Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Broke is the New Black

New this fall is an ABC comedy series about an affluent African American family living in the 'burbs and trying to retain their cultural identity.

Which got me to thinking, I need to pitch my own series:

Here are a few episode ideas as we follow the Smith family, trying to keep up with the Jones family next door. 

Episode 1: Mary Smith buys her daughter a like-new Vera Bradley backpack on eBay (just like Katie Jones' daughter's) and then realizes the girls are dumping their Bradley bags this year in favor of bohemian satchels. She sells it on a local Facebook trading site and gets $35 for the $85 bag she paid $60 for and vows to eat PB&J for a week to make up for her poor purchase. Meanwhile, Bob Smith takes a second job delivering pizzas in a nearby town (Mary can't take a chance on his delivering to anyone they might know) in order to pay the rent on his boat slip at the marina.

Episode 2: Mary realizes the tuition is due for Sally's private art lessons and her credit card is maxed out so she can't pay it. So, she rifles through Bob Jr.'s closet to borrow $50 from the $76.83 he keeps in a Mason jar. Meanwhile, Bob Sr. puts his childhood baseball card collection on Craig's List to get enough money to pay for Bob Jr.'s hockey uniform.

Episode 3: Mary gets Sally and Bob Jr. to help her "clean the freezer" in hopes of finding something she can thaw for dinner because she doesn't have money in the checking account for groceries. Meanwhile, Bob Sr. stealthily goes through Mary's closet in search of clothes with the tags still on that he can return for cash so he can pay the entry fee for his office's Fantasy Football League. 

Episode 4: Mary tells Katie Jones she's allergic to silver to keep from admitting she doesn't have enough money to buy anything at her Stella & Dot party. Meanwhile, Bob Sr. rifles through Sally's closet to borrow $10 from the $17.25 she keeps in her Princess Anna and Elsa bank, so he can put it under her pillow after she loses her first tooth. 

Episode 5: Mary sends Sally and Bob Jr. out on their bikes to look for a lost Jack Russell after seeing posters in the neighborhood offering a $150 reward. Meanwhile, Bob declares a family 'get in touch with nature' week and turns off the air conditioning in order to lower their utility bill, and everyone is forced to sleep in the backyard playhouse when the house gets too hot.

Episode 6: Mary gets her hair cut for $15 at a beauty school and cries when she ends up with an asymmetrical cut that Bob says makes her look like a transgender indie pop star. Meanwhile, Bob gets a cavity filled at the nearby dental school for free and tries to become a paid sperm donor but is told there's not a market for men with male patterned baldness and excessive congenital moles.

Episode 7: Mary Googles possible ways one can sell a paired organ in order to get the $5,500 she needs for a tummy tuck, and then wonders if she can just have the transplant surgeon remove excess back fat when he takes out a kidney. Meanwhile, Bob Googles the possibility of reversing a dog's neutering, so he can lease out their golden retriever Sooner as a stud to a standard poodle after he hears the Jones family paid $1100 for their goldendoodle puppy.

Episode 8: Mary crashes their Porsche Cayenne into the light pole in the Target parking lot because the lease payment is due and they don't have enough money to pay it. She then sues Target for $50,000 for placing the light pole too close to the cart corral, claiming she didn't see it because she was distracted by the kid using the motorized cart collector. Meanwhile, Bob loses his job delivering pizzas so he sinks his boat in order to collect the insurance money.

Before I pitch Episode 9, the network decides to scrap 'broke•ish because viewers complained that it was "depressing" and "hitting too close to home" and that "anyone knows you can't sell a paired organ for more than $1200." I guess it's back to the drawing board ...

Money Jar image by Darren Barefoot; Lost Dog image by Casey Bisson; Dental image by brillenschlange; Target image by Mike Mozart--all on Flickr.

Monday, August 18, 2014

DIY Organizers

Lo and behold, I pinned something to Pinterest and remembered to go back and attempt it. In fact, I found two different bloggers who claimed this idea--organizers made from pot holders. This one and this other one have detailed instructions about how you take a square pot holder, stitch some snack size storage bags down the center and attach a closure to make a purse-sized organizer.

I thought these would be great to share with my book club friends at the retirement home. Many of them use those push walkers that have a storage compartment under the seat, and these would fit perfectly there. My girl and I were in a crafty mood, too, so we set out to find some pot holders. I figured I could score some at the dollar store, Target or World Market. I was right, wrong and right. But, those at the dollar store were beige and very skimpy looking. Target didn't have any square ones. World Market had gorgeous pot holders but, at $5 each, they were a little out of my budget since I planned to make at least a dozen as well as purchase items to place inside.

Since ours didn't have to be heat-resistant, I went to JoAnn Fabrics and bought quilted fabric and extra wide double fold bias tape. I purchased 1/2 yard pieces in four different designs; each cost $7 and I could get ten 8-inch squares out of each. (Since the fabric was reversible, with a coordinating print on the other side, it was like purchasing eight different fabrics.) One package of bias tape would bind three squares. In total, each cost less than $1.70; including sandwich baggies, not including the items we filled them with.

After zigzag stitching the tape around the edges (and including a loop at one corner), I thought it might be nice to add a place for a pen on the outside. So we took scraps of bias tape, about 6 inches long, ironed out the center fold, tucked under the top and bottom edges and stitched it down one side, across the bottom and up the other side, leaving the top open. 

With this stage, I let my girl help out. 
The most difficult stage was stitching the bags into place. Those suckers are slippery and have to be taped down. (For a step-by-step tutorial, click here.) After that, we hand-stitched buttons on the front as well as added a loop of ribbon on the opposite side for a closure. 

A couple friends happened by that day and helped my girl get them stuffed. We included:
  • wet wipes
  • emery boards
  • floss picks
  • Band-Aids
  • Tylenol packets
  • Carmex
  • rubber bands
  • paper clips
  • bobby pins 
  • breath mints
  • candy
  • Halls cough suppressants 
  • tissues 
  • ink pen
The women at the retirement home LOVED them and seemed so pleased we'd made something just for them. (Of course, I forgot my camera and didn't think to grab my phone and take a photo.) We handed out about a dozen of the sixteen we made, so my girl kept one for herself and gave the rest to friends. I was surprised to see how excited the kids were to get one, too. I'll definitely be making more and possibly including them in my Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes this year (without the Tylenol or Halls). They'd be great to keep in the car, in your beach bag or diaper bag, or in your desk at work. Teachers' gifts maybe? I can think of a lot of uses!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Dreaming of Mom

I dreamed about my mother early this morning. The kind of dream that wakes you and forbids you to go back to sleep. Mom was on vacation with us and yet not with us, so I was walking down a long, wide carpeted hallway toward her hotel room to check on her. As I got closer, she appeared, wearing a faded blue nightgown, walking purposefully toward me, tiny, frail. I stepped into pace beside her and asked, "Where are you going?" She answered, "I think I have pneumonia. I'm going to the hospital." I pulled her to my side, hugged her close, turned my head and kissed her on her left temple. Once, twice, again and again until I woke up.

The last time I saw her was October 14. In two months it will be a year and a lifetime ago that I was with her. And yet she's always with me. When I fold laundry, I can hear her chiding me that we have too many clothes. Of course, she's right; I do a ridiculous amount of laundry. When I sew or cook or bake, she's looking over my shoulder, remarking about how I do things just like she did and how I do things so differently than she did. When I'm with my children, I can feel her watching me with the same amount of maternal pride I exude. She often said her greatest joy was her children, and we knew that even when she didn't say it.

Kermit and me, October 14
I will never get over losing her. I will forever miss her so deeply I find it hard to breathe at times. So this morning, it took me a minute to get out of bed. In time, the dog bounded in, jumped up on the bed and put his head on my chest, his paw on my shoulder. He's good that waythe way good dogs know when we need them the most. The way he was when I got home last October, exhausted from spending four nights beside my mom in the hospital, not wanting to leave her side. I had stumbled into bed to nap and, after an hour, my husband opened the bedroom door so the dog could join me. Kermit had been ramming the door with his head so much, my husband was afraid he'd hurt himself if he didn't let him in.

Most nights I don't dream about my mother, but I know she's with me. She's always with me.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Summer To-Do List

I don't know if your kids are cut from the same over-achieving cloth as mine, but we had barely scraped the gunk from her lunchbox and shaken the Goldfish build-up from the bottom of her backpack when my girl announced her summer goals:

1. Read War & Peace
2. Learn a second language
3. Gather food and clothes for the homeless
4. Get the true homeless experience by:
a. building a tent in the backyard
b. cooking eggs on a hot sidewalk
c. burning leaves with a magnifying glass (in case you can't find heat this winter)
So, I put aside her Mensa application and set off to purchase a magnifying glass while she pulled the chip clips off every opened bag in the pantry and culled sheets and towels from the linen closet.

Anyone with functioning opposable thumbs can rig a tent as long as one can find two tallish somethings to attach twine or a clothesline to. Lucky for us, we have two trees in the yard that worked. After stringing the twine, we chip-clipped the sheets into place and she laid a patchwork floor fashioned from old curtains and beach towels. A few accessories later--including a strategically placed mosquito-deterring plant, her iPod, a Beats Pill, folding table, a fan/spritzer bottle, plus a best-bud--and she was good for an hour or so. Until she got hungry. And then too hot. And then saw a spider.

Once the tent had to be taken down so Dad could run the sprinklers, she decided to attack her next challenge and enlisted the help of her best boy bud. (The fact that he was wearing a T-shirt with an appropriate saying was a bonus.) We picked the first day the temps soared over 100 degrees and once the sidewalk seemed sufficiently preheated, let 'em drop!  

Ew, touch it! 

Maybe this will cook it faster. 
Turns out they don't cook but rather congeal. 

No one was daring enough to see if they were edible. Except the dog, later. And probably that weird cat that hangs out around here at night. 

Then she had bigger fish to fry things to try and set fire to. Turns out magnolia leaves are pretty crunchy after they fall off the tree and dried palm fronds worked too. All we needed was to get the sun's rays coming in at a good angle and pretty soon the leaf started smoking. 

It wasn't long before the driveway started smelling like a outdoor music festival. But before I could say 'Bonnaroo', she was off again--looking for things to set fire to.

Then she heard me mention this cultural phenomenon known as 'the summer slide' so, of course, she was determined to tackle that as well, my precious gifted one. 
Now, we've started the countdown to school and will try our best to not break something or set the house on fire. We like to keep our goals manageable around here.