–you can look at pictures from the 19th century, and once you get past the regrettable facial hair choices, men just look like men.  This guy on the left (Frederick Robie, somebody important in Maine) could be someone you work with.  Well, except for that dreadful tuft of beard.  But he looks pretty normal.  Give him a shave, throw a polo shirt on him, and he could be golfing by noon.

Now let’s go to the distaff side of the equation.  Look at this woman from the 19th century. I couldn’t really imagine  taking her,  as-is, and plopping her down in a Starbucks.  Well, I mean, we’d get her in some cuter clothes, but there is no way she could make the transition the way Fred  there could. And she’s much younger than him–I’d say she is about 30.  Woman just don’t “time travel” as well as men.

Okay, now let’s check out the 1950s. See this man on the left?  I’m pretty sure no one would look twice at him, wandering around Nugget.  Except for the hat.  We’d have to lose the hat.  So how about this woman, below?  Look–she’s got gray hair.   I remember when women who were over 50 looked over 50. Women don’t look like this anymore.  And I’m not sure why.

I was  in Walnut Creek one day, walking behind a slim young woman with long, perfectly highlighted hair, low-rise jeans, and very high heels.  She looked great and I felt a bit schlumpy.  And then she stopped to look in a store window, and happened to turn to face me.  Ack!  She was 62 if she was a day.  It was very, very weird.  Mutton dressed as lamb at its worst.

I don’t have any insights.  I was just pondering the whole situation. I’m not sure why this happens–you can trot out that older woman are dismissed, or that youth prevails, or…I don’t know.  Is it for men?  If you are 56, why would you want to be with a man who wants you to look, say, 35? And even if you do somehow manage to look that young, odds are you’ll still lose out to an actual 35-year-old.  I mean, ask Demi Moore how it all worked out for her. Personally, I don’t want to look like a girl.  I’m not a girl.  I used to be one, but now I’m all grown up.  We should be striving for grace, elegance, dignity.  Trust me, I’m certainly not saying I’m graceful, elegant, or dignified, but I strive to be those things.  It’s no good striving to be a 30-year-old,  ’cause that ain’t gonna happen.

Embarrassingly Delicious Cookies

I’ve been awfully busy lately, what with bringing home the bacon AND frying it up in a pan.  I don’t have as much time for baking, which bums me out.  A lot.   I came across this recipe in an old Pillsbury cookbooklet (they used to sell them at the grocery checkout stand, by the TV Guide–whoa! how old am I??) and it turns out these cookies are absolutely delicious.  Well, they are delicious if you like chocolate and peanut butter. The embarrassing part comes in when you read that the whole recipe hinges on cake mix!  Maybe I am dabbling in the dark arts here, what with a sort of semi-homemade kind of a thing,  but I will definitely make these again.  They are certainly not chic, delicate little biscuits, but if you are in a hurry, and want something that looks fall-y, and Halloween-y, these cookies will be right up your alley.

Peanutty Chocolate Cookies    makes 3 dozen

1 (18.25 oz.) pkg. chocolate fudge cake mix (I used Betty Crocker)

1/2 cup butter, softened

2 eggs

1 (15 0z.) pkg. Reese’s Pieces

1 cup coarsely chopped salted peanuts

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease cookie sheets with Pam, or line with a Silpat.  In a large mixing bowl, combine cake mix, butter, and eggs; beat at low speed just until moistened. Stir in Reese’s Pieces and peanuts (this make take some doing, but be patient and keep at it).  Roll tablespoons of dough into balls and just barely press down, arranging 2 inches apart on cookie sheet.  Bake at 350 degrees for 7 to 10 minutes (I did mine for about 11 minutes–all depends on your oven).  Let cool on cookie sheets for 2 minutes, then move to rack to cool. Eat three in a row.

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