Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Bullies and Other Evils: What to Do?

     Marlo Thomas (whose Free To Be...You and Me organization has been dealing with bullying for years) wrote an interesting column in the wake of the Ohio student who killed and wounded several students a few days ago. After mentioning several examples of kids who committed suicide over bullying, she then makes a typical comment:
 "Researchers also say that parents and teachers are often so distracted by other problems -- at home, in the classroom -- that they don't recognize the signs of bullying." (Sounds like blaming the adults to me.) 
"Obviously, the system isn't working," says Marlo.

An important first step to untangling this dilemma is changing how we treat the bullies, according Julie Hertzog of Pacer's National Bullying Prevention Center.. "We need to take the anger out of our response," she says. "Making villains of kids who bully does not create a positive environment. We need to teach all kids empathy and bring them together, inclusively." (In other words, I guess, pat them kindly on the head, and say there, there...we're all in this together.) Hertzog does point out that the bullied can easily become bullies themselves, so therefore their actions can be excused. Sort of.

I don't quite get this. Coddle the bullies and warm them with understanding? (The Holbrook girls, who regularly beat up anyone they chose on my school bus ride home, would have laughed themselves silly.) How would those who were bullied feel about this?

But then, what can you do when fifth-graders are trying to kill their teacher with rat poison. And writing nasty notes ("How are you doing in Hell? Love, Joey") to their parents. (Ha ha! How funny, say family members. No worries, they say - the kid turned out ok.)
     There is a horrible tendency to dismiss actions like this: "Well, kids will be kids." "They'll grow out of it." "Ignore it, and it will go away." Or even worse: admire them for being such an evil/creative little darling.


"Obviously, the system isn't working," says Thomas. "The kids who are in the thick of today's bullying epidemic -- victims, bullies and bystanders alike -- are lost, and they urgently need adult guidance." And not just in bullying, either --


     Your children are smacking each other around, or indulging in creative insults? ("Cow" was one favorite I often heard.) Make it clear that behavior will not be tolerated -- ever. Sure, they'll do it in private sometimes...but they will stop.
     The insults you overheard, directed at a special needs teenager?
     The casual approach to stealing, as long as it's 'just' a pencil or candy bar?
     The ha-ha jokes about doing pot? (I am soooo tired of these.)
     The teenager who enjoys swiping his neighbor's Christmas light bulbs, every afternoon on the way home from school? Or torturing his pet? 
     The kid that threatens and takes a knife to the back seat of the schoolbus? (They may be dealing with problems at home, all right -- so take that seriously, as well. If you can help, or advise, or put events in motion, do it.)

     Take their actions to heart. Say, "This stops -- now." Deal with it promptly, up-front and in the open. The issue is not whether the person is the spawn of Satan -- because generally, kids aren't. Neither are adults. But they, like adults, need to be held accountable for their actions. If you do it, the bully, child or adult, can be stopped. And you may literally save their life in the process.

For help and advice, visit:

Stop Bullying Now!

Heroes in the Hallway

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Frozen Dead Guy Days


Nederland, CO, the little mountain town we lived in for some time (and Daughter #2 currently lives in), has one of the strangest festivals ever -- a celebration of 'Grandpa,' whose frozen body is still in a Tuff shed in town. He's been there for years, waiting either for the Resurrection or his grandson, who got deported -- whichever gets there first. (BTW, that's Grandpa's picture in the popsicle the skeleton is holding.)
     Anyhow, this weekend, March 2-4, is your chance to watch coffin races, plunge into the (frozen) reservoir, or bowl with frozen turkeys...and much more weird stuff! You can see photos of past years' festivities on FDGD's Facebook page, through the video below, or via their website. See you there!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Going to Extremes

I should know better than to read blogs in the morning, before the coffee kicks in. (Not to mention dealing with the winds that are roaring around the house right now. They're icy cold, and my Michigan-born blood keeps insisting that tornadoes are coming. Snow, yes -- tornadoes, no.)

Stacy Makes Cents guest posted on one of my favorite blogs about her new transformation. This is a woman who went so hog-wild on couponing and stockpiling that she was able to feed her family for a solid month on just what she had on the shelves. (And she had a lot. Her place looks like a store.)
     She purchased soap and cleaners the same way. Now that her little girl has had some issues with red and flaky skin (a sensitivity to one of the soaps, right?), she's...

Throwing everything out and starting over.

Now all processed foods of any kind Are Evil And Must Be Destroyed --or in her family's case, consumed first. ( 'After all, I am frugal,' she says.) The biggest villains are foods with soy, which are immediately tossed in the trash. What's so suddenly horrible about soy, I wonder. (Stacy doesn't say.)

Does she embrace this new lifestyle with caution? Naah. She's now just as big into buying and procuring ingredients, books and such for this new extreme as she was into couponing. And since they're all 'natural,' I'm guessing she's generally not paying frugal prices for them, either. This doesn't look like a woman who would dig around in the bins in the bulk foods section. Nothing but the best.

Isn't this hell-bent for leather...just in the opposite direction? 

I am a big fan of natural foods -- that's why I have a garden, and make nearly all of the meals we consume. It's why the Brick is a hunter, and we'll buy pork or beef on the hoof from rancher friends when we can. I buy at farmer's markets when possible, and cook with basic ingredients like flour, oatmeal and even, on occasion, when Daughter #2's hens are producing, free-range eggs. (Haven't talked the Brick into chickens yet. Haven't given up on the idea, either.)
      I use baking soda (in the big bags), vinegar and borax for cleaning. (I haven't made my own laundry detergent yet, but am considering it.) Yes, we have a washing machine -- thank God. (Schlepping to the laundromat, or stomping clothes in the bathtub, wine-making style, are not among my happier memories.)
      As for recycling -- nearly all of my clothes (upper-end labels, mostly) come from thrift shops and secondhand stores. The Brick follows suit. (And I mean that literally in the wardrobe department.) No peasant blouses, tie-dyeds or granny skirts in the lot. (And yes, I wear a bra.)
     Oh, and I can't use Dove soap, because I get a rash from it. 

    I am not a big fan of hyped-up 'natural' products, either. Most are produced on huge commercial farms that have few bits of true Nature going for them. And the FDA's requirements on 'organic' are loose enough that all sorts of iffy things can wander in. Why should I pay a whole lot extra for products that may not be that different from their fellows on the shelf...except the label?

It seems smart to do what you can as basically as you can. But Snickers bars, dishwashing detergent, Dial soap and freezer meals (with soy -- gasp!!!)  have their place, too, in moderation.
     I, for one, would not want to do without them.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Making Soup While Fooling Around...

Or so friend Constance says.

She stopped over for a visit and a bowl of the concoction I had simmering on the stove. "This is pretty good," she said, stirring the broth. "What do you have in it?"
    I was hard put to remember, since I'd generally been just emptying the refrigerator. The final tally, though: 3 potatoes, 4 stalks of asparagus, a chicken broth cube, dried onion (plus a tablespoonful of chopped fresh), 4 slices of venison sausage, a few mushroom slices, a squirt or so of lemon juice. Chopped everything that wasn't, added water to cover,  plus salt and a grinding of black pepper (the latter is important). Let everything simmer for nearly an hour, rinsed out an almost-empty jar of Mexican cheese dip, then added that and the last of some milk.
   Topped it with a handful of chopped-up bread crusts ('croutons') drying on the counter. 
   Yum. Really.

It's a nice feeling to start the week with a tidier refrigerator. Soup like this helps you clean dribs and drabs, as well as save money at week's-end. Plus it gives you a bowl or two of something hearty to help face your Monday!

April Dykman at Get Rich Slowly calls a method like this "cooking like a peasant." (Donna Freedman would call it 'garbage soup.') And if you do it via a different country than America, it sounds downright exotic: bimbambap, ribollita, ratatouille. Even pulsim (kale, onions, potatoes, and sausage, chopped and fried together) has a cosmopolitan air to it.

All the Brick knows is that it tastes good.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Five Nasty Things You Need to Do -- Whether You Like It Or Not

*Take care of a sick child. The Brick and I stayed up one memorable night with both girlies -- and the flu. They were then about 5 and 7. After the third session of throwing up (complete change of bed linens each time), one of us wrapped them up in afghans --the only clean 'blankets' left. The other got busy scrubbing up the trail that led to the bathroom.
     Lessons learned: always keep Coke, a bottle of Pepto-Bismol and some anti-diarrhea meds on hand. And clean bedding. Brace yourself -- if you get sick, as well, you'll still need to take care of your kids. (Thankfully, both of us stayed healthy.)

*Get a colonoscopy. A recent study strongly suggests that colonoscopies cut your risk of colorectal cancer (the second leading cause of cancer deaths) by 50%, both by detecting cancer, and by removing precancerous polyps that might otherwise develop into something more serious.
     Lessons learned:  "Sure, it's a pain in the neck. People complain to me all the time, 'It's horrible. It's terrible,'" said Dr. Sidney Winawer, the leader of the study, and a gastroenterologist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. "But look at the alternative."

*Get your teeth cleaned and checked regularly. At the least, you'll have clean, shiny teeth and peace of mind. At the worst, you'll need cavities filled, a root canal or crown, or a wisdom tooth removed. Maybe more than one.
     Lessons learned: Don't put it off. If you don't take care of problems right away, your teeth may abscess -- which leads to jaw infections. It not only weakens the bone, but can affect your overall health. It's not going to be cheap, but insurance helps -- and you can often make monthly payments. (Groupons are also often available for teeth cleaning and x-rays.)
     I wish I hadn't learned this lesson the hard way -- but I did.

*Deal with pooping -- the full scope. Pets, babies, etc. (And don't forget cleaning the toilet.) If they make a mess, guess who gets to clean it up?
     Lessons learned:  Some older people struggle with this, too. One very nice older lady at our church enjoyed resting in a wing chair out in the lobby. I quickly learned not to sit in that chair until it had been sanitized first. (Yes, I know what you're thinking. Ew.)

Then of course, there's...

Need I say more??

Friday, February 24, 2012

Friday randomness...sort of

It's a beautiful day -- and the Mama is panic-stricken. The same storm that hit us a few days ago is now slamming the Chicago area, as well as her part of Michigan. (And you too, if you live in that neck of the woods.) She's flying home this afternoon. No matter that the flight is listed as 'on time.' (It's a direct one too, straight from DIA to Grand Rapids...and skipping the worst part of the storm.) She knows that worrying won't change the flight, either...but all I've heard this morning is dither, dither, dither.

Ah well. She could take Maple & Magnolia's approach to dealing with the snow. But then, that's my Mama.

This is the weekend of quilt restoration. Several are in progress, and I Need to Finish Them Up. Time is money, after all. Hopefully you're making progress on your deadlines, too!

Have a great weekend, dithering & all.


Thursday, February 23, 2012

You Can't Argue With Aching Bones...And Stuff Etc.

Well, I was right. (Take that, weather forecasters!) The current storm hit the house with a *bang* about 3 a.m. By the time the blizzard eased up late this morning, we'd gotten at least 6 inches, if not 8. So much for "about an inch." More clouds are growling above the mountains, and the wind hasn't died down. I wouldn't be surprised if we get some more white stuff soon.

The latest batch of posts for Mr. Tight-Fisted Miser are done and in the hopper. Some appraisals need to be finished up, and then it's sanding the basement walls before we paint -- which the Mama is aching to get to. The flooding of last Memorial Day is only an unpleasant memory now. (Although I still wish we could get Safeco Insurance to honor the claim.) The basement is definitely improving!

While I'm finishing up paperwork and fending off the Mama (who believes that computers are a huge waste of time), here are some other things to consider:

Maple and Magnolia took a dollar roll of contact paper to her bookshelves -- and accomplished something wonderful.

Eat Better! America has some great recipes for budget meals that taste good. (Now if they could only quit saying "healthified" and "delish.") You may also enjoy a post from the archives on the same subject.

Yes! I Am Cheap is actually making progress on her 2012 budget plans -- by cutting out the fat. "I’m speaking as the converted here," says she. "I never, ever, had money left over after spending, I promise, EVERY SINGLE DIME EVERY SINGLE MONTH. I lived for years like that. In fact, I asked, if living paycheck-to-paycheck was so bad once. And yes, it is." Some good advice here.

How this girl clawed her way out of the 'black hole of debt' -- and paid everything off. (From Business Insider) Hint: she quit eating out, getting pricey manicures and buying coffee. If at this point, you're muttering, 'Well, what did you expect, you doofus'... I'll join you. But the photos are funny, and the general idea worth a peruse.
     Len Penzo's Aunt Doris has an even more succinct way to make ends meet. Practical and sensible -- and she knows what she speaketh off. She was left a widow with an 11-year-old son, and managed to stay on track, in spite of her modest income.
    I have an emotional stake in this: someone very dear to me just mentioned she'd made one last payment -- and was now debt-free. I felt so proud of her!

Get yourself a 16" x 20" canvas -- for only $45, including shipping. Your favorite portrait or photo can become personal art, just by downloading it! I love Groupons like these -- and provided you actually use them, they save big bucks. Our jaunt to Eagle, CO last weekend only cost about $150 for two nights, thanks to a Groupon -- a multi-bedroom family suite for 5 people in a spacious hotel, swimming pool and hot tub, with free hot breakfast, to boot. Bliss. They even gave us a BOGO for a future visit!
    If you'd like to try Groupon, join up by visiting here. (You'd give me a little incentive if you do -- which I'd appreciate.) It doesn't cost a cent to join -- and is well worth it.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

There's a Storm Coming!

     My dad used to say this a lot. Since we live up, up, up on a hill, our dining room window looks out about 50 miles, all the way to the Front Range set of mountains, and beyond to Mt. Evans. The backyard looks out on Castle Rock, then way beyond it to Pike's Peak. (If you're wondering how much fun it is to mow this angled yard...don't ask.) 
     Any storm that's hanging over the mountains? We get to see it gradually moving in, sucking the life out of the scenery as it goes.

     And we've got a humdinger brewing tonight.

     It's moving in sheets, almost like cake layers separated by a thick veneer of frosting. They're saying only an inch of snow or so...but I think we're going to get nailed. (My aching bones, and the high winds smacking against the windows, are only confirming it.)
     Thankfully the Mama, who is still here visiting, and yours truly did our 'running' today. We went and saw both daughters. (Daughter #1 STILL hadn't gotten her Christmas presents...yes, that's how zany it's been around here.) We got some paint, to start painting the basement. And we found a bunch of Valentine's items for 75% off, that I can reuse for piano student and Christmas stocking presents. (Something a highly frugal person would do...take a look here at their seven favorite habits. Or if you prefer, 8 financial behaviors that really piss this blogger off! I'd drive him totally crazy, looking for coupons.)
     Hopefully you've had a chance to visit my posts on the Tight Fisted Miser's websites. I was so proud -- my work has been featured in several carnivals this past week, including Yakezie Carnival's Zombie Apocalypse edition! It's a nice feeling. Take a look at Tight Fisted Miser, My Retirement Blog and Investorz Blog, and you'll see me there...


Monday, February 20, 2012

Happy President's Day!

And Happy Birthday to my darling Brick...and many more.

Six presidents who had money troubles? Go here, thanks to Len Penzo. 

We've been luxuriating at the hotel in Eagle, CO. (Anywhere that makes my bed and serves a hot breakfast is luxury to me!) Got some snow last night, but it was bearable.Using the crockpot for some of the meals has saved on costs.
     We've got plans for the pool and hot tub tonight. Hope you're having a relaxing time, too.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Weekend Plans

We're headed up to the mountains for a few days, the Mama in tow, to celebrate the Brick's birthday. He's a happy man -- his women, daughters included, are spending time with HIM. Doesn't matter what we do; it will probably just be hiking, watching movies, using the swimming pool at the hotel, and playing games. But we'll get to do something that's getting increasingly rare: we'll be together.

Yesterday, the oil-change people (one item on the to-do list) found a nail in one of the Jeep's tires. (Now another item on the to-do list--sigh.) While I'm out running errands, you might check up on:

*The guy who tried to evict his mom...on her 98th birthday. What a gem.

*How to make a wonderfully old-fashioned-looking sign. Your choice of text, done step-by-step. (Thanks, Maple and Magnolia.)

*Freezer to crockpot cooking. Frugal Babe shares her newest kitchen technique. Dump your recipe ingredients in a bag, freeze it. On your next busy day*, empty the bag into a crockpot and add liquid. Done!
     (*Or as Peg Bracken put it, your next en negligee with bonbons and a mystery novel, with or without flu. Not that I ever get to do this.)

*The lucky person who found $26,000 in a safe he bought on Ebay. The seller wasn't too happy about it...the safe had been welded shut, so he didn't know. (Now the seller says it was all a practical joke -- that the buyer made it all up. Maybe so, maybe not.)

*And don't forget to guess at what the Suffragette Quilt sells for! If you get the number right (at least within $100), a free copy of Hanky Panky is yours. It doesn't cost a penny to enter, and you've got until March 2 to do it.

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Heart-Shaped Eggs Made Easy!

Have you ever visited any of my other blogs? I actually have several, including a sarcastic one on how the world is going to end in December (thank you, Aztecs!), two blogs that post free items and coupon specials...

and one on holiday cooking. The latest post features an easy way to make hard-boiled eggs heart-shaped! Take a look here. You'll want to try it.

The Suffragette Quilt...And Your Chance to Win A Hanky Panky!

It's not often a graphic political piece -- with strong provenance, mind you -- comes along. And this one's up for sale at Skinner Auctions' March 4 show. Go here for the full page, and your chance to bid.

Here's the description:
Lot 645
Embroidered Pieced Cotton Suffragette Fund-raising Quilt with Stars and Stripes, probably New York State, late 19th century, the quilt with red and white stripes surrounded by a canton and a border of white stars stitched onto a navy blue ground, and red, white, and blue diagonal stripes; the red and white striped area is embroidered with the names of numerous individuals, likely contributors to the cause, including the name "SUSAN B. ANTHONY," the diagonal striped border embroidered with several mottos; backed with red and white cotton checked fabric, edged with red cotton crocheted scalloped trim, (toning, scattered stains), 72 x 74 in.

Provenance: Estate of Susan Parrish.
Estimate $3,000-5,000

The Suffragette Quilt will be sold at Skinner's American Furniture & Decorative Arts auction, held March 4 in Boston. I have a gentleman's bet on the quilt's final price with an appraiser buddy -- want to get in on the action?   This is your chance to be an appraiser, just like Antiques Roadshow. Add your guesstimate in a comment; if you come within $100 of the final price, below or above (not including buyer's premium), I'll send you a copy of my Hanky Panky book -- on the house. Become a follower, as well, or subscribe via e-mail, and I'll throw in a free extra when I mail your package!

You've got until March 2 to enter. When you leave the comment, be sure to tell me where you first read about this! 

UPDATE:  The quilt sold on March 4 for $14,000 -- plus a 10% buyer's premium on top of that! Thanks to those of you who put in a guess; you now have a Hanky Panky headed your way if you contact us before Sat., March 10.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Weird Update - Tuesday's Stuff/Stuff Post

Remember the weird story about the disappearing mom...and her ex-husband, Josh Powell, who torched his house -- with his kids inside? Powell died inside with his children.

It turns out that wasn't even his house. It was a rental, staged to look like a happy family home, complete with photos.
    He didn't even live there -- just used the place when the social workers showed up.

Every development on this story just gets more odd.

Stolen Quilt!

Sally Schneider's queen-sized scrap quilt, "Farmer's Daughter," was taken out of its bin, and has disappeared. You can find out more info here. Sally lives in Albuquerque, NM.

If you see this quilt (photo below), contact me, or Sally, via Facebook, as soon as possible!

Thanks for your help. Shame on the person who thought stealing this quilt was such a great idea!

Update: Sally provided more info -- this quilt was being shipped to her publisher in Washington State, along with several others, for use in her newest book. Someone at UPS (or with access) opened the box and took the quilt -- although there were no damage to the others, the box weighed 7 pounds less upon delivery than what it did when Sally shipped it. (In other words, the missing quilt weighed 7 pounds...) Very odd.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Shawl Sells For $50,000!

Yes, an early 19th century Kashmir Moon Shawl, setting a record for this type of textile. And guess where the seller found it -- not at the bottom of a trunk of textiles collected by her incredibly erudite grandmother. No, she bought it at a garage sale some thirty years ago because she liked the pattern --

and thought it would make a pretty pillow.

Thank God she didn't cut it up. The beautifully handmade shawl just sold for $50,000 and change. (More than $59,000, including the buyer's premium.)

Read all about it at the Skinner Auctions site. Photos of the shawl, shown below, are from the Skinner site.

Kashmir Moon Shawl -- full shawl (above) plus detail (below)

Monday, February 13, 2012

Yours Truly's In the Carnival of Retirement!

Whoo of my entries, on how much you should save for retirement, got picked up by the Carnival of Retirement! Take a look here; there are a number of interesting posts, including one on money hoarding.

Should You Allow Your Teenager to Have Sex At Home?

With our daughters in their twenties, this is no longer an issue -- they're old enough to decide.

But a parent actually encouraging their daughter/son to 'do it' at home, because that's safer and more pleasurable?

Yep. Read the Huffington Post article here.

Thankfully, I'm not the only one who thinks this is totally nuts. Not to mention an open invitation to raise the grandchild that results from this new 'freedom.'

Monday's Stuff on the Way to Other Stuff

It's a gray day. The clouds are glowering over the mountains, wrapping them up in a thick batt. Snow? Maybe. Or just gray skies...unusual for us here in Colorado. I'm used to blue skies and sunshine pouring through the window.
   No matter. I've got things to do. So do you. Let's get on with the Interesting Stuff:

*Get a free box of Quaker Oat Squares. Free is good! It may not last jump on this quickly.

*Or buy your sweetie a Caribou Coffee -- it's BOGO on Feb. 14

*Last-minute Valentine crafts here -- five pages worth-- and some strategies, if you'd rather not whip up a paper heart or two.

*Looks like Whitney Houston died from drugs, not drowning. Ya think?!? What an incredibly sad ending to a talented person. Her song, "I Will Always Love You," gives me chills.

*Ruth Madoff's been spotted in New York. Those Who Know think she's probably staying at son Andrew's place. (I couldn't find any direct links on this, only comments from people who had spotted her there.) Ruth was living in Florida for a while...but not at her palatial residence, shared with husband Bernie. That's been sold, to try to pay off some of the billions of dollars owed to people he flimflammed.
    I've been researching Bernie Madoff and his scam for a post I'm writing for my other job, at TightFisted Miser. Publicly, he's been repentant (sort of); privately, he's bragging about billions of dollars he hid away before getting busted. And his best friends are Jonathan Pollard, a convicted spy, and a Mafia don. Go figure.
    The saddest item in this whole sordid story is not Bernie and his family -- but the many people, more than 13,000 of them, whose life savings he stole. Some of those victims are writers...and their books are the subject of my upcoming post. One person's take on the subject is here. After two-plus years, the victims are finally getting paid a little of what they invested...but attorneys' fees and Bernie made most of it disappear.

*Could a Siberian woolly mammoth still exist in Russia? The engineer who taped this says it does:

*Dave of 'Storage Wars' shares his biggest regrets -- and best buys. This series on A&E, about those who bid on storage units (and what they find), is surprisingly entertaining. The concept's a little silly, but the stories are fascinating. Good for research.

*MysteryGuitarMan's latest:

*An interesting new frugal blog. Preserving Pennies covers everything from mortgages to saving on baby food, and does it in an interesting "friend, I'm telling you about this" manner. Well worth reading.

*The Piano Man -- our friend Mark, a bass player, raves about Victor Wainwright's Youtube videos. The filming is crappy, but the music is incredible, especially if you like jazz and the blues. Here's Victor's take on Half-Ton Boogie Woogie:

Enjoy. Hopefully it's sunny, wherever you are.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Valentines, Part II

I haven't stopped thinking about Valentine possibilities yet, and today's post on Get Rich Slowly fanned the flames a bit.
    The Brick suggested going out to eat. But every single time we've hit a restaurant on Valentine's Day, we've had to beat off the crowds. And the Mama will be with us -- not exactly a romantic occasion. So it's back to planning dinner by the fireplace: lobster ($4.85/pound, stashed in the freezer), jumbo shrimp ($6.99/pound, also on sale), wild rice and veggies, and the deepest, chocolaty-est tart I can make.
    Plus a goofy, lacy heart full of chocolates. 

Besides, the Denver, CO area has this incredible promotion on 'Restaurant Week' (Feb. 25-March 9): $52.80 for a multi-course meal for two, at any number of gourmet places that normally go for much, more more than that. Hmmm. A romantic meal for less? That hits the spot. 

Friday, February 10, 2012

Frugal Thoughts for Romantics..and 'Hiyo, Silver!'

It's the loveliest, sunshiny-est day, and would make you think spring's coming -- except there's a thick blanket of snow still piled up, and storm clouds are hanging over the mountains. They're supposed to make their debut tonight or tomorrow -- what a way to start the weekend!

I've mentioned before that I regularly write posts for Andy Hough, whose websites include Tight Fisted, InvestorzBlog, and My Retirement Blog. Today, you'll find me suggesting elegant (but frugal) ways to say you care on TFM, and advocating investing in silver on the Investorz Blog. The silver post will be part of an ongoing series called "Investing On A Shoestring." I plan to mention lots of ways to increase your investments, including books, art...even textiles! Keep an eye out at Andy's site for upcoming posts, as well as his -- he's got some good advice.

Meanwhile, I've been brainstorming for something special for the Brick who, Lord love him, stashes an engineer's heart right behind his pen-in-the-shirt- pocket. (If he wears a sweatshirt or t-shirt, it's clipped to the collar.) You can take the man out of engineering (he's currently a trainer for schoolbus drivers), but you can't take the engineering out of the man. He's a wonderful guy, and a terrific husband, but most of my attempts at Romantic Gestures have been greeted with a snort and a raised eyebrow.

Nonetheless, I make the effort -- supper on the coffee table by the fire, a mushy movie (I cry, he isn't sure what to do). And sometimes I even buy him flowers. What, surprisingly, is hardest for me? To put my feelings into words on paper. I make much of my living by writing...but somehow, it's difficult for me to write my deepest feelings down.  Doesn't make sense.

    So here, David, this is for you:
a bouquet of love and soft kisses for my dearest Valentine. 
    Now, come collect! 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Getting Things Done

It's going to be a beautiful day around here, with a few days respite before the next snow. I plan to spend it getting some restoration jobs done, and maybe cleaning up a pile or two. (The stairs are getting mighty crowded with boxes to go down in the basement.) Maybe I can actually cross some items off the to-do list!
   Meantime, here are three odd things to consider:

*A Florida woman is currently suing her lender, JPMorgan Chase, after the bank mistakenly declared her deceased in 2010, which she claimed ruined her credit score.(Guess the whole dead thing didn't bother her as much as her credit.)

*The woman who really was dead -- but no one noticed for three years. And when they found her body, the television was still on. This is a long story, but worth trudging through.

*The discoverers of a sunken Spanish galleon are being forced to ship all the coins they found back to Spain. As in $500 million in silver and gold. The Supreme Court is getting ready to decide whether Spain can even claim a part of the treasure, but a judge ruled they had to go there, nonetheless. The divers, however, are skeptical whether they'll get any of their hard-earned money back. (I don't blame them.)

Happy Birthday, Charley!

I'm a day late, but it's well-meant...

Well-wishers in Great Britain and elsewhere celebrated the 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens' birth yesterday, with parties and services and all sorts of pomp and circumstance.

Which, being a private man, he would have absolutely hated. 

Happy Birthday, Mr. Dickens. You and your books changed my life.

'Collecting' -- Or Something Else

I just closed the covers on one of the most maddening books I've ever read: The Man Who Loved Books Too Much by Allison Hoover Bartlett. It's the profile of John Charles Gilkey, a guy who  'purchased' more than $100,000 of rare books, using stolen credit cards.
    Gilkey was eventually caught, but only served a few years before he was back out on the streets, doing his thing. While writing the book, Bartlett met with him on many occasions, several times accompanying him on hunting expeditions to see how he did it. But "stealing??"  He wasn't doing that -- he was 'collecting.' (Not to mention getting revenge on booksellers he disliked -- because they'd caught him -- or just The System.)
    The book isn't just Gilkey's story, but an overview of valuable books stolen, many which have never been recovered. (Or if the thief was caught, charges were never pressed.)  Many times, the thief's guilt is explained away (or at least assuaged) by saying, 'Well, they loved books and couldn't afford the best ones.' Or... 'They were basically honest, but tempted too much by working with valuable pieces.' (One wonders whether Barry Landau, a "presidential expert" recently convicted for swiping all sorts of historical memorabilia, used this defense.)
    Thankfully, Gilkey will be looking at a trip back to the slammer soon -- he was just caught stealing two old maps last December, from a collector who didn't hesitate to press charges. (Gilkey's photo is here as well, for the aid of sellers and bookstores. No doubt, if he's posted bail, he's out there, looking for good stuff to defray the costs of a lawyer. All part of the game.)
    Gilkey's laissez-faire attitude and cheerful superiority bothered me. (His escapades are catalogued here in shorter form, by Ken Sanders, the man who helped catch him.) The resigned attitude of the booksellers, libraries and institutions who had things stolen -- yet refused to publicize their losses, or even worse, let the thief get away with it. Their attitudes drove me absolutely nuts.
     The Island of Lost Maps by Miles Harvey catalogs this educated indifference, but from the world of maps -- and another thief, Gilbert Bland, who got away with it. ( I mentioned this terrific book in a previous post.)
    But what bothered me most was the attitude of the author, Allison Hoover Bartlett. What, someone gives you a very old book that you know was stolen from a library, to hold onto for a while? Does she feel guilty, ambivalent about it? Sure...but it only seems to add to the fascination. In fact, this ancient copy of the Krautterbuch is still on Bartlett's desk, three years later.
    Her attitude about Gilkey is equally nauseating. He shows her a first edition of a library book he's obviously planning to steal -- she dithers about it, but doesn't do a thing. He gives her useful hints about other books he's stolen (or is planning to), other places they're stored -- she mentions them in the book, feels guilty, dithers some more, consults a lawyer...and does nothing about it. Sure, that information is in print now. But now is too late.
     I wonder...if Gilkey had filched from her beloved shelf of books, would her attitude have been any different?
     By the time I finished the last page of The Man Who Loved Books Too Much, I didn't know whether to cheer, weep...or go take a bath to wash off the slime.

I love books, too. In fact, I love old things in general -- and the more rare and unusual they are, the more I'm intrigued. But taking things without paying for them? Helping yourself to items that are not yours?
     that's S-T-E-A-L-I-N-G.
And if you know, and don't do a thing about it, you're helping. (It's called being an accessory, Allison.)
     No ifs, ands or buts.

Multiple Lives...Lived

If you're curious about all sorts of people, famous or infamous, try . It has the most amazing lists, including people who were murdered, You'll be surprised at this batch, which has several unusual inclusions, like Joy Adamson of "Born Free" fame -- killed by a disgruntled employee.
   The lists are nearly endless, including saints, jazz and blues singers...even celebrity ghost stories!
Don't expect to spend just a few minutes on this site, though; you can wander around forever, reading profiles and wondering.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Tuesday Stuff...On the Way to Other Stuff

Yes folks, it's time for another look at what people, cats and other creatures are capable of. Like:

*The eighteen-year-old who described murdering her 9-year-old neighbor as "ahmazing" in her journal, then tried to overscore her words with blue ink. She didn't get away with it: the ink, or the murder.

*Remember the guy whose wife disappeared mysteriously in Utah a few years ago? She's never been found, although he insisted he had nothing to do with it. His house blew up -- just as his sons were brought back for a visit by a case worker, who had the door slammed in her face. The authorities say he chopped his sons with a hatchet, then set the house on fire. (The full story's here.) Yep, murder/suicide. Way to solve your problems...and prove your innocence.

*M.I.A. flips a bird at the Super Bowl. Apparently it was unplanned, unlike someone else's wardrobe malfunction. (I am not even going to dignify that tasteless gesture with a link.) The Powers That Be are talking about suing the NFL and NBC for millions of dollars. Shoot, M.I.A.'s a British singer. She makes money. She knows better. Why not just sue her, instead?

*On a lighter note, what would happen if cats grew thumbs:

*More than fifty wonderful (and frugal!) Super Bowl food recipes, plus a link included for 'cheap healthy' party food. (Thanks, Cheap Healthy Good!) Plus a good one for baked potato soup. We need something around here -- it's snowing. Again.

*And someone's found a purple squirrel in Pennsylvania...on the Jersey shore. He's not the first -- the article mentions another was noticed in Great Britain in 2008. Is this a sign of nuclear waste...or a Really Big batch of spoiled blueberries...being dumped??

Stay tuned.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Super Bowl? What Super Bowl?

Fine. I'll admit it. I do know that the Patriots and the Giants are up for today's slugfest in Super Bowl XLVI. The thing is: if you live west of the Mississippi (and/or root for the Broncos, as is our case), do you really care? (Len Penzo's Magic 8-Ball predicts the Pats are going to win...we'll see.)

     The side stuff is fun. Like parties...we're headed to one this afternoon. Last year, people talked, with occasional cheering and booing, until the commercials -- then everyone, men and women, stopped to listen.  Like this Jerry Seinfeld Acura commercial. (Jay Leno makes a surprise appearance at the very end!)

I just enjoy the party. These are feisty friends, who revel in a good discussion. No doubt one guy will come up with some hairbrained argument why the Giants will win, or vice versa, then the others will enjoy arguing with him.  As Arlo Guthrie used to say, "Thass America."

It's not too late to have your own Super Bowl celebration. Or at least, use 'party posts' to gather ideas for your next get together, like these ideas from The Simple Dollar. I'm bringing 'pigs' to ours -- 'Pigs in Blankets' are frugal, easy to make, and tasty when dipped in mustard or barbecue sauce. Cocktail franks are good for appetizers, but I'm going for the gusto this afternoon, and using hot dogs.

1 cup water
1/2 stick (1/4 pound) butter or margarine
1/2 cup milk (dried milk & water works great)
1 tablespoon yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
2-2 1/2 cups flour
1 package hot dogs (if using bun length dogs, cut them in half)

Microwave the water and butter/marg for 1 minute, until butter is melted. Stir in milk, and check -- mixture should be warm, but not hot. Add the sugar and yeast, and let stand for five minutes.

Add flour gradually until you have a soft dough, then turn out and knead for a few minutes. Dough can be used right away -- or let rise for at least an hour for puffier 'pigs.'

When you're ready to bake, turn oven to 425 degrees. Grab a small handful of dough and wrap around a hot dog, then place on an ungreased cookie sheet. (Keep it up until you're done -- you can also add a slice of cheese or cooked bacon before wrapping the dough around.)
    Bake approx. 12-15 min., then serve. Makes 16 half-'pigs' or 8 full-sized.

There are other wonderful things to take advantage of on a Super Bowl afternoon, like SALES. We quilters know, for example, that the fabric stores usually have great specials today.

And, of course, there's always The Puppy Bowl.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Blizzard! And Bunnies

It is snowing like crazy here in Colorado.

By 10 p.m. last night, nearly every school and organization had closed. By mid-afternoon, the banks were closing. We live high on a hill overlooking the highway -- and though I-25 is still open, very few cars and trucks are using it. (See for yourself here via live webcam.) I was supposed to visit Daughter #1 in Denver today...nope.

Just as well. After watching one set of neighbors get stuck, and another struggle to get out of their driveway, I think we're staying put. The Brick works for the school system in transportation (he's a trainer for bus drivers) -- so he got to stay home, as well.

Spaghetti sauce is bubbling in the crockpot, and we'll watch a movie tonight by the fire. Lovely.

In the meantime, thought you might enjoy some gems, including a Swedish sheepherder...who's a rabbit!

The Olivers find a $21,000 diamond at the Crater of Diamonds park.

A shipwreck, the S.S. Port Nicholson, is found off Cape Cod -- it's thought to contain a fortune in platinum bars. (Which the British government would love to get their hands on.) Read all about it here. (More news as the story develops.)
    Incidentally, why are so many dolphins washing up on Cape Cod in recent months?
(More than a hundred in the last three weeks alone.)

Facebook stock is going public -- not that any of us are going to make big bucks on this.

Wanna go on a buffalo hunt? The Colorado Springs police department got to do this...again.

And one of the stupidest Bigfoot 'sighting' videos ever. Please tell me people in Osawatomie, KS aren't this dumb.

Have a good one...and stay warm.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Very (Woof) Funny!

In honor of Groundhog (and other animals) Day...

This is what our Charley would be doing, if he could figure out the ignition switch:

oh, and here's Punxsutawney Phil's prediction for the next six weeks -- it ain't good.

If you love a good dog commercial, as well, try Volkswagen's Super Bowl teaser, 'The Bark Side:'

P.S. And don't miss my latest contribution to Tight Fisted Miser:
      Starting out rich or poor - which is better?

Five Ways to Beat The Doldrums

The skies are a heavy, brooding gray. Forecast here in Colorado: 8-12 inches of snow, starting tonight.

It's easy to get discouraged, about this time. The old year is past. (Did you do everything you'd planned? Ha.) The new year has progressed enough to fail at something. And gray skies are the norm, more than the exception.

Time for strategies to beat the winter doldrums. 

*Light something. Regular exposure to 'natural' light, via lamps, is a time-honored therapy for depression, SAD (seasonal affective disorder) and a host of other mental issues. Light therapy can be implemented with specialty lamps, some which are reputed to help clear up wrinkles and acne, as well. Crafters swear by Ott Lites, which come in every size from desk to floor lamp.
      There's an easier way to get a dose of light therapy: spend some time out in the sunlight. It stimulates the production of red and white blood cells, gives you a healthy of dose of Vitamin D...and the UV rays in sunlight are a natural antiseptic, fighting viruses, bacteria...yes, even skin breakouts!
      Or light a scented candle, which brings us to the next point:

*Smell something. A study done in England suggests our brains "fire up"at the first whiff of cinnamon, giving us pleasant memories of cooking, apple cider and home. (The study also suggests cinnamon's odor also makes us willing to spend more money -- retailers like Trader Joe's displayed cinnamon-scented brooms at their store entrances during the holidays for just this reason!)
     Some herbs, like lavender and chamomile, are a calming influence. Try them in a scented pillow, or just spray some lavender-scented freshener in your bedroom, for a peaceful sleep.

*Plan something. Take a trip -- or research a destination. (The sunnier, the better.) Redo your living room, or update your kitchen or bathroom. (Websites like the Nester, Thrifty Decor Chick and Funky Junk Interiors will help you do it with minimum cost -- often without spending a cent.) Many gardeners use this period to figure their garden space, and order seeds. Ask friends over for a Super Bowl party, or just coffee and a snack.

*Write something. Start a journal. What, you're not the literary type? Write a quick note or two to your favorite people. Tell them how much they mean to you. (They'll be thrilled.)
     Or use your writing skills to:

*Save something. Start a regular savings plan, even if it means putting a fiver or your loose change in a mason jar every weekend. Get copies of your auto and/or homeowner's policies, and request some quotes. (One of our local insurance companies is offering $10 gift cards, just for letting them do this!) Save even more by joining Swagbucks, which pays you with 'Swagbucks' for requesting quotes -- as well as chances to accumulate more while doing your regular work. (Join by using the Swidget at right.) In a typical month, you could easily earn $5, $10 or more in Amazon and other gift cards.

And really...spring is not that far away. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

More Appraising Stories

I was surprised...and see your interest in my opinions as an appraiser.

I take this work very seriously. Very seriously. It means a lot of study and research, recertifying periodically, and continuing to take classes. The vocabulary can be mind-numbing, and the classes tough to stay awake in at times. But the research...that's fun!

I just bumbled across yet another cautionary appraiser story, in The Island of Lost Maps by Miles Harvey. If you haven't read this one yet, you should. It's a zippity look at rare books, libraries, and cartography -- and a map thief, Gilbert Bland, who plied his trade for decades.
     Bland's modus operandi: visit a rare book room at a university or government group. Have them bring an atlas for you to 'study.' Wait until their back is turned, ply your razor blade - and in a moment, the map is safely folded and hidden inside your shirt. Make it out the front door, and you've got a resource to hoard for yourself, or sell for big bucks. (In fact, one of the dealers Harvey interviewed called the faint traces on maps "library folds," and implied this happens a lot more than is reported.)
    Bland got caught, all right, but served a minimal sentence. And it seems he is suspected of stealing far more than he was ever prosecuted for. As recently as 2008, he's been apparently selling on Ebay, though it's lower-end stuff. (In other words, be careful what you're purchasing there. Ask for credentials and background, if you have any uneasiness.)

The Island of Lost Maps is a cross between history, travel and treasure hunting, all chased down at a fast pace.  Of special fun, if you're a bibliophile of any kind. Anyways, Harvey mentions an interesting story:

In 1996, a dealer, Graham Arader (a fascinating, though controversial, man in his own right), purchased, for $8,000, a map thought to be the earliest depiction of Houston. He had it restored, then put it up for sale for $98,000. (Yow -- but only one other copy is extant, a later version, kept at the Houston Public Library.)

Soon after, he was sued by a man named John Fox, who claimed that his sister-in-law brought the map to Arader...but only to have it appraised. SIL wasn't even the rightful owner. Fox won the suit -- Arader agreed to return the map, plus pay court costs.

Here's where it gets stranger. Fox didn't own the map, either. 

Employees at the Houston Title company started to wonder whether their early map of Houston, which had disappeared some years previous, had anything to do with Fox's map. (Fox had been employed at Houston Title.)
     Eventually the map was quietly returned. Fox, who claimed he'd purchased it, was let go. No charges. All of which infuriated Arader, who said his part in this affair was totally innocent. 

I just hope the Houston Public Library has good security.