Friday, October 31, 2008

A Very Strange Blog


I've bumbled across one of the weirder blogs out there -- Robert Frank's "Wealth Report," a regular look at the wealthy and their favorite things. (courtesy of the Wall Street Journal.)

Here's my favorite: a very expensive watch that does not tell time. (It shows you whether it's day or night, instead. No, I am not making this up.) Supposedly the watch contains metal from the Titanic, as well as other interesting materials.
Oh, and it's already sold out. At $300,000 a pop.

Whew! I can offer a new watch made of old bits and pieces from quilts -- do you think that would sell?

Take a look at other goodies in the blog...including frequent posts that rich people are not unaffected by this current economic downturn. On the contrary...

Have a good to you tomorrow.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Pigs...and More Pigs

Hmmm...Exxon just shattered its quarterly profit record, with its two biggest quarters ever -- in spite of the recent drop in crude oil prices:

I seem to remember warnings of how gas prices were going to shoot up again after the hurricanes of 2008 destroyed all the oil-drilling platforms. And the war in Iraq just shot everything to hell. And --- (insert your own dire prediction here).

Oops, the Exxon executives seem to be saying. Guess those didn't happen, after all.

Are we supposed to believe that the recent drop in gas prices are just their way of being more generous...sharing the wealth, so to speak...instead of a response to the supply and demand issue? (People not buying as much gas because they're not traveling as much.)

I do believe in free enterprise, but this seems a little greedier and grabbier than usual. Take a look at other companies' profit margins and reports for this quarter -- if they're posting a profit at all, it's lower than they predicted.

How many freebies are the gas companies getting from the U.S. government (and us) in the form of tax breaks, etc.? Maybe it's time for some of those to go away.

* * * * * * * * * *

Thinking about that (and the tussle to put in that last stubborn plant) got me to thinking about blankets. Aunt Max ran the school cafeteria, and in return for lunch, Little Brother and I were student employees. I ran the cash register; I think he washed dishes. (Try doing that, and kids' habits of mixing all the leftovers together in one disgusting mess -- Barnyard Casserole, we called it -- doesn't seem so funny.)
Auntie must have thought we were malnourished, because she really slapped the food on our trays. Potatoes and hamburg gravy, gray-tinged green beans, weird mystery cutlets...none of that wussy green salad or dainty stuff. Just rib-sticking, gets-you-through-afternoon-band-practice food.
My favorite was her Pigs in Blankets. I still use her recipe -- and the huge canisters of baking powder she scooped from now hold my flour and sugar. Pigs are cheap, filling and perfect for a blustery fall day.


1 package (8-10) hot dogs
1/4 cup (one half-stick) margarine or butter
1 cup water & 1/2 cup milk (or 1 1/2 cups water and 1/4 cup dry milk powder)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon yeast
3-4 cups flour

Nuke the margarine, water/milk for approx. 45 seconds, or until the butter is softened and melting into the water. (Check - water should be warm, but not hot.) Add salt, sugar and yeast, then gradually mix flour in until you have a soft dough. Knead for about 3 min., until the dough is solid and slightly 'boingy.'

Let rise, depending on your hungry family, for 10 min...or up to 10 hours. (Longer makes a better dough, but I've also made the dough and used it in five minutes, with good results.)

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Squeeze off a glob of dough and wrap it around a hot dog, leaving the ends exposed; place on a greased cookie sheet. Repeat until all the dogs are covered. Bake until light brown, approx. 15-20 min. Serve with barbecue sauce or lots of catsup. Serves 4 adults, with leftovers for breakfast.


Keeping on Keeping on

Husband only got one course on tonight, darn it. (That's a 'row,' for all you non-roofer types out there...) But all the bulbs are in the ground, and I only have one stubborn lilac plant to put in. Not bad, considering this was a big piano lesson day...

While I'm still juggling, take a look at Frugal Dad's take on the upcoming election:

He's right, you know.

In spite of all the yelling, screaming and posturing, the world will not promptly be ending right after Nov. 4. It will change, of course -- but then, it would have done that, anyways.

I also would much prefer that the government keeps its collective nose largely to itself...I am not a huge fan of regulation, since the government seems to go overboard in this department, often to the detriment of the program. As Ronald Reagan said, some of the most terrifying words in the English language are, "We're the government, and we're here to help."

I love Frugal Dad's final conclusion:

If you’ve made it this far into the article, I’m sure you are now expecting my official endorsement. Sorry to disappoint, but I believe your vote is a personal matter, and I don’t want to influence your decision. Besides, if you have been reading long and are well-aware of my strong fiscal conservatism, you can probably figure out who I’m voting for. Then again, you probably can’t, because both parties have completely abandoned fiscally conservative ideals.

So my advice to you is to make an informed decision next Tuesday, not one based on the endorsement of your favorite actor, your parents, your pastor, or even your spouse. Part of what makes this country great is the ability to express individual thought–and there is no greater opportunity to do so than next Tuesday. Regardless of what happens, the sun will come up the next morning. Businesses will open. The markets will react. And not much will change about your day-to-day life, as it should be. You are ultimately responsible for your own success, so stop wasting energy worrying over politics, and start taking responsibility for your own happiness.

Amen. Go vote!

Wastrel Show has some strong opinions on Obama -- they're interesting. I'm not 100% sure she's right -- but take a look:

Wastrel wears her voting heart on her sleeve -- Obama is one step right of the devil, according to her, and you have to take that into account. But she's still making some points that need to be considered.

It's nearly 1:30 a.m., and bed beckons. Sometime soon, I hope to be able to sleep at a normal time. (naahhhh....)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I'm here...honest.

It's that keeping all the balls in the air is getting a bit zany at present:

*The r-word (which is slowly progressing)

*Planting. Quickly. Before the ground freezes any more! (Lowe's had a half-price sale on bulbs, and I lucked into perennials at 75% off. Plus 6-packs of pansies and pinks for only 25 cents! They'll come up again in the spring, and renew the flowerbeds, which are looking distinctly shingle-shocked at present.)

*the Business. Getting kits ready for Quilter's Gathering next week (in fact, just plain getting ready! ) The usual orders. Questions. Trying to put stuff back in order.

*the Exhibit. I'm curating a show on California Gold that starts Nov. 4, and goes through Jan. 29 at the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum ( ) in Golden, CO. The quilts go up Sunday, but before then, signage has to be finalized and I've got to find that package of CA Gold fabrics I shipped to Quilter's Newsletter.)

*Stuff from the article for QN that just came out (on Crazy quilts).

*Leftover paperwork from the Old Book.

*Research and paperwork for the New Book.

And clean underwear!

Next week is Quilter's Gathering in New Hampshire. Suddenly this week, I realized -- I'm going to give a lecture on political quilts to a roomful of people only 24 hours after they've found the outcome of the national election! Yes, I'd realized this before. (I'm not dumb, just absentminded!) Suddenly, though, it hit me --

Half of the people in the room are probably going to be ticked their favorite candidate and issues didn't win.

The other half are going to be giddy. Sort of.

And who knows what else could happen!

And I'm going to bring up politics -- deliberately?!?

Watch the bloodbath for yourself if you're going to be in the Nashua, NH area...

It's 1:30 a.m....time for a little sleep before the process starts all over again. Good night.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Roofing It...

One of the best ways to get over financial worries...

Carry shingles.

That is -- packages of shingles. Weight: 75 pounds each.

Drag the wheelbarrow over to the pallet. (Husband's decision to choose a no-deflate wheel on the wheelbarrow was a brilliant idea, considering the nails everywhere.)

Look at pallet, stacked high. (Remind self that there were originally three pallets -- and this is the only one left.) Straighten back. Sigh a little.

Hunker down again. Get a good purchase on the package...huhhnnnhh...and slide it into the wheelbarrow. Repeat with one more package. (Wipe away slobber as dog Goonie rewards Mom's New Game with a good-sized lick on the face.)

Wheel barrow over to ladder -- and stone wall. Get another grab on package #1, and...oof...lift it onto stone. Let go.


Repeat. Rub sore ankle after empty wheelbarrow tipped on it.

Back to the pallet.

I did this for 12 packages this afternoon. Hmmm. What's 12 x 75? I personally lifted 900 pounds?

And three of those are up on the roof, as well. Now to get the other nine there...

Daughter #1 and Husband are up on the roof, arguing with each other and (hopefully) nailing shingles down. I hear the rapid bang of the nail gun -- a promising sign.

Old shingles are picked up. (Although I'll be finding nails and bits of tarpaper in my flowerbeds for probably years to come.) The dumpster's gone.

And it's a lovely, warm fall day.

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Crockpot Is My Friend

Stephanie over at "A Year of Crockpotting" has made it her goal to use the crockpot every single day in 2008:

I'm not up to that level of dedication, but I do love the crockpot -- its round self has saved my patootie more than once during the past few months of roofing. And there's nothing like coming in the house, cold and hungry, and smelling beef stew waiting for you. Right. Now.


Not only that, but crockpots use way less energy than your stove. Even your microwave. You do tend to cook in larger quantities-- occasionally a problem, now there's just Husband and yours truly -- but the stuff freezes nicely. Or we have it for lunch/supper again during the week.

Stephanie just gave an extremely nice recipe for Chocolate Fondue:

--1 1/2 cups chocolate chips (semi-sweet, dark, milk, or white. Your choice.)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla

Mix in a Small Dipper crockpot -- or put in an ovenproof bowl or glass casserole dish inside your larger crockpot. Don't add water. (I don't know why the stuff doesn't burn, but it doesn't.) Cook on low until it's melted -- about 1-2 hours. Dip in marshmallows, apple or orange slices, bananas, whatever. Enjoy.

There are a ton of other recipes on Stephanie's website, but you can find about any dish on, as well.

Here are some of my favorites:


1 pork roast (cut off the most obvious fat)
1 envelope taco mix

That's it! Cook 4-8 hours on low, or 4 hours on high. Don't add water -- the meat juices will give this a nice soupy mix. Tender, delicious --use for barbecue, enchiladas, tacos and such.

This is also good for beef, though I may substitute an envelope (or two tablespoons) of onion soup mix and 1/2 cup of wine.

(got us through a snowy, blustery day this week)

1 pound ground beef or pork
1 cup chopped onions
2 cups chopped tomatoes (or 1 quart jar home-canned tomatoes. Or 1 large can tomatoes)
2 beef bouillon cubes
2 teaspoons dried garlic
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cumin (optional)
1 small can green chilies (optional, but very Coloradoan to use)
2 cups dried pinto beans

Rinse the beans and dump them into the crockpot; cover with water (about 1/3 of the pot). Dump everything else in -- do not brown the meat! (This way, the good juices go directly into the chili, rather than being wasted in the frying pan. The bouillon just boosts the meaty taste.) Rinse out tomato and/or chili cans -- add that water, as well. Cook on low 6-10 hours, or high 6-8 hours. Feeds 4-6 gorillas, especially when served with 'cheese guys' (cheese melted on corn tortillas in 450 degree oven approx. 5 min.). Stretch your meat further by doubling everything else --it's still delicious.


1/2 pound raw chicken breast, chunked (1-2 cups cooked leftovers are good, too)
1 pound broccoli -- frozen package or approx. 2 cups chopped raw
1 cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon marjoram or basil
1 teaspoon lemon pepper
1 chicken bouillon cube
1 large can (or two small cans) cream of chicken, celery or mushroom condensed soup
approx. 2 cups milk
-----stop here -------------
1 teaspoon sour cream per bowl (optional, but good - yogurt works, too)
1/2-1 cup grated cheese

Here we go. Dump everything, from chicken through the condensed soup, into the crockpot -- fill the empty cans with milk to rinse, and dump that in, too. Add 1-2 cups water if mixture looks too thick. Cook on low 4-6 hours, or high 2-3 hours. Serve each bowl topped with a spoonful of sour cream and sprinkled with cheese. Feeds 4-6.

Enjoy. And invite us over to dinner!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

AIG News -- And More

AIG, bless their 'lil hearts, has decided to freeze millions of dollars in bonus payments to some of their former executives:

That means former chief executive Martin Sullivan doesn't get his $19 million golden parachute. And Joseph Casano, the former head of the Financial Products subsidiary (said to be the Achille's heel of AIG's current financial troubles), doesn't get his $69 million bonus, either. (Five other former executives are out approx. $93 million.)


What do you want to bet that they sue?

I'd be more impressed if I didn't get the feeling that New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo was the real impetus behind this new interest in fiscal frugality -- instead of AIG or its current chairman, Edward Liddy.

Holding people responsible for their actions?

What a refreshing change.

* * * * * * * * *

Allen Greenspan's got something to say about the current economy...and it ain't pretty. According to the former Federal Reserve Chairman, we are enduring a "once in a century credit tsunami." From the article:

He said that he and others who believed lending institutions would do a good job of protecting their shareholders are in a "state of shocked disbelief." And Greenspan also blamed the problems on heavy demand for securities backed by subprime mortgages by investors who did not worry that the boom in home prices might come to a crashing halt.

"Given the financial damage to date, I cannot see how we can avoid a significant rise in layoffs and unemployment," Greenspan said. "Fearful American households are attempting to adjust, as best they can, to a rapid contraction in credit availability, threats to retirement funds and increased job insecurity."

He said that a necessary condition for the crisis to end will be a stabilization in home prices but he said that was not likely to occur for "many months in the future."

At least he's not sugar-coating the situation. Read it for yourself at:

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
And from the Department of "Stuff's Getting Better. Better Every Day" comes this update:

The house roof is stripped, repaired and tarpapered!!

Thanks to our new friend Carlos (plus effort from Husband and yours truly), we're finally ready to start shingling again, without worrying about leaks or flapping tarps.

It was nearly done by Tuesday night, when a wind-roaring snowstorm came up from the mountains. Fortunately, we only got an inch of snow. (First of the season, not counting some spits Daughter #1 noticed in the rain last weekend.) It melted quickly, and Carlos finished tarpapering last night.


Myself and still-aching wrists aren't thrilled about the idea of shingling, but it goes quickly, based on previous experience -- the garage roof. Guess what we'll be doing this weekend?

There's been a strange byproduct from the Roof Affair. I seem to notice people working on other roofs more quickly than I ever had before -- including details. A kinship, perhaps? Daughter #1's friend suggested she start a new company, Hot Roofing Girls, now she knows the process, too.

If this economy gets any worse -- it's a thought.

10 Ways to Save On Fall

Welcome to BeingFrugal blog readers! Lynnae kindly posted my

(drum roll)

comments on fall. Which, by the way, has finally deposited its icy self on the Brick doorstep.
Here goes:

*Don’t turn your indoor heat on until you absolutely have to. Every extra day you keep the thermostat off, you save.

*Resolve to turn your home temp down – and keep it that way. We used to keep our indoor temp at 68 degrees – but now live quite happily with the temp at 64-65 degrees. Wear a sweater and save some $$. (The one drawback: your friends’ homes will sometimes seem too warm!)

*Close heating grates or registers off in unused or little-used rooms.

*Check for drafts, and fix them now. (Light a candle and put it near your window or door bottom – if it flickers, you’ve got a draft.) There are weatherproofing kits out there for windows while you save for better insulated ones. Insulating foam can be sprayed into cracks and crannies for both doors and windows. Or try using folded rugs and towels as ‘draft dodgers.’ (You can make or purchase these, too.)

*Use a small space heater. This keeps life comfortable in the rooms you live in the most. (Take the proper precautions for children and/or pets.) Note: you can even take this from room to room. Our Weimies love to snuggle near it on chilly evenings. It's a lot cheaper to heat the space you're occupying, rather than the entire room.

*Buy a bushel of fruit. Peaches and apples are harvesting through September and October for us here in Colorado – and elsewhere. Produce is a fraction of the price in stores when you pick your own or buy directly from the orchard.

*Store that fruit for later. Apples and pears will stay fresh in your refrigerator crisper for months.

For larger amounts, we keep an ice chest (or cooler) on our back deck filled with apples (or potatoes or onions) all winter long. If the temp drops below 0 degrees, we’ll bring it in overnight. It’s a luxury to go out in February and take out a rosy apple!

*Or preserve your fruit, instead! Apples can be sliced and put in a lemon/water solution, then packaged and frozen in pie-sized amounts. (Or just make pies, then freeze them unbaked. Bake directly out of the freezer at 375 degrees for 45-55 min. – yum!) I wash off peaches, then freeze them as-is in plastic bags, 2 per sandwich bag. Thaw for 30 min. (or microwave for 30 seconds), and the peel slides right off under warm water. Halve them, take out the pit, and they’re ready for use in smoothies or peach crisp. (Warning: Use them while they’re still partially frozen – if completely thawed, they melt into sauce. Still good on ice cream….)

*Learn how to knit. Or crochet. Or quilt. Not only are these hobbies warming while you do them, but they’ll produce needed items to protect from the cold. Not to mention Christmas presents! And speaking of Christmas…

*Start buying your Christmas presents now. Look for sales and clearance prices. Summer-related items are usually on deep clearance by this point. This also goes for Christmas groceries like nuts in the shell, dried fruit, etc.

Do you have any tips for saving money in the autumn months?And take a minute to visit Lynnae at -- she's great!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Update on the Steakburger Special

well, folks, all good things must eventually come to an end.

Here's the original post on getting steakburgers from Omaha Steaks for 36 cents a pound:

And here's Catherine's update:

People are now reporting that Omaha Steaks is canceling their orders. According to their website, my order already shipped, and hopefully those of you whose orders are already in transit too will still get your order. This seems like fairly bad customer service to me, but if you're still interested in purchasing from the company and can handle them changing the rules every few hours, the information below should still be applicable to $100 orders.

It seems that this deal has been modified as of this morning. You can still get a $25 gift card from the Geico website (as described in step 1 below), but you will have to use it for a purchase of at least $50. You can also still get the free hamburgers from step 2, but if you combine that with the Geico card from step 1, you will still have to spend $25 out of pocket. If you were to order, for example, 32 steak burgers for $39, plus the free 12 burgers, and shipping, then applied your $25 gift card, you'd be spending approximately $2.25 per pound for the beef, delivered.

In my area, $2.25 a pound for lean ground steak is still a really good price, but it's up to you if you feel like that is worth your money or not.

Further Update: Now some people are reporting that the $25 gift card is only good for orders over $100. I'm sorry I can't actually come up with any way to make that frugal, unless you were already planning to spend that much, in which case maybe the gift card and free burgers will help you get a better deal than you would have gotten otherwise.

And EVEN FURTHER: Apparently if you actually call Omaha Steaks and place your order on the phone, they will give you the $25 off without the $50 or $100 restriction, but you won't get the free burgers that way. Still, you'd get the 8 burgers for $1.99, which is 2.5 pounds of meat for under $2, and still a good deal.

But I still haven't gotten my gift card number from GEICO!

Gritting My Teeth

In case you're living in Siberia and didn't know this...

the stock market took another header today.

Leaving all those 'bargains' I thought I'd picked up in the past few weeks --

well, they're less so now.

Husband reminded me we're really in not-bad shape:

*We have no large outstanding bills

*Our car is completely paid for. Ditto the house. Ditto any large appliances. (I think we still owe about $200 on a laptop, but that will finish off in a month or so.)

*We have no medical bills -- or serious health problems at present.

*We haven't had to tap our 401Ks...and have a little money still left in the emergency fund. (Not much -- roof expenses are taking their toll.)

*Our freezer is stuffed with peaches, meat and other goodies...more than enough to live on for the next 3-4 months, even if I didn't buy another thing.

*Our pantry has at least 50 quarts of home-canned tomatoes and at least 100 cans of everything from stew to saurkraut. We could live just fine, food-wise, with buying only milk and eggs.

And Husband got a raise! It wasn't much...50 cents an hour...but he has a chance at another trainer's position in the school district, which could mean as much as $2-3 more per hour.
And most people are just struggling to hang onto the jobs they've got.

I see strained faces in our church congregation -- I hear the worry in many women's voices when they mention they've gotten a part-time job "to help out," instead of staying home with the kids. Two-thirds of my piano/voice students will be 'paying' for lessons from now on by having their moms work for Brickworks now and then. (We can always use the help.)

Colorado is not the easiest place to live in. Food prices tend to be high here, especially for fresh fruits and vegetables. A bushel of apples that goes for $24-30 in Michigan is at least double the price here.

Rent and mortgages are high -- utilities can skyrocket fast -- and gas...actually, that's lower right now, at a munificent $2.70 a gallon! (I never thought I'd think of less than $3 a gallon as a bargain.)

Nonetheless, my home state is better off than some -- our unemployment rate is much lower here. There's still work, even if it pays less. And there are still (sort of) affordable places to live.

What can you do?

Well, not worry for one thing. It won't help a bit.

Next, remind yourself of the priorities that are most important: family and friends who are still there, and need you. A warm house. (An intact roof!!) Food. A job. A strong mind. Chances that still remain to read, research, think.

Take a look here, too, at a relevant Washington Post article:

We are going to get through this.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Campaigns don't seem to deal too much in what we think of as true 'facts' -- usually, we seem to get a version or two to puzzle over.

Consider this article on smears made against Barack Obama -- according to this author, much of it is true:

And some of his research does seem to make sense. BUT -- this guy's got his own axe to grind. Take items #8 (whether Obama is a Muslim or not) and #10 (whether he's American-born or not).
*Does having a parent who has practiced the Muslim religion -- and going to services with him as a kid -- make you a Muslim, too? (My children would argue not.) Obama's current place to worship, part of the United Church of Christ denomination, is categorized as some sort of weird Black Power-type thing... hmmm. We've known a number of people who have been thoughtful and faithful Christians, with ties to that denomination. No way.

*Was Obama's birth certificate doctored to show him as born in Hawaii? (His paternal grandmother, according to the article, says he was born in Kenya--a US President has to be American-born.) Wouldn't a 'certificate of live birth' be good enough to disprove this? (I'm not sure why the certificate number would be obscured...why not show it?)

Ironically enough, McCain wasn't born in the United States -- making him technically ineligible -- but in Panama. However, his parents were stationed on the military base in Panama, thus making him eligible. Weird, huh...

I don't know what to think --completely. But I do know I am sick and tired of all the innuendo, nasty, hateful remarks and sly digs. Let's get this election over with.

Buffett's Take On Things

If you've been reading my posts lately, you know I have a great deal of respect for Warren Buffett. The guy is one of the original frugal investors -- careful not only how he spends other people's money, but how he uses his own.

Here's his latest statement:

The man isn't known for saying much, if anything, read and learn. I plan to.

Steakburgers Delivered...for 36 Cents A Pound?

What can I say...
my frugal buddy, Moneysavingmom, is talking about this...

I've put in for it...and am waiting on the GEICO gift card number. Maybe you should!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Updates and Downdrafts

Sorry I haven't posted for a bit...but it's not been because I was sitting around.

Saturday: appraised all day for the Johnstown Historical Society's fall festival. Johnstown ("Johns-town") is about an hour's drive away, tucked into one of Colorado's longer plains. Not too far from Fort Collins, but the houses are worlds away -- this is the same warm-and-friendly small town feeling we loved so much when we first moved to Castle Rock. (Alas, things have changed. How they have changed.)

I had a full plate, so didn't get much time to look around -- but Daughter #1 and I wandered some, had the chili lunch special, and I bought a very pretty pair of gold iridescent beaded earrings -- for only $5. What warm, friendly people, too.

Our fall colors are just over the peak, but they're still beautiful. Heart-wrenching yellows, vivid golds and now and then, a sock of bright red, make this my favorite season. And I spent some time looking at them high up on...

Sunday: which was split between church and up on the roof! Carlos has been working for us, after the fiasco of Bob the Builder (who is still elk hunting somewhere in the boonies, for all we know). Carlos is quick, efficient and friendly -- and in two days, he managed to pull off a big area of shingles PLUS get that area repaired and tarpapered, as well. Bless him.
For our part, we got the northeast section of the house repaired and tarpapered, plus the chimney area flashing put on. (I should say Husband did, since I spent Saturday appraising or on the road.)

It will be some weeks yet before everything is done -- but the tarpaper will protect the roof while we gradually re-shingle. Which is just in time for...

A Storm! It was supposed to start last night, but is only here in the form of wispy clouds and cold, chilly winds. (Threatening banks of dark gray clouds are over the mountains, waiting to move in at a moment's notice.) Carlos arrived early this morning -- hopefully he can finish up tarpapering the rest of the houses. But even if he can't, we are so much more protected that it's not funny.

This week, I'm watching an insurance office for our friends, who are off on their 25th anniversary cruise. (Lucky stiffs.) Trust me -- in October, hardly anybody is doing anything in the insurance department. Even the (rare) phone calls have largely been pre-plugged political stuff. Yuck. So I take a payment now and then, cancel a policy or add a vehicle, stuff like that. And in between, I can get some other work done. (In my 'other' life, I used to be licensed for property/casualty -- I worked not only for these friends, but another insurance office for a while.)

So it's quiet. Maybe too quiet. And I feel that storm waiting. Hang on, Carlos!

* * * * * * * * * * * *

A free cappuccino?
Plus a discount coupon?

YUP -- and it works for any Barnes & Noble! But only through October 31 -- click here to print your coupons:

* * * * * *

Friday, October 17, 2008

Beautiful Embroidery Designs -- Free!

This site is teeming with them...


Fall...and the Holidays

About the only things falling around here are leaves and shingles (!!!). But even though I have weeks of prep work, appraising and teaching on my plate before Thanksgiving even shows on the radar....

well, it's nice to think about Christmas, too.

My favorite financial blogger, J.D. Roth at "Get Rich Slowly," has plenty to say on the subject:

Here, too...

As always, the reader comments are often the best of all.

I don't understand chucking Christmas altogether; the holiday of the Lord's birth has too many wonderful moments for that, in spite of all the commercialism. And there is nothing like reading in a chair, snuggled up next to the lit tree, holiday music all around you... going for a walk (or a carol) in the snow... seeing the faces of your family all around, shining in the candlelight... leaving out stockings... going to a concert.

But this year holds all sorts of uncertainties. Daughter #1 is looking for work; Daughter #2's job demands she stay as late as possible before Christmas. Husband has two weeks off, starting around Dec. 19 -- he works for the school district. (Sounds idyllic, right? Bear in mind that other than a few holidays, those days are unpaid.)

My own schedule is pretty open -- other than some last-minute orders, people don't need appraisals or quilt teachers during the holidays. The issue is:

my dad. And mom.

So we'll be heading to Michigan the day after Christmas to spend New Year's with them. It wouldn't matter if gas cost a million dollars a gallon; it looks strongly as if this will be Dad's last Christmas on earth. So we'll go, with Daughter #2. (And I keep hoping Daughter #1 will come, too.)

Hmmm...I just realized that when I think about Christmas for this year, I don't think about presents. It's the time spent together this season that counts. Cancer does that to you.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Faking It

Enough people, including my own dad, have struggled with cancer that I feel a bit like throwing up when hearing of someone who pretended the whole thing:

Suzy Bass was a popular teacher who, according to her, just somehow faked breast cancer -- at three different schools! (Once exposed, she'd just move on to the next one...) No matter that she went to great lengths to look like a cancer patient, not only shaving her head and forcing herself to throw up, but giving herself 'radiation burns' with a towel. Although she did not take money from the various fundraisers held in her honor, she did accept gifts -- everything from an Ipod to casseroles.

Now the people who were duped by her are angry and outraged. Suzy's response?

"I'm sorry I can't undo what I did, and I'm sorry that sorry is such an insignificant word," she says. "The remorse in my heart and soul is huge." Bass acknowledges that there were other lies she'd told friends and colleagues. She once pretended she had a fiancé who died on 9/11, that she'd played basketball at Florida State University and that she'd starred in the North American tour of Mamma Mia! "What I did was wrong, and I'm willing to stand up and admit that," Bass says, "but it doesn't change that my intent was never to hurt anyone. Never. I'm not that kind of person."

Hmmm..."never to hurt anyone." So it means that not 'meaning' to counts somehow, even if you do hurt someone? (Sounds like a case for Judge Judy -- she sees a bunch of defendants who argue that their actions don't count 'because it was an accident.')

How about betraying someone? Using their goodwill and energy? Permanently affecting their views on other cancer patients and causes?

Yep, she's sick, all right. In the very worst way.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Dollar Thoughts

My 401K is up...sort of. The stock market is bouncing around like a pogo stick right now. That elasticity keeps me from believing much of what I read, day to day.

Bripblap had some very interesting things to say about confidence...I think you'll find them helpful:

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LOOKING FOR HELP: Nancy Kirk and I are the process of writing an e-book on saving money. Have you got a great idea for this? Comment at the end of this post...and we'll be sure to credit you!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A New Review for CRAZY QUILTS!

Take a look at the Quilt Channel blog:

Quotes from this review include:

Crazy Quilts contains many beautiful color photos of significant examples of the style from its heyday in the 1890s, but equally significant is the coverage of the legacy of the crazy style into the present day. Stunning quilts by Judith Baker Montano and Terrie Mangat, among others, are generously represented in large photos. My favorite is the double-truck of Mangat's “Cleveland Fireworks,” a dramatic expressionist work commissioned by the Cleveland University Hospital for display in their entrance foyer. It absolutely takes your breath away.

Part 2 of the book is the inevitable and indispensable section on how to make your own crazy quilt. It addresses piecing, stitching and embellishing the quilt, including three different construction methods, traditional hand-piecing, paper foundation piecing, and a Cindy Brick technique called “shadow crazy piecing,” billed as the fastest of the methods, using either hand or machine piecing. An appendix includes a large collection of elaborate embroidery motifs with lots of birds, flowers, and an Art Deco alphabet, among other designs.

This handsome volume belongs on the shelf of any quilter touched by this rich tradition. Which in all likelihood includes all of us.

Thanks, Rob. I'm honored.

You can still get CRAZY QUILTS from the Brickworks website at less than what you'd pay for it on Amazon -- free shipping included! Visit us at to find out more...

Roof Update, Meltdowns and More

Husband came home from work last night and announced he was Sick of the Roof and going to hire someone else to finish it. (Our current contractor is hunting elk on the Western Slope.) He won't hear any gripes from me -- our yard, front and back, is full of shingles and nails and bits of paper flying around. (The neighbors probably figure we're opening Bricks' Trash Heaven, what with all the flotsam and the everpresent dumpster in the driveway.)

Today, DH clarified his "finishing" statement: he wants to hire someone to finish stripping the shingles off, then tarpaper! (But not the southeastern corner, he said -- only a 'few' boards to finish replacing, then some flashing to put on. "Should only take about ten minutes for each," he said. Hmmm.)

That means we put the shingles on ourselves.


Well, it won't be that bad. Nearly all of the first layer of shingles is off the south side, thanks to Daughter #1 and yours truly's Destructo techniques. And all but a bit of the north side is stripped clean already. Tarpaper will mean that we don't have to rush up there to fix the tarps, and leaks will be kept at bay while we finish shingling. Hopefully that will be before I head to New Hampshire to teach at Quilter's Gathering in early November.

I have a lovely round patched hole in my bedroom ceiling now -- kind of a reverse porthole. Husband accidentally stepped on a loose board and literally went through the roof...into the attic...and down into our bedroom. Maybe a good spot for a skylight?

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It never did snow here, though our temps have been more than cold enough. We wear long underwear now to work on the roof. It also camouflages the holes in my pants, which have become rather (ahem) revealing. (You try keeping your pants in one piece while hauling up shingles, catching yourself on protruding nails, etc. etc.) I'm still reasonably decent, but am definitely showing more thigh than usual. Who wants to look at a fifty-year-old woman's butt, anyways?

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Now to the good stuff:

WalletPop, a great source of daily deals and freebies, anyways, has a fascinating series titled "What the Meltdown Means to Me:"

It includes guest posts from a wide range of people, including retired-with-grown-children, single moms, and families. Some of the posts are little 'too' tidy not to be rewritten a bit...but there's lots to think of here.

My own 401K is up some, after yesterday's gains...but still quite pathetic.

Warren Buffett has been more in the news lately. Long considered the Frugal Guru of Finance, his practical advice has been much in demand lately. I watched a long interview on Charlie Rose, and read a few articles about Buffett in recent publications, including Parade. The boiled-down synopsis: save where you can; buy blue chips and great-anyways-stocks NOW, while they're cheap; most of all, DON'T PANIC. (Buffett makes a huge deal of this, saying if you're stupid, you panic -- if you're smart, you buy.)

Buffett believes that the buyout was not only necessary, but critical. (His only questions are whether it came soon enough, and is as far-reaching as it needs to be.) He says the government can hold onto securities and assets more than long enough for them to recover -- and we (the people) should actually be benefitting when those same assets will be sold at much higher prices in the future. (In other words, the gov't is getting rock-bottom prices when it buys...but Buffett warns someone should be on the ball, making sure the gov't isn't paying too much.)

Buffett said if the U.S. was looking for partners, Berkshire Hathaway would be in the pie in a flash! The economy could take anywhere from 6 months to 2 years to recover...but after that, we'll be in much better shape, he thinks, than we were before this.

You can see Charlie Rose's interview here:

Hmmm. Well. That keeps me from pushing the 'sell' button too often. And if this current uncertainty means people spend less on their credit cards and put more in their savings can that be bad?

On the other hand, it's easy to talk when you're flush. More than a few of our friends are looking at being laid off -- or wondering how to pay their current debt. Nearly half of my piano lesson students have either cancelled, or are wondering how to pay their bills. Gas and luxury item prices have definitely gone down here in the Denver area, and restaurants are offering specials I've rarely seen before. And this is in Colorado, which is doing much better than many parts of the country. (We went into the recession before you all did, so there...nyah nyah.)

And speaking of saving money...

Sunshine Markets, a chain that has several stores in Colorado (and, I'm thinking, elsewhere in the U.S.), is a great place to find sales on natural and organic foods. They're also excellent for imported and unusual goodies, and have an extensive bag-your-own bulk foods section, for everything from coffee to candy. This week -- wow! Boneless skinless chicken breast -- $1.57 a pound. Texas grapefruit: 10 for a dollar. Raw almonds (perfect for holiday cooking): $2.99 a pound.

Yep, you're reading those prices right. Rush over there, if you can, and stock up.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I have some wheelbarrow loads of shingles to pick up, before the poor plants underneath expire.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Visit the Bunny

...Big Bunny, that is.

Daughters #1 and #2 have gotten me hooked on the adventures of Big Bunny and his 'plump, delicious' little friends. Start with episode one, then work your way through... follow your tasty dreams!

And if bunnies (and other animals) are your speed, do you plan on leaving your hard-earned cash to them? Leona Helmsley her dog, Trouble. (The white fluffy Maltese Big Bunny would call 'plump, delicious' and we would call a 'Yipey' dog.) Trouble's $12 million was recently reduced by $10 million (poor little doggy)...but hey, the dog's nine years old and in poor health.

This article on people who have willed their substantial estates to dogs, cats and other pets is here:

Leona takes front and center stage -- a spot she enjoyed, anyway -- but it's well worth reading, for the questions that arise.

Still cold and chilly here, with spitting rain. Jess is doing a crossword puzzle (and asking about clues, which I am a real doofus on.) Dave is watching the Broncos play; I may not be on the roof, but that doesn't stop me from wondering how in the world we're going to get it finished...

Saturday, October 11, 2008

It's Not Snowing Here...Yet

But it will be by tomorrow night!

We had a setback -- the contractor who's been working on the roof with us (and can only come by on weekends) stopped by to see Husband and casually said, "oh, by the way, I'm going elk hunting for the rest of the week. I'll come back early if I get an animal quickly [ ha ha ]."

So much for help on the roof.

It was gloomy this morning. As in fog drifting around the houses, the mountains hiding behind clouds. Cold and dreary. (Extremely rare for here. Really.)

Daughter #1, Husband and I spent half of this afternoon roofside, D#1 and yours truly yanking off shingles on the south side, and Husband replacing boards on the north side. We have two rounds of tarpaper on half of the north side, and once Husband is done with the boards, we can put the rest of the tarpaper up -- fast.

It started to rain while we were up there. No matter, I thought -- I can handle being damp.

Cindy came by with a plate of peanut butter cookies. What a wonderful neighbor.

It started to rain harder.

By the time Dave got the tarp pulled back down, sleet was mixed with the rain.


So we went inside, had hot coffee and built a fire in the fireplace, put a movie on. I fell asleep through most of it. The rest of the day was watching movies, supper and fixing a leak. (A nagging problem, now our roof is in flux...they've popped up here and there. Thankfully, I'd planned to paint the ceilings, anyways.)

Daughter #2 called with the news that up by her cabin in the mountains, they'd had 2 inches of snow -- and more was coming down. We're supposed to get it at this elevation (6250 ft) by nightfall tomorrow.

I don't think we'll be working on the roof tomorrow.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Life...Parts...and Sheep Squirts

See if you can read Dadcentric's post today without laughing:

Maybe he's right...or maybe Thing 2 (you'll see!) is positioning himself just right on the Poop Scoop of Life!

Especially after this conversation:

Drooling About Food...

...I must be hungry.

If you haven't visited Almost Frugal's blog (or its companion food blog), you're in for a treat. She's an American living and going to school in France with her French husband and family. I lived in Austria and Germany for a summer, and whenever I get homesick for a Continental take on things, I visit AF. She has some very la francais points of view, in spite of her USA origins.

Her latest includes a contest to win five French foods, including a bottle of chartreuse liqueur. (For medicinal purposes, she says.) All you have to do to enter is add a comment on her post...or register for her 'Friday is for Food' section.

Here's the giveaway post:

And AF's regular blog is at:

Vive l'Almost Frugal!

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Stock Market Musings: I must be crazy ,too-- I actually looked today. Pretty much everything is down, some of it within gasping distance of the big $0. Sigh... but I am going bargain hunting, once a check gets deposited in the account. Mostly for blue chips: COKE and GE are still looking good. Maybe the eventual gains (I hope) will make up for this scariness.

Have a great weekend! We'll be spending ours (as usual) up on the roof...but at least tonight, we're going for an elegant dinner (pronounced "dinnah") at the Broker:

They're in a former bank building -- and we'll be dining in the Vault. Very cool, as you pass through a huge round lockbox-type opening. Very romantic, too. They have what's termed as a 'never-ending' shrimp bowl, and their entrees are very meat-and-potatoes style. Dave's favorite, by far...he'll put up with some fussy stuff, but give him a steak and a loaded baked potato, and he's in heaven. I'll snag the kale garnish off the plates -- chopped fine and simmered in chicken broth with onions, potatoes and bratwurst, it will make an outstanding soup for tomorrow night.

Now if you'll excuse me, a cup of hot coffee and Judge Judy are's chilly out here.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

And THIS Is What We're Paying For...

AIG got itself bailed out of trouble, thanks to Uncle Sam and his Very Large family of taxpayers. (In other words, US.)

So how does this large insurance company thank us?

Flowers, right?


Uh...a personalized pen?

Try a $440,000 vacation for AIG executives, complete with banquets, massages, room service and all the perks a lavish resort can provide:

And what's AIG's explanation? According to Fox:

"AIG issued a statement saying that 'This type of gathering is standard practice in the industry and was planned a year advance of the Federal Reserve's loan to AIG. We recognize, however, that even activities that have long been considered standard practice may be perceived negatively. As a result, we are reevaluating various aspects of our operations in light of the new times in which we operate.'
"According to the statement, the event was held by one of AIG’s insurance subsidiaries, not AIG employees. The attendees were independent life insurance agents who were "top business producers" for AIG. Only about 10% of the attendees were AIG American General employees, and no corporate executives from AIG headquarters attended the meeting, according to the statement. "

Hmmm..."reevaluating." Only 10% of those attending were 'real' AIG employees; the others were just agents who make their living selling AIG's policies. Gee, that makes me feel so much better. What a sordid mess.

Congress, are you listening?

In the Mood to Collect?

...and now for something completely different.

(apologies to Monty.)

Here's your chance to score the latest (and greatest) oddity, like the inkwell used to write the Emancipation Proclamation...or Abraham Lincoln's last-worn (and bloodstained) collar...John Wilkes Booth's folding dagger...the cyanide capsule Herman Goering used to commit suicide...Lee Harvey Oswald's letters...even Napoleon's penis!

I'm not making this up. When John Lattimer, a urologist who taught at Columbia University, died in May 2007, aged 92, his daughter took up the task of cataloguing Lattimer's collection of 'curiosities.' (Lattimer's two sons declined to help out, even going so far as to suggest that some of the stuff be thrown out.) Eventually, a good share of it will go up for auction to satisfy the IRS.

Here's the article:

And a mind-boggling slideshow of some of the featured items:

I'd make smart cracks about Lattimer's collection...but I have this uneasy feeling there are too many weird things in MY stuff for me to be pointing fingers on the subject.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Interview with a Tightwadder

Amy Dacyczyn (pronounced "decision") opened a lot of eyes when she first published the Tightwad Gazette newsletter, a compendium of things cheap and frugal. Fortunately for those of us who didn't subscribe, Amy also combined her newsletters into several books, also called the Tightwad Gazette. (Look for the combined version on Ebay or Amazon; it's the best buy. Amazon's choices are here: )

Some of her tips are overkill in frugality, but the vast majority are simply brilliant. And here's an interview with the author herself:

Angel Dust...For Your Quilts!

A new fiber has been making the embellishment rounds iridescent wispiness that bonds together and adds texture in very interesting ways.

I taught a Hanky Panky class once, and across the hall was a class using Angelina. During the break, we sneaked over and pulled the scraps out of the trash...then tucked them into bits and places on the Hanky Panky tops. Lovely, lovely, lovely.

You can find out more about Angelina here:

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Monday, October 6, 2008

Monday Busy-ness

There's a chill in the air...and a few pathetic rosebushes are gasping around the shingles and wood bits piled on them. (Poor guys) Some daisies and a zinnia or two are still hanging in there on the edges -- but thanks to the Great Shingle TearOff, my flower beds are toast.


We started putting up tarpaper on the house today...just in time. More tp tomorrow night, then it's on to new shingles.

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I had an interesting thing happen during the Phoenix trip -- a brand-new toothpaste tube blew up in the suitcase! Goo squirted all over my clothes (thankfully not the antique stuff) and a few books. What a mess. I spent the trip scrubbing the 'minty freshness' off my shirts, and hoping for the best.

Then on the final zip on suitcase #2 before the trip to the airport -- the zipper broke. Permanently. (Thanks Patty, for trying to fix it, anyways.) Ever heard of "the handyman's secret weapon?" Duct tape saved my life, and got the suitcase to Denver without spitting everything out.

At least part of it was minty fresh.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Home to Colorado

Just flew back from Phoenix...and boy, are my arms tired.

Ba Dum Bum

Seriously, I AM tired...I love teaching, I really do. But it takes a chunk out of your stamina, especially the dating/restoration classes. They require being able to spout off a bunch of terms and dates at the drop of a hat. Take it from me -- if you haven't spent the past six weeks crouched on a roof somewhere, it probably would be easier to do it.

I can say, though, that the PAQA (Phoenix Area Quilters Association) guild is wonderful. They were enormously kind and very enthusiastic. (Hi guys -- and thank you so much! I'm missing you already.)

Tomorrow morning puts me back into gear...and gets us back to shipping, as well. A bunch of orders await.

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Just found this wonderful blog -- great if you enjoy a blow-by-blow account on whatever he's cooking. (I found myself occasionally shouting at the screen, 'GET ON WITH IT...' but hey, that's me.) He has some terrific ideas.

And -- two tickets to the theater, just for asking? For a good many parts of the country, that's true!

Not Denver or Castle Rock, darn it...but hopefully you can take advantage of this.

Dave is snoring -- time for bed. Tomorrow, another day.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Sitting Tight

My 401K lost nearly $350 today...after losing about $350 the day before yesterday...and not doing too well before that. Ever since the panic began, I've lost about 30-40% of January's value in my 401K.

My personal prizewinner is Wendy's (WEN), a usually consistent earner that got snapped up by the Arby's corporation...and went from the $20s to $5 or less. (sigh) It's not worth selling now...hopefully it will start to work its way back up.

And actually, 2/3 of my stocks are holding their own...Pulte Homes (PHM), for example. Or General Electric (GE). But the weiners like Wendy's are making everything else look bad.

Should I panic, and sell everything now, reasoning it's Only Going to Get Worse?

I think not.

Here's a similar take on the subject:

Simple Dollar lists several things that are different now, compared to the of them being our much healthier unemployment rate. I also noticed that the US dollar has actually been strengthening against foreign currency. How could that be a bad thing?!?

The last time I panicked and sold really fast, I also really regretted it. This time, I'm actually going to buy more stock, while it's 'cheap.' Warren Buffett just got a boatload of GE stock...I want to buy more of that. Maybe another blue-chip type stock like Coke, too.

But I'm not going to buy something without researching it. And I am NOT going to panic. It never helps. Ever. I am grateful, though, that I'm not depending on these funds right now...

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In Phoenix this afternoon, where the temps stand at a healthy 90-plus degrees! I got to my hostess' house and asked her if she went out of her way to make me feel welcome...

two guys were re-roofing the house across the street.

(She just laughed.)

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

A Refreshment

Enroute to checking one last time for e-mail, I came across this Chris Tomlin video:

This song is very, very basic...but it covers it all.

Praise Him.

Last-Minute Stuff...then Phoenix

I'm headed to Phoenix early tomorrow morning...if you're in the neighborhood, come see me!

I'll be teaching Thursday evening at the guild's regular meeting (patriotic quilts)
taking the day off on Friday...
Then teaching an all-day class on how to date and restore your quilts.

Visit for more information

Roof Update: At least 1/4 of the house roof is now stripped clean; one of our buddies, James, has been fixing holes along with Dave. A few more tonight, then the tarpaper goes on. Whoo hoo!
Daughter #1 and I have continued our destructive ways -- another section is gradually being stripped clean, though it's taking a while. The same idiot (Stu the Stutterer) who shotgunned nails willynilly on the other side of the roof was also at work here. We haven't come across any beercan repairs yet, though -- I told D#1 he probably switched to vodka. (!!!)

Bob the Builder and two of his crew will be starting on the house roof Saturday morning...I'm hoping to see lots of shingles when I get home late that night!

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You can get a free credit report (technically called a "credit file disclosure") annually from each of the big three credit report companies (Equifax, et al) by visiting here:

But that report, helpful as it is, does not contain your actual credit score -- you have to pay extra for that.

Now for only the first 10,000 who respond, Equifax is offering your credit score free of charge! This offer has been out for a few days, so I can't guarantee how many openings are left. Run, don't walk over to this site and apply:

It will help you get a much better handle on how you'll fare if applying for loans, credit cards and such.

Happy Fall to you.