Thursday, April 28, 2016

Crafts Pixelated

Instructables has current how-tos for photo art using fused beads...

Picture of Fused Bead Mosaics From Photos



Yep, those beads that kids use for bracelets and such. Very cool.


Translate those beads into squares of colored fabric, instead, and you've got wonderful quilts, as well!
     For example, Old Abe, shown above, is a 30 x 35 square set -- so with 1 1/2" finished squares (2" cut), you've got a 45" x 52 1/2" quilt. Adjust up or down as needed for the size you want.

(The program uses Excel 2016 and a pegboard.)

MonaLisaPlan.png

Mapped image 01.png

Using the program, you can easily translate your own photos and images into something wonderful. Instructions are here.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Financial Advice I Wish I'd Learned Sooner...And Things I Did Right, After All

More thought-provoking posts in Blogland lately, including this piece (a bit too general, but helpful) and this piece (much more specific), both from Apartment Therapy.

What advice on finances has helped you...and what do you wish you'd learned years ago? 

For me, it's:

*Save at least 10%, give away at least 10% -- then live on the rest. My parents mentioned this my first day at the hardware store, back when I was 15. Except for a few lean years, when we weren't able to save 10% (we did give away 10%, though), we've followed this pattern through three-plus decades of married life. That 10% doesn't seem like much while you're setting it aside, but it does add up.
    As for the giving part -- you're fortunate. Really. You can make do without that bit of money. Others need it more. Just think what we could accomplish in livable conditions and education for the world, if everyone (celebrities included) kicked in a mere 10%!




*Always have more than one source of income...even if some are intermittent. Multiple flows of income, it's called; if one job isn't happening at present, the others still pay the rent.
     I've been following this advice for the past few decades -- but really wish I'd learned it sooner than that.

*Only work for free if YOU decide to.  I've been a writer all my life, but gave much of my writing away, thinking that would give me an 'in' for paying jobs the next time. I made the same mistake when I started teaching and lecturing about quilting.
     It didn't.
     If you believe in the cause and want to donate your services, then go ahead -- but make sure that group understands that you are offering this. Not them.
    Same goes for discounts.

*Educate yourself.  Study, study, study. Learn everything you can about your chosen subjects, both online (thank God for the Internet) and via print. Take every class and lecture you can afford. This not only makes you better-informed about your work, it gives you confidence to speak up and offer your opinion, even if that differs from what others are saying.
     That makes you an 'authority' -- and even more valuable.





*Don't dismiss others' wisdom until you check it out for yourself.  It was far too easy to dismiss my parents as uneducated hicks when I grew up in a small Michigan town. My dad was fond of describing himself as a "dumb Hollander" -- partly because he hated to have people noticing him. But he was a voracious reader, and able to fix anything, we joked, with chewing gum, wire and tape. (Partly because he had to, growing up out on the South Dakota plains, with no hardware store in sight.)
     What I learned over the years: my parents' quiet wisdom on frugal living, honesty and integrity was quite rare, compared to other, 'smarter' sources.
     But they were right.

*Don't make a big deal about the B-word... but do keep track of your expenses.  The Brick and I have never had a budget -- there, I said it. We've never used envelopes or snowballs or other budgetary tricks, primarily because we know basically what we need to cover expenses every month, but what's needed for the next month. That includes extra for certain bills -- February and June for property tax, for example.
     I wish we could have this deducted automatically every month, like we do for insurance -- one of the smartest things we ever did, and it doesn't cost extra in fees. (Our company is Liberty Mutual, but I'm sure others offer this.) It's a lot easier than coming up with that lump sum every six months.

     If we keep careful track of expenses, I know when I need to cut back on groceries, or we won't be going out to eat as much. Or we need to pick up a few extra jobs here and there to balance costs out.




*Don't pay full price, particularly for extras like vacations or entertainment. If you're willing to start early, you can often find the same hotel room or trip for less. I just booked a plane ticket to visit the Mama: Chicago and back for $78 total. (Thank you, Frontier!) On the flip side, there was the year we paid full price for an Alaska cruise. Because the family clan decided to go, and didn't tell us until a month before. What made it even more irritating: we'd just come back from a much-longer Caribbean cruise that cost us roughly a third of the Alaska trip -- because there was no time to plan.  Grrrrrr.
     Begin now: at the very least, you'll know how much to allocate -- and you'll be able to start enjoying the trip vicariously.

     One final tip:  See if you can pay large expenses a little at a time. Paypal Credit is perfect for this; a number of companies also offer plans that give you 6-12 months to finish payment -- and no interest or fees, provided you make the monthly payments. The Brick turned me on to this easy way to fit travel -- or laptops, or construction materials -- into our plans. (I wish we'd done it back in the early years!)
     But -- Don't commit if you can't do it. The interest fees are crushing if you miss a single payment.



     
*Expert opinions may not be best for you.  When the Brick's mom died, we used the inheritance to pay off our house -- at a time when conventional pundits were shouting that we should put that money into stocks, instead. The market tanked soon afterward. If we had, we would have lost at least a third of it -- and still be paying on the mortgage.
    If you follow what everyone does, you'll also be affected by the combined results of their actions. Every time we've lost money in investments, it's been an item promoted as a 'sure thing' that would be lost if we didn't take advantage of it Right Now.  Sure...
    Better to save your money, research and wait. Listen to the experts, but remember: it's your money. You make the decision -- not them. Don't rush into anything you don't understand. (Yes, I learned this the hard way.)
    Warren Buffett said once:
   "Be fearful when others are greedy, and greedy when others are fearful."

Three last bits of advice -- basic, but they work.

*Never spend more than you earn. (Or, as someone I knew once said, "If ya ain't got it, don't spend it." I think it was my dad.)  

*When you do spend, enjoy it. If you're doing your job, everything's covered...stop worrying and relax.
    This has been one of the hardest lessons for me to learn.

*It's just money. Not life, not the people you care about. What's more important?




Exercises Moms Do



Not that our angelic little children ever did this... 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Election Year Rag

I found this recently during a search for another Steve Goodman song... hum along, regardless who you're planning to vote for.




Considering this wacky, no-holds-barred race... it fits!

Being Poor -- My Take On the Subject

By now, you've had a chance to read (and hopefully digest) my earlier post on "What It's Like to Be Poor." 

I have strong feelings about this...probably because I grew up as a farmer's daughter in very modest circumstances.

My dad worked for a tractor equipment company owned by my uncle -- and farmed on the side. If you've had any farming experience, with the exception of the megafarms, you know that farmers tend to live on the tip-edge. If the weather cooperates, everything goes as planned, and the prices stay reasonable...then you'll make a profit for all that effort. It's usually not a big one.
     But if there's a drought, or your cattle get sick, or prices tank -- congratulations. You've just done all that hard work for nothing.

In spite of this, farmers farm because, like my dad, they love it. And I grew up loving fresh vegetables from the garden and clean, home-raised meat. The smell of fresh-cut hay is still one of my favorites, or the crisp snap of fall cornhusks as you walk through the rows. I raise chickens, make homemade soup, and garden partly because it's in my DNA now to do it.



There was money for the basics -- if we were careful -- and not much else. The price of my parents' farm was only $10,000, but they were not able to pay it off until I was almost through high school. We raised most of our food, and our clothes, with rare exceptions, were either made by my mom (an expert seamstress and tailor), or hand-me-downs from older cousins. If I wanted extras, I had to work for them, first by selling raspberries and sweet corn by the side of the road. Later on, I babysat and cleaned house for people, catered with my mom, and worked in a hardware store from age 15 through  part of college. (That job, along with scholarships and financial aid, was the major reason why I could even attend college in the first place.)
    My brother also worked, both on the farm and for his uncle at the Case dealership. And we both worked part-time throughout college, to help with the bills. (We both graduated, too.)

Were we poor? Most probably. I don't think Dad broke the $20,000 income barrier until after I went to college -- even then, he earned more working on his own when the dealership finally went bust. (That's a whole 'nother story.) We didn't go out to eat much -- a root beer at the drive-in on Thursday night, plus a birthday dinner, was about the extent of our lavishness. I didn't even eat burgers regularly until I was in high school -- and only then because I bought them myself. (And I got the cheapest kind.) A bicycle at Christmas was the highest splurge. But every bill was paid in full -- Mom and Dad insisted on it. They gave money to help others. Even saved for retirement. (Something my mom benefits from today.) And they did it without welfare or SNAP cards.

 "Take care of the family name," he would say. "Your reputation is the most important thing." And in that small Michigan town, it was. At my dad's funeral years later, total strangers came up to me, saying that he was the hardest-working, most honest man they'd ever met. At least one man didn't even realize I was his daughter...yet he told me that my dad had set an example for his own life.

That honor and integrity made us rich. It had nothing to do with money.

Does that mean I look down on receiving public aid? Not if you've tried every other means possible to support your family.... and you really do plan to get off as soon as possible. But to subsist on it for years, then watch your children and grandchildren do the same thing? To refuse to work basic jobs because you think they're beneath you? Refuse to save, because after all, someone else will take care of you...or waste your money on junk? Or take that aid so you can buy luxury items with your available cash, instead of (as my parents did) 'splurging' on schoolbooks, new jeans and tennis shoes for your kids.

Take care of your reputation, and pass it on to the people who are your family. 

Then, whether you're low-income or high, it won't matter how much you earn.

You'll be wealthy, indeed.



Sunday, April 24, 2016

Monday Stuff On the Way to Other Stuff: Chickens and Other Interesting Animals

I know -- chickens are not an animal. 

But they and the dogs are the 'livestock' on the Brick homestead.  I thought more about this after spending the weekend at our local library's Homesteading Fair. A few dozen booths showed everything from honey to 'fermented' products, chicks to bunnies. A white tom turkey strutted around outside, along with some goats, a working smithy and tables of heirloom tomato plants for sale.
    I was there for quilting, but brought our 'sick' chicken, now restored to health, thanks to the Brick. (And heavy doses of vitamins.) She spent the day staring confusedly through her cage at people...you could almost see her saying, 'What the heck...?' The kids especially loved her. And since more than 600 people attended the Fair, there were lots of them.
     People would stop to talk about chickens -- and move on to quilting. Or they'd look at the quilts -- then segue into chicken discussions. I was glad to have brought both, though Missy Chicken probably didn't appreciate the honor.
     Meanwhile:

20 easy methods for 'systematic savings.' In other words, paring down or eliminating recurring expenses. (From The Simple Dollar)

Why it pays to be persistent. Sometimes a 'no' becomes a 'yes!'  (From Money Beagle)

A 'heavenly vision' quilt from North Carolina. (From Barbara Brackman's Material Culture)

'What should I absolutely NOT do when visiting your country?' Quora is a discussion forum that a lot of Europeans hold forth on, and a bunch of countries are included here. These are not only fascinating, but should be especially helpful if you plan to travel there soon. (One case in point: never wish a German a happy birthday before the actual day -- there's a longstanding superstition that doing so is actually wishing that something awful would happen to them. Like death.)
    I laughed my head off at the British version. One tip: do NOT refer to your backside as a 'fanny.' Means something way more vulgar in England. Speaking of traveling:

A trip to Cordoba, Spain -- what to see, how to do it. Thanks for sharing, Living Rich on the Cheap. You'll want to read her earlier post about Spain, too.

10 ordinary-looking locations with creepy secrets. (From Listverse)

Got a scruffy-looking table? Here's a classy makeover. (From Frugal in Lincolnshire)
From this:



To this:



How to freeze eggs. This doesn't matter now -- our egglayers are tapering off. (Molting.) However, if you hit a really good sale... (From Her Peculiar Life)

Is the Amber Room behind the walls of a hidden bunker in Poland? We should find out soon.

Happy Birthday, Mum. In celebration of Queen Elizabeth's 90th birthday -- what she likes to eat. (Which was linked, surprisingly, to an article on what Princess Diana liked to eat, as well.)

An interview with Monica Lewinsky. I am not sure what to think of this -- I get the feeling I'm supposed to be sympathetic toward her: 'I've had a hard time of it blah blah blah.'
     On the other hand, she was young and stupid, and has learned from her experience. (And benefitted from the publicity too, I suspect.)
     Having endured some very public insults in the past (insults that I could not respond to in kind, because it was unprofessional), I found this part of the interview interesting:
     "The writer Mike Daisey described this sensation to me in a chillingly perceptive way. (He'd been publicly shamed [and rightly so] for embellishing the facts of a story about visiting Apple manufacturing plants in China.) 
     'What they want is for me to die,' he said. 'They will never say this because it's too histrionic. But they never want to hear from me again, and while they're never hearing from me, they have the right to use me as a cultural reference point whenever it services their ends. That's how it would work out best for them.'"
     Better for Lewinsky to take another approach: state simply she was young and an idiot, and she's grown up since then. Then treat all further questions with dignified silence.


The snow has melted, and the ground is warm. Time to dig and plant...
Have a great week.








Saturday, April 23, 2016

Mah-wage





Yet if you've got the right person, it really is "Wuv -- Twu Wuv."





Thank you, David, for teaching me this for the past 35+ years.
      I love you, too.

What Is It Like to Be Poor?

I've bumped into a few posts on this subject lately -- first from Hope at Blogging Away Debt, then another from a blogger I read regularly, Penniless Parenting.

Their approaches are a bit different from each other.

Hope takes the "I've been there" approach:
    "It was a VERY humbling experience to apply and have an in person interview for these services to be awarded. I have to prove everything...my kids, my income, my bills, my job loss, my bank balances, etc. I am not sure I have ever felt so much shame and failure. But I had to do it, I have four children to take care of. And the only way I got through it was by telling myself -- I have paid into this system since I was 15 years old AND this is not a long term solution, just short term assistance. But frankly, I am so embarrassed to go buy groceries and have to use the SNAP card..."

She then goes on in later weeks to tell you about her job hunt (she's applied everywhere, she says, and can't understand why she's not being hired), her budget (wherein she's getting paid to adopt and support two of those kids, overspends on many areas, including rent -- WAY too much, Honey! -- and is emphasizing saving for a house, rather than paying off debt.) I've gotten tired of the many times she goes out to eat/picks up prepared food, because after all, she just got home and the family has to eat.
    (She also gripes when the SNAP card is finally suspended.)
And the final hit --
    After using the taxpayers' money for living, now she and the kids (as well as her mom, I believe) are getting ready to take a luxury cruise! Because darn it, after all, they've had a hard time. They deserve it.
    And I'll bet you, dimes to dollars, she didn't buy those cruise tickets at a discount.

Shades of Linda Tirado, the little dear who wrote a series on what it felt like to be poor, including moaning about how hard she had to work (in the kitchen, she said, because her teeth were too bad to let her get an in-front-of-the-public job); why it wasn't her fault that she wasted money on junk, cigarettes and other bad decisions (she had to have some fun out of life, regardless whether she should save that money or not); and why people like her should get a big fat break. After all, she wanted to write a book, so she could help other poor people realize how poor they were!

Public donors generously sent her thousands and thousands of dollars -- more than enough for her to quit her job, write the book and get her teeth fixed. (She promised, by the way, to spread any leftover funds to others.) Meanwhile, writers looking into her past found out she'd grown up in a privileged family, gone to a private school...and even had her parents pay for her house. (Oh boo hoo. How mean of them to treat her this way.) 

So did she do it?

She wrote the book. I read it -- basically a long, expanded whine on Why Everybody Is So Mean To Us Poor People. Poor people, that is, who are too broke and stupid to stand on their own two feet. (They'd waste any money you'd give them, anyways, because they're Like That.)
         Dimes to dollars, Tirado probably got a nice fat advance to write that book, too.

Did she help out others? Probably not, since she's very coy about it -- I'm guessing she kept 100%.

Did Tirado, at least, get her teeth fixed, since that was her starting lament?
     Uh, no. But she got an unusual haircut and some great tattoos!

Penniless Parenting has a large family and a very small budget. Nonetheless, her take on being poor is quite different:

     "The worst situation we ever were in was about 9 years ago when I had only about $15 to last for a week's worth of groceries... but even then, despite being in a desperate situation, we didn't go hungry, and if anything happened now to us, we wouldn't go hungry, thanks to our stockpile...
     So no, I don't consider ourselves poor. Would I like more money? Certainly. Am I working hard to try to improve our financial situation? Absolutely...But in my mind, poor means in such a bad situation that you go without basic necessities. And fortunately, though money has been tight for us many times, I've never had to go without...
     And I feel grateful for that."

She (and her readers' comments too, by the way) point out that you can be making thousands of dollars in income -- and still have debts you can't pay. Now that's being truly poor.

UPDATE:  Curious about what I think on this subject? Go here for my take.






Friday, April 22, 2016

Inconvenient Truths #2




Not the The Brick or I ever have these problems...or issues.
     (Must be why we were laughing so hard at some of them, like #25 and #26.)

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

AQS Show Winning Quilts -- Just Posted

The Paducah version of the American Quilters Society show is starting up...and the winners have been announced.

Here's BEST OF SHOW -- from a familiar name:  Marilyn Badger from St. George, UT.
     Her quilt: Arandano



Look at the detail on this piece -- wow.
(Notice that cool 'inset' look between borders? Using slightly-darker fabrics on the outside edge of the inside border -- i.e., the spikes -- helps. Nice.) 

Another beauty -- It's the Cowboy Way by Karlyn Bue Lohrenz of Billings, MT
    This took Best Wall Award (Moda).  This one has great detail, too...I would not have imagined using a closeup like this for such an effective quilt. But she did...and it is.
     Double wow.

Moda Fabrics Best Wall Award
#1314 IT’S THE COWBOY WAY, Karlyn Bue Lohrenz, Billings, MT


The show winners are listed here, along with other photos.  Congratulations!

A Tractor Quilt

Taxes are done...now to find the table under all that paperwork. 

Meanwhile, thought I'd mention a tractor quilt stitched by the Mama's (and my) friend, Anne Heath. Anne made it for her farmer partner. Here's the basic block:





And the finished quilt. Simple, but effective.



My only complaint: it's in J[ohn] D[eere] green.

My dad worked for a Case dealer, so we were not allowed to mention That Name. It was considered swearing. 

Ahem, Anne.   (And good job!)

Monday, April 18, 2016

Monday Stuff On the Way to Other Stuff: Taxes, AARRGHGHGHGHGGH

It's been interesting around here.

We ended up with more than two feet of snow on the ground this weekend -- about 2 1/2 feet, I'd guess. (Daughter #2, who lives up in the mountains, got closer to 3-4 feet. And her partner spent both nights plowing and shoveling, poor guy.) Church was cancelled today -- which was wonderful, since we were supposed to start practicing at 7:30 a.m. Church was cancelled today -- which was frustrating, because the Brick (and others on Worship Team, we found out) had to get up extra early to shovel out the sidewalk and the car. 
     The Elders didn't cancel until nearly 7 a.m....which meant we all had to be up and around anyways, in case they didn't. 
     No sleeping in. 
    The Brick stamped in, all snowy from shoveling, and wanted breakfast. Some French toast, a cup of coffee...then we went back to bed for a blissful couple hours. Ha.

     It made a nice change from wrestling with taxes, especially because TurboTax and other tax prep software don't know what to make of a business like mine. It puzzles the heck out of them; they are forever asking odd questions. Being the engineer type (obsessive and primary attention to detail -- you NEVER leave anything unanswered), the Brick then demands answers to those strange questions! And THAT leads to the tendency for mutual snarling at each other. 
     Bits of paper with scribbled lists and totals -- things we have to double-check online (thank God the power never went out) -- every receipt and notice we could find for last year. And they're all piled higgledy-piggledy on the table, with both laptops going full blast. (Him typing, me fuming.)
     Surely we can't be the only ones struggling with this. And if you multiply our frustration by umpteen bazillion Americans... I wouldn't be surprised at all if the murder rate skyrockets during times like this. 

I love the Brick dearly, but right now, he's driving me NUTS. The bad part: I suspect he feels the same way. It's 2:30 a.m., and he is sighing and throwing himself back in his chair.
      Thank God this is almost over. 





Five stupid mistakes well-meaning (hopefully) charities made. (From Cracked.com)

VERY cool wedding ideas. Frugal -- but they don't look it!  (From Apartment Therapy)
     P.S. These would be great for dinner parties and barbecues, too.

How to look even better in photos -- thanks to how you hold your jaw, and squinching! (From photographer Peter Hurley, and Petapixel.)

The best pizza dough ever...according to 101 Cookbooks. It's a little complicated, but worth trying.

Would-be burglars get a remote message from the homeowner watching them... and take off! (Unfortunately, the large dogs in the home sniff them and walk away -- Charley would probably have invited them in for a beer.)

From the DBBF (dusty blog back files):  A dozen frugal cookbooks you've never heard of (or not much) -- plus two.  From yours truly.

Low-cost, easy to keep up with flowerbeds: how to make them, how to maintain them. (From Funky Junk Interiors)

13 ways to use ground beef.  Tasty -- yes. Unusual -- no. (They're billing them as unusual...but I don't think so. From Betty Crocker)

Mexican Beef Tater Tot™ Pie

Phenomenal Gems just celebrated its second birthday. This Etsy shop is owned by Daughter #2, who has done beautifully. And it has beautiful stones! Go take a look...

Eleven frightening toys from way back. Including my own favorite, Chatty Cathy. I begged and pleaded for her -- but she ended up stuck in a haybale in the barn. By the time I found her again, her face was stained, and she'd rusted. (ewww)

Thirty tips for traveling cheaper in Europe. And elsewhere, for that matter. (From Have Blog Will Travel)

Per diem rates for business travel, listed by state. At least in the government's opinion -- I don't usually get this much, based on what they're stating for my area.

Need bookcases...and a bed? Get space for both!  (From IKEA Hackers)



When you're cutting back, don't give away the store. (From Surviving and Thriving)

A large Caravaggio painting (they think) found in an attic...all because the French homeowners had a leaky roof and needed to fix it. Estimated value:  about $100 million.

Lots of tax-related goodies -- including scams and misrepresentations -- on the rich and famous.
In keeping with that:

Some interesting celebrity quotes about moneyMy favorite, from Paris Hilton:
     "What's Wal-Mart? Do they, like, sell wall stuff?" 

By the way, don't miss out on tax day discounts -- plenty of good stuff available today. That includes a free Blooming Onion from Outback today (Mon) only -- just tell your server "Blooming Monday." Some good taxtime freebies and discounts at the end of this post.

Brunch ideas for Mother's Day. A lot of these center on pancakes and baked goodies, but also include winner like the Bellinis pictured here.   (From Who Needs A Cape)


Strawberry Bellini


The master hack list -- 100 ways to customize IKEA products for your needs. (From Apartment Therapy)

Consider - you might meet failure on the path to success.  What are you going to do, if that happens?  (From Money Beagle)

And finally, from the "Boy, That's Weird" Department:

A sailor is found mummified on a 'ghost ship' sailing under its own steam for years. Shades of  the Mary Celeste -- and others.  (Sorry, no photos -- this was just too creepy.)


Have a great week -- smooch the ones you love.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

How Does Two Feet Sound to You?

That's how much snow we've gotten in the past 24 hours, I'm guessing. Miss Abby and Charley are forced to leap around in it, to get anywhere. The snow comes way above Abs' back; Charley's got more leverage, being bigger.

And it's still coming down. See here, if you're curious.

What our trees look like right now - poor babies


Now you know why I sneer at the East Coast getting a foot of snow (or less), and panicking. The Brick remembers a few inches of snow while growing up in North Carolina...and everything shut down.

Thankfully, the power's still on. We've got the fireplace going, bluegrass playing, and are trying not to snarl too much at each other. (Darn taxes, anyways.)

I'm betting the grocery stores are still dealing with empty shelves. This storm isn't supposed to let up until tomorrow sometime.

At least we're snug, warm...and stuck in it together. 




Stay warm this weekend...and if you're sweating through taxes too, you have my sympathy.


What it will look like out here - once the sun comes out. But not yet.


Friday, April 15, 2016

Snowed Under -- But Making Progress

While I'm working on taxes with the Brick (and waiting for the snow to REALLY kick in), I can't help thinking of this:





There...does that inspire you, too?




UPDATE, AS OF 1 a.m. SATURDAY MORNING:  Just stopped into our local King Soopers for extra milk -- and there is none. Only a few gallons of 1%, and we don't usually drink that. The meat shelves are nearly empty, except for a bumper crop of ribeye steak. Chicken shelves are pretty much stripped, as are the bread and egg areas. Clerks were restocking, but items like paper towels and canned goods.

      It looks very much like it did when we had storm after storm one winter...and getting your hands on fresh stuff was nearly impossible. But the snow just started this afternoon (in the mountains) and tonight (here). Did people go nuts stocking up? More probably, the trucks aren't getting through.
     This gives an uneasy feeling -- but it's why our freezer has lots of food. Our cupboards are ample right now, too. I keep dried milk, dried eggs, flour and plenty of butter on hand at all times. But if this storm hangs around for a while, or we lose power, things could get weird -- fast.

     Maybe I should have bought the 1% milk, after all...

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Snowed Under

Yes, friends, that's right...

A big snowstorm is coming to Colorado. Oh goody.
    I don't know if it will be as bad as March's rendition on the theme. People are sure fussing, though. Even the CDOT flashing signs on the highway are thundering, 'ARE YOU READY?' Considering we live at 6250 feet (a thousand feet higher than even Denver), the odds are good that we'll get more than our share of the white stuff.



Or the end of the first month.  Whatever.

We have our own snowstorm to deal with inside -- we're still hip-deep in taxes.
    Paper, notes and receipts are everywhere, along with scribbled reminders to do this or remember that.

(And for those of you who finished weeks or months ago, and are really smug...
     I don't want to hear about it.)

Did you know why the tax deadline this year is April 18, instead of the traditional April 15?

Because Friday the 15th is when Washington, D.C. celebrates Emancipation Day this year. Normally they'd celebrate on the 16th, but that's a Saturday.

And what exactly IS Emancipation Day? 

April 16, 1862 is when President Abraham Lincoln signed the order to free American slaves. (Yes, I'd forgotten this too.)  It's a big whoop-tee-do in D.C., with offices and banks closed. The rest of the country doesn't celebrate this holiday.

An iconic black and white photograph of a bearded Abraham Lincoln showing his head and shoulders.
Abe, good for you. From Wikipedia

Shoot, I didn't even know it WAS a holiday. 

But as the Brick says, it gave us the weekend to get taxes finished. He'll be happy to celebrate it this year!

Might as well enjoy the moment. It will be gone in a few days, anyways. 
                  Along with those !*#@ taxes.

At least some places run tax specials -- especially restaurants. 
    Go here for one list.
    Another list is here.
    And a list for more things besides food is here.








Wednesday, April 13, 2016

An Engineer's Look At Cats

Not this...(which is actually quite funny)




This.  (I know whereof I speak -- the Brick was an engineer for a couple of decades or so.)




But if the cat was doing this post, I'm sure it would be:


Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Colorado Thoughts...About the Weather, About Living Here



Yes, folks, we don't all smoke pot around here...but it can be very beautiful.



But there's always this risk, too. Even in summer -- we've seen it snowing on Aug. 1st.





And if you're planning on visiting this weekend at all:




On the other hand:




(You laugh, but it happens around here. All the time.)

Ted Cruz 'Stole' Colorado's Votes?

Naaahhhhh.

According to Donald Trump, there's a reason why he didn't earn a single delegate in Colorado. It was all crooked -- Ted Cruz stole his delegates!



Well, the truth is, Mr. Trump...

You never bothered to show up, in the first place.   (Ted Cruz did.)



Your staff apparently didn't check the guidelines Colorado Republicans use to appoint delegates. Guidelines that have been in place since last fall.
(Something they forgot to do in a few other states as well, where you lost delegates. C'mon, are they really that stupid?!?)

The representative you sent thought he could get away with platitudes, instead of dealing with the issues. (Did you think we wouldn't notice your absence? Do you think we're that stupid?!? )

Somebody on your staff is saying you were cheated, because Colorado didn't even hold any caucuses.
(They did, Mr. Trump -- either you or your staffers were on 'ignore' to have missed them. Like you pretty much treat Colorado, anyways.)

The Brick not only went to the first two caucuses, but was at the state assembly Saturday, as well. Sure, he wishes all the speakers would deal with the issues up-front, instead of trotting out the flag and rah-rah statements. (Some did, some didn't.) As the Brick is fond of saying, we do NOT live in a democracy -- we live in a representative republic.  (Because we must elect representatives to vote on our behalf. And in that sense, at least, I think he's right.)

Ted Cruz isn't perfect. But at least he thought it important to try and personally win Colorado's delegate votes.

Pack up your mean, petty accusations, Mr. Trump --
                  it's time to grow up, stop acting like a whiny jerk, and get down to business. 
You'll be much more interesting if you admit you made mistakes here...and start actually listening to what's important to Colorado voters.

Not to mention the other states you've been neglecting. We don't all live in New York...






Monday, April 11, 2016

Old Clothes, "Beautifully Stitched"

Scientists in Mongolia are carefully excavating an ancient Turkish ('Turkic') funeral site...
     and finding wonderful things.

They believe the body is a woman. (Because a bow wasn't found with the burial. As in archery....not a hairbow!)

A horse was sacrificed to accompany this person. (A mare, which is interesting, if the body does prove to be female.)

They think it dates from at least 1500 years ago. 

The clothing and accessories are spectacular:

4 cotton coats, so far. (The clothing is said to be "beautifully stitched.")  Other pieces of camel hair and wool.

A leather saddle and woven bridle.

And this embroidered bag:

The discovery also appears to be the first complete Turkic burial in Central Asia and the remains were found at an altitude of 9,200 feet. An elaborately embroidered bag is pictured

The grave was found at 9200 feet altitude in the Altai Mountain chain, which flows through Siberia, Mongolia, China and Kazakhstan. Researchers credit the altitude and the area's colder climate for helping keep the grave artifacts so pristine. (It was also three meters deep.)

"The finds show us that these people were very skilled craftsmen," said one researcher. "Given that this was the grave of a simple person, we understand that craft skills were rather well-developed."

Go here for more.   What other wonderful things could be hiding...




Monday Stuff On the Way to Other Stuff: More Chickeny Thoughts

     Warm, cold, sunny, gray. Can't Spring weather make up its mind? I'd gripe more about it...but that's Colorado for you. 
     Other than the occasional rain or snow (which we don't get nearly enough of right now), the chickens could care less. They've already established several areas in the yard for dustbaths...the rest often congregate in the narrow space under the library table. Maybe they're having book discussions in there.


Board Meeting in Progress

     We have been worried about the health of one chicken with 'wry neck.' Thanks to the Brick's tender ministrations, she's been improving daily. Yesterday she actually struggled to get away from him -- a first. She is still hanging out a lot by herself, but I don't blame her -- the others are ruthless, and will jump on her at a moment's notice.
      Chickens can be very cruel to each other.


Dr. Dave, making a house call
     I talked to a friend locally who also raises chickens. She has Black Star and Red Star chickens -- 'sex-linked,' in that the males and females are different colors at birth. They're a mix of Rhode Island Reds and Whites. She finds that the Black Stars beat up on everyone else, but the Red Stars have been winners, both in docility and egg-laying. 
    "I'm having trouble with the Buff Orpingtons, though," she said. "They keep getting broody." I sympathized with her -- our Black Australorps (the Australian blend of Buff Orpingtons) have been famous for doing this. The stinkers. 
     I've been watching the flock peck around with a certain sadness -- we didn't get a fresh batch of chicks this spring, for the first time in five years. We plan to fix up the house and put it on the market this year...and the babies would take six months to mature and start laying. It just didn't seem worth it.
     Meanwhile:

Eight households get $100 to spend on groceries. No instructions -- whatever they want to buy. What did they get, and why? (From The Simple Dollar) Also:

Seven Springtime spending traps -- and how to avoid them.

RFK jr. closes his daughter's social media accounts... after she posts sexy photos and decides to bully people, along with her friends. Good for him!!

Case lot sale at Emergency Essentials. Good stuff here, for surprisingly reasonable prices. The nice part: it will be good to eat for years to come.

We just saw London Has Fallen.  Interesting...but as our friend pointed out, why does Our Hero and the President survive a helicopter crash (that kills everyone else in the copter, incidentally), an elevator fall and umpteen bazillion bullets with hardly a scratch? I also find it interesting that the director of Olympus Has Fallen -- the original movie, and one of my favorites -- refused to direct this one. (He didn't like the script.) Come to think of it, Mike Banning got shot at an awful lot in that movie, with little effect. Maybe his clothes are bullet-proof.
     However, the timing was chilling. I could see terrorists doing some of these movie actions in real life, including pretending to be police. Yow.



25 free things to do this summer. (From Faith Filled Moms)

15 secrets from IKEA. We got this store in the Denver area only a few years ago. We're big fans of their 99-cent breakfast...but otherwise, rarely go there. Many others do, though. (From Passionate Penny Pincher)

'I am tired of being poor, so I'm going back to work.' And spend a LOT. (From Millenial Moola. Be sure to read the comments, as well.)

The Frugalwoods got their homestead!  This has been on the burner for years...

The intrigue of colors. What stories do they hide? (From Chicken Blog)



Ten fun facts gleaned from a recent camping vacation. Try to do that right now in Colorado, and you'd freeze your tixer off.  (From Pretend to be Poor)

What it's like to spend a year in space. (For one thing, your skin is extra-sensitive. For another, your balance is impaired.) From Scott Kelly, who just returned.

23 different compost bins to build, from basic to fancy-pants. (Thanks, Backyard Growers.)

A beautiful Welsh cottage...and you can rent it. Or at least see inside, thanks to this post.  (From Our New Life in the Country) I love to hear Sue ramble on about her dogs and chickens and 'polytunnel;' wish we had one.


And finally, in honor of Abby the dog, who Does This All the Time. (She 'talks,' too. In fact, you can hear her on the first Charley the Snake Hunter video.)




Have a great week.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Saving Five Fishy Ways...And Updates

Fish are one of Nature's best foods for you -- lots of good essential oils, not too many calories, and great-tasting.

Fish are also one of Nature's most expensive foods. So how can you afford to eat pescadorically on a budget?

*Buy on sale -- or marked down. Are you in the store for milk? Check the clearance section--it just takes a few seconds. (And while you're at it, check the meats clearance section, as well.) I've found everything from monster crab legs (at $5.95/lb!) to the Rocky Mountain favorite, trout ($1.99/lb). A large one-pound tin of crabmeat was $5.00.
     While you're at it, expand your horizons and try the lesser-priced seafood in your area. Smelt and squid were cheap in Michigan -- expensive here in Colorado. (Ironically, octopus is often more reasonable in price.) But we can find trout easily, as well as mussels and Pacific oysters, and shrimp is often on sale.
     Oriental food markets are often a better place to find reasonably-priced fish and other seafood, both fresh and frozen.

*Go to the source. The Brick grew up in North Carolina, near Camp LeJeune Air Force Base -- and close to the ocean. His mom worked for the FHA, which funded businesses, including fishing boats. Mom would go down early in the morning and buy buckets of shrimp, fresh out of the water. Yum.
    If you're living anywhere close to seaside, find out when the fishing boats come in -- and just happen to be there so you can ask. (Bring cash -- and perhaps a six-pack on your first visit. A bribe -- er, present -- never hurts.)



*Get it yourself.  The Brick caught many a blue crab off an ocean pier, using a long string and chicken necks. We didn't see such luxury on our Michigan farm, but we ate a lot of bluegill and bass fillets from nearby Camp Lake. And our cousins and uncles would often bring by large packages of salmon and smelt. (In fact, I ate so much fresh salmon as a kid that I thought of it as common as tunafish. Shrimp, on the other hand, was a delicacy.)

*Think regional.  Are you headed to the East Coast on vacation? On the 2014 summer-spent-in-a-car (or by my mom's hospital bed), I brought back a four-pack of live lobsters, after a gig teaching at Maine Quilts. (Mom and my little brother loved them.) One of the best parts was the price -- they were less than half what I would have paid at home.
     It's not just fresh fish, either. (Although you should definitely stop by the local fish market, if you're headed home shortly after, and have a way to keep it cool.) Grocery stores -- even large chains like Wal-Mart -- often stock canned soups, chowders and seafood not easily found elsewhere. These make reasonably-priced souvenirs far more welcome than another painted rock or fancy gimcrack.
     Whatever's popular -- and fresh -- in the area you're visiting -- that's what you should look for.

*Make it stretch. Buy slightly more than you need -- and use the extra for a second dish! Flaked fish is delicious in a chowder, stew or an Irish fish pie.  Even a few shrimp or a handful of crab or salmon makes a pasta dish shine. Add veggies of the season for taste and presentation. (The ones listed here take advantage of our springtime produce, but substitute what you prefer.)

ELEGANT SEAFOOD PASTA
 (The Frugal Way)

1 pound dry spaghetti or fettucine
1-2 cups leftover seafood, chopped fine
    (even a half-cup will do - and mix different kinds, if you like)
3 tablespoons butter   (a splash of white wine is good here, too)
2 teaspoons garlic
3 chopped green onions
1/2 pound sliced mushrooms
1/2 pound diagonally-sliced asparagus (looks classier this way)
1/2 cup sour cream or yogurt
1 handful chopped fresh spinach
shaved parmesan cheese (or substitute a handful of grated mozzarella)

Boil the pasta until tender; drain. Meanwhile, saute the butter, garlic, onion, mushrooms and asparagus until barely cooked. Mix into the pasta, along with sour cream and spinach. Salt and pepper to taste, and serve with parmesan sprinkled over. Serves 4-5 hungry people...all with a little as a handful of seafood!



* * * * * * * * * * *
I am FINALLY feeling better. So is the Brick. We're still sleeping more than we usually do, and I need a quick nap in the afternoon to feel my best. But we're feeling better, and that's what counts.



Charley the Dog has been enjoying his springtime hobby: hunting down snakes. He slings them around his head like a lariat until they tire of his little game and refuse to 'play.' We have a family that lives down by the drainpipe -- I'm assuming that because they show up there every year. I don't mind; garter snakes are great for keeping mice and bugs down. (They also enjoy sunning themselves on the rock wall out front, freaking out my piano students on several occasions.)
     No doubt he sees himself as a hero in all this.

video

     The Mama is terrified of snakes, and cringes every time Charley brings her his latest 'present.' She's even threatened to stop visiting during the summer months.

video




The Brick is done with the Republican caucus. He was elected twice as a delegate, and has trudged off to those meetings. Today's was the last, though -- he won't be going to the national convention. (News both of us greeted with relief. Those meetings are BORING.)
     Since Daughter #1 was also a delegate -- but on the Democratic side -- it's made family discussions interesting. (More on this in coming weeks.)


The chickens are doing better -- and worse.  One of the 'cherry egger' hens developed a strange case of paralysis -- her head flopped over, as if she had a crick in her neck, and she spent much of her time in the coop, away from the others. We finally did away with her...then a second 'cherry egger' hen started cocking her head, as well.
     Was it some kind of contagious disease? Would the others start doing the same thing? What should we do?
     Acting on the possibility that this was 'wry neck' (a vitamin deficiency), the Brick began feeding our sick chickie a mixture of Vitamin E, selenium and oatmeal. He also brought her water, a large spoonful at a time, until she began to drink on her own again.
     Three days of this, and she's improved greatly -- her head is only slightly cocked. I went out to check on her this afternoon, and got fussed at: 'Where's my special food, doggone it!' So much for gratitude.
     When we got the 'cherry egger' chicks last spring, the feedstore clerk told me that they would lay better in the cold months. That hasn't happened. They seem to be more susceptible to problems. And they certainly aren't that smart. We've lost 3, so far -- one to this 'wry neck,' and another to a mystery sickness that happened while we were in Mexico. There's no doubt in my mind that had the treatment not worked, we would have lost this one, as well. (A third bird got her head stuck under the coop and choked to death. Stupid chicken.)
     The other breeds haven't been this much trouble...though the Black Australorps have a distressing tendency to be broody. (That means they tear out their breast feathers, stop eating and sit in the nesting boxes for days on end, doing nothing. Doesn't accomplish anything, either, since we don't have a rooster.)
     The rest of the chickens -- we're down to 19 or 20 now -- are in fine health, but have cut back on eating. Egg production's dropped, too. (That's the 'worse' part.) What are they up to? Well, friends, they're molting. Which means they eat, wander around and chase each other -- and accomplish very little, eggwise. Oh goody.
     I have to shovel out the coop this coming week, and sterilize it. I'm so looking forward to it...can you tell?

Get to work, Missy -- I want that coop SPOTLESS!

   

A Strange Experience

    Sunday lunch was barely finished when the text came. 'We just pulled into Castle Rock,' it read. 'We'll wash off the ...