Thursday, January 29, 2009

Making Your Own Luck

J.D. Roth on Get Rich Slowly has an intriguing post today on luck -- does it just come to you naturally (that is, if you're one of the Lucky Few)...or do you take it for yourself?

His post was inspired by this Newsweek article by Ben Sherwood, What It Takes To Survive:

And the article itself is based in turn by research from Richard Wiseman, a psychology professor at Great Britain's University of Hertfordshire.

J.D. boils Wiseman's conclusions down to four points:

*Lucky people not only are in the right place at the right time
-- but they don't hesitate to take a chance when they see a good one.

*Lucky people listen to their hunches.
(Their "gut instinct," J.D. calls it.)

*Lucky people keep on in the face of failure.

*Lucky people can turn horrible circumstances into good,
in the long run.

Don't miss reading GRS's comments, either. As usual, J.D.'s readers have a great time agreeing, disagreeing and arguing among themselves.

I'd add another factor into this equation: your faith in God. I did not become a Christian until age 15, but it didn't stop God. Even during the darkest moments, something or someone have come into it to reassure me that yes, Someone cares and is aware of my pain and hurt. Someone is not only THERE -- but He loves me. Too many "God things" have happened at just the right time not to be aware of it: the opportune gig, the large order, the bags of groceries (at a time when we told no one we had little to live on), the fits-perfect designer clothing at the thrift shop (including a suit, when Husband desperately needed one for a special occasion). These moments remind yet again that God cares and loves me -- and my family.

He loves and cares for you, too. Talk to Him about it.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A Handkerchief That Made History

From the "Historical Textiles" department:

The North Carolina State Capitol served the state throughout the Civil War... On May 20, 1861, legislators signed the Ordinance of Secession in the House of Commons Chamber. As soon as it was signed, a handkerchief was waved from the window of the office of the Speaker of the House. When that signal was given, a great celebration began on the building's Union Square, including a 100-round artillery salute and music from a military band. Legend has it that the first blood shed for North Carolina during the war occurred that day as a bulldog, startled by a gun salute, severely bit one of the cannoneers of Manly's Battery in the seat of his pants.

Oops. Read more at:

And take a look at another wonderful historical textile -- a c.1810 "Happy Family or Father's Present" handkerchief. This is how the very early children's handkerchiefs looked -- often full of panels, poems or both, telling children how to act, what to be grateful for, and so on. They were printed in one color on cotton or linen, and hand-hemmed.

These early hankies are extremely rare. J.J. Murphy, in his CHILDREN'S HANDKERCHIEFS: A HISTORY, values this example at $500-700. In good condition, that is -- this one's a bit 'used,' shall we way.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Pillows High on the Weird-O-Meter

Thinking of going in a new direction for your home decorating? How about a pillow shaped like a birch log, a hundred-dollar bill, or even...a nice juicy slab of uncooked steak?

Now your dreams can come true, thanks to an Etsy biz. See the pillows here:

Yum. (Thanks, My Open Wallet, for the tip.)

Temps stayed around 5 here last night...they're up to a sunny 20 or so, and the birds are fighting like crazy at the feeder.

Monday, January 26, 2009


Recently laid off? Tom and Daria Dolan, national financial columnists who call themselves "The First Family of Personal Finance," have good advice for someone else in your position. Go to:

...and click on the Dolans' column. (This post is from 1/23 .)

Frugal Babe is having fun considering all the weird jobs she and friends have ever tried, including her friend's job: counting dead sheep for the Division of Wildlife. I am not making this up...go see:

She was inspired by Budgets Are Sexy's amazing list, culled from blogs everywhere:

Let's see...I've had a lot of jobs, but most were pretty basic. Many included some kind of secretarial skills. (Typing brings back the scent of English Leather, which my immensely suave Typing Skills high school teacher was fond of wearing. Man, I'd type anywhere for that man...)

But I also sold apples at a stand; cleaned toilets for a church (while arguing theology with my fellow janitor); taught rock climbing; and made cotton candy (for Wal-Mart). Oh yes...I was a roofer!

See? Bo-ring...

How about you? What kind of strange jobs have you done?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Did Anyone Else Catch This?

"For we know our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness..."
Barack Obama, during his inauguration address

Husband called today "Michigan weather:" icy cold with a hint of wetness, fog swirling in and out of the frosted treescape, sharp bits of flakes drifting across a red-nipped cheek. Gray, in all its varied shades and textures, mixed with a swirl of white.


A fire crackling in the fireplace. Pizza, hot and melty. (Thank you, Red Baron.) The Sunday paper. (Thank you, Denver Post.) Did you notice the article on the history of scrapbooking? Try Scrapbooks: An American History by Jessica Helfand:

A brand-new biography on Nellie Bly. (If her name isn't ringing a bell...she went around the world in a record 72 days, beating Jules Vernes' Phineas Fogg. She was also a veteran newswoman -- in the 1880s and 1890s, a time when women rarely reported for papers --who got herself incarcerated and committed to a lunatic asylum, then wrote about them. Warning: ol' Nell had an exciting life, and this book is well-researched...but it's a little dry in spots. Best read in bits and pieces, to minimize boredom.) Try Nellie Bly: Daredevil, Reporter, Feminist by Brooke Kroeger:

The newest episodes of CSI:NY and NCIS. (Thank you, On Demand.) And a snuggly husband.


Saturday, January 24, 2009

Learning to Save -- 1948 Style!

"Your Thrift Habits" - 1948 style? It still applies today! This 'Coronet instructional film is a kitschy reminder of techniques that still work:

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go stare at this "Remington Steele" series DVD I have my eye on...and figure out how I'm going to save to get it.

Donating Quilts - And Getting Tax Benefits

Did you realize you can donate any quilt, antique or modern -- even one you made yourself -- and be able to take its full value off your taxes?

some background first:
For many years, the IRS would not allow you to donate your own quilts...unless you didn't make them. If you stitched the quilt, regardless of whether you were Libby Lehman, Marie Osmond or Zelda Schwartz, you could only deduct the cost of materials used. (Provided, that is, you'd kept receipts.) Supposedly, this was enacted to stop artists from abusing the system -- i.e., quickly scribbling off a drawing or two, then alleging big-bucks donations on their tax forms. (The IRS just doesn't understand how long it takes to make a quilt, do they...)

That has changed.

Now the IRS will allow you to take full value, provided you have an appraisal from a certified appraiser for anything more than $500. (For items you value at less than $500, make sure you have some kind of basis for assigning that value.) Here's how to do it:

Step One: Find a certified appraiser. In other words, they're licensed/approved by a governing group that covers textiles. (So far, the IRS does not 'count' appraisals done by uncertified appraisers. I count a number of these among my friends and colleagues -- and they're terrific -- but so far, the IRS does not allow you to use their work. Who knows, this may change in coming years.)

Three places to look:
International Society of Appraisers -- appraisers in this organization do all sorts of items, from furniture to dishes, textiles to books. Go here:

American Quilter's Society -- this group only certifies for textiles. (Warning: I am certified by this group, but I'm not mentioning this to float my own boat. Go to the appraiser nearest you.) AQS has a list of appraisers here:

Another group, PAAQT (Professional Association of Appraisers--Quilted Textiles), is made up of only AQS-certified appraisers. (Warning #2: I also belong to this group.) They not only have an extensive list, but several articles on appraisals and why they're important overall. Go to:

Step Two: Have the quilt appraised. Be sure to specify that you want a "Donation" value. There are also "Insurance" values and "Fair Market" values, but the IRS wants to see that you mean business, donation-wise. Note: any money you pay for the appraisal is also tax-deductible! Keep a receipt, and list it under the "misc." category.

Step Three: Along with the appraisal form or report, have the appraiser fill out, sign and date IRS form #8283 "Noncash Charitable Contributions:"
If the appraiser has not included some kind of listing of their credentials with the appraisal, ask for a summary. (My own appraisals have this as the last page, as a matter of course.)

Step Four: Make a copy of the appraisal (and the appraiser's credentials, if needed). Take it, along with Form #8283 and your quilt, to the charitable organization. (You should have already determined that they were an official nonprofit...visit the IRS website for help.) If your group wants to become a nonprofit, here's a start:

Step Five: Get a receipt from the organization for your donation. The Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum, where I often volunteer (and my California Gold exhibit is currently hanging), uses a "Deed of Gift" certificate. Have the organization rep fill out, sign and date Form #8283, as well. (They may also ask you for the appraisal -- or they may choose to have the quilt appraised themselves. I've seen it done both ways.)

Step Six: Bid a fond farewell to your "baby," grab your receipt and Form #8283 and go get a cup of coffee. Put the paperwork in your tax files, along with a copy of the appraisal.

Step Seven: While doing taxes for the year of donation, declare the appraised value of your quilt as a "noncash charitable contribution." Include the signed copy of Form #8283, a copy of the appraisal, plus appraiser credentials. (Make copies of everything for your own files before you mail the envelope to the IRS.)

Think of the possibilities. That cause you really believe in? Now you can help them. Quilts can be donated to museums for collections, which will help those museum educate others (and incidentally, preserve the quilt.) Quilts can be sold to help raise money for breast cancer research. (Members of the Crazy Quilt Society make specific pieces all year round for this purpose.) They can be auctioned; one friend donates a quilt to her local Christian school's annual fundraiser. And many guilds use quilts for a yearly raffle to help raise money for their activities.

If you donated a piece last year -- and it is still available for examination by an appraiser -- you could ostensibly still have the appraisal done for your 2008 taxes. (Just don't wait until the last minute to ask the appraiser to do this for you! Things always get a little nutzy for me now in early April...)

Even better, plan ahead now for your 2009 taxes. Appraisers' fees generally are very reasonable. I would urge you to consider having your quilts appraised anyways, to protect them in case of damage or theft. Changing these "insurance" value appraisals to "donation" value, when the time comes, is not that difficult.

Think of the people and groups you could help, by donating a quilt!

Turning Cold

...and snowing.

Husband promised he'd get the plastic on the coldframe, so I could plant greens. Unfortunately, the snow beat him to it. Maybe today, if the sun is shining.

This newfound chilliness is perfect for snuggling on the couch and watching movies. We just saw Heat with Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro and a whole BOATLOAD of some of Hollywood's best character actors (bloody, but extremely good). Also: Traitor with Don Cheadle. (Amazing, and some off-the-wall twists. I couldn't stop thinking about it, even the next day.)

Whew. Country Living hasn't gotten the axe -- it was Country Home magazine. I still miss Cottage Living the most, though. See the New York Post's report on it:

And Brin at Messy Thrilling Life has an immensely thoughtful post on praying...then listening to what God says. (And how He chooses to say it.) There have been times that I've been begging God for an answer -- when He was telling me all along, but I was choosing to ignore Him. Read Brin's experience here:

And in case you're wondering what made the difference in the doctored-up potato salad, it was fresh lemon juice, honey mustard...and a sprinkle of soul food seasoning. (See my last post if this seems totally out of nowhere.)

Back to work. Hope you have a wonderful -- and restful -- weekend.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Bad News...And Good News

Want to hear something funny? People liked my Improvised Potato Salad so much at Dave's lunch today that they pestered him for the recipe! (They said it tasted "so much better than the store kind." !!!) To his credit, Husband said they'd have to ask me -- he wasn't going to give it up without a fight...

The appraisals went well (ten-plus of them), but I came home exhausted. Had a lot of trouble sleeping again last night, thinking about all the things that have been happening lately.

Now the bad news... one of my favorite magazines, Cottage Living, bit the dust late last year. This mag was the perfect blend of budget living, living in a smaller house and using it wisely. Now I find out that my other favorite, Country Living, has also gone the way of the dodo. And it's been publishing for decades. Sigh...lack of advertising seems to be the culprit. (I did notice they were getting thinner.) One Frugal Girl will tell you more:

* * * * * * * * * *
Wisdom Journal now tells 10 Ways College Made Him Rich:

Once again, he's got some good points, though he's stretching it in places.

It's nice to be home, though that means finishing up the appraisals and getting Other Stuff Done. Aahhh, a nice cup of tea and my favorite sweatpants...much better.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Free Pizza...Wish They Gave Away Free Time!

A few days ago, Husband (bless his beady little heart) said, "Um, I'm supposed to bring lunch for 25 people on Thursday." I said, "What?" It's not as bad as it seems; turns out that he needs a side dish and dessert for 25. (Wafted kisses and blessings to the kind soul who volunteered for the main dish -- I wonder if another unsuspecting wife is cooking it tonight??)

And I have to appraise all day tomorrow at the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum. What a relief for packaged potato salad. I plan to doll it up with celery, red pepper and a sprinkle of soul food seasoning. As for dessert, I'll bake a few cakes...people can cut the slice they want.

What could make supper easy tomorrow night? Papa John's is offering a FREE cheeze pizza when you order online, if you sign up for e-mail updates:

* * * * * * * * * * *

Wisdom Journal has a fascinating post on 10 Ways College Made Me Poor:

I would say, though, that the title should be 10 Stupid Decisions I Made During College. No one made Our Hero take out college loans, credit cards and grants -- that was his decision. I was also amused by arguing that since he lived cheap during college, thanks to shared expenses with roommates and a food plan, he got used to spending his extra money on goodies. And the pattern continued after... So who's to blame here, buddy? The landlord?

I learned two things from the post...and my own experience:

*Guess who's responsible for your actions? That's right -- YOU.
*Loans are NEVER free.

Hard lessons to learn, though. And they meant I lived in someone's house (while cleaning it, walking the dog, and taking care of their daughter) so I could afford to go to grad school. Living on scrambled eggs and bacon (my employers threw in breakfast), canned spaghetti and the occasional $1.39 order of fried rice. (Eggrolls were a luxury at a buck each.) Grading papers as a class assistant. Doing the occasional catering gig for my bosses. No credit cards. (I rarely had folding money, anyways!) Used books. Free concerts, cheap movies. And studying really hard.

That's was a college experience I have never regretted.

I'm being mean, though -- Wisdom Journal has some great points, as well as other posts like:

And if you're curious, the story of Chris:

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

What do You Say to Kids...But Never Adults?

We're back from the Cheyenne Canon Inn, which was quite wonderful. Our Lookout Room (where people watched, with views all the way down the canyon, to see if the police were coming to bust the bordello/speakeasy/casino) was a pretty little sitting room with electric fireplace...and a smaller room ten steps up, with windows all around, just big enough for a king-sized bed. We woke with sunlight pouring in all around, and views of forest and mountains. (Ok, and a house or two, as well.) Lovely.

The Inn's website talks about its being haunted, including a miner and "swooshy lights" in the Lookout, but we didn't notice a thing. Darn.

I got to deal with some heartache from a fellow professional over the weekend...and had trouble sleeping last night. That's why this post does me so much good this bright, sunny Inauguration morning. Let it ease your mind, too:

Here It Comes!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Waiting for A New Era to Begin

It comes tomorrow...I hope Obama can -- and will -- accomplish at least some of the great things he's promised.

At any rate, a fresh look at the country is long overdue. I'm not so sure he's accomplished a turnover in Washingon, considering all the 'insiders' he's chosen for his cabinet positions. (ok, Ken Salazar, a cowboy-hat-loving Senator from Colorado for Secretary of the Interior...that's not an insider. But Hillary Clinton for Secretary of State?!? Ooh, I feel Daughter #1's indignant breath on my cheek already -- she is a huge fan of Hillary's.)

I do, however, really admire his remarks about crossing political barriers...and backing them up with his kind words about John McCain. Wow. I cannot remember a politician going out of his way to this extent!

But he does seem to be going at things somewhat differently, promising thoughtful decisions, rather than just rushing in and doing something fast, because the people demand it. Oh, if he can corral Uncle Sam's need to throw money at companies who are threatening... if Obama could brush aside the cries for pork projects, and really consider what our country needs --

And if he could figure out a way to resolve our involvement with Iraq without putting any more waves of soldiers in danger. (That one's a real humdinger.)

Good luck, Mr. President! You're going to need it. In case you're wondering where to begin, Cash Money Life's got a starting list for you:

I do believe that the level of respect for Bush's presidency will rise in coming decades, when people start to think through the difficult positions he's been in. (9/11, for example.) He's had to take a lot of guff for difficult decisions.

Bush was sparing with his last-minute pardons (good for him), including for two border agents who were in jail for shooting a drug smuggler (in the butt), and picking up the shell casings in an attempt to hide their actions. They got ten years -- and have served two. Read more here:

And before you leave that page, take a look at the famous people who've been pardoned by earlier Presidents, like Jimmy Hoffa, Patty Hearst, George Steinbrenner (!!!), and even Mark Felt (who recently admitted publicly that he was the famous Deep Throat).

Good luck, President Obama! What can we do to help?

Good luck, President Bush...and Godspeed.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Weekend Musings

Husband and I have one more anniversary jaunt...this time to a bed and breakfast down in the mountains near Colorado Springs. We've got the "Lookout" room -- 365-degree view, and a fireplace, too!

In the meantime, Get Rich Slowly has a thoughtful post on saving money -- but what's really important:

And ChristianPF has compiled a list of 25 helpful blogposts on personal finance. (Thanks, Cash Money Life!)

But not everything's about money., one of the best sites for debugging those "true" stories smeared around the Internet, has a thoughtful (true) post on a subway musician:

A needed comeuppance for someone who complained about an Air Force flyby (also true):

And very funny ways to deal with a Dear John letter: (It could be true!) to you soon.

Saturday, January 17, 2009


If you've got all the time in the world, just disregard this...

but I'm betting you don't.

In that case, how about a bunch of tasty one-pot recipes that will come in handy during those last-minute-gotta-cook moments in your life?

Now, back to work...

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Invisibility Cloak Gets A Little Clearer!

Associated Press... Researchers at Duke University, who developed a material that can "cloak" an item from detection using microwaves, report that they have expanded the number of wavelengths they can block...

The system works like a mirage, where heat causes the bending of light rays and cloaks the road ahead behind an image of the sky.

The researchers report in Thursday's edition of the journal Science that they have developed a series of mathematical commands to guide the development of more types of metamaterials to cloak objects from an increasing rnge of electromagnetic waves.

The new cloak is made up of more than 10,000 individual pieces of fiberglass, arranged in parallel rows. The mathematical formulas are used to determind the shape and placement of each piece...

learn more about it here:

and here:

Stuff, Etc.

Sister-in-law called this morning...they were enduring 10 degree temps -- and worse. That 'ol Alberta Clipper really has been nailing Michigan and parts east.

While I was listening, I looked out at our gray-and-tan world. The snow's gone, and we've been in the 40s and 50s for the past few days. I was even thinking about going outside and sunning!

This stupid flu just won't let go.

Did a talk yesterday for a group of Geologic Wives -- elegant women whose husbands' work had brought them all over the world. You could tell, too. They all had touches -- unusual jewelry, scarves and such that signaled they were familiar with other cultures.

One surprise: Daughter #1 (who was helping), said "Mom, look at all the red and kelly green clothing!" Many women were wearing red or bright green jackets. When I mentioned this to the organizer, she laughed (as she put on her red coat) and told me a story -- their last meeting, two people had accidentally gotten each other's red coat...but didn't realize it until one had left.

Paid Twice has good ideas for keeping warm these coming months:

And Brin over at Messy Thrilling gives me hope that winter won't last forever -- she's talking about a great forum for collecting unusual garden seeds:

Back to life...sigh.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

National Thrift Week Starts Saturday!

"In 1916, with the First World War looming imminently on the horizon, the leaders of America's major civic organizations launched an ambitious education campaign designed to ready the American public for a wartime economy. Dubbed "National Thrift Week" and sponsored primarily by the Young Men's Christian Association (Y.M.C.A.), the campaign became a recurring celebration, beginning each year on January 17, in honor of the birthday of Benjamin Franklin, the "American apostle of thrift."

National Thrift Week is Jan. 17-24 this year. The goal, according to the website, isn't self-denial: it's self-control. Festivities include an essay contest (prize: $100 savings bond) and other goodies. Visit here for more:

* * * * * * * * * *
And to start it out, TODAY (JAN. 14) ONLY, you can get a coupon for a free bottle of Suave brand shampoo or body wash! Go here for more:

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Do I See Dead People??

Snow's stopped. The sky is china-blue and laced with wisps of cloud. Lovely. We've had a bit warmer weather, but it doesn't seem to matter -- I'm still cold, regardless of what's going on around me. Seems like this flu is still working its way out.

Million Dollar Journey has some helpful approaches for tax-time:

And Yes-to-Me not only has a lot of encouragement to people who have been laid off...or fear it's coming...but some excellent resume tips:

* * * * * * * * * *

The latest issue of Popular Science (Jan 2009) talks about a new approach for cardiac arrest victims: induced hypothermia. Put them in deep freeze to minimize any damage to the heart --and body -- until treatment has had a chance to stabilize and begin healing. (See "Cold Relief" pp. 55-59.) Science has seen any number of patients who've been left outside in freezing temperatures, or rescued from the icy backside of a pond after being underwater for a half hour. And they've been successfully revived, due to their body cores -- and functions -- slowing to a near-crawl. Amazing that this can be applied to heart attacks, too!

This news makes me wonder. Could the same treatment be applied to stroke victims? Could it be extended to other organ treatments, to make them more effective? The possibilities seem endless.

WARNING WARNING WARNING...the next two stories are not for the squeamish.

It also makes me think about one of the more gruesome stories in one of my folk tales book: a supposedly true account of a doctor who visited a small village just after harvest-time. (I'm thinking it was set in Vermont or New Hampshire. Could have been Maine.) According to him, a number of people were stripped of their clothing, then left to freeze solid outdoors, then stacked like cordwood off to the side.

He was told to come back in the spring, "because then we'll need our people for planting time." He watched as the human popsicles were soaked in tubs full of warm water, laced with hemlock boughs. The thawing bodies were rubbed vigorously, and after some time, the people came back to life.

Tell that to one of Hemingway's buddies, who mentioned a nearby farmer in Austria, where Hem and his wife were on a skiing vacation (A Moveable Feast). The farmer's wife died in wintertime, when he was unable to bury her properly. So he stood her body up in the toolshed, until springtime came and the ground thawed. The really gross part? Her mouth was partly open -- so the farmer hung his lantern from it every night when he went in to do chores.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Scratch Beginnings Takes Another Step Forward

Remember Adam Shepard, the kid who bet $25 and a year of his time on succeeding?

He got off the train in Charleston, SC. (The 7th worst city in the U.S., he says now...Husband would find this amusing, having been stationed in Charleston during the Navy.) A year later, he had $5000 in his bank account, no debts and a paid-off truck.

How'd he do it? Dedication, a little bit of luck...and work, work, work.

Adam's book, Scratch Beginnings, is a retell of his life in Charleston. A terrific read, though Daughter #1 pooh-poohed it bit: "He always knew he could go back to his family, and they'd take care of him. That makes a difference." That does make a difference in your mental attitude, I guess...but he never did. Instead, he went back to take care of his mom.

Adam's book is really catching on, including tv appearances:

Learn more about him at

Monday Toots...and Snow

We're back from Denver and the Oxford Hotel. We slept in (in fact, we spent all day 'in' on Saturday), watched Humphrey Bogart in Sahara (one of the best war movies ever made), caught up on reading, ate out at the pub next door, and... it was nice. Antique furniture, lovely old 19th century prints and etchings on the walls. A firm bed with lots of pillows. Snuggly comforter...and cotton terry robes that actually fit. A huge shower head in the white-tiled bath. Clean smells and surfaces everywhere. Aaahhhhh.

There were a few glitches in the luxury. It wasn't the wiggly toilet that sounded like a foghorn when flushed. Nor the key that snapped in the wet bar, or no cream and sugar for the (burned) coffee Sunday morning. You see, the Oxford promises if you put your shoes out in the hallway at night, they'll be shined and back in place in the morning.

So we did. boots. At 9 a.m., Husband finally called the front desk. Boots arrived. I thought, 'Gee, that's a light polish.' Husband sniffed: 'nope, they weren't polished at all.' The denoument came as I pulled them on -- left boot had a slightly-used lime wedge in the toe! Husband thinks they spent the night in the bar...what did they do there, unburden their soles?!

Ham and eggs at a nearby diner; a stop at Molly Brown's house (now a museum - and it's Margaret to us yahoos)...and it's Monday morning, back to reality. And snowing.

Frugal Zeitgeist had a problem with her shredder:
Can she return it? Nooo...because a few months ago, she shredded the receipt.
(We burn iffy papers in the fireplace, especially credit card applications.)

Tight-Fisted Miser believes there are certain things you should always get free:

Speaking of, get a pastry or another drink free when you buy a drink at Borders:
(Thanks, Money Saving Mom!)

Crockpot365 recommends hot & sour soup for the flu (sounds good, mine is still not gone yet):

And Frugal Upstate has ten easy suggestions for deciding on what's most important for you and your family, needs and bill-wise:

I can relate to one of Upstate's recent dilemmas. Thinking to save money, she got three meals ready for husband and children before leaving on an out-of-town gig. While she was gone, Husband took the kids out to eat twice, and went to his in-laws the third time.

The food went in the trash.

I used to do the 'loving hands prepared at home' thing for Husband's and girlies' meals before I left on a gig. Eventually I realized that at least half of that food was going down the disposal...because Husband, bless his little heart, hated cooking of any kind, even reheating. After all, that also meant dishes.

Now I'll usually have something in the crockpot before I go -- he'll eat that, at least. (Thank God for paper plates and bowls.) I may make one more dish and put it in the freezer. Otherwise, I get some freezer dinners, round up the fast-food coupons, and let him decide.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Act LIke A Millionaire...Even if You Aren't

Get first-class treatment on a pauper's budget...these are intriguing tips from Lazy Man With Money:

I'd add another -- dress as if you're making more money. Our local thrift shop has been the source of many "expensive" bargains, including my alpaca sweater and a leather jacket with a huge fur collar. I add black jeans, a nice turtleneck, gold hoop earrings (small, but the real thing) and a pair of hand-stitched tan and black cowboy boots purchased at a going-out-of-business sale. (Polish the boots for extra confidence.) The result: a look that's gotten me safely through the snootiest situations.

The latest will be our anniversary trip to the Oxford Hotel in Denver. Its antique furniture and print-filled halls have seen many famous people...and its price reflects that. ($249-$550, depending on which day you're headed there.) What did we pay? $52.80 a night, thanks to a yearly special connected to Denver's "5280" status in altitude. (Read more about it here, and plan for next year! )

I plan on stepping blithely into the Oxford's lobby as if I were a millionairess. Look for me in the lobby by the fireplace, not far from Wazee the canary:

Friday, January 9, 2009

News Bits (and Bites)

the wind's back up, and it's snowing. Brrr....

Never mind. Boulder's wildfires have been contained:

(settle in -- this is going to be a long one)

Earthquakes in Yellowstone:

Getting the Lead Out:
From the LA Times, 1/9/09: "After a barrage of complaints, federal regulators shifted gears Thursday and said they won't require used children's clothing, toys and other items sold at second-hand stores to be tested for lead." If you haven't heard, U.S. legislation now mandates that, starting, Feb. 10, children's retailers are required to test all of their products for lead. (Prompted, of course, by the weird presence of lead and hazardous chemicals found lately in everything from clothes to toothpaste in imported goods.) Thrift shops had protested that they couldn't afford to do this, and stay in business. Finally, somebody listened.

Celebrity Money Mistakes:

Jet Pack Man Becomes A Reality:
From Popular Science, 2/09 issue: An interview with Yves Rossy, a Swiss pilot who became the first person in history to pilot a jet-pack "personal wing" across the English Channel. Nine-plus harrowing minutes over 22 miles, part of it gliding, and ending with a chute opening in freefall. In spite of years of testing, including the current model, which is notoriously unstable, Rossy has never been hurt. (One of his predecessors, Patrick de Gayardon, tanked in 1998 while testing a "winged" skydiving suit in Hawaii.)
Read more about Rossy here:

Stupid Crimes by Stupid People:
Some should apply for the Darwin awards, now they're on a roll:

A Free Whopper:
...If you dump 10 friends from Facebook:

Israel vs Hamas:
From a column by David Harsanyi (Denver Post, 1/09/09):

In our nation, even twisted extremists are welcome to express their opinions.
Take, for instance, the young Muslim woman in Florida who used her constitutional right to tell Jews to 'go back to the oven!' last week. Or the more befuddled protester in New York who brandished a sign that read, 'Death to all Juice.' (And I thought we Jews ran the country. Clearly, someone is sleeping on the job.)
These rare but revolting displays of hate do offer the 'Juice' a valuable reminder that a secure Jewish state in Israel is a historic imperative.
Nevertheless, it is distressing to hear the large number of supposedly peace-loving critics of Israel in essence defend Hamas, one of the most virulently un-intellectual, illiberal, bellicose, misogynistic, hateful and violent brands of religious fanaticism on Earth.
That's no easy trick, mind now, detractors have turned to a feeble argument that claims Israel is guilty of failing to deploy a 'proportional' response against Hamas...
For Israel, there is no choice. There is no political solution. No happy ending. The present circumstance in Gaza refutes the Left's quixotic notion that antagonists can just, you know, hug it out for peace. It also counters the neoconservative idea that democracy will spread among people who place no value in it.
Because Gaza is free. Obviously the Palestinians cannot be placated with an independent state -- a gift they never had until Israel handed them Gaza with nary a condition. But this is not a 3,000-year-old war steeped in ancient history...this was a 20th century battle between Jewish and Arab nationalists. It has turned into a more insidious 21st century war with Islamic fundamentalism.
Hamas will not be romanced by the idea of 'building bridges' with Israel...When asked if he could ever imagine a long-term ceasefire with Israel, Hamas leader Nizar Rayyan responded: 'The only reason to have a hudna (cease-fire) is to prepare yourself for the final battle.' [Rayyan died last week in a bombing by the Israel air force. Unfortunately, he took four wives and 11 children with him.]
. ..The group (Hamas) provoked Israel with thousands of rocket attacks indiscriminately aimed at civilian centers. Once Israel responded -- after years of warnings -- Hamas placed caches of weapons near schools, mosques and homes in an effort to cause carnage on its own people. Civilian death is the point.
Most reasonable Americans will understand that Israel did not invade Gaza to terrorize the civilian population or murder the innocent...What other nation would allow a terror state to attack it on a daily basis without defending itself? The answer is none.

And don't miss Unsolved Mysteries' recent episode on Bigfoot in Colorado. Although I'm sure he has been (or is) around, it is still a tad unsettling to hear about sightings almost literally on my doorstep. Read more here:
(actually about the Pacific Northwest)
and here:
Colorado reports are here:
as well as here (the best of the batch):

Have a good (snowy) day...and an even better weekend. Maybe I'll ask Mr. and Mrs. S(asquatch) to tea.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Life Burns...and Chills

Have you heard about the wildfires threatening Boulder? To my knowledge, this is the first winter fire we've had in decades...this is usually a summer thing, when it's hot and dry, and the Chinook winds come roaring through. But we've had a lot of trucker-style winds this past week...they were clocked at 90 mph up in Nederland, where Daughter #2 lives. I took her back home on Monday, up through the canyon, and the wind was literally shoving our Jeep Cherokee toward the edge of the curves. I had to concentrate hard to keep it on the road.

The wind has died down some, which means that the helicopters can come in and drop retardant...but more than 1,000 acres, plus at least four homes, have burned already. The situation's improved some, though. Read more about it here:

I'm not trying to trivialize things -- it really is scary there. And many people, along with their animals, have been forced to evacuate. It's just that compared to the California wildfires, the Boulder conflagration really does not seem that big a deal. I know -- for those who are going through it, it is.
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I double-checked on Amazon, and some of the 75% off-Hickory Farms gift packs are still available. So I bought sets for both girlies. They'll find a treat in their mailboxes in about a week.

My mom called today -- they got their box from Hickory Farms, and she had difficulty hefting it! She excitedly listed the items in the gift pack, then in true maternal form, fussed about whether we could afford it. I said, "Ma, since when has your daughter gotten something like this when it wasn't on sale?" Then she calmed down a bit.

Both Husband and Yours Truly seem to be flirting with a cold...the Michigan relatives were sniffing and sneezing, so it was probably inevitable. We're planning on spending a few nights soon in the Oxford, an old Denver hotel, to celebrate our 27th anniversary. It may be a "sleep in and rest up" trip. We watched the championship football game tonight -- was so hoping Oklahoma could beat Florida, but alas. It was a terrific game, though!

New Year's Resolutions...Now

The last post covered 2008...what are my new year's goals for 2009?

*FINISH the two books-in-progress.
*Increase my major conference teaching gigs. They're big, noisy and exciting...and teaching several classes or lectures in a few days is vastly rewarding.
*Somehow keep Mom and Dad entertained and comforted during these last months of Dad's life.
*Add photos successfully to this's much easier to do on the website, but not here.
*Add links ditto.
*Reorganize the Brickworks inventory area. (It's a mess down there. We plan to hold a Grand Garage Sale online in February, so this would be a good opportunity to get everything cleaned up.)
*Write a letter, postcard or note to the folks, as well as both girlies, at least once every other week.
*Call the people mentioned above (plus work in brothers and sisters) at least once every other week. (Every other day or two for the folks and girlies.)
*Clean out the garage. (It suffers badly from packrat-itis.) Ditto the house.
*Save $15 extra every single week for the emergency fund.

There -- that oughta keep me busy!

(or maybe I should just take Kevin's approach and "just wake up:" )

New Year's Resolutions...Then.

I was going to blissfully post on this...then got to thinking. What about my 2008 resolutions? I went back and checked, and they were:

*Finish one book -- and work on another (writing them -- not reading them!) Do some other writing, as well*Lose some weight (I am sooo sick of feeling bulgy)*Get the living room painted! (and windows replaced)*Spend some regular time in the garden -- no matter what*Get completely caught up with the restoration jobs*Learn some Portuguese*KNOW WHERE THINGS ARE (this would be especially wonderful)

Well. I didn't do so good. Granted, I did work on another book (2 of them, actually), but neither are completely done. I did publish some articles (and interviews). I did lose some weight working on the roof...but a lot of it's crept back on. (Guess what I'll be working on these next few months?) The living room is not painted, let alone new windows. (I didn't realize back then that the roofs would come first.)

On the other hand, I worked in the smaller house garden. The big one wasn't even attempted -- Colorado had its driest summer ever, and our plants paid the price. I also planted at least 75 bulbs this fall, as well as a number of perennials like pansies and pinks.

I made progress on the restoration projects, learned some Portuguese...and I do have a better idea of where things are, rather than just relying on the Brickworks staffers to do it for me.

I did make good progress on a goal I didn't even mention online -- $75 in savings every single month. It was easier than I'd thought. The secret: direct deposit. Fifty dollars went in one account, $25 in another. I also set up an account for paying our house taxes, and deposited money regularly in there. This winter, we will not have to scrape at the last minute to come up with the tax money.

Some progress is better than none!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Shiela Betterton gone

Another great one has quietly tiptoed out of the Quilters Hall of Fame:

Shiela Betterton, a British authority on American quilts, died Dec. 26. Read more about her here:

Shiela's book Quilts & Coverlets is a valued part of my library.

That makes four honorees gone in the past two years: Mary Schaeffer, Cuesta Benberry, Helen Kelley...and now Shiela. We will miss them all.

Frugal Blog Stuff!

I've found a wonderful new series on making the most of your food costs: "Living Like Kings." Frugal Homemaker Plus has five or so posts already, and plans to make this series a regular appearance all through 2009:

And Simple Dollar's good ideas on making the most of leftovers. Although I'm not too big on blenderized-meat patties, the rest looks good:

Wisebread addresses the other parts of life (and expenses) in "Waste Not, Want Not:"

Finally, a thoughtful blog, written by a single girl who has to watch her dollars...but it's also full of gardening, cooking, crafts (wonderful purses) and wisdom. Look for Brin at:

I feel especially virtuous mentioning these, since I'm walking the talk today! Beef stew is fragrant-ing up the air...made up of a sale onion, the leftovers from a bag of carrots, a can of mushrooms, some lemon pepper and a handful of cut-up beef. Tiny costs, 10 hours in a crockpot, and...yum. Serve it over rice, and I've got two meals that taste anything but frugal.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Another Terrific Bargain - Hickory Farms

Sprint, do not walk, to Amazon and check out their marked-down Hickory Farms gift packs. I can live with their discount -- 75% off! One gift pack went on its way to the folks; a second to Bro-in-Law and Sister-in-Law in Bellingham, WA. (They never got a Christmas present from us -- things were a bit zany toward the end of the month -- and I'm sure won't mind getting something much nicer a little late!)

And a third pack -- the largest, nicest I've ever seen -- is on its way to Chez Brick, as an early birthday present for the man I love. He usually cheerfully makes do with the 'economy' version; this time he gets the best.

Here are some of the goodies, including the Family and Friends gift box:

And the Family Reunion gift box -- I thought these two of the best:

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The gift closet is in a shambles -- boxes and paper scattered everywhere. I grabbed four boxes and will label them 'Birthday/other holidays,' 'food presents,' 'Christmas presents,' and a fourth for baby showers, plus presents for my piano students. Hopefully this will keep future items in better order. It's hard to keep my mind on sorting, and not pawing over (and gloating) on the bargains from yesterday's trip to Target. We went to a scratch-and-dent grocery store during the trip to Michigan; there are several goodies from that trip as well, including a jar of pears preserved in Greek 'green' wine; imported olives; and even some imported spring water -- Pellagrino for $1.29 a bottle!
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And here's another bargain -- a copy of the Declaration of Independence purchased at a thrift shop in Tennessee for $2.48. Actually worth in the neighborhood of $200,000. Wow!

Monday, January 5, 2009

January Jewels

The Fiesta Bowl tonight...WHAT A GAME!!! Ohio State almost won, instead of One of the few contests that either team could have won -- and deserved it.

I took Daughter #2 (plus Daughter #1's stuff) and Jack the dog back to their respective back just in time to check out Target's after-Christmas items...

and WOW -- all Christmas stuff at my local Tar-jay was 90% off!

A big batch of truffles and chocolate-covered cherries was scooped up -- perfect for Valentines next month. Got some cute little outfits for future baby shower presents. Note cards, gift wrap, ornaments and even a dog collar for next Christmas. I LOVE getting 90% off!

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One Frugal Girl is musing about new years resolutions...with ties to others:

I'll post mine tomorrow. What are yours?

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Back online

Happy New Year to you, friends!

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We got back this morning at 3 a.m. --most of the 19-plus hour trip wasn't too bad: cold and wind, but roads were dry. We had fun during a foggy, rainy 40-mile stretch of Iowa (ironically, the same area we'd struggled through on our way to Michigan), and again at an icy, rainy highway near Omaha. The last hour was downright zany -- wet highways full of black ice, with a covering of fluffy snow. We held our breath down the last hill to home -- but all was well.

Slept in until nearly 10 a.m. Had biscuits and gravy...lazed about...then finally finished unpacking the car, and started putting stuff away. The dogs, thrilled that Mom and Dad were finally home, have been snoozing in close proximity ever since.

My dad continues on...though he sleeps most of the time now. I felt a huge gulp in my throat when we left yesterday morning. Would we ever see him again?

At any rate, I'll be back in touch now to you tomorrow.