Sunday, July 31, 2016

Monday Stuff On the Way to Other Stuff: How Can It Be August?

Not that I mind too much. 

Except it's hot. And stuffy. And easier to stay inside, even though the garden's finally kicking stuff out. The peas are gone, but greens are ready to cut. Tomatoes are blooming.  And the green beans Charley somehow missed are flowering. Whoo hoo -- stirfry, butter and lemon, here we come.

A thankful note: this blog has had a LOT of visitors lately, what with the news about Quilter's Newsletter shutting down, and my "Thriving at Rock Bottom" food series. Thank you so much for visiting. I hope you'll subscribe by e-mail...and stay awhile!

25 weird things people found hidden in their homes. Btw, you can get through this even easier by just clicking on the top listing, changing the number...and clicking. (From Lifebuzz)

A family tries to change a street name -- because it's been misspelled for decades. It was named for their ancestor, a respected missionary. The Brick found this item, but we were both surprised -- this street (now 'Bulkey,' should have been 'Bulkley') is in our neighborhood. The entire tract was originally owned by a Baptist church, which received it as part of an inheritance. We already knew that 'Allen,' 'Betty' and 'Harvey' (other streets) were most probably the pastor and his wife, or related staff...but wow, a missionary, too. Cool. (We live in the 'show house,' first built to show off the property -- then moved into by the church secretary. Don't get excited, though...this was back in the Sixties.)

Chick-Fil-A's worth boycotting...until they're serving their food at the DNC. Then, oops! It tastes too good to boycott. (Maybe the protestors can start up later, after the last lattice fry is gone.)

More than a dozen amazing food hacks. For example: boil an unopened can of sweetened condensed milk in water for a few hours. What do you get? Caramel sauce, with no effort. Wow!  (From Cracked)

Need money? Sell your engagement ring. Or, in some cases, trade it for a faux diamond, I would think. (I never got a diamond -- we didn't have the money back then. But we did get the best-quality gold wedding bands we could -- and they've greatly increased in value. Thanks for the nudge, Make Money Your Way.)

A day in the life of the Frugalwoods -- updated homestead edition. I wondered how they were doing, now that they've moved to their much-wished-for country home, baby in tow.

Ten discoveries almost lost before they were found.  (From Listverse)

Art inspired by candy! Framed displays of pixie sticks, candy dots and my favorite -- wax 'pop' bottles. (From Cleverly Inspired) Speaking of that:

Ten mistakes NOT to make while promoting your art.  (From Artnet)

"A letter to my wife: Get a job -- now!"  

"I want to die."  I don't know what to think about this. See what you think.  (From Penelope Trunk)

"My student loans are paid -- and here's how I did it." An unusual solution that may be worth considering for some.  (From Inside the Box)

'The day the tyrannical government suspended my driver's license.' You'll enjoy this irritated rant about bureaucracy gone wrong...mostly because it's not happening to YOU. (From the Financial Samurai -- poor guy.)

A developer is trying to save a possible Lost Colony spot from being his own company. This is a puzzling (but noble, I guess) one. Yes, he'll get a percentage if the property is sold to someone else for preservation...but it's not as much as if they did develop it, he argues. And he's keeping a slice for himself. (The 'best part,' he says.) Are we supposed to praise him for all the mixed messages he's sending?

Have a good cooling week.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Food...And Camping

Are you ready? Here goes...

I'm not done yet. 

One more.

Now I'll behave.

(Please don't hurt me.)


One person who's been showing us just these actions is
                   Daughter #2's new fiance, Keith. 

You've met him occasionally on this blog; now he's going to be permanent.
       The Brick and I couldn't be happier. 

    While they've been in Michigan, announcing their engagement to The Mama and the rest of the family there, we've been up in the mountains, dogs in tow, looking at old mine ruins. Colorado is full of these out in the boonies, usually up four-wheel drive trails. If you're willing to forego fancy toilets and hot water showers for a few days, you can see amazing things. 

     We camped in a big meadow...and woke up this morning to munching noises. The cattle herd we'd seen down the road was now surrounding our tent! Charley, who normally shows great interest in all things bovine, was just a little bit tooo close to these Big Things Who Mooed. He took the tactful approach, and pretended he had things to do elsewhere. ("Protecting you, Mom. That's what I'm doing.") Keith and Angel's dog Karma barked...then ignored them. (She also rolled in cowflops the first night we camped there, so we all got to enjoy whiffs of poop throughout the trip. The stinker -- literally.) 
     Abby just ignored them -- period. 

Home now, back to hot weather and dogs snoozing everywhere. And plans starting...why didn't someone tell me that thinking of wedding possibilities for your kid is wonderful? I am beginning to understand why other people do this with such pleasure. No specifics yet, but they'll come soon.

     Welcome to the family, Keith. You are very welcome. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

AQS Syracuse Prizewinners

Want to see who won in the quilt competition at AQS' latest show -- Syracuse, New York?

Go here for more, including photos.  And if you're saying to yourself, "Gee, I saw at least some of these at the Paducah show earlier this year"...
     you're right.

Judges make jokes about Really Good Quilts making the circuit -- because that's what their owners/makers do. The best quilts often take years to stitch. So wouldn't it make sense to enter them in more than one competition, so they can take advantage of different judges and differing viewpoints?
    It makes sense...but as a judge, you keep hoping to see something new. However, it's the best piece that wins the competition -- and in different shows, that means different pieces entered.

In this case, Best of Show was quilt #116, "Ewe Are My Sunshine," by Janet Stone of Overland Park, KS.
      Nice job, Janet.

Bite Off Your Moment of Happiness

Daughter #2 shared this gem of positive thinking:


We've had dogs who thought like this.

(Photo credit: David Fleetham/Alamy. The meme: GD Falksen. Thanks for the inspiration, guys!) 

Thriving At Rock Bottom, Part III: Everyday Meals in the Life of the Bricks

By now, you've had a chance to wade through Part I and Part II of my 'dirt cheap meals' series. I'm hoping that the tips and tricks I've learned over the years, both on my own and from others (including a very frugal grandma), were of help to you, too. 

Now to apply those lessons to everyday life. Our life. 

I use a combination of techniques for our food choices, including scrounged, discount and sale items. I'll also stockpile when I find especially good sales. Just snagged $1.47/lb boneless chicken breasts -- no skin or fat -- plus boneless pork loin at this price -- from our local Safeway. I also shop our other local grocery store, King Soopers, for their milk -- the best-tasting, at $1.99 for a gallon. (I thin the milk with water at a 1/3 to 1/2 ratio, and keep some at full strength for use in coffee or tea.)
      Other than staples like milk and butter, if it's not on sale or marked-down, with rare exceptions, I don't buy it. I just wait.
     This approach has worked surprisingly well.


    Eggs are a workhorse in our morning meals -- we have these at least four days a week. (Are you surprised, since we have chickens?) At our customer rate ($4.00/dozen), these cost us about 33 cents each. But they're fresh, have a richer taste, and we often eat up the cracked or pecked eggs the little stinkers provide.

    Some kind of meat goes alongside -- generally either bacon ($7.99 for a two-pound package of bacon ends, sliced thin to cover 7 or 8 meals) or sausage ($2/lb or less -- a recent purchase was $1.50/lb beer bratwurst, marked down from King Soopers). Ham is often substituted when it's on sale for Easter.
    I'll supplement these with toast (homebaked bread, free from the thrift shop, or $1-1.50 each from the Friday/Saturday store, or from the discount shelf at King Soopers) or tortillas (about 5 cents each, bought in bulk at Wal-Mart), plus a sprinkle of cheese ($1-2/lb at Fri/Sat or Sprouts, rarely more) or jam (homemade from The Mama, or discount from Fri/Sat or King Soopers).

Cinnamon rolls make an occasional appearance. (Mostly homemade -- or tubed versions, when $1.50 or less.) So does coffeecake or doughnuts -- only if homemade or marked-down.  We'll have cold cereal, too, on occasion -- but only when I can find boxes for $1-2 each. Oatmeal (about 69 cents/lb -- about 15 cents a serving) shows up now and then, supplemented with nuts ($5/lb or less) and cinnamon. We'll also be eating the Mighty Good hot cereal just delivered.

I accidentally left off the most important items! The Brick's mom must have been frightened by a maple syrup truck while she was carrying him, because he will eat pancakes or waffles every time I'm willing to make them. (Crustease mix from Sam's, because it's inexpensive, easy and tastes good. The waffles get made from scratch.) I often add nuts or fruit to increase the nutrition, and we try to buy a jug or two of real maple syrup whenever we visit Michigan. (My grandparents ran a 'sugar bush' for some years, and there were still old spigots in the maple trees on the folks' farm.)
     French toast comes in a close third -- and is a good way to use up stale bread.

Coffee is a given -- the Brick makes the best coffee in the world. He grinds it every morning from beans. ($6.99/lb on sale, from Sprouts -- we'll buy a six-month supply when it's on sale, and supplement it with multi-pound packs of Boyer's Rocky Mountain Thunder brand coffee -- Sam's Club.) We're fussy about our tea, too -- we like stronger British brands, like P & G. (Discounted or Daily Deal purchases from Amazon.) Herb teas are generally purchased for a buck or two. (Damaged packages, from touring the Celestial Seasonings plant in nearby Boulder.)


     We stopped eating these much after the Brick retired -- now we'll typically snack, instead. (See that category soon.) If we make an exception, it's generally supper leftovers or sandwiches. (The latter use leftover meat, egg salad, grilled cheese or peanut butter and jam -- pb often from the Fri/Sat store.)
     Soup also appears -- often leftovers from supper the night before. We'll also have canned soup. (Campbell's chicken noodle, still my favorite, from a 50 cents/can stash that's rapidly diminishing -- or Chunky soups, thinned half-and-half with water or milk, for 99 cents/can -- often on sale at grocery stores, or from the dollar store.) Bread and crackers ($1-1.50, Fri/Sat store, or on sale), with chunks or slices of cheese or meat, fill in any empty spots.

Oh, my...


Some nights, we have a multi-course meal my grandma would be proud of:  meat, potatoes, gravy, veg and dessert. (Either homemade, on sale or marked-down. We just had a $1.99 blueberry pie from Wal-Mart, for example.)
     Other nights, it's macaroni and cheese, with a can of tuna stirred in (50 cents each on sale, Safeway). It all depends on time, energy...and where we have to be, in an hour or so. Generally, though, I use the oven to bake meats, potatoes and/or casseroles. I tend to use only 1/2 pound of meat or less for two this filling (and quick) dish:

     Bake a potato -- when almost done, slit open, insert a strip of bacon and sprinkle with cheese. Bake 10 minutes more until sizzling; serve with veggies.

     Veggies are sometimes fresh, cut into crudites with dressing, sometimes in salad form, sometimes from the garden (which isn't doing so good this year), and sometimes frozen. The first two often come from sales at Sprouts, or farmer's markets -- the latter is usually 99-cent frozen mixes. (I like the stirfry one, especially.) We have some canned versions too...but not as many since Sprouts opened up in town. Their veggie and fruit specials are truly inspiring year-round.

     You may notice that fish is not a primary ingredient in our diet. (Chicken is -- or can be. We also get a lot of wild game from hunting that we'll substitute for beef or pork. It's lean and flavorful.) That's because Colorado is a dry state -- fish and seafood are hard to find at reasonable prices. I'll grab it on sale or out of the marked-down bin, checking carefully for freshness. Canned oysters and clams ($1-2 at Fri/Sat or the dollar store) make nice pasta salads, as well as nice chowders for the seven fish dishes.

      I stockpile rice (about 40 cents/lb, 25-pound bag from an Oriental market or Sam's), pasta or noodles (50 - 69 cents each, on sale...or $1, at the dollar store). These last a long time in bulk, and along with beans, will be helpful when The World Ends. (Sooner than later, depending on which political party you talk to -- and it flipflops a lot.) 
     I often make my own white sauce if doing a casserole. (A recipe for this will be coming soon.) Cheating is okay, using canned soup, but mushroom soup in our neck of the woods is often going for a buck a can now. (ouch) Tomato sauce ($1-1.50 each, on sale or Fri/Sat store -- just got 2 large cans of Hunt's mushroom spaghetti sauce for 49 cents each) comes in handy for pasta or Pizza ($1-1.50, homemade or $2-4 each, purchased on sale) is a favorite, as is soup with biscuits or cornbread. (Check out the Holiday Goodies blog for a bunch of recipes in this category.)

     And don't forget beans. One of our stars is chili: The Mama home-cans tomatoes that are perfect with a half-pound of hamburger and a walloping lot of kidney or pinto beans. We use Anasazi beans, too. Black beans are not big on my list, though the Brick likes them. (80 cents/lb, on sale or Fri/Sat store. The Anasazi beans were in a 50-pound sack from Dove Creek, CO -- 50 cents/lb.) These are delicious done New England-style with molasses (this link includes my grandma's recipe), or mixed with beef, pork or chicken in tacos and enchiladas. (Sauce on sale, or the Fri/Sat store -- as little as $1.49 for a huge can.) Dry beans are cheapest, but I keep a couple of cans in stock (79 cents - dollar) for last-minute meals, as well.

Black-eyed peas, Hoppin' John-style, are great, too.
     Use these for a really easy beans and rice dish:
Cook a cup of rice (20 min). While it's cooking, chop fine a handful of onion, green pepper and any little amounts of veggies you have wilting in the crisper. Add a can of beans with liquid, plus a tablespoon of hot sauce or salsa. Serve over rice. 
    Meat variation:  add any leftover meat, also chopped fine. Chicken and rice is even easier:  add a cup of chopped chicken, plus veggies and a chicken bouillon cube, to the rice before cooking.


This one is tough. We're both trying to lose weight, and it's easy to munch at length. I just bought several bags of potato and tortilla chips, ostensibly for camping ($1.49 each on sale at Safeway), and they're almost gone. I need to behave myself.
     Popcorn is common. (from a 25-pound bag -- Sam's -- about 50 cents/lb, plus a few tablespoons butter) So are baby candy bars and chocolate-covered grahams from the dollar store. I'll buy Keebler cookies, too -- if they're half-price or less. (Happens more than you think.) Regular candy bars make an appearance only if they're on sale, or marked down after a holiday, like Christmas, Valentine's Day, Halloween or Easter. We just snagged a pile of Ferrante-Rocher filled chocolates: three-packs 5 for $1, at the Fri/Sat store. Sometimes they or Tuesday Morning have Mozart Kugeln, too. Yum.


     Otherwise, I'll make cookies or cake, like the banana cake just baked. (Bananas, 35 cents/lb from Sprouts -- pecans from Sam's Club, about $5/lb in two-pound bag. Flour and sugar from Sam's in bulk, or on sale at King Soopers.) The Brick is especially fond of homemade chocolate chip cookies...but doesn't get them that often.
     Fruit in season is also on the snack menu -- but I hold it to $1/lb, or less, with the exception of blueberries. Strawberries and cherries are winding down, our own raspberry bushes are almost done, and blueberries are starting to wane. We'll head to Palisade in a few weeks for peaches -- usually we buy 5 or 6 bushels, at about 25-50 cents/lb. Some peaches get resold to friends at cost, or given away; I stash a lot in the freezer. We also eat them. Fresh peaches, with the luscious juice running down your chin, are one of life's great pleasures.
     I'll be in Michigan to visit the Mama in September -- perfect timing for the apple crop. I'll be taking a suitcase full of Christmas presents, since we're not headed back there for the holidays. Guess what it will hold, on the way home?

BIRTHDAY SUPPER FOR FIVE -- This was the menu for Daughter #2's celebration Monday night. (She turns 28 -- and just got engaged!) I almost added baked potato fries (potatoes, a splurge at 35 cents a pound), but held back because of the buns. (We try to limit to one carb a meal.)

Shrimp/tomato cocktail juice   (59 cents, from the Friday/Saturday store)
Grilled burgers   (Patties for $2.39/lb, with a second package at $2/lb. I had to really look for these prices-- as I'm sure you know, beef is expensive right now)
Homemade buns    (flour, sugar, yeast, salt, dried milk -- and half a stick of butter)
Green bean casserole  (Daughter #2's favorite. Green beans 99 cents/lb and a few mushrooms at 50 cents from Sprouts, can of mushroom soup 50 cents -- from the stockpile. Plus a King Soopers tub of Greek yogurt, marked down: 39 cents.)
Tomato and pickle slices   (Roma tomatoes, 90 cents a pound from Sprouts; Jason's Deli garlic dills from Friday/Saturday store -- about $1.50.)
Assorted fruit    (peaches, green and red grapes -- from Sprouts, all at about $1/pound)
Grasshopper pie  (marshmallows and chocolate-covered cookies from the dollar store, creme de menthe from my stash, a little milk, grated chocolate from a Lindt bar purchased at Tuesday Morning for about a buck. Plus a dollar package of birthday candles.)

I've come to a few conclusions about food and meals:

    * I have to be vigilant about all this. Sales, marked-down items and "can you use this" offers from friends tend to come out of nowhere. Grab them when you can.

    *We need to keep extra money on hand, to take advantage of sales. That means adding regularly to the emergency fund, even when life is running smoothly. (Here are some unusual ways of making extra cash. More ideas elsewhere in this blog, too.)

     *I can go overboard. If it were up to me, we would have missed out on some memorable experiences -- simply because I was too much of a Hollander to cough up the money. The night we had a steak dinner at the local diner, after we'd come home, tired and dirty, from a rain-filled camping trip. The expensive dinner downtown, to celebrate the Brick's promotion, or a new book contract. (Okay, we used coupons or Groupons.) The Sunday stop at a buffet, because I was too exhausted to cook, after hours of singing on Worship Team.
     The Brick enjoys saving -- but he also has an innate sense when we can actually afford to do these things. So far, he's never been wrong.

So save money on food -- but savor it, too. After all, that's what it's all about.

This photo, and others, courtesy of

More good sources:
All You:  100 recipes that clock in at a dollar...or less.

Budgets Are Sexy:  recipes for a dollar a day.

Helpful blogs:  Life After Money
                         Poor Girl Eats Well
                         101 Cookbooks                    (a range, including expensive and frugal --
                                                                            many unusual and ethnic recipes)
                         My Messy, Thrilling Life    (especially the earlier posts)
                         The Pioneer Woman    (Ditto. Her later posts, when she became much
                                                                   better-known, are often sponsored -- and more expensive)
                          Moneysaving Mom                  (Worth exploring for the frugal living tips.
                                                                                        A lot of good recipes and links, too.)
                          Feed Yourself For A Pound A Day  (just started reading this one - the British
                                                                    terms are a little hard to translate, but worth it)
                          Living on A Dollar A Day  (no recipes, but a good reminder that other people in
                                                                                  other countries often live on a lot less)
                          Living on A Dollar A Day   (ABC's version)

Now on to baking perfect chocolate chip cookies...once I figure out the grams business.

Quilting Setbacks

You couldn't tell it by looking here...

    But as I mentioned last Monday, Quilter's Newsletter magazine will be no more after the Oct./Nov. 2016 issue.

the Aug./Sept. 2016 issue
Ironically, many of the magazines influenced by QN, including Quiltmaker (an offshoot at the time), plus McCall's Quilting, will continue publishing. Good for them...I'm glad.

But QN's demise breaks the heart -- particularly for this writer/quilter, who learned her chops while working as an editor there in the 90s.

I had other jobs back then; you may remember my name from the Quilts & Other Comforts Fabric Club. I was managing editor for their newsletter, designed patterns and helped choose fabrics. I also wrote the newsletter for the wholesale division back then, and talked to a lot of shopowners and retailers for articles, surveys and such.

But my main job was editorial at Quilter's Newsletter, under such greats as Mary Leman and Jeannie Spears. Karen O'Dowd's office was across the hallway from mine, and we had many interesting conversations.
     At that time, Bonnie Leman was close to retiring. (She died in 2010.) But she interviewed me for the job. (Something I remember in awe, like meeting Elvis.) She still published pattern collections then under her name. (She chose the quilts, we editors and artists designed and wrote the patterns for those quilts. If you've read a book by Bonnie Leman from that period, you were most probably looking at some of my and others' work, too.) And she continued to have input on what made it into the magazine -- and what didn't.

When I began working for QN, I'd been writing for decades. My last job before that had been for Boulder's newspaper, The Daily Camera, and I'd been freelancing for a long time. I knew how to write -- that wasn't a problem. And I knew how to quilt -- I'd been doing it for a few years, and had started teaching, as well.

I thought I knew how to write quilt patterns. I remember submitting the first one, proud as punch -- and having it soundly rejected.
     Marie Shirer ripped apart my text -- she didn't like it one bit. I still remember her emphasizing that "over" was a direction -- I should use "more than" when referring to numbers. (Something, by the way, that many, many people still mess up on.)
     Vivian Ritter, one of my best mentors, said, "Cindy, you've got this layout all wrong." And she was right! Being a left-handed person, I'd laid the pattern pieces out as if a left-hander was reading it. Magazines, if you haven't noticed, are laid out for the majority: right-handers. Vivian taught me a lot about clipping corners on patches so they fit together better, estimating yardage and shortcuts that made for better accuracy -- all techniques I still use today. (Thanks, friend. I'm so grateful.)

QN almost made it to its 50th birthday. What a celebration that would have been! I will never forget the friends I made there -- it was (and has been, since then) a huge influence on my work.

Quilter's Newsletter, sadly, is not the only quilt-related program or publication to go under in recent years:

The National Quilting Association (NQA) shuttered its doors -- and its yearly national show.

Mary Fons and her mom had their "Quilt Your Heart Out" podcast cancelled.

The American Quilter's Society will no longer be publishing books, although its magazine, American Quilter, continues. (There's one large exception: Ann Hazelwood's quilt novel series will continue for a while. Fortunately.)

The Kansas City Star, publisher of my Quilts of the Golden West, shut its quilt book division down, as well -- and sold the titles to C&T.

These are just a few -- there are others. 
Update:  Now IMQA -- the International Machine Quilting Association -- is no more, along with its show, MQS -- the Machine Quilters Showcase. The board sent out a July 26 letter, celebrating the group's recent 20th anniversary...and announcing that it would 'dissolve.' What a shame.

It's a difficult, competitive world out there -- and the quilt world is changing along with everything else. Podcasts and e-books have affected publishing. And although the nature and techniques of quilting have often stayed the same...not much else has.

Some of my colleagues are gloomy about the future. They seem to be predicting that the quilt world will fall apart and collapse altogether. I don't think this -- our shared art has such a history, a community about it. It's lasted for literally thousands of years, through hard times and good.

There will always be a baby or grandfather who needs a warm covering, and a bagful of fabric scraps that needs to be used up. When those two variables combine, a quilt often results. And the tradition continues.

Will we stay the same? Of course not. Quilting will change. (The Modern Quilt Guild's influence has already proven that.)

But what's next?

It will be interesting to find out.
Quilters Newsletter June/July 2016 (QN10616)
Love and kisses, QN -- we'll miss you.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Astronaut Was Right!

Yes, plants CAN be grown on Mars-like soil. Scientists from the Netherlands have been doing it since 2013 from soil similar to Martian dirt, based on analyses from NASA.

Though Mars soil has a high concentration of heavy metals, four of the ten crops grown have tested as okay for human consumption.

If you're going to be one of the first settlers on Mars, plan on eating radishes, peas, rye and tomatoes.
 (That's what the scientists have grown safely, so far.)

Potatoes are next, ironically -- 

And yes, I'm thinking of The Martian.  In case you didn't see it (or read the even-better novel), this is the story of an astronaut stranded on the Red Planet for years, while his colleagues try to mount a rescue.  (More here via Wikipedia, if you're interested.)

How does he survive?

 By eating potatoes grown in soil nourished by, shall we say... organic byproducts.

You know what to do, Dutch scientists!

The tired and worn face of a man wearing a space suit, with the words "Bring Him Home" overlaid in white lettering. In smaller lettering the name "Matt Damon" and the title "The Martian
thank you, Wikipedia.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Monday Stuff On the Way to Other Stuff: Hot, Then Cold, Then Hot...

"Why do you have that blanket wrapped around you?" asked the Brick. "It's HOT out here!"

    Which was when I realized that it hadn't turned chilly, all of a sudden: I was running a fever. 

We were planning on going camping this weekend, but my bout with summer flu changed that. I still seem to have it (the fever) resurface now and then, but am feeling better. (Either that, or the temperatures outside are going up and down like a yo yo.) 

A grateful thanks to those of you who've been visiting because of the Thriving At Rock Bottom series. Two parts are up now -- and the third will appear this week. Welcome.

A good look at commemorative and memorial ribbons -- yes, in quilts, too.  (From Barbara Brackman's Civil War Quilts )

Infinity pools that stretch practically to infinity. Gee, they look so refreshing... (From Urban Daddy)

32 desks that make working at home possible for anyone.  (From Domino) Like this one:

 Small Home Office Desk brown secretary desk

and this cool one.  (I wish somebody would build me a swing like this!)

 Small Home Office Desk wood desk with white chair

The world's hottest day ever recorded...and it just happened. Kuwait got the honor at 54c. That's 129 DEGREES for us schmucks in the States. And I thought we were having hot days...

Celebrity food tattoos. Got a bunch of money? Waste it on a tattoo of Vegemite! Don't laugh...Miley Cyrus did just that. (From Urban Daddy)

More about Senator Tim Kaine, Hillary Clinton's VP pick.  Personally, I see a lot to like in this guy. Mrs. Clinton -- not so much.

Five reasons homesteaders fail. One of them: disillusionment, when your garden fails -- or your dog digs it up.  (From Living in Rural Iowa)

22 ways to renovate your home -- on a small budget.  (From Apartment Therapy)

Old CDs...for a backsplash?  We need to do something in our kitchen. Maybe this would work. (From Instructables)

Also:  a $2 vacuum sealer you can make yourself. Wish the Brick would make this for me.

'What Being Thrifty Means to Me.'  A new blog I've been devouring, full of practical ideas to save. She's single, with two kids, and knows what it's like to live on a small income. (From Thrifty Mom in Boise)

Prom photos -- hey, what's that behind you??

Shoplifters galore. Our local Douglas County sheriff posted this interesting video of a threesome fleecing a woman at the grocery store:

I have GOT to be more careful...I've been walking away from my purse in the cart lately.

That led me to this video -- the store celebrates her as the 10,000 shoplifter to visit the store, complete with cake, champagne...and marching band!

Coming to terms with past financial mistakes -- particularly when they've affected people you love. This is a remarkable post. (From the Simple Dollar)

The LA Times is promising I'll 'understand this election'...if I fork out a dollar a week for their digital access.  Hey, if they can explain this madness... sign me up!

A social justice group, The Maine People's Alliance, is advocating for an across-the-counter rate of $12 minimum. So what do they offer in their own employment ad? $10/hr. They say it was a mistake....oh yes, and it's fixed now. Uh-huh.

My All-American...also known as Courage. We watched this football movie last week, about a University of Texas player who's undersized, yet ends up inspiring the whole team. See if you can watch this without crying. (I couldn't.)

Sigh...I miss football.

Christie's reports a steep drop in sales... but it seems connected more with sales on the Really Important Stuff. My colleagues in the textile appraising field, however, have felt that overall prices for quilts, etc. have gone down -- sometimes more than they deserved to. Hmmm...

Have a great week.

The feeling's mutual, Buddy.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

A New Way to Resurrect Shoes

Are your sneakers, flat slippers or espadrilles stained...or just tired-looking?

Tie-dye them in variegated shades. No dipping, either. WAYYY too easy...which makes it even more interesting!

 I could see doing this with anything textile-related, but would double-check for colorfastness. How do you do that? One easy way: wet a q-tip, then rub it against the item. If color comes off, you need to set that dye. (Heat-setting it with a hot iron works, particularly if the item in question is still damp.)

Instructions here, thanks to Instructables, a great site for all sorts of how-tos.

Another version, with a more 'marbled effect,' using shaving cream.
             (No, I am not making this up.)

Friday, July 22, 2016

Interest In Lincoln Comes to A Head

(Sorry -- couldn't resist.)

A locket and matching brooch, picturing log cabin scenes formed of hairs taken from President Abraham Lincoln's head by one of his doctors, Sabin Taft...

            while Lincoln lay dying April 14, 1865, the night of his visit to Ford Theatre.

He actually died early the morning of the 15th. Question: why is the brass plate dated the 14th?
    Is that because Dr. Taft left before the President actually expired? (Taft was at the autopsy.)

, This item is currently being reviewed by our catalogers and photographers. A written description will be available along with high resolution images soon.

Makes you wonder about the backstory.

, This item is currently being reviewed by our catalogers and photographers. A written description will be available along with high resolution images soon.

Next mystery:  The Mt. Vernon Association mentions a Dr. Charles S. Taft, and calls him Lincoln's "attending surgeon." (Is 'S' for Sabin?)

    According to David Osborn, 

"The 30-year-old army surgeon attended the performance of “Our American Cousin” at Ford’s Theatre in Washington on April 14, 1865, because he wanted to see the President. The Civil War had ended days earlier in Union victory...people wanted to share the great moment with the commander-in-chief, and word spread around town that the President would be at the theatre that night.

       'All went on pleasantly until half past ten o’clock, when, during the second scene of the third act, the sharp report of a pistol rang through the house,' Taft wrote the next day. 'The report seemed to proceed from behind the scenes on the right of the stage, and behind the President’s box. While it startled everyone in the audience, it was evidently accepted by all as an introductory effect preceding some new situation in the play, several of which had been introduced in the earlier part of the performance. A moment afterward a hatless and white-faced man leaped from the front of the President’s box down, twelve feet, to the stage. As he jumped, one of the spurs on his riding boots caught in the folks of the flag draped over the front, and caused him to fall partly on his hands and knees as he struck the stage. Springing quickly to his feel with the suppleness of an athlete, he faced the audience for a moment as he brandished in his right hand a long knife, and shouted, “sic sempter tyrannis.” Then, with a rapid stage stride, he crossed the stage and disappeared from view.
     'I leaped from the top of the orchestra railing in front of me upon the stage, and, announcing myself as an army surgeon, was immediately lifted up to the President’s box by several gentlemen who had collected beneath.' "
     (Read Taft's diary account of Lincoln's last hours by clicking here.)

     "He helped to diagnose the wound, declared to be mortal, and assisted in carrying Mr. Lincoln to a back room in a boardinghouse across the street," says Osborn. "Through the long night and vigil, in a small room filled with cabinet officers, Lincoln’s wife and son, and physicians, Dr. Taft assisted with various, almost hopeless medical procedures. In a famous painting of the deathbed scene, Dr. Taft is shown holding the President’s head."

('Assistant Surgeon' Taft is mentioned in another doctor's recounting of that night, as well. This account, by Lincoln's 'family doctor,' includes Lincoln's postmortem.)

     Taft continued to practice medicine in the Army until 1876, and eventually moved to Mount Vernon, NY in 1899. He died there of throat cancer in December 1900.

I could find no mention of Harding, KY in Taft's biography. (Admittedly, it is brief.) But he must have clipped quite a chunk -- at least one other locket exists, housing a lock of Lincoln's hair said to have cut by Dr. Taft. (Memorial and mourning artifacts using hair were very common in the Victorian period.)

This jewelry is part of the items in a memorabilia auction, "Lincoln and His Times," that will be hosted by Heritage Auctions Sept. 17 in Dallas.   More on these items here, with additional updates added soon.  General auction info is here; consignments include posters, banners, photos...and a life mask of our 16th president. Wish I could be there in person.

An iconic photograph of a bearded Abraham Lincoln showing his head and shoulders.
Mr. Lincoln, courtesy of Wikipedia

, This item is currently being reviewed by our catalogers and photographers. A written description will be available along with high resolution images soon.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Thriving At Rock Bottom: Dirt Cheap Meals PART II

You've Got It -- What Do You Do With It?

Sometimes you need to economize.
     Maybe a trip's coming up.
     Or a new (and large) purchase.
     A medical bill.
    The holidays.  (They'll be here before you know it.)

And if you've read PART I, you know that one of the few categories with some wiggle room is:

PART I suggested different foods and approaches. Now's your chance to make those careful purchases count!

*Eggs, eggs: the versatile fruit. Scrambled eggs take only a few minutes to make, and are protein-packed. Fold them into a heated corn tortilla with grated cheese, and you've got a crunchy quesadilla -- or what our family calls 'cheese guys.' Not only are these portable -- they freeze well. Add a little crumbled bacon, sliced sausage or refried beans; salsa is good.
      They're good for supper too, as stuffed eggs, an omelet, a frittata...or adding substance to pasta and cheese. Pour sauce over the breakfast burritos and bake with cheese, if you've got leftovers.
      If you have a special event coming up, though, reserve a dozen eggs for cookies or a special cake. (No eggs left? You can still make delicious cake.)

*Got a celebration? Don't go out to eat. Instead, ask beforehand what the special person would like. Check sales ads, and freeze ahead of time, if needed.
     Many families have time-honored foods for certain holidays. One set of friends has Cornish hens for Christmas Eve; another family features prime rib. The Mama is fond of oyster stew, celery and appetizers. (For us, it's Seven Fish Dishes.) Planning ahead gives you time to search for the ingredients needed on sale or marked-down...instead of rushing out at the last minute and grabbing whatever you can find. Even if you must pay full price, planning ahead will let you set aside money to cover the lobster tails or pomegranates.

*Find your roots. Or sauces. The United States is a conglomerate of so many cuisines -- many of them from immigrants who came here with little money. Those people learned to make do and adapt, turning out delicious dishes in the process. (It's why American Irish serve corned beef for St. Patrick's Day, for example -- instead of mutton.) Explore your particular background, and you're bound to find a culture with budget food. Serve it proudly -- you're celebrating your heritage.

*Stretch your meat. Or fish. Or other protein. Don't just grill a large steak -- cut the piece in half lengthwise, grill both, and serve one. Thinly sliced, the remaining piece becomes Steak Salad, with greens, tomato, mushrooms -- and a touch of chopped onion. Two meals for one price.
     Chicken's even better. Roast it, and serve with mashed potatoes and gravy made from the pan drippings. Take all the meat off the bones, and set them to simmer in water overnight in a crock pot, along with any celery leaves, onion peels and other vegetable leavings. You'll have 4-6 cups of excellent chicken broth, which then can become the basis for chicken and dumplings, chicken a la king and chicken enchiladas. Along with the meat and any leftover gravy, you'll have enough for at least two more meals. Make a final meal of soup to clean up what's left. Voila: 4 meals from one chicken. (Or like this.)

* * * * * * * * * * * *


handful of diced chicken meat
whatever broth is left -- with a chicken bouillon cube or two added  (you'll need about 4 cups liquid)
a few handfuls of any chopped veggies   (corn, celery, carrots, onion, etc. Green pepper is especially good, if you can handle it -- the Brick has digestive issues)
can of chopped tomatoes  (or three fresh ones, chopped)
1 teaspoon taco seasoning or garlic...or 1 tablespoon salsa (keep more handy to taste)
1 egg (set aside for now)

Simmer together 15-20 minutes; stir the egg in, turn the heat off and wait a few minutes. Serve topped with a spoonful of sour cream or sprinkle of cheese, and tortilla chips.
    (Leftover salsa, rice or even chopped-up enchiladas or tacos can be added to this versatile dish.)

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

*Go vegetarian to save -- but you don't have to. The Bricks are a meat-eating tribe, plain and simple. I come from farming stock who raised their own cattle, pigs and chickens. They fished for bluegills and bass, salmon and smelt. And the entire family went hunting in the fall, for rabbit, pheasant and deer. (Some of the women knocked off early to go prepare supper, or feed the kids -- but everyone else stayed out.)
     Once or twice a week, we'll have beans and rice, macaroni and cheese or potato soup -- but we almost always have meat the rest of the time. We just have less of it.

*Substitute with abandon. The recipe calls for cream? Use milk. Tomato paste? Tomato sauce can do the trick -- if you use less liquid. Even one egg can be substituted, if you're short on hens' fruit. (Use an eggshell full of water instead, or a teaspoon of lecithin.) 'Short' a teaspoon to a tablespoon of butter, oil or sugar from what the recipe calls for-- you won't miss the extra calories. (Adjust by adding a little extra water, milk or broth, if needed.)
      You do NOT have to use exact ingredients for a tasty dish. In fact, as the Brick is discovering, many dishes allow you to add or subtract, using what you've got. (Make a note on the recipe afterwards, so you remember what options are possible.)
     If anyone calls you on this, remind them:   This is how the great chefs cook.

*'Echo' taste elements throughout the meal, for added interest. A squirt of lemon juice can flavor the soup or salad dressing...accent the roast chicken...and end a final note in lemon bars. Garlic has the same ability, a flavor for your audience to recognize and remember throughout the meal. (Except for dessert!)  So does rosemary, sage...and even 'sweet' spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. Flavors like these remind that you've planned and thought this meal through -- instead of just slapping it together from whatever you could scrape out of the vegetable crisper.

When life gives you lemons, make soup, salad, chicken...and cake

*Serve soup first. Not only does it make a meal more like a celebration, but it's a rare soup that isn't budget-minded. A cup of soup uses up leftovers, and adds a gracious note. Serve a generous bowlful, and guests will be too full to make inroads on that roast beef, especially if they've got mashed potatoes, biscuits or popovers (known as Yorkshire Pudding) to keep them busy. They're happy -- and you've got extra beef to work with!


     I've seen guests skimp on Shrimp Scampi, just so they can have a drop or two more of that delicious clam chowder. Guess what costs more?

*End with something sweet. You don't need an elaborate dessert for a successful meal. Instead, serve a piece of sliced fruit, a cookie or even a small truffle, along with a hot drink. It will be just as memorable...and give your satisfied family time to linger.

One luscious cookie. Or two.

*Learn from others who've been through this. Not only did our forebears occasionally have money struggles -- everyone does. Fortunately, the Internet is packed with bloggers who are happy to share their favorite ideas for stretching and serving good, inexpensive food. Don't be surprised if some of these become your family's -- and your -- favorite dishes!

I've learned from these and other posts:

Money Saving Mom  ("Is it possible to save money, when we're barely keeping our head above water?"   and "Choosing to be thankful when life is hard")

Apartment Therapy  ("Living on little to nothing -- Readers' tips")

Fundamental Home  ("How I feed my family of 5 for under $100 every month")

The Simple Dollar  ("20 favorite dirt cheap meals", plus readers' tips for more of same)

Blogs like Surviving And Thriving, Thrifty Mom in Boise, Like Merchant Ships (now archived, but still helpful), Poor Girl Eats Well and My Messy, Thrilling Life are consistently helpful with food advice, savings and recipes.

You'll find more help in my Holiday Goodies blog, including:

Bare Bones series  (everything from beans to apple crisp)

Bare Bones II series   (pasta and noodle dishes)

Flat-Broke Food series  (mac and cheese, caramel corn and more)

The Christmas Goodies blog helps out for Thanksgiving, Christmas -- and everything in between.

UPDATE:  Part III's up now...come on over.

PART III:  Everyday Meals, in the Life of a Brick (or Two)

Thriving At Rock Bottom: Dirt Cheap Meals Part I

     July is not a good month to be planning. 

     Hot weather. It's jaw-droppingly hot around here. Unless we stay inside (thank you, swamp cooler), we're sweating and panting within 30 min. or so. Even the dogs ask to stay inside -- unusual for Charley, especially.
     Neither of us feels particularly ambitious. The Brick has been looking up places to rent in Panama, and scoping out beaches for a possible trip to Ecuador, and a month of language school. (Not that we're headed there yet -- but it's a future possibility.) He also enjoys the latest political harangues, which have been plenty lately. 
     I hang out on 'thrifty' type websites, looking for tips. (Or reading about other people's cinnamon rolls and/or chickens.) I also troll for bargains, both at our local thrift stores (a big Goodwill just opened here), and online. Got some, too. A black cashmere Jos. A Bank sweater from Goodwill:  $4.24.  Big packages of Bob's Red Mill 'Mighty Good'  -- some of the best hot cereal ever made. (My Amazon price was very close to half of this one.) Gumball slot machines - Christmas presents for my piano students and our niece and nephew. An Amazon Warehouse Deal at $2 each, plus free shipping.
     The only problem: buying bargains (or putting down a deposit for vacations -- or language school) means putting out money. Money you may not have at the moment... especially when you have to renew your passports ($120 each - ouch), pay for a root canal (I just had two - both on the same tooth), and the bill envelopes for the month are knocking ominously at the front door. 

You may be in a different situation -- where medical costs or unemployment don't let you even think about luxuries. Heck, you have enough trouble covering your regular expenses. If you could only put aside $20, $50 or $100 every month into an emergency fund, it would make life easier. 

Time to save where you can -- and one of the best areas to do it in is groceries.

If you have to (note that phrase), you can live on less than $1.50 per person a day. (This lady has been doing it for years.) But it means that instead of buying whatever you feel like, whenever you feel like it, you'll have to plan. Doing this month by month is easiest.

First:   How much can you spend?

Next:  How many people are you feeding?   
           (Special diets, allergies and food preferences taken into account here, as well)

Finally:  Do you have birthdays or holiday celebrations you need to cover?

For accounting purposes, we'll be figuring at $1.50 daily x 28 days = $42.00 for each person you feed.  The Brick and myself make two, so I'll be factoring at $84.  (Yes, that sounds skimpy -- but remember: you're 'flat broke' this month, so the money can be used somewhere else. More about this in Part II.)

Just don't think about eating ME!


     *Know what you've got.  A regular check of your refrigerator, pantry and freezer shelves keeps food from going bad or freezer-burned. (A lot of 'out-of-date' products are actually still good to eat for some months -- check before you throw them out.)

     *Some foods keep well and cost less.  I always have at least a few packages, jars or cans of:
    --dry beans and peas (especially pinto, Northern, kidney, plus black-eyed peas and split peas)
    --peanut butter
    --flour, sugar and baking supplies
    -- tuna (but only if it's 2 for a buck) or another kind of meat (currently chicken and corned beef)
    --tortilla chips (good for snacking, nachos and padding out soup)
    -- cocoa and chocolate chips (the Brick is a sucker for chocolate chips, brownies and hot chocolate)
    -- rice, spaghetti (usually angel hair, because it cooks faster) and macaroni
    --a box or two of macaroni and cheese, canned beef stew (Dinty Moore, if we're feeling flush, served over rice or biscuits) and corned beef hash  (for camping and hurryup meals)
    -- canned fruit (usually peaches, pears or mandarin oranges)
    -- soup (especially Campbells' chicken noodle, as well as Chunky soups, which can also top rice)
    --canned tomatoes, jarred salsa and/or spaghetti sauce (good for cold dreary winter days)
    --something dessert-y: my staple is chocolate-covered grahams from the dollar store, or multi-packs of small candy bars. The Brick has a sweet tooth. (Okay, me too.)
    -- something exotic, be it Indian curry sauce, Vietnamese chili paste or German lebkuchen (for when you just need Something Different)
    --dried or shelf-stable milk and eggs (or egg whites) --
                                  good for when you run out, or the world ends.

     I also keep on hand:
    -- milk (whole milk, thinned with water 50/50)
    --eggs and cheese (cheddar and mozzarella -- swiss when I can find it cheap)
    --butter (taste is superior - use less if need be)
    --corn and flour tortillas (cheaper than bread here in Colorado, and just as good)
    --bread  (homemade, free from our local thrift shop, or marked down from the discount outlet)
    -- jam (for the Brick, but in baked goods -- especially tarts and Sachertorte)
    -- onions, garlic or leeks (onions dried, or in a large bag -- leeks sliced, in the freezer)
    --any produce or fruit currently in season

    I was storing potatoes, but have held back lately because of the carbs issue -- we're trying to stick more to protein, veggies and fruit. (That was before I heard about the all-potato diet. Hmmm.)
    Here's another person's list for added inspiration. Now make up your own!
         Stock up when these items are on sale; replenish sparingly until then.

     *What's cheap locally?  In our neck of the woods, it's trout, potatoes -- and in the summer, sweet corn, green beans, peaches and Rocky Ford melons. In the fall, it's potatoes, pumpkins and green chilies. (Hatch green chilies, imported from New Mexico) The Brick still fantasizes about the buckets of shrimp his mom bought at water's edge in North Carolina, and the crabs they caught off the dock, using chicken necks. Alas, those times are gone here in the High Desert, as well as the Great Lakes salmon I used to gorge on in Michigan.
      Whatever's plentiful in your area should be plentiful on your menu, too. 
      For one thing, it will cost less -- but it will also be fresher.

     *Cook it yourself.  Readymade food is easy...but rarely cheap. That also means baking your own bread and birthday cakes. (No doubt I'll be doing a Sachertorte or two for a girlie: Daughters #1 and #2 have early August birthdays within five days of each other.) Grill outdoors (cook double what you need), or use the crockpot. Double your recipes -- you'll have extra for the freezer or refrigerator. It's no fun to cook in hot weather.  (Iced coffee and smoothies come in handy too, use leftovers and take only a minute or two to make.)

     *Include dishes that make good use of bits and pieces. Pasta primavera -- spaghetti with cheese and every vegetable you can think of, chopped fine. (Add a handful of chopped bacon or ham, stir in an egg and you've got pasta carbonara, instead.) Even canned soups benefit from that last spoonful of peas or corn -- and homemade soups shine. A little cheese or chopped spinach on scrambled eggs, or even sprinkled inside a simple baked potato, gives it added class -- and flavor. (Not to mention staying power in your stomach. Protein is a good thing, in this case.) Stews, soups, pizza and casseroles are all excellent candidates for saving: search for recipes, using the specific items you have available. (Or check out my companion blog, Holiday Goodies -- you'll find plenty of budget recipes, especially around April Tax Day. I wonder why??)

     *Don't waste a thing. Bread going stale is just fine for French toast, bread pudding or grilled cheese sandwiches. Leftovers can be stirred into the dishes above, used for quick lunches, or featured at a 'dinner buffet.' Besides their other uses, bits and pieces can rev up a salad or be used as an accent. You shouldn't be throwing away a thing.
     Unless you've got chickens, that is.

I resemble that remark!
     *Buy (or use) just a little.  A few mushrooms, sliced thin on a pizza, or a tomato layered into a sandwich give your food a less 'make do' feeling, and make it more substantial.
Two surprising items for us:  spray whipped cream (lasts months longer than whipped topping tubs) and shelf-stable cooked bacon. (Hormel's from Sam's Club, so far.) A bit of these 'luxuries' keeps us from feeling deprived.
    Remember: you're not economizing because you have to -- you're doing it because it's smart. 

     *Eat seasonally.  When veggies or fruit are in season and sale-priced, your family should be feasting on them. If you can, buy a little extra and slice them up for the freezer -- even a few bags will help in fall and winter meals. (Yes, you should grow your own garden -- but it's too late to consider that now in most areas, unless you're planting greens. Maybe next year.)

    *Take advantage of discount opportunities.  Dollar stores, discount outlets (like our beloved Friday/Saturday store) international markets (Hispanic, Chinese and Vietnamese, primarily, in Denver) and discount groceries (Aldi's, for example) all fall into this category.

     *Pay close attention to sale ads, and stock up only when you see a GREAT price.  Our local Safeway and King Soopers ads have been pretty barren for the past few weeks -- until magically, both boneless chicken breasts and boneless pork loin are $1.49/pound.  I haven't seen chicken at that price for a few years, and it's close to the lowest for pork loin, as well. I'd be a fool not to buy five pounds or so, grill some (see above) and stash the rest in the freezer.
     Tortilla chips (Doritos, at $1.49) and strawberries ($1.25/lb, probably the last of the season) are also on sale. They'll go into the cart, along with whatever looks good in the marked-down bins.

Tomorrow:  Dirt Cheap Meals  Part II   (Update: it's up! Come on over.)
    Now you've got it -- What do you do with it?

UPDATE:  Part III's up, too -- stop by here.