Saturday, January 30, 2010

More Free Stuff...

...courtesy of a giveaway!

Frugal Upstate's blog is fun to read, anyways -- and her recipes are outstanding. Zip over there now, and you can sign up for her latest giveaway: a $50 gift certificate from Wal-Mart for a Superbowl party!

And don't forget MoneyCrashers' newest (massive) giveaway: you've got today and tomorrow to enter. Lots and LOTS of stuff could be yours, with chances for extra entries.

Overcast here, though the sun's still shining...just your basic "I've-got-lots-of-stuff-to-do" Saturday. Hope yours is going well.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Free Food!

Swap a candy bar wrapper for a free bag of Hershey's Pieces! Explanations and the redemption form are here, but don't dawdle...deadline is 2/10. (Darn it, I had an Almond Joy yesterday afternoon...and the wrapper has gone out with the trashman this morning.)

Let Qdoba take you out for lunch! They say that thousands of prizes are being given out daily. I only won a free drink today (darn it) -- so did Husband -- but I got a coupon for a free meal a few days ago.

And El Pollo Loco is giving out free Steak Quesadillas when you purchase 'stuff,' plus coupons for BOGO Steak Grillmaster Tacos. Go here for more info. (Thanks, Coupon Cravings!) Yummm...

I must be hungry...wish Husband would get home so we can go redeem that Qdoba coupon! Have a great weekend...

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Kirk Collection - Quilt Heritage Foundation - and Crazy Quilt Society

Nancy Kirk is a colleague in many ways, including appraising, teaching and writing. She wrote the foreward to my book, Crazy Quilts. She also was one of the first quilt professionals I ever met, during a show at Kansas City, when I was a fledgling editor for Quilter's Newsletter. (I admired one of the quilt tops her business, the Kirk Collection, was selling -- it's still in my collection.)

Ever since then, she has become a good friend. I've often taught for the nonprofit she co-founded with husband Bill and Camille Cognac, the Quilt Heritage Foundation.

In early January, The Kirk Collection and Quilt Heritage Foundation websites were hacked by Saudi Arabian terrorists. They managed to crash and erase everything. Fortunately, they were not able to access the mailing lists or personal info of customers or members...but those things could and did disappear. Permanently.

The websites are back up and slowly rebuilding. Nancy needs your help, though -- she is trying to re-collect a database of people interested in old quilts and textiles (The Kirk Collection and QHF), as well as quilt restoration (The Quilt Restoration Foundation) and Crazy Quilts. (Crazy Quilt Society).

Start the process at the Kirk Collection website. (I did.) Your info will be on a secure site, and not used for anything else but contact information for the groups mentioned.

An e-mail to Nancy (and your prayers) wouldn't hurt, either. She's had a rough few years, health-wise, and was just starting to get back up to speed.

Hang in there, friend.

Stuff on the Way to Other Stuff


Our 'tremendous' storm has turned out to be the weather equivalent of a two-year-old: a little temper tantrum, snow-wise, and now it's just sulking in the corner. Bleary skies, lots of fog, and a few sullen bits of snow now and then.


I've stumbled on all sorts of interesting things this week:

*A gallery of art accidents -- paintings, ceramics and such stumbled into, hacked at by maniacs, and even thrown away as trash! (I am not making this up -- go take a look.) The list includes works by everyone from Michelangelo to Picasso.

*The folks at Money Crashers are hosting a HUGE giveaway! Prizes galore, and it's easy to qualify for them. Take a look here, and don't hesitate -- deadline is Jan. 31 to enter. Preferably multiple times.

*The University of East Anglia -- whose scientists were behind the recent hacker-uncovered scandal on faking and covering up climate warming data. (Or non-warming, as the case may be. I covered this earlier...look here.) Anyways, the university has finally admitted that it deliberately ignored or delayed public requests for information...a federal offense. (Strangely enough, it's still doing it!)

*Strange presidential facts, from Panati's Extraordinary Endings of Practically Everything and Everybody. An amazing book, though more than a tad kinky in spots. (It's only a nickel at Amazon -- and a great book for your research library!)

      Tidbits from the U.S. President section:
     *Andrew Johnson (Lincoln's successor) sewed his own and his wife's clothes. He was so proud of his work that he would often point out details to his audience. (Hey, the guy was a tailor in one of his other lives!) Johnson was also the only president with no schooling -- he learned to read and write about age 18, taught by his wife.
     *James Monroe and his wife sold their worn furniture to the White House -- and kept the money. A big chunk of the rest of the 'redecorating' funds allotted by Congress went to lavish parties the Monroes threw -- sometimes $100 or more just on candles for an evening. (This became known as the "furniture scandal.")
     *Benjamin Harrison was the first to see electricity installed in the White House. He and his wife were so terrified of this new invention that they refused to touch the switches, for fear of being electrocuted. If there was no one else to turn off the switch, lights would blaze all night while the Harrisons slept.
     *William Henry Harrison gave the longest inaugural address -- hours on end -- and lasted the shortest in office: only a month. (He refused to wear proper headgear and clothing to the Inauguration out of respect -- caught a cold that never really went away.) Franklin Roosevelt, incidentally, delivered the shortest speech: only about 23 sentences, for his last term. (He didn't finish that one, either.)
     *Chester Arthur may have been Canadian-born...evidence suggests it was possible... thus disqualifying him for the office in the first place.
     *Calvin Coolidge was the first president with Indian blood in his ancestor line.
    *Barak Obama may not have been the first US president with black ancestry, after all -- evidence suggests that Warren Harding held that honor. (Though it was covered up.
     * One of Lyndon Johnson's first actions after becoming president -- get rid of John F. Kennedy's famous rocking chair.
     *Eleanor Roosevelt (Franklin's wife) was the first First Lady to actually get to vote in a presidential election.
     *Teddy (Theodore) Roosevelt's life was saved by a thick speech -- and a silver case -- stored in his pocket. A would-be assassin's bullet pierced both, and went a few inches into the president's hide, as well, but Roosevelt survived. (He also gave the speech before leaving for the hospital!)

Speaking of presidents, did you hear President Obama's State of the Union address last night? It was by far the most down-to-earth, sensible pronouncement (including admissions that mistakes had been made, both by him and -- gasp! -- the Democrats) that I have heard in decades. His goals are admirable...but Husband and I both thought, 'How in the world is he going to accomplish them?'
    Time will tell. I hope Congress was listening -- and taking him seriously.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Here It Comes!

It's 4 p.m. ...and just started to snow. Now if I can finish running errands before it really gets nasty...

The Calm Before the Storm's coming.
   Our Southern neighbors got smashed with a two-footer earlier this week...approx. 1" of snow per hour, with driving winds and ice. We're supposed to be next, starting sometime late today. Who knows if it will be just as bad here -- the mountains often protect us as much they 'hold' the storms in place. But there is an ominous stillness outside...just a breath of wind...and the sky is filled with wispy cloud trails. A sure sign that, as my dad would say ominously, "THERE'S A STORM COMING." (wiggle your eyebrows to get the same effect!)

Wal-Mart has one of the stranger clown commercials out there (for Superbowl, I think)...people are saying it's terrifying, but I couldn't stop laughing! Even better: the "Shake Your Booty" commercial. Check 'em out.

   See the things you get, by reading this blog?!?  Weird clowns and booty-shaking...whoo hoo!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Get a Subway!

Subway sandwiches are some of the healthiest fast food you can get. For a limited time, experiment with various ingredients on their site, and get a coupon for a free sandwich when you buy one!

Click here at  "My Sub, My Way" to get started.

Eating from the Pantry Challenge - More Thoughts

Whoo-hoo...only a gallon of milk's needed to get us through the month -- I just found a few dozen eggs in the back of the refrigerator! That's the flip side of having your mom come to stay for three weeks; I've found food items stashed in unusual places ever since she left. She has her system, I have mine, I guess.

I've gone over the goal already, but for good reasons -- like One Frugal Girl's post explains, it's really tough to give up good sales on items you really like. (Me too, Frug.) The temptation will be strong again today, when I hit Safeway for the milk, and see those 99-cents-per-pound pork loins they're advertising this week. (I will probably give in.)

The Prudent Homemaker has been keeping her budget down by using potatoes -- 360 pounds of them this winter. (She gets them for 20 cents a pound -- we pay double that. You'll want to take a look at her pantry system, too -- it's amazing. She mentions 'Funeral Potatoes' on her list of potato dishes, but no recipe. I found one here. Turns out it's a Mormon specialty...and to my great surprise, one of my mother-in-law's signature dishes!)

More lessons learned -- if there's less in the refrigerator and freezer, you can actually see what you've got. (I have a bad tendency To Stuff.) And just a bit of meat will flavor a whole dish. But the best lesson is with Husband -- eating hotdogs and leftover caramel corn with him on a Monday lunchtime, talking and laughing, is better than caviar by myself.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

More on Eating From the Pantry

Try Hillbilly Housewife's post on improvising while staring into her frig and freezer. Sounds a bit like a dance, with the steps made up as you go! She does some very interesting things with potatoes...and more.

Eating from the Pantry Challenge -- Week Three

To celebrate, I just finished Amarcord, Marcella Hazan's memoir of life in Cezantico (Italy), New York City, Bologna, New York City, Milan, Venice, Venice (Florida)...she began teaching Italitan cooking because she took a Chinese cooking class. After that class was over, her classmates asked her to teach them her "normal" dishes. Thus a career...several books...and an enchanting, very real look at her life, friends and family. If you liked Julia Child's memoir, you'll like this one, too.

For some of Marcella's signature recipes, including Veal Rolls with Pancetta and Parmesan (her husband Victor's favorite dish), try this collection. (I have an insane craving for fried zucchini blossoms, but those will have to wait until summertime.)

Week Three is ending for the January challenge...and other than the 'overage' from Sunday, I haven't spent anything else this week. So far, this experiment has had a few surprising results:
    *The refrigerator is less cluttered! (Makes sense, but I didn't think about it.)
    *So's the freezer!
And the most surprising of all - we've been going out to eat less than ever.
      I have no idea why the latter is happening. But somehow it's connected.

Some other discoveries:
     A pound of fresh spinach leaves goes astonishingly far. So far, we've had two salads, plus a few cooked dishes with green touches. One more salad and side dish's worth is left.
     Cheese helps. Grated, thin-sliced in sandwiches, chunked in soup...yum.
     Leftover pasta dishes and casseroles are surprisingly tasty thinned out with broth, and presented as a soup.
     And this pizza crust recipe from Frugal Upstate is absolutely amazing!

A dozen eggs, a gallon of milk tomorrow night...and that should do the trick.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Haitian News You May Not Be Hearing

A whole batch of articles, dealing with the earthquakes in Haiti, and their aftermath.
    Articles range from:
    *How everyday people are dealing with life on the streets

    *Do-gooders who show up unannounced and unwelcome...then use up precious resources, or have to be evacuated themselves
    *What progress is being made
    *Haitian elderly...who feel that they're dying unnoticed

The site takes a while to load, but it's worth it. These deal with issues I haven't seen discussed much elsewhere -- they're important.

Everybody's Money -- In Your Neighborhood, Too

Want to know what people with your general interests and inclinations are spending on food, travel, transportation?

Try this intriguing package, courtesy of Everybody's Money. The link will take you to a survey that shows how the general plan works. Don't get too confused by all the statistics and verbiage -- just head for the link that helps you target what personality type you are. The program will take a while to load, but it's worth it.

For Chez Brick, we are apparently "Globe Trekkers," in case you're curious -- but we spend a heck of a lot less monthly than our neighbors, travel included!

* * * * * * *

Bright, gusy weather -- brrrrr. But no snow; that's for our neighbors five hours south. They're getting lots of it.  This has been a uncertain week...working here, working there, trying to finish some things, waiting to see if others develop. Maybe this is my "resting" period...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Asking For It!

I believe in getting your money's worth. You worked hard for that $$, so why not spend it on a product that's worth it?

What if you purchase something, though, and it's not worth it? Like Husband's Christmas gift of a cable sweater from Kohl's that developed a rip in the seam after only three wearings? Or a bag of Doritos with several clumps of fused chips?

Ask for your money back. 

A calm letter or phone call is all it takes -- state what you got, when you got it, what the problem was. Emphasize that you know you're talking to a company who "stands behind its customers." (I use this phrase over and over.) Emphasize that this must have been an unfortunate oversight. Say you'd like your money back -- or be "compensated."

In the case of food items, you'll usually be offered replacement coupons -- and often more than one. If the company's big (and many are), you'll even be able to get something else from their product line. I turned a phone call about a Banquet TV dinner into two large boxes of fried chicken this way! I will also keep these coupons, then use them during BOGO specials or other sales, as well.

My letters/complaints started as a poor college student, when I got a nasty package of 'imitation' cheese, and wrote a letter about all the things it could be used for -- soap, doorstop, display stand, etc. A whole case of real cheese was the result!
     Since then, we've gotten reimbursed for weird cookies, nasty frozen entrees and even travel expenses...all because I took ten or fifteen minutes to call or write a short note. (E-mails are even quicker.)

I hadn't thought much about chronicling my totals for doing this.  For 2009, though, One Frugal Girl kept track of her complaints. Combined with "get this free" send-ins, referrals and other small actions, she earned nearly $5,000 this past year! I also remember a MONEY profile about a girl who took complaining to a high art -- she was a natural griper, and did it about everything from complaining about the weather on ski vacations (and asking for her money back from the resort) to griping about her McDonald's sandwich. She said she'd earned more $10,000 in "complaining income!"

Not everything is perfect, and you shouldn't expect it to be. If it's "ok," that's good enough for most things. There is a limit. Some of the MONEY profiler's complaints were valid -- but blaming the resort for the weather?!?

But standing up for yourself will produce several results -- for one, you'll feel less like a patsy when you bite into a stale doughnut, endure a nasty waitress, or get browbeaten by a snotty clerk. For another, you'll be getting better quality for your family's money. Finally, many companies want to know what their customers think -- you'll be (hopefully) contributing to a better product in the long run.

So don't hesitate -- speak up.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Frugal Map is UP and Running!

Bargain Briana, bless her heart, has a terrific new offering -- a 'Frugal Map' of the U.S. that lets you access frugal-themed bloggers in your local area. That way, you've got a great chance to find out more about bargains, usable coupons and more -- without worrying about whether they're applicable to your state or region!

I love this idea. (And yes, I'm applying to be on the map, too.)

Take a look -- then bookmark it for future use. It's sure to come in handy.

Happy MLK Day!

Husband slept in luxuriously, while I did an appraisal...and worked on Stuff. (Ok, I slept in a bit longer, too.) Our houseguests left on Saturday night. It feels so strange to be back to cooking for just two people -- plus dogs! And it's back to wandering around in underwear, to grab a clean pair of socks, or let the dogs out.


I wish I could say I was doing exciting stuff. I am, however, doing business paperwork that needs to be finished off, helping process orders, and cleaning up (slowly) all these accumulated piles. (Yvonne, the 15-minute rule is really coming in handy!) Thank God for being able to tape shows -- I let them play, turn up the volume, then treat them as if they were radio shows. It's amazing how much of the plot you can follow, if you take a good look at the characters in the beginning of the program, then just listen for new voices.

More tomorrow.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Donations for Haiti

I hope you've taken a minute and made a generous contribution to any of the Haitian relief organizations. We are so rich, compared to many other countries -- couldn't you go without a dinner out, or another pair of new shoes, and help out a family, instead?

Our church took up an offering for Compassion International this morning -- many have been sponsoring kids there and elsewhere in the world. (We have two sons ourselves through Compassion -- Jao in Brazil, and Nelson in Africa.)

Some bloggers have been offering to donate extra for every comment you make -- check out this list, thanks to Coupon Cravings. Iit's a great way to stretch your time in extra funds.

Our money will be going to Samaritan's Purse this weekend -- more than we had originally planned to give, but less than I wish... these people so desperately need help.

The Pantry Challenge -- Over (But Not Over!)

I am a bad girl.

Tonight's $29-and-change total at King Soopers pushed me over the $50 limit for this month by about $10-15. It was my fault -- KS had a bunch of specials, including a coupon for a free pizza, good only through today. I also picked up three Marie Callender frozen meals -- they were on sale, I had a $1.50 coupon off, and Husband loves them. (He'll also eat them, instead of spending much more on fast food, while I'm out on a gig.)

Considering these coupons were going to expire (use 'em or lose 'em) -- and we've had house guests for the past two weeks, I don't feel terrible about going over. But it will still be lean pickins' for the rest of the month. We have a lot in the freezer and on pantry shelves that needs to be used up.

I found out something accidentally -- if you absentmindedly bring in a competitor's coupons (like Safeway), your local King Soopers may very well honor them, too!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Harry & David's Great Sale!

Great Bargain alert --

Harry & David not only has a terrific sale on some of their gift baskets (up to 50% off)...but a good number are free shipping, as well!

The Mama will get a January reminder that she's special to us -- so will Aunt Fran in Kansas City. (I'd worry about mentioning it in this blog, but neither person uses the computer, or reads anything online. So I'm safe.)

Here's your chance to make someone happy -- at a frugal cost.

Clementines...Orange Bliss!

My California buddies sent a bag full of fruit home on Wednesday...including some of the tiniest, sweetest tangerines I have ever eaten. Two could easily fit in your hand.

They are a blissful treat to this shivering, achy body. Thanks so much, friends. 

Messy Thrilling Life feels the same, (with the addition of a little chocolate) and reminds that they're an affordable blessing, as well.

Donating to Haiti

Things are pretty subdued here.

    Partly because I'm not feeling well (apparently flu)
    Partly because Husband went to Boulder to have lunch with the girlies (sigh...wish I could have gone, too)

...and partly because the chaos in Haiti seems far more important than any silliness here.

What can we do? Right now, donating funds seems the best response -- and quickly.
    I'll be frank here -- I do not trust the Red Cross. In past situations, they were quick to use disaster money donations for other things -- including bloated management salaries. Much of the money sent for 9/11, for example, never went to that cause at all!  One of my uncles remembered seeing Red Cross volunteers during WWII selling food to the troops...and Salvation Army volunteers giving it away. I remember this whenever I hear of another Red Cross scandal -- and there have been many.

Two organizations that pass the honesty test:

The Mennonite Central Committee. This group already has workers in place, and they have one of the highest percentages of donations going directly to the cause, rather than the organization -- nearly 100%.

Samaritan's Purse. Famous for sending shoeboxes of goodies to kids in various countries at Christmastime. ("Operation Christmas Child") This group also has done a great deal of good, with very little funds going to overhead. It's led by Franklin Graham, Billy and Ruth's son. They also have relief workers currently in place.

I hope you'll consider donating to either or both groups...I plan to. The Haitians need our help -- fast.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Fuzzy, Furry Pillows...from a Surprising Source!'s bathmats! Take a look here-- many colored photos.

Frugal Tips -- Some of Which You SHOULDN'T Do!

I'm still catching up... having house guests, books to ship, suitcases to put away AND a quilt to finish up means you don't get much else done for a while.

So here are a few things to consider, until I get my act together:

The Best Cheapskate contest, complete with hundreds of entries (and some really gross ideas, like soaking and reusing dental floss. Bleah...)

What makes you still feel rich, even though that 'thing' is frugal/sensible?

Back to work...who knows, maybe the staffer can even get all these orders to the post office tonight.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


I've been teaching in Camarillo, CA for the guild there. (Hi guys!) This group contains some of the nicest, interesting people I've met in a long time...we had lots of fun thinking Crazy possibilities. California friends, I can't wait to see what you come up with -- send photos PLEASE!

Two very long home at 1 a.m. this morning, after hours at the Burbank and Las Vegas airports Husband dragged himself out of bed this morning to teach his own class. I got to work on the Hanky Panky big quilt, but progress was slow.

So that's what I've been doing. 
News noticed on the way to other things: 

Miep Gies died this week, aged 100. She was the friend to pick up Anne Frank's diary, and save it for Otto Frank...and the world. An incredible woman.

The police find a buried schoolbus in North Carolina -- full of pot plants. 

The Haitian earthquake...what a horrible mess. Current news reports say aid is slow getting there. So to express their anger, people are building roadblocks out of earthquake least two were noticed by a photographer, and mentioned to the Reuters news service.

I don't get it. If you are desperately waiting for help to arrive (via the roads), why block them with corpses? 

A Swedish Weight Watchers clinic floor collapses...during a 20-some member weigh-in.

A kid lands a world record marlin (more than 1,000 pounds!)...and has to fight off sharks to do it.(Shades of Hemingway's Old Man and the Sea.)

And finally -- nine sneaky expenses that lose you money, if you're not paying attention, courtesy of Get Rich Slowly.

Back to work...I miss my new Camarillo buds, but it's soooo nice to snuggle up against Husband's back, to drink my own coffee, to wear heavy socks and watch Judge Judy. 

Even if it's going to snow again shortly.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Eat from the Pantry Challenge, Wk Two -- and Sleep

Frugal Dad is vowing he's going to make four new changes for the new year, including 8 hours of sleep nightly, and an hour of exercise daily.

Yeah, right.

We have had the wackiest sleep schedule all week -- usually up until 1 or 2 a.m., getting five or six hours, then crashing at night before doing it all over again. Not pretty. A two-hour nap helped this afternoon, but it's past 11 p.m., I need to pack for a gig in Camarillo, CA tomorrow -- and once again, 1 a.m. sleeptime is staring me in the face.

Only $6.22 spent at King Soopers tonight. We got a lot for our money-- a discounted box of fried chicken, a bag of salad (also discounted--part of our new resolve to eat more fresh veggies), and a gallon of milk -- 99 cents! That brings the total for the month to approx. $30. I don't plan to shop again for at least a week.
   Lots of stuff left in the frig, and we've almost worked through all the holiday cookies. Thankfully. The sugar cookies decorated by my piano kids have been dubbed the 'gravel pit' cookies, for all the stuff lumped onto them.

Off to make some good strong tea-- then finish packing.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Food Stamps

The faces of people who live primarily on food stamps -- a slide show and an interesting article, to boot. Take a minute to examine these peoples' stories. It seems clear; some are using this for the short-term opportunity it's meant to be. Others have been living this way longer than they would like to admit.

Makes you think. How can these people be helped in such a way that they'll be able to stand on their own two feet -- rather than lean on the government for the rest of their lives?

Saturday Wanderings

A strange day, compared to the usual. We went to a funeral this morning, saw people we had not talked to for years...then did errands, with Husband still in tie and dresscoat. Wouldn't you know it -- we kept running into friends, especially at Wal-Mart, who would notice H. and do a double-take. The last time he was so formally dressed, it was either another funeral...or a wedding. Can't remember which.

The Nester has a nice giveway right now -- a $50 gift certificate for some very nice mixed jewelry (pearls, stones, charms and such). It ends Monday, though, so hustle over there.

Just got a free sample in the mail -- Kellogg's has a new flavored Pop-Tart: Wild Grape. I liked the taste a lot -- it's much more tangy, and contrasts nicely with the (froggy green) frosting sprinkles and swirl on top.

Re-found a wonderful home dec/crafting blog I think you'll like, too:  Homebody Holly. I look at her photos and think, "Gee, I could actually make that!"

Our house guests have left for a few nights...staying with other friends, and visiting a church tomorrow that supports them. (Cynthia and Joel are missionaries to Hungary.) Yesterday we had a special treat (to them): the Pizza Hut Meat-Lovers version. I had to confess that it was special for us, too...we always get Little Caesar's, because it's cheaper!

And now I will stop wandering around, finish the dishes, clean a bit...then settle in for an evening of stitching. Hope you're having a good weekend.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Eat From the Pantry Challenge...and Gracie

I was very proud of myself tonight -- the farmers fry we had for supper made good use of boiled potatoes, leftover ham, couple of mushrooms and half an onion, with ambrosia (cut-up orange and fresh 99-cent pineapple, with a shmutz of whipped cream) for dessert.

Still doing ok. Milk's getting low, but it's on sale for 99 cents at the local King Soopers all weekend!

A passage in Grace Livingston Hill's Patch of Blue keeps coming to mind. 'Gracie' was a wonderful, if occasionally corny spinner of frugal romances -- a rich person gets their comeuppance and has to go live on the same street as their laundrywoman (horrors!).  But then they scrub out the grubby house and make it look nice; get honest work (grocery store clerk, office secretary, whatever);  meet the girl/boy of their dreams and life gets all rosyfied. These are awfully fun to read when it's raining and dreary out, you've got a cup of hot tea and a fireplace to drink it by.

In Patch of Blue, one of Gracie's very best, Natalie (the poor-but-wonderful girl) has just gotten a job. She and sister Janice have to keep things going for their sick mother. They "set their meager array of eatables out grandly, apportioning them for each day of the week, jubilant that it was going to be possible to get through to the first payday:"
     What's for supper? "'Toast and tea and a cup of junket for Mother,' said Natalie...'creamed codfish on toast with a dish of dried apple sauce apiece [for you and me], and warmed over cocoa. We simply have got to hoard every crumb till next Saturday. Can you stand it, Jan?' she looked at her sister anxiously.
     "'Sure thing,' said Janice bravely...'Aren't I husky enough to survive a week of codfish and apple sauce?'
     "'We're eating the codfish to-night so we can have a meat ball apiece to-morrow,' appeased the sister.
      "'Noble sacrifice!' giggled Janice. 'On to the codfish! Let joy be unconfined! No sleep till morn while youth and beauty meet --' is that the way it goes?'"

Follow the link above -- and you can get Patch of Blue for only one cent on Amazon! April Gold, Crimson Roses and Homing , some of Gracie's finest in this style, are only a penny, too.

Hill actually went through a period in her life when she was broke and hungry. Her pastor husband died suddenly; Grace and her young children were forced to leave the parsonage, with no income or prospects. She began writing novels as a way to survive. Every time she lived on shredded wheat crackers and a bottle of milk, every bowl of bean soup she ate, every meal gone without, every hem fixed or skirt reworked show up clearly. She wrote what she knew.

Here's to hoarding every crumb till next month...but I think I'll skip the codfish.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Brrr...and Goals

Man, it's cold here.

The snow stopped and skies cleared, but even the sunshine had the impact of a refrigerator light. The house is like a giant popsicle. The boys arrange themselves in delicate curlicues, rump end snuggled up to the nearest source of warmth. (Usually the other dog.) Makes me wish I had a permanent fur coat, too, although I won't think that in July.

Ah well. That's what coffee is for.

In between here-and-there jobs, plus sending out a boatload of orders. (Where did you people come from, all of a sudden?? Staffers are still out on vacation, so it's just me for a week.) I've been thinking about goals for 2010. Yeah, everyone's considering that right now, including one of my favorite bloggers, Crazy Aunt Purl. Her conclusion -- to keep heading back to her 'happy place.' But if I said that, Husband would drag me off to the nuthouse -- and the girlies would help. (Sorry, Laurie.)

So here are a few Modest Proposals for 2010:

*I will enter more competitions. This weekend will mark the second bookpool that Quilts of the Golden West is dabbling its toes in: the Colorado Book Awards. (A few weeks ago, it got entered in the Spur Awards, which are given to the best Western-themed books out there.) Did you know that you have to nominate yourself for these kinds of things? Plus supply umpteen books (for free) and often an entry fee, as well? I think I want to be a book competition judge when I grow up...
   I hesitate to mention this, for fear I've have gone to all the trouble, and the judges will think my poor quivering little 'baby' is a doofus and laugh themselves to death. And if I don't win anything, you won't be hearing much, either...unless you ask. (And then I'll be embarrassed.) But it's called accountability. There, now you know. I entered. Two contests. Please don't hurt me.

*I will learn how to add photos to this blog. Last year, it was links -- which I figured out. Photos can't be that much harder.

*I will save 10% of all my speaking gig earnings. Off the top. And no exceptions, unless we have an earthquake, the Pope comes to visit...or something.

*I will make more of an effort to keep in touch. I do ok on the blog...but I want to do better. And I want to write letters weekly to the girlies and Mom. Maybe short notes will help.

*I will clean more -- in shorter periods. The house looks sooo much better when it's picked up. I am finding that I can get myself to vacuum, dust, and do dishes more readily if I break these tasks into parts. (Example: Run hot water to soak the dishes in the pan. Scrub those, put them in the draining rack. Put another load in the dishpan. Go off to 'see a man about a dog...' and read an article or two. Come back, put the clean dry dishes away, scrub the new dishes, and so on.)
     Secondary goal:  Hire someone to come in and clean overall at least once a month.
     Thirdundary (!!!) goal:  I will put away all of the suitcases of samples, stuff for sale, etc. after I get back from a speaking/teaching gig. No more living with piles and boxes until I get 'a minute.'

*I will make better use of freezer and pantry space. Participating in the Eat from the Pantry Challenge has made something very clear -- I am a stuffer from way back. A lot of times, I'll re-buy items because I can't see them, and think we're out. No more of this. I want to be able to glance at the shelf, and know what we've got. (Plus it's no fun to have packages cascade out when you open the door.)

*Ditto inventory and business space. It's a madhouse down there.

And finally:

*I will forgive myself for not being perfect -- and with God's help, just do the best I can. 

That in itself will help me get through this challenging, inviting year. Who knows what can happen! Now let's hear some of your New Year's resolutions -- that way, we can keep each other accountable.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Pantry Challenge -- One Week Update

The challenge to live on the contents of your freezer and pantry continues. This month, my goal is to spend only $50 on groceries. So far, everything's fine -- even with two house guests. I did buy a gallon of milk (marked down to $1), 3 boxes of cereal for approx. $12 (Husband loves his raisin bran, what can I say), and a $6 (marked down) package of steak. I put half the steak in the freezer for later, and used the rest for an onion goulash.
   So $19 down, $31 to go. We've still got most of another gallon of milk, lots of eggs, and even most of a five-pound box of tangerines. With care, they should last into early next week. I wish I had more fresh vegetables, but we can get by for now -- we've got lots of carrots, and even celery and onions. Same old story: know that you're supposed to be getting by without something, and you begin to crave it...

One Frugal Girl is sticking with the challenge, too -- see her post here.

Storm's here! And Julie vs Julia...


The temp dropped dozens of degrees in literally less than an hour. All day it's been gloomy and windy, with hard bits of snow crashing against my piano students' cheeks. (The little dears.) A fire in the fireplace tonight when Husband gets home, with a hot spicy bowl of beans and rice alongside to warm up his innards.

We finally watched Julie and Julia last night... and I was so disappointed. It's all about a girl who vows to cook her way through Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking -- in a year. And blog about it.

The movie is actually a combination of Julie Powell's blog (or book Julie and Julia) and Julia Child's memoir, My Life In France. And where there's Child, it's interesting -- Julia's husband Paul had his reputation savaged by Senator McCarthy's hearings, but there is much about his career and work, as well as the years of effort Julia put into teaching and learning about cooking, as well as a cookbook co-written with two Frenchwomen -- one whose convenient headaches and stomaches made sure she didn't do much of the work.

But when the movie turns to Julie (the blogger), when it's not focusing on her cooking skills, it makes her into a whiny, demanding brat. She actually seems proud of the "meltdowns" she has when things don't go right. And when the real Julia Child doesn't approve of her blog, and refuses to have anything to do with her (more on this in a bit), she has yet another temper tantrum. One of the silliest bits of the movie ensues here, when her husband says soothingly, 'Ah, don't worry about it -- you know the 'real' Julia.' (I.e., the one she's been talking to in her head.)

After the final stomach-gagging scene, wherein Our Heroine gushes, 'Oh Julia, you pulled me out of the saved me!' I thought hopefully that perhaps the real blogger wasn't like this. She would never be such a narcissistic twit.

Au contraire. The real Julie Powell did indeed do a blog on cooking Julia Child's dishes. She also prided herself on preening, posturing and her glorious potty mouth. Powell's sequel, Cleaving, which just came out this year, is a crowing, back-patting account of an affair she had (no excuses -- hey, a good time is worth it!), while learning how to butcher meat. (I am not making this up. I wish I were.)
    Oh by the way, she's still married. The poor guy.

Here's what Julia Child's editor said:

   "Flinging around four-letter words when cooking isn’t attractive, to me or Julia. She didn’t want to endorse it. What came through on the blog was somebody who was doing it almost for the sake of a stunt. She would never really describe the end results, how delicious it was, and what she learned. Julia didn’t like what she called ‘the flimsies.’ She didn’t suffer fools, if you know what I mean."

She's right.

I have no idea -- except for the Julia part, and Meryl Streep's fine acting -- why this movie became so popular. It's gotta be the food, which admittedly sounds glorious -- even the boned duck.

Do yourself a favor. Skip the movie. Skip the books. (Julie Powell's, that is.) Find a copy of My Life in France -- it's fascinating, especially for cooks and beginning authors, but makes the post-WWII period much more understandable.
   And take a minute to watch Julia Child in action on one of her many cooking tv show reruns, or find a copy of one of her cookbooks. She would be pleased -- and so will you.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Pennywise Storage -- Out of Newspapers!

Make a cool woven newspaper box to hold your (ahem)...newspapers.

Here's another version that's a tad more 'girly.' (It has narrower strips, I think.) Either one is very cool -- and won't cost much to try at all!

Still musing about this year's goals. (And a big storm is moving in.) Back tomorrow to tell you more about both.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Monday Musings on a New Year

Woke up a little after 7 a.m., as if someone had just slapped me...places to go, people to see, stuff to do! Ordered some books, made coffee, let the dogs out (not in that order). The others in the house are gradually getting up now, too -- and all I want to do is go back to bed, coffeecup in hand!

Try starting your new year by getting to know a new blog friend better -- The Nester. She takes a 'make do with what you've got, plus clearance/thrift shop stuff' approach that is fascinating, including a plea for what she calls "slow decorating." The easiest way to soak it all in: some of her best posts for 2009. (Don't miss the links on the 'Price My Space' party -- they're crammed with inspiration.)

What did this past year bring? The strangest mix of heartbreak and happiness...

*Business as usual. Life at Brickworks continues to grow. I just wish the teaching gigs didn't have to jam themselves together so much, making some months hectic and others dead. Rather than flopping over during quiet periods, I need to discipline myself to Finish Up Things. This new year is looking even more complicated in that respect.

*Quilts of the Golden West came out in September! (And continues to do well, thanks in part to reviews and peoples' interest.) Hanky Panky Crazy Quilts was re-issued in December, and is still alive and well.

*My dad's death in February. I miss this big, quiet Dutch farmer so much.

*Daughter #2 started an appraisal/certification course for gemology. (As of January, she's about halfway through.) I am so proud of her.

*Daughter #1 is going back to school to finish up her BA in Psychology. She starts in a week or so. I am so proud of her, too!

*We are losing our dogs slowly. Our babies, our boys. Buck is 14+, and Goonie incredibly old age for Weimaraners. They both have difficulty getting up or moving quickly -- hip dyplasia is causing their legs to give out. We came close to losing Goonie just before Christmas -- the second scare this year. I'm not naive. I figure one or both will be gone by spring.

*Big expenses coming. We're looking at $1000-plus for car repairs in the next month. The Hanky Panky books must be paid for -- a huge hit, all at once. We'll replace the house's windows this year -- another huge hit, softened a bit by the tax credit.

*Holding our own -- and actually gaining ground! Bills paid, enough in the savings emergency fund to pay house taxes, repairs made in time, deadlines generally did we do it? By God's grace, that's how.

I am so grateful for His care.

This post is long -- so I'll finish with new goals in a bit. Thank you for going through this year with me; it's been nice, having you along for the ride. 

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Sleeping with Royalty

The future King of England, sleeping on cardboard boxes near Blackfriars Bridge?

He did raise his own (and others') awareness of the homeless, and what they must face daily in London. And elsewhere.

Read more about Prince William's experience, with the CEO of Centrepoint. (Thanks so much for mentioning this, Notes from the Frugal Trenches.)

Beans..and Hobbit Homes

A few links, while I've been wandering around the Internet, that you'll want to visit, too.

One for the Pantry Challenge:  Frugal Dad talks a lot about beans. In many different versions. (Some helpful ideas here for getting through the month.)

And this, if you've ever admired those snug hobbit dwellings on Lord of the Rings: a hobbit home you can build for yourself! (Some nice links on this post, too. Thanks so much for passing this on, Frugal Zeitgeist.)

Another hobbit home here, this one built with bags stuffed with old clothing (for better insulation) and building materials, then plastered over. And this seems to be a admiration site for the earth-bermed hobbit home look, as well as general earth-built homes. Some practical how-tos for building green, as well.

* * * * * * *

Friends Joel and Cynthia Shigo are in town, and staying at the house for much of this month -- as well as a few weeks in Feb. (They came in just shortly after we got home earlier this week...on the heels of Da Mama's homegoing.) The Shigos have been working with missions in Hungary for the past decade; they're on furlough now, and planning on visiting here and there, as well as finishing up business before they have to leave again.

Our kids grew up together, and Joel and Cynthia have had an active part in our church life, as well. It will be nice to get to know each other again in these weeks of close contact!

(Almost) Back in the Saddle Again

The day we took Da Mama to the airport, Husband and I went to Denver for a few days...not that many miles from home, technically speaking, but it felt like a continent away. We slept in, ate breakfast while watching the passersby (nothing like enjoying your coffee inside when people are shivering down the street outside past you!), and spent some time with Daughter #1.

And I hardly looked at biz stuff. A rare occurence nowadays.

Have you decided to join the Eat from the Pantry Challenge too? MoneySavingMom helped start it, but a whole bunch of people are vowing to spend a bare minimum on grocery purchases this month, electing to live primarily off stuff from their pantries and freezers. Other than catching myself reaching for extra meat at the supermarket this week (I was shopping for a wedding open house I helped cater on New Year's Day), and mentally spanking my hands away, it's going great. Nothing critical's needed..and I even have a spare gallon of milk stashed in the freezer. Yay!

Hope your newest year is beginning to perk along, too. See you on Monday, when the Christmas tree's down, floor's swept, and I start to get into the swing of things.