Thursday, June 30, 2011

Sea Monsters Ahoy

Did you hear about the 'Sea Monster' found on a Chinese beach? It measures 55 feet long and weighs an estimated 4 1/2 tons -- see a photo here.

Moved boxes most of the day, and ripped up carpet from the sewing room. (The first few feet of it was wet -- the rest, thankfully, stayed dry. So the fabric loss was minimal.) Found another mousey embellishment -- but I didn't scream so loud this time. Maybe getting used to it? (Naahhh....)

This Really Happened...

So we've been clearing away the boxes in the basement sewing room. (See my last post for more.) I was happily finding a bunch of antique fabric scraps in the 'dry' pile. While picking those up, I noticed a fur embellishment on the floor: "hmmm, how did this get there! All the embellishments should have been cleared away."
     Held it for a minute, admiring the multi-colors. (Must have been tired.) All of a sudden, I realized the embellishment had a tail! 
     I dropped it pronto. Some yelling ensued, and friend Adam was recruited to Get Rid of It. Only afterwards did I wonder -- field mice, our usual visitors, have gray fur. Where did this parti-colored guy come from?
     I'm still shivering a little.

Business Advice Online

If you're working at a business, small or large, Inc. Magazine is one of the most best reads you can do. It doesn't cover craft industry enough for my taste (shame on them), and the big corporations (and bigger companies) are its major focus. But it does have practical advice for focusing your time and money that can be of use, whether you have fifty employees -- or just one.

Case in point: this illuminating column by Jason Fried from the March 2011 issue, "How I Got Good At Making Money." 
   An excerpt: "When you put a price on something, you get really honest feedback from customers. When entrepreneurs ask me how to get customers to tell us what they really think, I respond with two words: Charge them. They'll tell you what they think, demand excellence, and take the product seriously in a way they never would if they were just using it for free.
     "As an entrepreneur, you should welcome that pressure. You should want to be forced to be good at what you do."

I just wandered onto the site recently, and realized they have a big batch of articles there that are separate from the magazine! The sales section currently features the ten best salespeople of all time (albeit ones that aren't always kind or ethical); I was much more interested, though, in the surprising ways ten top CEOS stay productive. You will, too.

* * * * * *
Basement Update (For Those Who Care): We're back in the waiting mode -- sort of. We finally found a company to deal with the aesbestos. (Take a moment and pray that you will never have this at your place -- the estimates for one wall of an average-sized room, plus removing the floor tiles, which are already loose, have ranged from $2500-5000. One day's work.)
    They start Tuesday. In the meantime, we're in the process of removing the stuffed-in boxes in the sewing room, pulling the carpet out of there (it got wet at the very entrance, along with some fabric), then rearranging shelving units inside to form a sort of storage area. That will keep things sort of tidy until we can paint and re-floor the main room.
    If you're thinking this sounds like hot, stuffy and boring work -- you're right! But it's getting done, and in the long run, we'll be better for it.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Nice Ways to Use Your Paper and Fabric Scraps

Got fabric -- or paper -- scraps you just can't give up?

These crafts let you make beautiful topped jars or pencils...


Or these layered fabric flowers:

More fabric craft ideas on this same link. Very purdy.

It's hot hot HOT here again. Libby and I have been weeding, and with Adam, schlepped boxes downstairs to start clearing out the sewing room. I was happily wandering through my fabric scraps when I suddenly realized that a furry embellishment I was holding...
      Wasn't an embellishment at all.

After Adam carted the dessicated mouse away (YUCK), we went and helped friends unload their moving truck. Life is full of boxes. Boxes, boxes, boxes...and Other Things.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Reading Into Finance

How are you going to learn more about your money, and using it wisely, if you don't take time to study and explore?
    The answer is, of course -- you won't.
This list of resources, "Good Stuff on the 'Net," is particularly helpful. (Thanks, Mdmproofing.)

I've also been enjoying a new column that started at the Miami Herald: "Money Matters" by Meg Green. Good, practical advice with a minimum of goofiness.

It's a hot/cooler/no, it's hot again!/raining/sunny Monday...and lots of work to do in the week ahead. I'll be in touch -- have a good week yerself.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Davy Plays

Husband did me proud during the June 16 concert in Pueblo. Here he is, playing the mandolin and looking serious:

Love the shirt...

Feedsacks...To Buy For!

As a kid, my mom wore skirts and blouses made from feedsacks, print cloth bags that originally came stuffed with flour, beans or -- my grandma's favorite -- feed for her chickens. One or two bags would make an outfit for a kid; three might be needed for Grandma, who was not exactly a lightweight.

I still have scraps of Grandma's feedsacks -- which came in a blizzard of prints, styles and colors -- in my own scrap bag. And, except for a short period in the mid-1980s, I'd not seen any manufacturers who were using cloth bags...except for the rice people, and that has stopped in recent years. (The flour sacks I noticed around 1985 or '86 were poor quality, and not that pretty.)

But that's all changed.

One of my students at a recent talk said she'd been getting Blue Bird flour sacks at her local King Soopers in Denver. (For you non-Westerners, that's the same as the Kroger chain.) Lo and behold, my local King Soopers stocks them, too! You can now buy 5 pound and 10 pound bags of Cortez Milling's Blue Bird flour, for little more than the flour in generic paper sacks. (Cortez mentions 20 pound sacks, but I haven't seen those at my local store.) And they're beautiful:

Some say that Blue Bird flour is the only kind to use if you want to make authentic Navajo fry bread: go here for the recipe, and more. The flour's excellent for biscuits, bread and cookies, too.

Good for Blue Bird! It's nice to see a company showing a green response, without making a big fuss about it. I intend to use my sacks for quilt backs, keeping the logo, and maybe a tea towel or two -- two other things Grandma made use of them for.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Subscribe to Agnes...Quick!

This girlie is the eternal optimist...and a little weird. She lives in a trailer park with her "gramma," a hard-working sort, generally shown in a bathrobe, who loves her newspaper and a cup of coffee. Agnes' friend Trout (yes, that's her name) keeps her on the balanced side -- so do her 'boyfriend' Bob, regular visits to the principal's office, and an interesting propensity to wear a cheetah costume at the drop of a hat.
   I love Agnes dearly. You can too, with a daily subscription to Tony Cochran's Agnes. Go here to subscribe... long live the optimists!

This strip just seemed apropos to our basement quandaries:

(btw, for us vision-challenged types, click on it to read it in a bigger version.)

Or maybe this organizational post will do the trick. (Thanks, Piece O'Cake.)

I couldn't sleep until 3:30 a.m., but things are more cheerful today. Husband's e-mail is intact -- he'd been downloading it daily. He was just frustrated because he hadn't finished the forwarding addresses yet. He's speaking to me, which is a pleasure. And life goes on, doesn't it...

New Discoveries

An 'uncontacted' tribe in Brazil?
   Yes, according to this.

And the first documented carving of a mastodon in the Western Hemisphere?
   Take a look and see for yourself.

   At least I'm doing something useful while I can't sleep!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Pride Goeth Before Frustration

I have been trying to take other people's advice about least when it comes to cable. We had a chance to switch to Qwest's internet plan -- something that cost less than what we were paying to Comcast. And after much discussion, we felt that we could watch our favorite shows and movies just as quickly on Hulu or Netflix.

I called, and found out our month's worth of Comcast ended on the 25th. (Today, in fact.) At least a week ago, Husband told me to make sure my e-mail from the old address was backed up and sent to the new e-mail. He reminded me that I needed to change it for the bank, Paypal, and so on.

    Hey, I have a business, as well as a personal life, and I didn't want to lose anything. Besides, I thought he was making an excellent argument. So I listened to him, and did what he urged me to do.

    Yesterday afternoon, I called Comcast to cancel our plan. (I'd mentioned to Husband at least two days before that I was going to do this.) I didn't want to give them the ghost of an excuse to charge us for another month's use. Comcast, bless their little hearts, did NOT let the plan run out to the end, but cancelled it, all right -- within five minutes of my call.

    Ok. Not thrilled about this, but I can handle it. Think of the money we'll be saving. And I've been so efficient, taking care of it in good time. Whoo hoo.
    Late tonight Husband drops the bomb --
            He never forwarded e-mail from his old address on to the new one.

Can Comcast let him in long enough to do this?
Can he manage to at least get his old e-mail messages?
What was he doing when he was reading and responding to e-mail for several hours earlier this week? 
       (He was the one who actually set up my new e-mail account, for which I am profoundly grateful. This computer stuff is confusing. He works hard for us, and I try very hard to be accommodating. I appreciate his work and effort. I really do.)

Hopefully I misunderstood, and he just means the last day's worth of messages were lost?
What if I didn't?

       Husband went to bed soon after his announcement.
Can I sleep, now that I feel guilty and frustrated as all getout?

Earning Extra Money - Part Two

Obviously this subject is on many people's minds right now, what with uncertainties everywhere.

Get Rich Slowly has a post on this today -- with links to many other blogs. It will take a while to wade through, but if you're honestly looking to earn more money, it's worth it. Go here for the straight scoop.

Some things I've done for supplementary cash:
    (ooh, that sounds a little kinky!)

*sold apples (and trimmed apple trees)
*typed and/or edited term papers and vetted resumes
*cleaned house
*given piano and voice lessons
*sat through survey sessions on cars, bath and cleaning products
*taken surveys online
*given rides to places
*acted as a Santa Claus girl in a mall
*been a member of online forums (financial and food) -- you're required to post weekly, in order to qualify for Amazon gift cards
*been part of should, too! It's very easy to do; just click on the Swagbucks graphic at right. (I'll get a little reward too, for guiding you there.)

Probably the oddest jobs were helping install lightning rods on the gymnasium roof of a university (during spring break one year in college), running a Children's Book Fair (also in college), and the weiner: 
     *Writing enclopedia definitions on quilting for Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Every little bit helps, doesn't it!

World Record Catfish

Have you ever seen such a monster? This beauty weighed in at 143 pounds...caught at a lake in North Carolina. Read all about it here.

and get out the hush puppy!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Making An Extra Thousand A Month...Can You Do It From Home?

MoneySavingMom's readers obviously think so...and there are a lot of good and helpful ideas here. Can you really earn a thou from home, though?
     I'm not so sure.
There is one thing that IS being pointed out -- and that is the value of having what others have called "multiple streams of income." You may not make it on writing articles, or editing -- but you might do better if you could add transcription, babysitting, or the surprise winner: cancelling your cable. (We'll be doing this tomorrow, and joining the Netflix clan. So long, Comcast.)
    So if you need some extra bucks, take a look at the MSM post. One of the comments just might help. Just don't expect that you will have to really work for it -- too many of these people are glib about the time and effort that extra pay will demand. If your time is limited to begin with, don't expect it to get any easier. It won't. (I wonder how I know this.)

Or,  you could cut your expenses and save more bucks by shopping at the dollar store... 
or just become a celebrity. Or blow it off altogether, and check out totally useless websites that are a lot of fun...

Great Summertime Tips!

Some really good ones on this list...and while you're at it, take a minute to vote for Donna Freedman's tip. (It's the one on 6 reasons your garden hose is a good friend, about 2/3 down the page.) If you do that -- you may send her to the next Blogher conference for free! (Deadline to vote is June 26.)

Basement Report

No banging or crashing downstairs for a day or so now...instead, we have big sheeted areas with a huge X mark over the mold-y walls. Obviously they are Being Treated. Which is ok with me!
    We haven't heard yet about the updated aesbestos testing, either. In the meantime, I am trying to scrub away at stuff, getting it ready to go back in after the walls are done and the floors are re-poured.
    Finally Ikea is coming to Denver -- the store will open here in late July. They have some great cabinets that would work perfectly downstairs. Why don't we put those in, instead of custom-building them? I'm thinking of something like these...

In the meantime, it's hot hot hot. The dogs lay around, panting loudly. Ironing, cooking, all sounds sticky. But it's got to be done...

I did want you all to know how much I've appreciated your kind and concerned words about this whole's meant so much to me. Thank you. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Win A Silhouette!

I've been looking for something that will give me a cleaner look for stenciling, painting, and applique -- particularly for lettering. Now, thanks to Funky Junk Interiors, I've discovered the Silhouette, an electronic cutting machine that hooks up to your computer -- and does it all.
   Now thanks to Funky Junk, you can win your own Silhouette! Go here, and leave a comment -- the drawing ends June 27. Good luck to you.

A Dozen Simple Truths Learned

If you're not sure about a person, watch your dog's reaction to them.

Fresh fruit and vegetables -- REALLY fresh -- are the best.
      (Otherwise, don't bother, unless they're on sale.)

Pick up twelve things a day.
(You'll be amazed at how much tidier it looks in just a short time.)

Always keep an emergency twenty in your wallet. 

Keep a list. Do at least one thing a day from it.

You can best trust the friend who stuck with you in hard times. 
(Make sure you're the kind of friend who reciprocates!)

The honest opinions of said friend are worth more than diamonds. 

If you give your word - you keep it. No matter what.   (My dad was a stickler for this. It also meant you don't give your word lightly!)

Cook with butter.
(It's not that many extra calories, and you can tell the difference.)

Buy a higher grade of coffee and tea. You won't regret it.

Spend at least a few minutes a day digging in the dirt, or sitting in the sunshine.

God can be trusted -- in every situation, every day, no matter what. 

Trent over at the Simple Dollar has a whole list of these: my favorite, though, is this one:

    People don't want to hang out with you because of what you have -- they want to hang out with you because of who you are. 
    Except for teenagers, maybe!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A New Treasure Hoard Found!

Whoa...two million dollars-plus found wrapped inside telephone cables on their way to Venezuela. This Mexican grab netted boxes and boxes of folded U.S. currency.

Our weekend's been a lot more peaceful than the week preceding it. The usual chores and such, but the carpet and nastiness from downstairs is finally in the dumpster. The basement now looks stripped and deserted...but our friend Thommy can soon pour a new concrete overlay that will make it look much better.
   As soon as the walls are stripped out, that is. We found out Friday that mold is not the only problem we have to contend with -- the coating on the walls tested positive for aesbestos. (The house was built in 1968, after all.) That means at least $2000 more than planned to pull it all out and contain the area...but it will be Taken Care Of, and we can sell the house without having to worry about it.
   A couple thousand more, on top of the rest of the costs...maybe I should go looking for more telephone cables.

Friday, June 17, 2011

To-mayto, To-mah-to...

The best-tasting tomato ever, according to Dirt du Jour?
Better Boy.

Hmmm...would have given that honor to Beefsteak! Not that we can grow it; Early Girl or cherry-type tomoatoes are about all our 6,250-ft altitude can produce before cooler nights and frost shut the plants down.

Best Yard Sale Finds...Lots of Them!

The Nester is having one of her linky parties -- this one on Best Garage Sale treasures. What fun to rummage through her links -- almost as good as finding the stuff yourself. Especially when I've been being an insurance office person all day. I've heard at least two thunderstorms go through, and wonder what the Servpro people left outside that might get rained on. (Hopefully not the wood. The metal shelving, who cares.)
    I'm especially envious of this blogger's magic finds...
Hmmm, what would mine be? Maybe the armload of blue flowware plates, $1 each. (Yes, 19th century blue flowware.) Or the chintz armchair, padded in what I am pretty sure is down, snagged for less than $20 at our local thrift shop's half-price sale. (It always happens the third Saturday of the month -- and tomorrow's the next one.)
    Or maybe it's the antique metal folding stepstool, old-fashioned red paint with a generous batch of paint drips, that was $5. I've also found bracelets, beads and a ton of paper napkins for literally nickels. I love garage sales!

The band last night was ok...we were jammed on a pretty small stage for eight people to stand on. I spent the evening with one hip braced against Husband's keyboard, trying desperately not to back up onto the guitar player! Some songs were wonderful, like "Taking Care of Business." Some were a struggle because we had difficulty hearing each other -- the sounds were echoing all over. Hot lights made it pretty sweaty, too. It was fun, but I agree with the time-honored saying: we shouldn't quit our day jobs.

Libby tells me that the Servpro people have been throwing out bags and assorted trash. They told her the moldy, mildewy carpet should be gone by tonight. Oh boo hoo...I wonder what's underneath. Will find out tonight.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

It All Has to Happen On The Same Day

I"m a working stiff all day at our friends' insurance office this week. While I'm here, two Servpro guys (later, 5 total) are tearing out the main area of the basement...the carpet, the wallboard, everything. Then this afternoon, it's on (for me, at least) to the concert in Pueblo, which will last into the late hours of the night. Then it's a 1 1/2-hour drive home..and start over again tomorrow.
    Joyous, huh? At least the Servpro guys are actively working. It gets old, this patiently waiting business.

While I'm running around, consider this interesting post on keeping your head above water, even when you're struggling. Oops, my ride to Pueblo just showed up. I'll be back tomorrow...

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

I'm Still Here... 'bout that.

Boy, it's been zany.

The dumpster has been ordered, and the Servpro guys should be starting to pull the carpet and drywall any day now. Libby and I spent a chunk of last night downstairs, stacking boxes and filling some of the ten new bins with dry fabric. Sure, some fabric's permanently ruined -- but I'm encouraged by how much was still usable. We'll do more tonight. (Now if I could only get rid of that nasty, stale smell downstairs. Soon. Must be patient.)

Husband's appendicitis turned out to be diverticulosis -- where you get an infection/irritation in your colon's lining. (Comes from small items-- ahem, probably like strawberry seeds -- getting stuck and causing problems.) Thankfully, he's on the way to Pueblo, with antibiotics in hand. Our second car is no longer reliable, so he took the Jeep. That means I'm having to cadge rides for this week -- but it's ok. Really.

Brendan Fraser's right -- there is liberation via chaos some times.

Found some new things on the Internet:

*Get A Free Pair of Glasses on June 16! You have to be quick about it, but what a value. (Thanks, Frugal Girls, for the heads-up.)

*Having Your Dream McDonald's??

*29 Swap/Share Websites That Stretch Your Money. Some, like sites you can actually borrow cars and equipment, are surprising, but should come in handy.

*Hollywood's Odd Couples and May/December pairings. (The burning question: how long will they STAY together? Some already are quitsville.) I would have thought this much stranger twenty years ago, but maybe age is relative after 40 or so. My dearest friends, except for cousins, are all at least 5-10 years older, and it hasn't stopped us talking about anything and everything.

*Blogging Away Debt, a very funny soon-to-be mom who talks about frugality, ways to save, and her husband. Not that this ever happens at Chez Brick:

My husband was looking for our tax information for a school form and I told him I didn’t know where it was.
He asked, ‘Is it in the garage?’
‘I don’t know’ I replied.
‘Is it in the office?’
‘I don’t know’
‘Is it in the bedroom?’
‘I don’t know’
‘Is it in the living room?’
‘You don’t have to yell! I was just trying to refresh your pregnant brain so maybe you’d remember something’ he said.
Quietly and calmly, I said, ‘I’m going to give you a ten second head start to put yourself in a public place. Otherwise, there will be no one to witness your murder.’
He disappeared. Quickly.

Monday, June 13, 2011

A New Development

Ever heard the phrase "When it rains, it pours?"

Husband went to the doctor today...looks like he has appendicitis. He couldn't take the definitive test today, because he'd eaten. So -- tomorrow he takes the test. And if it's positive, he goes into surgery.

There's a big statewide school transportation conference a few hours drive south.  Husband was supposed to head there tonight, or early tomorrow. Oops.

One good thing about this -- thanks to his hospitalization back in September, our deductibles are still paid in full.
   Through the end of the month.
See God's hand in this? If it was going to happen, it might as well happen now.

Good News, For A Change!

I just got the first ray of light on an otherwise gloomy (and busy) Monday:

My post "Are You A Onesie...Or A Twosie?" was accepted for the
23rd Totally Money Blog Carnival!

This is my first ride on the Carnival merry-go-round...hopefully the first of many.

Go take a look -- there are several intriguing posts in this edition. And welcome, anyone who's visiting! Love to have you hang around...

For those who have been following our flooding troubles, here's the latest. (Go here and here for background...or just read the June posts.)
From the "As If This Wasn't Going to Happen" Department: Our insurance claim for the basement was denied. Again. At least we don't have to wait...and wait...and wait anymore, to find out what Safeco is thinking. The Servpro guy came today to give us a quote (thanks so much, Richard). We'll order the dumpster today, and start pulling out that nasty carpet and wallboard asap.
   Libby and I have already pulled the teaching and collection quilts -- I found 5 wet ones that have already been cleaned, and 3  that were goners...just too stained and moldy. Sadly, one of them was an old crib quilt with pre-1800 fabrics. A few old blocks, too.
   The open lace trims near the wall are sticky to the touch -- sprayed once too often with mold inhibitor, I'd guess. The plastic-covered ones are ok.
   Nearly all the boxes are ok, with some exceptions. Lesson learned here: If you're going to stack anything, make sure the plastic boxes are on the bottom of the pile, and the cardboard ones near the top. None of the cardboard boxes higher up were damaged. Nor were the plastic boxes. The cardboard boxes actually resting on the carpet: not good.
   So far, everything salvageable has been piled either in storage, the office or the sewing room. The rest is in untidy, smelly piles all over the basement. Yuck.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

A New Coffee Table - From Something Old

I am just wild for a new/old coffee table shown on The Lettered Cottage:
    made from a chicken coop! 

I actually have a coop to work with: someone else topped it with a pane of glass...then got tired and donated it to the local thrift shop. I snagged it, thinking I'd talk Husband into raising chickens. So far, that's not happening. So, the coffee table may be the way to go.

A Weird Lightning Storm!

This is a strange one, among the Toronto skyscrapers...

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Saturday...Practice, Practice

My exciting Saturday has included band practice (for nearly 6 hours), cleaning up stuff, planting two peach trees (Yay - $7 each at Sam's!), and cleaning out leftovers from the refrigerator.
   Oh yes, and a very odd Alan Ladd movie called Iron Mistress, which is supposed to be  "barely historical" look at Jim Bowie's life. According to the movie, Bowie and James Audubon, the bird enthusiast, were best buds. ( I haven't checked on this yet, but a quick reading of Audubon's Wikipedia entry doesn't show that...although I was surprised to find out he was born in Haiti, lived in France, and only became an American citizen later in life.)

I can hear your envious sighs now. 

Lots of work downstairs awaits tomorrow. We're really hoping that the mold will be treated on Monday, and the carpet pulled out downstairs. Stay tuned...and have a restful weekend.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Eating Cheap

 How do you think you would fare on $4 a day? Donna Freedman tried it recently...and did a terrific job. (She actually went under that figure a bit. And here's another article, same basic subject, by Liz Weston.)

Let's see. Four dollars a day equals $28 a week per person -- so that makes $56 weekly for Husband and yours truly, not counting. I was checking grocery bills while doing taxes this year, and we were coming in between $45-50 weekly. I was a little horrified at that figure; I thought we were spending less. But if you count in guests and family visits, plus holidays, that's not doing too bad.

 Donna's food suggestions are sort of close to ours. She likes chicken thighs -- I have always thought them a little greasy. I use whole chicken, instead -- it's cheaper, lets you use a mix of white and dark meat, and the bones make great stock.
    I also rely more on pork: steaks, roasts, sliced loin (I've gotten it as cheap as $1.18/lb around here), pork chops. Bacon (buy it in the 3-lb "ends" form) or sausage (especially bratwurst) are popular around here -- but we eat less of it than you think. A few pieces give other dishes more flavor.
    A surprise winner right now is shrimp -- we can get it for $4 a pound, unlike steak, which wanders around in the $7-11 level. (What are they feeding cattle now -- gold leaf??) Just a quarter-pound of shrimp makes a definite statement in a stirfry or saute, and gives you a feeling of luxury.
    Other things that help:

*Always check the markdown areas. There are four at our local King Soopers: meat, fish, dry/canned goods, milk/dairy products. Vegetables and fruit have been showing up lately on the dry shelf: ten pounds of potatoes for $1, organic bananas for 35 cents a pound. I just got two gallons of milk today for $1.99; the next cheapest was $2.69. (The milk doesn't expire until the 20th; we'll have it gone by then.)
*Bouillon cubes make soups and stews richer and more authoritative, for pennies. One beef cube in chili or beef stew; one chicken for soup...makes all the difference.
*Smoothies mix damaged or on-sale-frozen fruit with on-sale yogurt: delicious.
*Really stretched for cash? Use less meat and more veggies.
*If you're stretched for time and need cooked food NOW, look for marked-down fried chicken or whole chickens in the deli area. 
*Watch your extras -- desserts can add heavy cash quickly. I look for marked-down cookies (or make them), make my own brownies, and keep a gallon of sale ice cream (especially Blue Bell!) in the freezer. 

Young friends are staying with us at present -- Libby, the daughter of our friends in Hungary, lived with us for a summer back when she was in college. I asked her about this question, since she and Adam have had a frugal life ever since they married. "About $60 a month for food," she said, and offered these tips:

*Start with a well-stocked pantry -- that way, you only have to replace the basics occasionally.
*Beans make things go further -- and you don't need as much meat.
*Each person has 1/4 pound of meat per day. Libby relies on ground beef and chicken breasts, sausage or ham, reduced-price meat of any kind. She's especially fond of ham hocks or polish sausage; they can stretch a pot of beans into four meals.
*Don't serve rice very often. It tastes good -- but you get hungry again quickly.
*Only purchase food for breakfast or dinner -- lunch is leftovers.
*Pasta is good. Cabbage is cheap -- and it lasts.

She also relies on milk (a good source of protein and calcium), eggs (a favorite of ours at breakfast, thanks to its protein content) and cheese.

One of her favorite dishes is Ninja Food: one pork steak, browned and cut into cubes. Add 1/4-1/2 cup diced onion, 1 diced jalapeno pepper (or 1/2 diced green pepper); toss in 2 cans of pink, white or pinto beans; season with 1 teaspoon tarragon. Add a chopped carrot, and 1/2 cup frozen peas, then simmer all to taste. (Chopped spinach may be stirred in at the very end, as well.)
   Why the name? "Because it has a surprising kick."

Next post: Saving money on drinks, too.

Flood update: Discouraging. Servpro's machines are still roaring away in our basement, and things are definitely drying better. But the smells are still there, and little piles of slimy fabric are still around. After telling us how to proceed (and actually calling Servpro themselves), Safeco has suddenly decided that our claim should not be honored -- because we have mold forming. (Apparently they think we should have noticed it, and called them sooner. Little matter to them that we actually have a specific clause to cover mold! No matter, also, that it was underneath shelving -- where we never look -- and INSIDE THE DINGDANG WALL. How in the world are we going to notice stuff like that inside the wall?! Sooner - before the basement actually flooded? Sooner - before we had our own indoor waterfall? 
   The other irony: we were told in the beginning that they would cover everything but the plumber's bill to actually fix the pipe. Now the adjuster is saying they'd pay for the plumber, after all. As if we would break down and thank them for their incredible generosity. The plumber's bill was $177. Our deductible is $1000. And I'm supposed to believe they won't take that into account??
    When Husband reiterated firmly that we've been good customers -- we have -- mentioned our problems with all this, and brought up the word "lawyer," the adjuster hastily backed down and said she'd check again with her manager. In the meantime, the machines continue to roar away downstairs, the Servpro guys are chomping at the bit to start...and we wait.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Storage Ideas

Ever since our little disaster in the basement, storage has been on my mind. After all, if the walls have to be stripped and replaced, why not put in the cupboards I've been mentally visualizing down there for years?
    I'm thinking one whole wall of nothing but cupboards -- large ones that can hold big plastic storage bins. Or wire shelving for fat quarters and half-yard cuts. A stack of books. A pile of quilts.
    We have a fireplace down there, in a spacious area that could easily handle classes. I've always meant to teach there. If I can get everything left up in wall cupboards, it could really open up possibilities. Put down a rug, install a coffeepot and a bowl for chocolate, and it would be perfect. (We quilters have to think about sustenance.) has some excellent suggestions for using flea market-type items for storage. A furnace vent cover as magazine wall rack? Bedsprings that hold your glassware? Look here.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Weinergate Hits!

The best ten favorite was that very silly man, Craig Ferguson. See what you think...poor old Congressman Weiner.

Or will it soon be ex-congressman?

Are You A Onesie...Or A Twosie?

If you're in a relationship...or a marriage, like yours truly and Husband, who have been married 29+ do you handle your finances? Do you keep everything in the same pot - or do you divide income and bills up by person, or proclivity? Do you split the chores the same way?

Get Rich Slowly does some comparisons on this subject, based partly on an interview J.D. Roth and his wife Kris were quoted in Redbook.  J.D. and Kris split their accounts, then combine to pay the bills. They divide chores based on their interests and what they call the "laundry principle:" the person that has the least negative feelings about the chore is the one who does it. (J.D. hates the laundry; Kris doesn't mind doing it. Thus the name.)

The Brick and I have combined our accounts from day one. We both felt strongly that our money -- like our life -- was to be treated as a whole. (The Bible's reference to the 'two being one flesh' wasn't meant to be taken lightly.) We have three major accounts: the home account (with a secondary emergency account), a 'Cindy Brick' account used for the business, and a third 'Brickworks' account used for temporary holding.
    We also keep a secondary savings that gradually accumulates money for long-term expenses like home/auto insurance and property taxes, things like that. (Ten percent of everything I earn goes into that account - which seems to accumulate juuuust enough for these once-a-year bills.)
     Also, a small amount is pulled monthly for Husband's 401K (matched partly by his employer), and a small amount goes to my account - same reason. (No matching, though, darn it.)
     The secondary savings contains a sub-account that we for vacations and Big Dreams.

This 'sub-this-and-that' accounting method works great for us. I think it's most effective, though, because we trust each other. (Judge Judy is littered with the corpses of bank accounts based on people who weren't worth trusting.) We also have a general 'rule' that anything more than $40 (actually, closer to $100) isn't purchased except by mutual consent. Husband has been buying junk silver lately, and I'll purchase a quilt now and then that doesn't follow this 'rule,' but otherwise, we stick pretty close to it.
    One thing really helps: saving up gradually for vacations or once-a-year expenses. It's especially good for snagging vacation bargains -- when that steal suddenly arrives (and just as quickly disappears), we've got the money to buy it now.

The chores, now -- that's a whole different story.


Monday, June 6, 2011

Freezer Cooking That Might Actually Work!

The queen of A Turtle's Life spent an afternoon turning groceries into forty-six (count 'em, 46!) meals for her family! And she did it on an insanely small budget.
   Take a look at her story. I'm thinking this might be smart to do for the next few weeks, since I've got zip time to make meals. And it's getting hot and sticky, anyways. Hmmm....

It's A New Week - Whew

Good news.  The plumber is actually fixing the pipe that caused all the problems downstairs! (Bad pipe. baaaad pipe...)
   The 'jet engines' downstairs are actually doing some good -- it's a bit drier, and doesn't smell as bad. It's still not fun, schlepping the quilts, upstairs, but I don't feel so much like I'm wading through swampland.

Now later...
     The plumber finished his job (thanks, Keith) and showed me the offending pipe -- our troubles were all caused by a three-inch bulged out slit. Go figure.
    Back to washing sheets, putting away boxes...and life. It's going to be a crazy week. Husband has been playing in a band formed by his bus driver friends, and I've been singing in it, as well. We're slated to play for the annual Transportation shindig down in Pueblo on the 16th...that means two practices this week, and probably two more before the 16th.
     Add Bible Study and Worship Team to the mix, and four nights of this week are already spoken for. We'll get through the next few weeks -- including the time the downstairs wallboard and carpet start getting ripped out and hauled away -- but it's going to be weird.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Doing Your Job

It's a beautiful day here...warm air, with a slight cool breeze wafting through. The garden beckons. So does a book I've been nibbling away at: Solved and Unsolved, famous cases covered by authors from Conan Doyle to Dorothy Sayers.

So what am I going to do, instead? Load the dishwasher. Iron the blocks and fabric that have been soaking for two days. Go do errands. Get stuff for the upcoming fundraiser.

There are consequences if I don't do these things. Dishes pile up. The blocks and fabric mold. Customers don't get their books. And 60 or so hungry people expecting spaghetti tomorrow will get...nothing.

Trent over at the Simple Dollar has a good take on this, what he calls thinking about "The Long Road." If you take a few minutes, an hour, a day to do a job you don't want to, you'll benefit every single day after that. Even if it's Not Fun.

My Scotch/Irish forbears are big on this -- acting like an adult, when all you want to do is be a kid. I personally would much rather go play in the dirt, or wander off to the pool, rather than face schlepping all those teaching quilts to a safe place. It smells downstairs. It's wet and soggy.
    On the other hand, if I don't, the Safepro guys will box them up on Monday, along with the wet fabrics, and muscle them into the storage unit. A death sentence.

You know the answer. I'm off, to go Be An Adult. And I'll benefit from acting responsibly: there will be clean dishes next time we eat, blocks and quilts ready to show for the next teaching gig. And the next time I urge the girlies to buckle down and finish a job, I can say it without feeling guilty.

That's something, at least.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Friday Report

Waiting for the plumber to do his stuff...

Tomorrow will be inventorying more fabric, and starting to iron the blocks which have been soaking for a few days. So far, the quilts are ok. Thankfully.

Downstairs smells like an old wet dog.

As well as more work in the basement (oh goody), I've got a Hanky Panky quilt to finish, quilts to loan elsewhere, and cooking for a fundraiser -- the Esawis, missionaries in Bethlehem that Creekside, our church supports, need a new car. A spaghetti meal with a chocolate fountain kick will hopefully help raise money!

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, June 2, 2011


The world record for the longest car jump just got beat -- in a very impressive way. Take a look at it here.

Guess What I'm Doing Today?

....yes, that's right, starting to haul out and inventory the wet fabric downstairs.

I started with the closet where the offending pipe is located -- and found, to my astonishment, that it was almost an encyclopedia of the years I'd spent at Quilter's Newsletter, back in the 1990s. Patchwork blocks made as samples for Clothtalk, the newsletter I used to write for the Quilts & Other Comforts Fabric Club. Extra yardage for said blocks, paperwork and research (that box totally destroyed, sadly), and strips I'd preserved from tthe Quilts & Other Comforts catalog room. (They always had a 2"-4" extra strip leftover from yardage when cutting squares; these went into bags for QN editors to snag for Log Cabin and strip-pieced quilts.)
   Plus a generous mixing of the small-scale calicoes I started with as a beginning quilter in the mid-1980s. A few hand dyes, from when I began to find my way. Pins and a leftover packet of needles, spools of thread -- and Husband's college tuition bills from the University of Michigan! (No idea why those were in there.)

   Apparently when Brickworks started in the mid-1990s, I stopped using that closet, other than storing quilt hoops and frames. They stayed clean; so did about 70% of the fabric. The rest is a slimy mess on the floor, and my research box is looks like a pulpy block of wood.


I boxed up the clean fabric, and threw it in Daughter #2's bathtub downstairs. (It's practically the dryest spot in the basement. Ironic, huh?) A big batch of stained blocks is soaking in the washer -- hopefully they can be rescued. I've got plans for a Every-Which-Way Sampler of fabric memories from that period in my life.
    Now to pull out the shelving and break down the wall, so the plumber can do his job. Thanks for keeping me company for the ride -- I don't feel quite so alone, dealing with this.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

P.S. It Is Worse

Took a long look at the downstairs basement, accompanied by the Servpro guy. The water damage is more extensive than I'd thought. Now, instead of saying that a company will clean the fabrics, he's saying I should do an inventory, because the fabric will be "unusuable," due to potential mold issues. They're going to put a large storage container in the driveway, box up the fabric, and put it in there as the main area is cleared out.
    There's a heck of a lot of wet fabric down there. Plus some other things. Trying not to get too blue about all this. At least so far, I haven't found a wet quilt -- only a few patchwork blocks, which can be easily cleaned.
    More to come. (sigh) The plumber arrives tomorrow to fix the pipe -- only then can the Servpro guys start pulling down the moldy wallboard. In the meantime, my thirsty garden waits...

Bad...But It Could Be Worse

I'm collecting garbage cans...time to start picking up the garbage downstairs in the basement. The fabrics are starting to smell now, and the cardboard boxes are something awful. Musty, musty, musty...I'm wearing a mask, and promised Husband not to stay down there too long.

Another priority: getting the teaching quilts into the storage room, where they can live during this repair period. (The quilts from clients were staying upstairs, even before this, so I could work on them now and then.) So far, the quilts all seem fine. If not, I'll wash them -- being a professional restorer sure is coming in handy right now!

You may not hear from me for a day...but you know what I'm doing. Sigh. Hope yours is going better.