January 11, 2012

Rethink your New Year's plan

SUSAN TOBIAS, Pinch of Time

---- — When the "ball" falls in Times Square, ushering in a new year, the crowds cheer, wave their arms and kiss anybody who is near. How exciting!

However, that's not my New Year. I wait a day or two after Jan. 1 then take inventory on my weight, my eating habits, my clutter and how to do better with money, a new beginning for all things. Can I hear an "amen" from our readers?

New and improved

I keep an eye on the sale papers for the next "better and improved" product to help our household run more smoothly. There's always a new something, right down to bag clips.

One of my pet peeves is closing up the bag of anything (potato chips, cereal, oatmeal, bread). It used to drive me crazy not to have one of those cute, pretty little clips to keep the food fresh.

What to do now when I can't find one? Use a clothespin.

My dad, Artie McGibbon, used to say to me, "What do you think they did before they had ... ?" Fill in the blank. Anyone over 50 years old will know what I mean.

Take the clothespin. Who needs a fancy clip with polka dots, smiley faces or whatever? A clothespin will do the trick just fine — at 50 pins for under a dollar.

My dear friend, Maureen, who passed away in 2010, went one better. Her way of closing a bread bag was to twist it around, down to where the bread begins, then double the bag over, making a completely airtight closure and keeping her money in her pocket. That works for me.

Old-fashioned exercise

How about eating habits and weight? I think they go hand in hand. I might add exercise in there, too, which is something I just don't get enough of.

Growing up on a farm, I never saw anybody need to buy an exercise machine. They already had one. It was called an ax, a hoe, a mop or a clothesline. Even a day on the tractor, plowing or bringing in the hay, worked off the steak or pork-chop dinner they had at noon.

Yes, I said dinner at noon; and supper was at 4:30 p.m. (The biggest meal midday, to work off in the afternoon; smallest meal before milking and relaxing, no need for "exercise.")

Think back to scrub boards for washing clothes. Ey-yi-yi! No thank you.

Wash day for my mother included a wringer washer, clothes squeezed through the wringer to the rinse water, then squeezed back through the wringer and out to the clothesline. Upper-body lifts all around.

What about ironing? Good for the range of motion.

I don't remember one "chubby" farm kid having to be taken away from the family because he was fed too much. If he or she ate, he or she worked it off, ate and vice versa. End of discussion.

Meals from scratch

As for making money stretch further this year, I plan to make more meals from scratch, which is better for us nutritionally and cheaper, indeed.

I started baking my own bread last year, and I loved it — sometimes too much. The only way to eat homemade bread is with real butter, right?

Since I don't hoe a garden, use a wringer washing machine or mop many floors, my cholesterol takes off like a rocket, even with pills. This year, I will still bake bread but commit to one slice with one pat of butter. (Can you hear my husband, Toby, laughing? He's one of the people who can eat anything he darn well pleases at any time of day or night and his cholesterol is lower than mine without meds.)

So, there you have it, my plan for 2012. I'd like to encourage everybody to rethink those cute little bag clips and expensive exercise machines and ask yourself, "What did they do before they had ... ?" The answer may surprise you.

If you get stuck, get in touch with me. I've probably asked myself the same question about the same object. We'll brainstorm together.

One last thought, as always, please be kind to each other. The world needs more kindness.

Susan Tobias lives in Plattsburgh with her husband, Toby. She has been a Press-Republican newsroom employee since 1977. The Tobiases have six children, 18 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. They enjoy traveling to Maine and Colorado, and in her spare time, Susan loves to research local history and genealogy. Reach her by email at