Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Updating Like Crazy

*Spring is indeed still here...but we're supposed to get snow tomorrow. (Figures.)

*Feeling a little better -- but still not well. This fluish version is nasty. I get some work done, then promptly run out of steam and must stop and rest. Not conducive to making a lot of progress.

*The $135 update! I brought the laptop receipts to Office Depot...and lo and behold, the main rebate didn't require a proof-of-purchase from the box. (Thanks to the Office Depot employee who pored so carefully through the pages of receipts and figured this out for me!) So I put that in the mail as fast as my little legs could carry me. We should be $135 to the better...it's not $150, but it's a heck of a lot better than losing it all. and I NEVER will throw a box away again without checking with the husband first.

*Packing and prep work for Brazil continues.

And life goes on.

Monday, April 28, 2008

So What's New? (Besides Spring)

*The daffs bloomed the SAME DAY I noticed they were up and had buds. Weird.

*Everything else decided to join them -- crab apples, hyacinths, early tulips, forsythia...hey, when things decide to grow around here, they leap into action.

Even our backyard trees are delicately leafing out -- a sure sign that we've had our last snow. (Yeah, right. Forecast for Friday is for more of the white stuff -- after three days of 70-plus temps!)

What's new around here?

We're FINALLY starting to feel a bit better, though we run out of steam fast. We both slept away much of Saturday and Sunday -- but if that's what it takes to be doing better, I'll do it. (Preferably with a doggy snuggled up against one hip.)

We're starting to see the preparations for Brazil coming to fruition. I need to order 500 candy necklaces (to hand out to the kids -- one of the few candies that doesn't melt in the heat). And there's a good deal of cleaning-up-reordering-stuff to be done for the business. But it is definitely going to happen.

I signed a contract for a new book! The California Gold article for Quilter's Newsletter has led to a new pattern book for the Kansas City Star...it will be about 'golden' trends, CG -- and some on Western pioneering and gold rush-type subjects, too.

Daughter #1 finished another semester of college! I am so pleased to see her heading on toward the finish of school...it's hard, keeping on. But worth it. I'm proud of her perservering.

And CRAZY QUILTS continues to do very, very well. It continues to be reviewed -- I have a bunch of articles to finish up about it -- and it should be reprinting, as we speak. In this age of hard times, it's still selling -- unusual for a book, especially unusual for a craft-related book. I'm really grateful.

We had a uneasy discovery yesterday...Google has a new maps section, and it turns out they started with the cities around Denver. Pop in an address, and you'll see it right there. What this means is that every single house in our neighborhood is online -- including ours. Pictured in four different directions. In clear (and occasionally) unforgiving color. We figured out the photo was taken last fall, before the snow set in, but after we'd planted trees in the front yard. (Thank God they're not showing the back yards, too....ours has more than its share of dog bones and winter refuse right now.) Strange -- we even knew it was a Thursday, early in the morning, because two papers were in the driveway -- the only day of the week this happens! And Buck, our oldest Weimie, retrieves the papers by 9 a.m. or so.

We were lucky. Our place looks reasonably ok, though I have heard of people permanently pictured in their bathrobes, headed out to get the morning paper. It all seems a bit creepy. Does the rest of the world NEED to see every address?

My parents' house in Michigan isn't online yet. Neither is Little Brother's house in Grand Rapids. But no doubt, it's coming. Both daughters' places in Boulder are there, though. Guess this is a benefit of living in Colorado -- your lack of privacy is splashed across the Internet, in living color.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Becoming A Pincushion for Brazil

Well, we finally did it. Dave and I went and got three vaccinations needed for May's trip to Brazil: yellow fever, hepatitis A and a tetanus. Plus an oral typhoid med. Plus a prescription for ANOTHER oral med -- this time for malaria.

All for the bargain price of $600. (More, actually, when we go pick up the malaria pills.)

Sigh.

It does seem like the trip is finally becoming real, though. If you're wondering what I'm talking about, Dave, yours truly and 19 other people are manning a boat going down the backwaters of the Amazon for a two-week trip, starting May 26. We'll have a medical and dental clinic on board, and will be holding Vacation Bible School classes for the kids in each town. Plus we'll be doing some construction work, and digging a freshwater well for one village.

This is with Amor Brazil: http://www.amor-brazil.org/

I've lived and traveled in Europe, and we've spent time in Mexico. Dave, during his Navy days, also went over to Europe, but spent time in South America, as well. But neither of us has ever been to Brazil. Definitely not the Amazon.

This is new territory.

All I can say is that we were supposed to go -- both of us. We put definite 'fleeces' out, and God answered them quite clearly. The heat-and-living-with-tropics stuff is a bit daunting. The living-with-a-bunch-of-guys angle isn't...there are 3 women and 18 guys, but I've known the vast majority of these men since the girlies were little, and they are old and treasured friends. I like men! They are quirky and amusing, and they tell funny stories.

The 'not-quite-knowing-what-I'll-do' stuff is a little uneasy...but if God wants me to go, He's going to make it quite clear how and when I need to do stuff, don't you think? (Looks like it will mostly be working with the kids, so far.)

The money angle, however, was terrifying -- at least $2000 for each of us, poneyed up when Amor-Brazil needed it. I am amazed, however, to realize that at every time we've needed to pay, the funds have been there. Why was I worrying about this?

And the Worship Team band gave a concert Friday night -- which I also helped out with a dessert buffet and chocolate fountain. (Yes, neither of us still is not feeling well, and worried about losing our voices at just the wrong time.) It went GREAT -- my voice stayed strong just when I needed it, the chocolate fountain was huge hit (in spite of having a critical part break just before...hooray for superglue!)...and people donated $3300 toward the Brazil trip. AMAZING!!

A little more than three weeks awaits. I need to get a lot of things done beforehand -- plus there are some interesting developments that are coming up in this Brick's life.

More tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Frugal Stuff...And Yes, Spring is Really Here

After a few days of sunny-but-cold, I happened to glance at the flower bed...

Are those daffodil stalks -- with BUDS?!

The crocus and a hyacinth are blooming their heads off...

The mint planted last spring is actually showing STALKS...

And where in the world did all that grass come from?

The rose bushes, only sticks a few days ago, are sending out rosettes of leaves. Suddenly little topknots of growth are EVERYWHERE.

Guess Colorado has finally decided that it is indeed spring.

This bronchitis is hanging on. When I cough, it sounds like an eighteen-wheeler changing gears. We have a fundraising concert to do Friday night for the Brazil trip. But if I talk even a little, I'll lose my voice. So I don't. Dave, who tends to be quiet anyways, speaks even less. If it weren't for the Woofy Brothers, we'd have a dead-silent house around here.

Just found a wonderful new blog: http://www.velveteenmind.com She's feisty and a bit earthy. (Check out the guest post, weirdly illustrated, on baby poop -- and I could do without her f--- words.) But I love her graceful prose and thoughtfulness. Here's her post on running out of money:

http://www.velveteenmind.com/velveteenmind/2008/04/less-than-zero.html

Yesterday, to celebrate Earth Day, our local thrift shop ran a 50% special on clothing. Living in one of the richest counties of the U.S.A. has its benefits, when it comes to donations! Some generous soul in my size, bless her heart, dropped off a batch of stuff. And for her (and now me), it was only the best.

I scored a pale gold silk shirt (high quality)...a lime green linen bigshirt...a white unusual collar shirt...another linen blend shirt...and a Land's End pink snowflake nightshirt. Designer labels. Oh, and a batch of t-shirts perfect for the upcoming Brazil trip. All for less than $1 each, thanks to my volunteer discount. Yowza!

This bronchitis has got to go away sooner or later. In the meantime, there's writing (and ironing) to do.

Corned beef is simmering in the crockpot, and all's well with the world.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Want to Learn More?

Want to learn more about your personal Crazy quilter?

ForewardMagazine has an author page up for yours truly:

http://www.forewordmagazine.com/authors/home/index.asp?w=pages&r=0&pid=59

The review of CRAZY QUILTS will be out on the website in a few days...

Monday, April 21, 2008

Saving Pennies, Wasting Dollars

One Frugal Girl, one of my favorite bloggers, has a post today about focusing so hard on the minor that you miss the major:

http://www.onefrugalgirl.blogspot.com/

Specifically, she's been selling books (for pennies on the dollar) while not scanning her billings -- and she missed some charges on her cellphone bill that should have been credited all along.

Boy, can I relate.

My Hollander parents taught me all too well how to obsess about saving 15 cents on hamburger here, and a dollar on bread there. I can still remember being excited in fifth grade -- because chicken was on sale, for 25 cents a pound!

Yet I often don't look at the charge card bills...or the cellphone bill...or the utility bill...because Dave's paying all the bills right now. Why should they affect me? I keep receipts for business -- that's all that matters, right?

Yeah, right. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

I realized this while finishing up the 2007 taxes. Several times, we paid late fees because Dave was busy and just didn't have enough time to finish up everything. He should have asked me to help out; but more importantly, I should have been paying attention and offered to help out. Shame on me. Dave got some of those charges credited, but we still paid more than $120 in fees for accounts we paid off in full. We could have used that money for some great meals out...a hotel for the night...anything but fees.

My latest adventure in idiocy has to do with tidying up, something neither of us enjoys, but has to be done. The Brick has this thing about keeping every box from every appliance, computer item and hardware gadget he's ever purchased. (I realized where this came from after we cleaned out his mom's estate....and threw away empty box after box after box.)

Usually I just throw these boxes out in the garage, or downstairs in the storage room, then edit them out during spring cleaning. Sure, the boxes tend to pile up -- but if that's Dave's worst quirk, it's easy to live with.

This spring, he's had three boxes hanging around the living room for weeks. In one of my cleaning frenzies, I got tired of tripping over the biggest one and threw it into the fire. (I kept the two smaller ones.) You guessed it. A day later, Dave said, 'Where's the Compaq box?' (We'd just gotten a new laptop.)

It turns out that I had burned up the one box Dave needed. For an ISBN. And a $150 rebate.

Yes, he should have told me. (Or pulled the ISBN right away.) But I should have checked.

Sigh.

Needless to say, I am going back to the store with cash register receipt and rebate form in hand, and see if there is ANY way to get another ISBN. But this little ditty now keeps pounding away in my head: Saving pennies, wasting dollars. Saving minutes, wasting hours.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

5 Things to Cook (Fast) When You're Sick

I didn't do any planting...because if I had, the seeds would now be on their way to Kansas. We've had 30-40 mph winds pretty much all day. No gardeners outside: if you were working in the dirt, you were also eating it.

Maybe tomorrow. When I'll feel better (hopefully) anyways.

Here are 5 things to make FAST if you're not feeling that great -- but have to eat:

*A milkshake. Any kind, preferably with some kind of fruit. (Substitute 5 big teaspoons of jam, if you have to.) Around here, it's often more smoothie than milkshake: 1 cup fruit, 2 cups milk, 2 tablespoons sugar, a cup of yogurt (if I've got it), and approx. 3 cups ice cubes. Blend until frothy. If you haven't got any fruit, substitute 1/2 cup of peanut butter. Feels great on a sore throat.

*'Cheese guys' -- our name for a quesadilla. Keep corn tortillas in your fridge -- they're low-fat and add crunch when served instead of bread for any meal. Back to the dish -- peel off 6 tortillas, feed 2 to the dogs, and slap the rest in a pan. Gently drop grated or sliced cheese on board; add nothing or salsa or leftover whatever. Heat at 450 degrees until cheese is melted and the whole thing is crispy - about 5 min.
Also good with a hot dog rolled into the tortilla, or dolloped with canned chili. Nuke some scrambled eggs, top with salsa or chili, serve with the cheese guys, and you have huevos rancheros.

*Pasta primavera -- Start with a pound of your favorite pasta, dumped into a pot of boiling water. While it's cooking (about 10-15 min.), add whatever veggies you can find in the refrigerator, chopped up. Drain, then add 1 can of shrimp OR crab meat OR tuna plus four tablespoons of ranch or another kind of dressing. Angel hair pasta cooks faster (so you don't have to stand upright as long), and looks elegant. Add 1/4 cup parmesan cheese (or 10 hard shakes) or a handful of grated cheese, mix and check for taste. (Add more dressing if it seems bland.)

A great variation -- Pasta carbonara -- Fry up some bacon (as little as 2 or as many as 8 slices per pound of pasta) when the pasta and veggies are about half-done. Drain the pasta and mix the bacon in, as well as one or two eggs. Stir until eggs are cooked. (You can also cook the eggs in the bacon pan.) Add the cheese and mix. A good shake of oregano and onion (or any kind of) seasoning salt are nice, or just salt and pepper.

*Chicken soup plus -- Heat up a can of chicken noodle soup, adding a couple tablespoons of salsa. When broth is bubbling, add an egg. Stir gently, then wait until egg is cooked.

*Chicken and Rice -- start a cup of rice to cooking. (Add veggies or not -- green beans are good in this.) Chop up a chicken breast, and throw into the rice, along with a bouillon cube. (A shake of garlic or celery salt is good here, as is a handful of chopped celery or celery leaves.) Turn heat down, let cook 20 min. Serve as-is, or mix in 1/3 cup sour cream. (Daughter #1 adds a can of kidney beans, then calls it Gordita rice.)

Why do I rely on salsa a lot when I'm sick? It's the chilies; they're jumping with Vitamin C. The chicken's supposed to be good for you, too. Something about the broth.

There. None of these dishes will take more than 5-10 min. of standing upright, and generally 10-20 min. to cook. Enjoy, and remember...you're supposed to be resting.

P.S. We watched Alien vs. Predator 2: Requiem this afternoon, wherein the Aliens (and one Predator) blast the heck out of Gunnison, Colorado. What a crock. Anyone who's been to the dry high plains desert of Gunnison is going to find the constant rain and fog-coated forest scenes hilarious, let alone all the houses. (Gunnison just isn't that big, and definitely not that developed.) That area is full of hunters who know what they're doing -- these people act like their favorite hobbies are freezing in terror or running away, screaming. A true Coloradoan would have turned around and blasted THEM, just to shut up the racket.
For at least half the movie, the screen was so dark that we were trying to figure what was going on, let alone who was winning. Don't bother -- get out Alien vs. Predator, which is based in the Antarctic and far more amusing.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Spring...and Dollar Stores

We're supposed to have practically balmy temps the next few days...in the 70s! (Pardon me for being cynical, but I've heard this little song before...)

If all goes well, I want to get some spinach and pea seed in the ground, and experiment a bit with climbing beans. We've got a very warm spot near a brick wall. (You didn't think the Bricks lived in a wood house, did you? :) I'm thinking that with a little protection, we might be able to have snapped green beans by the end of June, if I plant now. That is, if the weather cooperates. (snort)

I am feeling some better, but still dealing with this nasty cough and running nose. Dave seems to be feeling better, as well.

If your budget feels especially tight, it might be inspired by a trip to the Dollar Store this weekend. This is the new trendy thing for New Yorkers -- amusing since we frugalites have been using dollar store stuff ever since they appeared. I rely on it for sauces like worcestershire and steak sauce, as well as practically any canned good known to man. They seem to have especially good prices for fruit like mandarin oranges and peaches. I'll also pick up a can or two of beef stew -- wonderful over rice for a I've-got-a-deadline or last-minute supper. Oh yes, and while you're sick, too.
They have surprising prices for more exotic items: artichoke hearts, olive spread, specialty olive oils and other items you'd place faster at Pier One or imported food stores. I LOVE this stuff, and often pick up jars for Christmas stockings, as well. The girlies love getting items like pesto and pickled shrimp, instead of Cracker Jack or gumballs.
Anyways, you'll find an interesting NPR talk on '99-cent-stores' here...a new cookbook based on the idea...and an interesting tv spot. Here's the NPR talk and cookbook:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=88746746

And the 'Sensible Shopper' spot, courtesy of ABC News:

http://cosmos.bcst.yahoo.com/up/player/popup/?cl=7391823

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Spring (again), Tacos and Who Knows What Else

We woke up to a good 6" of snow on the ground...and by noon, it was all gone, in wet, messy puddles. The sun's been out and shining its head off...welcome to Colorado.

The taco special I mentioned in the last post will be good every time the Rockies score 7 or more runs in their game the night before. Hey, if they have a great season, Taco Bell may quietly discontinue it...but for now, Coloradoans, you know there are 4-for-$1 tacos from 4-6 p.m. the next day...ask for the "Rockies special."

Dave has been miserable with bronchitis these past few days. And wouldn't you know it -- he gave it to me. So I am trying to keep working while I don't really feel like it. I had horrible dreams all last night that people were hacking into our financial stuff, charging up a storm, and taking out loans against the house. Woke up exhausted....but haven't been sleepy. Just tired. Bone tired.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Tacos 4 for $1 at CO Taco Bell Thursday!

The Colorado Rockies got more than 7 runs in tonight's game in SD...actually, final score was 10-2. (Go, Rocks!) Therefore, all Colorado Taco Bells are running a special tomorrow, Thursday, April 17:

4 tacos for $1!

Only one order per customer, and it's only good from 4-6 p.m. on just this Thursday. (I'm guessing we're going to see this special again as the Rockies continue to start improving! There, that's optimism for you...)

Apologies to non-Coloradoans who read this (and drool)...but for those of us from the Centennial State, take advantage of this great special.

Go Rockies!

Library Journal review of CRAZY QUILTS

NEWSFLASH

Title: Crazy Quilts
Author: Cindy Brick
ISBN-13: 97807603237-5
MBI Catalog ID: 145479AP
Price: $29.95
Pub Date: February 2008


Activity:
Library Journal, April 15, 2008 (Circ.: 18,000)

One of the most influential magazines for the library market and seen by far more readers than the circulation reflects, Library Journal included a review of Crazy Quilts on their page featuring Fiber Crafts. Reviewer Jan Zlendich, Librarian Emerita, Cal State Univ. Lib., Fullerton writes:
“Textiles appraiser Brick here presents a well-documented and generously illustrated history of a ‘crazy’ form of quilting that was wildly popular in the1880’s and is today enjoying a resurgence of interest among quiltmakers…Color photographs, vintage drawings, postcards, and advertisements bring the colorful world of the crazy quilt into focus while a practical ‘how-to’ section teaches the prospective crazy quilter three different methods for constructing crazies. A fine, solid choice for public and academic library quilting collections”.

Whoo hoo!

I Scream...You Scream...

Winter (again). The sky is a dull lead gray, and it's getting ready to snow. I keep thinking of playing Simon and Garfunkels' "Hazy Shade of Winter"...it would fit today.

On a cheerier note, if you like ice cream, here's the place to stop for more info on your favorite treat! (I already signed up for the Blue Bunny IScream Team...they have a seasonal 'bunny in a blizzard' flavor that's incredible.)

http://www.wisebread.com/i-scream-you-scream-i-m-lovin-free-ice-cream

Dave has the flu...he didn't go to work, and has spent the day so far watching westerns and staring morosely into the fireplace. (Poor guy.) I have writing deadlines, as well as a headache that won't quit, the start of a cough, and achy body-ness all over. I suspect the Big Guy has shared his flu with me. Chicken soup has already been administered...time for some frozen pizza, and a snuggle.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Spring (again)...But Who Cares, We're All Going to Die

Every week (and often more than that), some media yahoo cites a study and concludes that somehow, somewhere We're All Going to Die. Today's gem darkly predicts that sometime in the next thirty years, southern California is going to practically fall off the face of the earth, due to a Very Big earthquake.

Way to narrow it down, guys. ..love the specificity. Granted, I am not a huge fan of southern Cal. (The state, or the teams.) We spent a month, back when Daughter #1 (now 21) was a toddler, in the San Diego area while Dave was doing some engineering there. One morning, we woke up to the bed moving. Big-time. Daughter was sleeping on a pallet in the open closet -- I was debating how I could get to her on a floor that wasn't holding still, until I realized she was just fine. She never even woke up. Soon after, everything stopped shaking.

During another working trip to the same area, sans family, Dave was eating in a Denny's when suddenly everything started shaking. He (and everybody else in there) abandoned their Grand Slams and hit the dirt. He was amazed when, after the rumbling stopped, everyone got up, brushed themselves off, and drank their coffee as if nothing had happened.

We've had a few earthquakes in Colorado -- one memorable one on Christmas Day, and one that took a few picture frames off the wall when we lived in student housing. But 99% of the time around here, the ground holds still. I'd prefer to keep it that way.

On the other hand, what are Californians supposed to do, with an alarmist report like this? Sell everything immediately, and leave the state? Build an underground bunker, and live in that? It's not specific enough to really do anything, other than get good insurance and add some more cans of soup to the emergency shelf.

Some of the other Dire Predictions/Scary Studies that have hit recently:

*All of the airlines are going bust. This is particularly frightening for Denver, with their heavy reliance on D.I.A.'s income...and Frontier's recent bankruptcy. (Forced, by the way, because their credit card processor insisted on huge influx of cash IN THREE DAYS. Why did they do it? Because First Data, said processor, was afraid Frontier would --drum roll here -- go into bankruptcy. Badum bum.)

*Who cares if the arlines are going bust -- their planes are flawed, anyways. I especially like the report of the plane who lost a door on takeoff. And after all, American had many of their planes fail recent inspections. (I wonder just exactly how nitpicky those failed items were. C'mon. Really.) If the planes are ok, then the pilots are probably either drunk, sleep-deprived or loading guns (!!!) in the cockpit. See? We're All Going to Crash -- Then We'll Die.

*Coffee's bad. No, it's good. No, it's bad. Take your choice of food or drink -- there's going to be SOMEONE predicting that eating/drinking/ingesting it is going to give you high blood pressure, infertility or the word we fear the most: Cancer. Never mind that next month's or year's study is going to argue the opposite: that this item is wonderful, and we should be stuffing it in as much as possible.

*Our water systems are full of meds. Especially the big cities. Medication for high blood pressure, seizures, flu/colds, etc. etc. etc. And don't forget the poster child: depression. (Doctors are far too quick to prescribe a pill for this, in my opinion, when there are other ways to combat it -- something our generation, and those after, are going to regret in the future.)

According to Those Who Know, our water is filled with traces of these medicines, gradually built up over the years. (And obviously not as well-filtered out as the big city water plants would have us think.) Never mind that the levels are less than miniscule.

Who Knows, the pundits observe, what this is doing to us in the long run. I can see their point...but what am I supposed to do? Stop drinking water? Buy bottled water, even when there's no guarantee that it won't have the same elements...in even larger doses?

Actually, that report is rather frightening. And I do have concerns about our water issues, not only as they affect us, but the wildlife that shares our planet. Lots of articles too, on this, about everything from Possible Diseases to weirdly-mutated frogs to overfishing to bad practices, like overcrowding, oil spills and gill nets. If you find an odd frog in one pond, does this mean that every single pond is polluted beyond redemption? Will we never be able to eat salmon again, or tuna, or steak?

That brings up another issue: food in general. This gives me high cholesterol. That causes cancer. (See coffee mention above) Take eggs, for example. In spite of some people saying they're an excellent source of vitamins and cheap protein, if I enjoy them, I'm going to get High Cholesterol. (A recent study said no. Another one said yes.) If my health's going to be ok, then the chickens making the eggs are being mistreated. So I get to feel guilty about that.

Should I switch to vegetarianism? (That does seem to be the primary endpoint for many of these Nutritional Experts.) But what about the studies that suggest plants feel (or at least react to) negative things like cutting or pulling? (Regardless, it's going to die if you pull and eat it.) If I get past the guilt of Causing Living Things Pain, I'm still taking the risk that the food was treated with pesticides or grown unethically. If I can get past THOSE things, then the people who grew, picked and packaged my food may be underpaid and badly treated. And "Ah helped," insist Those Who Know, because I bought those mushrooms or apples or strawberries. Don't forget the whole 'Buy Local' issue going on here, either.

Finally, the 1000-pound gorilla in recent studies: Global Warming. Is our planet just going through another climate change? (After all, it's done that for thousands of years already.) Or is it pollution? Cutting down the rain forests in the Amazon? Ramped-up industrialization? Whatever?

I haven't noticed the lead critics in this area refusing to use electricity or stop wearing commercially-made clothing. Buying 'green credits' doesn't change anything. (I want to gag every time I hear Al Gore or another pontificate on this, then get caught using twice as much energy in their home as anyone else in the neighborhood.) People, you're still benefitting from the same actions that you're criticizing in others. During many wars in our country, rich people were allowed to buy substitutes, so they wouldn't have to enlist. How is this any different from your actions?

Could there be some truth in these reports? Sure. Is the situation as dire as predicted? That's the hard part. There can easily be elements of truth, bits of meaning packed into all the broohaha. But whether we get hit by a car tomorrow, or live for fifty more years, barring a heavenly intervention, the truth is inescapable:

We All Die. No matter what.

Thank God -- and I mean that literally -- for the soul, and the chance for new life. Life, beyond the time when our earthly bodies wear out, develop some weird disease, or get hit by a car. Thank God for the chance to make our time on this earth count for something.

Get used to the idea -- because We Are Indeed All Going to Die.

But maybe not as soon as the Experts would like! :)

Friday, April 11, 2008

Winter...spring. Spring...winter.

Late yesterday, after about a foot of snow earlier in the day, the air was warming and the snow melting into lakes of moisture. Unlike the rest of the country, we hardly ever see standing water -- it's that dry around here. In fact, we rarely have rain at all: maybe once a month, if we're lucky. Rainy days are a celebration. People come sputtering in, flinging off the raindrops and grinning -- they won't have to water!

So, it's spring in Colorado...right?

This morning, the puddles were frozen over. And in spite of a brief flirtation by the sun, we're back to gray skies, blowing and snowing. The mountains are socked in completely -- no doubt they're REALLY getting nailed. Down here on the flatlands, we're just seeing those hard bits of snow, driven by an icy wind.

Will it ever change? Well, based on recent experience, it won't be long. People around here say, 'Don't like snow, rain, ice, sun/whatever? It's Colorado -- just wait a bit, and it will change.'

Did you know:

Colorado is one of the lightning strike capitals of the world?

That we often get snow -- but rarely a batch that actually sticks for a long time? (Last winter was the big exception.)



That ski operators are thrilled when it snows on a televised Broncos game -- because that means they're going to get lots of reservations? (In fact, there's a big joke around here that it snows BECAUSE the Broncos are being televised. Hey, bear with us -- now that Jason Elam has been released, we don't have much to look forward to for next season. We've got to talk about SOMETHING.)

Well, back to work -- ironing, the last of the reports (yay!), and preparing for a cozy weekend, doing taxes.

Oh, goody.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Spring Blizzard

We have a new kitchen faucet...lovely. Dave spent a good share of his evening last night with his head underneath the kitchen sink. A nasty way to spend it, but gee, I am so grateful.
Thank you, Honey.

We woke up this morning to snow. And wind. And ice. It's a full-scale blizzard, courtesy of April. Where are those crocus? The daffodil and daylily leaves? They're under there, I'm sure...but when the wind is shrieking around the house, it's hard to remember that.

Chili's in the crockpot, warming the air. Dave had to go to work. (Those Who Decide decreed that Douglas County Schools would have class on time, even though it's hard to see the roads, let alone find them.) But when he gets home, I'm guessing that our usual Thursday night commitment -- worship team practice -- will be cancelled. And then we can spend a cozy night by the fire.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Let's Play Flag: An Answer to Small Cents

I woke up to a Full-Blown Crisis.

Our kitchen faucet has been threatening to give up the ghost for weeks. Dave 'fixed' it, but warned that we'd need to replace it before long. Thankfully, the faucet held out while he was in Rhode Island. But early this morning it broke, apparently when he was getting water for coffee. (The spray must have been spectacular, based on the number of under-the-sink items hurriedly thrown out so he could turn the water off.)

Obviously the new faucet is now on the high-priority list. I'm cool with that. What I feel badly about is:
*There's a sink full of dirty dishes (guess they get washed in the laundry room)
*Dave is still coping with the difference between East Coast and Mountain Time. His body has no clue WHAT time it is! And he's had to work extra hours, as well. Poor guy.

Perhaps I'd better learn to replace a faucet myself, rather than depend on a very capable husband.

Like you, I have some blogs I regularly visit -- in fact, some, like http://www.lentilsandrice.blogspot.com/ , http://www.likemerchantships.blogspot.com/ , http://www.onefrugalgirl.blogspot.com/ , and http://www.moneysavingmom.com/ -- I visit nearly every day.

Today's post from Small Cents, written by a American who lives overseas, is an interesting one. You can see it here:

$mall C€nts: My Superlative Money Meme

She's starting a 'flag' game -- post your comments, then pass on your website. So here goes:

Most money ever carried in cash on your person.

Something like $10,000. It was the downpayment on a house, we'd saved it up. I got the cash at one bank, and carried it to another. (Never occurred to my pea brain that I could have gotten a cashier's check, instead!) I felt very strange carrying those bills around, even if it was only for 30 minutes or so.
Normally I am lucky to have $20 in my wallet...except for an emergency $10 or $20 hidden away behind my driver's license. We normally use credit cards (and pay them off each month). It's easier, lets us keep better track of what's spent where, and we get reward $$ for using them. The only place I use cash is generally at the thrift shop, which only takes cash or checks. (Even there, though, I tend to write a check. ) Even our local fast food places now take credit cards... we use credit cards for everything possible. It just bumps up our cashback, and it's purchases we'd be making, anyway!

Best frugal tip.

Always spend less than you make. No matter what.
Charles Dickens' Mr. Micawber (based, sadly, on his own father) emphasized this -- live on what you make, and things are fine. Spend just a little over, and if you can't pay your bills, you'll eventually be in big trouble. Not to mention bleeding away your future in late fees and penalties.

Most open credit card accounts at one time.

Three -- but usually we only have two: a Discover, plus another card. (Many places down south don't take Discover, although it's certainly king up here in Colorado.) We opened two new accounts in 2008 to take advantage of some cashback offers -- but the third card still has some available money on it. We'll use it until that's cleared away.
For a while, we did actively use three cards: two different Discover cards (one for gasoline purchases), plus another. (A Mastercard, I think.) It was way too easy to rack up charges on one Discover card, pay it -- then realize there was going to be a second Discover coming in, as well.

Highest interest rate of said credit cards.

Beats me -- we honestly don't ever have a balance. I pay no attention to this. That's not why I use a credit card. Sometimes this 'rule' is difficult -- but so far, God willing, we've stuck to it.

Favorite book[s] on personal finance or frugality.

Millionaire Next Door. I learned sooo much from this book, especially about living a middle-class-life when your money would let you splurge. (In other words, just because you've got the money -- don't use it all. You might need it in the future!)

My first personal favorite in this area, though, is Larry Burkett's Debt-Free Living. His name is not mentioned much nowadays, but Burkett was a giant in the Christian financial field for decades. He died some years ago, but his wisdom is still sound. I realize many people rely on Dave Ramsey's financial advice, but Ramsey strikes me as more of a 'just-do-it' kind of guy, rather than explaining HOW in detail. Burkett was much more practical.
Burkett's books rely on lots of stories as illustrations. I love a good story!

Also Suze Orman's The Courage to Be Rich and her Nine Steps to Financial Freedom . Extremely practical -- but I benefitted most from her matter-of-fact explanations of options for mortgages, annuities, things like that. (Hey, I was an English major -- not an accounting one!) And she tells wonderful stories, too.

Now it's your turn. How would you answer these questions? (Make sure you mention your blog or website as well.)

Most money ever carried in cash on your person.
Best frugal tip.
Most open credit card accounts at one time.
Highest interest rate of said credit cards.
Favorite book on personal finance or frugality.

Monday, April 7, 2008

A Very Unusual Version of Swan Lake

(yes, I am going to learn how to imbed these things...)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gOqxSaW05p4

The frogs at the beginning are GREAT!

True Lemon: A Review

Hi guys -- I received a free sample of this in the mail some time ago, and wanted to mention it.

Ever since our trips to Mexico, I love what lemon and lime juice does to food. Sit out in the sun on the patio, stir that tangy mixture of shrimp, citrus, garlic and cilantro on your plate. Scoop up the ceviche on a cracker, look out over the ocean (or in one case, the highway!) and munch. Every time I inhale that tangy, biting aroma, even on a snowy, bleary day like today, I think warmth, sun and sandy beaches.

The problem is longevity. I have a heck of a time getting lemons and limes to hang around. In our dry air, they dry up quickly -- especially the tiny limes whose flavor is soooo Mexican.

That's why [commercial here] True Lemon is helpful. (I like True Lime even better; True Orange is also available.) You've got that bracing citrus flavor in convenient powder form -- and it's not going to end up looking like Night of the Shriveled Dead in your fruit bowl. It's not just handy for salads -- I also like it sprinkled in as a flavor note in soups. Many people also use the handy packets for zipping up their water. Vitamin-wise, it's also going to be a nice jumpstart if you'll feeling fluish or rundown at all.

You can try it for free here at:

http://truelemon.com/gratitude-sample.html

Requesting a sample won't cost you a thing -- and True Lemon will donate 10 packets to U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan every time you do.

And think spring. I'm sure it's out there. Somewhere.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Two HUGE Surprises in the Movie Department

Dave is away at our niece Kristin's wedding in Rhode Island this weekend. I've been moving in (organized) piles of this and that, eating whatever I feel like (clam chowder, chili fries, sausage, popcorn...and peas!). And working.

In between, I've been watching movies. And much to my amazement, two have just blown me away.

The first is Kevin Costner's THE POSTMAN

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0119925/

This apocalyptic disaster epic got awful reviews when it first came out in 1997. It may just have been ahead of its time. Thanks to bad weather, disease and war, the world consists of isolated communities...until a lone drifter finds a crashed van and its skeleton driver, and decides to deliver the mailbag he finds. Eventually a whole network of mailmen is flowing between communities (think Pony Express). And when they do, people start fighting the army oppressing them.

It's long - 3 hours. And there are corny and awkward moments. But I found myself absorbed in the vitality and passion Costner pours into both his directing, and his work as The Postman. Will Patton is General Bethlehem, the 'bad guy' -- creepy and mesmerizing at the same time. His army smacks a bit of the banditos in the Magnificent Seven, but it's terrifying, all the same.

I was also amazed at the level of heartfelt -- and effective -- patriotism expressed throughout. (Although their canonizing of the US Post Office's persistence and enthusiasm may be a tad misplaced, based on my experience! :) ) There's a surprise character too, who grins and allows that he "may have been famous." (look for him around the dam sequence.) If you like classic rock, you'll recognize him in a flash.

If you liked Red Dawn, The Day After Tomorrow, or I Am Legend...and you don't mind an occasional silly visual reference to Costner's past work (like riding past the troops a la Dancing With Wolves), you are going to LOVE this amazing movie. Shame on the critics -- if Costner had produced The Postman today, it would have been a much bigger hit.

--------

The other movie to take my senses completely by surprise:
AUGUST RUSH

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0426931/

Evan Taylor (a.k.a. August Rush) is an 11-year-old runaway from the foster home, looking for his parents. And he reaches out to them via music. But it's not your usual kind -- August hears it in the growl of the trucks on the city streets, or the swish of the wind...the tramp of feet...birds twittering... August falls in with a group of miscreants who are set up as street musicians, led by a greedy man who markets them to the public. (This is interesting, especially if you're a big fan of Ron Moody's Fagin in Oliver Twist, but Robin Williams' "Wizard" role is not one of his best. I guess Williams' sometimes odd nastiness adds some tension, but it often seems to have little purpose except to drag the plot onward. Ol' Robin is supposed to have been a "kid in the system" gone bad...but his bitterness grates on you.)

August's version of sound and rhythm isn't just music. It's interpreting life, using musical notes and percussive sounds. Amazing amazing amazing, and Freddie Hightower's obvious pleasure and excitement channeling this wonderful music just makes the whole movie even better. Add to it the romantic supposition that August is drawing his parents with his music -- and they are being drawn to each other at the same time -- and you have a tearjerker that is a musical experiment in the senses.

The finale is a huge concert in New York City's Central Park by the Philharmonic, featuring August's "Rhapsody"...but the real pleasure is hearing the percussive guitar of Kaki King -- an exercise in drums and melody at the same time. (How DOES she do it!) And organ music. And beats used as melody, as much as the notes. And a mix of the unusual, everything from wind chimes to cello to waterglasses. I especially enjoyed hearing classical music treated the way it was originally meant -- to be heard (and whistled, hummed and fooled around with) by the average joe on the street, as much as the society snooty-goer.

One of our good friends raved about this movie -- a surprise, since he usually likes shoot-em-ups, and though he enjoys music, I tend not to think of him this way. (He also HATES 'chick flicks.') But August Rush is a re-introduction to the beauty and simple, expressive meaning in our everyday lives. You won't walk down a road again without thinking a bit of your heels slapping the pavement, punctuated by the rhythm of your breath. As the Wizard says, "Play as if it is life...as if there's nothing else."

Saturday, April 5, 2008

It's done -- the library lecture went great! Strange feeling, though, to look at the audience and see faces I knew well, including one of the best Crazy quilters in Castle Rock (Arline Hooker), old friends who used to go to church, a former teacher of my girlies, and two buddies connected to the Brazil trip in May. It's one thing to yammer on to relative strangers...and a whole different take when you're lecturing people who Know Things About You. Other than Arline, these people knew me as the girl who walked her daughters to school, or sang on Worship Team, or cut out sheep and pictures frames for the VBS kids on the upcoming Brazil trip. I felt a little naked at first, revealing this side of myself...then I forgot all about it, in the pleasure of talking about Crazies.

One highlight was showing one of my few Castle Rock-acquired textiles: a lovely 1970s hostess gown, with a huge owl appliqued on the front -- each wing acts as a large-scale pocket, and if the round wood button eyes were juuussst 3" higher, they'd make interesting accents to a certain part of the female anatomy! (Ahem.) Crazy-style accents on the sleeves include strips of ribbon. My favorite ribbon: Woody Woodpecker.

I can hear your envy already of this amazing piece. (!!!) Actually, I used to harness one of the girlies into it -- until they started demanding a fee to wear it. Last I checked, the going price was $10. I'm sure this was just a smokescreen to salve Mom's hurt feelings!

CRAZY QUILTS is going great guns...there are several upcoming reviews and articles planned, and I just heard that it's going to be reprinted! It's continued to stay on Amazon's bestseller list, in one position or another. Wonderful.

On another note, this is one of most graceful defenses of frugality that I've ever heard. In fact, this blog is worth reading -- period.

http://homeliving.blogspot.com/2008/04/bright-side-of-frugality.html

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Want to Learn More About Crazies...and you live in the Denver area?

I'll be doing "The Incredible Crazy" lecture at the Philip S. Miller Library in downtown Castle Rock, CO -- Saturday morning, April 5, 10 a.m. Come hear about the Crazy quilt's unusual history, and view a wide variety of samples, from the 1850s through today.

You can also get a signed copy of CRAZY QUILTS from yours truly, at a special price, if you're interested.

For more, visit the Douglas County Public Libraries website at:

http://host.evanced.info/douglas/evanced/eventsignup.asp?ID=19842


P.S. Don't worry about the cancellation comment -- just show up. I'm told there's still plenty of room.

The Times, They Are A-Changin...

Finally, I am beginning to see the light again. When you're an appraiser, and people donate quilts, they also need a special report to submit to the IRS. By April 15. Which means you hustle up and get their reports done...and your own taxes suffer.
Don't feel too sorry for me. I am a notorious procrastinator. (Shame, shame.) The good thing is that I am in the middle of the Last Report, which should go out in tomorrow's mail. Then it's on to some promised articles -- and clean up the rat's nest waiting downstairs!
Wait a minute. Rat's nest? Naah...no self-respecting rat would dare step foot downstairs. I suspect there are Things down there. Big Things. Perhaps hiding under Other Things. (Like those weird monsters under the bed in the Calvin & Hobbes cartoons...only I have nothing to throw them!)
Dave is headed to our niece's wedding in Rhode Island tomorrow morning. Once I drop him off at the airport, I plan to make a beeline for home. Then, other than a lecture in Castle Rock Saturday morning, I plan to WORK. And catch up.

One of my voice students just had leg surgery...Ana is a dear, and has had to deal with her leg suddenly going out from under her. (Especially scary when you're trying to maneuver on winter ice.) Considering her surgeries, past and present, and living with legs that don't quiiiite operate like they should, she has been amazingly gutsy through the whole thing. You can see Ana's progress at her blog, http://www.anamariajoy.blogspot.com/

Back to the report -- then sleep. Hopefully.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Six Reasons Why I Can't Sleep at 2:30 a.m.

*Something's shining in our window. (I guess it's the moon, but it's driving me CRAZY.)

*Dave is snoring like a freight train just rerouted through our bedroom. Maybe it did. Maybe the tracks are being reset even as we speak...

*It's spring. I itch. All over. Darn lack of humidity around here, anyways.

*Too many 'little' things need to be taken of. (And they'll all take 'just a minute.' Right.)

*That cake we had for dessert is calling my name.

*I'm cold. Then hot. Then chilly again. Or just the toes...nope. I'm cold. (And if I snuggle up to Dave, well -- see item #2.)

That's why I'm watching 'Monk', and getting ready to finish up one last appraisal report. (The cake's already gone -- it was delicious!) Maybe, once it's finished (the report, not the cake), then maybe I can sleep again.

Yeah, right.

Happy Birthday, Mom!

     You didn't hear much from me last week because... We were in Michigan, celebrating The Mama's 80th birthday. She hadn't...