Thursday, July 31, 2008

Tacos, Groceries...And Who Knows What Else

Our beloved Rockies have done it again -- The Rocks played the Pittsburgh Pirates last night and won 7-4! For you Coloradoans out there, you know what that means -- 4-for-a-buck tacos tonight between 4-6 p.m.! Sounds good...I don't feel like cooking, anyways.

It is just too darn hot.

We're way past 15 days now for 90-degree-plus heat. Anything in the 70s feels as if I should go put a sweater on. The hardest part: it's not cooling that much at night, and neither Husband nor I feel like sleeping. So we can't doze off until 1 a.m. or so...which makes us groggy and needing a nap next day...which makes us sleepless again at night...

I am really hoping for the dog days to end around here. Buck and Goonie agree with me.

Ladyofvirtue has some interesting thoughts on grocery shopping in one of her recent posts:
http://ladyofvirtue.blogspot.com/2008/07/grocery-shopping-in-simplicity-of.html
She argues for keeping your purchases basic -- it not only saves money, but puts us more in tune with other world cultures and gives us a more serene experience to boot.

Have you ever gone to a grocery store aisle, looked at all those different labels and somehow felt they were all yelling at you? Begging you to pay attention to them? I notice this feeling especially after we've been camping for a while. All that quietness -- all this graphic noise and color -- sometimes I wish I only had a few choices, instead of dozens.

Made some progress today putting away product from the last gig (teaching triangles for the Common Threads quilt club in nearby Parker...hi, guys!). We got new containers for the Venise lace appliques, then switched over the yarns and Crazy kits to a different set of shelving. Looks like it's going to work much better. I can see the floor again already.

Monday, July 28, 2008

5 Ways to Beat the Heat

To Coloradoans' not-so-intense joy, we now have had more than 13 days with 95-plus degree temperatures. The 'dog days' of summer cover approximately the last two weeks in July, and the first two weeks in August. Well, every dog around this house has spent most of the last two weeks trying to find the coolest place on the kitchen tile, usually under the ceiling fan.

I don't blame them.

Unfortunately, Dave's office is now going through routes with the newest drivers hired for this coming school year. Which means they have to travel the whole thing in non-air-conditioned busses. He comes home covered in sweat and exhausted.

Except for a few days in the Denver area (which was even hotter than here), I've been largely panting my way through the time here. There are five things that have certainly helped make this awful heat wave more bearable, though:

*Lots and LOTS of iced tea. Strong iced tea.

*Smoothies...these are great. Neither they or the iced tea have many calories. Here's what I dump in the blender:
-- 1/2-1 cup of fruit (two frozen peaches, nuked for 45 seconds to loosen the skin and make them easier to cut, are the current favorite, but blueberries have starred lately, too.)
--6-8 ice cubes
-- approx. 4 tablespoons sugar OR 2 tablespoons honey
-- 1-2 cups milk (fill your blender half-full, then add more milk if mixture is too thick.)

nice, but not critical -- a small container of flavored yogurt

That's it. Blend everything together and drink! Makes about 4 glasses.

*Wearing a damp dress. I wash clothes, then wear one until it's dry. This is incredibly cooling.

*Hanging the rest of the damp clothes around the house, instead of on the clothesline. They add a perceivable amount of moisture. In fact, I've taken to washing a load of sheets or towels just before we go to bed. Then I drape them over the door to the bedroom. You can literally feel the temperature drop.

*Keeping room windows open in a direct line. Cool breezes come in the guest bedroom, travel down the hall, then exhaust themselves before heading out into the dining room...and vice versa. This way, the whole house cools down, instead of just one area.

I hope your neck of the woods isn't as broiling as ours has been...but perhaps these suggestions will help.

Now I am getting off this sticky leather couch, and taking a shower...

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Taco Bell Rockies Special Strikes Again!

Yes, fellow Coloradoans...

Taco Bell is still offering 4 tacos for a buck the day after the Rockies score seven runs in a game!

(They don't even have to win.)

It's only good 4-6 p.m. the day after the Rockies seven-score...

Ask for the 'Rockies Special.'

Why am I bringing it up? Because last night, the Rocks mashed the Dodgers, 10-1!
And Jimenez, in his first full game of pitching, was absolutely amazing...

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080723/ap_on_sp_ba_ga_su/bbn_dodgers_rockies_6

So today, Wednesday, make the Rockies special yours.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Financial Epiphanies...finally

Some time ago, GatherLittle by Little began a chain on financial epiphanies, that moment when you realize you've Got to Do Something:

http://www.gatherlittlebylittle.com/2008/02/26/my-epiphany-time-for-a-change/

This got me to thinking about my Critical Moment...actually, there were several:

*Realizing early on that if I wanted to go to college, I had to work for it. That meant clerking all through high school at a hardware store. It wasn't bad...my boss was extremely kind, and I liked the work. (Well, except for the farmer's (and my) red face when he asked for a female connector.) Through college, I also:
-- broke dozens of eggs for Sunday morning breakfast at the cafeteria, stocked the ice cream machine, washed dishes in the 'pit'
-- clerked for an income tax preparer, as well as other secretarial jobs
-- manned a pick-your-own-apple stand
-- installed lightning rods at a college in Michigan's U.P. during spring break one year
-- cleaned house and walked the dog for a family, in return for room, board and two meals a day (in grad school), cleaned house for others, too
-- made eggrolls for a Chinese fast food place (where I also met Dave one spring afternoon!)
-- typed papers for other students, was a classroom assistant and tutored
-- taught a college class (really! ENG 291 Children's Lit) and managed a children's book fair

You name it, if it was legal and not immoral...I probably did it, or thought about it. I got some financial aid, and my wonderful parents helped out a lot, as well.
It also taught me that I could do a wide variety of things. My mom said I should be able to do at least three things well -- because then I could always find a job doing one of those three things. If I could accomplish more than that, the possibilities were even stronger.

*No one was going to take care of me. I had to take care of myself. I knew women who married or had long-term boyfriends so they wouldn't have to plan, to care for themselves. (They let him do all the thinking, instead.) I had more faith in myself than that...even after I was fortunate enough to meet and marry Dave.

*If I gave my word, I was going to keep it. This meant that even if things went badly, I wasn't leaving. No matter what. And the bills would be paid. No matter what.
At one point in our life together, Dave got really sick. He was forced to quit his engineering job, and for three months, he didn't work at all. Nothing.
Then he took a job bus driving -- at a quarter of his earlier salary.
I was working at the quilt magazine...so I started working more. My business began to grow. I took any short-term job I could, from catering to checking out at Wal-Mart. I stopped spending, except on the girlies or absolute essentials. For years, I bought no clothes, except for underwear, except on deep clearance, or at the thrift shop. (Nearly all of our Christmas presents came from the same place, as well.)
Things slowly got better. To our mutual astonishment, after a few years we realized that our bills had been paid throughout this time. We had no debt, and had paid our credit cards -- in full --every single month. God's grace and sheer stubbornness...that was it.

And finally:

*We could teach our children about finances, but the responsibility was -- and is -- theirs. As our girls went out into life, they chose to do things we didn't agree with. They let people take advantage of them. And invariably, they would come to us for help when stuff went wrong.
At first, our hard-won money would bail them out. But after several episodes, we began to see the value of saying No. No. And no, again.
This broke my heart at first. (It still aches.) But our girls are finally -- mostly for better -- realizing that, well...
No one could take care of them. Except themselves.

Now, what opened your eyes, finance-wise? Do tell!

This and that

Stuff on the way to Other Stuff:

*I asked Husband about his favorite frugal foods, including the holiday ones, at which he cocked a skeptical eye toward me, "frugal holiday food??" Anyhow, here were his answers:
--meatloaf (figures), macaroni and cheese, fried chicken, chili

No surprises here. He loves this stuff, especially the meatloaf. The man would eat it every week, if I cooked it. He likes it cold and sliced in a sandwich too -- the very thought makes me a bit nauseous. (That congealed fat. Yuck.)

He also mentioned turkey and "rice with gravy" as his favorite holiday foods... "oh yes, and a ham, not too big."

Hmmm.

*I am slowly catching up on business stuff. What a relief! You really don't think about how this sort of thing weighs down on you, until it starts to lift. What is really helping -- the business in general is a bit quiet these days. Most people are on vacation, out swimming or fooling around in their gardens. Actually, I'd be out there too, if it wasn't so dingdang hot. On our way home from camping Sunday night, we dropped Jess off in Boulder. I happened to glance at the dashboard -- 100 degrees. At 6:30 p.m. Fabulous.
It's a lot easier to stay inside -- preferably in the coolish downstairs -- when you can literally fry an egg on the sidewalk outside.

*The second printing of CRAZY QUILTS just can't get here soon enough. We were out of copies for weeks, until I managed to snag a few dozen at the Crazy Quilt Retreat. And promptly sold 21 of those! Now we're down to 3 copies of the original edition...and they're signed by both yours truly and Nancy Kirk. I have a feeling they'll be collector's items in the future! (One is already spoken for, but we have two left -- and if you're interested, head over to the Brickworks site, http://www.cindybrick.com , pronto.)
We're supposed to see more books in mid-August. Hurry, hurry, hurry!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Websites are back up!

Fortunately, the websites' private info protections are so strong that they couldn't be accessed at all. (They're actually in a separate area altogether. So if you're thinking of ordering from Brickworks or Classy Girl...or you already have...no worries. Your info is more than safe.)

Unfortunately, the public pages -- the home pages, freebie pages, stuff like that --are not as strongly protected. The hacker -- bless his creepy little hide -- just slapped his info on top of the websites. (Think whitewashing.) My webmaster just spray washed the sites off, so to speak, and there the original info was, ready to go.

Thank God.
Being Frugal is answering questions I posed a few weeks ago:

What are your favorite frugal comfort foods? Do they stay the same in summer and winter?

Second question. What holiday foods are important to your family — are they frugal too, or do you scrimp to include them?


Take a look at her response...and the others:

http://beingfrugal.net/2008/07/18/favorite-comfort-and-holiday-foods/#comments

Apparently most of us are fond of carbs when we think comfort! Stuffing...potatoes...

and of course, ice cream and chocolate.

Hey, I can relate. Here's how I would answer my own questions...

My frugal comfort foods -- carb city, as well! I love mashed potatoes, baked potatoes, fries, hash browns...fried onions, too.

Others: herring pieces in sour cream (a passion friend Constance shares), Really Good beer bratwurst (Johnsonville brand, for example). A Chicago-style hot dog, complete with sauerkraut, that weird green relish and a pepper. Chocolate chip oatmeal cookies with nuts. Big crunchy garlic dill pickles. Real butter. Potato soup. Homemade beef stew. Hot coffee -- fresh-ground from beans, fresh-brewed.

These (except for the pickles and hot dogs) are primarily winter pleasures... for summer, I crave cucumbers, green peppers, fresh tomatoes. Peaches -- from the orchard, not those hard-rock versions from Safeway or King Soopers that rot faster than they ripen. Rocky Ford melon, the best in the world. A frosty glass of iced tea. Homemade ice cream...plentiful in my childhood, scarcer than hen's teeth, now that I have to make it myself!

Yum.

Our holiday frugal foods? Chocolate and ground-hazelnut Sachertorte at Christmas. (Really not that expensive, though it takes a lot of time to make it.) Christmas cake, after a version by Tasha Tudor, with maraschino cherries instead of preserved fruit. (You'll find recipes for these in my postings from last year.)

Turkey and stuffing -- extra veggies in the stuffing, nice and crunchy.

Hoppin' John -- black-eyed peas with ham bits, spicy with hot sauce. A must for New Year's, for good luck!

Pecan pie, for Husband's southern roots. Green beans, cooked slow and easy with bits of onion and bacon.

Sugar cookies, with cinnamon hots, chocolate chips. Seven-layer cookies.

Now I'm drooling.
What are your favorites?

What a Lovely Monday Morning...

Dave and I went camping last week, accompanied by Daughter #1 -- including a Thursday night concert in Snowmass of Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks! He has the wackiest mix of jazz and bluegrass and New Orleans soul...loved it.

We saw the Maroon Bells, trudged up to Marble's quarry, and soaked in the hot springs at Glenwood. Lovely. Got home Sunday evening, scrubbed off the mineral water, went to bed...

This morning, over the first cup of coffee, I get a call -- both the Brickworks and Classy Girl websites have been hacked.

Sigh.

And of course my webmaster is out of town, working at a Boy Scout campout all week.

Double sigh.

Hopefully he can fix it fast...it seems to have been hacked on the top info layer only. So I wait -- and sweat.

Back to washing sleeping bags, doing the dishes and making the bed. At least I can do SOMETHING about those things!

More shortly...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Moments from the Crazy Quilt Retreat

*Bright eyes, piles of stuff carted in for class. Brighter eyes, digging through ribbons, kits and charms for the perfect one(s)...

*Stitchers curled up in a chair with their latest project, stitching busily.

*A 'forest' of green trees and shrubbery, curled around the dining area, underneath a skylight. Viewing this from the sixth floor, hanging over the balcony and having a near-irresistable urge to drop a piece of paper over. Sort of like my little brother and his paper airplanes from the balcony during church.
(No, I didn't.)

*The Piecemakers quilts -- dainty girlish figures with outstretched skirts of crazywork.

*Little groups here and there, busily discussing the latest idea -- or better yet, the latest piece spread out for study (and admiration).

*Nature themes -- seems like I saw more of these than ever before. Especially mountains and ocean scenes.

*Experimenting with fabrics, as much as embellishments. (Embellishments have taken the forefront more in previous years.)

*Dainty ribbon-embroidered boxes, chatelaines, stuffed pins, lavish with flowers and dangling ribbons. Oh my, these were beautiful...

*The breast cancer raffle quilts, displayed on one wall. Bright, rich colors, framed in elegant borders. Mona calmly shelling out racks of tickets. Hoping mine were at least one of the numbers called. (Darn, they weren't. But the Breast Cancer Society came out of it richer!) Watching Kate's tears, when she won a quilt beloved to her.

*Other quilts -- and baskets, fabrics, laces, books and who-knows-what -- displayed in tempting piles on the live auction table. (I got a terrific woven basket with a pile of upholstery-type samples....yummy.) Colors and textures everywhere. (The prices weren't too bad, either; proceeds went to fund scholarships for next year's Retreat.)

*Floating in the pool late at night, mind full of ideas. Watching the waterfall flip down over the pool's edge...wondering how to translate that look in fabric. (Maybe lots of iridescent beads and sequins on a white/pale blue background?)

*Supper at the Farmhouse Cafe and Whitfields. Watching the faces of the women around me, animated as they talk about their loves, their families. How they started, who they met, what's next in their lives. Tranquil talk more nourishing than any food. (Thank you, Virginia, Karen, Mary Anne, Judy and Yvonne.)

*A bit of impromptu barbershop quartet after supper, while waiting for the van, the heat folding around us like a slightly damp blanket.

*NASCAR races. (Don't laugh -- I usually watched ten minutes or so of coverage on ESPN between morning and afternoon sessions.)

*Warm big chocolate chip cookies. Breakfast, when I want it, with no schlepping frying pans and setting the table.

*Showing the Hanky Panky group one of my 'sexy' hankies (a lady with crocheted skirt, panties -- and anatomically correctness underneath)...then noticing a guy just outside the open door in the hallway, a huge grin on his face.

*More than enough ideas to keep my projects going for years to come. Shelves, racks and baskets of great embellishments, fabrics, laces to make those projects a reality.

Bliss.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Back from the Crazy Hotel!

I got in last night, after eight hours on the road through Nebraska, Kansas and home to Colorado. Whew...hot wind, hot air. It's good to snuggle back in my own bed, next to the Husband. And wake up to a dog nose sniffing mine.

The Crazy Quilt Retreat was GREAT!!! Piles of stuff everywhere. Beautiful ribbons, charms, lace...beautiful pieces, shown by their shy-but-proud makers. A prom dress swap, reduced to piles of threadbare bits and pieces. Lots of talk, visiting back and forth, bright eyes and welcoming smiles. I had a wonderful time. (More on this to come.)

In the meantime, I found this outstanding post on feeding your family in lean times:

http://athomelaurel.blogspot.com/2008/07/eating-well-in-lean-times-summer-is.html

Don't miss the links in this article -- they're just as good as the original post.
The sun's out, the washer's going, and a pile of dishes await. I'd better get to it.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Are You Feeling Lucky?

Huh...are you? (you know what the next word is)

Some fascinating ways to increase your 'luck'...

http://www.thesimpledollar.com/2008/07/08/ten-tactics-for-improving-your-luck/

And now I really have to finish up that contract --

Your Financial Epiphany?

Gather Little by Little, one of my favorite bloggers, has started a new round of sharing with the catch phrase: "What was your financial epiphany?"

Take a look at the various responses:
http://www.gatherlittlebylittle.com/2008/02/26/my-epiphany-time-for-a-change/

I'll be posting mine shortly here -- but right now, I have to finish packing, send out some contracts, wash some clothes and generally finish getting ready for the Crazy Quilt Retreat. ( http://www.crazyquilt.com ) I'll be gone from today through next Tuesday, but getting online now and then during that time. (Omaha has great WIFI reception.)

Enjoy!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Take A Hike

...on this virtual climb up El Camino del Rey...

WOW.

http://www.brightcove.tv/title.jsp?title=1438490562

I guarantee you'll feel a little out of breath by the end!

Revisiting Food Stamps

Cashmoneylife has another look at the recent tv report on food stamps:

http://cashmoneylife.com/2008/07/03/the-other-america-commentary-on-food-stamps-and-the-economy/#comments

Be sure to read the comments -- they're the real teller here. Most people are struggling between compassion and frustration: compassion for people in hard times, and frustration that those people, at least most of them, are not using the help offered wisely.

What do you think?

Also, you'll want to see Simple Dollar's take on living on the knife edge -- it's fascinating.

http://www.thesimpledollar.com/2006/11/30/nourishment-on-a-desperate-income/

My mom, while pregnant with me, lived in a Navy seaside town with a husband who drank and fooled away his pay. (No, this man was and is not my beloved farmer dad.) Mom had nothing to exist on but what she could scrounge. Collecting pop cans was her mainstay, but she had many a meal of 'hot tomato soup' with hot water, ketchup packets and the saltines she could get at a nearby restaurant.

If you have to do something -- you do it.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Happiness is an Emptying Refrigerator

Spanish VBS is over. The team has gone back to Mexico...and I am beat. It's no joke to keep a group of 16 housed, fed and schlepped to various commitments, especially plans are shifting part of the time. Meeting and getting to know them was a pleasure. So was beginning (again) to learn more Spanish.

It was a bit of a relief, though, to know that I can eat lunch again without having to make 25 other lunches first!

This week will be a quiet one -- until Thursday. Then it's off to the Crazy Quilt conference at Omaha, NE...yours truly will be teaching classes on "Flora and Fauna," Hanky Panky II and a general class on the history of Crazy quilting. The classes are nearly full, but I hear there are a few spaces left. You can find out more at http://www.crazyquilt.com/

Friday, July 4, 2008

Food Stamps -- What do You Think?

Wastrel Show is advertising a unique opportunity:

visit her post on food stamps, watch the Katie Couric report, then let the producer know what you think about it!

http://wastrelshow.blogspot.com/2008/07/dealing-with-food-stamps.html

How often can you feel that someone in TV Land is actually hearing what you're saying? Well, now's your chance...

I don't know what to think, quite frankly.

Growing up as a little farm girl, I took fresh produce and hormone-free beef for granted -- it just meant that we had our own garden and butchered a steer every fall. It wasn't until I moved away, soon after high school, that I realized that not everyone either knew how to do this -- or they chose not to do it.

Dave and I were sooo broke as college students that the food stamp budget mentioned on the report -- $23 and change for each person -- would have been a fortune. We lived on sale items, day-old or home-baked bread, lots of beans, peanut butter sandwiches, chicken noodle soup -- and ramen. (Sapporo Ichiban was terrific and just as cheap as the generic if you bought it at the Chinese market in Ann Arbor.) I grew greens in a small spot outside our apartment, and when we could, we got a garden plot. We also purchased fruit and veggies from farmers' markets and orchards in season, then froze or canned them for winter.

What would I have done if I lived in New York City? I'd still have a pot on the windowsill or fire escape for greens, herbs and maybe even a cherry tomato plant. But that's me...you can take the girl off the farm, but you can't take the farm outa the girl.

What I would do, if I were in these people's shoes, would be to re-think what I'm buying, with the goal of stretching those funds as far as possible. Frozen pancakes? No way -- it would be pancake mix in the cart, or if I was really pushing it, just flour, baking powder, eggs and dried milk.

Soda? Nope. Drink mix -- plus some large bottles of generic stuff to add for fizziness. Better for you -- and cheaper. Or milk -- the best of all. A bottle of chocolate syrup, if I really wanted to put on the hog.

Small boxes of frozen veggies. Canned soup. Noodles, macaroni for stamina. Peanut butter, eggs, chicken and whatever meats were on sale, for strength. Canned or fresh fruit. Tomato sauce and cheese, to add to the soup, use with the pasta for marinara or macaroni and cheese, or make a pizza. Potatoes and onions, for possibilities. Plus a bunch of flowers.

I was reminded of this when making lunches for the Spanish VBS crew this week. They loved to eat -- but noticed the flowers in the glass on the table. It's not just your stomach that's being fed -- it's your soul. You need to nourish it well.

Cubans, based on a report filed by Anita Snow last year for the Boston Globe, are used to living on $50 a month for the family:

http://www.boston.com/news/world/latinamerica/articles/2007/07/02/living_on_cuban_food_ration_isnt_easy/?rss_id=Boston.com+%2F+News

Says Snow: "For 30 days, I lived on a similar program. I spent less than $17 for a month's sustenance, dropped nine pounds and learned -- like Cubans -- to budget carefully, plan meals ahead, buy only what was necessary and never throw food away.
Most importantly, I realized that like most Americans, I take food for granted, assuming I'll always get what I want when I want it."


Hmmm. What were we Americans griping about, again?

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

It Could Happen Next Door --

and did!

We woke up Saturday morning to yellow crime tape ringing the tree in our frontyard. Our neighbor got burglarized! His car and motorcyle were stolen. The thieves rolled them quietly down the hill, and were trying to start them at the bottom when another neighbor called 911. (We've had several burglaries in our neighborhood in the past 6 months, and a lot of people are extra-aware of Weird Stuff Going On.)

The guys got away, but not without a gunbattle with the local constabulary, being trapped on one of the back roads -- you can find out more here:
http://cbs4denver.com/local/Search.Armed.Burglary.2.759365.html

The strange thing: even though they were supposedly out of the neighborhood, we still saw a helicopter circling around the neighborhood -- a grass fire just 'happened' on the hillside around 2:30 a.m. -- we had SWAT teams and police cars wandering around the neighborhood --

And early Sunday afternoon, we couldn't get back to our house: the street, both top and bottom, was blocked by flashing-light police cruisers. Eventually they -- and a SWAT team and 2 more cruisers -- left, and we were allowed back in. But we weren't told why. (And the neighbors who were still at their houses were totally unaware of what was going on. Our big woofy dogs were equally clueless -- they were sprawled out snoozing in the sun.)

I hate this.

It seems like one of the guys-at-large was still hanging around. But why not warn us?? Why not at least give us some kind of description, so we'd know who to look for?

Sigh.

It's now late Tuesday night, and for all we know, Mr. Lawbreaker and Mr. Lawbreaker #2 are camping out in the grove below our yard. Maybe I should invite them in for s'mores.

If You Love Animals...

This is one of the most heartwarming videos I've ever experienced. You'll like it, too. A little kindness goes a long way.