Monday, December 31, 2012

Monday Stuff on the Way to Other Stuff: New Year's Eve Edition

 Whoa - Dec. 31, already?! We'll see the New Year in our traditional way -- with cowboy movies and pizza. The girlies, on the other hand, usually head out for a party -- the rowdies. (And we won't see them tomorrow, either. Ah well.) Meanwhile, I've got lots of cleaning, some paperwork...and it's flirting with snow outside. You'll have more fun checking out what wandered in off the Internet:

    The 'unsolvable' math hypotheses that turned out to be right!


A baby in Colorado has surgery, and what do the doctors find? A foot in his brain. I'm not making this up... one of the possibilities may be a phantom twin -- "fetus in fetu."

Animal photobombs -- all 125 of them. What can I say...Charley the dog's silly presence in our lives just make these funnier. Like this one:
and this one!

After all that, you'll want to meet Chaser, a border collie who is thought to be one of the world's smartest dogs, according to her owner, a retired psychology professor. She knows 1,000 words, does this, does that... (I still think Charley is smarter.)

A letter to our daughters -- one I wish my parents had written, when I was starting out. (At Midlife Finance) 

Thirteen nice things people did with money this year. Including the guy who found $20,000 laced in a book purchased at a bookswap in Massachusetts. (He was trying to give it back to the previous owner -- looks like they never turned up.)


Baked (shirred) egg casserole - really fast. Good for a quick holiday breakfast. This recipe comes from Frugal Upstate.

Vijay Singh gives a whole new meaning to 'skipping stones' (er, golf balls)...watch closely!



and a very happy last-day-of-the-year.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Monday...Fine, Thursday Stuff on the Way to More Stuff

How could it be Thursday already!?!.It's been nice to be with the family, as well as sleep in some...but some things need to get done before the new year -- and I need to finish them. Then it's back to restoring a crazy quilt for a client. Weather's cold, nippy and a bit snowy here; perfect weather for quilt restoration. 
   Meanwhile:

A very funny look at the Fred Hill Briefcase Drill Team:
and in keeping with such silliness...

21 rude responses to bossy notes. (Yes, there are some vulgar ones -- skip them if needed.)

A bunch of gas-saving tips, from Donna Freedman's Frugal Nation. Where are the doom-and-gloom experts who insisted that gas was going to be $4.00 a gallon by the end of 2012? Probably hiding...

A very interesting food blog -- Fusion on the Fly. (It also seems to be called Stirringthepotharlem; at least, you get two different sets of posts, but the same voice.) I heard about Karl Wilder when he did a week of food based on foodstamps...then decided to continue the experiment. Now he's adapting his diet for diabetics, as well. (Good for him. A lot of people with limited incomes struggle with this -- it can only help.)
    I think I may be trying the 'foodstamp diet' in a week or two, and publishing results. Stay tuned.

Quilt backs can be just as creative as quilt fronts...and Lori Baker, Quilter's Newsletter editor, proves it. Some inspirational stuff here -- you could clean out a lot of leftovers at the same time!

Chalk paint. It's smooth, trendy, and the surface to be painted doesn't need prep work beforehand! The bad part: chalk paint is twice as much as regular paint. Make your own, thanks to I Heart Naptime.  

 A very pretty holiday sign, from found-by-the-side-of-the-road wood. Plus directions on how to make it, thanks to Roadkill Rescue. 


A huge bunch of holiday snacks and drinks, courtesy of Stephanie at Keeper of the Home. Everything from hot chocolate to eggnog, and all sorts of goodies in between -- more than 20!

Why listening to your career counselor isn't always the best thing -- from Get Rich Slowly. Finding a job is tough, especially when you're competing. Not only is the advice helpful on this post, but actual sample letters are included. Good stuff if you're looking for work, or thinking of changing jobs.

The results from the latest George Armstrong Custer artifacts auction -- yow! Now you know what you should be collecting...

Hope your week's going well.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Now What?

We had a great-but-busy Christmas with the girlies, Angel's boyfriend Keith and his mom Christine. And the Seven Fish Dishes were a great success. But after everyone went home, the Brick felt like the family chauffeur (he had to take everyone to their respective places), and I was the household dishwasher. (An incredible amount of dishes!) It was almost a relief to be by ourselves again, with no dishes to wash or things to pick up after.

Today is our anniversary - 31 years! The Brick is still the wonderful, engaging guy I met and married so long ago. Maybe a little more gray in his beard (a lot in my hair!), but that quiet, intense man I love so much is very much there.
    Happy Anniversary, David.

And for you -- another engaging item. The Nativity Story, as told by children...



Enjoy.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Merry Christmas!

May you have a peaceful few days...

not forgetting the reason for this wonderful holiday.


A very Merry Christmas to you.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Fa-la-la-la-la...oh Forget It

Here we go, into Christmas weekend.

Shopping has been busy around here, but surprisingly easy -- many people already left town Friday to take advantage of the long weekend. I got the rest of the food for the Seven Fish Dishes dinner -- we've been celebrating Christmas Eve this way for decades. (The Italians started it, to mark the seven sacraments -- but hey, we're not Italian.)  Here's the menu; recipes are on the blogs below.


Angels on Horseback (oysters)
Seafood Chowder (scallops) -- friends are coming, and her husband is not that big on clam chowder
Teriyaki Salmon 
Baked Trout with Herb Stuffing
Shrimp Scampi
Calamari Stirfry
Crab Newburg

with rice, fruit, sorbet and a green salad.
sparkling red grape juice (we're doing this meal alcohol-free, with wine for Christmas dinner)

For dessert -- snowball sundaes, cookies and chocolates. Espresso, too.

Take a look at the Holiday Goodies or Christmas Goodies blog for specifics.

The Brick is out fixing up the chickies' heat lamp/light arrangement. The extra light and heat have been a big help -- in spite of the snow, we're still getting between 6-9 eggs a day. The Christmas tree is up, and bags and Stuff are still everywhere. There's a lot of cleaning, shopping and dishwashing to do before Christmas Eve -- I'd better get to it.

Hope your weekend is going well.


Friday, December 21, 2012

Seven Fish Dishes for Christmas Eve!

They've been happening all week at my food blogs, Holiday Goodies and Christmas Goodies -- take a look.

Tomorrow, I'll wrap everything up with a luscious dessert.




Thursday, December 20, 2012

A Piece of California Gold Rush History

Take a look at this old brooch.

Doesn't look like much, does it?

Actually, it's a bit of the first piece of gold James Marshall found in 1848, while supervising at Sutter's Mill in California. The same gold that set off all the brouhaha...and eventually the California Gold Rush.

Here's the note Marshall wrote with it; obviously, he was barely literate. Figures...a lot of people during the first half of the 19th century could not even read, or signed their names with an X.

Marshall had the gold set into a brooch for his baby niece Abigail; it stayed in the family until it sold last week at Heritage Auctions.

The price? A cool $35,850. Actually, that was probably a bargain!

Read all about it here. And if you're curious about learning more about Marshall's connection with the Gold Rush, you might try my book, Quilts of the Golden West. See it here.

Ever Wonder What A Bed Turning Is?

Chris Moline, one of my appraising colleagues, did a 'bed turning' at the American Quilter's Society show this year in Des Moines, IA -- take a look!

(Great job, Chris.)


Weituo Comes Home

The National Museum of Scotland has been without its mascot, an antique Chinese statue called Weituo, for some time now. If you're curious about the name, Weituo are guardians of Dharma, or Buddhist law. Their presence is said to convey serenity and peace... which made the National Museum curators a tad nervous, no doubt, from his long absence. (More about how Weituo got to Scotland in the first place -- it's a quirky story.)


Can you believe this statue is ceramic? Can you imagine how scary it was to restore, as a result?

He's finally home again, standing firm and looking good.



Read the full report here. I love a happy ending!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Let's Make (Or Look At) Gingerbread!

     We woke up this morning to snow in the Denver area. (Finally -- it's been soooo dry!) Now, that same snow is whirling, going sidewise and otherwise blowing around. Nobody cancelled school -- it wasn't that bad at 6 a.m. It is now, though..



It seems snug inside, by comparison. Just bought cookie cutters to make a gingerbread house, and am thinking of doing that today. But it won't be anything like this slideshow of 15 amazing gingerbread creations. Including a recreation of St. Basil's Cathedral, courtesy of the pastry chef at the Ritz-Carlton Moscow


But first? Cleaning out the freezer. (Sigh) Ah well, work before play.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Living with People Who Scare You

   After last week's massacre in Newtown, CT, a woman wrote her own story about living with a mentally ill family member...
    And it's scary.

'I Am Adam Lanza's Mother' chronicles her struggles to love, take care of and protect a son who's brilliant, yet flies off in threats at a moment's notice. She's never sure when he will veer from promises and apologies to actually looking for a knife.
    Here she is in person:


What can be done, in a situation like this? Especially when the kid in question isn't cooperating -- or worse still, now lives in an adult body and deliberately makes threats, or refuses to take their medication...
    The Brick drove a special ed ("sped") schoolbus route for years. Some of the kids he had contact with were almost as big (he's 6-foot), and reacted to anything they didn't want to do, with violence. Shoot, his regular bus routes were almost as frightening, like the kids who first knifed up the back seat, then set it on fire. While the bus was going down the street. And that's for people who are supposed to be "normal." (The extra fillip came when some parents accused bus drivers of either making these incidents up...or accused them of hurting the kids themselves! Thank God for videos on the busses that proved what really happened.)

So, what to do?
   You can't just lock someone up, Minority Report-style, because they could be dangerous. But how to protect yourself and others?

Take someone seriously, the first time they make a threat -- and lock them up? (Words are easy to say. Kids say stupid things all the time.) There are plenty of reports cropping up right now, mentioning similar threats, guns collected, etc.

Hold them down, and force feed the meds? (What about personal freedom, then...)

Let them commit the crime - then lock them up? (The lady above was told by a social worker that they couldn't do much until her son actually acted on his threats.)

I know this from a more personal angle, from dear friends whose son has been in and out of group homes and psychiatric situations for years. They tried to keep him at home, then were forced to give him up to the state (he's adopted), after he began trying to harm their pets -- and their other children. When he's calm, he's a wonderful guy -- polite, charming, funny. But he can also be physically threatening, angry...shift into deception quickly, and turn on people in a flash. He may say he's sorry, afterward, and revert to his former charm -- but the damage is done.
    They love him dearly. But they also have a responsibility to the rest of their family. 

    I realize that some of you are going to disagree on this -- but it strikes me that a concealed weapon permit -- and a responsible person holding it -- could have stopped the school shootings much faster.  Ramp up the eligibility requirements, if you wish. Regulate the sales. But I am not the only one who believes that a good dose of preventive medicine can help.
   Done responsibly, that is.

It still doesn't solve the root problem, though -- of kids out of control. And did you notice how many of these school assassins are boys in their teens and early twenties? And based on this list, this has been happening literally for hundreds of years. Mother Jones has a penetrating article on the mental illness connection with mass shootings that's worth reading.
  
    I wish there was an easy answer.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Monday Stuff On the Way to Other Stuff...Getting Ready for Christmas

This season's flu is just not fun. After a week of off-and-on fever and chills, aches and general tiredness, I am more than ready for it to go away. And it seems to...until you do too much. Then it's back, sneering in your face. 
    Well, yah, Mr. Flu -- I got you! Our Christmas tree is finally up, and decorations are out. Even the Brick, notorious for his bah-humbug attitude, is humming holiday carols. (He even clucks them now and then, just for fun. Not that our hens care.) I'm starting to gather up the ingredients for the seven fish dishes on Christmas Eve, and trying to figure out how to clean up the house without exhausting myself back into sickness. 
   It's not going to be easy. Meanwhile: 

Something to work on over the holidays - a scruffy, beautiful t-shirt shag rug. Tutorial's here. (It's easier than you think!)

Isn't this a beauty...

A totally free Christmas this year? My Frugal Home is working on it...and doing a great job. (That includes stocking stuffers and food, too. Wow.)

Donna Freedman's planning a stripped-down Christmas. Maybe her ideas would help you.

Tip: Donna uses Swagbucks to accumulate 'bucks' for Amazon gift cards. All you need do is use Swagbucks for your regular searches. (There are extras you can do to add points, but they're purely voluntary, and you can still accumulate quite a bit without them.) Those translate into Swagbucks -- and 450 of them means a $5 Amazon giftcard! 
    This may sound like a lot of work, but it isn't. Just by doing the regular stuff, somehow I've earned more than $250 worth of Amazon giftcards over the past few years...roughly two a month! 
    Could you use Swagbucks? Take a look on the right-hand side, and you'll see the Swagbucks icon. If you click on it, you'll get yourself started -- and give me a nice little bonus, too. Trust me -- it's worth exploring.

How to get laid off -- on purpose. Financial Samurai was planning to retire, anyways -- but by getting himself deliberately laid off, he got plenty of extras. (He calls it the "it's not you, it's me" strategy.) You could use this concept to get a raise or other perks. Or a date, I guess.

Just found a new blogger: Mr. Money Mustache. Well, new to me, anyways. This guy is 'retired' at age 37 (actually he has his own construction/rental projects); lives frugally, not far from the Brick house, and talks about everything from renovating a house in Hawaii to his own adventures in saving money. I'm looking forward to getting to know him and Mrs. MM better.

Confessions of a con artist. This man made his bucks by selling fake and overvalued 'opportunities' over the phone. A good reminder what you should be on guard for, courtesy of AARP.

The guy who finally confessed he was a con artist, too -- in his obituary. (You can see the video here.)  I'll bet other people had their suspicions about Mr. Smooth. Sad.

The first things to skimp on, when money gets tight. I love these quickies from Yes, I Am Cheap. (Don't miss on her list of 7 free or inexpensive things that can actually save money.) 

Did you know you can get replacement discs for your damaged DVDs? Cheap? Nope, me neither. 

A clever way with words: one of my young piano students loves this Taylor Swift song. I love the inventive way fonts and text are used to present the message. 



Bavarian crochet - a versatile stitch, lots of step-by-step photos, from Diary of a Stay At Home Mom.

And life goes on. Have a Merry Christmas week. It only comes once a year - take a minute now and then to enjoy it!


How Much Should An 1892 $5 Bill Cost?

Long ago, when America first started, the country didn't print any banknotes.

Did you know that?

Banks actually did it. They would print paper money that ostensibly was covered by the coinage in their coffers. If you were lucky, it was true, but you were never quite sure. There were only a few exceptions, like the New Orleans bank whose ten-dollar notes were so reliable that they were known as "dixs" (the French number for ten) -- or "Dixies." (Thus the origin of that good old Southern nickname.)

Some areas, especially those in Ohio (!!!), were notorious for printing money they couldn't honor. Practically the only way to be certain was to present the bank with its own note. But what if that banknote was in Illinois...and you were in the California gold camps?

It wasn't until the Civil War era that the U.S. began printing "greenbacks," and the paper currency began that we know today. (If you're curious about learning more, try my book, Quilts and the Golden West. It's full of financial history, plus a lot about the gold and silver camps -- and lots of quilts! Patterns, too. Go here to take a look.)

Meanwhile, banks continued printing money -- like the First National Bank of Creede in Colorado. Unfortunately, it was one of the bad 'uns, and only stayed in business for a few years before it failed. Its failure, like many of the gold and silver camps, had a lot to do with the adoption of the Gold Standard, made law by President Grover Cleveland. Unfortunately, those whose fortunes were based on silver, instead, often went bust.
    (Our banks have a bad habit of doing that around here, shades of the infamous Silverado savings&loan failure that involved Neil Bush, President Bush Sr's son, back in the 1980s.)
    Although we know the Creede bank existed, its notes were nonexistent -- until this 1892 "brown back" $5 note resurfaced.

   It sold in New York at the Bonhams auction last week, for $101,790.

For the Denver Post's story on the article, go here. 
Auction description and results are here. Zowee.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Can't Believe It...

Our hearts are breaking tonight.

Husband works for Douglas County Schools here in Colorado. He came home with tears in his eyes, over the kids and educators killed in Newtown, Connecticut. 

I had the same tears, listening to this interview, of the teacher next door who managed to save her class by cramming them in the bathroom, pulling a bookcase across the door, and turning out the lights. She and the kids were eventually rescued by police.


Brave woman, Kaitlin Roig. Terrified...but isn't that what true bravery contains?

Husband confessed he'd been thinking about our own girls, as well. How in the world can you protect kids from such savagery as this?

I don't understand. How can someone think it ok to just start shooting...and kill your own mom, as well as yourself.

Full article is here -- what little they know, so far.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A True Christmas Tale

According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, while both male and female reindeer grow antlers in the summer each year, male reindeer drop their antlers at the beginning of winter, usually late November to mid-December.
Female reindeer retain their antlers till after they give birth in the spring. Therefore, according to every historical rendition depicting Santa's reindeer, every single one of them, from Rudolph to Blitzen, had to be...

     a girl.

Figures. Only women would be able to drag a fat guy in a red suit all around the world in one night, and not get lost.



More silly Christmas jokes, puzzles, riddles and such are here!

Your House...In A Snow Globe!

I'm not kidding.

Go to this site, and type in your home address. Voila -- your place should appear in a snowglobe. (Towns work, too.)  Cool! DraftFCB, the sponsor of the site, also says that they'll make a contribution to the Coalition of the Homeless, every time you put a address in. So you're helping doubly.



The flu I brought home from Michigan is finally making a stand. Fever, chills, achiness...oh joy. Guess the Christmas decorations are going to have to wait another day or two.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Chicken Update

(thought I'd put this separately, so those of you non-avian admirers out there could skip it)

The Brick went out to open up the coop this morning. (We close it every night after sunset, to make sure predators are kept out. Even with a 5' chain link fence around the property, we have coyotes and a resident fox who keep tabs on things.)

A hen greeted him. ("She looked kind of shellshocked," he said.) Two more wandered out from the clump of trees.

Somehow I'd managed to lock out 3 hens last night. With snow on the ground. And about 20 degrees outside.

They always get in the coop at night by dark. (In fact, I can see their silhouettes on the ground outside, thanks to the heat lamp and extra light. Looks like backstage at the Chicken Rockettes.)

Only 3 hens didn't.

I felt terrible.

We checked them carefully. Thanks in part, I'm sure, to their free-ranging in all temperatures and weather, they looked just fine. (They must have a guardian angel.)

Whew.

The chickies are averaging 5-8 eggs a day, in spite of snow and cold weather. (Black Australorps, brown eggs.) We've been able to use all we want, plus give away cartons to neighbors and friends. (Free-range organic eggs make great Christmas presents!) Next week, I hope to start selling some. The girls have to earn their feed somehow.

Oh, and tonight? Before I close the door, I plan to count. 

P.S. Got my first paying customer! She said, "I've been looking for a source of fresh eggs, but no one has them to sell." I said, "I do!" Good for you, chickies...


Monday, December 10, 2012

Monday Stuff on the Way to Other Stuff: Scrub, Scrub, Scrub

The sun may be shining again here in Colorado -- but it's still pretty chilly. The chickens spent most of the day close to the coop. (Not that I blame them.) I got a lot of putting-away stuff done...so why does the house STILL look messy? 
    While I'm cleaning, you may enjoy these forays into Internet-land:

Homemade marshmallows. Yum. Dip them in dark chocolate for an incredible treat.

A simple country Christmas, imagined by It's All Connected.

Speaking of Christmas, more stocking stuffer ideas, but for guys -- written by a guy. I could see the Brick going for some of these items.  This is from Stacy Makes Cents, who has been offering several posts on stocking stuffers lately, including ideas for babies and moms.

An oldie-but-goodie by Donna Freedman, on all the good stuff you can find thrown away. Don't miss out on the comments -- they're the real meat of this post. 

 Voyager I's traveled past the planets, and is now entering unknown space. It won't power off until 2025...what will it discover in the meantime?

By the way -- that bright 'star' hovering around the moon right now, in your mid-December sky? It's Jupiter 
 
Going on a trip longer than an hour? Pack a snack and some water. Trent's advice (via the Simple Dollar) makes good sense here.

Sachertorte: an easy, elegant dessert that's budget-friendly. Find this triple threat at Penny Thots, one of the sites I regularly write for.

Two other yes-its-me-just-elsewhere posts:
    Dealing with holiday guilt, at Midlife Finance. 
    Also at MLF: Are you making financial headway? I was surprised at the number of comments on what seemed, at least to me, an easy post. Maybe because this subject hits near and dear to a subject that people find important: themselves.

Have a great week -- don't forget to stop in at either the Holiday Goodies or Christmas Goodies blogs. Lots of delicious ideas...



Sunday, December 9, 2012

I'm Still Here (How 'Bout That)

It has been a ZANY weekend.

    Friday -- Accidentally locked myself out of the house, without the house keys and my laptop. (Sigh. The back door that should have been open, I locked, instead.) Fortunately, I had my wallet, car keys and pen/paper. Two different sets of appraisals -- one in early morning, an hour's drive away. Plus meeting Daughter #2, and doing some shopping for the business. Gave a piano lesson. Shopped for stuff for the seniors luncheon. (See below.) Went out to eat with the Brick and friends. Returned the vehicle we'd been borrowing. (Our second car gave up the ghost -- down to just one now.) Staggered home. Watched a movie, went to bed.
    Started at 8 a.m. - finished at 11:30 p.m.

    Saturday -- Couldn't sleep - got up at 3 a.m., read a book until 5 a.m. Did a luncheon for seniors - 37 came, and all got plates of cupcakes to take home, in addition to a full meal, entertainment and so on. There were several others to help, but I was in charge. That meant keeping all the balls in the air -- food cooked on time, and done right, while I kept things generally rolling; tables to set up and decorate; cleanup done, with everything wiped off. 
    Started at 7 a.m. - finished at 2:30 p.m. Came home and collapsed. (Afternoon naps are wonderful.) Know I did stuff afterward, but can't remember what. Started snowing in early evening.

    Sunday -- Six inches of snow overnight, and the temps dropped like a rock. Felt like I was coming down with something, but I'd agreed to help a friend and sing for her on Worship Team for church. Fed the chickies (who refused to come out in all that chilly white stuff), got the car cleaned off and went to practice. Early. Sang for two church services. Came home, made lunch and ate it. Collapsed. (Another nap - plus the Sunday paper.) Cleared off the mantel. (No Christmas decorations up yet, thanks to being in Michigan for a week. Need to do it.) Then grocery shopping, tea with a friend and this.
    Started at 7 a.m. - finished at 11 p.m.

So glad Monday's coming. Maybe I can get some rest!


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Thursday Home Thoughts

Back home again, after a lonnnng day yesterday, starting at 3 a.m. (had to meet the Megabus at 4, then catch a flight home from O'Hare at 11), and ending at midnight, waiting for the Brick to get home from music practice. My body has no idea what time it is, or where I am...and the mind is not far behind.
    Baking cookies and paperwork today. (The cookies get browned, not the paperwork! It's my grandma's secret recipe for sugar cookies, and they're good. Go here for the recipe.) Getting ready for appraising tomorrow...and Stuff. It's nice to be home, but I wish we could all be People of Leisure. Lounging casually on the divan, reading a novel and munching chocolates while the maid brings fresh tea...well, maybe not.

Take a look at the LG Optimus Hyper Facade in Berlin, Germany. Can you believe this is a storefront!?!


Back to work...

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Frugal Advice from 1914


    "It is true that the smaller the income is, the harder the task of spending it to best advantage becomes...
   "Whatever way you may have found to stretch a too-small income, I am sure the majority of you see little romance in it...It is no disgrace to be poor, only mighty uncomfortable. It is honorable to plan and save and make things do a little longer if we make it so; it is noble to do any work if we do it in a noble way and live up to high ideals.

   "The bald fact [is] that more than one-half of the adult males of the United States and Canada earn less than seven hundred dollars per annum, and that two million of our railroad employees average six hundred and fifty dollars a year, and many of our clergymen and teachers live on much less than a thousand dollars a year, shows us that we can live on a little less if we must. [Editor's note: !!!!]

   "There are many pleasures that only money can buy, and to see the dollars we would like to spend for music and art broiled up in steak or baked into bread is temper breaking. But let us cultivate a sympathy with the other members of the great army of average wage-earners...Until things change for the better, try to be prudent and rational."

...from the December 1914 issue of Modern Priscilla magazine,
            excerpted in 'The Art of Thrift' special issue of Good Old Days


Sunday, December 2, 2012

Monday Stuff On the Way to Other Stuff: Christmas Decorating

 It's Monday morning...do you know where your Mama is?
     Mine has been having fun putting dusty paper chains (made by Little Brother and yours truly several decades ago) on her Christmas tree. They look awful, but when I protested, she said, "It's my house." And she's right.
     I'll wince some more when she puts the dirty white tissue paper wreath on the back door. I'd make another one for her, but she already told me that if I do, she'll just hang both. 
     Yuck. 
     While I'm fighting down my gag reflex, you might enjoy this gleaning of stuff from the Internet.

Top Ten Money-Saving Tips...learned from a grumpy father-in-law.  Basic ones that make sense -- like concentrating on the expensive proteins at an all-you-can-eat buffet, and leaving the potatoes and other starches alone. Good stuff here. (Thanks, L Bee and the Money Tree.)

Firefighters need a little help pulling out a downed tree...and a dog obliges! He actually belongs to one of the Dutch volunteer firefighters who came on the scene. (Our Charley would do the same thing.)


 
Starting with the Food Stamp (SNAP) Challenge...ending with great healthy food for $100 a month. Including some excellent basic recipes!

A guy who had the chutzpah to ask if he could crash at Warren Buffett's. Warren said yes! (Thanks to Len Penzo for pointing this one out.) 

8 quilting calculators, all in one helpful app -- co-sponsored by Robert Kaufman and Quilters Paradise. Don't write me if you can't figure this one out -- the Brick has an iPad, but I haven't gone there yet. A cousin, knowing my predilection for All Things Quilt, sent this.

Creating a seamless-design fabric print...thanks to Spoonflower. You can use these tips to design your own fabric, or just use the ideas for a new quilt design.

Hurricane Sandy news bloopers -- it's ok, you can go ahead and laugh.

And from Midlife Finance, another site I write for:
     Gifting through the holidays
     Ten travel tips for getting there and back safely

Have a good week.  And please, throw away those grubby made-by-kids-hands decorations! Except mine, of course...I intend on keeping the girlies' projects forever. 

What Does Everyone Else Think?

     I know how the Brick and I have handled our finances...but I'm not always sure how others have done it.
    The truth is -- they have. And they haven't. CNN Money hosts an ongoing feature called "America's Money: In Their Own Words." Currently, 65 different families are ringing in with comments. Some sound scared; they're facing bankruptcy, or are gradually losing the battle against foreclosure. Others herald their decisions to spend frugally and cut expenses, including living in a smaller house.
     One recurrent theme, though, is the cost of gasoline. If these families' words are any gauge, the increased price of gas is badly affecting us as a country, both for work and recreation.
     Have they always made wise decisions? Definitely not. Fortunately, though, nearly every family is realizing it now, at least. Better late than never. 
     Take a look here. You'll have to flip from page to page -- but it's worth it.

* * * *  * * * * * * * *
A foggy day in Michigan...helped the Mama put up her Christmas tree, and arrange lights in her outdoor planters. Her house has a holiday feel now. Just a few days, and I can go put some Christmas stuff in mine, as well!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Two-Present Christmas

   Have you read Crystal Paine's Money Saving Mom site?

You should.

    This website is chockful of coupons, discounts and great ideas for spending less on everything. It also has a huge batch of guest posts on better living ideas. Homeschoolers and people on gluten-free diets will find it especially helpful, since Crystal has both in her life, and often mentions these subjects.

Crystal's post on a Christmas with no presents hit a chord. (Dave Ramsey also profiled her experience recently, though I learned more from her look back at her experience.) 
   We never went this deep, though we scraped the barrel pretty dry some years. There was the "Thrift Shop Christmas," with nearly all our presents coming from that wonderful place. (Some still do, years later!) There was the "Homemade Goodie Christmas," with gingerbread men in the Christmas stockings. And the "Fish Dishes Christmas" (here too) has become a treasured event every year.

     This Christmas, our situation is easier -- but the girlies are both on short rations. Few or no presents don't matter to us, but they feel bad about it. So here's the solution: we've all pledged to give each other two presents. Just two. Plus stocking presents.
      You know what? It is freeing. They are getting more in their stockings than usual. (Had to put those already-purchased items somewhere.) But now I don't have to hustle around at the last minute, looking for stuff.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Books, Books, Books

I've been over at Penny Thots, suggesting that we can learn from our mistakes a much easier way -- by letting someone else commit them first. 

And how do you do this? Through books. 

Biography's the first and best way to do this, from avoiding Jefferson's lavish spending (and ultimate bankruptcy, leading to the sale of his home and possessions after his death) to dealing with depression, Sylvia Plath-style. (Lesson one: you will not get better by taking pills and stuffing yourself in a basement crawl space. Lesson two: actually succeeding in suicide doesn't solve anything, either -- now your family gets to cope with your problems, and feel more miserable while doing it.)

A lot of financial illumination came through the mistakes Suze Orman made...but also people like Sarah ban Breathnach, who made a fortune with her book Simple Abundance, then allowed it to slip through her fingers, and into Husband #3's greedy hands. Sarah ended up broke. Check out  Peace and Plenty for specifics. An amazing, painful, honest book.


     It isn't just lessons learned -- a good book can let you escape to other countries, other centuries for a little while, before you must return to the land of overdue DVDs and supper on the table. Take Percy Fawcett, an explorer who disappeared in South America in the early 20th century. He was searching for treasure said to be hidden in a fabulous lost city...and never came back. Now people are looking for him and the treasure in Exploration Fawcett: Journey to the Lost City of Z. (Nothing like deep jungle and a snake or two to take your mind off laundry and the dog's appointment at the vet.)

Give yourself the opportunity to travel, learn something new (or a variation on something you already know). Meet new people and come up with new opinions. Research everything under the sun -- and a whole lot above it, as well. Do it easily...
    Read a book.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Michigan...the Bargain Route

    The teaching gigs are finished for the year. Not that life has quieted down...I took a week to spend with the Mama on the family farm in Sparta, Michigan, where I grew up. There was a screaming deal on Spirit Airlines for a flight to Chicago from Denver--
    $79. Roundtrip.

Yep, you read that right. Combine it with an $8.50 roundtrip ticket on Megabus (Chicago to Grand Rapids), and I couldn't go wrong.

There's a catch, you say. Something's too cheap here.

Well, you're right -- sort of. Spirit Airlines only flies from DIA to O'Hare once a day. It gets into town about 5 p.m. -- not bad, except the only Amtrak commuter train that heads to Grand Rapids leaves about that same time from Union Station, miles away.
    The other issue is luggage. If you want to check a suitcase or take a carryon, Spirit socks you for it -- big-time. (It's cheaper if you pay more than 24 hours ahead. Don't even think about just showing up with it at the airport -- last I looked, checked luggage was $100 apiece that way.)
    So, if you're willing to just board with a backpack or large tote bag, or pay more ($25-35) to check luggage, you can fly a lot of places very cheaply. Good air conditioning and lights, seats comparable with United, staff kind, if not exactly gushy. If you want a soda or snack, it will cost extra...but the flight was just fine.

I hopped off the plane at O'Hare, took a $2-and-change light rail ride to downtown Chicago, trudged over some blocks to Union Station (I could have easily taken a bus, actually). Brrr. Temps were in the thirties, and I'd worn a light jacket with a sweater and shirt underneath. But the Christmas lights sparkled in the cold, and Union Station was nice and warm. I made it there about 7:00 p.m.
  
Now to wait. The Megabus wasn't leaving until midnight.

Bear in mind -- this was a cold night. Which meant that after the commuters and hipsters went home for the night, about 10 p.m., then the bums came out. "Miss, would you?" "Excuse me, I was wondering..." I finally gave up, and trudged out of the warmth down to the Megabus stop, about a block down. A big batch of people were out shivering on the sidewalk, and the bums were working the crowd, asking for a few bucks or a bus 'CTA' card. Double-decker Megabusses pulled up every 30 min. or so; I noticed bus signs for Cincinnati, Kansas City (the furthest west they go at present), Columbia, MO....then, once I was thoroughly chilled through, blessedly Grand Rapids/Detroit.

I climbed on, fell asleep...then got off at Grand Rapids in a snowstorm about 4 a.m. GR is a new stop, I'm guessing, because we pulled up by a parking lot not far from the Amtrak station, with no signage in sight. Hooray for the Mama -- she was right there, waiting for me.

Conclusions? Megabus has comfortable seats, free WiFi (if you can type during the bumps), a bathroom onboard and a minimum of interruptions -- the Grand Rapids leg was nonstop, and the bus was headed on to Lansing and Detroit. It's clean, though not fancy -- about the same, or a bit better than Greyhound, and not quite Amtrak. Not many signs (if any), but their directions are reasonably clear on the printout on where to be. Oh, and be at least 15-25 min. early to pick up or drop off; my bus was supposed to come in at 4:20 a.m., and left soon after 4 a.m. for the next leg.
     The passengers ranged all over, as far as dress, income and fancy accessories. I saw everyone from teenagers to hipsters to everyday people saving a buck, with a fair sprinkling of oddballs in-between. Your usual, if you've ever ridden on Amtrak...and not as wacky as the individuals generally found on
Greyhound. A bit more upscale.

Would I ride it again? In a heartbeat. The weirdo comments kept us entertained and coping with the cold...and the Megabus employees were careful to keep order at the bus stop. The long wait was no fun -- but like Spirit, Megabus only made that run once a day. You miss it, you wait until the next day.

And it gets you where you need to go -- incredibly cheap.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Monday Stuff on the Way to Other Stuff: Running in Place...fast!

It's been National Appraisal Day...didn't you know that? Ok, it really isn't -- but I've been hustling people in and out all day today, doing appraisals before I leave tomorrow to spend a few days with The Mama in Michigan. Plus washing clothes. Ironing. Putting things away. Stuff like that. 
    I'll make it, but sometimes I feel like the Red Queen in Alice -- I may be holding still, but I need to run hard to stay there! 
    The chickies have been champs all week...other than a lackluster three eggs yesterday, we've scored 6-7 eggs daily all week. They were a big help with all those pies and company, and Girlie #1 was able to take a dozen home with her after Thanksgiving. 
    While I'm packing, you may enjoy these bits & wits on the Internet:
    
 DIY holiday gift ideas, thanks to And Then We Saved.  (An even better list is at The Simple Dollar -- look here.) She also has a 'how-to-cut-thick-bangs' tutorial. (Yes, I know this has nothing to do with Christmas gifts. Helpful, nonetheless.)

You too can catch Santa in the act -- by producing photographic evidence, with your own tree and/or fireplace. A little weird, but certainly innovative!

The appliances in Aging in Wonder's house hum in b flat. Ours are a bit lower....but the alarm that keeps going off at the Michael's down the hill is WAY higher. An interesting exercise in listening.

Super-rich Southern California couple promises $5 million to an art museum in Kansas City. Said museum builds a new building, based on that promise...but with only a million actual cash in hand. Couple goes broke, and says 'sorry.' Museum sues. Hmmmmm...be careful what you promise! Go here for the latest on this interesting case
    An interesting twist to this idea -- Coloradoans were horrified (and mesmerized) when Quest's former chairman, Joe Nacchio, was sentenced to prison and fined for fraud a few years back. Not only did a lot of investors lose money, but Quest employees had their pension plans stripped because of Nacchio's actions. We know several people whose retirement literally evaporated overnight.
    When Nacchio's conviction was mentioned, a teacher I know (not a Coloradoan, btw) raved about what a shame it all was -- that Nacchio had been such a prominent supporter of the arts in California. Yeah, with other people's money, I thought. Put him in with Bernie, and let them scam each other!

The world's funniest signs, from Travel and Leisure.

Ya think?!
Have a good week. I'll check in now and then, to see how you're doing.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Another opportunity to be silly!

Yes, you too can make fun of your friends and family members, thanks to Jibjab...

put them in an elf video! 

This one's of our nieces and nephews, featuring a guitar solo by that master of music, Adie. Amazing, don't you think, for a kiddo who's less than a year old?

Take a look here -- then you'll be able to make a card of your own.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Up At (Or Before) The Crack of Dawn

Notice the time stamp? 

Actually, we've been awake since a little after 3. "Are you sure you'll be ready?" Our friends called several times yesterday, asking just that -- they've got a 6 a.m. flight to Houston this morning, and needed a ride to DIA. The Brick volunteered to go, and let me sleep in, but doors slamming and engines running fixed that.

Besides, I had to get the turkey in the oven. This year, it's Trisha Yearwood's recipe, which calls for cooking it at 500 degrees for an hour in a sealed pan, then turning the oven off and waiting for 5-7 hours. (No peeking.) She says this will produce the tenderest, most juicy turkey.
    I hope she's right.

The pies are done: pumpkin and 'pay-can.' Pumpkin for our oldest girlie, who can't get enough of it. Pecan for the Brick, who suddenly remembers his North Carolina ("-lahna") roots this time of year. A pumpkin cheesecake, for our friends Dan and Sharon. Cookies to fill in around the edges.

A cup of coffee, then mop the floor. Turn the oven off. (The aroma is already starting.) The Brick will be back by then, and we'll celebrate by --
    Going back to bed.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Chickie Update:

For those who've been following my blog, and are wondering...

Today, so far, our 9 Black Australorp hens have produced 7 EGGS!

Seven, count 'em...7! 

Photo from mypetchicken.com . They've even got pet hen diapers!


I wonder who the slackers are.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Here's one more thing to be thankful for -- one of the most talented dogs ever. (And of course, she/he's a Golden Lab!) 



Happy Thanksgiving to friends old and new -- may you have a peaceful and restful day.






Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Monday Stuff On the Way to Other Stuff...Back from New Mexico

I got home late last night, after driving six hours from Albuquerque. Gee, I had fun with the girls at the New Mexico Quilters Association! (More about that soon...thanks so much!)
   While I'm recuperating, here are some goodies I found wandering around the Internet:

Dozens of ways to have fun -- for little or no money.

A stolen piano and other ways to get robbed... if you're not paying attention, that is. A good reminder, especially when you're living somewhere else temporarily, or traveling. (Thanks, Daily Money Shot.)

Captain Bill Farquharson died back in September. His name is not familiar so much to us Yanks, but he was a brilliant military pilot back in WWII. (In spite of his heroics, he wasn't afraid to admit he was "frightened all the time.") 

Take a minute, also, to read the story behind a poignant note left at the Bomber Command Memorial

Photo - Alamay
  For you literary types, T.S. Eliot's wife, Valerie Eliot, just died recently, too.


Feeling like you just can't get even the important stuff done? You're not alone. Some good ways to cope with it here, thanks to Get Rich Slowly.

A St. Bernard who's too afraid to walk down the stairs...the gentle (and sweet!) solution

Strange uses for a credit card. I'd add scraping paint and smoothing out frosting. I also remember some police drama that used credit cards to break into locked apartments. Hmmm.

Speaking of credit cards, some straightforward ways to deal with -- and take advantage of -- Black Friday, without straining yourself...or your cards. (Thanks, Retire by 40.)

A very long look at couples, dressed in each others' clothes. Gives the idea "cross-dressing" a whole new meaning. (I am positive that the Brick will never ever want to wear my fur collar sweater and high heels. No matter what.)

31 very easy how-to projects. Insanely easy -- but wow, they work. (The mug trick is related to last week's 'how to paint knobs easily' post.)

Plesiosaurs gave birth to their young, apparently similar to how whales or dolphins do it. This may seem logical to you, but scientists have been arguing about it for centuries -- until recently, when they found an unusual fossil.

A man and a church have a lifesaving impact on each other. Quietly touching.

And in honor of Thanksgiving -- and news reporters:




Friday, November 16, 2012

Cooking Ahead - and Fast


I'm leaving tomorrow for Albuquerque and the New Mexico Quilters Association gig. (Go here for info on my Sunday class and Monday lecture.) Meanwhile, the Brick will hold down the fort with the dogs and chickies. (After a week of 1-egg-a-day, we had 2 this morning...and a hen in the nesting box, working on a third. Update: two more found around noon - 4 total. Whoopee!) When I'm here, he doesn't cook, except for a cheese omelet now and then. (He does make coffee in the morning. A nice luxury.)
    When I'm not here, he doesn't cook, either! So what am I leaving for him?

A small pizza, made with dough from tonight's version:

EASY PIZZA CRUST

2 cups flour
1 tablespoon yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup warm water
2 tablespoons sesame seed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon sugar (gets the yeast going)

Mix all but flour and salt, and let sit for 30 min. Mix in the flour and salt, adding more flour as needed, for a stiff dough -- knead until everything's incorporated, and the dough is supple. (about 5 min., maybe less.) Cover with a clean, damp towel and let rise for a few hours.

For pizza: grease your pan, then spread the dough out in a circle. Let bake at 400 degrees for about 10 min, until the dough is barely baked, and beginning to brown. Take out, add sauce, cheese and your favorite toppings. Now slide the pizza off the pan, and bake directly on the oven rack for 10 more minutes. This gives you a crunchier crust -- and no more sogginess.
---------------------

The Brick loves meat. Period. Our friends just gave us a venison roast. That will go into the crockpot on low tomorrow morning, just before I leave, with a few tablespoons of onion soup mix, a can of mushroom soup and a dash of wine. This produces a tender, delicately-seasoned roast with lots of gravy. (Try it with pork or beef, as well.)

That will make a good supper for him, as well as sandwiches, until I get back Monday night.

* * * * * *

Sidetracked Sarah has a whole month's worth of freezer-to-crockpot meals that would really come in handy. Take a look here for lots of ideas.

* * * * * *
The Holiday Goodies blog is back! Take a look; today features sweet potato dishes.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Don't Read This...You'll Regret It!

In high school, I belonged to a madrigals singing group. With our snazzy matching outfits (long dresses and leisure suits - all polyester) and tuneful tones, we were in demand for all the high-class events around Sparta, Michigan. Especially VFW and bowling banquets.

One of our most-done songs was Fred Waring's Fifty Nifty United States:



Donna Freedman came up with a cool Animaniacs' version of a similar song:

 Now you've done it! I told you not to read this post...

Shove over, "Louie Louie" and "Crimson & Clover" -- there are new contenders in that mental closet. Both these songs have a nasty habit of wandering into your head, and sticking there. Over and over and over...you might as well give up, memorize them, and get it over with.

On the plus side, you'll be fought over whenever you take a side for a trivia championship.
Only you'll have to sing through the entire song to find the answer you're looking for. In order.

Good luck, from a fellow sufferer.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Clean It Out, Scrub It Down, Make It Work

...that's my theme for this week.

I am sick and tired of all these piles of stuff -- leftovers from the Mighty Hunters (gloves, orange Day-Glo backpacks, muddy boots), flotsam and jetsam from Worship Team (sheet music, notebooks), and all the paperwork that's accumulated while I've been gone a lot these past few months. A quilt teacher's busiest time is in the fall -- guilds aren't afraid that you'll miss your plane because of a blizzard, and people are still planning to Make Things for the holidays. Come mid-November, that flow stops, just as if the spigot were turned off for the season. It can't come soon enough!

One more gig to head for first: the New Mexico Quilters Association is meeting this weekend (Nov. 18-19) in Albuquerque. Yours truly will be teaching a how-to-make-and-embellish-Crazies class on Sunday, and a lecture on Quilts of the Golden West Monday morning. The Crazies class is almost full, but there's space at the lecture.  Check here for more information -- I'd love to see you there!



Sigh...back to work. The best part of all this trudging and scrubbing means cleaner shelves (we're also donating books, coats and such), more room in the hallways and a less frenetic environment.

    I've also been moving bookshelves, boxes and such to different areas, changing up on storage. Funky Junk Interiors is great for repurposing inspiration -- including this remake of a large shelving unit into entryway storage lockers -- I never would have thought of doing that!
    From this...

Yep...looks like our newlywed shelving. Kind of blocky and beat-up.
Much more interesting...but I'd paint it turquoise blue or gunmetal gray.
...to this. Wow. Thanks for sharing, Curbside Collector! (Go here for specifics. Here, too.)


    So it will be cleaner around here. And tidier. Until Thanksgiving. Then the girlies and Keith arrive, and it starts all over again.






Monday, November 12, 2012

What Can We Say But Thank You...


Monday Stuff On the Way To Other Stuff: Happy Veteran's Day

Today's the day to remember and thank those who spent years of service -- and their lives -- in defending our country. These blood ties run strong in our family -- not only did my dad, grandpa and uncle serve (Korea and WWII, respectively), but the Brick's dad, stepfather and brothers were all career military. (Navy, Marines, Air Force and Navy) And the Brick served 6 years in the Navy himself, on a submarine and surface ship. 
    I am so grateful.



More on the way to the Internet:

23 surefire ways to make extra money, according to Len Penzo. (Buying unusual domain names and reselling them? That's a new one...but the Brick made a healthy profit selling a domain name he'd considered using for a business.)

If standing up/lying down or other quirks of famous writers did the trick for them, would it work for me? It's a thought, at least...

Paint your porcelain knobs with permanent marker! This method is an easy redo for bathroom or kitchen -- and makes for interesting jewel-toned results. (Thanks, It's All Connected.)

Should you support someone in ministry who's living better than you? This poster argues that it's all in your perspective -- I'm not sure I agree. Maybe this should be considered case by case. 

Turn your Halloween pumpkin into homemade pumpkin puree, courtesy of Creating Naturally. Then you can make a pie! (A nice recipe is here.) Discovered this season that the chickens LOVE pumpkin! (We're currently up to two eggs a day. Out of 9 chickens. Hope springs eternal.)

Just Plane Etiquette, a post by yours truly on Penny Thots

Skint in the City, a new blog I've been reading. The Brit point of view is a turn-on, but so are the posts, so far, including one on fashion, and suggestions on throwing a frugal cocktail party.  She doesn't post a lot -- but what's there is interesting.

A skeleton is found entwined in the roots of a large oak toppled by Hurricane Sandy. Turns out the body is probably a yellow fever or smallpox victim from the 18th or early 19th century, originally buried in a New Haven, CT cemetery. When the cemetery was closed, the headstones were moved -- but apparently the bodies were not. A passerby noticed the skull and backbone the day before Halloween...now that's a freaky way to celebrate!

Here's another strange one: a prison inmate has a heart attack and thinks he's dying. He says to the guard, " I need to get something off my conscience and you have to hear this." He then confesses to beating a woman to death back in 1995. But oops -- he survives! Now, in spite of trying to recant the confession, he's going back to jail for life. Should have made sure it really was a deathbed confession. 
    (For another look at this subject, the top 10 deathbed confessions are here. Don't miss the other list links on this same page, including 10 famous people who lived through 9/11, and 10 survivors at sea.)

Making little clothes from big ones...a guest post at Stacy Makes Cents, continued over at the contributor's site, Young in the Mountains. I hate seeing good clothes go to waste...and it would be a real kick, to see your favorite kid modeling a sweater you've loved for years.

An intriguing look at Hurricane Sandy, via timelapse in New York City:



Have a good week. 

Getting Through Life (And This Week)

In a few days, it will be better. Really.