Sunday, May 24, 2020

Things I Don't Understand: The Potluck Edition

Just gotta clean out the files, Gentle Readers. Yes, I love these...but they're piling up. Several different subjects in all kinds of weirdness, from Bigfoot to missing dogs. See what you think!

Maybe you can find him at...

This makes a surprising amount of sense.
Terror and patriotism do not always go together.

If you don't get this, then...


Oh, I Wish...

Rain nearly all day today. A peaceful, soaking rain that is soooo rare for Colorado. You could literally SEE the grass spears stretching gratefully up to the sky. 

It meant we couldn't leave as early for Michigan as we'd planned. This trip around, we decided not to cover the boxes with a tarp -- every single trip, it's ended up flapping in the wind and shredding, no matter how carefully the Brick tied it down. 

So... we drive when it doesn't rain. Or not as much. And we have two nights of peaceful sleep, listening to drops on the roof. Lovely.

Update:  Both the Brick and I had misgivings about this trip -- due in great part to Covid-19. The Mama is in the highest-risk group. What if she came down with it, after we'd been there? (We don't have it, but it would be easy to peg us as the 'carriers,' regardless.) 
    Decided not to go, after all. A very difficult decision -- but I'm at peace about it. We will go later, after Michigan's governor lifts their many restrictions.

Monday Stuff On the Way to Other Stuff: Thank You, Memorial Day

The word 'happy' just doesn't seem to fit this day. All I can say is how much I appreciate the people who have sacrificed and gave themselves, so we could be free. That means even more, after months spent in other countries who don't always take this viewpoint.

Thank you.

 Strange quotes from people who ended up as serial murderers. WARNING: Some of these are pretty creepy. Think of spiders lurking near flies... (From Listverse) Also from them:

Ten photos of people unaware they're pictured with serial killers.

We are on the way to Michigan, to see if we can help with family. Given all the fuss Michigan's governor has made, I wonder:

Bigfoot's selling a California home!   (I'm not making this up.)

Interesting Lance Armstrong comments...I don't care about the 'FU's, but his last story is a fascinating way to deal with someone who insults you.

'Living with Money' is a whole series of first-person financial accounts from The Cut.
    Really interesting.

The habits of frugal billionaires. Also:

Ten lessons rich people learned from their parents.

Why some people support indefinite lockdowns. (From Financial Samurai)

A pothole in Rome reveals ancient streets!

'Stuffed' dinner entrees, including Buffalo Chicken Shells. (Thanks, Betty Crocker!)

These easy dinners for two on date night are good, too.

What if you had the mistortune of getting what you'd always wanted?  Quora surprises here.
   I.e., Be careful what you pray for -- because you may get it.

SLAPP lawsuits -- the nasty story. All rudeness and smart remarks aside from John Oliver, I can relate. We were the targets for someone who threatened us with one of these. She never filed, but the repercussions were lasting.
    One good thing that did come out of it: we found out exactly who our friends were. And they weren't always the ones we'd thought, before all this.

Here's Penelope Trunk's version. She isn't always the most self-aware person on the planet -- I definitely don't live on Planet Penelope -- but this is an interesting look at her threatened SLAPP.

An interesting way of dealing with sibling rivalry and fights -- repeat their words and actions back to them. I'm not sure if this is the magic solution the writer seems to suggest, but hey -- I'll try anything at least once.

'How we're dealing (and planning) with the pandemic.'  (From Hillbilly Housewife)

Back-Porch Meatballs. Surprise ingredients: molasses and fruit jelly!  (From Taste of Home)

A rare white reindeer -- born in England. He's a cutie, too.

Why was this mansion abandoned so quickly -- and where are the people who disappeared after living there?

Jean-Claude VanDamme says you only need two 15-minute sessions a week to keep fit. That and good posture...hey, I'll try it!

That was the intro: Lesson One is here.

Are those poor beleaguered Kardashians going to be able to survive this Covid-19 crisis? 
     Maybe...maybe not. (From Wealth Advisor)

Have a good week.

Stay Calm

Just in case you need this, too...

Saturday, May 23, 2020

The Last Supper: Covid-Style

And yes, Gentle Readers, you know exactly what I'm thinking:

Animals Loving It in Quarantine

Something to distract you this weekend...

Frugal Hits & Misses: May Report

    We are just getting used to this strange new world of quarantine, masks and social distancing. It's not difficult to stay quietly at home...except I miss seeing Daughters, Son and their families terribly. (Thankfully this should ease up some in coming weeks.) It's been rather nice to sleep in, do a few jobs and read/write for pleasure, as well as work. I do have a few restoration jobs to finish up, and the book manuscript needs to be completed, as well. But life definitely has a slower pace. 
    Just a few days ago, we realized we needed to leave quickly for Michigan: a family situation. We had planned a trip anyways, taking back some of the items stored in our friend's garage. (The rest will be used in the trailer, or donated.) We just didn't know we needed to leave at such short notice.
    But we do.


*Kept within our final budget for the cruise -- in fact, we came out ahead. It's easier when many of your port stops (and excursions planned) are cancelled. We didn't spend much more than the 1000 pounds in our account that was part of the package.
    We're supposed to get our money back for the last month of the cruise, but it hasn't turned up yet. (More on this subject in the future.) The refund for the unused plane tickets hasn't come, either -- but that will be from the credit card company. (Virgin Airlines was NOT cooperating.)

*The leaking kitchen sink pump fixed by a local expert -- the Brick!

*Restaurant giftcards at a discount -- they'll come in handy when things open back up. We may be able to use the Outback giftcard now; the Mama has come to realize how much she enjoys a hot meal, delivered.

*Strawberries for $1.00/lb. Used every single bite, including homemade shortcake.

*King Soopers astonished with 50-cent specials: a dozen doughnuts, 4 turnovers, a specialty pie, streusel coffeecake, sourdough and 'ancient grains' bread. Fifty cents each!

*Finally, haircuts! The cruise ship charged 59 pounds each (about $75), and the results we saw weren't impressive. In fact, they were downright goofy-looking. We were going to get our hair cut at the next stop; Jakarta, Indonesia. That was the port -- and the cruise after that -- that was cancelled. Last week, after nearly 6 months, we finally got our locks sheared. In the Brick's case, that meant 3" of shaggy hair clipped off. (We had to wait 90 min., masks in place -- and that was by calling ahead.)

*Had a replacement key for the truck re-keyed for free.  Thank you, Batteries Plus!

*Got our stimulus checks. Though what we're supposed to stimulate, I'm not sure...

*A $50 check from The Mama, specifically for takeout. (Thank you, Ma!) We've been seeing if we could stretch it:
          13.00  each for a Little Caesar's pizza and burgers at Burger King ($6.50 x 2)
          10.00 for a weekend Safeway special: fried chicken (2 extra pieces free the first time!), mac & cheese, and a 2-liter of pop. ($5.00 x 2)
         $12.99 for a family pack of Whoppers, burgers and fries, shared with a friend
         $35.99, so far.

*Bought plants on sale -- generally edible-producing ones. (Okay, the rosebush was for my mental nourishment.)

*Three loads of branches to the county chipping yard -- no charge. A load of trash to the local dump -- some $$, but not too bad, considering.

*Began eating up old items, left in the fifth-wheel over the winter -- onions, potatoes, candy, etc. Threw away an old can of baking just wasn't leavening that well. We managed to salvage some of the apples, in the form of applesauce.
     Bought 25 pounds of rice, plus 6 cans of chickens, for our emergency 'prepper' shelf. Just in case. (These are kept in a lower compartment of the fifth-wheel, referred to as 'the basement.')

Makes nice chicken and rice, too! (Betty Crocker)

*A Ticket to Ride game and a men's bike -- given to us by friends. Both needed, and much appreciated.

*Less than $1.10 pound for pork butt at Sam's Club -- a great price for any pork, especially during this meat shortage. Chicken breast at Sam's wouldn't normally have been a steal at $1.70/lb normally...but with today's prices, it is now. Got a free turkey breast, as well, from Safeway. (I could kick myself, though -- our last grocery shop there was $48. When we'd finished and were leaving, I remembered I had a $5 e-coupon...for $50 and up purchase. Aarrrghghghgh.)

*Some sale videos on Ebay and Amazon...including a few of our buddy Endeavour, most of the Alien/Predators franchise, and the complete series of Quantum Leap. I used my monthly allowance to pay for these. (Yes, they were that reasonably priced.)

*Put a BUNCH of books and videos on hold at the library. We pull in, call them, and the librarian, suitably masked, puts them in the back of the truck. Wonderful. I can reserve several movies that came out while we were on the cruise, and missed seeing. I'd be thrilled to see the library open up again -- I'm planning a beeline to the sale room!

*Wonderful one-of-a-kind hand-dyed fabric: $15/yd on sale from Ricky Tims! This isn't much more than what we pay nowadays for commercially-printed cottons.

*Did three appraisals, suitably masked and socially distanced. Other work is waiting for a letup in the Covid-19 restrictions.

*Inventoried shampoo, soap, etc. We'll be using these up before we buy more. (Found two extra rolls of toilet paper -- like finding treasure.)

*Like everyone else and their brother, we were stuck in quarantine -- so couldn't get out and Do Stuff.
All the world leaders listen!


*The key to the truck -- we had to get an extra, cost around $50, because I STILL couldn't find my keys after they were lost. Last fall. Sometime while we were staying with our friends. (Yes, I'm embarrassed.)

*The sad tale of Charley and the candle: Charley the dog freaked out late one night, trying to get outside, and banged into the table. A lit candle was on top. Fortunately, the shock knocked the flame out. Unfortunately, the candle fell over, and wax went everywhere -- including on my passenger bag purse and the chairs around the table. The bag is a goner. Two of the chair covers are, too -- but we were planning on reupholstering them, anyways.
     Charley ended up with wax on, as well, but didn't seem to get burned. Thank God for thick fur.

Owwee, Mom...

*An emergency trip back to Michigan.  At least we could take some things back for storage, and the dogs could go with. Gas is fairly cheap right now, too.

*Couldn't handpick and choose meat, clearance, etc.for groceries,  like I usually do. That's the problem of curbside pickup; you take what you can get.

*Threw some food out, including a handful of cooked shrimp I'd forgotten about. .(Ouch) I had to...most was food that  just didn't keep well after we left in late December.

Last report is here -- and May 2019's report is here. Will this summer be as strange as the months preceding? Who knows. We'll have to live it to find out.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

"Just For Now" Budgeting: Part Three: Thinking This Through

    I've been doing a lot of research to see what others recommend for getting by during the Current Crisis.

Bloggers like the Frugalwoods have been dealing with a day-by-day look at what you can do, starting with the benefits available. 

Jean Chatsky, one of today's most practical financiers,  offers tips for a 'crisis budget' (similar to mine, ironically) and three other ideas:

1.  Make a crisis budget

2.  Lower your spending

3.  Look for new income sources

4.  Put some financial goals on hold

Suze Orman advises ignoring your credit card debt , and saving up, instead. She has a point if someone is at their wit's end -- but those credit cards are not going to pay themselves. And the interest will be mounting.

Wealth Advisors doesn't even bother with the current pandemic -- they're too busy coming up with future disasters That Are Bound To Happen.

    I see a distressing number of people who are taking advantage of Coronavirus to explain away or blame their past financial decisions. Hey, why pay rent when the landlord's willing to overlook it for now?? Why should I go back to work, when unemployment checks are still coming in? And if I lose my job permanently after all this, no one would expect me to cover my bills.


The answer, of course, is Yes. You will still be responsible for your bills, even if you've got a few extra months to pay them for now. I have heard of landlords cutting rent prices, or giving bonuses for paying on time. (One couple got a gift card that they used for take-in one night.) I have not heard of anyone forgiving the rent altogether. Landlords have bills to pay, too.

Horrible visions rise of people who've decided to coast, running out of money around July or August. Late fees and bankruptcy costs will pile up. Houses and vehicles will be foreclosed on. Then the 'No Fair' and 'Woe is me' cries will begin. Will they be loud enough for Congress to cough up another set of stimulus checks, and stretch our national debt even more? Obviously those who've already spent this round of checks will be hoping for it.

I do have hopes that people are learning, buoyed by the news that some milllenials plan to save and/or bank at least part of their checks. That's something.

On the other hand, 60% of the respondents in a Money survey say the checks are helpful -- but not nearly enough.   Others say they plan to use the checks for current housing costs. (Hopefully, that means they'll be paying the forgiving landlords.)

    Our bills are paid. (We had to, being out of the country so long.) If we keep our spending (and saving) to  less than what's coming in, we're fine. And if something comes up, we've got extra put away to cover it. Because we saved and scrimped and bargained, year after year, for decades. We've done this so long that it comes automatically.

Now what do I do with the person who will be in terrible trouble... because they spent too much for their rental; leased a vehicle they couldn't afford; bought high-end organic food; purchased whatever their fancy went to in clothes; and paid for highest-end cable programs and cellphones?

(And that doesn't even cover those who went overboard on student debt, renovation loans and lavish credit card purchases, on the theory that they'd be quickly making more money once things get better. Only they haven't,)

Should I donate to the now-desperate person who insisted on steak dinners at Morton's (a high-end Denver restaurant)... when we've been making do with Burger King all along?

 The sad stories are only beginning. I do feel sorry for people's pain. I want to be sympathetic. It isn't fun to feel lonely or isolated...and watch your bank balance trickle down, at the same time. It would be easy to keep maintaining, not thinking or planning too much, until that magical day When Everything Goes Back to Normal.

Except it won't.

 Part IV of  the "Just For Now" Budget series will conclude shortly -- look for it soon.
            Part I here, and Part II here, will get you started.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Banana-Oatmeal Cookies: Two Ingredients!

This cookie recipe, thanks to Hillbilly Housewife, uses only two ingredients:

Bananas (2)
Oatmeal (2 cups)


Here's what you do:

Mash the bananas. (The riper, the better.) Gradually mix in 1 1/2 cups oatmeal, then add up to another 1/2 cup, until you have a heavier cookie dough. (This took me maybe 2 minutes - tops.)

Scoop balls of dough, then flatten them on an ungreased cookie sheet.

That's it.

Bake at 350 degrees for approx. 10 minutes, until the cookies are firm and lightly browned.

Serve warm -- makes about 8-10 cookies.

Note: The Brick likes a sweeter cookie...and thought these should be sweeter, too. You might want to add 1/4 cup o sugar to the mix. (I'll try that next time.) Hillbilly Housewife suggests adding nuts, chocolate chips and such. 

Try these healthy, tasty Banana-Oatmeal Cookies next time you've got bananas that are starting to go...or you need a quick snack.

(Hillbilly's No-Bake Cookies are wonderful, too -- but a heck of a lot more decadent. They're the traditional chocolate no-bakes, but she calls them 'Preacher Cookies' -- because they could be made quickly when the preacher was spotted riding up.)

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Monday Stuff On the Way To Other Stuff: Dare I Hope?

Colorado...and Spring. The two are not always compatible.

It's beautiful out right now. Green grass, trees are leafing out. I even have perennials planted in the bare space where the juniper bush was. 

The only problem: we've had snowstorms before in May -- early, middle and end. We've had it snow on our tent during the Fourth of July weekend. 
     We've even seen snow as late as Aug. 1st. (The tomato plants were not thrilled.)

Could I possibly hope this is the end of cold weather?? After all, it did snow 4" in Denver on the 20th last year. 

    Meanwhile, the dogs enjoy their romps in the grass -- and I prance right along with them. 

Gardening update:  The perennials are slowly taking hold -- but they need a couple buckets of water every day. (Hand-carried.) I found a tomato 'plant' that was actually three -- they're smaller, but are taking hold nicely. The swiss chard seeds planted are sprouting, too! 
   I'd read that celery and lettuce ends, if kept in water for a while, will sprout and can be planted. The celery rotted, but we'll have a nice romaine plant for the garden.
    I wish we had a garden. I do. But water must be hand-carried, and we have far too many deer on the property. I'm hoping they'll leave the chard and tomatoes alone -- they're close to the trailer. 
   Time will tell.

The hero of Shogun has been re-found, after 400 years.  James Clavell's book is one of my favorites.

Remember the evil 77-year-old barber who insisted on keeping his shop open? He was busted by state troopers sent by Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer...and now his license has been revoked. (Note to Governor Whitmer: beauty and barber shops all over Douglas County here in Colorado are open. Ya gonna shut them down, too, for the terrible danger they're posing?)

Jerry Stiller is gone. The 92-year-old comedian died last week. An amazing talent.

A msisionary pilot is killed while delivering Coronavirus aid to a mountain village in Indonesia. Rest in peace, Joyce Lin.

Are you a trucker...or related to one? Denny's has some great specials, including free Grand Slam breakfasts, on Trucker Tuesdays.

Are the Covid-19 and 2008 financial crises playing out the same? Well, yes...and no.  (From The Wealth Advisor)

:What's something horrifying you found at a thrift shop?" Creepy answers from Quora.

Sleepy dogs -- and a few cats. Pet owners (whose animals own them) will understand.

Sports stars who still live frugally. Good for them! I recently heard a quote from an actress who said that many celebrities, including sports figures, are only one or two paychecks from financial trouble. I'd believe it. (Thanks, I Am Cheap)

A beautiful 124-year-old tile floor uncovered in Jersey City's City Hall -- under Sixties vinyl!

Roman tile floors in England, eat your heart out.  (Okay, this is wonderful, too.)

The Iranians manage to shoot a cruise missile at one of their own ships during a training exercise -- wounding and killing sailors in the process. No doubt this is America's fault somehow...

Peck's famous Russian salad -- the recipe. The secret is capers!

Drunken beans. There you go... (From One Hundred Dollars A Month)

"What's the fastest you've wiped a smirk off someone's face?" A weener from Quora.

An ATM in your house, for your friends' use?? It makes him money, too.

A copycat recipe for Texas Roadhouse rolls.  Soft and buttery... (from Jo Cooks)

(She's got some really nice crescent rolls, roo.)

A five-year-old, busted for driving his folks' van down the interstate. He had $3 burning a hole in his pocket, and was headed to California to buy a Lamborghini. (You can't make this stuff up, folks.)

J.C. Penney filed for bankruptcy, joining J. Crew and Neiman Marcus. Ouch. Pier 1 Imports is down for the count, as well.

Have a great week. Wish that pesky snow far away.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Karma Comes to Visit

"Just For Now" Budgeting: Part Two

Even before Covid-19 made its appearance on the horizon, people were in financial trouble. Quarantine and lost jobs have just made life worse. Now's the time to start planning ahead, even if you've been relatively unscathed by this spring's challenges.
     Introducing the idea of a 'Just for Now' budget. It lets you make small changes -- or medium ones -- or the big ones. Many of these have been tested over the years by the Brick, myself and others -- and they save money.  Using one or more of these tips will give you additional cash for paying bills, being able to afford a luxury or two, or saving for the future.
     Whatever you decide -- DON'T JUST DO NOTHING.


(See Part One before you begin here.)

   Just for now: Unless you're getting amazing travel points, or some other Really Good bonus, YOU SHOULD NOT BE PAYING AN ANNUAL FEE. Why pay the credit card companies for the privilege of spending your own money? (Yes, I feel strongly about this.)
     You should, on the other hand, be getting cash back for every purchase you make. Even 2% back adds up over the course of a year.

     If you're carrying credit card debt -- and many people are -- look into transferring the balance to a 0% card, while you start paying that balance down. Some financial experts disagree on this -- but I cannot see paying 19% interest while you're putting substantial amounts into IRAs or emergency funds. PAY THE CARD DOWN.  Here's where your stimulus check can really be of service.

   Better: Can you discipline yourself to pay the balance every single month, without fail? You will save so much money, especially when combined with the tips above. If you can do this, then go ahead and charge your fixed expenses, as much as possible: rent, utilities, phone, etc. You'll get cashback on bills you have to pay, anyways.

   Necessary: Cancel the cards -- or put them in the freezer. You should not be buying appliances (unless they're absolutely necessary), designer clothing or taking luxury vacations, until those cards are paid off. This will become even more important when money gets tighter.
    Much of Americans' financial problems stem from this, I believe. It's far too easy to 'just put it on the card.'

   Just for now: Do you really need the most expensive plan? Can you cut down on minutes? Have you recently called and asked for a lower rate? Why not?
     It may be time to wait before getting an upgrade, as well. For right now, can't you make do with what you've got? IPhones can still be read with broken or cracked screens. (In fact, my phone currently has a crack from side to side. It still works.)

    Better:  Look into a group rate -- you may well save. Combining services may save you extra, too. In all cases, ask for a lower rate or specials. It won't hurt, and the answer is often 'yes.'  Even temporary lower rates will save you in the long run.

    Necessary:  Does your younger child need a cellphone? (And if they're a teenager, why can't they pay for their own phone plan?) For that matter, do you need both a home landline AND a cellphone? Seriously consider cancelling these.

   Just for now:  If your vehicle is paid off, call and ask for options. A higher discount will save you; so will paying the bill in one or two payments. (Monthly payment mean extra fees.)
    Can you take the car or bus to work one or two days less a week? It's even easier, when you've got errands to run, to schedule them all in one time period -- saves gas and time.
     We were surprised but pleased to get a refund check from Liberty Mutual for not driving much during Covid-19. (They didn't know about the world cruise.) It was only around $40 -- but every bit counts!

    Better: If you live close to work, consider walking or taking a bike at least one or two days a week. Or get your partner to drop you off/pick you up at least one day a week.

    Necessary:  Park your vehicle -- and leave it there, unless you really need it. Or carpool with someone else: split the time between two or three others.
   Maybe now's the time to sell it. (You'll save on insurance, too.) Rent a car when needed for vacations or longer trips. (A relative or friend may be happy to rent you their vehicle, provided you pay them for gas and upkeep, as well as some extra. We have also temporarily swapped with friends with the four-wheel-drive behicles were needed for  hunting season.)

   Just for now: This is one area that if you skimp on now, you take the serious risk that you could be wiped out later.
     Medical insurance is surprisingly affordable on a lower income. (And now your income is lower.) Not only that -- you'll be penalized at income tax time if you don't have it. Check with your state's 'marketplace' plan. (I'm speaking from experience here.) A higher deductible means you'll have to pay some -- but the premiums will be lower.
      If you're 65 or older, Medicare helps a lot. So does a supplemental plan -- a number of these are free of charge. FIND OUT MORE. We learned about the Brick's options by attending a free luncheon. We'd done research beforehand, so knew what would work for us, particularly overseas coverage. And a nice meal was thrown in, as well.

   Better:  Limit your visits to the doctor's office, for truly serious illness. Try as hard as possible to avoid visiting the emergency room. (They really soak you, even for an hour's visit.)
     Ask: "If I pay cash, will you give me a discount?" The answer is often 'yes.'
     If you're employed or self-employed, you can often set up a HSA -- and that money isn't taxable..

    Necessary:  Don't pay your bill -- in full, that is. Set up a payment plan. If they refuse, say 'I can afford to pay you $-- per month." Then do it. Ask about any kind of help for lower incomes.

Hopefully you're starting to see a little daylight. You WILL get through this.

This post may help, too -- saving and spending wisely, when you're living paycheck to paycheck.

Part Three is coming! Look for the conclusion to this series soon.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Things I Don't Understand: The Mom Version

Yes, Gentle Readers, it's time for another rendition of one of my favorite things to moan about. You've seen a bunch of these -- but I hope you're enjoying them, all the same. I sure do.

Think of it as celebrating Mother's Day a bit late. Actually, we didn't celebrate it at all here -- the girlies are still concerned about spreading the virus. I did get two lovely phone calls, though.

A Florida woman is arrested for beating her husband with a bouquet of Mother's Day flowers. She says at least she didn't spit on him...

   Or try a dog that's throwing up all night -- it's amazing how quickly you can whip out of bed and get to the door. We just did this with Charley. Fortunately, he's feeling much better.

Me? Do that, Mom? Ummm... yes.

My favorite: when Daughter #1 screamed out, "Stop ABUSING me!"
Boy, was my face red. (I'd tjust told her to quit doing something or other.)

Now that it's just us two, I refuse to eat food that's cold because 
it's been sitting there, waiting for someone. (Ask the Brick.)

Yep, did this. Kicking under the table works, too.

Never did this. But saw others who did.

When things get really quiet...that's when the danger is.

It's Tostitos with Lime for me...

Daughter #2, are you listening?
(Actually, once achieving adulthood, she got a lot better about this)

It's not just kids -- the Brick still does this.
(Of course, I NEVER do. Yeah, right.)

Or leave the pans that I normally store in there --
still in there, while I'm preheating for something else.
(The perils of living in a smaller space.

Maybe this would work?)

On the other hand, what would I have done without my wonderful Mama.
I'm very grateful for her.