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!

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. 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 . 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:


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 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. 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 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. 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Brrr...It's Storming

Not the chickies would know it -- they're perched on the roost in the chicken coop, clucking away and having a good old time. We increased the light in their coop, hoping that would encourage them to lay. The strange thing: the windows in the coop are lit up now at night, with chicken shadows moving back and forth. Makes them look as if they're backstage in a play!

We've got a nice crust of snow and ice, with more expected. An interesting way to spend a weekend.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Behold, the Winners!

Not talking about the presidential election, though you can view the results here.

Congratulations, President Obama, you've got 4 more years! Now please do something with this opportunity -- starting by working with the other party. We can't dither around anymore...time's too short.

The other set of winners?

The International Quilt Festival's World of Beauty contest, beginning with Best of Show:

    Sherry Reynolds' America, Let It Shine

I've examined this beauty up-close, and Sherry deserves every bit of the award -- it's skillfully designed and cleverly stitched. may recognize it from the cover of Quilter's Newsletter, who featured it in their July/August issue.
    Congratulations to the other winners, as well! (You can see the list and photos here.)

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Want To Learn More About Appraisals?

Come on over to the Castle Rock Quilt Club tonight -- I'll be doing an appraisal hands-on, and explaining the process as I go.

The Canyons Community Church in Castle Rock, CO.   Meeting's from 6:30 - 8:30 p.m.

Find out more here.

Doggy Days...and Waiting

It's finally here -- the day we have both dreaded and looked forward to. Election Day.

All I can say is...thank God. We don't have cable anymore, to be pestered by those commercials. So-- like all of you -- it's meant enduring the seemingly endless 'facts,' (ha) innuendos and insults on the Internet. Because Colorado is considered a 'swing' state, we get plenty of phone calls, too.


It's a bright, crisp day here in the Centennial State. Our neighbor is cutting down his decades-old cottonwood tree, an event our so-called guard dogs have yet to notice. Unfortunately, he keeps angling the chain saw far above his head (a huge no-no), and cutting in a way that huge branches keep crashing down on him -- and his roof. It's a dangerous guessing game: will this piece of trunk take him with when it falls?
     The Brick and I have been arguing -- who's going over to ask about the wood? Our neighbor doesn't have a woodstove or fireplace, so far as we know. We do.

I thought of Charley and Abby, our brave and alert watchdogs, when I saw this video. You'll enjoy it, too: 
 the ten guiltiest dogs on the Internet.

Now let's get this over with. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Monday Stuff On the Way to Other Stuff: VOTE!!

It's been an odd week here at Chez Brick. Piles of hunting clothes, dirty pots, things like that have finally been hauled out of the camper, and are waiting to be cleaned and put away. They've joined the quilting suitcases, which are in the process of being re-filled for an upcoming gig in Albuquerque for the New Mexico state guild. 
   So basically stuff is Everywhere. (Don't tell the Brick that I am glad, in some ways, the Mighty Hunters didn't get an animal. We're not desperate for the meat, freezer-wise, and it would be one more thing to have to take care of.) 
   You have one more thing to take care of -- and soon -- if you haven't, already. And that's to VOTE!! Even if you're not sure of the best decisions, better to vote than not to vote at all. It's our right as Americans - and a privilege that not everyone in the world has. Don't miss out. 
   Some items that wandered out into the field of vision this past week:

A charmer of a backyard garden, thanks in part to a spring that's been channeled into a streambed. (Note the way the owners have chunked out the fence, so branches can grow between. Nice.)

A thorough look at preparing for emergencies, thanks to Frugal Upstate -- and Hurricane Sandy. Part 1 is here; Part 2 is here.

Speaking of...a mother and daughter blog their way through Hurricane Sandy. Lots of photos and tense moments here -- makes you want to find your own twenties-something kids, and hug them. ("Mommmm," the girlies would protest...)

From Faithful with a Few: why they chose to make a loan to a friend, anyway.

How much are your thoughts really worth -- enough to pay for them to get top shelf on Facebook? This post from Penny Thots, my stomping grounds, is worth thinking about. (But not paying for on Facebook...)

Simple Dollar's take on teaching kids about money. A good step-by-step approach. 

A very cool science book collection is coming up for auction...including some Galileo books! Find out more here.

Money for nothing -- from Daily Money Shot. Another look at grocery shopping on a budget.

Have a good week. And may the best man (or woman) for our country win. 


Friday, November 2, 2012

Rayons That Cut Like Butter...And Sew Like A Dream

I'm here to tell you about a new company Brickworks has just started ordering from:

It's called Batik Butik.

This company sells hand-batiked rayons from Asia. Normally, when I use the "r" word, I'm thinking of something a bit flimsy. It drapes nice, but it also moves around a lot when you use it in a quilt -- probably a Crazy quilt, because layering is the only way to handle this type of fabric. Right?

    Well, these rayons are way different -- still that wonderful drape and feel, but substantial and firm-woven enough that you can actually use them for traditional patchwork, as well!
     I've been sewing with them for a while now, and am impressed at how easy they are to cut, as well as stitch. You'll like them too, not only for Crazy quilts or an unusual dress, but for mixing in with your other fabrics. The heavier-weight rayons are not only excellent for suit-type clothing, but make wonderful borders.
     (Warning: the company hasn't paid me a cent to endorse their fabrics -- but they did give me some scraps and some fabric cuts to make a few samples, and let my students experiment. I'm saying this because they truly are some of the best rayons I've ever worked with.) 

     Some of the fabrics are below. Take a look at the company website, and you'll find scarf kits, patterns for use and ideas, and some incredible designs. Also a link that shows you the batiking process. Zowee!

A huge fan of this one...looks so much like fall leaves, with a touch of purple. The Mama plans to make me a dress of this.

One of the cleanest, clearest reds I've seen yet.

 Love this blue-green one...boy, does it cut nicely!