Wednesday, July 27, 2016

AQS Syracuse Prizewinners

Want to see who won in the quilt competition at AQS' latest show -- Syracuse, New York?

Go here for more, including photos.  And if you're saying to yourself, "Gee, I saw at least some of these at the Paducah show earlier this year"...
     you're right.

Judges make jokes about Really Good Quilts making the circuit -- because that's what their owners/makers do. The best quilts often take years to stitch. So wouldn't it make sense to enter them in more than one competition, so they can take advantage of different judges and differing viewpoints?
    It makes sense...but as a judge, you keep hoping to see something new. However, it's the best piece that wins the competition -- and in different shows, that means different pieces entered.

In this case, Best of Show was quilt #116, "Ewe Are My Sunshine," by Janet Stone of Overland Park, KS.
      Nice job, Janet.

Bite Off Your Moment of Happiness

Daughter #2 shared this gem of positive thinking:


We've had dogs who thought like this.

(Photo credit: David Fleetham/Alamy. The meme: GD Falksen. Thanks for the inspiration, guys!) 

Thriving At Rock Bottom, Part III: Everyday Meals in the Life of the Bricks

By now, you've had a chance to wade through Part I and Part II of my 'dirt cheap meals' series. I'm hoping that the tips and tricks I've learned over the years, both on my own and from others (including a very frugal grandma), were of help to you, too. 

Now to apply those lessons to everyday life. Our life. 

I use a combination of techniques for our food choices, including scrounged, discount and sale items. I'll also stockpile when I find especially good sales. Just snagged $1.47/lb boneless chicken breasts -- no skin or fat -- plus boneless pork loin at this price -- from our local Safeway. I also shop our other local grocery store, King Soopers, for their milk -- the best-tasting, at $1.99 for a gallon. (I thin the milk with water at a 1/3 to 1/2 ratio, and keep some at full strength for use in coffee or tea.)
      Other than staples like milk and butter, if it's not on sale or marked-down, with rare exceptions, I don't buy it. I just wait.
     This approach has worked surprisingly well.


    Eggs are a workhorse in our morning meals -- we have these at least four days a week. (Are you surprised, since we have chickens?) At our customer rate ($4.00/dozen), these cost us about 33 cents each. But they're fresh, have a richer taste, and we often eat up the cracked or pecked eggs the little stinkers provide.

    Some kind of meat goes alongside -- generally either bacon ($7.99 for a two-pound package of bacon ends, sliced thin to cover 7 or 8 meals) or sausage ($2/lb or less -- a recent purchase was $1.50/lb beer bratwurst, marked down from King Soopers). Ham is often substituted when it's on sale for Easter.
    I'll supplement these with toast (homebaked bread, free from the thrift shop, or $1-1.50 each from the Friday/Saturday store, or from the discount shelf at King Soopers) or tortillas (about 5 cents each, bought in bulk at Wal-Mart), plus a sprinkle of cheese ($1-2/lb at Fri/Sat or Sprouts, rarely more) or jam (homemade from The Mama, or discount from Fri/Sat or King Soopers).

Cinnamon rolls make an occasional appearance. (Mostly homemade -- or tubed versions, when $1.50 or less.) So does coffeecake or doughnuts -- only if homemade or marked-down.  We'll have cold cereal, too, on occasion -- but only when I can find boxes for $1-2 each. Oatmeal (about 69 cents/lb -- about 15 cents a serving) shows up now and then, supplemented with nuts ($5/lb or less) and cinnamon. We'll also be eating the Mighty Good hot cereal just delivered.

I accidentally left off the most important items! The Brick's mom must have been frightened by a maple syrup truck while she was carrying him, because he will eat pancakes or waffles every time I'm willing to make them. (Crustease mix from Sam's, because it's inexpensive, easy and tastes good. The waffles get made from scratch.) I often add nuts or fruit to increase the nutrition, and we try to buy a jug or two of real maple syrup whenever we visit Michigan. (My grandparents ran a 'sugar bush' for some years, and there were still old spigots in the maple trees on the folks' farm.)
     French toast comes in a close third -- and is a good way to use up stale bread.

Coffee is a given -- the Brick makes the best coffee in the world. He grinds it every morning from beans. ($6.99/lb on sale, from Sprouts -- we'll buy a six-month supply when it's on sale, and supplement it with multi-pound packs of Boyer's Rocky Mountain Thunder brand coffee -- Sam's Club.) We're fussy about our tea, too -- we like stronger British brands, like P & G. (Discounted or Daily Deal purchases from Amazon.) Herb teas are generally purchased for a buck or two. (Damaged packages, from touring the Celestial Seasonings plant in nearby Boulder.)


     We stopped eating these much after the Brick retired -- now we'll typically snack, instead. (See that category soon.) If we make an exception, it's generally supper leftovers or sandwiches. (The latter use leftover meat, egg salad, grilled cheese or peanut butter and jam -- pb often from the Fri/Sat store.)
     Soup also appears -- often leftovers from supper the night before. We'll also have canned soup. (Campbell's chicken noodle, still my favorite, from a 50 cents/can stash that's rapidly diminishing -- or Chunky soups, thinned half-and-half with water or milk, for 99 cents/can -- often on sale at grocery stores, or from the dollar store.) Bread and crackers ($1-1.50, Fri/Sat store, or on sale), with chunks or slices of cheese or meat, fill in any empty spots.

Oh, my...


Some nights, we have a multi-course meal my grandma would be proud of:  meat, potatoes, gravy, veg and dessert. (Either homemade, on sale or marked-down. We just had a $1.99 blueberry pie from Wal-Mart, for example.)
     Other nights, it's macaroni and cheese, with a can of tuna stirred in (50 cents each on sale, Safeway). It all depends on time, energy...and where we have to be, in an hour or so. Generally, though, I use the oven to bake meats, potatoes and/or casseroles. I tend to use only 1/2 pound of meat or less for two this filling (and quick) dish:

     Bake a potato -- when almost done, slit open, insert a strip of bacon and sprinkle with cheese. Bake 10 minutes more until sizzling; serve with veggies.

     Veggies are sometimes fresh, cut into crudites with dressing, sometimes in salad form, sometimes from the garden (which isn't doing so good this year), and sometimes frozen. The first two often come from sales at Sprouts, or farmer's markets -- the latter is usually 99-cent frozen mixes. (I like the stirfry one, especially.) We have some canned versions too...but not as many since Sprouts opened up in town. Their veggie and fruit specials are truly inspiring year-round.

     You may notice that fish is not a primary ingredient in our diet. (Chicken is -- or can be. We also get a lot of wild game from hunting that we'll substitute for beef or pork. It's lean and flavorful.) That's because Colorado is a dry state -- fish and seafood are hard to find at reasonable prices. I'll grab it on sale or out of the marked-down bin, checking carefully for freshness. Canned oysters and clams ($1-2 at Fri/Sat or the dollar store) make nice pasta salads, as well as nice chowders for the seven fish dishes.

      I stockpile rice (about 40 cents/lb, 25-pound bag from an Oriental market or Sam's), pasta or noodles (50 - 69 cents each, on sale...or $1, at the dollar store). These last a long time in bulk, and along with beans, will be helpful when The World Ends. (Sooner than later, depending on which political party you talk to -- and it flipflops a lot.) 
     I often make my own white sauce if doing a casserole. (A recipe for this will be coming soon.) Cheating is okay, using canned soup, but mushroom soup in our neck of the woods is often going for a buck a can now. (ouch) Tomato sauce ($1-1.50 each, on sale or Fri/Sat store -- just got 2 large cans of Hunt's mushroom spaghetti sauce for 49 cents each) comes in handy for pasta or Pizza ($1-1.50, homemade or $2-4 each, purchased on sale) is a favorite, as is soup with biscuits or cornbread. (Check out the Holiday Goodies blog for a bunch of recipes in this category.)

     And don't forget beans. One of our stars is chili: The Mama home-cans tomatoes that are perfect with a half-pound of hamburger and a walloping lot of kidney or pinto beans. We use Anasazi beans, too. Black beans are not big on my list, though the Brick likes them. (80 cents/lb, on sale or Fri/Sat store. The Anasazi beans were in a 50-pound sack from Dove Creek, CO -- 50 cents/lb.) These are delicious done New England-style with molasses (this link includes my grandma's recipe), or mixed with beef, pork or chicken in tacos and enchiladas. (Sauce on sale, or the Fri/Sat store -- as little as $1.49 for a huge can.) Dry beans are cheapest, but I keep a couple of cans in stock (79 cents - dollar) for last-minute meals, as well.

Black-eyed peas, Hoppin' John-style, are great, too.
     Use these for a really easy beans and rice dish:
Cook a cup of rice (20 min). While it's cooking, chop fine a handful of onion, green pepper and any little amounts of veggies you have wilting in the crisper. Add a can of beans with liquid, plus a tablespoon of hot sauce or salsa. Serve over rice. 
    Meat variation:  add any leftover meat, also chopped fine. Chicken and rice is even easier:  add a cup of chopped chicken, plus veggies and a chicken bouillon cube, to the rice before cooking.


This one is tough. We're both trying to lose weight, and it's easy to munch at length. I just bought several bags of potato and tortilla chips, ostensibly for camping ($1.49 each on sale at Safeway), and they're almost gone. I need to behave myself.
     Popcorn is common. (from a 25-pound bag -- Sam's -- about 50 cents/lb, plus a few tablespoons butter) So are baby candy bars and chocolate-covered grahams from the dollar store. I'll buy Keebler cookies, too -- if they're half-price or less. (Happens more than you think.) Regular candy bars make an appearance only if they're on sale, or marked down after a holiday, like Christmas, Valentine's Day, Halloween or Easter. We just snagged a pile of Ferrante-Rocher filled chocolates: three-packs 5 for $1, at the Fri/Sat store. Sometimes they or Tuesday Morning have Mozart Kugeln, too. Yum.


     Otherwise, I'll make cookies or cake, like the banana cake just baked. (Bananas, 35 cents/lb from Sprouts -- pecans from Sam's Club, about $5/lb in two-pound bag. Flour and sugar from Sam's in bulk, or on sale at King Soopers.) The Brick is especially fond of homemade chocolate chip cookies...but doesn't get them that often.
     Fruit in season is also on the snack menu -- but I hold it to $1/lb, or less, with the exception of blueberries. Strawberries and cherries are winding down, our own raspberry bushes are almost done, and blueberries are starting to wane. We'll head to Palisade in a few weeks for peaches -- usually we buy 5 or 6 bushels, at about 25-50 cents/lb. Some peaches get resold to friends at cost, or given away; I stash a lot in the freezer. We also eat them. Fresh peaches, with the luscious juice running down your chin, are one of life's great pleasures.
     I'll be in Michigan to visit the Mama in September -- perfect timing for the apple crop. I'll be taking a suitcase full of Christmas presents, since we're not headed back there for the holidays. Guess what it will hold, on the way home?

BIRTHDAY SUPPER FOR FIVE -- This was the menu for Daughter #2's celebration Monday night. (She turns 28 -- and just got engaged!) I almost added baked potato fries (potatoes, a splurge at 35 cents a pound), but held back because of the buns. (We try to limit to one carb a meal.)

Shrimp/tomato cocktail juice   (59 cents, from the Friday/Saturday store)
Grilled burgers   (Patties for $2.39/lb, with a second package at $2/lb. I had to really look for these prices-- as I'm sure you know, beef is expensive right now)
Homemade buns    (flour, sugar, yeast, salt, dried milk -- and half a stick of butter)
Green bean casserole  (Daughter #2's favorite. Green beans 99 cents/lb and a few mushrooms at 50 cents from Sprouts, can of mushroom soup 50 cents -- from the stockpile. Plus a King Soopers tub of Greek yogurt, marked down: 39 cents.)
Tomato and pickle slices   (Roma tomatoes, 90 cents a pound from Sprouts; Jason's Deli garlic dills from Friday/Saturday store -- about $1.50.)
Assorted fruit    (peaches, green and red grapes -- from Sprouts, all at about $1/pound)
Grasshopper pie  (marshmallows and chocolate-covered cookies from the dollar store, creme de menthe from my stash, a little milk, grated chocolate from a Lindt bar purchased at Tuesday Morning for about a buck. Plus a dollar package of birthday candles.)

I've come to a few conclusions about food and meals:

    * I have to be vigilant about all this. Sales, marked-down items and "can you use this" offers from friends tend to come out of nowhere. Grab them when you can.

    *We need to keep extra money on hand, to take advantage of sales. That means adding regularly to the emergency fund, even when life is running smoothly. (Here are some unusual ways of making extra cash. More ideas elsewhere in this blog, too.)

     *I can go overboard. If it were up to me, we would have missed out on some memorable experiences -- simply because I was too much of a Hollander to cough up the money. The night we had a steak dinner at the local diner, after we'd come home, tired and dirty, from a rain-filled camping trip. The expensive dinner downtown, to celebrate the Brick's promotion, or a new book contract. (Okay, we used coupons or Groupons.) The Sunday stop at a buffet, because I was too exhausted to cook, after hours of singing on Worship Team.
     The Brick enjoys saving -- but he also has an innate sense when we can actually afford to do these things. So far, he's never been wrong.

So save money on food -- but savor it, too. After all, that's what it's all about.

This photo, and others, courtesy of

More good sources:
All You:  100 recipes that clock in at a dollar...or less.

Budgets Are Sexy:  recipes for a dollar a day.

Helpful blogs:  Life After Money
                         Poor Girl Eats Well
                         101 Cookbooks                    (a range, including expensive and frugal --
                                                                            many unusual and ethnic recipes)
                         My Messy, Thrilling Life    (especially the earlier posts)
                         The Pioneer Woman    (Ditto. Her later posts, when she became much
                                                                   better-known, are often sponsored -- and more expensive)
                          Moneysaving Mom                  (Worth exploring for the frugal living tips.
                                                                                        A lot of good recipes and links, too.)
                          Feed Yourself For A Pound A Day  (just started reading this one - the British
                                                                    terms are a little hard to translate, but worth it)
                          Living on A Dollar A Day  (no recipes, but a good reminder that other people in
                                                                                  other countries often live on a lot less)
                          Living on A Dollar A Day   (ABC's version)

Now on to baking perfect chocolate chip cookies...once I figure out the grams business.

Quilting Setbacks

You couldn't tell it by looking here...

    But as I mentioned last Monday, Quilter's Newsletter magazine will be no more after the Oct./Nov. 2016 issue.

the Aug./Sept. 2016 issue
Ironically, many of the magazines influenced by QN, including Quiltmaker (an offshoot at the time), plus McCall's Quilting, will continue publishing. Good for them...I'm glad.

But QN's demise breaks the heart -- particularly for this writer/quilter, who learned her chops while working as an editor there in the 90s.

I had other jobs back then; you may remember my name from the Quilts & Other Comforts Fabric Club. I was managing editor for their newsletter, designed patterns and helped choose fabrics. I also wrote the newsletter for the wholesale division back then, and talked to a lot of shopowners and retailers for articles, surveys and such.

But my main job was editorial at Quilter's Newsletter, under such greats as Mary Leman and Jeannie Spears. Karen O'Dowd's office was across the hallway from mine, and we had many interesting conversations.
     At that time, Bonnie Leman was close to retiring. (She died in 2010.) But she interviewed me for the job. (Something I remember in awe, like meeting Elvis.) She still published pattern collections then under her name. (She chose the quilts, we editors and artists designed and wrote the patterns for those quilts. If you've read a book by Bonnie Leman from that period, you were most probably looking at some of my and others' work, too.) And she continued to have input on what made it into the magazine -- and what didn't.

When I began working for QN, I'd been writing for decades. My last job before that had been for Boulder's newspaper, The Daily Camera, and I'd been freelancing for a long time. I knew how to write -- that wasn't a problem. And I knew how to quilt -- I'd been doing it for a few years, and had started teaching, as well.

I thought I knew how to write quilt patterns. I remember submitting the first one, proud as punch -- and having it soundly rejected.
     Marie Shirer ripped apart my text -- she didn't like it one bit. I still remember her emphasizing that "over" was a direction -- I should use "more than" when referring to numbers. (Something, by the way, that many, many people still mess up on.)
     Vivian Ritter, one of my best mentors, said, "Cindy, you've got this layout all wrong." And she was right! Being a left-handed person, I'd laid the pattern pieces out as if a left-hander was reading it. Magazines, if you haven't noticed, are laid out for the majority: right-handers. Vivian taught me a lot about clipping corners on patches so they fit together better, estimating yardage and shortcuts that made for better accuracy -- all techniques I still use today. (Thanks, friend. I'm so grateful.)

QN almost made it to its 50th birthday. What a celebration that would have been! I will never forget the friends I made there -- it was (and has been, since then) a huge influence on my work.

Quilter's Newsletter, sadly, is not the only quilt-related program or publication to go under in recent years:

The National Quilting Association (NQA) shuttered its doors -- and its yearly national show.

Mary Fons and her mom had their "Quilt Your Heart Out" podcast cancelled.

The American Quilter's Society will no longer be publishing books, although its magazine, American Quilter, continues. (There's one large exception: Ann Hazelwood's quilt novel series will continue for a while. Fortunately.)

The Kansas City Star, publisher of my Quilts of the Golden West, shut its quilt book division down, as well -- and sold the titles to C&T.

These are just a few -- there are others. 
Update:  Now IMQA -- the International Machine Quilting Association -- is no more, along with its show, MQS -- the Machine Quilters Showcase. The board sent out a July 26 letter, celebrating the group's recent 20th anniversary...and announcing that it would 'dissolve.' What a shame.

It's a difficult, competitive world out there -- and the quilt world is changing along with everything else. Podcasts and e-books have affected publishing. And although the nature and techniques of quilting have often stayed the same...not much else has.

Some of my colleagues are gloomy about the future. They seem to be predicting that the quilt world will fall apart and collapse altogether. I don't think this -- our shared art has such a history, a community about it. It's lasted for literally thousands of years, through hard times and good.

There will always be a baby or grandfather who needs a warm covering, and a bagful of fabric scraps that needs to be used up. When those two variables combine, a quilt often results. And the tradition continues.

Will we stay the same? Of course not. Quilting will change. (The Modern Quilt Guild's influence has already proven that.)

But what's next?

It will be interesting to find out.
Quilters Newsletter June/July 2016 (QN10616)
Love and kisses, QN -- we'll miss you.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Astronaut Was Right!

Yes, plants CAN be grown on Mars-like soil. Scientists from the Netherlands have been doing it since 2013 from soil similar to Martian dirt, based on analyses from NASA.

Though Mars soil has a high concentration of heavy metals, four of the ten crops grown have tested as okay for human consumption.

If you're going to be one of the first settlers on Mars, plan on eating radishes, peas, rye and tomatoes.
 (That's what the scientists have grown safely, so far.)

Potatoes are next, ironically -- 

And yes, I'm thinking of The Martian.  In case you didn't see it (or read the even-better novel), this is the story of an astronaut stranded on the Red Planet for years, while his colleagues try to mount a rescue.  (More here via Wikipedia, if you're interested.)

How does he survive?

 By eating potatoes grown in soil nourished by, shall we say... organic byproducts.

You know what to do, Dutch scientists!

The tired and worn face of a man wearing a space suit, with the words "Bring Him Home" overlaid in white lettering. In smaller lettering the name "Matt Damon" and the title "The Martian
thank you, Wikipedia.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Monday Stuff On the Way to Other Stuff: Hot, Then Cold, Then Hot...

"Why do you have that blanket wrapped around you?" asked the Brick. "It's HOT out here!"

    Which was when I realized that it hadn't turned chilly, all of a sudden: I was running a fever. 

We were planning on going camping this weekend, but my bout with summer flu changed that. I still seem to have it (the fever) resurface now and then, but am feeling better. (Either that, or the temperatures outside are going up and down like a yo yo.) 

A grateful thanks to those of you who've been visiting because of the Thriving At Rock Bottom series. Two parts are up now -- and the third will appear this week. Welcome.

A good look at commemorative and memorial ribbons -- yes, in quilts, too.  (From Barbara Brackman's Civil War Quilts )

Infinity pools that stretch practically to infinity. Gee, they look so refreshing... (From Urban Daddy)

32 desks that make working at home possible for anyone.  (From Domino) Like this one:

 Small Home Office Desk brown secretary desk

and this cool one.  (I wish somebody would build me a swing like this!)

 Small Home Office Desk wood desk with white chair

The world's hottest day ever recorded...and it just happened. Kuwait got the honor at 54c. That's 129 DEGREES for us schmucks in the States. And I thought we were having hot days...

Celebrity food tattoos. Got a bunch of money? Waste it on a tattoo of Vegemite! Don't laugh...Miley Cyrus did just that. (From Urban Daddy)

More about Senator Tim Kaine, Hillary Clinton's VP pick.  Personally, I see a lot to like in this guy. Mrs. Clinton -- not so much.

Five reasons homesteaders fail. One of them: disillusionment, when your garden fails -- or your dog digs it up.  (From Living in Rural Iowa)

22 ways to renovate your home -- on a small budget.  (From Apartment Therapy)

Old CDs...for a backsplash?  We need to do something in our kitchen. Maybe this would work. (From Instructables)

Also:  a $2 vacuum sealer you can make yourself. Wish the Brick would make this for me.

'What Being Thrifty Means to Me.'  A new blog I've been devouring, full of practical ideas to save. She's single, with two kids, and knows what it's like to live on a small income. (From Thrifty Mom in Boise)

Prom photos -- hey, what's that behind you??

Shoplifters galore. Our local Douglas County sheriff posted this interesting video of a threesome fleecing a woman at the grocery store:

I have GOT to be more careful...I've been walking away from my purse in the cart lately.

That led me to this video -- the store celebrates her as the 10,000 shoplifter to visit the store, complete with cake, champagne...and marching band!

Coming to terms with past financial mistakes -- particularly when they've affected people you love. This is a remarkable post. (From the Simple Dollar)

The LA Times is promising I'll 'understand this election'...if I fork out a dollar a week for their digital access.  Hey, if they can explain this madness... sign me up!

A social justice group, The Maine People's Alliance, is advocating for an across-the-counter rate of $12 minimum. So what do they offer in their own employment ad? $10/hr. They say it was a mistake....oh yes, and it's fixed now. Uh-huh.

My All-American...also known as Courage. We watched this football movie last week, about a University of Texas player who's undersized, yet ends up inspiring the whole team. See if you can watch this without crying. (I couldn't.)

Sigh...I miss football.

Christie's reports a steep drop in sales... but it seems connected more with sales on the Really Important Stuff. My colleagues in the textile appraising field, however, have felt that overall prices for quilts, etc. have gone down -- sometimes more than they deserved to. Hmmm...

Have a great week.

The feeling's mutual, Buddy.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

A New Way to Resurrect Shoes

Are your sneakers, flat slippers or espadrilles stained...or just tired-looking?

Tie-dye them in variegated shades. No dipping, either. WAYYY too easy...which makes it even more interesting!

 I could see doing this with anything textile-related, but would double-check for colorfastness. How do you do that? One easy way: wet a q-tip, then rub it against the item. If color comes off, you need to set that dye. (Heat-setting it with a hot iron works, particularly if the item in question is still damp.)

Instructions here, thanks to Instructables, a great site for all sorts of how-tos.

Another version, with a more 'marbled effect,' using shaving cream.
             (No, I am not making this up.)