Sunday, May 25, 2008

Remembering...

All those who have lost their lives -- and health -- fighting for our country, whether it be in the American Revolution or all the wars since then, into Iraq and Afghanistan.

We honor you this weekend. Thank you for your sacrifice for us --

Happy Memorial Day.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Brazil is Calling

...and we're on our way tomorrow! Actually, technically we leave Monday -- our plane to Florida leaves 12:30 a.m.

One of our trip buddies plans to swap or give away his personal stuff while on the trip. (Please, leave a pair of shorts at least, Denny!) It's a great thought! And wouldn't you know it -- today's trip to the Task Force thrift shop produced a brand-new sleeveless sports jersey for.... "Brasil 10." I'm in business! Several of my things can take that route, too...I decided not to take the best items anyways, realizing we're going to be in muddy areas.

No jewelry, either. Hopefully, I'll find some great earrings while we're there -- gold is supposed to be extremely reasonable where we're headed. (We fly into Manaus, then take the boat for 30 hours after that to the first village.)

There are a million things yet to do. The front and backyards look like Ma and Pa Kettle live here. (And Dave has the mower in pieces, doing a tune-up.) We still have tomorrow, though...we'll make it.

I'll be back in touch around June 7. Take care, and have a wonderful few weeks!

Friday, May 23, 2008

It's Finally Come!

Be still my faint and beating heart...

our account finally shows a $600 deposit! Guess we're going to get our share of the government's generosity, after all.

It will sit comfortably in savings while we're on the Amazon. Nice to ponder the possibilities, but I'm guessing most of it will stay in savings -- except for roofing tiles.

Packing for Brazil

Only a few days left until our trip...take a look at the May 13 post, or visit:

http://www.amor-brazil.org/

We're only allowed to carry a personal bag 12 pounds or less. (Another bag is a possibility at 12 pounds also -- 24 pounds total.) Why then am I dithering about what to bring?

Because that 24 pounds is what's going to see me through for the next two-plus weeks.

Fortunately, we don't have to worry about cold or snow. (!!!) The tropics will require only a light shirt for a jacket, and a light cover in the hammock. We do get to bring all sorts of sunscreen and bug drug. (Oh goody. I so enjoy being soaked in insecticide.) Let's see. Extra batteries for the camera. Bills paid, letters sent. Candy packed for the Brazilian kids. (I wonder how they'll enjoy the gummy hamburgers, hotdogs, 'sour' fries and coke bottles I found!)

The clothes are laid out, ready to sort and pack. Dave's enjoyably started his favorite thing about an upcoming trip: The List. But I have a million small things to take care of before the backpack gets stuffed. Better get to it.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Ten Years Ago, and Now: How Have Your Finances Changed?

JD from Get Rich Slowly is positing the latest financial question: what was your situation 10 years ago, compared to now?

Here's his post:
http://www.getrichslowly.org/blog/2008/05/22/now-and-then-how-my-current-financial-situation-compares-with-a-decade-ago/

Here's my take on the subject:

Ten years ago, Dave was still working as a mechanical engineer, with an income at least triple our present take-home pay. I, on the other hand, had left Quilter's Newsletter and was struggling to start up Brickworks, with no real hope of success, other than believing in myself. No books written. (Plenty of articles, but that didn't seem to count.) Some teaching. I'd just begun appraising, but wasn't certified yet. My 'steady' job was managing editor for the Crazy Quilt Society, but other than orders now and then and some teaching gigs, that was about it. Some months were great, some desperately slow.

Dave, on the other hand, though good at his job (he is a genius for details), hated it. (He was then one of two engineers responsible for the buildings on the University of Colorado's Boulder campus.) He spent long hours commuting back and forth from Boulder to Castle Rock...and desperately wanted to make it go away.

Our house, which was too small for our rambunctious girlies (and the business, and us) went on the market -- and there it sat. For months. We tried this and that. Nothing worked. In the meantime, we'd foolishly committed to buying our present house...it also had sat on the market for months. We got a discount on the price, but the sellers insisted on no contingencies -- if we wanted it, we had to BUY IT. (I began to understand why after we got the first of many bill-collectors looking for them on our doorstep in coming months.)

So we moved into New House, literally on the retreating footsteps of the sellers, who were still packing as we carried boxes in. In the meantime, Old House STILL sat unsold.

We could not afford to pay two mortgages, so I got a job setting type and doing layout for one of the small-town newspapers in the area. (Fortunately, I could work while the girls were in school...or our friend would watch them.) I liked the job, and the people -- it wasn't that. But somehow I had to keep on with my business and teaching AND appraising AND writing AND running the household, as well.

It was a zany three months until the Old House finally sold, to a sharpster. He knew we were desperate to sell, and he tried to keep everything possible, including the furniture still left in the house, the (beautiful) patio set...and even the 1890s Ocean Wave quilt top hanging in the entryway. (We gave in on the patio set and the quilt top -- I still miss that quilt top, to this day.)

If I had known that little more than a year later, Dave would quit his job -- quit engineering altogether, in fact -- and after months of unemployment, start as a bus driver, I would probably not have wanted to move. (I should have seen this coming. Why didn't I?) Although we were cramped, the Old House was nearly paid off. It had a nice garden area, and the girls could walk to school. It had a beautiful view, with good neighbors. (Ok, maybe the near-constant arfing of the dog next door wasn't so good.)

On the other hand, the profit from Old House was enough to substantially pay down New House's mortgage. (We later paid it off completely...one of the smartest things we've ever done.)

New House has an even better view, is in an even better neighborhood, and has increased in value much faster than our Old House, even in Colorado's shaky economy. We still have an arfing dog next door (two, in fact), but our neighbors are wonderful. The plot is much larger, we have a mountain view on three sides and a wooded bluff on the fourth. (Ok, and the roof of Home Depot, too, but the grove of trees in between help shield that.)

Dave is much happier. Last year, he began as a trainer, something he enjoys. He's good at it, too -- some of the traits that made him a good engineer (but chafing at diddly work & deadlines) have been more of an asset for him as a trainer. His income has gone steadily but slowly up. Not to engineer status, but we live comfortably.

My business has increased by leaps and bounds. I've gotten to travel all over the country, and will be recertifying as an AQS appraiser for the fourth time this summer. Five books, a contract for a sixth signed -- and more articles. A fabric line, some tv work...it's going great. And the expanded room in the New House has allowed us to use nearly the entire downstairs for the business. (Next step: find a smaller house and larger outbuildings, for use as a studio, to store inventory, and teach classes in.)

The girlies are gone, living their own lives in Boulder. I miss them, but they have their own agendas. Which is perfectly normal.

What would I do the same/or differently?

*Keep on scrimping and putting money away. (Frankly, I can't help myself -- it's how this Hollander kid was raised.) That extra money kept us going during the lean years to come.

*Purchase land. We talked about it back then -- regularly we went past a 5-acre plot advertised for $10,000. But it would have meant less for the emergency fund, and we just weren't sure. Today that same land is valued at $10,000...20,000...30,000 an ACRE.

*Spend more time purging down our own possessions. Selling them would have helped, and given us more room in Old House. Why was I so determined to keep everything?

*Grow more of our own food. A good aim for this summer too, when vegetable prices have nearly doubled. (And they were generally outrageous before this.)

*Stop worrying, especially about the little things. It didn't help then. It doesn't now.

I'm Back!

Greetings again from Colorado... I'm so glad to be back from Michigan. It was a difficult trip -- emotions boiling this way and that. Niece Brianna (the youngest of the batch on both the Brick and DeVries sides) graduated from high school. It was fun to watch her sashay down the aisle, and see brother Mikey and sister Lori beaming with pride. (Bree got the departmental Math award, and also graduated summa cum laude...good on ya, girl!)

It was a pleasure to spend time with our cousins, 'Aunt' Betti and Tim Vincent, from CA. (who'd come into Chicago to watch their beloved Padres get 'spanked,' as Tim put it, by the Cubs.)

It was great to spend time with the other cuzzes, and the folks.

But hard. So hard.

My dad was white and shaky nearly all the time, though obviously pushing himself so he could go places with us. At times, he seemed almost shrunken -- in his own circle of quiet. Still there, but yet not there. He would come back out of it if I touched his arm, or spoke to him...but it is clear that the end is not that far away. Whether it comes next week or a few months from now, only God knows.

I would be packing upstairs, or mowing the lawn, then suddenly crying, without realizing it was happening at all. I had a heck of a time singing in church Sunday -- the songs were just too close to the soul. I could not speak about Dad to others without tears coming to my eyes.

Yet I fought to keep things under control in public, especially when the folks were in the room. And in general, people talked and laughed and told stories, as if that 500-pound gorilla of Grief were not crouching over in the corner.

In some ways, it was courageous. In some ways, even more difficult.

It is even harder on Mom, who must continue to love him and take care of him...yet rarely has an outlet to express her frustration and fears. Even though she calls frequently when I'm back in CO, in a sense, she got to let it out even more when I was in Michigan -- she would blow up at me about little things, then in an hour, all was well and that 'horrible' thing seemingly forgotten. This happened over and over this past week.

We put out US flags on the graves of the veterans, for Memorial Day. The cemetary now holds the graves of not only Grandpa and Grandma Cumings and their parents...but now Uncle Archie, who died last May, and Uncle Dick, who went in February. After we'd finished, and the flags waved over graves from the Civil War through last year, my mom called me over.

She was standing on the plot she and Dad had purchased, with plans to put up the gravestone soon. She motioned to the horizon. "See? This is why we picked this spot."

I looked up...and realized that white house not far away was our farmhouse. Plain as day.

Then the tears came again.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Can You Really Live Without Stuff?

Hi guys...I've been in Michigan for a few days now. Flew into Grand Rapids at midnight, only to find out my luggage must have stayed in Milwaukee instead! By the time it finally arrived next day, I was seriously considering whether I would have to go to our niece's graduation in pajamas (one of the few things left at my folks' home)...and cowboy boots.

Since luggage and I again are one, this isn't an issue -- but it got me to thinking. I have to cut what I bring to Brazil to a bare minimum: 24 pounds at the absolute very most, 12 pounds minimum. I used to teach backpacking and rock climbing in New Hampshire in college days, and used about 12 pounds of personal stuff, including underwear and books to read late at night.

Could I do it again?

The dear at http://www.lentilsandrice.blogspot.com/ enjoys debating "living without stuff." (see her May 13 post.) Most times, she does a wonderful job, though her living areas seem a bit spare for my taste. Her May 13 post was fascinating -- right after she touted the joys of getting rid of everything...her next two posts talk about buying a new homeschooling system (complete with books and tapes), then a Craigslist piano!

Oops. Guess it's not going away, after all.

This family ( http://www.cagefreefamily.com/ ) plans to give all of its possessions away by the end of May, then live in Vermont in a cabin. Sounds wonderful -- will it actually work?

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/17/us/17texas.html?_r=1&hp=&adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1210968228-eAVkS+YlrINqfe1VESPb6Q&oref=slogin

My lentils-and-rice friend enjoys limiting her family to very basic foods and touting those benefits...but her posts are full of 'cheating' moments and trips to fast food restaurants. Thankfully, she's honest enough to put this in, but it makes me wonder -- why resolve to be so strict, so denying yourself of things, that short of becoming a monk, you couldn't possibly follow this plan?

Wouldn't it be better to go half, instead of 100% cold turkey?

That seems to work better for me. But hey -- I'm not planning on giving up everything.

P.S. My dad, though feisty, still is not doing well. This is terribly hard, watching someone you love gradually spend more time just sitting and sleeping. The inevitable -- it's coming. I just hope and pray it won't happen while Dave and I are in Brazil.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

It's May, Right?

...and mixed in with the rain, is snow. You read that right -- snow.

Welcome to Colorado.

Baby Nevea is in my lap...this tiny cutie is otherwise known as "Miss Grabby" at our house. She's made several attempts to type her own views on the situation, but is now back in her carry-basket, pondering an escape.

This little curly-headed girlie is the daughter of one of our young friends, Becky. When I was a young mom with two babies, a friend took the girls for one morning a week. Bliss. Sometimes I just slept...mostly, I did some writing or got errands done. I promised myself I would do this for someone else to pay my friend back. Nevea's part of that promise.

While she's distracted (bound to be only split-second), just a mention that this blog is going to be rather quiet for the next three weeks. I leave tomorrow for a week in Michigan with my folks, especially my dad, who is not doing well. (Multiple melanomas -- no cure at present.) Then the Brick and I leave for a two-week trip to Brazil:
http://www.amor-brazil.org/

I've mentioned some about this, will add more in coming weeks.
Since the folks do not believe in computers (sigh), I'll only be able to check e-mail a few times this week. And the backwaters of the Amazon do not have e-mail capability!

So I'm around...I'll post now and then...but it may be a bit quiet.

Oops, Nevea is headed up and out. Gotta go.

Monday, May 12, 2008

When's Your Economic Stimulus Check Coming?

I am sick and tired of haunting our checking account, hoping for a big upsweep in funds. We haven't even gotten our tax refund yet! (Although I notice that they were lightning-quick to cash the check for state taxes...)

When is yours coming? Check here...

https://sa2.www4.irs.gov/irfof/IRServlet?app=IRACTC

C'mon. Open, open, open...

Mother's Day

I spent the afternoon with Dave, friend Keith and my two greatest treasures: my daughters. It's been weeks (and months) since they came home for a visit. The presents were nice...including a hanging pot of flowers and two rosebushes...a video...a book...a lovely pair of funky earrings and necklace...

But the real joy was sitting in the sunshine, drinking coffee and listening to their voices weave back and forth.

I love them so much.

Thank you for my wonderful Mother's Day, girlies.

Monday Weirdness in the World of Blogs

I don't know what it is about Mondays, but my inbox is filled with weird stuff this morning. My favorite is The Wastrel Show, who takes great pleasure in saying that even millionaires are feeling the pinch:

http://wastrelshow.blogspot.com/ (Look for the May 9 post)

Of course, unlike her siblings (and dad, and grandfather), she's only a single-digit millionaire.

Poor girl.

Hey lady, most of us never were in the first place! My farmer parents, who counted themselves lucky many years just to break even, would find this more than a little amusing. That is, if they read blogs or use e-mail...my mom is convinced that using the computer is just asking for all sorts of viruses to enter her life. And Dad refuses to use the computer -- period. Although he is more than happy to talk about stuff I discover on it.

Normally, she has interesting things to say, so I can generally put aside her occasional smug comment. And she DOES go on in this post to explain how she wasted her share of money, lived badly, etc. etc. Her sister had to close the family factory -- tough on the family, but I keep thinking about the people who lost their jobs, as a result. Their stories are no doubt rougher than sister having to cut her manicure appointments to economize.

Maybe I am just in a cynical mood this morning. Maybe not. But really. Give me a break.

If life is just too cheerful for you, make sure it's raining, put sad songs on the stereo (Snoopy-style), grab a mug of tea, and visit this blog:

http://vomitcomit.wordpress.com/

The poor woman either blames herself or someone else for every sad and horrible thing that's ever happened to her. (Tip from the blog: make things easy for you-- blame something or someone that happened decades ago for your current actions. Works like a charm.) She admits she has some chemical issues, and she sees a therapist. But somehow I don't think either of these are doing that much good, in spite of a very strange (and lyric) rhapsody on the thrilling relationship she has with her "pink buddy," lithium.

Now I'm off to get some deadlines finished off, then go plant some perennials in the sunshine. (Perhaps I should ask my sad blogger friend to join me -- the sun will do her good.) Just in time for it to snow tomorrow!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Hanky Panky's Mentioned on the Internet!

Quilter's World magazine has a great monthly e-newsletter, and this month, Hanky Panky's part of it! You can find it here: http://www.quilters-world.com/newsletter.html

And here's what they say:

Beverly shares another source for quilts made from hankies.
"Hanky-Panky Crazy Quilts from the American School of Needlework is a great book about using handkerchiefs in quilts. I made two big wall hangings for a friend from hankies that belonged to her mother and grandmother. We embellished them with jewelry, beads and pins that had belonged to them as well."
Karen adds:
"Cindy Brick, author of Hanky Panky Crazy Quilts, was featured on Simply Quilts on HGTV. You can watch get some simple instructions for using handkerchiefs at
Hgtv.com. Go to Cindy's Web site (CindyBrick.com) for more information."
It just so happens that there is another book available through a link at the Quilter's World Web site. Go to
Clotilde.com to find Hooked on Hankies by Laurene Sinema and Janet Carruth for $19.98.

Hooked on Hankies by Laurene Sinema and Janet Carruth.
Sharon writes:
"I have some feedback for Charlotte who wants to make handkerchief quilts. I was on the same quest when I wanted to use my mother's handkerchiefs to make memorials for her granddaughters."I found my solution in the book Handkerchief Quilts by Pat Long Gardner. I ordered it several years ago, and it is still available on
Amazon.com. Not only does the book contain excellent advice concerning developing a handkerchief quilt, it has many quilt samples, and the border patterns you need to make your own handkerchief quilts."
Pat has some advice:
"I made a handkerchief quilt by cutting a large square of muslin (about 30 inches square), and when I made the three-layer quilt sandwich, I cut the batting and backing about 7-inches larger so I could add a border later. I then arranged some of my hankies on it -- some opened up flat, others folded -- added little crocheted small pieces I had (glove, cross), then tacked all on the square, trying to actually quilt it on, with stitches not showing on top. I then added a large floral border, which I hand-quilted. I was pleased with the results."


Thanks, Quilter's World!

Another great handkerchief quilt book is Sharon Newman's Handkerchief Quilts (also by American School of Needlework). It's hard to find, but worth it.
Hopefully by the end of this year, my sequel, tentatively called Hanky Panky with a Flourish, will also be out! It will include butterfly and angel hanky quilt patterns, several patterns that don't require cutting the hankies (one of the a-1 requests from customers)...and some interesting hanky quilt methods. You can e-mail us at cindybrick@comcast.net if you want an e-mail note when it's available.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Wham!

I grew up in Michigan, where rainy days were the norm. Here in Colorado, it rains so infrequently that drizzly gray all-day nasties are greeted with joy. People come in from the wet, shaking the raindrops off, big grins on their faces and saying "Boy, is it raining out there!"

This didn't happen in Michigan.

For the past week, we've had these huge thunderstorms come slamming through. They hang sullenly on the mountains for a while, then ZZOOOM, they're overhead, lightning cracking. The boys run for cover, Buck whimpering like crazy. (He's actually broken three windows in his zeal to get inside -- that's what a 125-pound Weimaraner will do when motivated properly.)

I was doing appraisals, so didn't realize what was happening until Buck barked. Then they were in, the rain slashing down...and all was forgiven.

Now the storm is past and everything seems to be smiling. I put all the house plants outside for a drink and some sunshine...they'll probably stay out now for the summer.

One problem about this up-and-coming warm weather is that I don't like to carry my purse, and will just stuff my wallet into a jacket pocket. But twice now, I've gone out without jacket -- and no wallet! This blogger has the same problem: http://www.myopenwallet.net/

Hopefully, you're a lot less absentminded than yours truly. Can I remember the prominent colors for 1850s textiles? Sure...but I'm not always certain where my car keys are.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

25 Ways to Save A Little

*Read http://www.moneysavingmom.com daily. She has an amazing list of deals, from everything to free food to helpful coupons. Well worth the trip.

*Need plane tickets? Check http://www.kayak.com/ first. This site compares dozens of different sites, and gives you a good idea of the best price fast.

*Choose a credit card (no annual fee) that gives you cash back with every purchase.

*Check Ebates ( http://www.ebates.com ) first when you're making big purchases. They'll often offer cash-back possibilities from a huge array of companies.

*Don't join Netflicks, Blockbuster or another movie-renting biz without checking Ebates first. These places often offer a free month of rentals and/or a cash-back discount. Cashcrate( http://www.cashcrate.com/ ) is another spot to check.

*Instead of a candy bar, choose gum. I love almond Snickers, but my inner child can be distracted by Bazooka bubble gum every time.

*Check the clearance meats and dented can sections every time you visit the grocery store.

*Notice a battered can or bruised bag of fruit? Mention it to the clerk. Most times, they'll mark it down immediately.

*Visit your local dollar store. Many groceries, as well as imported foods, are cheaper there. (This must do for those of us not lucky enough to have a Trader Joe's in town!)

*Check the week's sale ads -- then flip through your coupons while the sale items are still fresh in your memory.

*Add a little water to clear out the extra in your bottle or jar of salad dressing, ketchup, milkshake (use milk), juice, soup, spaghetti sauce...even shampoo. That little bit adds up.

*Add half a can of milk or water to the 'ready-to-serve' chunky-style soups. Stretches them even further, and you won't taste much if any difference.

*Use only half of that flavoring packet. Taco seasoning can actually cover two batches of meat. Ramen noodles taste great with half the packet; add the rest to your next soup kettle to vamp up the flavor.

*Give your doggy buddies a carrot. They'll love it, and it's cheaper than a chew bone!

*Brush your pets regularly. They'll look and feel better, and you don't have to vacuum up so much hair. (It also saves wear and tear on your vacuum -- and back.)

*Send multiple packages in one. For example, if your siblings are going to be at your parents' house for Christmas, send everything to your folks -- the higher the weight, the less you're going to pay per ounce.

*Choose gift items that can be sent media rate. This means videos, books, calendars, music, etc. Saves a bundle on postage...but bear in mind that media rate takes up to a few weeks to arrive.

*Buy 'forever' stamps now...postage prices are going up in a few weeks AGAIN. 'Forever' stamps cost the current rate, and can be used -- yep, that's right -- forever.

*Keep a box by the front door -- for library books, returns, stuff to take to friends, and other items you'll need for errands. Saves time and energy looking for them.

*Have a rebate to send in? Do it NOW. Don't wait. (If you've read my past posts, you know I've learned this the hard way.)

*Keep an "edible-but-not-my-favorite" durable snack in the car. Helps in case of breakdowns and blizzards, as well as unexpected hunger. (We also keep a bottle or two of water, flashlight, jumper cables, first aid kit and a blanket.)

*Renew your passport at least three months BEFORE you need it. Or just do it now. You may run across a huge bargain in a Mexican trip, or a cruise.

*Plan ahead. Are you heading out of state for Christmas? Staying here, and spending your anniversary weekend at a luxury hotel? Start researching tickets and specials now, and save months from now.

*Put food in your kids' Christmas stockings and birthday boxes, instead of gewgaws. What child wouldn't like his favorite snack -- just for him? Our oldest girlie dotes on cans of tuna; our youngest loves garlic dill pickles. Both enjoy cans of black olives, salted nuts and specialty fruit. (Oh, the joys of Christmas afternoon, with a new book and black olives, one for each finger...)

*Keep a 'Treasures' box. Orphan earrings, embroidery cut from a stained pillowcase, bits and pieces of Daughters' activities, including medals, etc. I use these as embellishments for memory quilts and other projects...they look great!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Tacos Yes - And a New Crazy Review

We suppered last night on Taco Bell tacos, thanks to the Rockies special...yes, it was good!

Just put this little reminder in your mental back pocket, Coloradoans -- if the Rocks win and score 7 or more runs in the process, it's 4 tacos for $1 from 4-6 p.m. the next day at Taco Bell.

We'll take advantage of this as long as we can!

Foreward Magazine just put up a review of Crazy Quilts...I'm so pleased, but a little humbled, too. After only a few months, this printing has sold out. More are on the way -- we've still got some copies here at the office -- it's really doing well. Don't pay the retail price of $29.95; you can still get a copy for $23.95, including shipping, from Brickworks. Contact us at:
http://www.cindybrick.com/

In the meantime, here's the Foreward review:

http://www.forewordmagazine.com/reviews/viewreviews.aspx?reviewID=4202

And if you're curious, you can learn more about Yours Truly...who suddenly realized yesterday that not only could the world read what she thought about books and reading --

but so could her mom. And dad. And little brother.

Yikes.

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

Lavender Between the Cracks was also kind enough to mention Crazy Quilts:

http://www.lavenderbetweenthecracks.blogspot.com/

(Check the March 8 post -- thanks so much, Lavender!)

Monday, May 5, 2008

Rockies Taco Special for Cinco de Mayo?

Well, the Rocks won last night, 7-2 against the Dodgers. And if all goes true to form, it's another special at all Colorado-based Taco Bell restaurants:

Tacos 4 for $1, 4-6 p.m. tonight only, Monday, May 5.

Don't rely on me -- Taco Bell may have discontinued this special. But it should be working: every time the Rockies score 7 or more runs, Taco Bell has said they'd offer it this season.

Tonight's special may not be so great for Taco Bell -- today is Cinco de Mayo, which we celebrate bigtime here, and everyone and their brothers eat Mexican food.

If you can call Taco Bell Mexican, that is.

But it's good!

Saving Money - in Big Ways

Oh My Aching Debts had an interesting post on saving money on a miniscule budget:

http://achingdebts.com/8-ways-that-i-can-save-money/

She mentioned Frugal Upstate's list of 25 ways to save money:

http://frugalupstate.blogspot.com/2006/10/25-things-i-do-to-save-money.html

Which got me to thinking...what are some of the big things the Brick & I save? (I'll talk about the small items tomorrow.)

*We only have one car -- even though we could afford two. Which means that most days I stay home. At least once a week, I drop the Big Guy off at work, then do errands or take care of business needs. Most days, though, I stay here. Which means:
--fewer impulse buys. I'm not at the store to be tempted!
-- better use of our gas. I group a lot of errands into a little time.
--better use of my business time. I'm here, which means I often answer the business phone, and let my staffers take care of other stuff. For me, this works. The only bad part is if I'm writing on deadline -- then to be interrupted every 20 min. or so -- not fun.
I also make a fair amount of trips late at night to the grocery store, the post office, the bank. We have a 24-hour postage machine in the post office lobby, which helps -- when it's working. (snort) I take the dogs, who both love sniffing the night air out the open window, ears flapping in the wind. And I kind of enjoy the time to look around without getting the feeling of busy-ness. (It is CROWDED here in Castle Rock, compared to the farm and small town I grew up on.)
Besides, if I get lonely, I just call or e-mail a friend, or just putz around on the Internet. Works every time.

Speaking of that,

*We never buy our vehicles new. Let someone else eat the depreciation. But we are very careful that...

*We research any kind of purchases more than, say, $250. Intensively. We check and double-check Consumer Reports, the Blue Book, the Internet, catalogs and sales. Cases in point: for every house we've purchased, we've looked AT LEAST 70 other properties. Cars -- we've looked for at least 3-4 months, including multiple visits to various dealerships.
Dave loves doing this. It's kind of his hobby. So far, he has gotten us an incredible deal on our current vehicle: a Jeep Grand Cherokee. And this week, he saved us a handy $100 on buying a compressor and nail gun together. (Our job this summer: re-shingle the roof. And I have ALWAYS wanted a nail gun.)

*We also research any kind of vacation expenses. Hotels and plane tickets -- I love http://www.hotels.com , Hotwire ( http://www.hotwire.com ) and Kayak -- http://www.kayak.com . (The latter lets you simultaneously compare dozens of sites for plane ticket prices, INCLUDING fees. Wow.) The Brick, though, is the real master at this sort of thing: last year, he found us a 12-night Caribbean cruise for approx. $550, then scored on discount plane tickets to and from Fort Lauderdale, for our 25th anniversary.
Oh yes, and at least two discount tours during the cruise, one of which (in Grenada) was one of my most memorable experiences.
The man is incredible.

*We both contribute to an IRA. It may not always be as much as I want to put in...but it's something.

*We paid our house mortgage off. It was a wrench to do it -- and I skimped like crazy on some other things. But during short months -- and you get that, if you own your own business -- it has been an incredible relief NOT to have to worry about paying the mortgage. Companies will skin you alive very quickly if you don't cough up mortgage payments. The government will do it, too, if you don't ante up with the taxes, as well. No excuses are good enough.
Saving on that leads to extra money for finding deals -- see above.

*We pay our credit card bills in full. Every month. If you can't do this now, pay at least one card off as quickly as possible -- then pledge not to charge on it again until you can pay it off every month. Incredibly freeing.

*We donate money, materials and time. Suze Orman and many other financial advisors (including the Bible) advocate this. They postulate that if you're willing to help others, that money will come back to you in many ways. All I know is that it works -- and has been, for more than four decades.

Tomorrow -- the small ways.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Mystery Solved!

I was cleaning yesterday...an event in itself...when I tugged out a box.

That had been hiding behind a dining room chair.

Based on the dust bunnies...for a while.

It was the missing computer box that I'd blamed myself for stoking up the fireplace with!

Dave looked at it...then looked at me...then looked at it. And goggled.

I thiiiink we can still barely get in on the missing $15 rebate. At any rate, I'm going to try.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Wear A Lily of the Valley Sprig...for May Day!

This is from http://www.wikipedia.com (type in 'May Day')

On May 1st, 1561, French King Charles IX of France received a lily of the valley as a lucky charm. He decided to offer a lily of the valley each year to the ladies of the court. At the beginning of the 20th century, it became custom on the 1st of May, to give a sprig of lily of the valley, a symbol of springtime. The government permits individuals and workers' organisations to sell them free of taxation. It is also tradional for the lady receiving the spray of lilly of valley to give a kiss in return.

...also, Mary, Mother of Jesus (and often represented by lilies, for 'purity') has some connections with May day (May 1st).

...and there's the whole May basket tradition, as well. Little bro and I would go out in the woods and pick damp bouquets of Mayflowers and tiger lilies, accent them with a May umbrella or two, then stick them in stapled construction paper baskets. Sneak over to your neighbor's house, hang the basket on their front door handle, ring the doorbell...and run like crazy!

Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells...

Yes, it's snowing. On May Day.

It's only mid-morning, and we already have at least 2" on the ground.

Figures.

Zzzzzzzz...

After four hours at Tuesday Morning's checkout line today, I can honestly relate. Okay, maybe a nap AND a cookie.