Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Inexpensive Gifts -- More than a Hundred Ideas

These were suggested for teachers...but there are lots of ideas here for teenagers, mailpeople, choir directors and others!

On My Way, Back Another Day...

A big basket of shirts waits for ironing. The sink's full of dishes. Random scraps of paper are piled here and there. Phone messages. Business files still to be sent.

And Husband and I leave for Panama tomorrow morning! 

We'll return in a few weeks, hopefully brown and rested. (And having visited the Panama Canal, something I've wanted to see all my life.) The Brickworks offices will still be open, though quieter. (It always is, this time of year.) Feels strange, knowing that in less than a day, the cold and snow will be a past memory.
    Please continue to stop by. A pile of posts are waiting and ready, and will be doled out over the next few weeks until I return. Be good -- see you soon!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Making Money for Christmas

Surely you've noticed the Swagbucks 'swidget' on the right of my column. It's been one of my best secret ways to earn gift money for birthdays and the holidays.
   I don't do anything fancy, either, to earn it. I just do the searches I would normally do. I respond to a short survey now and then (5 min. tops), and do a Swagbucks poll (even shorter). That generally earns me 450 points twice a month -- and 450 points is a five-dollar Amazon gift card! I've earned 17 of them so far, this year. That makes a total of $85 for doing little normal than my normal routine. (And note: I haven't had any trouble with weird cookies, viruses or anything like that. Swagbucks is extremely respectful about that issue.)

You can do this, too. Just click on the 'swidget' to get started. (And you'll give me an extra bonus for doing it -- thanks if you do.) It won't be long before your first gift card -- or other item -- is a done deal.

New Picasso Trove Uncovered

Picasso's long-time handyman has surfaced, with a trunkful of paintings, drawings and such he said Picasso's second wife gave him. He's been storing this stash of hitherto-unknown work -- 271 pieces -- in his garage for decades!
     Needless to say, the official purveyors of the Picasso estate -- children Picasso was reluctant to acknowledge during his lifetime -- are not thrilled. They're trying to argue that the handyman stole the works, but based on the lack of official action, are having trouble making their charges stick.
    It will be interesting to see how all this develops. The handyman and his wife said they came forward now, so their children wouldn't have to deal with problems after they pass on. They were certainly right about that...

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Top Ten Christmas Movies

Here's one list -- whaddya think?
   (I'm still at a loss to understand why Bad Santa would be here...but hey, that's me.)

My Ten Favorite Holiday Movies (not in order of importance)

*The Christmas List:   Mimi Rogers has a boring, if busy life -- but a list to Santa Claus, of all the things she's ever wanted, or wanted to try, change her life. Not always for the best, it seems, either. I didn't want to like this movie -- but it's one I never miss each year.

*It's A Wonderful Life: Jimmy Stewart, a very strange angel named Clarence, and the chance to see what would happen if you never had been born. What more could one ask?

The Shop Around the Corner: The movie that inspired Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks' endearing You've Got Mail (which easily could be on this list, as well).  Two clerks hate each other on first sight...but have been falling in love via mail, at the same time. A charming picture of a small pre-war shop in New York City. (I know, it's supposed to be in Europe somewhere -- but it sure feels like NYC to me.)

*Scrooge: Albert Finney remains one of the best truly skinflint misers...with a humorous edge. The songs in this musical stay with you, especially "Thank you very much." And Bob Cratchit's buying expedition with 15 shillings ("FIF-TEEN shillings, mind you!") put Black Friday madness back into perspective.

*The Santa Clause:  Is there anyone whose family or friends haven't had to deal with the heartbreak of divorce during the holidays? The notion of a "revolving Santa" is intriguing, but it's the whole 'how do we do this peacefully' dilemma that really breaks my heart. Sad...and funny, too.

*White Christmas:  Along with Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, I watched this late night in a comfortable pile of sleeping bags, and cousins. The only problem: we could sing the songs, but never caught the title! It wasn't until college that I finally learned the movie's name. Great actors, lots of snarky side comments, ebullient music and dance. (Even some weird stuff, like "Choreography" and an  "Abraham" dance-down.)

*The Homecoming:  Where's Dad? He hasn't gotten home from the mill yet -- send Oldest Son out to look for him before it's too late. A Depression era family waits, and so do we. I love this simple, touching movie. It was also the first appearance of John Boy, and his family, the Waltons. (Note: Daughters mutually loathe it, and say it's corny. But hey, whose list is this?!?)

*Holiday Inn:   A restaurant/inn that's only open during holidays, Fred Astaire, Bing Crosby -- and a ton of jokes and side comments, along with the sparkling dance and music. I love, love, love this black-and-white celebration.

*While You Were Sleeping:  The cutest guy in the world falls on the subway tracks...and you save him, only to be mistaken as his fiancee. Spend your holiday with this quirky family, as well as the sweetest, most wistful heroine ever to wander into the subway. (Plus, Bill Pullman is kinda cute.)  For weeks after we see this, we wander around saying, "Was you leanin'??"

*Die Hard:  The perfect antidote for too much sweetness -- a vacationing cop who's the only hope for foiling a bunch of terrorists and saving a high-rise building...not to mention his wife. Bruce Willis brings just the right amount of humor and bravado to this frenetic romp. ("Whadja think -- I'm ordering a pizza!?) And Die Hard 2 is just as good -- not a common happenstance for a sequel, and something DH3 and 4 can't say.

Here's a more-or-less complete list of holiday movies...pick your own. And let me know what your list is!

What Do You Do with Found Money?

Donna Freedman's post for MSN Money poses an interesting question: do you have a problem keeping money you've found on the ground? 
    Readers' comments basically fall into two camps: keep it all, regardless of how much -- or if there's a chance you can find the owner (because it's a large amount, or in a bag or wallet), then make the effort. (And keep the cash if no one comes forward.)
   Bargain Babe started the idea, by finding $5 that no one picked up, an hour after she'd spotted it. She felt so guilty about picking it up that she spent it on a bag of locally-grown almonds.
   I just don't get this. Why in the world would you feel guilty about finding money? You didn't drop it. Whoever did either doesn't need it (they would have come back looking) -- or they're too far away to come back for it. Or they never missed it, in the first place. 
   I haven't had this happen much, darn it. A few pennies here, a dime there. The Mama found a $5 bill in the hallway on our recent cruise. My brother is the champ -- he finds money a lot, all in small amounts. Daughter #1 follows his lead; she's found everything from change to a $10 bill. (She refuses to pick up pennies, a fact her mother finds incomprehensible.)
   I did notice a wallet once while leaning over to pick up a parking chit from the machine at the airport. That case was open-and-shut; I knew whose money it was, and she needed it back! And she was really grateful; I even got a restaurant gift card from her. That was thoughtful, but unneeded; at least once, I've lost something that someone took the trouble to return. It just seemed like payback time.
   Many of the respondents put the money back into the local economy, spent it on souvenirs or gave it to the poor. I tend to take any money found, and put it in a metal bus bank that sits above the washing machine. (Any change or bills found while doing wash also goes there.) You'd be surprised at how much collects annually -- even with a buck or two extracted for emergencies or pizza, it's usually in the $30 range!
     At Christmas time, the money's used to buy a gift card or presents for an "angel" gift. The recipient doesn't know who we are...but God does.

Black Friday...Scary

Remember my earlier post about Black Friday? Take a look at this scene from a Hawaiian Wal-Mart. My Colorado Wally experience wasn't this bad...but around the displays that held cheap DVDs, I'd say it came uncomfortably close!

Viewpoints actually has a section on Black Friday Horror Stories. While you're there, take some time to write reviews -- 10 of them will net you a $10 Amazon gift card, but only until Nov. 30.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Weird Photos for the Holidays

...how many strange photos did you produce this year?

Actually, we behaved ourselves. Everything looked normal. But that's not the case for others; witness this odd slide show. The best treat of all in this department is Awkward Family Photos.com, which has a full range of just weird to truly bizarre. (Don't miss 'Grandpa's Last Stand' and 'LOL Cats'...sterrrrrraaannnge. There's also Grandpa and Grandma at Christmastime, with three of four grandchildren screaming their heads off.)

For once, I actually celebrated Thanksgiving without reading Christmas stories, or listening to Christmas music. Now, on to enjoy it!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Black Friday - Just Thankful I'm Not Out There Anymore

Daughter #1 persuaded me to hit Wal-Mart just after midnight, when the sales kicked in.
    I have rarely been so frightened.

   In a crowd, I am constantly fighting the fear that I will be trampled. I can control it, but when pregnant with the girlies, it was almost impossible to go anywhere, without the feeling that any minute, people were going to begin stampeding all over. Where did I get this urge? No idea -- but it's been something I've fought all my life.

   We started by not being able to find a cart. Daughter said, "C'mon Mom, we'll just look for one on the way." I was grateful we were cart-less by the time we hit the $2 videos -- people with carts were regularly being trapped in the back aisles. Daughter shoved ahead...I wiggled around people...and twenty minutes later, we were juggling a big stack of goodies. The only way to make progress was curving around a lot, saying "excuse me" until people moved, and grabbing the minute I saw anything good. (Tip: check nearby displays, as well as the top of the video display -- people will discard good stuff there, after they've edited through their stack. They clear away extras. You get the good stuff!)
     For the rest of the time, we literally had to fight our way through the aisles, especially after we found a cart. One chunky girl in a light blue jacket could have been a linebacker; she repeatedly blocked the entire aisle with both her backside, and her cart. Jammed around people, trying to move through without mashing someone else. To add to the strangeness, the employees at Wally (who were largely standing around, or even stranger, standing 'guard') had cordoned off several aisles to keep the midnight specials saved. That was ok -- but after midnight, the ropes STILL stayed up! (We just went underneath.)
     Tip: Go with someone else. You can take turns holding places in line, going to get extra items, and double-checking the list. Daughter finally found a shorter line, while I was trying to get the cart to her. While we caught our breath, I expressed how I felt about being pushed, stepped on and shoved aside. Daughter said, "There are two kinds of people: pushers and pushees. And you have to decide which one you're going to be."
     Me (still breathless):  "I just wanted to bite somebody! So wouldn't that make me a third kind of person?
    "Naw," said Daughter. "It would just put you in jail. Now in jail, there are two kinds of people..."

Husband, who is more a hermit than anything, decided he wanted to get a camera for next week's trip to Panama. If he was headed out, well then, I could make a quick stop at Cost Plus and Michael's...before you knew it, we'd spent the afternoon out. But part of that time was checking out titles at Barnes & Noble. (They have some terrific bargain books and kits this year). We had a great time, didn't spend that much, and actually got a number of bargains. Now, if I can soak my mashed toes...

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

You Have GOT to See This Video!

Before you take off on a flight today...or you're 'looking forward' to coming home:

Be sure to watch this Buck Howdy take on Khris Khristofferson's "Help Me Make It Through the Night."

Except it's "Help You Make It To the Flight."

   Husband came running, at the sound of hysterical laughter: "what, what?"

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Cookie Dough for 50 Cents??

Yep...if you have a King Soopers handy in your neck of the woods.

Pillsbury's new "Simply" Chocolate Chip cookie dough packs are on sale for $2.49...but if you buy four, you get $4 back, dropping their price to $1.49 each.
    But wait -- most (not all) of the packages at my local KS had 55-cent coupons on them! And King Soopers doubles your coupons, up to $1. So that meant...
    Eight packages of chocolate chip cookie dough for 49 cents. Each.

I baked up a package worth for last night's supper. Delicious.

Thanksgiving Plans

Well, it's shortly after midnight. And I'm looking at a sinkful of dishes, as well as Mr. Turkey, waiting for his debut this evening.
    But wait, you ask. Isn't Thanksgiving THURSDAY?
I know. It is. But we're invited to friend Constance's house...and she's making everything but desserts. Yet Daughters #1 and #2, who will be spending the day, would love a take-home doggy bag of the traditional stuff.
    And they'll get it. Two nights in a row. I love leftover stuffing and turkey breast, too.

Take a peek at Grocery Coupon Guide's aim to make a Thanksgiving dinner for six for only $1 -- total. (And he's accomplishing it.) I laughed myself silly at his adventure while digging in the Safeway trash cans for coupons.
     One time, I came into Washington, DC for a gig -- and to visit the Smithsonian backrooms (and write an article about their textile storage areas). I came by train...it was a long trip, and I was exhausted. My pickup hadn't arrived yet, so I found a corner and sat down on my suitcase. I was too tired to read, too much in a strange place to sleep, so I just stared off into space. Must have looked more bedraggled than I thought -- because someone tried to give me a buck, in sympathy!

Making a pecan pie  (pronounced "pay-kan" by Darling Husband, whose North Carolina roots demand proper pronunciation), as well as a cranberry-apple version, will be in the doings tomorrow night. I hope to get Daughters to watch Plymouth Adventure with me...an event that's already been greeted by deep groans and sighs. (No doubt that means excitement!)

    A very Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours...from us and ours. Enjoy.

Restless Tuesday

Brin over at Messy Thrilling Life is drying corn. At least that's something productive -- I've been trying to force myself to keep my mind on work, and stop wandering all over the internet. A Get Rich Slowly reader has interesting (and inexpensive) gift ideas. Prince William is getting married. (Girls everywhere start sobbing on cue, here.) He's also going to be the patron for a centennial reenactment of Scott's race against Amundsen to the South Pole. (Just so it doesn't end the way the original did!)
      There's a new copy of the Declaration of Independence out for sale. (The last one went for $625,000. A mere stocking stuffer...)
    And this insanely cool 1840s-or-so 'Aviary handkerchief from Ebay:

The price was right -- less than $35!
We're having cold and BLOWY temperatures...the greenhouse blew over Sunday. I unzipped the plastic (thank God it wasn't glass) and Husband re-propped it. Fortunately, only one little flat of baby greens tipped over. I carefully picked the seedlings up and poked them back in the soil, then re-placed everything else.
    Yesterday, it threatened to tip over again. (You would too in 45 mph or so winds!) Today, it's rocking with every gust. But so far, still upright.
    And that's me too, hopefully -- once I get some work done.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Tricks and Tips Worth Knowing - And Using

Husband just got this forwarded in his e-mail...I'd attribute it, if I knew the author. But it's got some great ideas -- see how many you can use:


image00111.jpgTake your bananas apart when you get home from the store.
If you leave them connected at the stem, they ripen faster..

Store your opened chunks of cheese in aluminum foil.
It will stay fresh much longer and not mold!

Peppers with 3 bumps on the bottom are sweeter and better for eating.
Peppers with 4 bumps on the bottom are firmer and better for cooking.

Add a teaspoon of water when frying ground beef.
It will help pull the grease away from the meat while cooking.
image00333.jpgTo really make scrambled eggs or omelets rich add a couple of
spoonfuls of sour cream, cream cheese, or heavy cream in and then beat them up.
image00444.jpgFor a cool brownie treat, make brownies as directed. Melt   Andes  mints in double broiler and pour over warm brownies. Let set for a wonderful minty frosting.
image00555.jpgAdd garlic immediately to a recipe if you want a light taste
of garlic and at the end of the recipe if your want a stronger taste of garlic.  
image00666.gifLeftover snickers bars from Halloween make a delicious dessert. Simply chop them up with the food chopper. Peel, core and slice a few apples. Place them in a baking dish and sprinkle the chopped candy bars over the apples. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes!!!  Serve alone or with vanilla ice cream. Yummm!
                                                   image00777.gifReheat Pizza
Heat up leftover pizza in a nonstick skillet on top of the stove, set heat to med-low and heat till warm.
This keeps the crust crispy. No soggy micro pizza. I saw this on the cooking channel and it really works.

Easy Deviled Eggs image00888.gif
Put cooked egg yolks in a zip lock bag. Seal, mash till they are all broken up.
Add remainder of ingredients, reseal, keep mashing it up mixing thoroughly, cut the tip of the baggy, squeeze mixture into egg.
Just throw bag away when done easy clean up.

image00999.gifExpanding Frosting
When you buy a container of cake frosting from the store, whip it with your mixer for a few minutes. You can double it in size.
You get to frost more cake/cupcakes with the same amount. You also eat less sugar and calories per serving.
                                           Reheating refrigerated bread image0101010.gif
To warm biscuits, pancakes, or muffins that were refrigerated, place them in
a microwave with a cup of water. The increased moisture will keep the food
moist and help it reheat faster.

image0111111.jpgNewspaper weeds away
Start putting in your plants, work the nutrients in your soil. Wet newspapers,
put layers around the plants overlapping as you go cover with mulch and for-
get about weeds. Weeds will get through some gardening plastic they will not
get through wet newspapers.

Broken Glass image0121212.jpg
Use a wet cotton ball or Q-tip to pick up the small shards of glass you can't see easily.
                           image0131313.gif No More Mosquitoes
     Place a dryer sheet in your pocket. It will keep the mosquitoes away.  
      Squirrel Away! image0141414.jpg 
To keep squirrels from eating your plants, sprinkle your plants with cayenne pepper. The cayenne pepper doesn't hurt the plant and the squirrels won't come near it.

             image0151515.gif Flexible vacuum
To get something out of a heat register or under the fridge add an empty paper towel roll or empty gift wrap roll to your vacuum. It can be bent or flattened to get in narrow openings.  

                                                   Reducing Static Cling
Pin a small safety pin to the seam of your slip and you will not have a clingy skirt or dress. Same thing works with slacks that cling when wearing panty hose. Place pin in seam of slacks and ... ta da! ... static is gone.

image0161616.gifMeasuring Cups
Before you pour sticky substances into a measuring cup, fill with hot water.
Dump out the hot water, but don't dry cup. Next, add your ingredient, such
as peanut butter, and watch how easily it comes right out.

Foggy Windshield? image0171717.jpg
Hate foggy windshields? Buy a chalkboard eraser and keep it in the glove box of your car When the windows fog, rub with the eraser! Works better than a cloth!
                                   image0181818.gif Re open ing envelopes
If you seal an envelope and then realize you forgot to include something inside, just place your sealed envelope in the freezer for an hour or two. Viola! It unseals easily.

Conditioner image0191919.jpg
Use your hair conditioner to shave your legs. It's cheaper than shaving cream and leaves your legs really smooth. It's also a great way to use up the conditioner you bought but didn't like when you tried it in your hair.

image0202020.jpgGoodbye Fruit Flies
To get rid of pesky fruit flies, take a small glass, fill it 1/2' with Apple Cider Vinegar and 2 drops of dish washing liquid; mix well. You will find those flies drawn to the cup and gone forever!

Get Rid of Ants image0212121.gif
Put small piles of cornmeal where you see ants. They eat it, take it 'home,' can't digest it so it kills them. It may take a week or so, especially if it rains, but it works and you don't have the worry about pets or small children being harmed!  

                   image0222222.gif INFO ABOUT CLOTHES DRYERS
The heating unit went out on my dryer! The gentleman that fixes things around the house for us told us that he wanted to show us something and he went over to the dryer and pulled out the lint filter. It was clean. (I always clean the lint from the filter after every load clothes.) He told us that he wanted to show us something; he took the filter over to the sink and ran hot water over it. The lint filter is made of a mesh material .. I'm sure you know what your dryer's lint filter looks like. Well ... the hot water just sat on top of the mesh! It didn't go through it at all! He told us  that dryer sheets cause a film over that mesh that's what burns out the heating unit. You can't SEE the film, but it's there. It's what is in the drye r sheets to make your clothes soft and static free ... that nice fragrance too. You know how they can feel waxy when you take them out of the box .... well this stuff builds up on your clothes and on your lint screen. This is also what causes dryer units to potentially burn your house down with it! He said the best way to keep your dryer working for a very longtime (and to keep your electric bill lower) is to take that filter out and wash it with hot soapy water and an old toothbrush (or other brush) at least every six months. He said that makes the life of the d ryer at least twice as long! How about that!?!  Learn something new everyday! I certainly didn't know dryer sheets would do that. So, I thought I'd share!
Note: I went to my dryer and tested my screen by running water on it. The water ran through a little bit but mostly collected all the water in the mesh screen. I washed it with warm soapy water and a nylon brush and I had it done in 30 seconds. Then when I rinsed it .. the water ran right thru the screen! There wasn't any puddling at all! That repairman knew what he was talking about!  

Publishing Books -- What's Best?

This guy thinks so, though he argues only for self-publication.

I've published six books now -- three with three different publishers (American School of Needlework, Voyageur Press and the Kansas City Star), and three self-published. One book (Hanky Panky) went into 13 printings -- almost unheard-of for a craft book.

    My own experience has been that each book is different. Today's post is on having a publisher publish your book -- tomorrow, I'll give my take on self-publication.


First, there's the effort of interesting them -- and getting a contract. You may get an advance, which helps fund your lower-income writing periods. (Then again, that advance comes out first before you get a cent of your royalties.) And if the book sells well, the royalties come in handy, and they continue to flow until your book goes out of publication. (About 3-5 years, if you're lucky.)

Don't think, however, that the publisher will do a lot of promotion for you -- they won't. A prominent mention in their sale catalog, yes. A full-page ad or two when the book first comes out: maybe. Review copies to various publications and blogs: only if you initiate it. (And insist on it. I knew of publishers that automatically sent their new books, when I was the book review editor at Quilter's Newsletter. My publishers, however, have not, although Voyageur Press was willing to ship to the list of people I suggested.)

   But the primary benefit, as a teacher, judge and appraiser, is much more subtle. People read your book -- and want to meet the writer. People read your book -- and decide that you are an authority on that subject. Or your expertise is worth trusting more. Those assumptions all lead to more gigs teaching, judging and appraising. A further bonus: I can sell books at these venues, giving me even more income. (Not to mention added royalties.)
    You don't make a lot of money selling books -- it costs a great deal to get them wholesale. After I pay the publisher, I only get a limited amount of $$ per book. And the money is tied up in those books, until they're sold. If a rainstorm from an open window damages them -- as happened recently to a pile of Quilts of the Golden West -- well, Brickworks is out of pocket. Too bad.

The final issue is copyright. When I first started publishing with others, it was assumed that I would retain the copyright. When I approached ASN in the past few years with another book idea, though, they insisted they would hold the copyright. My words, my patterns -- their property forever!? I don't think so. (Had that book been accepted, I would have countered by offering the copyright for five years -- then it would revert back to me. I think they would have gone for it, but there's no way of telling for sure.)

So -- is it best to have someone else publish the book for you? On the plus side:
    *You make royalties -- and sometimes an advance, as well
    *They'll do a great job (pick your publisher carefully, for this reason)
    *Their distribution network is generally much larger than yours
   *They'll do (some) advertising
   *Having a book published by a reputable publisher doesn't hurt, status-wise

And on the negative side:
   *They may be difficult to work with -- or make changes you don't want
   *They may demand the copyright
  *They may not keep your book in print for very long
  *They may do little -- or no -- advertising, or sending out review copies

Tomorrow -- What about Self-Publishing, Instead?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Wal-Mart Deals for Black Friday

Get a sneak peek at the sales flyer, courtesy of the Wal-Mart website...

$1.96 DVDs, $2.97 crockpots, and more.

Weekend Dithering


Except I have a ton of errands to do, including finishing up a play that's overdue, for the Junior Church kids on Christmas Eve. No leisurely evening, either -- we need to cover for the Worship Team that normally does the Saturday night service at church. Sometimes I feel like poor old Mystery Guitar Man... or maybe Beaker.

I'm grateful for things like automatic deposits, quick Christmas gift ideas (gotta start planning for that, too) and this surprisingly good crockpot recipe:

    1 pkg pork loin
    1 can mushroom soup, plus 2/3 can milk and 2/3 can red wine
    2 large serving spoons salsa (I used this terrific avocado version)
    1 teaspoon rosemary -- or not

    1 can green beans (for later)

Mix together, and cook on low for 6-8 hours. Occasionally spoon the developing sauce over the meat, and/or cut it into smaller slices or chunks, to soak up much flavor as possible. Thirty minutes before serving, drain and dump the green beans in. Makes about 4 servings.

Serve with baked potatoes or instant mashed potatoes -- yum.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Tonight: On Appraising

Interested in learning more about appraising, as well as dating and valuing quilts and other textiles?
Do you live in the Denver, Colorado area?

I'll be speaking tonight (Thursday, Nov. 18) for the Smoky Hill Quilt Club in Aurora, CO -- general information is here, but the location has been changed to Lord of the Hills Lutheran Church in Aurora.

I'd love to have you join me.

In The Mood for A Little Hanky Panky?

If you've been thinking about getting a copy of my bestselling book, HANKY PANKY CRAZY QUILTS, now's the time! Through Sunday only, you can get a copy of the book for $10.95 postpaid (saving $3!) -- but only by mentioning this post on my blog. (Order as usual, but write CINDY BRICK BLOG in comments. We'll automatically adjust the payment when we process your credit card -- or refund any needed money, if you've paid via Paypal. You can also mail a check -- just put the magic words down on bottom left.)

These books make great Christmas presents -- so do Hanky Pankies. (You can make one in LESS than 10 hours, from first stitch to binding -- wow!)

You can also see Hanky Panky on its Amazon slot -- but don't order it from there. We can't give you this special price, except through the Brickworks website. Your book will arrive ready-wrapped...and we always include a freebie or two, as well.

You've got through November 21, 2010 to take advantage of this special.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Pass the Teapot - On A Sunny Day

The Frugal Girl has a tempting recipe for squash muffins today. Yum, you say -- I'd stand in line for SQUASH!! The recipe's step by step, which is helpful. These have a streusel topping, and the photo shows a flaky, steaming muffin that looks just plain delicious.
    Besides, this is the girl who had regular posts on what spoiled in her fridge that week...and I, God help me, made fun of that. I have to make it up to her. (Ok, I STILL think it's weird.) 
    Three little piano student girls are coming over this afternoon for tea...maybe I should make muffins to go with the chocolate-frosted lebkuchen, cheese appetizers, and tiny cups of chicken noodle soup, daintily sipped. Oh, and a pot of strong English Breakfast, too. The sun is finally shining, after some days of grayness and snow. We'll have fun...pinky fingers extended, of course!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Join the Pilgrims - Live on Tuesday, Nov. 16!

Meet a Pilgrim and an Indian...how many chances do you normally have to visit the Pilgrims' home at Plimoth Plantation -- live. It's only a 30-min. field trip -- head here to join.

Come Join Me on Thursday!

I'm speaking for the Smoky Hills Quilt Club in Aurora, CO this week Thursday. The subject: appraisals. How they're done, what they mean, how I do it...and so on. If you're in the neighborhood, come and join me!

The meeting starts at 6:30 Thursday evening, at Lord of the Hills Lutheran Church (21755 E. Smoky Hill Rd. in Aurora. You can mapquest it from your address.)

I'd love to meet you!

Fitting Everything In

It's a long week ahead.

    I've got a ton of stuff to do. And to make things more interesting, Charley, our new dog, is a chewer and explorer. So far, from his grasping jaws, I've rescued Husband's toolbelt, some weird velcroed sheepskin thing (I still don't know what it is, or where he found it), a piece of 1890s calico...and a bag of fireplace ashes he split open all over the sidewalk. (Hey, the dog's an equal opportunity grabber!)

Charley views computer time as poke-Mom-repeatedly-with-a-very-cold-nose-so-she'll-pay-attention. To more important things, of course, like petting drippy-furred dogs. (It's been snowing off and on all day.)

Well, he's a pup 10 months old. He'll learn.

I need to get more stuff done more quickly in less time -- and this blogger has some great ideas. (Thanks, Moneycrashers!) I also have some tricks that work well:

     *Bunch errands. If you're going to the post office, stop by the library and bank, as well. If I have to make phone calls, I'll do them all in one swoop. (Don't answer the phone every time it rings, and save yourself even more minutes -- just return the calls in one group later.)
     *Keep your morning routines to a minimum. My skin dries out easily in the winter -- and a quick shower is better than a leisurely bath. My hair stays glossier if I don't wash it as often, either.
    *If you've got regular tasks, do as much as possible ahead of time, while you're relaxing. I'll wrap extra copies of the books we ship out for orders -- same for freebies. That way, it takes only a minute or two to pack an order.
    It isn't just for the biz, though. I'll write thank-you notes, and Husband pays bills while we watch tv.
    *Get extras. I'll pick up extra boxes of Husband's favorite protein bars, or a tube...an extra dozen eggs...an extra 40-lb bag of dogfood...and I try to keep an extra gallon of milk in the freezer, to minimize additional trips to the store. When I get these items on sale, I pat myself on the back twice!
    *Cook simple meals during times of extra busyness. White cheese dip plus pasta = Pasta Alfredo. Store-made fried chicken. Baked potatoes. Macaroni and cheese. Mix in chopped broccoli or mixed vegetables, and you've got a meal. Make a large pot of soup or chili, eat some and freeze the rest.

     Charley's banging his meal dish around, I've got to get the fried chicken in the oven, and there's dishes to wash. See you later.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

There's a New Brick in the Family!

...and he's kinda furry.
    Charlie is part Chesapeake Bay Retriever, part Lab...and all cute. He's a lovely cream/gold/rust all over, with perky ears and bright golden green eyes. He came from the Dumb Friends League -- maybe he was subdued in his little cage, but at home, he's been anything but! So far, he's done great, with the possible exception of the glass doors that lead outside to the deck -- he can't figure out who that strange dog is in the reflection, and keeps wanting to go out and investigate. :) 
    Buck, our resident Weimie, is less than enthused. But then again, Buck feels this way about all 'intruder' dogs. (For your information, Buck does not think HE is a dog. He is a 'people' who just isn't given the privileges he deserves.) I think he'll get used to the idea in time. Probably he would disagree, if he could type!
    Charlie already is making a place in our hearts. Oh...and his name? Because he's full of the Dickens!
* * * * * *
In other notes, Donna Freedman has some extremely helpful notes for the upcoming holiday season -- including how to save on gift cards and other purchases. Lots of links, too...take a look here.

Our funds are at a minimum, thanks to hospital bills for Husband. Thankfully, though, I've been purchasing gifts all along, as I find them at a good price. There's very little to get, other than maybe a few dollar presents for Christmas stockings -- and Husband's anniversary present. (Dec. 26) I do plan on making the annual stop to the mall, to see Christmas decorations -- but that will have to wait until the girlies have a day off, and time to spend. (I'll take just enough cash for lunch -- and no credit cards, to ease the temptation.)

Charlie's tail almost knocked the row of cups off the coffee table...I'm not used to tails, after living with docked-tail Weimies for decades! Gotta go...

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Elf Yourself - One Sample!

Just elfing around...I've got work to do (Husband is muttering over his), but can't help adding Jack, Daughter #1's dog, and Buck to the Elf mix!


Enjoy...and please don't hurt me, Daughters #1 and #2.


If you're dawdling over breakfast (or brunch) this morning, you might enjoy spending it with Ginger. We did!

    Today is full of little doodly errands...plus heading to the Dumb Friends League to look for a little brother or sister for Buck, our very-old Weimaraner. He misses Goonie, who died back in July. So do we.
    Now is the perfect time to think about adopting a dog or cat, if you live in the Denver area -- the Dumb Friends League is offering a $100 discount through the end of November! Adoption includes spaying or neutering, shots and an initial doctor's visit. The final price should be pretty close to free when all's said and done. Get your $100 coupon here.

Supper with friends tonight -- but I have a bunch of business stuff to do first. Have a good weekend yerself.

Elf Yourself!

Not that you don't have anything else to do...but thanks to Office Max, this popular program is back. Turn yourself and the ones you love into dancing elves! Not only will they look goofy, but you can train them through a number of dances, as well.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Charley and Me

...Charles Dickens, that is.

   I'm rather fond of this old boy. I did my Master's paper on his work, and try to read at least a few books by him or about him throughout the year. Scrolling through his museum website (the Charles Dickens Museum in London), I came on a very appealing invitation -- if you visit the museum during the holidays, you'll not only get the usual tour, but a glass of mulled wine (after Dickens' own recipe -- he was a big one for this), mince pie or Christmas cake, and a gift pack! Wow. The invite's here -- I wish I could come up with a good reason for the sudden need to fly to England.

Also -- for those of you who are also fond of Dickens tidbits, Robert Seymour's gravestone has been found and refurbished. (Seymour was the first illustrator -- and some say originator -- of the Pickwick Papers, but committed suicide in a fit of despair after he felt his idea was stolen. Blamed Dickens for it, too.)

And Gad's Hill Place, Dickens' beloved home through his death, will change from a private children's school to a Visitors Centre in 2012. Whoa...maybe I should start saving!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Get Some Guacamole -- Close to Free!

Run, don't walk, over to your Facebook account, and access Wholly Guacamole. They're currently running a $4 coupon that will let you get a nice pot of guac or cheese sauce practically free! (I could even print off two: one for us, one for Daughter #1, who is a sucker for an avocado anytime.) 
   Click on 'Like,' then coupons -- it's just a step after that. These coupons are only good for the first 10,000 printings or so, so don't dawdle.


The sun was shining this morning...and still doing its stuff when I drove into Denver to do some appraisals. By 1:30 p.m., the world was pearl gray, with heavy spatters of rain. That turned into hail. Back into rain. And by the time I hit Dead Man's Curve on the way home (it really is called that), it was flappy globs of snow that stuck to everything, including the highway signs. As of tonight, there are at least 6 or 7 inches of snow sticking to everything, tree branches included...and yet it feels curiously warm outside. We're getting more low temps the rest of the week, though. I just hope the plastic-walled greenhouse Husband set up for me on the patio will make it. It's resting on a concrete foundation -- maybe that will help keep it warm. Maybe I should put some jugs of water in there, to help absorb and release heat at night. Any ideas?

Speaking of, here's a terrific way to turn your favorite magazine photos into stationery, courtesy of Messy Thrilling Life. (I'd read about this in the Tightwad Gazette, too -- have just got to try it.)

And don't miss the sad tale of 4,500 passengers and crew stuck on a Carnival cruise to the Mexican Riviera, that are basically going nowhere, thanks to an engine room fire. No hot water. No air conditioning. (They don't seem to need the latter -- it's only 65 degrees out.) Eating canned crabmeat and Spam. Oh boy!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Veteran's Day Free Meals and Discounts

Don't miss out on this, if you or someone you love is/was on active duty or retired in a branch of the U.S. Armed Forces. Many of the specials revolve around Thursday, Nov. 11 -- but some, like a free meal at the Golden Corral, are on Nov. 15, instead.
    Lowe's and Home Depot are both offering a 10% discount for purchases this week through the 11th. Husband (a six-year Navy veteran) and I will probably be headed to Applebee's on Thursday for a free meal.
    Full list is here!

Uptown Girl...and Other Female Muses

Did you know that Billy Joel's song "Uptown Girl" wasn't about Christie Brinkley? (It was actually Elle Macpherson. Go figure.) 
   And Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline" was about Caroline Kennedy.
   More about a number of female-inspired songs here. Fascinating.


Wow, what a weekend.

   We had a great time at Caryl May and James' wedding celebration...got home about 9:30 p.m., just in time to do some quick vaccumming and greet Joanie, Joy and Janet, who arrived about 11:00. They finally went to bed, but Daughters, who were both in a feisty mood, wanted to stay up and blab.
   That meant going to Worship Team practice (and dropping one daughter off at the lightrail) on just a few hours' sleep. And having the cousins here meant another trip around, and no Sunday nap. Even more sleep lost.


   The J's leave early this morning, on their way to Michigan. I had planned to get up early anyways, to make them breakfast, but couldn't sleep -- even when I finally had the opportunity. The time change? Or maybe the culprit was some difficult things to consider, including some business decisions on product. I finally got up at 3:30 a.m., and started plowing through those. The worst are done, and I feel better. Now on to breakfast.

Things I Have Learned (Once Again) Through this Weekend:
*Stop worrying about Stuff That Might Happen. It doesn't change anything. You're not better prepared, either, unless you plan, instead of obsessing. Besides, whatever you dreaded doesn't even happen part of the time.
*Poor decisions don't change, whether you make them now -- or try to fudge, put it off and make them later.
*Listen to your gut. If a little voice is speaking that this is not the right fit, or there's a problem brewing, listen to it. Less heartache in the long run. Every single time that I've ignored this little voice, I've regretted it.
*Spend time with the ones you love. Even if it means lost sleep.

Now that, I won't regret. Ever.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Shocking Animal Videos

(Hey, if Shawn Hannity and Greta VanS can use that phrase a lot, so can I!)

A dog catches a salmon -- as it swims across the road. (I'm not making this up. Go look.)

A bear chases a bison down the road in Yellowstone National Park. (Does he catch him? Go see!)

And now I'm off to wash dishes...

Molly Brown House is Having A Party!

You're invited to a free Night at the Museum...tomorrow night (Sat., Nov. 6) from 5-10 p.m. Here's the general information; if you live in the Denver area, it should be great fun! Visit the Molly Brown House Museum website for more information.

Molly Brown House Museum Events

Night at the Museums - FREE event!
Saturday, November 6, 2010 5-10 pm

As part of Denver Arts Week, we invite you to visit the Molly Brown House Museum and more than a dozen other museums, all hosting free extended hours on a fun Saturday night! Free shuttle buses will depart continuously from the Cherry Creek Mall and the Denver Art Museum. Beginning at 4:30 pm on November 6th the Molly Brown House Museum will hand out timed entry passes into the Museum good for that night only. Passes are given out on a first-come, first -served basis until all timed entries for the night are handed out. If you are unable to join us on the 6th, we will have another Free Day for Denver Arts Week on Thursday, November 11th from 10 am to 3:30 pm.

Trying to Get Everything Done

Husband and yours truly found ourselves facing off tonight over something silly. He'd had a long day at work, and both of our computers are acting up. (And we don't know why.) As for me, I'd been trying to cram cleaning in around piano lessons, business stuff and trying to help out for Caryl May and James' wedding tomorrow. (We still don't know for sure when Daughters are coming in, and need to be picked up from lightrail, though I have a better idea now.) Plus I got a nastygram from someone who completely misunderstood my actions (not to mention my motives) about a situation.
   After we got done snarling at each other, I apologized and explained why I was frustrated. He explained why he was frustrated. And at least we're talking better now.
   The cousins called -- they're in Boise, Idaho. They figure 14 hours to Castle Rock, since they're going slower than usual. (Mapquest says it's about 12 hours drive.) They won't leave until 7 a.m. tomorrow morning.
   Hope sprang in my breast. That would put them in town probably about 8 or 9 p.m. The wedding is at 5 tomorrow; reception at 6 p.m. I should be able to stay through the wedding and a good-sized chunk of the reception, with no worries. (Dave and the girls can stay as long as they want.)
   This may work, after all, with God's grace.

Wedding Bells and Random Thoughts

Our good friends' daughter, a girlie we have watched grow up from a scabby-kneed kid into a beautiful, sophisticated woman, is getting married tomorrow. Caryl May and James (an engineer we've also grown to know -- and love) are having a big reception afterwards, in a building that will only hold 200 people. (The building supervisor said they're going to have someone there to check. And count. Which is driving our friends unnecessarily crazy, worrying about whether they get too many people, and having to "uninvite" others. Note to self: when Daughters marry, make sure we're in a location that will hold more people than we want to ask, just in case.)
   Had the usual Friday morning coffee with Chris (the mom) and her sisters -- and she just looked dazed. So many things to check on. So many people to provide for. Poor girl...but tomorrow will be fun!

   This makes life especially interesting for the Brick household as well. Joy, Joanie and Janet, our cousins, are driving through town, on their way to moving Janet from Oregon to Michigan. They're planning on stopping here for a day, and are supposed to be coming in -- Hold your breath, drumroll, yes, you guessed it -- tomorrow night, right during the wedding and reception!! TA DA. So far, they're running a bit late. I am really hoping they come in about 10 p.m. or so -- which would let me stay and enjoy the festivities, as well as Dave and the girls. But who knows.
   Why is it that when you have something wonderful happening in your life, something else wonderful has to happen at the same time?? I love Joanie dearly -- she is a year older, we grew up together, my middle name is actually named for her -- and she has never been here, in the 26-plus years we've lived in Colorado. (Joy has stopped by...but Janet hasn't been here, either.) I want to show these cousins a great time. Why did Janet move on the same weekend Daisy Maisy and James are getting married???

While I'm dithering and cleaning, here are a few sites you'll find intriguing:

*A place to print your own fabric! Imagine that: your favorite style, colors, whatever -- all for about $18 a yard. Not much more than buying fabric at the quilt shop anymore. I plan to visit Spoonflower again -- and do some stuff for Brickworks.

*A lady who's going through a rough patch -- coming up hundreds of dollars short each month, and doesn't know how to fix it, other than stiffing her mother. (And mom has helped her out considerably in the past.) Don't miss out on the comments here -- great suggestions, but also some verbal fistfights between correspondents. Kind of fun to watch. (Thanks, Simple Dollar, for the entertainment.)

*Do you complain when you get bad service? One Frugal Girl tussles away at this idea...I'd say, of course. You're spending good money for it -- why not? But I am not one to make a fuss during the actual experience...I write letters afterward. Seems to have more impact.

*For those of you who enjoy Undercover Boss, a look at 11 CEOs who started at the bottom and worked their way up.

*One of the funniest commercials I've seen lately -- Conan O'Brien washing his desk, in prep for his new show on TBS. Conan...sexy?? And finally...

*Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt admit to blowing through $10 million. Now they're broke, facing bankruptcy and a $2 million tax bill. Poor babies.

The Mama called -- it's snowing in Michigan! And our forecast is for 70s tomorrow...have a good weekend yourself.

                         Congratulations, Daisy and James! We love you.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Airlines, Carryons and Checked Bags

I just finished an interesting post from Liz Weston, financial guru-ette, on why airlines should charge for carryons. Liz doesn't understand why people lug on those pull-suitcases-with-wheels, and try to stuff them into the bins, especially when they get on last of all, and could gate check them, instead.


I've made several flights this past month, and can speak to this, especially after a lovely flight from Grand Rapids, MI to Atlanta,GA, via Delta Airlines. (I was headed to Denver -- so the airline routed me south and east instead. I felt like a UPS package. Go, Delta.) 

Thanks to the Mama and several goodies I'd found, I was bringing home a heavier carryon suitcase than I'd brought. Much heavier, in fact. My group was one of the last called (not my choice, Liz!), and by the time I got on board, the plane was stuffed to the gills. With people and luggage. As I trudged to the back of the plane, the stewardess sweetly pointed out a tiny space in the very back: "You can put your suitcase there." (Hint to Liz: I TRIED to gate check the suitcase, and was told by the gate person, "We don't ever do that," in snotty tones suggesting I'd insisted on flying the plane myself.)

I puffed a little, trying to push the suitcase in. It didn't fit. I ended up in the back galley, pulling out stuff until finally the suitcase had a lower profile. (I had to push it into another bin, which entailed dirty looks from the people who had stuff in there already. It barely fit.) Then, holding my extra shirts in my arms, I had to make the people in my row stand up, so I could get in. They weren't tiny, nor were they polite. The rest of the flight I spent making myself as small as possible, and causing no trouble. (The stewardess, unlike the other staff I'd encountered, was actually quite kind during this embarrassment.)

Ironically, the flight from Atlanta to Denver was no problem. I re-packed the suitcase in the terminal, putting back the shirts, plus several other items from another bag. When time came to board, I didn't dare suggest gate checking. Just puffed on, lifted the bag up...and it slid in, with at least 8-12 inches on top to spare.
   Oh yes...and we were two hours late getting into Denver.

I learned some things from this escapade -- and this month:
*Checking bags is expensive. Two bags I needed to bring kits and samples to L.A. for the cruise cost me $120 roundtrip. At baggage claim, they showed up more banged-up than what they started. (This was United, in case you're wondering.)
*Not all airplane overhead bins are the same size -- even if they're from the same airline
*Some gate people just wish you'd go away -- a fact the Grand Rapids staff made abundantly clear. (I was trying to!)
*Stick with an airline that treats you right -- like Southwest. Not only do they let you check bags for free (Go Southwest!) and have a staff that treats you right...they understand about emergencies. When I was forced to cancel a flight only a few hours beforehand, due to Husband's week-long stay in the hospital, the Southwest rep did not hesitate to reschedule the ticket. When I need it, I can use it. No penalties.

Now that's the way to treat a customer.

Another Look at Self-Worth

Here's some great advice for all of you navel-examiners out there, courtesy of George M. Cohan.

The writer of "Yankee Doodle Boy" really was born on the Fourth of July. (According to his parents and himself, that is -- and his dad was known as a "pillar of rectitude," according to Cohan's biographer. Cohan's birth certificate registered a July 3rd date -- probably a clerical error, according to said biographer.) If you're curious for more about this talented, bossy, generous man, look for George M. Cohan: the Man Who Owned Broadway by John McCabe.

Anyhow, here it is, from Cohan's play The Return of the Vagabond:

I'm the best pal that I ever had,
I like to be with me;
I like to sit and tell myself
Things confidentially.

I often sit and ask me
   If I shouldn't or if I should
And I find that my advice to me 
   Is always pretty good.

I never got acquainted with
   Myself til here of late;
And I find myself a bully chum,
    I treat me simply great.

I talk with me and walk with me
    And show me right and wrong;
I never knew how well myself
    And I could get along.

Just get together with yourself
   And trust yourself with you;
And you'll be surprised how well yourself
   Will like you if you do.

Feeling French

The Everyday Minimalist makes an interesting case for French women -- that they're more put together than their American counterparts because they:
    *Don't try as hard to 'be liked, or like everybody else'
    *Don't worry about extra poundage
    *Accept themselves for what (and who) they are
    *Give their personal lives latitude -- open space to their partner as well as themselves
   *Wear the same clothing over and over, with small changes

(Here's the L.A. Times article that started EM's musings in the first place.)

I have a tough time believing that 'honesty =being rude to everyone' is a positive thing. (EM just says that quality is refreshing.) I'd love to say this, as well as the other statements, is blowhard stuff...but a good friend's experience gives me pause. She was more than endowed with her share of curves, and unfortunately understood enough French to overhear several discussions about her weight. (And they weren't nice about it, either.)

And how far do you take these precepts? Let your partner sleep around...or do it yourself, because then you are allowing freedom? Accept those little faults about yourself, like cruelty or alcoholism, that make you anything but a better person? Be obnoxious, because then you can say exactly what you want, without considering other people's feelings?

I think I'd rather stick to being an American -- although I did find myself living comfortably on 3-4 changes of clothing this past month, and doing just fine. (The secret is choosing higher quality stuff that's classic in design, then accenting with unusual jewelry or footwear.) Ironically, I am part French...French Canadian!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Andrea Merriman

In 2009, a man named Shawn Merriman, who had been heading up a fancy investment company for 16 years, finally confessed to his wife Andrea that it was all a sham. And in one conversation, everything she had known was gone -- for both herself and their four kids. The large home. Luxury cars. Everything. (Here's her memory of that awful night.)
   What would you do? What would you say?

Here's the general story, so you can become more familiar with this gutsy woman. She moved her family to Utah, where they could rent a house, and start a new life. Not a rich one -- they'd lost everything. But a fulfilling one, nonetheless.

Andrea ended up starting a new life...and fortunately, we can follow it through her blog. I plan to follow her story, and bet you'd find it inspiring, too.

Home At Last

WHEW...the long month away is finally done. I taught the last Crazy Quilting class Saturday night. (Hi, fellow Rocky Mountain Crazy Quilters!!) We had a great time, slinging trims everywhere and traipsing around, admiring fellow students' work. This is one talented bunch in the CQ department.

I feel, though, a bone-deep fatigue, along with the relief. Missed an appraisal appointment yesterday, felt terrible. (Called the person who was actually scheduled today, instead...and thought I had a free slate, that I'd misplanned, since they were today. Didn't look at e-mail, and missed the message from the person who was actually scheduled. Yeowch. Please tell me you don't do this sort of absentminded behavior.) I am starting to realize that a few days off to wash clothes and putter are critical, before I start up again. Otherwise, my body takes that time that hard way -- I miss deadlines and commitments, forget to send birthday cards, etc. Not good.

Aha well. It's a glorious, blue sky day -- and the fall colors are 'sort of' still out there. I've got some work to do. More later. It's just nice to be home.