If I Had a Dime for Every Dime I’ve Thrown Away …

My husband came into the house the other day, triumphantly waving something he'd apparently plucked out of the recycling bin. "Aha!" he said. "I finally have proof that you actually do throw money away." He quickly explained, however, that it was merely the glint of the shiny dime on top of the recycling that drew his attention -- he does not go through the bins to see what's mistakenly landed in them. That's his story, at least.

Press Releases and Peaches

Have I told y’all that I’ve got a new job? Well, I use the term “job” loosely because it’s really just fun that I get paid for. And I’m using the phrase “get paid for” loosely, too. I’m the new marketing director for a local arts association that oversees an art museum and a renovated historic theatre. It’s part-time — only a few hours a week — and of course  it’s non-profit, so you can see that this is not the path to great personal wealth and riches. Of the money kind, at least. Because in terms of great personal satisfaction, this job rocks. The staff offices are in the museum, so we’re surrounded by creativity, talent and general wonderfulness every day. And the folks on the staff are exactly the type of people you want to work with: Dedicated, enthusiastic, generous and fun. Plus, I get to do what I love doing: Write. My prime responsibility is writing press releases and public service announcements and getting the word out about our exhibits, theatrical productions, concerts, workshops, tours, openings, etc. I’ve been building a media-contact list, talking to artists and newspaper and magazine folks and generally learning my way around the art world — which, by the way, is a fascinating place. Fascinating. One thing I’ve been thrilled to discover is that my work clothes from two years ago when I “retired” from fulltime newspaper-newsroom room still fit — but only because all those low-waisted skirts I borrowed from my daughters now sort of hang out around my waist since there seems to be some sort of impediment in my middle zone. But it’s OK, since I now have some spare cash I can put toward a new wardrobe the electric bill. (Oh, hi, Dear Husband! I didn’t see you reading here.) Read more about tackling a new job in my latest newspaper column.  And Younger Daughter sent me off to my new job in style the other morning with broiled fresh peaches served with a dollop of creamy Greek yogurt. Oh, yum.


 I was so proud of myself. Our recent yard sale had but a major dent in the household clutter, and we’d sold tons of all that stuff that sort of accumulates and nobody in the family knows why or where it came from or why somebody had to have it in the first place. Such as sure-I-can-knit-eight-Christmas-stockings supplies. And I-know-I’ll-use-these-purple-silk-flowers someday. And gotta-have cookbooks. Well … actually … we know where all those come from. Raising hand guiltily. I am a cookbook junkie. I admit it. I’m easily seduced by pretty pictures and promises of attainable culinary delight. I’m eternally optimistic, even though deep down I know I’ll never make all … uh … most …  okay…  any of the recipes. But somehow having the book in my possession makes it maybe perhaps possibly likely that I might someday make Peppercorn Roasted Pork with Vermouth Pan Sauce and Spiced Applesauce Cake with Cinnamon Cream-Cheese Frosting for dessert. Maybe. Anyway, everybody — husband, children, friends — commented on how well I’d cleaned out my cookbook stash, and I was starting to believe that maybe I could be trusted to wander through a cookbook aisle once again. However, the very next weekend after our yard sale (The. Very. Next. Weekend.), we went to a friend’s yard sale and because of course the rule is that you HAVE to buy something at a friend’s yard sale, I naturally gravitated to her Table O’Books — and found these cookbook treasures.  Oh, I should mention that my friend is a newspaper cookbook editor, so it’s possible that in the back of mind I thought maybe I’d find something interesting. Maybe. I mean, “Boy Eats World?” How cool is that? And “The Real Woman Cookbook” is a hoot — all feisty and sassy in the manner of Peg Bracken and Erma Bombeck.  “The Fearless Chef” has some wonderful-sounding recipes, and the “Layers of Flavors” and the book about flavored oils have gorgeous inspiring photos. And I got them all for only $5. “I’ve just got to clean out all my cookbooks,” my friend said. My husband just shook his head. But the minute I create a gourmet feast from one of my new cookbooks, he’ll thank me. And I’ll sure let you know when that happens. The cooking part, I mean.

Yard-Sale Success

Success!  Our yard sale this weekend was great fun. Plus, we sold a bunch of stuff. I mean, our garage has not been this clean and uncluttered since we moved in. This is all we have left. Compared to what we started with, it’s amazing. Yup, it was hot. Yup, it was miserable. Yup, folks thought we were crazy for having a yard sale in 101 degree heat and threats of thunderstorms. But the rain held off and, really, once you’ve sweated so much your T-shirt has become one with your skin and your hair has no resemblance to anything human, then you get sort of used to it. The most popular items at the sale that people asked about and I had to pry out of folks’ hand? Our bottle of hand sanitizer and our table fan. I know exactly what to stock up on for next time.

Random Thoughts

Did you ever think about all the things you know and take for granted that somebody else might think is the most incredible idea ever? For instance, a friend of mine and her husband are hydroponic farmers. Twice a week (soon to be three-times-a-week, by the way, for all local fans of Jack O’Lantern Farms in Florence, Alabama), they host a market to sell their produce and other fresh and yummy food items. Recently they started selling Higher Ground coffee, and they offer samples of a different flavor at every market. One day my friend said she had made too much coffee for the market and hated to dump it all out. I said, “Just make coffee ice cubes.” Turns out she’d never heard of that, but I do it whenever I have leftover coffee — and it does happen! Just pour the extra elixir of life coffee into ice cube trays and freeze. When the cubes are frozen, pop them into a freezer bag. You can use them to cool a too-hot cup without watering it down. Or put them in smoothies or cold and/or frozen coffee drinks. Anyway, my friend thought that was genius, and it got me wondering about all those little tips we have tucked away that we never think to share. Here are two more of mine that maybe you’ve never considered:

1) Keep a pair of inexpensive utility scissors (not your good sewing scissors) plus some airtight-sealable plastic sandwich and quart bags in your bathroom. When you think you’ve gotten everything out of your tubes of lotions and creams and gels, cut them open and you’ll be amazed at what’s left. You can get several days’ use out of something you thought was empty. Just be sure to keep the cut tube pieces in an airtight plastic bag so the product doesn’t go all yucky.

2) Before you put your boots away for spring — and I’m talking your good leather boots here — take them to a shoe-repair shop for thorough cleaning and any repairs. Don’t be shy. Load up your car with every pair of boots you’ve got and take them all over. It may take a while to get them back and you might think it’s a bit pricey (or maybe that’s just my local shoe shop), but I promise you the bill will be less than a pair of new boots and you’ll extend the life of your favorite pairs by several seasons. Besides, you need a shoe shop on your side for those footwear emergencies that always seem to happen at the worse possible time.

My third tip? Never put a roll of damp paper towels over a light bulb to dry out. But probably you already knew that.


Photo by Daniel Giles of the Times DailyI am pretty much the messiest eater ever. I literally cannot get up from a table without a shower of crumbs, I carry stain removal products with me at all times and my husband begs me not to drink my favorite strawberry-flavored drink mix in the car because I leave splatters of red everywhere. This problem led me to create the Cathy Wood Method of Wardrobe Selection, or, How to Coordinate Your Clothing with Your Food So You Don’t Look Like the Slob You Truly Are and Your Family and Friends Will Eat with You Again. Intrigued? It really works! No more hastily pulling on a sweater to hide the coffee dribbles. No more holding your purse in front of you to distract from the gravy droplets. You will be free to eat and enjoy without fear! Read more at http://www.timesdaily.com/article/20090826/SW/908259959/1085.

And while you’re there, read other Shoals Woman articles, such as the story on Halloween food, http://www.timesdaily.com/article/20090826/SW/908259955/1085 with my friend Kara Sams, and  another story I wrote — a guide to retirement planning, http://www.timesdaily.com/article/20090826/SW/908259973/1085.

Shoe Shopping

Shoe shoppingBelk shoe saleAre there any words more dear to a woman’s heart than “shoe sale?” There’s just something about a sea of markdowns that we cannot resist. This past weekend some friends and I were in Birmingham, Alabama, for the funeral of another friend’s Shoe shoppingmother. After the service, we needed some therapeutic girl-time, and there’s no better place than a sale at Southern department-store icon Belk. It’s definitely the place to be, female-wise. My friends were on the hunt for specific  shoes for upcoming weddings and christenings and I’m always open to the siren song of possibility — “I don’t really need these 4-inch purple snakeskin platform sandals or these bright turquoise-and-yellow pointy-toe flats but you never know when they might come in handy.” That is, I was open to possibilities of expanding my own personal shoe options until somehow, from many miles away, my husband felt the cosmic vibration of me being in the middle of a shoe sale and called to forestall any impulsively major purchase. How does he do that???

Yard Sales

Yard sales

We had our first yard sale this past weekend. The verdict? Success! And here’s the key: Have lots of help and have lots of fun. That’s my advice — even though I’ve only had one yard sale. I dithered back and forth about doing it but when my two daughters said they’d help when I offered them a a 50/50 split of the profits — anything to get their junk out of the house! — we were on. And I’m here to tell you that you cannot do yard sales alone. Do not even try it. Everybody — children, in-laws, parents, friends — lent advice and (literally) helping hands. Plus, we all had fun. Made it a party, even. Might as well. Read more in my past two weekly newspaper columns for the TimesDaily: http://www.timesdaily.com/article/20090710/ARTICLES/907105000 and http://www.timesdaily.com/article/20090717/ARTICLES/907175001

Saving Money

I admit it: I’m a spender. I’m much rather spend money than save it. I love shopping. I love going places and doing things. I love buying and having.  The problem? Hmm — let’s just say that income and outgo don’t always match! And whether you’re bring in $25,000 a year or $250,000, not managing your money efficiently sure can put a crimp in your style. The solution? Lately I’ve been doing my best to reduce UNNECESSARY expenditures in order to get the most bang for our buck when we do spend. I thought I’d share some of those efforts and see what y’all think.

1) Cut out my four-a-day sweetened bottled water habit and switched to plain water in a reusable container — sometimes adding a mix such as Crystal Light or Lipton Iced Tea. And even though we recycled the plastic bottles, I just feel a little greener not buying so many in the first place.

2) Visit a walk-in hair place at the mall for in-between trims and cuts, reserving my fancy high-priced stylist for coloring and occasional styling. This works especially because I notoriously am a bad hair person and no matter how the stylist fixes my hair, it’s back to the same-ol’ same-ol’ after a couple days. Why pay $75+ for that every month?

3) Teach myself to do my own pedicures. I did not think this would work but I really was proud of the results. And I never have done manicures since I can’t walk out of the salon/spa without cracking/chipping the polish.

4) Shopping in my own closet. Although I’m all for supporting local businesses, I’m also for having enough funds to go on vacation. When I dug around, I found things I hadn’t worn for months that I loved. I usually buy sort of classic non-trendy things anyway, so reviving these oldies-but-goodies doesn’t look dated. I hope not, anyway! If you can look at something you bought in the past couple years or so and imagine it hanging in your favorite boutique right now, it’s a keeper.

5) Using what you’ve got. This is another variation of “shopping in your closet.” I’m determined to use what I have before buying more. This includes makeup, lotion, skin care and such — my weakness. I mean, who can resist a lovely bar of handmade peppermint soap? Not me. As a bonus, this also requires organization so you know you already have three bottles of Warm Vanilla Sugar Shower Gel and do not — repeat, do not — need to buy anymore.

6) Enjoying what you’ve got. Another version of the same theory. I’ve got books and DVDs and magazines and CDs sitting around that I’ve never even picked up since I brought them home. Use ’em or lose ’em!

What do you think? How am I doing?