Thursday, December 29, 2011

Holiday Vacation

I'm here...just in Michigan for the week, along with the Brick and Charley. The Mama has been really struggling in recent weeks, so we decided to spend New Year's Day with her.

Which also meant that we spent our 30th anniversary on the road, driving 18 hours straight through, the last of it via Chicago in mixed rain and snow. Even Taco Bell can have a slight air of romance, when shared in a dark car with a drooling Chesapeake Bay Retriever in the back seat...

All I know is that I am very glad, thirty-plus years ago, a slightly raffish-looking engineer chose my restaurant table to sit down at.

Yes, that's how we met. I was in grad school at the University of Michigan, living in an attic. (I cleaned the family's house and looked after their young teener in return for room and breakfast -- lunch too, if I came home and walked the dog.) I graded papers and acted as class assistant for a professor for extra money; this particular day, I had to read E.M. Forster's Howard's End before class. And the local Chinese restaurant served a mean bowl of fried rice for $1.32. (Sounds cheap -- but it was a lot to me, at the time.)

Enter this tall guy with an army surplus jacket, dark glossy hair nearly to his shoulders, and intelligent eyes. All the tables were occupied, and it was customary to ask to share a table -- so he did, and I did. He kept asking questions while I was trying to read...finally I gave up, and enjoyed talking to this funny, interesting man.

He asked what my full name was. He asked for my phone number.

Unh unh, honey, inner self warned. Who knows where this guy came from. He may be an axe murderer. How can you trust anyone you just met in a restaurant! 

So I only told him my first name. Period. And left to go to class.

But he knew I was studying for my M.A. in English Lit. And this guy (if you knew him well, you would know how absolutely out of character this was) went to the English Lit department, told the secretary he had a project with me, and asked for my phone number. (I was one of two Cindys in the English Lit Master's Program at the time...and the other Cindy was a brunette.)

    She gave it to him!

When he called and asked me to meet him for lunch, inner self said, Go ahead -- but just lunch. Then he'll go away. 

Friends, I was lucky -- I met him in March, and married him the day after Christmas in 1981. And I have been fortunate to go through life with this wonderful man ever since.
    Happy Anniversary, Davy! Your wife loves you very, very much.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

God Bless Us Everyone

Merry Christmas!

The Birth of Jesus

1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to his own town to register. 4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

The Shepherds and the Angels

8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." 13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." 15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about." 16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. 

       (Luke 2:1-20, New International Version

Friday, December 23, 2011

It's Almost Here...

Merry Christmas!

and may all your memories be merry and bright this weekend. 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Reading, Reading...

It's been snowing like crazy here -- about two feet, so far. But how would you like to be bombarded with dead birds or fish, instead? Go here for a very strange report on what's come out of the sky in Britain lately.
(Coventry just got nailed with hundreds of apples this month - perhaps lifted by some sort of odd wind vortex.)

The Brick has been enjoying wandering through The Telegraph -- one of England's best established papers -- and sharing things. He noticed a new exhibition of diaries and letters found in the effects of the Captain Scott Expedition, and a weird assertion that England's going to just bust apart one of these years. (So the English and Scots aren't getting along. Go figure.)

I enjoyed seeing what they consider a traditional Christmas dinner, a half red/half green apple.. and a cat who takes the bus! (Hey, we aim to please here at Brickworks -- a little something for everyone.) Decorating secrets, too. (Hint: use IKEA mirrored bathroom tiles for placemats on your holiday table.)

It's been an entertaining way to spend a snowy afternoon. But now the walk's shoveled, and he's off to work, I'd better get to it, as well. (P.S. Feeling a little bit better every day.)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Another Carnival Submission!

This time, my Bakers Dozen tips for Christmas spending landed in the Festival of Frugality Carnival -- hooray!

Go here to learn more...and read a whole batch of posts on frugality and the holidays.

Stuff on the Way to Other Stuff

I've been collecting interesting things for you all week! And here they are...

*interesting items that reappeared after a tornado. Like letters, canceled checks, precious photos, etc...but miles away.

*a very disingenuous plea to have student loan forgiven. 100%. (You already know how I feel about this.)

*34 great gifts to make, thanks to Get Rich Slowly. (Don't miss out on the comments, with additional ideas.)

If you're not so good at that, 12 rules for 'regifting' what you already got. (I'd add another one: send your out-of-town relatives only the things you were given by local friends.) 

And if you think you've got it difficult, six pages of the Worst Christmas Gifts ever.  Don't miss page 5, with the 'european bathing suit' (a g-string) and 'Scottish shaving kilt' (with "Pebbles and BamBam hanging free") from Grandma. I laughed so hard, Charley came to check on me!

*how one woman saved on her budget -- by getting her dates to pay for restaurant meals. (And she's rather proud of it, too.)

*the worst financial advice your family and friends ever loaded on you. 

*10 of the stupidest things someone did for money. 

And finally, one of the more unusual historical discoveries I've ever heard about, discovered while on a kick to learn more about the Romans' occupation of various countries: chemical warfare used against the A.D.256! (Loved The Eagle, about the Romans' presence in Great Britain  -- you would, too. Except my ancestors were probably on the 'savage' side.)

Bright blue sky with a 50-mile view, snowy mountains in three directions.The flu is hanging on a bit, but slowly getting the conclusion that I want it to Go Away. Guess I'll stay inside, work and rest another day.

                                HAPPY CHANUKAH!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Wanna Make A Bunch of (Swag)Bucks...Easy?

Not to mention swagbucks that can be exchanged for Amazon and other gift cards.

Here's how you do it. Scroll down to the Swagbucks 'widget' at the bottom of this page. Join up by pressing the button. When they ask you for a code, put in 'HOLIDAYSWAG'.

Bingo. Just like that, you've earned yourself a nice bonus -- and you're a quarter of the way toward a $5 Amazon gift card!

I have to look up a lot of things, for research. Swagbucks literally pays me to do this, by occasionally awarding the 'bucks.' You can get more by following their active codes... I'll often use this website to do it. For example, 'snowman' is currently worth 9 SB, if you type it in the code spot on the main page by 3 p.m. PST.

You can also do surveys or watch commercials, stuff like that, to earn SB...but I usually don't.

And I earn enough swagbucks for two $5 Amazon giftcards a month!

Swagbucks doesn't put on cookies, or viruses, or other nasty zingers. They just give you points that you can use to buy stuff. Good stuff. For things you'd be doing, anyways.

Take a look. Just scroll down. 

Life's A Carnival...No, It's Two!

Whoo hoo... I just received word that my post on student loans made it into the Totally Money Blog Carnival! Take a gander here. I especially enjoyed the 50 Home Business ideas, and 'work hard and shut up.' (You have got to see this guy in action on the latter post. Just click on 'gander,' and you're there.)

And to make this Monday even sweeter, my post on a bakers dozen tips for saving money at Christmas was accepted for the Best of Money Carnival! It's the 'Christmas Songs edition,' and each post is accompanied by a favorite Christmas song. Visit it here.

I'm honored to be part of both these terrific carnivals. If you're here visiting because of them...welcome! You might also enjoy my blog on Christmas goodies -- it's Heirloom Week. We've covered Sachertorte and's specialty is the traditional English Christmas cake.

And wouldn't you know it -- it's snowing here in Colorado. Big-time.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sunday Fever

Flu is so much fun. Yep, the fever's still here. It spiked up and down all day, through the Broncos/Patriots massacre (and it wasn't us who did the massacreeing), trudging out to the library and grocery store, and even a last-minute trip to Wal-Mart for a tree stand and lights. (We couldn't find the boxes of Christmas decorations anywhere, though I'd swear they survived the Memorial Day flooding in the basement. They were in leakproof tubs. I'm guessing they're piled up in a corner somewhere...since we still have plenty of piled-up corners to clear away.) 
    The tree is up, and smelling deliciously of the outdoors.  I did manage to find our bubble lights, which have been a standard ever since I was little, staring at my grandma's tree.

(they look like this, and you can get them here)  

A garland or two, some tinsel and a few boxes of ornaments I snagged from a clearance sale last January. It doesn't matter whether the regular stuff is out or not -- I'm just glad to welcome a little more Christmas into the house.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

A New Way to "Gift Wrap" Your Gift Cards

A snow globe, with your giftcard inside!

The Creative Mama can show you how to do this. (It's much easier than you think.)

Saturday Blur

Boy, I've had better weeks.

The Mama was sick when I visited Michigan -- and the earache she contributed blossomed into a raging fever last night. I didn't get much sleep, considering the bod was hot, hot, hot, then cold, cold, cold. The fever finally broke early this morning, but I still have the other symptoms to deal with.

But...I was supposed to sing a solo tonight! We were going on a mini-vacation to Denver this weekend!

No matter. It's all cancelled, and I'm staying in bed. Well, sort of. The clothes still need to get washed, and the tree (a $10.81 bargain from Sam's) needs to be put up. Which means I have to go down to storage and dig through the huge pile of quilts there, to get to the Christmas decorations.

We are making progress. The guys working downstairs left yesterday. We have a new wall, holes are fixed, and plenty of new outlets. Now to sand down the walls and paint them, so we can start laying tile. Then I can put the cupboards up and put stuff away.  Isn't it amazing how these things layer on each other?!

Back to bed. (I'll decorate the tree and make the Sachertorte later.)  One final note: another video, "We the People," from Ray Stevens. Friend Constance, a true-blue Democrat, if there ever was one, and I were discussing the world yesterday. We may not agree on President Obama's role in all this...but we both feel there is something terribly wrong with the current system. And the sooner Congress admits to that, the faster they can start coming up with practical ways to fix it.
    Anyways, here it is:

Have a good weekend.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Amazing Lives, 2011 Deaths

It is always enlightening to look back over the changes this year...including the talented, fascinating people who've left us. Besides people like Elizabeth Taylor, James Arness and Cliff Robertson, they also included:

Arch West, inventor of Doritos. (His family planned, after he died in September, to spread his grave with a layer of the crunchy chips.)

Fred Shuttlesworth. One of Martin Luther King's colleagues, an effective civil rights activist.

Sidney Lumet. One of the finest directors never to win an Oscar.

Betty Ford, First Lady and wife of Jerry Ford, a past U.S. president. Ford was our congressman for decades in Michigan, with a reputation for honesty and upright dealings. He endured decades of ridicule, based on great part on his decision to pardon Richard Nixon. I am glad the pendulum is now swinging back to respect for this thoughtful, intelligent man. His wife was just as interesting.

Frank Buckles. What, this name isn't familiar? He was the last documented survivor of the WWI soldiers, buried, fittingly enough, in Arlington. Aged 110.

Geraldine Ferraro. The first woman to run for Vice President on a major ticket -- in 1984, with Walter Mondale.

And, of course, Moammar Gadaffi and Osama Bin Laden.

Memorable, all.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Paying Off Student Loans

If you've been in college, you're probably dealing with this issue.

Did you know that taking a job in a lower-income area could help you earn a discount on a federal student loan? Or serving in Volunteers in Service to America? National Guard duty can pay as much as $10,000 toward your student loans.

People in "public service" jobs (teaching, firefighting, etc.) can have their loans forgiven after ten years of regular payments. If you're a regular schmuck, that ceiling is 25 years -- 20 after 2012. 

Liz Weston has a good long look at repayment possibilities -- go here for the full report. Or hop straight to her source: the FinAid website. (A practical, though somewhat old, response is here, too, thanks to Get Rich Slowly.)

A growing number of people are fervently hoping that their student loans will be forgiven by the government,  as a sort of economy stimulus. President Obama's actual plan seems to be less than they're hoping for, but no matter. Some ex-students have actually quit making payments toward their loans, hoping for a bailout. Sort of the Ray Stevens approach.
    I have a real struggle with this. We both took out student loans; granted, not much, because we both worked several jobs over the course of our college years. The Brick also had GI Bill payments, after six years in the Navy. My parents generously paid my student loans, a gift I don't think I've ever adequately repaid. (Thanks so much, Pa and Ma!)

Dave's $10,000 loan, on the other hand, fell squarely on our shoulders. It took us ten years to repay, at a time that we could have used the money to beef up a house downpayment (we lost out on an incredible VA house deal for not being able to bid $2000 more), or given us more freedom to travel. We eventually made the last payment when Daughter #1 was in kindergarten or so.

I blame ourselves for the delay. Not in our payments -- we made 'em, and regularly, too. But we didn't have to borrow that much money, to begin with. I was working full-time; he was part-time. In addition to scholarships and grants, we also got $400 monthly from his GI Bill. (In the early 1980s, that was a lot of money.) The Brick and I ate out -- a lot. We didn't stint ourselves on concerts or movies. We didn't go hog-wild, but if we'd been more frugal, we could have borrowed a few thousand less. And that extra money could have gone directly into our pockets, instead of the government's.

So...if you're one of those hoping that the government is going to pick up your bill, ask yourself:

*Did I borrow only the absolute minimum during my college years?
*Did I keep my expenses down as much as possible?
*Did I take on any jobs to help pay expenses?
*Am I making regular payments now on my debt...or doing more than the minimum? 
*Am I making excuses now for my stupidity then?

It comes down to this:  You borrowed it, you pay it back. Period.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Bakin' and Shakin'...

It's been a beautiful day -- at least it looked beautiful, from the fogged-over windows. The guys downstairs have been banging away enthusiastically, fueled in part by the sugar cookies I've been taking down to them.

The basement is starting to look like an office again. We've got clean walls, electrical outlets, even doors and repaired pipes! It looks wonderful.

Unfortunately, the kitchen is a mess. Charley is wearing a mustache of flour, on top of the mud. (The snow is melting. He runs through it, anyways.) Good old Charles has made friends with the work guys -- he'll chase the local squirrels into the trees, and the men will peg snowballs into the trees to get the squirrels Charley can chase them again! Not that he knows what to do with them, if he ever manages to catch one. The Brick saw him corner one on the deck late one night, only to have the squirrel cuss Charley out, using every insult possible, then TAKE OFF while our valiant watchdog stood there and processed things.
     Ah well. At least he -- and the guys -- like my cookies. They're made from an old family recipe handed down by my grandma, who got it from her grandma. (Go to the Christmas Goodies blog if you're interested! Here's the page.)

Got a Christmas tree last night. (It's on the deck, waiting for the Brick to set it up...and me to wade through a couple hundred quilts in storage, to find the decorations.) Cookies are made now, and a wreath's on the front door. A Christmas tablecloth is next.
     I've still got a ton of work to catch up I had to set aside in order to solve some family things in the past few weeks. But who knows -- it may actually be starting into Christmas around here.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Go Broncos!

What's with our team lately -- they can't seem to help themselves winning!
Some people say it has something to do with Tim Tebow.

Although more than one announcer has had trouble admitting it!

A Bakers' Dozen Tips For Christmas Savings - Even At the Last Minute

No bucks for Christmas presents? One of Money Saving Mom's contributors is in this position -- their budget just won't allow an extra cent spent for 'storebought' gifts. (Go here for their report.)

It makes more sense to be gradually buying small items...or saving a bit each month out of your regular budget...than come screeching up to December, and realize you've got nothing for presents.
     Unless you're a high school student, saving for college.
     Or already in school, working to pay for tuition.
     Or recently laid off.
     Or a single parent, working a hectic schedule.
     Or just trying to stay afloat, and save a bit for the future.

We've never been in the "absolutely no money" position -- but we have had several Christmases with very little to spend. One year comes immediately to mind. The Brick had just started driving a schoolbus, and I was working in the grill at Wal-Mart, in between trying to write articles, sell books and keep Brickworks going. I don't remember much about that period; I was too tired. But that holiday season has gone down in family history as the "Thrift Shop Christmas." All of our presents came from the local thrift shop-- for everyone. I was amazed at how many new things, still in the box or with tags attached, that I was able to come up with, at a fraction of their original dollar price.Those went to our family out of state; unless they read this post, they were none the wiser!
     The Brick found a beautiful sweater for me, as well as a copper bracelet and earrings I still wear. The girlies had more than their share of clothing and other goodies. All told, we spent less than $50 that year. It taught me that tightening your belt doesn't mean you can't still find Good Stuff.

I still rely on Ye Olde Thrift Shop for Christmas, including decorations (less than $5 spent during a half-price sale on garlands, lights and balls this year for Daughter #1's "blue and silver" tree) and clothes. (A $2.99 University of Michigan sweatshirt for the Brick - Go Blue!)I was surprised -- or maybe not -- to find that thrift shopping, along with garage sales and such, are favorite shopping spots for even millionaires.
     If you're going to do it, though, be picky. Very picky. On the same day as the sweatshirt, I found a $2.99 Woolrich wool shirt for the Brick that was perfect -- until I noticed the small stain and tattered edge on one side. Oops...back to the rack.

The dollar store also comes in handy -- but once again, be picky. I used to buy more items there, until I realized that they were breaking more quickly. I still buy cleaning items, brand candy and cooking stuff there -- just not brooms, toys or car accessories.

A surprising place for bargains has been the sale room at libraries. I've found everything from Sharpe DVDs (ooh, that Sean Bean!) and books on CD for a buck, to large gardening history books -- and the latest Jeffrey Archer or Stephen King novel for $2 each. Check carefully, and you'll find new or barely-used items on the shelves -- not only are they perfect for presents, but they mail cheaply too, thanks to media rate.

Obviously, you'll be able to find more if you search garage sales and thrift shops all year -- or save up gradually for purchases. (Or buy your presents, cards and decorations right after Christmas, at January clearance sales!) These tips have helped me, however, whether I'm looking Dec. 11, or eleven months earlier:

*Be fussy. Whether the garment costs 5 cents or 500 dollars, buy quality.
*Ask yourself a question at the thrift shop: would I consider paying full price for this item? If the answer is yes, then it's probably a excellent purchase.
*Keep your budget in mind at all times.  Some people split it up -- $20 or so per person -- but I find that limiting. Will you walk away from that hand-knit cashmere sweater for a dollar, just because you've already spent $20 on Grandma?
*Try hard not to buy presents for yourself.  Now is not the time.
*Keep an emergency ten or twenty on hand, for those insane bargains that occasionally appear. Some of my best long-term buys have come at times when I was short of cash.
*Use a credit card, and gain extra cash back. As long as you pay it off every month, that is.
*Do some of your shopping at the grocery or discount foods store. A basket of fresh tangerines or bouquet of carnations are always appreciated, and it's easy to combine foods for gift baskets.
*Volunteer at your local thrift shop. Not only do volunteers get first grabs, but our local store gives them a 25% discount. Books are TEN CENTS each, whether they're hardcover or paperback. Bliss to this bibliophile. (Yes, I volunteer.)
*Look for sales -- even at the thrift shop. Ours has half-price sales periodically that, combined with my volunteer discount, make items a steal.
*Buy one 'best' - versus two or more so-so's.Wouldn't you enjoy a high-quality item more than three or four mediocre ones? So would your recipients.
*Found a huge bulk? Give it to more than one person on your list. (Trust me -- they won't care. And if they're out of state, they won't even find out you did it, unless you tell them.)
*Always check the clearance aisle. This goes for groceries, too -- a recent trip to King Soopers brought a large bag of spinach for $1.39, a bag of four pomegranates (normally $2 or so each) for $1.25, plus a threesome of microwave kettle corn for .49. (The box was damaged.)
*Think more than 'stuff.' Maybe your child would appreciate a lunch at Wendy's and an afternoon at the park, more than a pillow or backpack.  I'd much prefer coffee out with a friend, than a fancy necklace.

Don't forget to give the best present to the people on your list: your love and best wishes. They'll  treasure that rare gift long after the cake is eaten and the sweater wears out.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Filling Christmas Stockings

Only a few weeks until Christmas -- how can that be? Some rummaging in the gift closet reminds me to double-check on stocking contents. At the Brick's house, what's in the Christmas stocking is nearly as important as what's under the tree. I spend much of the year hunting for little goodies for the Brick and the girlies, as well as Angel's long-time boyfriend Keith.
    This year, I tried something new for the Mama's stocking. Since I was going to be there early, because of my uncle's funeral, I brought her stocking and contents with -- but this time, I got enough that she could open one present a day, with a pile still left for Christmas morning. She has been giving her grandchildren a December's worth of presents (one little one a day); now she can enjoy it, too.

An earlier post will tell you what I look for in stocking stuffers. Plump Stocking has some wonderful ideas...but even better are the many stories that explain why people choose what they do. (Usually it's based on an event or memory in past years, remembered again with affection.)

Life As Mom also has some good stocking stuffer suggestions, with links to recipes for homemade bath salts and peppermint hot cocoa. (The latter brings back memories of Sheilah Graham's Beloved Infidel, the story of her life, including her great love, F. Scott Fitzgerald. Graham lived in an orphanage for years, and loved chocolate -- but rarely got any. She solved the problem by swiping handfuls of cocoa and sugar from the kitchen's stock, hiding them in her bloomers, then chewing them together. Gritty, but satisfying, if you can't get your hands on the bar stuff, I guess.)

I can't tell you much about the girlies' stocking contents -- they read this blog now and then, the stinkers! But they're big fans of imported cookies, chocolates and drinks. Whenever I find those on sale, I buy a couple and stash them away. A gift card or two may also find its way in, as well.

Warming Up...

Our snow is melting fast -- it's been in the 40s and 50s. But no worries -- another storm is scheduled to roar in on Wednesday!

Spent most of the day today helping out at a Seniors Luncheon with our small group. I played piano while they started coming in...helped serve food...then played again for Christmas carols and afterwards. After taking down the tables and putting back the chairs with our friends, I did errands, trudged home...

And turned right around to head back to church for Worship Team practice. Then the Saturday night service. 

Tomorrow will be more of same...except TWO church services to do. Then luckily, we can eat Sunday dinner, collapse and take a long, luxurious nap. Sounds lovely.

No Christmas decorations up yet, but we did indulge in a few of our favorite holiday movies: Die Hard, Die Hard 2 (hey, parts of it were filmed in Colorado, including Breckenridge, an old church near Denver, and Stapleton airport in Denver!) and National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (also parts filmed in Colorado - also Breck, to be exact). All that fuss and bother seemed to fit in nicely with this odd week.

Hopefully the coming days will be much more peaceful.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Home Again

It has been a strange week.

My uncle Dean was only 75. A bout with pancreatitis landed him in the hospital last Tuesday -- then a massive infection (sepsis) hit and started shutting down major organs. It also went into his brain. By Thursday, he was showing no brain activity. They kept the machines running until his kids could all get there and say goodbye to his body. On Friday morning, fifteen minutes after they shut the machines off, he stopped breathing.
    (Daughters, don't worry about the machines. If I'm not showing brain activity, I'm not there -- turn 'em off! And yes, this is a reminder that you should have a living will. We do...)

His family was left wondering what had hit them. The memorial service was Monday morning -- less than a week after he first went in the hospital. It turns out that he had not been feeling well for at least a few weeks before that, but had continued to soldier on for a while.
    I guess I am more aware of this since the Brick almost died a September ago, from sepsis shutting his liver down. Thank God the doctors managed to stop the infection in the Brick's case -- but it was too late for Uncle Dean. 

His obituary is here. He did a brave and courageous thing -- donated his body to science, so his family wouldn't have to worry about burial costs. After the research is done, the company will cremate his body and return it to the family. Gutsy.

So instead of decorating for the holidays, working on appraisals and doing business stuff, I've been going to Cousin #1's store and working there to help out, while she took care of her dad's arrangements -- and working at Cousin #2's thrift shop, so she could help out run Cousin #1's store, as well. Plus I spent some time with the Mama, and my brother. (Bro had his own burdens -- he spent his birthday in the hospital room of his mother-in-law, who had emergency heart surgery.) A strange and sometimes aimless week.

But at least The Mama's Christmas tree is up, Cousins #1 and #2 got a little extra help...I told them I loved them, and got to spend some time with the rest of the family.

Other notes on the way to the weekend:

*Have you thought about turning your house temperature down, and using space heaters to warm your immediate living space? Trent over at the Simple Dollar says you can visibly save money, and he's worked it out BTU-wise. (See his report here.)
    We keep our house at 62-66 degrees. It does get a bit chilly, especially at night, but the two space heaters we use, as well as the fireplace, take the chill off nicely. I've noticed a definite decrease in heating bills because of it. (In fact, I'm warming my toes by a space heater now while typing.) One of our space heaters looks like a miniature fireplace - and I enjoy watching the 'flames' when we don't have a real fire going. 

*Had coffee at Starbucks this morning (which was terrible by the way -- really bitter), and heard this amazing song by Adele, Rolling in the Deep:

*The Christmas goodies blog is featuring thumbprint cookies today.

*And there are Tuba Christmas concerts all over Colorado this weekend!

Have a good one, yerself.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Life Changes Fast

I had plans for how this weekend was going to it's all different.

My uncle Dean went into the hospital a few days ago for pancreatitis -- but sepsis (infection) set in, went into his brain, and started shutting major organs down.
    He died this morning.

A 6:15 a.m. flight to Michigan is in tomorrow's picture now, and time spent with the Mama and my family there while they try to pick themselves back up and figure what's going on.

The only real good thing about it is being there to celebrate my brother's birthday on Dec. 4.

Back in touch in a few days.