Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Frugal Hits and Misses: March Report

This has been a long month. We have so many projects in the air right now; I'm determined none will drop, in spite of the juggling. It's difficult, and means I need to stay home and 'babysit' a lot. The projects, that is.
     While the rest of the country, seemingly, has had storm after storm, our weather has been DRY. Rain last week, plus a lot of snow early last Friday, was the first we've seen pretty much all month. It's meant lower energy bills and easier transportation. But boy, the garden and lawn are thirsty. Thankfully, it's supposed to rain or snow almost daily through the end of the month. So far, it has.
    For some interesting reason, a few of Brickworks' regular suppliers had deep clearance sales this month. We took advantage of those, for the website and teaching. It meant spending money I'd planned not to -- but will pay off in the long run. 

Drank a lot of coffee & tea this month...it may have been dry, but it was COLD.


*Season tickets to Boulder, Colorado's Shakespeare Festival this summer for $12/ticket -- the 'Early Bard' special. Yes, an awful pun -- but an insane deal for Shakespeare plays. Shows include Julius Caesar and my very favorite, Hamlet. (I was Ophelia in a college performance long, long ago.)
       If you're interested, check quickly on these -- tickets were going fast.

*Got the complete version of The Shadow radio shows: $4.95.  (darn -- they were $2.95 a week or so ago.) I loved listening to this via an old-timey radio show back in high school; it will be nice to have something to keep me occupied while we clean out, pack and clean up in the house.

*We now have a seniors national park pass. Plus a free Canada Parks pass good for this year!

*Replaced VHS videos of much-loved movies with DVDs: Moonstruck, Man from Snowy River and Return to Snowy River.  (I still think it's weird the movie guys would think we wouldn't notice the difference between dads.) Got them for $5-10 each. Found The Fugitive,  Scorpion King and some videos for presents at a buck each at the library sale room.

*Paid support for three missionaries...plus Compassion, for our adopted 'son.' Ever since I can remember, 10% of our income has gone to God's causes...missionaries we've committed to help, the church we go to, groups like MCC (one of the best places in the world to donate, because they have such low overhead costs) and Operation Christmas Child. We've also sponsored kids for years through Compassion -- two sons finished the program, and our current child, Carlos, is from Brazil.
     Ten percent isn't that much!  If everyone in the world gave a tiny slice of their income, just think how much good we could do. Even if I can't talk 100% of the population into this...perhaps, Gentle Readers, you would consider it. Giving changes your life, as much as it helps others.

*Generally held back on spending again. The Brick saved us so much on insurance, and we're trying to use that money to beef up the emergency fund. So far, it -- and my extra work appraising -- are helping.

*Careful on groceries, too. I'm trying to clean out the freezer section of our refrigerator -- a lot of our protein this month came from there, though Safeway had some BOGO specials on chicken nuggets and fish sticks. The best, though, came this week: 88 cents/lb for chicken breasts!
     No visits to Sam's Club or the Friday/Saturday store, and only one stop at Wal-Mart, mostly for dogfood. I'm almost out of flour, though.

Ate a fair amount of these, too -- mostly in soup, enchiladas and burritos

*Gave a dear friend her birthday present: four tickets to a dinner theater production of The Unsinkable Molly Brown. Saved $60 on the regular price through Groupon. She loved it -- and we get to go with her this weekend!  (No other appreciable costs on presents for this month.)

*The Brick changed the oil himself on the Outback.

*Bought a truck! Got an excellent price on it -- the Brick has been researching for months. (I guess this is a 'miss' too, depending on how you look at it. We still have to pay for the license, which will sting. Colorado is not a cheap place to live, in this respect.)
       Now to find the proper fifth-wheel hitch package. The Brick will find a great deal on that too, I'm sure. (He's good at that sort of thing.)

*Planted one bed of greens and peas soon after St. Patrick's Day. (March 17 is the traditional date to stuff them in the ground. I got them in in time to get snowed on.)

*Found some items for Daughter #2's wedding in the fall: rock candy swizzle sticks, napkins for the rehearsal dinner and some joke items for her shower. These were all either discount or clearance -- yay!

*More shows watched for free: 24 Legacy, Designated Survivor, NCIS New Orleans, Walking Dead,
     Watching these without commercials is just an extra bonus.

*Taken out of the tin that I keep egg money and piano lesson fees: $265! (Plus some foreign money and a quarter or two.) Since I didn't go out much these past few months, the cash wasn't spent. Put it in the bank, instead.

*Took three of my piano kids to concerts, with supper thrown in.  We stopped by Burger King once; the second time, I made homemade macaroni and cheese. We finished with McDonalds for ice cream-- twice. I guess this could be a 'misses' x two, but we were careful on money, and the kids loved it.
     I give rewards when my piano kids finish playing through a book. Several were due this month, but I'd already gathered the prizes -- no extra cost there.

*Sold some eggs; gave piano lessons (except during Spring break); did a little appraising. Not much this time of year...but enough to add appreciably to the coffers. The Brick did some bus driving, too -- field trips and SPED (Special Ed) routes. I did lose two piano students this month...but my time teaching is winding down, anyways, due to our upcoming move. Our large, heavy piano has gone on its way to one set of students, who were thrilled. (And we were happy to find the extra space.)
      I'll give lessons on the electronic keyboard, instead.

*Found a quarter. The Brick found one, too -- in the space where the piano used to be.

*Sold some books through Amazon. They've increased their fees, so I'm not going to continue this, except for the pricier offerings.

*Picked up some new gigs, including one for a Boulder quilt guild in June, and teaching again in 2018 for the John C. Campbell school in North Carolina. Love this place!

*Donated several large bags of stuff to ARC...and the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum.

*Gave friends flowers -- and kept a bunch myself. They weren't expensive Now daffodils and flowering branches are filling our vases, instead.


*Four chickens dead. One chicken had a lot of neck feathers gone, which often spells HAWK. They were all from the oldest batch of chickies, so who knows. At least one was a layer; our egg production has gone way down. Darn it.

*Missed out on being reimbursed for 2016 hotel expenses -- because I waited too long to submit the receipts for a teaching gig. At least I can take these as a charitable deduction...but still. (It was for a nonprofit, thankfully.)

*Went out to eat too much. And as the Brick pointed out, we paid too many times for other people's dinners. We ate out from necessity during our trip to North Dakota, as well.  (We were really careful how much we spent -- a hit, I guess.)

*Had to stay an extra night in North Dakota. Our credit union only transfers money for a two-hour period each day...and we asked too late. (Did they warn us about this before we left -- and the Brick asked? Nooooo....) BUT after I wrote an e-mail to the CEO of Air Academy Credit Union, they apologized, and comped us for the hotel night. Now, that's classy. (Thank you, AAFCU.)

*Bought a dress for Daughter #2's upcoming wedding.  I spent 70 DOLLARS.  I haven't paid this much for an outfit in decades. Daughter #2 probably thinks this hilarious, since her wedding gown was $500. I can't help it.
     Because there was also a "Buy one, get one for $5" special, though, I got a second dress, equally nice, for $5. Guess that's a hit. (Daughter #2's dress was actually a good buy, too -- and it's washable!)

I continue to be inspired by others' accomplishments. (Here's another person who does regular updates, too.) Hopefully, you're getting some ideas from visiting mine, too.
     For previous months' Frugal Hits and Misses, start here.

We'll get more of this, no doubt, before spring is over.

Monday, March 27, 2017


I'm trying to finish up some appraising reports, as well as some pesky paperwork -- and at the same time, tidy up the house enough for another visit from an interested buyer. If I can only get these things done, then I've got several days' worth of quilt restoration to finish up. 
     It's supposed to rain and snow all week...figures.  March is indeed 'going out like a lion.' At least that makes me want to stay in and get work done.


I've gotta be me...who else would get the work done?

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Monday Stuff On the Way to Other Stuff: Trucks and Trailers

Now that we've found a truck to pull our new future home, it's on to the next project: 

    Selling our current place.

Another person is interested...and getting ready to make an offer.  (Barbara, if your friend is still interested too, have her call -- pronto.) We've got another party on the case, as well. 
     If God helped us find the perfect truck, He's got a buyer for the Castle Rock house out there. Meanwhile, we've got a lot of clearing out, cleaning up and donating to do.

Painting furniture in one afternoon.  (From The Nester)

"I don't identify as African-American; I identify as black."  Rachel Dolezal -- still up to her interesting ways.

Working for the Fair.  The Sanitary Fair, that is.  (From Brackman's Civil War Quilts)

Ten habits of self-made millionaires.  Actually, three different posts, all about the same subject -- just different numbers. (From Bloglovin')

Freezer-friendly breakfast burritos.  Except I'll add green chilies to the mix.  (From Moneysaving Mom)

How will you plan to retire? For the first part of it, when you're healthy and raring to go, OR the second part, when your health's not so good?  A thoughtful piece from Liz Weston.

"What's the most embarrassing thing you've ever done?"  Be sure to read the one from the student who walked into the wrong classroom -- and took the exam, anyways.  (From Quora)

Just for fun - two parrots duet on 'La Cucaracha' and 'Old McDonald:'

A DIY 'pick me up' peppermint tincture.  (From Strangers and Pilgrims)

Salmon, spinach and orzo salad - with lemon-dill vinaigrette. Oh my.  (From One Hundred Dollars A Month)

How to find anything -- and everything -- used.  (From The Frugalwoods)

"Why I stopped extreme couponing."  The other side of the story.  (From Budgets Are Sexy)

Five for the road.  It's the teacup feeders and the doggie gate that got this post on the Monday Stuff List.  (From Cleverly Inspired)

Historical figures that most people remember -- for the wrong reasons.  (From Cracked) Also:

Fifteen images that...well... I have no idea who or what's showing up in them. See what you think.

Have a great week.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Log Cabin Gone Wild!

Friend Thommy sent me this photo of a Log Cabin quilt from Facebook...
          a bit different from the usual.

(I'm a sucker for unusual Log Cabins, anyways.)

I hope the escape was successful.

(Thanks, Traci Smith from Appalachian Americans.)

Update:  Friend Kris Driessen pointed out the quilt's similarity to Chris Gilman's Tighten the Tension -- the two have to be influencing each other, at the very least. Click on the link to take you to the pattern.
       Clever, clever.

Map Points...And A Great Place To Buy A Vehicle

Do you know where the geographic center of North America is?

In North Dakota!

We zoomed by this dignified obelisk:

Surrounded by scruffy buildings, piles of dirty snow...and close nearby, a Case farm equipment dealer.

My dad always thought that Case tractors were the center of the universe. Guess he was close.

Plus a signpost, so you know where to head next.

I wanted to give a shoutout to the Devils Lake Chrysler Center in Devils Lake, ND.  Not only were they totally honest about our vehicle's condition and package...Jordan actually e-mailed photos to the Brick showing some of the truck's 'dings' and negative aspects!  How many dealers will do that??

Jordan, our salesman, spent a lot of time pointing out features with the Brick, and explaining how they worked. (He did a lot of "what if this happens" problem-solving, too. Impressive.)

They treated us with politeness and respect...me included. (Sometimes the woman doesn't get this. Female Gentle Readers out there, you know what I'm talking about, don't you...) We had some trouble getting funds from our bank account wired -- and they were patient throughout.

We also got advice on good hotels (since we had to stay one more night, because of the wire transfer issues) and restaurants -- and they were right, on all counts.

We got a good deal on a great truck. It was nicely prepped, as well.

If you're looking for a quality vehicle at a good price, try them out. (It's even worth driving 30+ hours to get there!)  Ask for Jordan; tell him the Bricks sent you.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

A Strange Experience in Hoover

     As mentioned yesterday, we made a flying trip to North Dakota in the past few days. Driving, actually, but we 'flew' to get back -- both of us had commitments here, and we knew the weather was iffy.

We head back in mid-afternoon, the Brick driving our new truck and me following in the Outback.

Yep, that's him.

The roads are clear, but freezing rain is threatening. Not good.

After hours of driving, we're both down to half a tank of gas...and in the middle of some seriously beautiful landscape. Deserted, hilly...not even the occasional farm. A few homestead buildings here and there, and some disinterested cattle. No matter -- Charley the dog finds them fascinating.

The miles spool by. Wind's picked up...but you can handle it when you're expecting it. The rain is holding off, sort of...as long as we keep going.

We're out of North Dakota now, into South Dakota, my dad's birth state. Down to an eighth-tank. Still nothing, but a sign promises 'next services: 33 miles.' Should be just in time.

More lovely, wide-reaching landscape. Once you live out here in the West for a while, you appreciate the chance to look 10, 20 or 30 miles in every direction. I get a little claustrophobic now when trees hug the road on both sides. (Makes me feel a bit squashed.)

We drive by a clump of trees, augmented with ranch buildings. A little sign on the road flashes by -- I catch the words 'Hoover fuel and groceries.' Where? I didn't see any kind of store.

More miles gone. My gauge is solidly on EMPTY now. The Brick says he has about 1/8 tank. I am desperately trying not to worry.

I mention the sign. (He saw it briefly, too.) Every few miles brings us to the top of a new set of hills. No lights, no one else is out there...but us. 

Finally, we turn back. Off the road:

And on the edge of the trees:

I wouldn't have known, except for the name and the lit beer sign in the window.

Woodsmoke is in the air -- so are frozen bits of sleet. We're surrounded by a yapping pack of dogs, which immediately catches Charles and Abby's attention. There are two rusty gas pumps to the side: one for diesel (which the truck needs), one for unleaded (for the Outback). Thank you, God.

The Brick, shivering, gets to work.

Those icicles aren't for decoration, folks.

I notice this across the gravelly area:

Must be where they live, right? I forgot to ask.

And this:

The bossy head dog, eyes milky with age, allows me to step past and open the tinkling front door.

Leader of the pack -- and guardian of the store

Full tanks of gas -- WHEW.  I realized I had probably been holding my breath at times.

The inside of the building actually looks like a store: shelves with canned goods, a cooler on the other side with beer, a bowl of grapes and some fresh edibles. A scrubbed round wooden table in the center of the room is covered with paperwork. (Working on taxes?) An equally scrubbed counter, holding the cash register... and a near-empty bowl of potato chip crumbs. Free bar snacks with the beer, maybe.

Leona, an older lady in her late 70s, bustles out to look at the gas pumps, so she can (hand)write the totals. She doesn't take credit cards. (Thankfully, I've remembered to bring along the checkbook.)

I could swear that somehow we've traveled back in time...maybe to 1976 or so, when Leona said they'd bought the ranch.

We thaw out by the woodstove, have a friendly conversation about where we came from, and how long she's been there. Her daughter's family runs the farm now -- but Leona kept the store "and 50 acres." Their area has a Castle Rock too, she said...with another store near it, tucked among the farm buildings. "But now it's closed, and the lady just lives there."

The ice is still threatening -- we have to go. The guard dog allows us out the door, after grateful thanks and a presented check. Then, Doritos in hand, we're on the road. Fifty-five miles later, a small town, Belle Fourche, appears...with food and gas stations.

While topping up, I said to the Brick, "Did we dream that?" He said, "I'm not quite sure." 

Without Leona and her Hoover store, we would have been walking.

If she and the store were real, that is.   I guess they are.

 (Found an old photograph, too.)

Headed home to our Castle Rock...Colorado.