Monday, May 31, 2010

Rags to Riches

I am a huge fan of Horatio Alger fact, I have about 30 in my collection. Horatio's boys are poor, proud and honest. In spite of hard situations and lots of abuse from snotty, sneaky rich boys, Our Heroes triumph. Too bad the girls are usually younger little sisters that need to be taken care of, or rich girls that are just perfect for marrying...but hey, I got plenty of inspiration from the boys.

My favorite Horatio character is that lippy opportunist, Ragged Dick. When one of his enemies whacks him and says, "Perhaps you've seen me before," Dick whirls around and says, "Now you've seen me behind." I'll comfort myself sometimes with what Dick calls "cheering reflections" -- really, they're snappy responses to insults from people.
     Dick saves the money he earns as a bootblack (lesson #1, don't waste your pennies on cigars, oyster stews and going to the theater). He rescues a little girl when she falls in the water,  earning a reward, a new suit and a job offer. He gives his best friend a place to live, and that friend teaches him how to read, write a fine hand, and do figures. (lesson #2, generosity pays off -- and so does educating yourself -- Dick eventually becomes a bookkeeper). All along, Dick defends himself from people who look down on his bootblacking equipment, especially that sneering Roscoe Crawford, whose only quality is that he's a "gentleman's son." (He's an idiot at everything else.) Needless to say, by the end of the novel, Roscoe gets his, Dick's friend gets promoted...and so does Dick. What a guy. (You'll want to read Fame and Fortune and Mark the Match Boy to get the full flavor of this rough-hewn Everyman, but start with Dick's first novel. It's online, thanks to Project Gutenberg.)

Here are a list of billionaires who started out poor or in situations against the odds.  More "rags to riches" people are listed here; links to their stories from their name. Some surprised me!

Hope you had a very happy Memorial day.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Holiday Cooking for A Crowd

I come from a long line of huge families. Little Brother and I were the only ones in our family. (Good thing -- any more, and we might have killed each other.) But my mom was the youngest of eight, who, with our family's exception, had 5-8 kids themselves. Since my oldest cousin is now in his sixties, with grandchildren of his own, and youngest cousin has 13 kids herself (I am not making this up), get-togethers have a zany quality that suggests the Marx Brothers married into the Three Stooges. People talking excitedly about politics and religion. (Anyone with Cumings blood seems to love to argue!) Teenagers slouching around, heads, minds and earbuds in la-la land. (Unless a cute boy is around.) Kids running everywhere, needing napkin wipes, owie kisses and trips to the bathroom.
My dad, a very quiet man, and Husband, equally quiet, viewed all this mayhem with amusement. They would settle down by their favorite person for a long, tranquil chat (for Husband, it's often Cousin Phil), keeping an eye out for when the paddles finally slowed down, and the homemade ice cream was done. A circle of kids, still damp from the swimming pool, hovered nearby, waiting for spoonfuls of the icy stuff, or a chunk of watermelon. All this while the humid breeze slowed, and the red-orange sun slowly went down.
   We still have crickets (but no's too dry here), and the wading pool's been exchanged for a hot tub. But I still love a good family get-together.
    Memorial Day, we'll be doing just that with old friends, the Robbersons, who used to babysit our girlies when they were little, along with some other old friends. Making up food for a crowd doesn't frighten me -- I grew up with a mom who catered, and have done more than a little of it myself, including weddings, graduations and ten years of luncheons for senior citizens. (One of my great joys in life is watching Daughters #1 and #2 both take on their own catering jobs -- Daughter #2 is doing a wedding in mid-August.)

    Tricks that have helped me:
*Buy everything on sale. This may mean buying early and stashing in your freezer or pantry...but it's worth it. If you must pay full price, don't buy it.
*Arrangement is more important than you think. A platter of vegetables, ranged with sprigs of rosemary. A tomato rose, blooming by the bowl of dip. Green sliced kiwi, arching around the salad. Edible flowers, ranged around the cake plate. These are simple to do, but make equally simple meals visually exciting. 

*Serve pitchers of drinks. Pop in cans can really add up, but lemonade or punch, with a spritzer or can of pop or a kick of pomegranate juice added at the last minute, tastes great and costs much less. If you must serve soda, buy some of those large plastic bottles and put them out with cups.
*Keep your veggies and fruit as fresh as possible. That's what gardens and farmers' markets are for.
*Make one or two fancy dishes -- don't worry as much about the others. The simpler dishes will only draw attention to the lavish ones. This took me years to learn. Making all of your dishes elaborate, highly sauced or nitpicky-done will be the culinary equivalent of everyone talking at once...and no one listening.

*If the main course is expensive, add a cheaper, filling one. Soup and/or chips and dip will keep people from gobbling down that New York Strip you've mortgaged your budget for. So will baked potatoes. Scooped out, then restuffed with sour cream, cheese, onion and chives, they become "twice-baked" -- and elegant. Vichyssoise sounds wonderful -- but it's just potato-and-leek (onion, if you're desperate) soup.

*Keep kid-friendly foods on hand, no matter how elegant the rest of the meal is. Nothing will steam your good mood faster than to see a kid eat one bite, then throw away the rest of that lovely NY Strip. Don't let them do it -- keep burgers and some hot dogs on the grill, as well. Serve your adult guests that cake you worked so hard on -- let the kids help themselves to the chocolate chip cookies, instead.

*Always have extras stashed away, just in case you run low on food. Bottles of pop, dry mix for lemonade or punch, instant tea. Chips and salsa, jars of sauce, grated Italian cheese, pasta. Canned crab that can be quickly converted into a hot dip with crackers. Canned or dry soup. Boxes of cookies. These all help stretch out what you've got, and can go back into the pantry for future use.
*Set out nibbles after dessert. These need not be elaborate -- a bowl of nuts, apples polished shiny, a box of Really Good cookies or chocolates. They go well with tea, coffee or that last sweet lacing of lemonade from the pitcher's bottom. Even more, though, they say, "You're important to me. Let's stay awhile and talk."

Cheap Healthy Good has their own take on this subject, especially for feeding a group of fussy people. Well worth reading...

Happy Memorial Day weekend -- remembering those many soldiers who gave of their lives and themselves so we could celebrate freedom.

image courtesy ace clip art.

Friday, May 28, 2010

NEW Giveaway!

It's a new contest! Blog readers liked the Carolina Pad collection giveaway so much that I'm doing it again --

take a minute to leave a comment on any of the posts for the next few weeks, and you're entered to win a "Chat Bundle" of Carolina Pad's "Chat" collection -- including a binder, 1-subject notebook and three 2-pocket folders. (In fact, it's so new that it's not on the website yet! But each item is covered with stylized words and letters...perfect for a returning-to-school kid or writer of any age.)

You can follow Carolina Pad on Facebook , or Twitter (@carolinapad). Contest ends June 10, and we'll draw a random winner soon after.

Take a minute to let me know your favorite Carolina Pad collection...or:
What would you use your "Chat" collection for?

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Taco Bell -- And Burger King -- Rockies Specials on Friday!

Yes friends, our beloved Rocks have done it again --

not only won the game today (8-2), but did it in spectacular fashion with three, count 'em, three back-to-back home runs in the 7th inning!

Which means that if you live in Colorado, not only can you get four tacos for a buck on Friday from 4-6 p.m. (with purchase of a medium drink) -- you can also get a free Whopper (with purchase of a drink) from 2-4 p.m.!

Enjoy... hey, it's Friday.

Stuff and More Stuff

Going in all sorts of directions today...

**Monster Quest has had all sorts of fun airing its Bigfoot/Sasquatch specials...including a rather silly "Snowbeast" version about Mr. S's doings in Colorado. Unfortunately, instead of dealing with the vast batch of credible reports, we are treated to guys riding horses aimlessly, and buzzing coyotes in helicopters. They also peer into an abandoned mine, notice some leaves blown in and posit that this, of course, is a bona fide Bigfoot cave.
    Give me a break.
    Skip the "Snowbeast" episode and press your ear to these audio excerpts of Bigfoot-related 911 calls, sightings and animal calls. Far more interesting, especially the "samurai chatter" and "911 call" items.

Another installment in the talking kitty episodes...this one's on fish.

Free mayo samples from Kraft!

And if you're living in Colorado, you're probably headed to Taco Bell this afternoon -- our beloved (and before this, losing) Rockies hit 7 runs in last night's game, which means 4 tacos for a buck at the Bell. Provided you order them before 4-6 p.m.

**From the "Strange Details" department: A look at Peter Getty's messy divorce proceedings. Getty, a billionaire, is described as a tad weird because he has "a penchant for knitting!"

And the funniest fight scene ever -- anchorman Ron Burgundy's network anchor fight. Hilarious...especially if you've seen West Side Story, the Magnificent Seven, gladiator movies and spaghetti Westerns. 

 I'd rather be fishing in Alaska, and putzing about with the whales.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Going Away

My zippity census job finished today -- blank forms passed on, EQs turned over, cloth briefcase handed in. (Darn it, I'd hoped to use that 'census bureau' label as a quilt back!) A few extra days' pay would have been nice, but honestly, I was ready for it to go. It's no fun trudging through hallways on a windy evening while your husband is cosily at home, watching the "24" finale. (He taped it for me, the sweetheart.)

Daughter #1 spent the night, and headed back today...the house, without her and dog Jack, seems strangely quiet. I feel restless. How about a trip?

So I traveled off to an island off the East Coast, and met with a woman whose husband is a commercial lobsterman. She's a knitter, and runs a bakery, too. A satisfying break away from the windy weather and to-do list around here. You can visit her at her blog, Maine Island Knits... tell her I said hi.

Reusing (Or Re-Gifting) A Gift Card

One Frugal Girl, bless her little heart, is debating this because she received a rather beat-up gift card as a present. She wonders whether this is tacky.

I'd say -- why not? Am I going to throw away dollar bills because they're a little wrinkly, instead of crisp and new? Also, we sometimes get gift cards from well-meaning relatives to their favorite restaurants...which may or may not be in our area. (They forget that what's big in Michigan may not be that easy to find out here in Colorado.) Would I be a clod to send that card on to another person who DOES have that restaurant close by?

Of course not. 

Although MSN Money points out the cheesiness of gifting a card you've been using -- an uneven balanace (like $14.56, from an originally-$20 card) is a dead giveaway.

Target frequently offers gift cards as part of their promotions, and we snag those gift cards for graduation presents. (We've had a ton of kids to buy for this year.) I often include books as part of the package -- books of a type I wish someone had thought to give me so many years ago. This year's grads have received The Millionaire Next Door, one of the most practical financial books ever, or one of Suze Orman's books -- I got the most out of The Courage to Be Rich. These titles are going for really reasonable prices on Amazon. Get one for your favorite grad, tuck in a gift card, and you're not only giving them a fish -- you're helping them learn how to do it for a lifetime.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Housing Dreams

Stories like this one encourage me: this high schooler bought a house! It meant saving and scrimping, and putting away every cent of her 4-H winnings, but now she's got it rented and earning income. Good for her!

I've been trying to come up with new ways to squeeze out some dollars here and there...some cabins have come up for sale in Bailey, about an hour's drive away, and one of Husband's favorite fishing areas. (I could use a quiet spot for writing deadlines, too.) They're $30,000, which is a STEAL for vacation spots in our area. Oooh. Could we squeeze out enough extra money, especially if the prices dropped even further? I'm intrigued enough to try.

Monday Musings

Alas, it looks like my days as census enumerator are numbered. Only 8 EQs to go, and I've visited those at least twice. This census business is an odd one -- I still haven't gotten used to asking total strangers if they're male or female! (What if they say "Other?") You feel so grateful when they open the door -- it's just a few minutes talking, but makes all the difference in the world when the info's captured and the EQ ("enumerator questionnaire") is finished and on its way.

    Add our 40 mph winds to the mix, and here's what you've got:
Cindy, knocking at the door: (id badge banging her in the chest and throat) Hi there, I'm finishing up census in your area...can I ask you a few questions?
Person (looking confused): uh, sure...
Cindy (trying desperately not to strangle on the hair whipping around her face): Great! Here we go...

   Imagine trying to write on a flapping questionnaire, and look suave while you're doing it! Eventually we finish, and off I go -- census briefcase acting as a makeshift sail as I blow over to the next apartment door.
   I'd say 'so much for dignity,' but ah well! Never was sophisticated, to begin with.

* * * * * * *
Frugal Girl (she of the interesting "food waste of the week" posts) has a riff on one of Kleenex's newest products: throwaway bathroom towels. So let's see...we're supposed to use these because they're sanitary (our nasty old cloth towels are not, even if they're freshly washed, accd to the marketing blurb), anti-bacterial and can be thrown away!
    Isn't it considered 'green' not to keep using paper products that clog up more landfills? And what are the odds that overusing anti-bacterial products just make us more immune to their effects? (Kind of like what's happening to antibiotics...our girls practically lived on amoxycillin as kids.)
   We won't even talk about price for something you're just going to keep restocking.

I'm getting increasingly suspicious whenever a company starts trumpeting about how they're 'helping us/and or the environment out' by introducing a new product. What's in it for them? Think I prefer the straightforward approach: Tastes great and is good for you. Cleans well without harsh chemicals. Clear, to the point, and no nonsense. And no blathering about being "green!"

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Things I wish I Didn't Know

More items from the "Say It Ain't So, Joe" Department:  

More paintings have been stolen, this time from the Paris Museum of Modern Art. (The security system just 'happened' to be disabled that night, and three -- count 'em, 3! -- guards never noticed a thing. Hmmm.) Well, at least police recovered most of the paintings stolen in Argentina last November.

Floyd Landis, American cyclist, has finally admitted to doping. But he says others, including Lance Armstrong and Armstrong's longtime coach, were involved, too.


Okay, here's one article you will enjoy -- a look at how designers are using scanning and inkjet printers to make amazing fabric prints. (Don't miss the slide show, either.) Wow! Let's see more digital printing in quilting cottons, and I'll be thrilled! 

(thanks to the Wall Street Journal for these tidbits)

What Makes You Frugal?

We've been cutting back household purchases a lot this month, trying to prepare for Husband's upcoming 25% salary cut. It's tough. You don't stop eating or wearing underwear, just because the money isn't there! Fortunately, I'd put money aside for some of the big-ticket items, like our more-than-$900 property tax payment coming due. (Ouch.)

Frugal Miser talks a lot about the actions that signal his tightwad ways. I got to thinking about this, and yep -- there are things I do consistently that brand me as a Hollander:

*Checking garbage piles. Every time I drive past them. An armful of wood came home this week -- it will make a toasty fireplace addition sometime. You never know what's going to be hiding: I once found a good-quality frying pan in a bag of grass clippings. (Used it for years, too.)

*Stopping by the library's used book room. Working Census has really stepped this up lately, since we meet every morning there to drop off paystubs and "EQs." I've found several Christmas presents -- and the books look unused! ($2 each; books ship cheaper than any other present, too.)

*Clipping coupons. I may not use them all, but they combine nicely with sales. Did you know that if the product's not quiiite what it should be, a quick call or note to the manufacturer often gets you not just one, but several coupons for free products? Save these, combine them with a BOGO special, and you've doubled your money and time.

*Grocery shortcuts.  Adding 2-4 cups of water to whole milk to stretch it, and cut down on the fat content. Grade B eggs, which, because they're odd-sized, are often larger than the regular ones -- and 25% cheaper. (Our local King Soopers often has "EB" -- Egglands Best brand -- stamped eggs included in the Grade B cartons.) Checking the marked-down bins for meat, dairy, bread and canned goods every time I visit the store. Cutting down visits to every other week helps, too.

*Thrift Shops and Discount Outlets. If I'm in the neighborhood, I try to stop by. You never know what's going to be there...and if it's a bargain, it won't be there for long. Big Lots yesterday had a cartful of Pringles Potato Chips marked down to 40 cents each!

*Trying really, really hard not to pay any extra fees. No bounced check overdrafts or account fees. No interest on credit card charges. (Which means we must pay them off every month -- no exceptions. Cuts down on our purchases, too.) No speeding or parking tickets. (Messed up on this one a few weeks ago -- darn it. Never visit your parking meter 15 minutes after it expires; the parking fairies will not be merciful.) No late fees.

*Rarely buying any large-ticket purchases new. Our cars have been used; appliances ditto. We figure many times, buying them used means any bugs or glitches have already been worked through on the other person's dime. Other than a leather couch (on sale) and a patio set (deep clearance), we've done it for furniture, as well. Even our current house had been on the market for a while, and came with a discount on realtors' fees.
     The one big exception to this rule has been our computers, which were purchased new -- but also on sale.

Have we saved, with this approach? Thousands and thousands of dollars. Can I get too miserly about this? Sometimes. But I came by it honestly, as the daughter and descendant of hard-working farmers, Dutch and Scotch, that had to be frugal, or they wouldn't survive. Ashamed? Nonsense -- I'm proud of it.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Free Subscription to Ready Made!

Run, do not walk, to this site and nab yourself a FREE 6-issue subscription to Ready Made magazine. It's part crafts, part home dec, part woodworking, art and sewing -- and a heck of a lot about repurposing items, making do, and redesigning. You'll be amazed at how much it broadens the possibilities of what you can do with your clothes, furnishings and home.

Both girlies have found this mag refreshing and helpful, too. Quick, hurry before all the subscriptions are gone!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Saving Money -- Saving on Food

Being a tad too plump myself (I'm working on it -- honest!), I rather enjoy blogs like this one, wherein the writer is living on peanuts for food costs. Actually, she's currently at $100 a month, which probably seems like incredible luxury after she spent a month at $1 a day.

How does she do it? No readymade dishes -- pretty much everything from scratch. Lots of beans and tortillas. (Our Mexican neighbors do this incredibly well.) Fresh fruit and vegetables -- but only if on sale. And an expert's approach to coupons. (She gets a ton of things free -- or almost.) Read the overview article first, before you jump into the blog.

Here's another approach to the $1 a day plan: two schoolteachers who did it for quite some time. (It helped a lot that they were vegetarians.) Here's E-How's take on the subject.

* * * * * * * * *
It has finally reverted back to spring around here...complete with more hail, tornadoes and thunderstorms. Ah well -- you can't have everything. At least the tomatoes can go in the ground with a modium of success!

Dear Anonymous Comment People-Types

(Yes, I know that's an odd phrase for an English major with an M.A. I did it on purpose.)

I'm glad that you took the time to visit my blog, as well as type out a response. Really, I am. However, it's very interesting that you must do so under the 'anonymous' flag. I agree: insulting and belittling someone is much easier if you don't have the guts to affix your name to said comment.

Congratulations. You may have made fun of me and the blog, but those comments also made you look petty -- and very small.  (P.S. I decided to okay their publication, so everyone can enjoy your discomfiture.)

Y'all come back now...ya hear?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

An Interesting Plea for Help

From the gee-I-never-thought-about-this department:

The world's oldest conjoined twins need help -- their house renovation funds have dried up.

I wonder what Chang and Eng would think about this? (They made it to age 63.) Here's more information on conjoined twins...

What's Fair?

If you volunteer for -- or contribute in any way -- for a nonprofit group, sooner or later finances are going to come up. And in today's uneasy financial climate, money questions for that group's staff or programs are going to hit sore spots.

Case in point: a quilt group I strongly believe in, and have given not only money, but many hours of my time. They were forced to let their director go -- because they couldn't afford to pay her anymore. What is the board going to do, now that the leader is gone? Will the other (part-time) staffers have to begin doing her job, as well as their current commitments? Will the quilt group begin some new fund-raising campaign (which will cost extra on its own) to try and get more $$ from its members-- many who are facing money problems of their own?

Another case in point: a church Husband and I have given decades of our time, money and commitment to. We had the annual budget meeting today -- and current income shows nearly $2000 in the red. Every single month. The only thing that saved the church from problems last year was a deliberate cutting of expenses every way possible from what was budgeted in 2009.
    The people on staff are tireless, talented individuals who have been wonderful -- they work very hard at what they do. I know that our pastors -- both of them -- are not spendthrifts. Each lives very close to the bone. Yet compared to the national average, both are more than holding their own in salary and benefits. Both also earn considerably more than many of the people who attend our church -- people who have had to endure more than their share of salary cuts and layoffs in the past year.
     It's not cheap to live in Colorado, especially the Denver area. Housing, especially. I can't say our minister friends don't earn their salaries -- they do. Yet how will the church continue to pay those well as the rest of the budget...if giving continues to tank? Last year's budget added two staffers who were only paid for part of the year. This year's budget doesn't give them a raise -- but they get 12 months salary this year. Where is that money going to come from?

I knew one phrase would come up at this afternoon's church budget meeting, and it did: "The Lord will provide." Certainly He has in the past. I know that God not only is aware, but cares about our actions and needs, past and present and future. But I also believe that He has given us common sense, as well as faith. Going through the church's savings is not going to honor Him. On the other hand, worrying about this -- or frantically cutting badly-needed programs or staff -- isn't trusting Him, either.

What's the right answer? I honestly don't know.

Friday, May 14, 2010


Appraised all day...long, but interesting. It was raining again by the time I left for home tonight.

You'll enjoy the adventures of the Swagger Wagon family, like bragging about their minivan. I know -- it sounds lame, but it's funny!

Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Jupiter Does A Little Hanky Panky -- Me Too!

Jupiter's lost a stripe! Compared to last year's photo, its southern equatorial darker band is a goner. This is the not the first time it's happened -- the band temporarily disappeared in the seventies...but where in the world did it go? (Some say it's just being covered up by lighter clouds. Who knows.)

Four inches of snow on the ground this morning. Gray clouds all day. Rain, and now more snow tonight. Where in the world is that spring that was promised?

Fortunately, it was warm and cheerful in Hanky Panky class tonight. What a pleasure to see five beautiful quilts blossom in just a few hours. Donna and Lucille, Jeanne, Sheryl and Nancy -- you did a great job.

Thursday morning update: Another couple inches or so. Clouds say more is coming. Soon. Will this insanity never end?!?

I'm Not Sure What to Think About This...

A blog that, every Friday, features a picture of the food she wasted that week.


It's slightly more disgusting when she talks about it...but then shows a photo of a perfectly good food item -- like salsa. (I kept thinking, "this is spoiled??" Turns out she was just bragging how she didn't waste it.)

Negative reinforcement? (She even encourages fellow bloggers to post their own gross photos.) An unusual way to cut your food urges, and lose weight? The whole thing makes me a tad nauseous. But maybe you'll enjoy it.

Ten interesting things to do with your junk mail...this is much more fun to think about.
* * * * *
Four inches of snow, so far. More on the horizon, in steadily increasing clouds. I have to teach a Hanky Panky class tonight at the Creative Needle in Littleton -- hopefully it will hold off enough for me to get there and back.
    Spent hours last night in the rain and snow, standing on people's doorsteps and asking census questions -- one lady burst into laughter when I asked her if she was male or female. (I have to! I have to!) I have a new theory about all this -- the Pathetic or Sympathy Factor. The worse you look (wet, bedraggled, snowy), the more people are apt to take pity on you, and answer questions. Seems to work for me.
   Dragged myself home to a roaring fire and the company of Husband and Daughter #2...and Jack Bauer. ("24" just seems to get better and better, now it's nearly done.) Snoozed off, feeling warm and comforted. I'm a lucky woman.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

To Cosign...or Loan? That Is the Question

A lot of bloggers have been discussing this lately...if someone you care about asks you to cosign a loan, should you do it?

Here's one viewpoint on the subject -- including a warning that your good credit will not stay that way, if your cosigner doesn't pay -- and you don't, either. Here's another viewpoint, but it sounds suspiciously the same!

The Simple Dollar puts it straight: don't sign for the loan unless you're okay with paying it yourself. 

Next question: should you make loans to people you care about, knowing they may not pay?

In our experience...yes. And no.

A few times during early marriage, we borrowed money from both sets of parents -- for a motorcycle and plane tickets. Both times, we made the payments as promised -- and in fact, paid extra so the loans would finish earlier. Neither of the parents asked for it -- we just did it.

We've also loaned substantial amounts of money to family and once, to a friend. We've had about a 50% payback rate -- and nearly every time we were repaid, we had to remind the recipient that we were owed and needed it back.  Daughter #2 has been the shining exception: if she's borrowed it, she pays it back when she says she will. (Good on you, girlie!)

We've cosigned on one loan. Which, very quickly, we ended up paying on. (In fact, we're paying on it now, but doing it to pay the loan in question, and help out the person.)  Nuff said.

Loans and friends/family are a strange mix. Don't do it, unless you can afford to lose it. Or just give it with an open heart. You may well have to do that, anyways, once you're done with the whole thing.

Monday, May 10, 2010

You Never Can Tell...

Jay DeVaughn was a well-respected librarian at the Community College in Aurora (a Denver suburb). He did his work well as director of library services, even won an award in 2009 for administrator of the year.

One slight problem. This guy had been sending death threats anonymously through the mail for nearly decades to a variety of people, beginning when he lived in Alabama and continuing with his move to Colorado in 2004. His favorites were congressmen and senators, but he didn't hesitate to threaten others, too. (The Argentinian consulate received the gem, "Dirty fascists, you are going to die like how you kill my friends, pigs." Such grammar!)

Mr. DeVaughn ramped up his hysteria in recent years with letters that contained white powder -- anthrax, according to the text. The authorities caught him mailing some of the letters on tape -- then they checked his DNA with that found on the threatening letters, using a napkin, fork and spoon filched from his office garbage can for comparison. They matched.


Now the good librarian has decided to plead guilty regarding three of the letters. And people are asking how such a nice, dependable guy could spill out such hate.

His boss, the Community College president, said this is a side of him they never saw.

Well, thank goodness for that.

* * * * * * * * * *

Mother's Day was spent happily rambling through the Fairmount Cemetery, 'rustling' old rose cuttings in the company of two puzzled (but amused) daughters and Husband. (I'm not a criminal -- it's ok with Fairmount to do this!)  And rooting is easy: cut into smaller 'sticks,' each with a stem join and at least one cluster of leaves. Dip into water, then rooting hormone, then push into a container of dirt or planting medium. Water, then cover with plastic bag to boost humidity. Wait about three weeks to see which of the stems will 'take.'

Looking at the tombstones was fun, too...there are some real oddities, including a headstone with hat and saddle blanket carved right on the top...any number of grieving ladies and angels...little house monuments...and even a pile of what looked like tiny cannon balls or snowballs. (For a lady?? That's what the title said.)

Lucky we're not doing that today -- another storm is moving in, and it's supposed to be a doozy. Snow. Again. Rain. Hail. You name it. Hopefully it won't hit while we're at the Rockies game tonight.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Books, Thoughts...and the Weekend

Abe Books has a list of 25 books that infuriate their readers...

but wait! Some of those same books are my favorites, including C.S. Lewis' Last Battle (made me weep, not mad),  Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt (sure, the irresponsible parents are irritating, but what a survival!), and Jeannette Wall's Glass Castle (same parents as Frankie's, if a tad more responsible). Even Anne Frank's Diary of a Young Girl is on the list... because you can't help thinking of the waste when this amazing writer, and others like here, were lost forever.
    I won't argue about some of the titles: Salinger's Catcher in the Rye is a self-serving piece of crap. (Politely speaking, of course.) Take a look, and a minute to say what book...or television show...or movie...or whatever...really irritates or angers you!

Some of the items on the Brick "really pushes my buttons" List:

*People who are cruel to their pets (those Humane Society commercials just rip my heart out)
*Arrogant teachers. Historians. Writers. Plenty of them out there.
*F. Scott Fitzgerald -- drowned his talent in alcohol and excess. What a waste.
*Other great artists -- examples like Hemingway, Anne Sexton, Ted Hughes, Robert Frost -- who had no trouble using up, belittling or taking advantage of the friends and family who loved them. Then spent their time whining about how life was so hard, wasn't faaaiiiiirrrrrr, etc, because they didn't get their way 100% of the time.
*Bodice rippers. Very few of the romances I've tried to read were worth the effort, with the exception of Grace Livingston Hill. (And even she gets a bit too saccharine at times.)
*Reality shows that encourage -- and reward -- their characters to act badly.
*Blatant sex in a movie -- when it could easily have been implied, or left out.
*People or pundits who dismiss or make fun of something they obviously don't understand, or haven't taken the trouble to research before they blat their mouth off about it. Shame on them.
*Wasting in any form...time, money, effort.  
I especially hate it when it's me who's wasting!

* * * * * * * * *
A long day of trudging around condos and apartments, checking addresses, interviewing people and leaving NVs (Notice of Visit forms). The wind was really cooking around here -- probably in the 30 mph range. Try dealing with paperwork while it is flapping in your face! On the plus side, though, I probably looked a lot less intimidating with hair flying all over.  This census business is a strange thing. What did your mama warn about talking to strangers?? And I'm doing it all day --

Got home with scratched-up knees throbbing, but a burger, fries and a few minutes with an amazing new quilt book helped.
This mom is having both of her daughters home for Mother's of the nicest presents I could have ever asked for. Thank you, girlies.
Happy Mother's Day to you!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Advice for Mothers

This seemed like a good start for a Mother's Day weekend...

unsolicited advice for several celebrity moms. (Including some to 'keep your clothes on!')'s chilly. One Frugal Girl may be watching her zucchini bloom, but I had to schlep our tomato (and other) plants inside tonight. Just too cold to put them in the ground yet. Guess I'll wait...and read a book.

Where Did the Week Go???

...clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, here I am, stuck in the middle with you..

Seriously, it does feel like I've been running in place all week. Apparently the wobbly feeling is coming from an ear infection; that hasn't helped with getting business responsibilities done -- or traipsing around, doing census interviews in our suddenly-cold-winds. I've got a big batch of interviews to take care of (called NRFU in census terms -- don't say those letters out loud!). Then a trip to the post office (Brickworks staffers are off today) and a stop to get milk and eggs.

An exciting life, huh?

In the bad news department -- Husband found out (along with all the other hourly employees) that his schedule had been cut from "12 month" to "9 month" -- a 25% pay/time cut. (Plus hourly employees may get benefits -- but the current plan gives them no vacation or sick days. Oh goody.) There are a lot of frightened people running around the Douglas County school district right now. One of Husband's best, most experienced bus drivers came to him yesterday and said, "How in the world am I going to pay my mortgage?" A very good question.

In the good news department -- Husband has been working on a new project for the school district. Yesterday, he found out that he will be even more heavily involved in its execution...and that is going to mean he'll get extra hours. Who knows -- it may even translate back into a "12 month" position.

So it's looking brighter for us...but not for many of the people we work with and care about. We have good friends who are unemployed, or working temporary positions while they search for more permanent work. Many of the people I'm working with for census are in the latter position. It's a tad scary here in Colorado -- and we're supposed to be one of the states with the brightest employment outlook! God forbid you even consider states like Michigan...

Well, off to work -- hope your Friday is going well.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Quirky Videos

Did you hear about the grandma who slapped granddaughter's face for being rude, plus using the F- word? She ended up in jail for a night, though at least the Powers That Be are showing a glimmer of wisdom for not charging her for assault. (Negative kudoes to the cop who righteously opines that one slap is 'domestic violence,' and 'we don't lak yer kind.' Yeah, right.)

My engineer buddy has a new kitty video out.

And this butt-scratching kitty is is good for a laugh, too. (Thanks, Daughter #1!)

Then there's the MysteryGuitarMan who with the magic of stop motion photography, becomes just A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. Here's his take on Flight of the Bumblebee and the Marriage of Figaro.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A New Drying Idea

...aluminum foil.


According to this blogger, a scrunched-up ball of aluminum foil takes the place of dryer sheets. She hasn't had to replace it for the past six months.

I'm going to try about you?


I was trotting across the Sam's Club parking lot during lunchtime, when everything went gray. It cleared up, and I found myself examining the concrete up close -- and not on purpose!

A coke, a polish dog, and some time later, yours truly staggered back to census training. I've never had this happen -- was it the hot classroom, no chance to get anything to drink, the muggy, changeable weather? Who knows. A couple of scratched-up, bruised knees, feeling a bit wobbly still. But doing better.

Out in the field tomorrow, doing my first evaluation.


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Working, Working

Now that the Denver Quilt Festival is done, I should be putting stuff away, lounging about and working on the next deadline...right? Naahh. I've spent the past two days in a stuffy classroom, doodling quilt patterns, joking around with my tablemates...and learning how to be an enumerator. It's not Ahnold's copycat -- I'm learning how to be a census rep for NRFU--non-response followup. (It's also called "how to pay for an unexpected $1800 auto repair bill.")

And of course, it's been the most heartbreaking, achingly beautiful set of spring days we've had for a long while. I spent part of lunch hour dozing in the sunshine and soaking it in. Another day of training, then I can be outside in it while I'm working.

This is often when things slow down a bit at the Brickworks offices. Orders and work still go on, but it's quieter. My staffers take a lot of time off, since the boss can generally keep things going.

It also means that I can spend some time outside, and doodling around on various projects. The lazy days digging in the garden will come...I just need to do this for a while, too.

Gives New Meaning to "Costs Big Bucks"

You may not be made of money...but this dress is. Fifty million pounds, to be exact!

(thanks, The Berry)

I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it,
or these dresses stitched from credit cards. (But the bracelet's cool!)

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Treasures Galore with a Scottish Burr

More treasures to add to the mix --

The museums of Scotland have an amazing 'collections highlights' page, full of Pictish hoards, famous paintings, Robert the Bruce's feasting cup -- even Dolly the cloned sheep! Click on every item listed, and the link takes you to crisp photos and a detailed description, not only where and why the treasure in question was found (or created, in Dolly's case), and why it's important.

I want to take more time to read through these links, but am rushing off to Show & Tell at the Denver Quilt Festival...ciao for now.