Monday, December 28, 2009

A Winter Boost

...try this lush version of "Una Notte de Napoli," courtesy of Pink Martini. You'll be feeling pepped up, fast. (Husband has already listened to it five or six times tonight.) The weird part? I first heard it in a thrift shop this week!

Eating From Your Pantry In January!

Money Saving Mom has a new challenge -- can you concoct meals primarily from your pantry for the month of January? It doesn't mean giving up fresh items like eggs, milk and such -- but limiting your visits to the grocery store to 3 per month (in Mom's case). She's challenged others to take it on too, making up their own variations as they go.

Husband eyed the umpteenth Safeway bag I dragged home tonight and said, "Aren't you spending a lot of money?" (I'd already been to Kohl's, Target and Michael's -- but little did he know I spent less than $5 at K's, and about $45 each at the other two.) Granted, I was shopping for a New Year's Day catering gig...but it got me to thinking. Why not try MSMom's challenge, too?

So here's the plan. I will visit grocery stores no more than 3 times in January. (Two, if I can get away with it.) I will purchase no more than $50 worth of stuff, and rely on my freezer, cupboards and pantry the rest of the time.
   In fact, if at all possible, I will visit other stores only twice this coming month -- period. I don't need any stuff, thanks to Christmas stocking. (The one exception to this 'rule' will be Target's 75% and 90% off Christmas sale items. Lordy, they have good bargains then...)

As God is my witness, we will not go hungry!
(Oops, channeling Scarlett O'Hara for a moment there.)

There will be weekly updates, recipes and such. Want to try your own version of this challenge? You're welcome to join in!

And don't miss MSMom's enlightening post on living poor during law school -- it reminds what's most important in life.

News, Sales...and Mom

We've been out trolling for bargains -- not so many for me, but found several clothing pieces for Husband. 80% off -- almost cheaper than the thrift shop! Picked up a few marked-down Christmas items, too, but I decided to be circumspect in this area. We are seriously thinking about moving to a smaller place with a larger studio. The thought of moving umpteen rolls of marked-down Christmas paper just sets me off my feed...better to wait and see what happens.

The Mama leaves tomorrow morning, and is more than ready to go. She pestered and pestered to get me to print out her boarding pass -- terribly worried that the airline would somehow cancel her seat. (And leave her where...sitting on the wing?) Needless to say, she's been packed since this morning. We'll ship two boxes to Michigan this afternoon, as well -- I would have stuffed their contents into the suitcase and saved the $$, but the Mama refuses to consider this. There are numerous checks on the weather, and worries that somehow a blizzard will roar in at the last minute and cancel everything in sight. (The forecast is for clear-as-a-bell weather through Wed. morning.)

Ah well. One thing I've found -- Don't Argue With the Mama. No matter what. In less than twenty-four hours, she'll be home, and that's what she really wants. I can't blame her -- I get to missing home myself, after being away.


Dough Roller held a very interesting contest -- people's savviest ways of saving money during the holidays. Don't miss his post; it's got some great ideas!

People have ordered a big batch of Hanky Panky and Golden West books. I'm guessing they're spending gift cards...it's ok with us!


Mom is off the phone, and antsy once again. (She just asked how much longer I'll be on the computer...) Better get to shipping those packages...

Yet Another Crazy Quilts Review

Pepper Cory, bless her little North Carolina heart, mentioned CRAZY QUILTS! See her review at Pepper's blog...which, incidentally, is a great place to visit regularly for quilting stuff, but also a great deal of interest and comfort.

Thanks so much, friend.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Between Holidays

Monday's panting on the horizon...and I know I have to Get Back to Work soon.

Sigh.

It was a lovely Christmas, in spite of our strange schedule -- everybody slept in until 10 a.m. or so (thank God for twenty-something children) and we didn't even have breakfast until noon. (Supper was at 8 p.m. Another spatchcocked turkey, British crackers (with strange party hats), and sachertorte for dessert.)

The girlies have both gone home...the Mama is still here, though, until Tuesday morning...and it seems strangely quiet. They won't be back for New Year's -- they enjoy going out with friends New Year's Eve, and we prefer cowboy movies, pizza and a quiet evening. (Too many drunken weirdos out on the street!)

For those of you who enjoy weirdos, here are the top 100 strangest stories of the year, starting with the top 5 or so. Keep clicking for the rest, once you get to the site.

The frugal will appreciate 50 money-saving websites...and they're not all what you would think!

And now I'll head to bed for a long winter's night, to dream of sugarplums and paperwork that magically gets itself done... hope you had a merry holiday, too.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Multi-Using Your Holiday Items!

Real Simple magazine has an intriguing slide gallery on uses for holiday decorations and such after the holidays. Some intriguing stuff here -- check it out!

I have a multi-purpose wish for you: a safe, warm and content Christmas, remembering the Child who started all the hoopla, after all --
    "Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask thee to stay
    Close by me forever, and love me, I pray.
    Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care
    And take us to Heaven to live with Thee there."

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

What Made You Start Thinking About Money?

J.D. Roth's superlative Get Rich Slowly has pondered this question in the past. Take a look -- here's the original post, plus the followup. (Don't miss the comments -- they're especially helpful.)

What made me start taking my finances seriously? Three events stand out clearly.

*I started an after-school job at Rogers Hardware. ($1.50 an hour -- riches!) College was a dream; my parents were farmers and not well-off. I knew I had to Do Something. Half the money I made during the three-plus years I worked at Rogers went into a savings account for college. I ended up with enough to pay for the first year plus much of the second, thanks to grants and scholarships. All because I started putting away money for college at 15.

*Husband was a well-paid mechanical engineer. I had a fascinating job as an editor for a quilting magazine. Our girls were about 7 and 9. Life was great!
    Then Husband had a nervous breakdown. In the next month or so, he stayed home from work and did strange things, like obsessively washing the same sinkful of dishes for four or five hours. At night he said he couldn't sleep, couldn't breathe...and wanted to walk. We'd go outside and pace up and down the street for a few hours. (I didn't dare go past eyesight of the house -- our children were asleep in there.) We'd go to bed about 3 a.m...then I would get up at 6 to go to work, while Husband slept the morning away.
    This went on week after week, until I felt ready to have a nervous breakdown myself. No income coming in. No time to think for myself. Fortunately, Husband began to recover and went back to work. (He found out, after his return, that his bosses at Martin Marietta didn't think a thing about it -- lots of engineers there had nervous breakdowns. Goes to show you the stress and worry they went through there.)
    We had enough, thanks to an emergency fund, to get us through that time. But it made me determined to never feel quite as desperate again. I took extra care with groceries, shopped primarily at thrift shops, had a large garden. Husband switched jobs -- then two years later, quit that one, saying he felt that if he didn't, he would have another nervous breakdown.
    By then, I was working for myself, and income was really spotty. But our emergency fund was larger, thank God, and it kept us going for three months. After that, Husband began a new job -- as a school bus driver.
    Needless to say, a bus driver's income is substantially less than an engineer's -- about 75% less. We lived on that income -- and mine, growing, thankfully, because of Brickworks -- until the girls both graduated from high school.
    Finances are better today; Husband is a trainer, which pays better, and my business has grown considerably. But I have never forgotten the lessons I learned from that first desperate period.

And finally:

* The Millionaire Next Door. This book helped me realize that it's not the big prizes or jumps in salary -- it's the slow, day-by-day accumulation of just a bit that makes you rich in the end.
    You can get this book for just a penny on Amazon -- and it will be one of the best purchases you ever made. Thomas Stanley has a new book I can't wait to read: Stop Living Rich...and Start Living Like A Millionaire.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Gingerbread Houses Made To Fit Your Cup!

Take a look at these tiny gingerbread houses...they actually fit (through the door slot) on the side of your cup.

The recipe is for gingerbread (of course), but shortbread and sugar cookie dough is also suggested, provided you chill the dough thoroughly so it doesn't spread.


I kept looking at these, though, and wondering if you could do something similar with graham crackers...

I have GOT to try these.

Monday Morning Stuff

What a surprise! Go out of town, and your friends leave piles of presents in your apartment when you return. (Unfortunately, they're your vacuum, books, clothes, stuff in the freezer...) Sounds like guys, doesn't it?

And this inspiring post about Faith, the two-legged dog, who learned to walk on her hind legs. She's been visiting veterans' centers with her caretakers. Gutsy, gutsy.

One of our boys has not been doing well. Weimaraners often have hip trouble, and Goonie's had a lot of difficulty getting up. (Goonie is short for Gunther -- Weimies are a German breed.) One eye has not been good, either -- his inner eyelid keeps showing, and the eye is red and inflamed. The bad part: he's 13-plus. He'd need a hip replacement, something we can't afford. (I'm not sure he'd survive the operation, anyway.) He's doing better today, for which I'm grateful. He got up twice by himself -- and without our urging. Amazing. I'm grateful for his cheerful, uncomplaining nature. Needless to say, he's been getting extra petting and snacks -- something which our other Weimie, Buck, is desperately jealous of!
   The worst is not over. But at least Goon is better.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Good Deals

Well, it's been a strange weekend at Ye Olde Brick House. People here seem to be on some pep-em-up/slowdown schedule. Either we're scampering from activity to program...or it's dead, with people sacked out sleeping or dozing or reading. (Gathering strength, no doubt, for the next scamper.) The Mama has been baking for days, and piles of cookies are everywhere. (Also contributing, no doubt, to the torpor.)

Husband and yours truly had solos during church today on the "Friendly Beasts" song. (In case you're wondering, I was the donkey -- Husband was the cow! Yes, I know, he should have been the bull..) Then practice for Christmas Eve service, dinner at friends' house, where we watched the Broncos almmmoooost win the game against the Raiders. It is the first time I can ever remember that a game was stopped -- while police searched the stands for some moron who kept shining a laser pointer into various Broncos' eyes. (The players were actually pointing at the guy, who apparently thought discretion was the better part of valor, and disappeared.) No naps for us today, though I got a brief but refreshing catnap before the screaming began.

Frugal Babe has a money-saving post on buying eyeglasses. I also found a good post on who's offering bonuses with gift card purchases. Add two more to this list -- both Red Robin and Qdoba restaurants are giving $5 bonuses with every $25 of gift cards purchased. (Don't count on these specials being good past Christmas.)

And if your silliness factor is not strong enough, try cheering for the Red Sparrows, the Lawn Chair Drill Team, or the Briefcase Brigade. (Or try Monty Python's Bring Out Your Dead -- my favorite -- Military Fairies orThe Spanish Inquisition! I sure could use a comfy chair...)


Here's hoping your holiday week is a restful one.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Life Goes On...

Including a stop at the Governor's Mansion, to take the tour and admire the Palm room, full of large glass windows and sunshine. (Not to mention the 'jadeite' lamps in the hallways. Remember those candles you made in milk cartons, using ice cubes to get a 'Swiss cheese' look? They looked like that -- made out of jade. Very cool.) The holiday decorations were quite lovely -- you can see them here.

Then a wild cookie-decorating party with the piano (and voice) kids. Frosting EVERYWHERE. (But fun!)

I'm just beat. But not too tired to smirk at the guy who murdered three people, shot at two others, then tripped on his own fallen-down pants (he was wearing lowriders) and fell three stories to his death, as he was trying to shoot at another person. Oops. I keep hearing a song from kidhood:
    "My pants fell down, my pants fell down, my pants fell down on Main Street.
      I pulled them up, I pulled them up, I pulled them up on Main Street..."

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Books are Here!

They finally showed up this morning...true to form, about an hour after we had to leave for Denver.

The boxes are in a long row down the hallway, until they can be schlepped into inventory...and every last order is done and ready to go out in a very late (midnight) run to the post office tonight.

But they're DONE. And barring any great weirdness, they should all arrive in plenty of time for Christmas.

Whew.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Waiting, Waiting...

Still no truck. I've stayed home for two straight days, waiting. (Nearly all of our staffers are on vacation through the end of the month -- two have agreed to come in for just a few hours, to help get the backed-up Hanky Panky orders sent out.)

The shipment's been in Denver since the 15th, says the tracking info. Castle Rock is 30 miles -- tops -- from Denver. What do I have to do: march down there and unload the boxes myself??

Sigh.

The Momma, yours truly and one feckless staffer have finally hacked a path through the inventory area. There's much more to go, but it already looks a heck of a lot better.

I must do some errands tomorrow -- they can't be delayed any longer. What do you want to bet the delivery shows up while I'm gone?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

An Inconvenient Truth

Al Gore's recent speech...well, the poor man admitted he might have gotten his facts wrong.

Turns out the scientist whose data Gore quoted told the Times of London he had never made any such statement -- or conclusion. (Although he does have something to say about the polar ice cap melting.)

Gore's office admitted he based his remarks on a conversation he'd had with the scientist 'several years ago.'

Oopsies...

Need a Gift That's Inexpensive...Fast?

The Gingerbread Pop-Tart houses mentioned in the last post just might do the trick.


This post from Like Merchant Ships' archive might be what you need, too. Meredith had to get gifts for a hundred employees -- her husband's the 'big boss.' And $100 was the budgeted amount! You'll be amazed at the ideas that flow out of this post, especially in comments.

For my piano students, Mom and I are hosting a cookie decorating party Friday afternoon. The kids get to indulge in frosting, red-hots and chocolate chips up to their eyebrows, plus a large 'people' cookie for themselves and every person in their family. We get frosted cookies for the holiday plate! (My cousins used to come every year for a C.C.D.C. party, growing up, but the girlies are now Too Old for this childhood tradition. The abbreviation, by the way -- 'Cumings Cookie Decorating Committee.')

We'll have soup or chili for supper, then I'll take them to the local dollar store. (A looked-forward-to tradition now for the kids.) One dollar for every member of their family, plus $1 extra for tax. I love to see the presents they choose...the giggling...and the happy faces taking mysterious bags home to wrap!

Gingerbread Houses Made Easy

Try this Pop-Tart version, courtesy of Kellogg's. A couple of boxes of Pop-Tarts, a few cans of frosting, some goodies to decorate, and you're done! (Did you know they make gingerbread Pop-Tarts??) Some real architectural opportunities for expansion here...

Even simpler: sugared Christmas tree cupcakes that use sparkling sprigs of evergreen pushed into frosted cupcakes. I could see a row of these on your favorite cake, too. (Our Dec. 26 wedding was held among a 'forest' of trees -- unsold Christmas trees mounted on stands and decorated with shimmery stuff. Yes, inside the church.)

The Hanky Panky delivery truck isn't here yet. The shipping envelopes are addressed and waiting, and we have plenty of stuff to do. (Rediscovered the inventory room floor last night!) C'mon, buddy. We've got orders to ship for Christmas!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Cleaning...And Stuff to Think About

It's a bright and brisk Monday morning...I am looking down into the maw. And being very, very. Scared. 

You see, the entire downstairs of our 7000-plus sq. ft. house holds the Brickworks offices, including my cubbyhole, a cutting area, shelving for inventory and extras, and so on. A huge schrunk (a German sort-of walled closet or armoire) runs the length of one room, and stores quilts used for teaching and current projects. One of the rooms in our living area holds shipping materials, stacks of books, extra goodies. The struggle: the work gradually -- and persistently -- overflows into the personal areas. (If you're thinking we should move, and get a separate building for the business, you're right. We're working on that for 2010.)

After the last gig finished up in mid-November, I boxed up the quilts and other samples, items for sale, and misc. flotsam and jetsam. Then I left the boxes in messy piles, upstairs and down. (Yes, I know. Shame.) When The Mama arrived last Wednesday, she announced that we -- the Great Mess-Maker, plus her innocent self -- were going to concentrate on whipping downstairs inventory back in shape, as well as put away all the samples, separate out the fabrics and embellishments used for kits, etc. etc.

When we finish, I figure there will be a bright new area, just the right size for teaching a small group -- or relaxing by the fireplace while I finish up a new design -- or there will actually be room to store the boxes of Hanky Panky Crazy Quilts that I know are showing up today or tomorrow.

The Mama is down there now, folding quilts (inside out) and fussing. I figure two long or three short days to finish, including the help of a brave staffer who will be here this afternoon. Poor women. Hopefully the Monsters Under the Boxes will not eat them. (As for me, if they do -- the monsters, that is! -- well, I deserve it.)


Before I trudge downstairs, a few things you may find interesting:

Money-saving tips -- 95 of them -- that are practical, and can be used right now. (Thanks so much to Gather Little by Little, whose blog is consistently interesting.)


Quilts of the Golden West was reviewed in yesterday's Denver Post! Here's the link, from Sandra Dallas's Regional Nonfiction column, and here's the review:

Quilts of the Golden West: Mining the History of the Gold and Silver Rush, by Cindy Brick, $28.95. 

An early Western gold seeker once wrote home to his wife who was preparing to join him, "Don't bring quilts. They get tore too easy." But women would have as soon left their children behind as their precious handiwork. A couple of years ago, well-known quilt teacher and appraiser Cindy Brick put together a traveling show of some of those prized Western quilts. 

Now Brick, who lives in Castle Rock, has compiled a book of Western quilts, old and new.
"Quilts of the Golden West" includes a brief history of the gold and silver rushes, historical photographs, pictures of old quilts, and photos and instructions for making a Western quilt. The most ambitious is a Golden Girls of the West quilt with portraits of western women, such as Baby Doe Tabor and Molly Brown.
The colorful volume also includes facts about pioneer garments and jewelry, brief histories of redwork and the sewing machine. And there is information about fabrics, such as the popular dull yellow California Gold designs, and where to purchase them. 


You can find the book at the Kansas City Star's bookstore, or on the Brickworks website.

Climate Warming: Pros and Cons -- Much has been made of the recently hacked e-mails of scientists dedicated to the idea of climate warning...but admitting that research results don't completely back their theories up. (See one view on this subject. Here's another.) Not only that, but they're adamant (in the e-mails, anyways) that they will not be sharing any data with anyone in the scientific community who's skeptical of their conclusions.
    The Denver Post had a fascinating editorial on this, wherein it decided that they were wrong (bad scientists! bad scientists!) not to share their findings...but perfectly right to fudge because it was All For A Good Cause. (I'm not making this up. Read the editorial for yourself.) "Potential ethical breaches," says the AP headline, "but not faulty science." Huh? I thought science prided itself on its clean, pure approach!
    Today, Al Gore told the U.N. climate conference, currently meeting in Copenhagen, that the polar ice cap will be gone in 5-7 years from now. (I'm not making this up, either. Set your watches.) This, from the man who loves to trumpet about energy use gone amuck (and has cut back very little from his personal energy hog habits) and ate an endangered fish entree at his daughter's wedding feast. (Hey, it was tasty!)

    Talk is cheap. Believing it is harder -- actually living your beliefs hardest of all.
    Hopping off the soapbox now.
    I do believe that there is some climate warming going on -- but I am not convinced that it's as serious, or as widespread, as portrayed. I do think, however, that our world regularly goes through climate pattern changes -- and this is one of those periods.
   Question: Are a good share of the people making a fuss about this making the same changes in their personal lives that they're screaming for others to do? Next question: Do the people making the most fuss have a financial stake in promoting global warming? (Will their companies turn a greater profit, get more grants, and so on? Will they personally sell more books, get paid to speak at dinners, win more recognition?)  Uh-huh. Hmmm.


And on the lighter side: some of the funniest fishing bloopers ever! (Thanks so much, Marcie.)



   (Sigh)  The basement awaits. Have yourself a great Monday!

Christmas Decorating

Our tree is now up and decorated.

Whew.

It's a little on the bare-and-springy side, but at least the decorations are on...including the Victorian Santa and his early 20th century cohort that I can remember my grandma's tree always having. When she died, they came to my mom...then me. Because of them, I got in the habit of collecting Santa ornaments that had a pack, and were carrying a Christmas tree. (There's more out there than you would think!)

I know. This is pretty pathetic. A few wreaths...some greenery and a few angels and Santas on the fireplace...the tree...and pretty soon, the Nativity scene. (I have to find it down in storage.) That's it for Christmas decorating? Well, it's an improvement from last year, when a tiny Christmas tree made its appearance -- and not much else. 

Others are a bit more lavish in their approach. Take a look at this Christmas house photo gallery -- these people take the decorating to a whole new level of weirdness. Then again, nature gets into it too, I guess... take a look at the Colorado Springs buck who's sporting a frosting of lights in his antlers. (Thankfully, they'll fall off when his antlers shed soon.)

We're bracing ourselves here for pallets of Hanky Panky books...got an e-mail, and they're scheduled in at the Brickworks offices either tomorrow or Tuesday. Then the shipping out begins! 

Friday, December 11, 2009

News from the Financial World

In a very interesting move, Suze Orman is now advocating using cash only -- no credit cards. She says she's sick of companies taking advantage of us by increasing fees, interest rates and so on.

A lot of people are agreeing with her, and cancelling their cards.

I am wondering, though -- a lot of this misuse -- and abuse -- has been going on for years. How come it's suddenly so important to Suze? Because her customers are soooo broke now? And so many are unable to pay their debts?

There are some who argue that you are 'willing' to pay more when you use the card, versus pay for cash. (Or at the very least, you'll buy more.) I can see this point. But what if you deliberately limit yourself, even when using cards?

We get enough cash (and points) back every year to justify continuing our usual practice -- charging everything possible, but paying it off each month. No exceptions. (And we've only missed doing that three times in 28-plus years -- two by accident.) What about that, Suze? Wouldn't that be the best of both worlds?


What do you think?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Stationery Winners -- Needed to Re-Post This!

Stationery Giveaway Winners!

Hooray, we've got three winners for the stationery packs from Carolina Pad!
Leslie at Post Grad, JC , and my British friend of Notes from the Frugal Trenches -- this package is for you. (Update: Frugal Trenches, I haven't heard from you yet...e-mail me!)

I've left messages for all three of you; please contact me (cindybrick@comcast.net) with your snail mail address, so I can get these on the road. Consider it an early Christmas present from Brickworks and our buddies at Carolina Pad! (Thanks so much to them for the support.)

It is still cold. Really cold. And snowing. Have you ever heard "In the Bleak Midwinter," that old-time Christmas carol? The boys do their business as quickly as possible, then race back inside to curl up by the space heater. For some reason, the fireplace freaks them out, and they refuse to go near it. So much for the cozy image of dogs snoozing in front of crackling flames.

Time to dig out our collection of Celtic Christmas CDs. They have a wonderful mix of 'chilly' sounding music that's perfect for all kinds of snowy days. (My favorite one is here.)

Diane over at Quiltmaker magazine
mentioned that my long-unobtainable book, Hanky Panky Crazy Quilts, is back! And she's right. We had to buy the whole printing from ASN, but I haven't regretted it for a moment. Even with publicizing the book for only a few weeks, we already have dozens of orders. Want your own copy? It's $12.95, including shipping -- one of the best buys on the Internet. We're supposed to have the books in stock about Dec. 12, and will ship any orders out (giftwrapped, by the way) within 24 hours of getting the books at the Brickworks offices. (We won't charge your credit card or cash your check until we send your book, either.) Click here to order a little Hanky Panky for yourself...or someone you love. (We've got kits, too.)

You'll also want to take a look at Diane's Valentine-themed Hanky Panky variation, in the Jan/Feb 2010 issue of Quiltmaker. Pretty, pretty, pretty. (It's pictured on the blog post, as well.)

Stay warm. I mean it.

Make Your Own Paper Notebook -- and Fire 'Logs!'

I have a shameful confession to make.

I love notebooks.

Big ones, little ones, doesn't matter, as long as they have clean-smelling pages (gold-tipped edges are even nicer), pretty covers...and a pen's nearby. (Preferably one of those old-time fountain pens with silver nibs.)

And now, thanks to a new blog, The Art of Stinginess, I know how to make my own from scrap paper! Basically, he cuts two covers from something hard(er), a batch of pages (slightly smaller than the covers), clamps them together, glues them along one edge, then pastes on a spine cover.

Looks wayyy easy.

Hmmm. Couldn't I print out book pages and bind them this way for private editions? (I've been working on a cookbook of family recipes for the girlies, as well as Nephew and his wife, and Niece.) I'm going to try it -- will let you know if it works.

In the meantime, visit Mr. Stingy's Nov. 26, 2009 post. (Unfortunately, I can only give you a blog link, not the specific post link. Something about the way he set things up.) And when you're done there, go to the Nov. 20 post to know what to do with the paper leftovers -- very cool paper log/briquettes!

* * * * *
Mom's here, cozily ensconsed in Daughter #1's room (where it's warmer). I got an electric fireplace from Sam's Club, which she seems to really like. Basically where I need to go, she goes with me, including a pit stop at Big Lots to buy Swedish ginger thins (Husband's favorite cookie, only comes out at Christmas), imported olives and other goodies for Christmas stockings.
It's nice to have her here.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Welcome to the New North Pole

Went to Safeway last night to redeem the free clementines coupon. By the time I got back outside, the temp was -13!! I was afraid Buck, who was waiting in the car, would be a giant Weimie popsicle...but he was fine.

By the time we got home, some ten minutes away, it had moderated. To a balmy -9.

That's the story right now in Colorado. At least the snow has stopped, and we have plenty of sunlight...albeit no warmth.

The movie 2012 postulated that the earth's poles had shifted -- the new South Pole was now in Wisconsin. Gee, maybe it really happened, and someone forgot to tell us!

Time for some pork loin in the crockpot, with mushroom gravy, a shot of wine and a handful of chopped celery. It will be bubbly by the time I get home from the airport. I'll be picking up my mom, who's had two flights cancel on her since 'our' blizzard started making itself at home in Michigan.

Mom hates planes, and avoids them whenever possible. (I find that very amusing, since much of my business life is spent par avion, heading to or from somewhere.) At least my brother got her the last seat on a direct flight -- all she has to do is get on in Grand Rapids, and get off in Denver. I'll be waiting for her by baggage claim.

The dishes aren't done (yet), the tree (cut from National Forest land last weekend) isn't trimmed. But it will be lovely to have her here for the holidays.

Hang in there, Ma! I'm coming...

Monday, December 7, 2009

Some Random Stuff...and a Very Weird Experience

The "Barrel Man" , Tim McKernan, is dead. He's been sporting an orange-painted barrel and a cowboy hat for years at Broncos games. Football fans will miss his enthusiasm.

Safeway is offering a free five-pound box of clementines if you become a fan on Facebook. (The offer says good today (12/7), but my coupon's for use on December 8 only.) I also grabbed a $5 gift subscription to Good Housekeeping for Mom. (Other mags, including Country Living and Redbook, are available for this rockbottom price for a short time on Amazon. Thanks so much for passing the word, Coupon Cravings!)

An interesting post on low-cost and fast evening meals.

And recipes for Gluhwein (German-style hot mulled wine) and Christmas Glogg.

See...I told you it was random!

Went to see the movie 2012 last night. According to director Roland Emmerich, "I said to myself that I'll do one more disaster movie, but it has to end all disaster movies. So I packed everything in." He keeps his word, all right -- you've got everything from Los Angeles to Yellowstone to India being crashed into, breaking off/apart (I lost count of all the airport runways splitting juuuuust behind Our Heroes' taking-off planes), blowing up or (Emmerich's favorite) being inundated by ocean waves. It was fun in a weird sort of way, though I found myself rooting that the Hero would eventually be toast. (I still like Emmerich's Day After Tomorrow better, though it's also got plenty of hoke.)

The strangest part, though, came after the movie. We'd been having this whispery, heavy snow all day. The roads were slippery. Only a handful of people were at the 8 p.m. showing. We stayed to watch the credits -- alone, as usual -- and by the time we walked out, about 11 p.m., the lobby was deserted.

No one at the ticket counter. No one in the halls. No one in the office. No one at the popcorn counter.

Three cars in the deserted parking lot -- including ours. Lights gave a spooky, surreal glow. A light but impenetrable curtain of snow fogged the sky. Dead silent.

Only two people at King Soopers, where we stopped on the way home. (And they were clerks.)
Since 2012 ends with only a handful of people being saved, I started to wonder...did the rest of the world know something we didn't??

But then we saw a sheriff's patrol car at the stoplight, using his flashlight to trigger the green 'Go,' and I figured -- hey, if he's still around, probably all's well.

And it was.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Meredith's back!

COLD here...and has been snowing since last night. Light, tiny flakes. Unfortunately, they're not thick enough to force no school for tomorrow -- or so Husband thinks.

One of my favorite bloggers, Meredith at Like Merchant Ships, is finally posting again! I've missed her so much. True to form, even when she's talking about a subject that doesn't help me much (a Nutcracker's Suite ballet party for little girls), there's something wonderful tucked in as well -- like these cute little chocolate mice that may make an appearance in Daughters' Christmas stockings. (Here's another version, made with dried apricots.)

Tune in tomorrow for the results of the Great Stationery Giveaway. See you then.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Living Within Your Limits

It's hard for me to fathom living from paycheck to paycheck -- we've saved and scrimped for a long time, to keep from this happening. But I've also learned from the examples of people who do it regularly. (Here's another example of same.) You might, too.

Especially hard for those who get in this situation because of no insurance and high medical bills. Both Daughters do not have health insurance right now -- a reality that bothers us, but we can do little about. Neither is in school full-time, and that's the only way our insurance will cover them.

But if you can spend less than you earn, reality changes for the better very quickly.

It's a good reminder, when we're being pressured to buy, buy, buy during this holiday season.

Fresh Fruit

Trent from The Simple Dollar has a lot to say about seasonal produce -- and buying it at the right season, in order to get the best price.

He's right.

The girlies -- yours truly, too -- love clementines, those small, sweet mandarin-type oranges. Right now, they're about $1 a pound. We eat them by the five-pound box, and can easily go through two or three at a time, before the season ends and the prices go up.

Colorado has the best peaches in the world -- and that's coming from a girl who grew up in an area of Michigan where orchards were common next-door neighbors. We even had apple trees on our property that had seeded from the orchard across the fence!

Anyways, the best way to take advantage of that is to order a box of fruit from the Western Slope. Half of the forty pounds gets gobbled up right away; the rest is washed and bagged, two or three peaches at a time, in plastic bags for the freezer. You haven't lived until you've had a fresh-frozen peach smoothie, or a wash of peach sauce on ice cream.

Yum.

It feels ironic, even thinking of fresh fruit -- we got 6" of snow yesterday, and the temps plunged down below 10. The dogs do their business outside quickly, then rush back in for their warm blankets.

Back to work...

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells...

Snow, all right... about 6" so far, and coming down steadily. The birds are having a heyday under the feeder; I put in just sunflower seeds, and that is apparently caviar to them.

Take a minute -- send your favorite people a phone message from Santa, Sammy the Snowman or NASCAR driver Tony Stewart! And it's free, courtesy of King Soopers. There's a long list of names to choose from for your recipient; I was able to cover everyone but my mom (Bonnie).

The top guy on the list was brother Mikey, whose birthday is in two days. He'll get to hear from Santa about that. Only two days, also, to enter the stationery giveaway -- fire me a comment, and you're entered!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Getting Ready...

Restless. What the heck is wrong with me?

I think it's a combination of things --

*some business stuff needs to be finalized (boring paperwork-type stuff)
*the girlies have gone home
*back to 'normal' life -- washing, dirty dishes, bits on the carpet
*a long-worked-on job...that still needs another week's worth of effort
*schlepping everything out for decorating -- I want it out, just don't want to put it out!

Gripe, gripe, gripe.

Also, a blizzard is moving in...a prime ingredient for restless temps and feelings.

I stopped and had eggrolls with Daughter #1 on my way home from Denver this morning. Better. A few hours of cleaning...that business paperwork worked on. Salmon and sweet potato fries for supper; Husband and a friend to share it with. Best of all.

Monday Stuff On the Way to Other Stuff: Bathrooms

I'm not sure how...God's grace, I think. But we made it through a night and a day of Worship Team, flu notwithstanding. I'm pret...