Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Oh, For A Knight in Shining Armor...

Fred Goodwin's lost his knighthood.

The former head of  the Royal Bank of Scotland goofed up -- bigtime. The bank's in trouble. Goodwin retired quickly. (And got his 600,000 pound-plus pension cut in half. Poor guy.)
    And now, thanks to the brouhaha from customers and deposit-holders, Her Majesty decided to take his knighthood back. 

He joins a small list of other 'formers,' including a race car driver, Anthony Blunt (a well-known art historian and distant relative of the Queen, who just happened to be spying for Russia), a former world boxing champion... and the president of Zimbabwe. All had royal honors stripped away for untoward actions.

Makes you wonder what Her Highness would do to Newt Gingrich, Joe Nacchio, Rod Blagojevich or Bill Clinton, if only she could get her royal hands on them. 

Monday, January 30, 2012

Dreaming About Homesteading

Okay, I'm not thinking homesteading for us -- right now, at least -- but it's fun to dream about possibilities.

Like thinking about chickens (again). I still haven't talked the Brick into these, but Daughter #2 has her own 5 hens. And if I'm lucky, now and then I get a dozen eggs. This chicken blog is lots of fun.

And following Surviving the Suburbs
(She's talking about maple sugaring right now. She does slip a tad more philosophy and ideas she doesn't always support with evidence -- but hey, that's what a blog is for. To express your opinion. And I enjoy following her progress.)

Or my favorite -- Living the Frugal Life. (Her photos are as beautiful as her prose. Patterns sometimes show up, like fingerless gloves. And she has chickens.)

Or watching this wonderful documentary on Dolly Freed, the original Possum Living girl.
(The link will give you the whole thing -- the imbedded video below is Part 1 of 3. More on Dotty today here, plus links to a longer interview.)

It sure beats scraping walls downstairs in the basement. (sigh)

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Animals, Animals, We Got Animals...

Like this slide show -- with animals doing what nature intended! (Including being silly)

or videos of 13 confused dogs. (Hey, this stuff is too weird to make up.)

Have fun...woof!

Resting on a Sunday Evening

The Eco Cat Lady posted an idea: it's okay to do nothing. No New Year's resolutions, no depriving yourself of that luscious chocolate pudding just because you suddenly feel 'fat,' no forcing yourself to Go Do Something because that's what normal people do.

My Grandma Cumings would be horrified at such a turn of events. She raised 8 children, cooked for the hired men and threshers, and had her own chickenyard business, to boot. She also walked half a mile daily to cook, clean and care for her in-laws. Rest? You did that while the canner of tomatoes was boiling. Or while sitting in the sunny window seat in her living room, the latest in a series of Tweetie birds swinging in his cage overheadt. You mended socks, and embroidered dish towels when the mending basket was empty.

I have noticed, though, that:

*some of my best ideas come during 'restful' moments: in the shower, late at night in bed, staring at the sunset after supper.

*if I don't take some time off, my brain turns into a hamster wheel of ideas, voices and self-criticism that are hard to live with, let alone respond to.

*without some deliberate time for reading and thinking mixed in, I cook only basic food, enough to get us by. I clean only when forced to, and the ironing sits around for weeks. 

*I will use my 'busyness' to keep from facing problems, deadlines and people I don't want to deal with.

"The way I see it," Eco Cat Lady says, " people pretty much always do what they want to do...And until you uncover what that purpose is, there is just no way that you're gonna be able to muscle your way into changing your behavior."

So if you're finding yourself " too busy," take some time to think why.  You may well need a chance to just rest.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Road to California Quilt Contest Prizewinners

Boy, they're beautiful!

You can see the whole list here, photos included. I was especially taken with

Sherry Reynolds' AMERICA, LET IT SHINE
   (Mark my words -- you'll be seeing this one win elsewhere. It already has, in at least one venue.)

Mary Kay Davis' A SPRINKLING OF STARDUST (what lovely colors):

and Kumiko Frydl's MISSION: IMPECCABLE:
(Can you believe this is only 19" x 19"!)

The Road to California quilt conference is held in January of each year in Ontario, CA; I've been fortunate to teach a few years there, and hope to do more. It's a wonderful time of classes, lectures, exhibits, and one of the best merchant malls in the country. Don't miss it next year! Go here for more information.

Mega Swag bucks Day - Today!

Yes folks, it is once again Friday...and in SwagbucksLand, that means mega bucks. Literally. Instead of one or two codes a day, there will often be five or six!

I've mentioned the Swagbucks program before -- but it really is something you should consider joining. Do just the regular searches you normally make during a day -- and you can easily earn your way toward 450 points -- the amount it takes for a $5 Amazon gift card. I don't do much beyond searches and inputting the daily codes, and I can easily earn $10 or more in gift cards a month.

Couldn't you find something useful to do with $10 on Amazon monthly? (They have many other gift and reward cards, too.)

Here's what you do. Click on the 'swidget...' that weird-looking numbers thing on the right of this blog. You can sign up for an account, and earn 30 bonus points in the process. (You'll also give me a little bit of reward points, too...thank you in advance.) You get 50 bonus points on your birthday -- and as mentioned, you can earn all sorts of points easily during the normal course of your online time.

The nice part about this program: they don't share your name and contact info. They don't put irritating 'cookies' or other intrusive items on your stuff. And they offer plenty of freebies, including points when you sign up for Groupons, get auto quotes and other such goodies.

Try it. You'll honestly like it.

Appraising: Hands-On Advice From An...Appraiser!

Snowing like crazy today. Good...I'm up to my hips in finishing up paperwork, mostly appraisals. 

If you're a big fan of Antiques Roadshow, the word "appraisal" probably brings some 'expert' to mind, looking at a person's item while they register shock on how much it's worth.

Well, yes and no.

Appraisers do this, certainly. But the value they set on the piece is their best educated opinion...and may not be what the items go for when they're sold. Case in point: the top item on the list of Antiques Roadshow's most valuable items, a group of jade pieces collected by the viewer's father from WWII China. The appraiser valued them as 18th century, extremely rare, and worth more than a million dollars -- but they sold at auction for $494,615. (Oh darn.)

There's no doubt in my mind that the appraiser knew his stuff -- but what must be remembered is that prices are affected by other things than just the quality, age and workmanship of an item. Is that style popular right now, for example? (Blue and white quilts consistently outsell yellow and white quilts, partly because they fit in more decorating schemes -- and partly, I believe, because the staff at Country Living magazine is partial to blue and white.)
     Another issue is the current state of the economy -- antiques took a header when the stock market crashed a few years back, and are only starting to crawl back up. (The obvious exceptions are classics, like works from artists that have remained of great interest to the public. "The Little Model," a Norman Rockwell painting, was just appraised on AR for $500,000... probably not that far off the mark.)
     And finally, it's not uncommon to see auction houses, including online sites like Ebay, finish up at 'wholesale' prices: approx. half (or less) of what the retail price of that piece would be. Sure, some things go for breathtaking prices -- and they're generally exceedingly rare, and in outstanding condition. But there are always bargains to be had, if you educate yourself and bid carefully.

There have been 'professional' pikers, as well -- take the case of Russ Pritchard and George Juno. They ran an antique business together, but also appeared as experts on Antiques Roadshow. One episode showed Pritchard examining a Civil War era sword the man claimed he used to cut watermelon. Turns out the "watermelon sword" story was bogus, and the man had met with the pair beforehand.
    Even worse, though, is this (excerpted from Current.org):

Pritchard and Juno are controversial figures in the small world of military antiques. Last summer, their company, American Ordnance Preservation Association, was found liable in federal court of defrauding George "Ed" Pickett V, descendent of Gen. George Pickett, a Confederate commander renowned for his bravery. The general led the ill-conceived Pickett's Charge, the Confederacy's desperate last assault at the Battle of Gettysburg.
According to published accounts of the case, Russ Pritchard III went to great lengths to befriend George Pickett V and convinced him to sell his famous ancestor's numerous artifacts for $87,500—less than 10 percent of their market value. AOPA promptly sold the items to the city of Harrisburg, Pa., for more than 10 times what Pritchard had paid Pickett.
A federal jury ordered AOPA to pay Pickett $800,000, and a judge last August rejected the defendants' request for a new trial. Juno and Pritchard dissolved the company, and Pickett never received the money.

 There are ways to protect yourself and your collectibles.

*Research your piece. The Internet makes it so much easier, nowadays. 

*Research your appraiser. Are they experienced? Have they published anything? Have any certification? (They should...my own comes not only from AQS and PAAQT -- both specialize in textiles  -- but USPAP.) There are excellent appraisers out there who are not certified; I know several. But they should have a number of years of experience, as well as other skills, to prove that. And every appraiser, regardless of their past exploits, should be continuing to study and research Ask for credentials.

*Don't make a quick decision to sell. Stop. Think about it. If you're not sure, get a second opinion. No one is infallible, no matter how good their intentions.

Finally, take a leaf from poor Mr. Pickett. Never ever sell items to someone who's appraised them for you. It's not only unsavory -- it's downright dishonest.

Update: for another appraising story, go here. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Easiest Fashion Tip Ever

Want to give yourself a classy new look, with little effort?

Exude more savoir faire?

Have people comment, "Wow, that is a GREAT shirt!"

This trick comes courtesy of two friends: Pepper Cory, a fellow quilting teacher...and my dear buddy, Jo Julian. Buy a plain-colored outfit, best fabric you can afford. (My favorite is a black velveteen long-sleeve shirt, courtesy of the Salvation Army in Boulder. Cost: $3.)

    Now exchange the buttons for the best-quality ones you can afford.

I put Czech glass iridescent dragonfly buttons on the black shirt. A buck apiece: $6 for shirt front and $2 for the cuffs. I have never worn it when someone didn't comment on it!

Jo mentioned this afternoon that she tends to judge all her clothing by the buttons -- if the buttons aren't high-quality, she doesn't want to wear the outfit, no matter how nice it looks. On an earlier visit, Pepper had said the same thing -- except she was talking about freshening up thrift shop purchases by changing buttons on them. 

Try it on just one clothing item -- a dress or shirt. You'll be amazed at the difference.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Snowy, Gray Day

...and boy does it bring out my green urges!

Thus, this educational video on "the exciting new advances in flatulence technology" -- from cats.

See what you learn from hanging around here...

Monday, January 23, 2012

Monday Stuff on the Way To More Stuff

Boy, it's been a strange few days, from being shouted out by another blogger (warning: don't ever skim your e-mail and figure you've caught everything) to the current Interesting Thing: having two guys wandering around in the attic overhead. I hear bangs, burps, odd snippets of conversation. And the house is freezing from having the doors open so much. (They're rewiring the bathroom and fixing a hole. Sigh.)

    I also had a weird experience at DIA (Denver International Airport) -- which has its share of weirdness, thanks to the rampaging blue mustang  (that killed its creator), and the odd murals that some people are just sure are go-to instructions for landing aliens. Really.
    Anyways, I was at DIA last Tuesday night to pick up the Brick from his trip to Washington. I pulled into the '45 minute wait' lot, and noticed a cute Westie in the car next to us. Charley, who had come along for the ride to see Dad, was fascinated -- and the two exchanged woofs.
    Wednesday morning, I was back again to get Daughter #1, from her trip. Pulled into the wait lot again -- and there, I could swear, was the same dog! Turns out it was: Milo's owner had been picked up by a friend the night before, with Milo in tow. That morning, Milo's owner was there to pick up her nephew: different car, same dog! (Charley was thrilled.)
     Talk about canine deja vu. 

     New things to report: 

*There's now an easier way to follow my blog! You can get the posts via e-mail; just use the convenient 'follow by e-mail' submission at top right. Hint: there are going to be several giveaways this year, and this is the easiest way to get in on them! 

*You thought Earth only had one moon? Unh-unh. (But if you're hoping to stand on any of the #2 moons, think again.)

*Bonnie and Clyde's tommy guns sold -- for $210,000. The news was passed on, fittingly enough, in Joplin, Missouri, part of their old stomping grounds. (Maybe it helped pay for someone's rebuilding expenses -- Joplin really got nailed last year by a huge tornado.)

* Australian meat pies -- boy, that sounds nice in today's chilly weather. These succulent little guys are the culinary equivalent of Upper Michigan's pasty. What - you can't get to New York to get your own? Try this delicious-looking recipe. (They're also great places to hide things.)

*Visit Charles Dickens's museum in your pajamas:

(Or see filmmaker Bruno Martini's version here.)

*Feed your family for $250 or less a month -- Stephanie at Keeper of the Home's got it worked out here.  (And that's for five people.) Some great ideas.

*Check out this Very Cool 19th century cheater print I just found on Ebay-- is it Centennial? (c.1876) If so, it would be the earliest Crazy-related cheater print I've ever seen. Most probably, it's in that c.1884 sweet spot so many Crazy cheaters end up at. It's in great shape. Wow.

Yours truly has a new part-time job: you'll occasionally find me hanging out at Tight-Fisted Miser's site! I'll post once a week for Andy, and do some tidy-up work, as well. Come on over and say hi.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Using Up, Hiding Out...and Baking

Thanks to holding back some on the grocery shopping lately (see -- I do follow my own advice), I've been clearing out some shelves. The refrigerator is actually starting to look like one again, instead of The Place Half-Full Jars Go To Die.
     What does this mean to the Brick? He gets more stews and soups...because they're perfect places to hide things. Tonight's beef stew used up a small piece of flank steak, 8 baby carrots, half a can of leftover mushroom soup, the leftovers from a can of tomatoes with green chilis, and four potatoes that were starting to sprout. (Chop, mix all but the potatoes in a crockpot on low, along with a few cups of water. Cook for 5-7 hours, add chopped potatoes for at least one more hour. Salt and pepper, with maybe a spoonful of sour cream stirred in at the end. Delicious.)
     Tomorrow's scalloped potatoes will include thin slices of the remaining pattypan squash from the plants that tried to incorporate. (They didn't succeed only because they were feuding with the mint.) The squash in the frig turned purple and rotted; the ones on the counter, however, have held up surprisingly well.
     Baking helps you hide even more good stuff whose time has come. Banana nut cake was on the weekend's docket. (Tip: use red bananas, if you can find them. They're not as sweet, don't get as mushy, and seem to have a more penetrating flavor.) Tomorrow's supper will feature apple crisp, from the last apples in the crisper. I guess that means I scrub it out. (The crisper, not the apples.)


5 apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1/2 cup brown or white sugar
3-5 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 cup flour
1 cup oatmeal
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Strew the apples in a piepan or 9" square cake pan. (Don't worry about greasing it.) Mix everything else together, and spread on top. (If you've got any extra bits of fruit or nuts hanging around, throw them in, too.) Bake at 350 degrees for 30 min., until brown and bubbling.  Makes 4 servings; serve with ice cream and a certain amount of smugness.

If your fruit or veggies are short, and you still want a treat, try this pretzel version of pecan pie. It's a special bonus for the many people who struggle with nut allergies, nowadays. (Thank you, Southern Plate!)

And on these chilly days, that lovely warmth and delicious smell coming from the oven will be an added bonus. 

Colorado's mountains are getting plenty of this right now. Down on the flatlands, though, we're dry with a scraping of snow.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Beginning of the Tail

In case you haven't heard, today is...

National Squirrel Appreciation Day.

They get run over, teased and chased...but hey, these furry guys lend a lot of entertainment to our humdrum lives. (Daughter #1's dog Jack's Main Aim in Life was to Catch A Squirrel, a feat he actually accomplished a few times. Our Charley cornered one, but didn't know what to do next...he got roundly chewed out by said squirrel for his impertinence.) 

In their honor, the Huffington Post is sponsoring a squirrel photoshop contest. Or just go to the site, to admire their shenanigans, like this near miss with a Lamborghini:

Squirrels Rule. (And I'm not nuts saying that!)

Pick Yourself Up, Dust Yourself Off...

...Start all over again. (Anybody else know this Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers song?)

Jenn over at Frugal Upstate has been discouraged that she's not on the shortlist for the Nobel Prize -- well, actually, she hasn't been able to get even the small deadlines met that she'd hoped for. Instead, she was just lucky to get the everyday family chores done.

I can relate. So, I'm betting, can you.

Maybe you didn't write an Academy Award-nominated screenplay this week. Maybe you didn't even get a shower by noon most days! But if you and/or your family wore clean clothes, ate hot food, and didn't have to kick a path through the clutter, that's something accomplished. Something good.

I hope to get some deferred things done this weekend -- but I'm also going back to the 15/30 Plan: take 15 or 30 minutes a day to work at a task or job that's been put off. When the timer goes off, you're done -- until the next day. It's amazing what can be accomplished in a series of short periods.

And have a good weekend. 

Friday, January 20, 2012

Saving Money: A Dozen Tips That Add Up

January can be a bleak month. 

Sure, you had a great time during the holidays. But now they're over, and with little to look forward to until Valentine's Day, with the exception of a storm (or two or three), what can you do?

How about saving your household some money? 

Sometimes you have to -- because you've only found part-time income...or none at all.

Or help yourself pay off holiday bills faster. 

Or, as in our case, pay down a beautiful electric keyboard Husband needed for his work in a new band. (Not to mention our current gig on a worship team for church.)

Here's what's helping us:

1. Instead of cable, we watch DVDs of television series...or get episodes off Hulu. We watched all of Top Gun and Ice Road Truckers online, thanks to the History Channel, and are anxiously awaiting season 4 of the Mentalist to be ready.

2. Got our phone/internet bill reduced...just two phone calls! I phoned Century Link customer service and asked why our internet fees had gone up. Within five minutes, our monthly charge, thanks to the friendly rep, dropped from $54.85 to $25!  A second call to Verizon pulled Husband's phone, for a further ten bucks off monthly. (He uses his work phone all the time now.) Next month, if our calling minutes stay as low as they have been (the girlies text, rather than phone), we'll reduce that, as well.
     You can do this, too. Just call customer service and ask if you can get the current special! (Try it with your cable bill, as well.)

3. Bundle whenever possible. We needed shelving units for the basement. Not only did I get them on sale -- a friend and I ate our lunch gratis, thanks to a 'Eat Free' special Ikea was sponsoring at the same time.  If I buy groceries, they're on sale -- and I also have a coupon for them.

4. Stay out of the stores...unless you need items. (And they're on sale.)

5. Eat out of your pantry and freezer for a week. Or maybe two.  The only things we absolutely have to have are milk and eggs -- and I can do without them in a pinch, thanks to dry milk and egg powder. (Those came into the pantry after a few blizzards around here decimated the store shelves. A two-day blizzard will quickly keep delivery trucks from restocking.)

6. Wishing you could read the latest book...or hear a new group? Check it out of the library. If you absolutely must own it, try Ebay or Amazon's used sections. You can buy many items for a penny plus shipping! And if you use Amazon...

7. Sign up for Swagbucks. Use it to do the normal searching you do, and you'll automatically accumulate points toward Amazon gift cards and other goodies! Just go down to the right hand side of my blog, and you'll see my Swagbucks 'swidget.' Sign up from there. This may not seem like much -- but it's free, and I can easily accumulate enough points for a $10 gift card -- per month. Just by doing my regular searching. You can, too.

8. Refilling a prescription? Get twice as much. Not only is it often cheaper -- but it saves you a special trip into the store to restock. And of course, ask if there's a generic version.

9. Stretch things a bit. Add a few cups of water to your gallon of whole milk -- voila, it becomes "2 percent," at no extra cost. And you've got extra, to boot. A few cups of water, and your juice lasts longer. Add half a can of water to those 'ready-to-eat' soups, like Chunky, and you've just made it go futther. And if you're one egg short -- an eggshell of water will do the trick, in a pinch.

10.  Instead of a phone call, write a note. Or, if you've got the unlimited plan, send a text. It's faster and cheaper.

11. Turn the heat down. Wear a sweater, use a space heater, or gather some firewood, instead.

12. Save your change, and use it to do something for someone else. A $5 or $10 giftcard, sent anonymously, can be a real encouragement. Or buy your discouraged friend a cup of coffee or Wendy's chili. Kind words and deeds can make you the richest person in the world.
    Update: One professor thinks, based on his homeless friend's observations, that generosity marks the difference between failure and sucess for restaurants! He calls it the "economics of generosity." See his post here -- 
Not through yet? Here's Dumb Little Man's 30 tips for saving even more

Thursday, January 19, 2012

What Will You Do Now, Edgar?

The "Poe Toaster" is no more. 

Every January 19 since 1950, and possibly as early as 1930, a black-coated man has left a remembrance by the gravestone of Edgar Allen Poe: three white roses and a half-empty bottle of cognac. This is the third year, though, that he hasn't appeared. Apparently, he is gone.

Poe is, of course, the spooky guy whose horror stories and poetry about lunatics, bloodthirsty orangutangs, and the Telltale Heart have creeped out readers for generations, not only in book but movie form. (I never could get away from the Pit and the Pendulum, where the narrator saves himself from a slice-and-dice death only by rubbing his bonds with spicy meat bits...then lets the rats nibble him free.) Ironically, Poe is the only author ever to have named a professional ballteam. Didn't you ever wonder how the Baltimore Ravens got their name? ("Once upon a midnight dreary...")
    Although he did some unusual things in his life, including marrying his 13-year-old cousin, Poe's death tops the Weird-O-Meter: on Oct. 3, 1849, he was found wandering the streets of Baltimore, MD in delirium, wearing clothes that were not his own. He died four days later, never able to explain where he had been or done, though he called out "Reynolds" several times during his sickness. Poe was a heavy drinker, but experts still argue over what he actually died from. He was 40 years old.
    His reputation at the time was largely based on his work as a literary critic. Soon, however, people began to recognize the brilliance (ok, and creepiness) of his writing. Today is different -- Poe's first book, Tamerlane and Other Poems, sold in 2009 for more than $660,000. (The most recent copy found was piled with agricultural pamphlets in a New Hampshire antique shop in 1988. The collector bought it for $15.) And Poe's literary output has been printed all over the world. Good work for a guy whose father abandoned him, and mother died soon after of tuberculosis. (A disease, sadly, which also claimed Poe's young wife.)

So who is the stranger who celebrated Poe's January 19 birthday for so long? No one is sure, though people have seen him by the grave over the years. Sometimes he left a note with his offerings -- in the 1990s, the notes left suggested that a second person was now doing the honors.
    That person, 'Poe Toaster II,' has not been seen, though, since 2009, although some imposters, including one guy arriving in a limousine, have arrived.
     A literary tradition is gone. But then, in Poe's writing, nothing -- and no one -- ever lasts long.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Stuff...And Less

Since the Brick's out of town, I've been hacking away at the piles around here. Books, tschochtkes, clothing are bagged and waiting at the door for tomorrow's trip to the thrift shop. (It's snowing like crazy out there right now -- four wheel drive territory. Thus the wait.)
     The bookshelves look sleek. The clothes poles in the closet are no longer groaning. And I keep thinking how much easier it would be to live like this:

And where is the business stuff to go? Well, maybe a studio...

I do think I'll go back to the '12 A Day' rule: 12 things a day thrown away or donated. Or at least PUT AWAY! 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien

This Edith Piaf song wafts through the movie Inception, a heartbreaker about losing someone you love. (And in the words of the old Shake n' Bake commercial, 'you hailped.')

It's nearly impossible to say, "No, I regret nothing" in life. In fact, Piaf goes on to say that bad or good, the events in her life don't affect her at all.  Well, she may feel nothing (that's called shock, folks), but it sure doesn't mean her life remained static.

How do you feel about your life in the past year? Are there regrets on things you said, did (or didn't), money you spent, places you went (or didn't)?

I would give a lot to never have watered the garden last Memorial Day (or at least to have gone downstairs into the basement sometime that weekend, rather than give myself a 'break' from work). So far, that decision has cost us many hours of lost time, plus thousands and thousands of dollars. We've lost things that cannot be replaced.
     Soon enough, though, I realized many of those 'irreplaceable' things were...well, not as critical as I'd thought. 
     I got very used to the idea of total strangers traipsing through our personal and work areas.
    And when that dumpster of wet, spoiled smelly possessions got hauled away, there was a strange and wonderful sense of relief. 

I would rather not have said some things that were truthful -- but saying them changed nothing. (In fact, it made the situation even more tenuous.)

I would have liked to have finished a ton of writing assignments I'd planned. (They're still on the docket.)

On the plus side, though, I spent extra time with family and good friends...even when I didn't have it to spend.

The Brick stayed reasonably healthy. Other than flu and getting old, so did I. 

We donated money and time we thought we didn't have. (But we did.)

And even after thirty years, I still would rather spend time, good or bad, with the Brick.I love him.

It was a strange year, but God didn't give up on us. And we didn't give up on ourselves. Perhaps Edith is right, after all -- I didn't enjoy the bad stuff, but I don't regret it, either.


Saturday, January 14, 2012

Friday, January 13, 2012

Go Broncos!

There's a strange new feeling in the air around here...dare I call it Hope?

Could the Broncos really beat the Patriots in tomorrow night's game?
(Most of the universe figured they didn't have a chance to beat Green Bay...and they did.)

Not everyone thinks they can do it...but me, I've got Hope.

Maybe you do, too.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Another Odd Story...and a Musical Interlude

The flu is back. To make life even more interesting, the Brick is on his way to see his big brother in Washington state. Which means I can eat out of the freezer, stay up late ("ungabunga time") and work on stuff without being interrupted. In old jeans and a sweatshirt.
     Also, I can doze off for fifteen minutes or so when I feel like it. This is happening a lot lately.

While I'm getting a little better, consider the case of an expensive artwork collection, stolen more than a decade ago, and just as suddenly recovered.
      The thief? The collector's own son.

And "Threw It On the Ground," an odd little song much beloved by the girlies. (Makes a lot more sense when you're foggyheaded.)

Even sillier -- a serious song (supposedly) by Willow Smith, Will's daughter, "I Whip My Hair:" (She's a kid. What was I expecting...)

And Jimmy Fallon's take on Neil Young doing the same song!
(Plus a surprise appearance by Bruce Springsteen)

Now if that doesn't get you grinning in no time, I don't know what will...

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

'Hallaton' Helmet Is On Display

This Roman helmet, dug out of a site in Leicestershire, Britain, may have been some kind of offering to the gods...it was just recently pieced together out of fragments.
   The only one ever found with its original silver gilt intact, the helmet (which almost looks like a square pot) shows battle/celebration scenes. It is thought to have been buried about AD43...and even more curious, to have been worn, not by a Roman, but a Brit!

Read more about it -- and its significance -- here. 

Shades of The Eagle, indeed.

Look here for a general list of hoards found in Great Britain -- some Roman, some Celtic, some more recent.  And they're still being discovered -- the Meenee Barracks Hoard, a pot of more than a thousand coins, was just found last year. Third century B.C. -- and yes, it's Roman.

Update on Barney

He is a Hungarian Viszla -- and yes, he's back with Donna Chen's family.
   Not a Weimie...but one of the breeds associated with Weimaraners. 

More here.

A Very Weird Story

A kayaker is fishing in the Gulf of Mexico...and lo and behold, what comes swimming up to him..

Here's the oddest part to this strange story -- the dog's owner, Donna Chen, had been hit while jogging by a 22-year-old drunk driver fleeing from another accident he'd caused. Chen's dog Barney disappeared after Chen was killed --
    And the video shows where he turned up.

I can't tell for certain, but Barney looks a lot like a Weimaraner, a dog breed we're very familiar with. (Our Buck and Goonie, dearly loved, were with us for more than a decade.) They're smart, strong animals who can panic easily. No doubt Barney just freaked out and tried to get away -- any way he could.

The drunk driver's in jail. Barney is reunited with the Chen family. But what a shame, that such an interesting woman had to die this way.

Money Saving Mom Has A New Book - Read It Free!

Eighty different chances to win a copy of MoneySaving Mom's new book!

I've been reading MSM for years. She has many links to coupons, free products and practical advice for living a more productive, content life. 

Go to the link above, and click -- most of these end this week, so don't delay.

And you can see the book here at the Amazon site. If it's anything like her down-home advice, it's terrific.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Monday...and New Year's Resolutions

A bright shiny new (cold) morning...I was amused by all the people we saw strolling down the street in Broncos regalia! Hmmm...wonder why.

While the Brick gets his shower, and before we check out of this wonderful hotel and go back to being Jest Plain Folks, I've got a little time to think over New Year's resolutions.

Everyone and their brother has been doing this the past week. Not that it isn't a noble cause -- and I'm sure you have some of your own to contribute. But the question is longevity...can I actually DO what I mean to do over the course of this new year?

I'm going to try. 


*Finish a book. No, two. The Hanky Panky sequel has been on the tip edge of completion for weeks now. I want to get it DONE. Then it's back to the other history/techniques book that's been in process since last year.

*Finish editing my uncle's WWII book. He was in a flying squadron that was posted in England, and helped liberate Auschwitz, among other events. This is about 2/3 done...see above.

*Finish the series of articles I've planned for ages:
        --"The History of Spit"
       -- "The History of Pee"
       --"The History of Gas"

...and perhaps "The History of Tears." If you've been to any of my lectures, or read Brick books, you know these basic elements have a lot more to do with life than just bodily emissions.

*Lose weight and exercise more. Doesn't everyone say this? I really need to do it.

*Expand the garden. I managed to get a good-sized cold frame built before cold weather set in...I'll plant that with hardy greens shortly. We planted about 1/4 of the garden space last year -- I want to make it 1/2 this season. 

*Finish both girlies' graduation quilts. As in high school graduation. They're 23 and 25 -- it's about ding-dang time to get these done.

God willing, these will be accomplished by year's end -- as well as painting and tiling the basement and upstairs area. And redoing the master bathroom. And cleaning up/putting away things from last year's flood. Whew. 

Part of Denver's skyline -- and pretty close to what we're seeing now, on the 14th floor. 
(Technically the 13th -- but hotels don't believe in that number!)

Sunday, January 8, 2012

They Won!!!

Via the most incredible touchdown, right at the scoot beginning of overtime:

Final score: Broncos 29, Steelers 23. And on to New England and the next game in the playoffs!

Go Broncos!

Go Broncos!

The Brick and yours truly are spending the weekend in Denver, thanks to the 5280 special. Every year, right around December and early January, restaurants and hotels offer all sorts of deals and promotions for $52.80. Period. That means that we're spending two nights at the Residence Inn, a beautiful hotel smack downtown, with full breakfast included (supper as well on M-Th) -- for $52.80 a night!
   (Hooray -- a quick check of the site reveals they're going to offer 5280 specials this summer, as well! If you're planning a trip to the Denver area, take advantage of them.)

It's chilly around here, in spite of the sunshine. The Residence Inn has huge plate glass windows out front, and we've watched a number of dog-walkers sashay by, shivering a little, while we relax with coffee, scrambled eggs and homefries, and read the Sunday paper.
      Ooh, the sacrifice. Somebody's got to do it.  :)

We're even laying around, watching the Broncos game, which is currently in progress. Dare I hope -- can the Donkeys actually beat the Steelers? We believe in hope around here...but we're realistic, too.  Our Broncos haven't been doing that good lately.

--oops, Broncos just got a touchdown!!! Go Broncos!!!

We got a snowy, blowy storm last night. (Fortunately, it diminished, the closer we got to Denver.) But even in the wind, the new windows proved their worth -- not a wisp of breeze came in around them. (The old windows, that's a different story.)

I have found myself in an interesting dilemma over these windows -- and the work in the basement. I'm the daughter of a dedicated Hollander, whose cash rarely crept out of his wallet. Old habits were learned well -- I have a heck of a time spending larger amounts of money. Now in the space of only a month or two, we've spent more than $12,000 -- with more to go.


The emergency fund -- and I believe in one -  helped cushion some of the extra money needed. We fortunately had been saving regularly for this -- that money helped. So did an inherited investment account. But now our available funds are scraped nearly clean.

So what are we doing this weekend? Staying in a nice hotel, and looking forward to going out to eat tonight. My Hollander side is outraged. (In fact, it squirreled away a couple of apples and yogurts from breakfast!) But the other side doesn't care. This was a loving surprise from the Brick, who did it because he felt I needed to rest.

We'll start saving the money back. We always do.

Another touchdown -- gotta go. Go Broncos!!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Seeing More Clearly Now --

--because we've got airtight, keeping-the-cold-out new windows in the dining room. Where you could freeze solid in no time on a winter's night. The cracked kitchen window is clear as a bell. The cracked laundry room window is bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Wow, what a difference good-quality windows make!

Fortunately, we had temps in the high 50s all day today, while the guys were working. They've got one more 'window' to do -- the deck door. That happens tomorrow morning.

In the meantime, I've been unpacking boxes and trying to permanently get rid of this pesky flu. Oh, and doing some appraisals, too.

Talk to you more tomorrow. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Gearing Back Up

I took Daughter #1 to the airport this morning...she's headed to Portland, OR for a 10-day retreat: no talking, checking the computer or whatever -- just thinking and meditating. Can she do it?? She seems to think it's possible!
    Then she's headed to spend a few days with our cousins, and visit our uncle, whose cancer is progressing rapidly. I'm glad she's going now.

In the meantime, I've been unpacking boxes and trying to figure out where the heck I am. This skipping back and forth in time zones isn't helpful. Your body can't process the food (or especially water) very well at first -- and what time should you feel sleepy? Who knows!

Lots of people have goals and resolutions for this bright, shiny new year. I'm betting you have them, too...let's talk about them tomorrow.

In the meantime, take a look at this very funny set of photos -- polar bears investigating the submarine USS Honolulu, as it surfaces. Hopefully they figured out it wasn't a whale...


Monday, January 2, 2012

Home Again

...at 6 a.m. this morning. Eighteen hours-plus drive.

We barely skittered out on the edges of a very nasty snowstorm in Grand Rapids. (You take "lake effect" warnings very seriously!) A bitter, strong wind chased us from state to state, with a burst of snow flurries now and then. Thankfully, the roads were reasonably dry.

Within an hour of the wind letting up some, the alternator started acting up -- battery power would creep down, lights dimming and anything electrical beginning to die out. We thought we would be spending the night in some little town, waiting for the car repair place to open up. Fortunately, the Brick discovered that banging on the connections would cause the power to jump back up -- for 50 miles or so. When the lights would inevitably start to dim again,  it was get back out in the bitter temps, open up the hood, and bang on the alternator again.

We did this from about Omaha on -- usually an 8-hour drive, but it took us closer to 9 or 10. But thankfully, we made it home and fell into bed, for a few hours sleep.

It's good to be home, chilly temps or not.