Wednesday, January 21, 2015

California, Here I Am!

Left for Road to California this was snowing like crazy in Castle Rock.

We spent a half-hour being de-iced, then had a bumpy farewell to remember Colorado by. Ironically, it was just as bumpy, coming into Ontario. (Lots of fog.)

The show starts tomorrow. I took a nap, got the handouts ready for class...and went to a teachers' reception. Lots of names and faces I've heard and admired before.

On to class tomorrow: Easy Embellishments for Memory Quilts. Crazies will be a small part of it...but more about my work for the Quilter's Newsletter Channel. Like this:

Stop by and say hi. I'll have had more sleep. (Only got a few hours last night.) I miss the Brick, too -- he stayed home to mind the office and the dogs.
     And chickens.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Road to California

Come join us! I'll be there...hope you can, too.

I Don't Make This Stuff Up...

This came via Daughter #1, who loves a good (bad?) pun almost as much as life itself. Silly girlie.

Courtesy of Facebook.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Monday Stuff on the Way to Other Stuff: Road to California

That's where I'm headed Wednesday morning -- off to Ontario, CA for the annual Road to California show. Oh my, it's intense -- exhibits, classes, lectures...and vendors that you can't find anywhere else. (I always look for one girl who has access to a warehouse full of antique laces, buttons and trims -- delightful.) 
     Three of my classes are filled -- but I've got a few spots in the "Quilts of the Great Depression" class. Come on along, if you want a good time. Meanwhile:

Looking at expenses for 2014. (And comparing them to 2013.) And why. (From Mr. Money Mustache) A compelling argument for some of his quirks -- like using a bike wherever he goes. Only two tanks of gas for the year -- wow!

Espresso...and morning musings. A graceful ode (and a recipe) to really good coffee. (From Pretty/Hungry)

Scenes from a frugal weekend. A relaxing take on what you can do, when you think 'frugal.'  (From Donna Freedman.)

A beautiful way to rehab a 'boob light.'  (From My So-Called DIY Blog) From this:

To this!

20 ways to raise a baby on a budget. (From Moneysaving Mom)

Side jobs to supplement your income stream. (From Brad's Deals)

A new protein source: roadkill!  (From The Penny Hoarder)

His dog gets a lottery ticket in its Christmas stocking -- $3 million.

This dog fell into a pool of tar -- see what happened. (Poor puppy)

20 ways to save on vacation, once you're actually in Europe. (From Brad's Deals) These would work elsewhere, too.

Seven pantry staples you can make...instead of buy. An outgrowth of the annual Pantry Challenge.
(From Good Cheap Eats)

Baked beef Middle Eastern-style 'kofta' kebabs. Gosh, these are good.  (From Penniless Parenting)

A trip to Disneyland -- for 50% less than you 'have' to spend. Some great ideas here, especially if you have kids. (From Pennies to Pancakes)

How to make thousands of dollars a year in side income. (From Doctor of Credit) I'm not saying you want to do all of these...but a few might not hurt. He plans to make this an annual report, which should be interesting. (His 2014 results are included.)

"Better than a box of chocolates." A Valentine's Day present idea that will make the sweet-lover sit up and take notice. (From Life As Mom)

An oversized vintage-look fancy apps! (From Bless'er House)

Bathroom storage that's thin, classic...and you can build yourself. (From  Shanty-2-Chic, one of her top ten projects for 2014.)

Have a great week. And if you're going to Road, stop by and say hi!

Friday, January 16, 2015

A New Use for Scraps

Got a few minutes, and some of these?

 A few minutes, plus the tutorial on You Can Call Me Gwen blog, and you can turn them
into these:

 Full instructions for 'pincushion rings' here. 

I can already see where my leftover scraps are headed!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

I Am a Bad Girl least, that's what "Curt Stevens of the Dept. of Legal Affairs" says.

According to him, we have a lien filed against us. We need to talk to him (or our lawyer does) asap -- or Bad Things Will Happen.

He must have been speaking with that "IRS agent" who phoned a few weeks ago, also saying we had a complaint against us. When I had the chutzpah to ask the guy why he was calling, when the IRS normally mails everything, he hung up.

No doubt a bad connection.

Scam phone calls are an epidemic right now. (The IRS is particularly sick of them.) Most often the callers threaten to wreck your taxes, credit score, have you arrested, deported, etc etc, unless you send them money Right Away. (And they're not nice about it, either.) Most times, the caller either has a bad English accent (so far, it's been Indian -- as from India-- or Hispanic for us) and doesn't know their terms very well.
     Which should be a giant red flag that they're bogus.

But tell that to The Mama, who got a call from an "IRS agent" and was terrified, until we talked it through. These scumbags feed on our willingness to be good citizens. They love getting older people, for that reason...and keep pushing for a quick conclusion, i.e., a payment.

For them, it's M-O-N-E-Y. (They managed to extort more than a million dollars just the last year alone.)

For you, it's peace of mind lost. (And a faint worry, in the back of your mind, that you really DO owe somebody -- or the IRS -- something.)

Well, you don't. Don't pay them a cent. Tell them to mail a notice. If they are who they say they are, you would have gotten one already. Normally, I would add the sentence "Take my name off your list" -- but I doubt they'd care. After all, they're already doing something illegal.

Can we make these scammers stop? I doubt it. After 30 min. or so of trying to get a live person at Verizon, so I could complain, I gave up. But you CAN file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.  (It will just take a few minutes.)

Feel free to call "Curt Stevens" back at 760-298-4491, and tell him I said so. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

2014: What Went Right, What Went Wrong

      I would like to say that 2014 was one of the best, most rewarding years of my life. 

I would be wrong. 

     This past year was a real challenge for the Brick family, both personally and collectively.
      Let's start with the good stuff:

*I continued to write. Not just for this blog, but I wrote for several others, including my mainstay Midlife Finance. I love being able to scribble on a wide variety of subjects (including Bigfoot and buried treasure!), but am making my name in 'PF' (personal finance). Frugal stuff, if you will.
     I have been a writer ever since I could read. And that was age two or so. I will stop writing when I stop breathing. I love words...their power, beauty and what they can accomplish.

*I met my professional commitments. Teaching, appraising, judging -- I did them all. Sometimes I was later than planned (just on appraising)...but I got them done.  (Goal for 2015:  get them done quicker!) The teaching and judging went fine.
     I finished with a stint on the board of the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum -- and picked up a second term as president of PAAQT, an appraisers organization.

*Our side businesses continued. Sales of the chickies' eggs paid for their feed...and part of their coop extension. ('Free' eggs and a few simmered chickens for us.) I taught piano to some students. (In 2015, I'll have even more.) The Brick and I both played and sang for some events...and he did some computer work. These all added to the coffers.
     Our business expenses were largely covered by my professional work. Sales from Brickworks did the rest -- and more.

*We didn't have any huge medical costs. A colonoscopy for the Brick was the biggest expense. (Poor guy.) So were two crowns for yours truly. (No root canals, though.) We're paying these off, a hundred or so a month.

*We kept current on costs -- actually got ahead on some. We owe less money at this time, and have a stronger emergency fund, than I can ever remember. Which is nice.
     Nothing terrible happened, weather-wise, to our house or vehicles, either.
     Our expenses, with the exception of a mini-crisis every now and then, remained under control, as well. Unless the world ends, or one of us has a medical emergency, this should hold steady.
     One of our best buys: our silver Subaru. It's used a lot less gas than the aging Cherokee -- and that savings has shown up big-time in credit card charges.

*We got to travel -- a lot. I spent the summer in Michigan, and teaching in North Carolina (including a surprisingly-fun gig for the John Campbell School of Folk Art), Williamsburg (plus an appraisers conference) and Maine. More on this in a bit.
    We also spent most of December relaxing on back-to-back cruises, with the Mama and Cousin Joy in tow. A lifesaver. In spite of picking up a monster case of flu on the plane back, and trudging through the holidays because of it.. I'd do it again in a heartbeat.
      Both of us love to travel -- particularly if we can just wander. Enjoying the local views and food, talking to people...we'd do this a lot more, if we could.

*I have a big batch of teaching and appraising commitments for 2015. Judging, not so much. (This does seem to come in large swaths when I'm doing it. Weird...) Plenty of work to look forward to, including an increasing amount of personal property appraising. I hope to commit to even more.
     It did seem strange, though, to realize that this is the thirty-first year of teachings and lecturing for me. The appraising is a less -- only eighteen years. Time goes by fast.

*The Brick's business commitments are going well, too. Retirement possibilities are starting to be discussed... but on our terms. He may keep working even during retirement -- but thanks to the years of frugality, he can choose to do so, rather than be forced to.

And now the bad stuff...

*The Mama's health. It wasn't good. She had open-heart surgery in June. Although she initially continued to improve in the summer, she hasn't done so well this fall or early winter. I'm not sure we could have gone on the cruises in December, if she hadn't gone with us.

*I had to travel -- a lot. A leisure trip is one thing. This was another. I spent 2 1/2 months away from home, which covered the Mama's surgery and recovery time, as well as the teaching/judging/appraising commitments. The latter covered my expenses, but only because I drove everywhere. This meant hours and hours and HOURS on the road. (More than 7,000 miles.) Without the Brick. I missed him desperately.
     The Mama came back with me at summer's end, to spend more weeks with us. 
    There were some wonderful days...and hours...and moments. I got to spend more time with much-loved cousins and family than I have for a long time, and see our new nephew, Dietrich, grow up a little. But most of this summer and fall slipped by in a haze.
     I'm sure the pressure contributed to more than my usual share of flu this past year. At least I didn't lose my voice -- you can still teach with a fever.

*Our family spent more time texting than together. I hated not being able to love up the Brick, the girlies and even the dogs in person. (We did have some very funny pun-wars, though.)

*We had some scary moments. The Mama's health...some near-misses in car accidents...some family arguments, caused in part by the stress from this summer...a few work laptop crashing...frozen pipes. (This was a special panic since broken pipes flooded the Brickworks workspace a few years ago -- and caused thousands of dollars in damages. In this case, though, they thawed just fine. Thank God.)

*We lost some chickens. One got stuck in the roost and died upside-down. Another was just found dead. (Beats us what the problem was.) One disappeared, with parts found in our next-block neighbor's yard. (The culprit? Probably an eagle who was hanging out in another neighbor's tree, looking interested.) And a chick died. Not too bad, considering we still have 19. (Three also got butchered.)

* I had writing plans I just could not meet. The Hanky Panky sequel isn't done. I didn't get as far as I'd hoped on the Scrap Quilts history I've been working on for some years. My uncle's WWII memoir isn't completely edited, nor is a family cookbook I've also been working on. All of these (with the exception of Scrap Quilts) need to be finished by the end of 2015. 

What's ahead? 

More travel -- to Road to California, a major quilt conference, next week. (All but one class is full, but I'll be at the Friday night sampler, if you want to stop by and say hi.) 

    A huge birthday party in February, to celebrate the Brick's 60th.

A quick trip to Michigan in spring, to check on the Mama, girlies hopefully in tow. Then on to Paducah, KY for the AQS show there...Conroe, TX...Cheyenne, WY...back to California...and some other stuff in between, including some gigs in Colorado.

A garden. I managed a few pots, but couldn't do much for being gone nearly all summer. The chickies decimated what was left. The chickies are cozy in their fenced-off area...and not eating up the rest of the yard. I hope to have a BIG, flourishing garden this year...helped along by said chickies' manure.

So life goes on. The girlies have their own plans...this should be Daughter #1's final year in college, which she is hugely looking forward to. Daughter #2 is thinking about expanding her Etsy business. It will be interesting to see what happens.

With them...and us.