Friday, June 30, 2017

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Hot And Tired -- But Laughing!

A typical day at the Brick House right now:

Work late. Everyone else is in bed...thank God, it's reasonably quiet. Get absorbed, and forget about the time. Stop when you hear the birds chirping good morning.

Get up. (It's already hot.) Dress quick -- in the closet preferably. Son #1 is working on the bathroom inside our bedroom, and You Never Know When He Might Start. (He's been staying overnight a lot to ease up on the hour-plus drive each way to Nederland.)

Let the dogs out. Let the dogs in. Oh no -- someone barfed AND pooped in the dining room! (All three dogs look suitably guilty.) Clean it up. Try not to throw up while you're doing it. Wash hands -- a lot.

Make breakfast. (Don't think about previous incident.) Call whoever's in the house to come and get it. Wait to use the bathroom. (We're down to one upstairs, due to renovations.)

Clear away dishes and get to work....until you're called to to: 1)go pick out a faucet/toilet/tile/whatever; 2)find something that's been misplaced; 3)go to work somewhere; 4)clean up quickly -- because a client's on the way.

Take a very fast shower. On to whatever's next. Squeeze in errands, if possible. Make it home, if you had to leave. (Denver traffic is awful -- at least an extra hour to get home right now.) Get cold drinks for everyone (ooh, iced coffee) before you:

Get back to work. Remember you have no clean underwear -- start a load of wash. Write a few notes, check on something else. Read texts and respond. Answer phone; it turns out to be a salesman. Feed the chickens and dogs. Look at Daughter #2's newest rock specimens -- they're great. Talk politics with the Brick for a while, or the latest oddball event or joke. Ignore any crashes, tinkling glass, etc. from the vicinity of still-working Son #1.

Get back to work. Hang out the wash first, then let the dogs out. Let them back in. Remember it's almost time for supper. Make it. Serve it. Unless you're headed to Worship Team practice, a meeting or another commitment:

Do something else for a while. Have a good conversation, watch a TV episode, or read a chapter or two of the latest book. (Now I know why I learned to speed-read, in the first place.) Grab the clothes off the line, before the latest thunderstorm sends them off to Kansas. Iron something -- fast.

Back to work. Write a blogpost. (Like this one.) Try to concentrate. The Brick wants you to head off to bed. least it's cooler now. Head for a snooze...or stay up, yawning, and try to finish up.

A trip to the post office, to ship the latest orders and client paperwork. Stop for milk and sale items. Drop off library books. (Charley loves these midnight runs.) Get home. Let the dogs out/in one more time. Settle down. Uh oh -- Abby is making gagging sounds. Quick: out again.


* * * * * * * * * * *

Maybe it's time for some Brazilian lemonade, and a few minutes reading these silly signs, thanks to El Arroyo Restaurant in Austin, TX.

 If they pick your slogan and Facebook it with 75 likes, you get yourself a $25 gift card!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

A Real Estate Mystery...Solved

A house hidden within a house?

What's inside? (Who wants to know?)

Actually, it's a historic log cabin in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, built by the first English settler to the area, Andrew Ramsey. About 1795.

It was found by Carl Armstrong, the man who grew up inside the house's walls, after his father bought the property in 1925. Armstrong didn't discover the cabin, though, until he began renovations in 2004. (He just thought the walls were extra-thick.)

The house literally enclosed all 20 x 20 feet of the log cabin, including its roof. Now it's back, fully revealed: that is, if you go inside. Thanks to Southern Weekend's video (see the clip at the link), and the kindness of the Armstrong family, we're able to do just that.

Go here for more. 

Shades of Old Abe Lincoln

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Monday, June 26, 2017

Monday Stuff On the Way to Other Stuff: Hamlet's A GIRL?!?

Call this week's 'Stuff' column the oddball version -- because there's been plenty of it this past week. For us, it was crowned by our long-awaited trip to the Colorado Shakespeare Festival to see Hamlet. This play is one of my very favorites, for its brooding uncertainties, ghost appearances and wonderful sword fights...not to mention I played Ophelia in a college version. (I wasn't that good -- but it was lots of fun. To make things even more interesting, the person playing Hamlet back then was an old boyfriend. Weird.) 
     We settled in, hoping for greatness. Instead, we got slumber party hijinks; actors who didn't seem to believe their own protestations of love and revenge -- let alone persuade us; a so-called love story that seemed to be more on the level of grabbing and punching; and to top things off, the final 'ferocious' sword fight was two girls poking rapiers at each other. ("Bitch-slapping," one of my students called it later. She was right.) 
    Some good stuff did appear, in the ghost form of Hamlet's father, who did a very credible version of a Walking Dead zombie. Horatio was the only sane person on stage --and a good down-to-earth foil to all the insanity going on around him. 
     In true Boulder fashion, most of the people around us gave the female actress -- who really wasn't that bad most of the time, except for, I'd guess, some weird directing -- a standing ovation. We just sat there. 
     It may have been innovative, but it wasn't effective. Taming of the Shrew, which we saw a few weeks before, was better.

I'm afraid what they're going to do to Julius Caesar, coming up in a week or two.

It's okay to be a Redskins fan. The Supreme Court ruled that 'upsetting' trademarks are allowed under free speech -- even if they're rude or vulgar. (Surprise, surprise...but this issue has been argued in court for years.)

30 storage bed options. Who couldn't use a little more storage!  (From Emily Henderson)

Alternative lighting -- especially when the power goes out. During the Zombie Apocalypse...or whenever your dad shows up as a ghost, a la Hamlet.  (From Strangers and Pilgrims on Earth)

30 things on earth that can't be easily explained. Like the Sumerian Kings' List -- which mentions a worldwide flood. Okay...maybe the ICA stones were faked.  (From Right Brain News)

IKEA shopping secrets -- from an employee.  (Thanks, Domino)

Left-handers may be more likely to be geniuses -- or mentally impaired. Take your pick. As an active left-hander who, like many of my kind, has learned how to do stuff right-handed, as well, I can assure you that this whole connection with math is NOT there. At least in my case. (Okay, yes for writing patterns and designing.)

Three CNN staffers resign after their story on a Trump ally being connected with a Russian investment bank isn't fact-checked properly.  Oops. CNN apologized to the man in question (Anthony Scaramucci). One 'source close to CNN' said the story was "a massive, massive f--up, and people will be disciplined."

Political putdowns -- from the Brits. And you thought Americans were rude!

Seven huge scandals uncovered by people...who never really got credit for it.  (From Cracked)

Ten favorite frugal living sites... including one of my personal favorites, the Prudent Homemaker.  (From A Cultivated Nest)

A fitness model -- killed by a can of whipped cream.  I am not making this up. And no, it's not because she ate it -- and the sugar trauma did her in.  (From TMZ)

Thirty unusual uses for aluminum foil.  (From Instructables)

Ever wanted a hand-painted mural...but couldn't afford it? These options from Audrey Stern might be just what you need, at a reasonable price...

Or paint your own, using stencils derived from antique ones used by Rufus Porter. If you're curious about Porter, a brilliant 19th century painter, inventor and inveterate genius at tinkering,  go here.

This 1828 Porter mural is from the Rufus Porter museum in Bridgport, Maine. Go here for more.

"I resemble that remark!"  Porter, thanks to Wikipedia

Another wall mural by Porter (Wikipedia)

Want a rainbow for your wall? Hot-glue crayons to the top of a canvas, wave a hot hairdryer over them...and watch what happens.  (From WeDoLogos via Pinterest)

I wonder if this would work on fabric?

The women (and three-legged pit bull) who survived a moose attack.  Seriously, moose are some of the scariest creatures out there when they're protecting babies.

Ten accidental discoveries which produced great wealth.  (From Business Pundit)

The squirrel who saved his adopted family during a burglary. Ah, but now he's back in the wild. Says his former owner, "If I had to guess, he found a girlfriend and they're off doing the squirrel thing." And...

The family who argued that their pet rooster was a 'therapy animal.' See -- we only bring you the good stuff on this weekly post.

Have a great week. 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Mousey News...And Updates

     I don't know if it's because of the heat -- or the bushel basket of appraisals and gigs I've had this month -- but I am restless as all getout.

To make things worse, we had our own Western Emigration recently: a batch of mice that apparently decided living inside with us would be an improvement. I couldn't work late at night without seeing tiny brown bodies flash by, things moving in the kitchen, or paper rattling by the couch. The high point came when something light touched my foot by still-asleep Charley. It may have been his tail...and a dream. Or it was Mr. Mouse, trying to get to know me better. I jumped about two feet straight up in the air...and so did Charles.
     At that point, we had to do somethingMaybe we could have coaxed in a bull snake or two.  No doubt, though, the snakes would have decided to live in the bathtub. Instead, the Brick set up a boatload of traps baited with peanut butter, and some envelopes of poison, all stuffed way under the couch, counter, etc., so the dogs couldn't reach them.
     Snapping ensued. One little guy decided to make a point by staggering out from under the couch, and expiring dramatically in front of the Brick. (And Abby, who could have cared less.) The chickens got the mousetrapped ones for a snack; the rest went into the trash.
     It's been a few days now, and I don't hear rustling when I stay up late working. Like now.

What a relief.

                                                  Free-range chickens would clear out this lot.

Here are updates on the rest of our life, in case you're wondering:

*Yes, we're still moving. There are boxes and piles EVERYWHERE -- in part because, before moving furniture, you have to clean out the drawers of said furniture. We haven't put much back in the nearly-finished guest bathroom, either. Instead, it piles up in the hallway and corners like drifts during a snowstorm. I really wish I could walk down the hall without stubbing my toe on something. (Soon, Cindy, soon.)
     We'll get rid of several bags early next week...and I plan to have a huge garage sale in another week or two. We'll also start moving things into the trailer this least, that's the plan.

*The bathrooms are coming along. Son #1 only has to hang a few doors and screw on drawer pulls, and the first bathroom is done. Then it's on to the next. Unfortunately, we had a leak in the master bathroom...right on top of a suitcase containing some of my quilt collection. I was able to wash a few quilt tops, but the c.1850 silk skirt was a goner. (Not colorfast -- what else did I expect to happen...) A few old orphan quilt blocks bit the dust, too. Thankfully, Son #1 can easily fix this problem when renovating the bathroom.

*So what are plans now?  We'll be celebrating in Michigan for The Mama's 80th birthday around August 16.  It seems to make sense that we'll drive a rental truck full of business inventory, some furniture and books to Michigan about that time, to put it all in storage there.
      That should mean that the house could be totally cleaned out by then;  the floors could be refinished while we're gone. Then we should be able to put it up for sale, with no fuss. Tentatively, we'll be living in the trailer by early September. I think. Maybe. Kind of.

      We'll still be in Colorado most of the year. We'll keep a Colorado post office. box, and Brickworks' phone and e-mails will still work. We just won't be living at this specific house.

*Other than appraisals, I've only got one gig left in 2017 -- and it's Saturday. What? No more teaching? I actually turned down some work a while back, to make sure that we could finish up on the house, and still be available for Daughter #2's wedding later this year.
    Nonetheless, it feels strange to have an open calendar. Sort of. I am still getting regular appraisal requests, which is great. But I also need to finish up the recertification report for AQS this weekend. Life won't get more peaceful for a while yet. (Which is probably why I'm so restless.)

     Next year, though? I've got a LOT of work, scattered all over the country. Go figure. It's not like I specifically planned this turn of events, either -- it's just a God thing.

*You're not too late to get in on that gig, if you want to! I'm teaching Hanky Panky at Holly's Quilt Cabin from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. this Saturday, the 24th. A few spots are left in class yet. Special teaser: everyone in class will get to choose their very own Hanky Panky kit (retail value: $35) to experiment with!

Go here for more info. No mice allowed. 

It's okay -- I'm just a nice little...

Arapahoe Quilter Beauties

I've been meaning to show you a few quilts from the Arapahoe Quilters' recent show.  They are a wonderfully talented group.

There was a good mix of styles and colors...though I would say that modern took front and center status more than traditional. Ironically, every quilt I'm showing here has applique touches -- though it didn't seem to me at the time that applique was very prevalent. Maybe I mis-saw.

Please note:  I was careful to ask permission to show these pieces, from the actual quiltmakers. You should do this, too, when you visit various shows this year.  

Larry by Regina Hoffman. Her husband, in cloth -- I was impressed by how few pieces she used,
to give him such a realistic effect.  Netting was used, too. A striking piece.

This is Jacquelyn Baker Mathews' A Walk In the Woods. Notice the 'bear paw' prints mixed in with the traditional pattern of the same name? I really liked the way that the quiltmaker used fusible applique to give a natural look to the center bear's fur, as well as the foliage around it. Nice.

Rebecca Musgrave calls this You've Got Mail. The cat lives with one of her friends. Isn't that closeup detail nicely done!!

And Best of Show:  Forever Garden by Lexie Foster, quilted by Myrna Ficken.
I'm betting you'll see this one again in the winners circle -- it's beautifully made.

Look at the detail on that quilting...

These Dresden Plates are appliqued, not pieced -- wedge by wedge.

Any fuzziness in the photos is the fault of the photographer (me)...the actual quilts are crisp and graphic.

Great job, everyone.

UPDATE:  See the full list of winners, plus lots of photos
on the Arapahoe County Quilters website.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

It's HOT

...I mean it.

I had two stops to make in Denver and Boulder...which meant driving in a steaming-hot car for hours. (Traffic is horrendous right now in the Denver metropolitan area, thanks to construction, tourists and Idiots of the Month.)  When I was almost home, and it was starting to cool down a bit, I checked the car's temperature gauge: 96 degrees.


My can of root beer was almost too hot to touch. Ditto the cellphone and steering wheel.

It's been this way now for at least two weeks. Breaking all sorts of high-temperature records, too. Either it cools down soon...or we're going to melt off the map.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

One of the Best Floral Hacks Ever

Want a gorgeous 'disco vase' for your summer flowers?

Dump a bag of sequins in an empty clear vase. Top up with water, and your favorite flowers.

That's it.

I'm serious.

This idea comes from Sania at the At Home blog, and is simply brilliant.

Simple. And brilliant.

Oh...and the sequins, when the flowers fade?

Strain them out and let them dry. Then they're ready to use again in whatever project you wish...including another vase.

Full instructions are here.


Sunday, June 18, 2017

Monday Stuff On the Way to Other Stuff: Dad's Delight -- And Hanky Panky

    The Brick is generally a calm and quiet sort of guy -- not very demanding. When it comes to his daughters, though, he loves having them celebrate Father's Day with him. 
    That makes being responsible so difficult -- because Daughter #1 had to cancel at the last minute, and Daughter #2 couldn't make it here until 8 p.m. (She had to close for the shop, El Loro, she manages in Boulder.) 
     We had t-bones, bacon-and-onion-garnished green salad, and yes, a Sachertorte, before she and Son #1 reluctantly headed out about midnight for the hour's drive home.
      Of course she has to go into work early tomorrow. 
     They gave their dad a t-shirt -- but the best present of all was having them here, laughing and talking, for hours. I'm so grateful that they realize how much this means to 'the folks.' 
     Father's Day, I always remember my own dad, gone now for more than seven years. The Mama reminded me that her dad, my Grandpa Cumings, had his birthday on Father's Day. Pa's father, Grandpa DeVries, died on or just before Father's Day, while I was heavily pregnant with Daughter #1. Our great-niece Adie was born a day later, on her parents Adam and Stephanie's anniversary. 

Now our niece Brianna and husband Kevin have welcomed their first child, Micah Vince, into the world. He was born last Friday night -- Grandpa Mike and Grandma Lori couldn't be prouder. 

Pondering the fate of the universe, no doubt

     Strange, that all these, new life and old, would happen so close to this holiday.

Cindy Thomas' graceful interpretation of Hanky Panky
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    I'll be teaching at Holly's Quilt Cabin in Littleton, CO this week Saturday, June 24, from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. Information is here. The class is based on my bestselling handkerchief quilt method. You'll learn the Hanky Panky way, plus several variations -- and some, you don't have to cut the hankies at all! Space is limited; give the store a call if you're interested.

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

A deer crashes through a Denny's plate glass window in Rome, NY.
    Did he want a Grand Slam to go?

How to propagate roses -- from the ones you already have. I'm thinking of doing this for the Harison roses, especially. ( These Yellow Rose of Texas blooms are hard to find.) You've got several methods to choose from. (From the Santa Clarita Valley Rose Society)

Or do it the pioneer way -- and use a potato.  (Thanks, Homeguides)

More progress on the summerhouse.  If you're not sure, here's the starting post on the subject.  She built this handy shed from leftover doors, windows and pallets!  (From Life After Money)

Who keeps sitting in seat J47 at Hibbing High School's auditorium? Even if you don't live in Minnesota, this is going to be interesting. (From My Paranormal Podcast)

Incredibly strange (and fitting) instances of karma -- or what we would call a "God thing."  (From Listverse) Plus:

Ten instances where a single vote made all the difference.

The woman who drove to the Atlanta airport, four-year-old daughter in tow, left her with strangers while she 'went shopping'...and disappeared. Hmmm. Contrast her with:

The woman who thought she'd won $43 million at the casino -- then was offered a steak dinner and $2.25, instead. (She's suing for the full amount.)

Paperwork required for the Y2K bug has finally been eliminated -- SEVENTEEN YEARS LATER.

A woman, a raccoon -- and a puddle. (Son #1 told me first about this one.)

Six movie/tv unsolved mysteries explained.  Yes, there really were backstories for these.  (Thanks, Cracked. Now explain that totally strange "dream" explanation for Dallas!) Plus:

Seven weird tv/movie problems that were actually explained in deleted scenes.

Have a good week. 

Friday, June 16, 2017

I Had A College Professor Like This...

     The class was called "Fine Arts" -- but derisively referred to, by most of my friends, as "Fine Farts." The professor, though a nice guy, was famous for not thoroughly reading submitted assignments. Students would trudge along on-subject until the middle of the paper...then launch into recipes, baseball scores, even free association.

He never seemed to notice. But after a while, I got the impression he was very aware of our collective shenanigans, after all. The 'tell' was when he said to someone (I think they 'fessed up):  'You're cheating yourself when you do this -- not me.'


Guess you taught me a bigger lesson in that class than I thought, Mr. Osbeck.

        (oh, and... thank you.)


    Gentle Readers, I messed up.

If you saw a strange post for a few hours tonight on June Frugal Hits and Misses...well, that's my working file. You weren't supposed to get it for a few weeks yet. I put up another post, and must have accidentally 'published' this one, too.


It's tiptoed back into the Ethernet for a while, until it can grow into a full-fledged post.

Sorry about that. 

Probably will, too...

For a Friday, today has been extra-hot and really busy. I did a bunch of errands in searing heat, then flopped down and had a root beer with ice when I got home.  (The Brick, both girlies and Son #1 all drink beer; I don't drink that stuff. Tequila, you bet.)

This weekend will be spent catching up on paperwork...and hopefully cooling off a bit. Everyone will stop by on Sunday to say hi to their favorite DAD. I've even promised him a Sachertorte.

Hello, weekend -- you're needed.

Frugal Hits and Misses: June Report

I am tired.
     Dead beat and plum tuckered out. This has been a very long month, stuffed with teaching gigs, a LOT of appraising, and other demands that had to be finished by the end of the month. 
     The guest bathroom is nearly done -- just a few more drawer pulls that the Brick is busy installing. It looks beautiful: Son #1 did a wonderful job. 
     Our master bathroom, on the other hand, is a echoing hole in the wall, the door covered in plastic, and stripped down to studding and wallboard. Son will be working on that more this week. This bath is going much quicker -- in part because he's feeling some better (he had some bouts of sickness this month), and because we know to supply the items he needs, in time for him to put them to good use. Too bad we're learning all this...then when the bathrooms are done, we'll forget again. (Look for a post on this subject in the near future.)
     We've had so little rain that the front yard is crunchy and brown. All the grass I weeded out of the beds is back. I'll work on getting that out (again) when the appraisals are done and mailed. 

No lazing about  -- maybe in a month or two.

The Brickworks website is still in hiatus. That doesn't mean we are, too.
After was nearly hacked, my IT guy has been extra-careful to check every page, rebuild and protect it. (I guess I should feel proud -- he thinks the Russians were behind it. They didn't succeed, incidentally.) 
      Because my IT guy is also the Brick, though, his has meant that the website has had to wait while other pressing deadlines were taken care of first. Stay calm -- Brickworks will be back soon. I promise. 

      This hacking business is only getting worse. If you have any kind of online presence, the implications are truly frightening.


Watched our share of movies and tv series for free, including our favorites, Turn and Supergirl. Wonder Woman was reasonably good; the Transformers movie, on the other hand, just seemed TOO dramatic -- flashy lights and poses, but not much substance. Oh well. We did see Hidden Figures at the discount cinema, too -- wonderful.
     Any other movie viewing came from either the library, the library's used book room ($1 each) or our own collection. (Yes, we like movies. A lot.)

Got a $10 off coupon for ordering groceries via (free pickup). Got some nice buys too, like 4 cans of baked beans for $2.50.
    Other good food buys:  a five-pound bag of mini-carrots for $3, red peppers for 25-35 cents each, and cauliflower for 50 cents. Got more hot dogs for a buck, too. (Really good for pigs-in-the-blanket.)

Ordered sundresses and a jeanskirt from Old Navy -- $15 each, plus free shipping. My summertime wardrobe has been getting more faded and worn; some items needed to be replaced.

The food buy of the month: A big stack of mini Baby Ruths and Butterfingers -- for 51 cents each. The usual 6-pack was 8, instead, and the package was marked 50% off its usual price ($1.99). The dollar store usually has these for a buck each -- but not for 8 bars. I took a few to the checkout to pay for them. Lo and behold, they were on sale for another 50 cents off!
     Six and a half pennies per mini-bar; often, that's all we need for dessert, along with a cup of tea. (Yes, I went back and bought more.)

Enjoyed Taming of the Shrew (very much) and Hamlet (sort of) at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, for $12 per ticket. Julius Caesar and Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead are next.

Made payments early on our trailer loan. I've been doing this for months now, thanks to Thrifty Mom in Boise. She pointed out that if you pay your usual amount a few weeks early, you save on interest that month. I wouldn't have thought it makes that much of a difference -- but it does. I've already noticed.

Sold 6 books and a video on Amazon. Listed two DVDs and a book or two

Purchases made on Amazon and Ebay for the bathrooms. If you're careful, you can get good quality for much less.
    Tip:  If they offer a 'Best Offer' option on Ebay, ALWAYS make a lesser bid first. You can change your mind later and pay their full suggested price, instead.

Made big purchases from Lowe's and Home Depot via Swagbucks -- so we could get a small discount, even if we weren't saving big bucks.  (We did buy the best-reviewed, most reasonably-priced items we could find.)  Go here if you want to learn more about this.

T-bone steaks ($5.77/lb) grilled for Father's Day. They were delicious.

A BIG bag of leftover bread, scavenged. The chickens loved it -- we did too, in the form of toast, garlic bread and french bread pizza. Gave some to friends, Daughter #2 and Son #1, as well. (Did this twice this month. Luck of the draw.)

Went to work -- or the hospital, to see our friend Thommy-- then came home. A lot. Wash, rinse and repeat.

Went out to eat more than usual -- but was reasonably careful about it. Used gift cards twice. Daughter #1 bought lunch once for me, and her father once (for Father's Day). What a thoughtful thing to do -- thanks, Lovey.

3 cartons of chicken verde, carnitas and chili!  You're not going to believe this... but I found them, still reasonably cold, stacked by the cart return in the grocery store parking lot. (They were fully cooked to start with, which gave me more confidence to use them.)

Kept food I was offered during working days...and passed it along to others.   Like my wonderful assistants during appraising days. The Brick enjoyed a few cinnamon rolls I couldn't eat, too.

Was careful about away-from-home food purchases.  Didn't eat at the hospital -- or got the cheapest item. Brought Cokes to work, rather than buying them at 7-Eleven or the vending machine.

Stripped and repainted wood details in the guest bathroom. Like the built-in wooden cabinet and the wooden windowsill. The metal radiator cover was stripped and repainted, too -- these were all a perfect complement to the vanity we bought, because the Brick and Son #1 took a drawer into Home Depot's paint department to match. (HD was spot on.)

Did a BIG batch of appraisals. Several judging and teaching gigs, too.


Spent a lot more in gas... driving to the hospital, and all those gigs.

No bus driving for the Brick -- half a paycheck, and no more coming this summer (darn).

Still bleeding money for the bathroom renovations. The master bath vanity set us back $599 -- and that was looking for the best-priced, best-quality piece we could find. The floor and shower tiles aren't a penny (see the May Frugal Hits and Misses)...but they're not much more than $2 each, either. Nonetheless, it all adds up. We spent more than $500 tonight alone.
     On the plus side, we've continued to find good buys here and there: like the pharmacy drawer pulls on Ebay for $1.30 each -- versus Home Depot's $4 price. The Brick is helping Son #1 finish off the guest bath too, which helps.
       I'll be glad when these are both done -- yet another big step in the right direction.

Had to pay almost $10 in interest - because we were one day late for mortgage taxes. (Grrr) Serves me right for not double-checking the date.

A beautiful raised bed of greens, radishes and peas: all fried, due to the sudden, fierce heat. The radishes went woody, the greens bolted and the pea vines died with blossoms still attached. I only got a few sprigs of greens out of the whole thing. At least the chickens could use what was left, but still...

Chickens got a reprieve. Again. Sold a dozen eggs to a neighbor, which almost paid for another bag of cracked corn. They're laying 2 or 3 eggs a day...if they feel like it. (Another chicken died of old age, too.) They also recycle scraps, leftovers and spoiled stuff nicely.  That's barely enough right now to justify their continued existence. But don't tell them I said that. They're scary when they get riled up.

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

This reporting has had an unusual result: I'm even more careful how I spend our money, knowing I have to 'fess up to you, Gentle Readers. I don't feel apologetic at all about being careful -- every dime I can save helps pay for renovations and moving costs, without us having to scoop anything out of retirement funds. And that feels wonderful.

 When you do feel the need to defend yourself for saving money, take a look at the answers given to the Frugalwoods by blog readers. A nice variety of responses are here. They're not rude or lippy, either.

For previous months of Frugal Hits & Misses, starting with May, go here. 

And on with summer.

He's Got A Point...

If you hang around here, you know I've got a thing for Ryan Gosling and 'Hey Girl...'

He's far more interesting in this story -- direct from the Gosling's mouth.

Hey buddy -- if they're thin mints or samoas, you can throw me a box anytime.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Cutting Expenses -- When You Think You Can't. Part V: Necessary Evils (Insurance, etc.)

     I haven't forgotten about the ongoing series on cutting expenses -- other issues had to be dealt with for a while. (Like packing. Clean underwear. Meals. Earning a living. Stuff like that.) 

You'll find the other parts here, starting with Part I -- the basics.  (It also has links to Parts II-VIII. This one, too.)

Now on to the grim necessities we inevitably have to deal with, at one time or another --

                 Our health.
                              Dealing with medical costs. 

Obviously, first and foremost:
     The healthier you can stay, the less you have to worry about medical costs. Eating a reasonably good diet and exercising will do a world of good in this department. (I'm preaching to the choir here -- but looking at the roll of belly fat around my middle, I realize I don't always listen.)
     This does not mean jumping on the latest bandwagon. Or shoveling down special pills. Take the example of going 'gluten-free.' That's just plain healthy, right?
     Actually, no.

     Only a small percentage of the population actually needs to do this,  due to celiac disease or allergies/sensitivities, according to Dr. Sheila Crowe of the National Gastroenterological Association. According to Crowe, there is little direct evidence that sticking to a gluten-free diet will give you better health. (Are you listening, manufacturers who crank out 'gluten-free' items at outrageous prices? Of course not.)

     The key, in this humble blogger's opinion:  balance. Find the combination of foods that give you strength and energy, and make them the mainstay of your diet. It may be largely protein and veggies, with just a few carbs. Or minimal amounts of the food you do take. Or straight vegetarian, with or without dairy products, eggs and fish. (Seafood doesn't 'count' for some vegetarians.) There are all sorts of diets out there.The point is balance: some fats for good health. Some proteins. Some veggies and some fruit. Even some carbs.
     Experiment to find the right mix for yourself and your can figure it out.

Next:  insurance. 

Thanks to Obamacare (which is still on the rolls, despite the screaming, yelling and posturing pro and con), everyone is eligible for insurance.  (If you don't get it, you'll be penalized.)

     The problem: it may not cover much. 

Our insurance plan is very reasonably priced: about $150/mo for both of us. On the other hand, it covers pretty much nothing, except for something catastrophic. The first $12,000 of medical expenses comes right out of our collective pockets. (If you count both of us, the total is $20,000.)
     I'd gripe even more about this -- except the plan we had while the Brick was employed, and afterwards as a retiree, had nearly the same coverage, for 'only' $400 or more a month.
     When the Brick's liver began failing, the majority of his stay in intensive care was covered...but we still owed more than $10,000 by the time he came home. When I called the hospital business office to arrange a payment plan, the representative said incredulously, "You still owe this much...and you've got insurance?!?"   Sadly, yes.

What has helped us:

*An HSA /FSA account. Set this up -- often your employer will do it for you -- and you can pay for medical costs before taxes, rather than afterwards. Be warned, though: you generally have a deadline for using the funds -- and if you don't, they may disappear. (One of my readers says this has changed, and the money stays. I wonder if different states do it differently. Not sure.) Estimate your costs, based on previous years, and you'll be safer.
     (Update:  Reader Virginia (see comments) points out:

you have HSA in your post which is Health Savings Account, you can set one of these up if you have a qualifying insurance policy. There is a limit to how much you can put in them per year but you can take the money and earnings out, tax free, to pay for health costs and you get a deduction on your tax return for putting money in. And you never lose the money, it rolls over until you need it.

The description you have in the post however sounds like you were talking about FSA which is a Flexible Spending Account which is thru your employer, pre-tax money and if you have not used all the money within the tax year plus a couple of months, you will lose it (it goes back to your employer). 

    She's right. We currently have an HSA account (because the Brick is retired, and no longer has an employer). But we used to have an FSA account. Apologies for mixing the two together.)

*Use a clinic, rather than a doctor's office. Many of the grocery chains, like King Soopers and Safeway, now have medical areas for minor things like flu, bumps & bruises, etc. And they're generally a lot cheaper.

*Pay cash. The Brick's last visit to our regular GP cost $75 -- versus the usual $150 -- because he offered to pay cash. (Would that we had known this the past four or so years we've been going to this medical center.)

*DON'T use the emergency room, unless it's absolutely, positively necessary. If you don't need to be admitted to the hospital, you'll pay for all sorts of tests -- and depending on the night, get only basic care. We've been to the emergency room four times in the past three decades -- twice for the Brick, twice for Daughters. We've gotten soaked every single visit.

     If you do end up in the hospital:

*Pay attention. If at all possible, have a healthy family member by your side as much as possible, asking questions and requesting explanations. Probably you'll be in no condition to completely understand what's going on -- but they will. (These tips should come in handy for them.  Try these, too.)

*Don't just agree wholesale to procedures or 'just in case' medications, no matter what. Some of those tests (like those in the emergency room) may not actually be necessary -- the doctor is just covering his bases. (I know this from hard experience. Sometimes, the side effects of the new meds are worse than the original symptoms, too. Ask a LOT of questions.)

*If you used an item -- take it home. You'll be charged for it -- and it gets thrown out, otherwise. But:

*Check your bill carefully. Hospitals are big, complicated places -- and it's very easy for them to charge for all sorts of interesting things -- including procedures and medications you never actually received. (Prices for items like kleenex and aspirin are heavily jacked-up, too.)

The Mama, during heart surgery a few years ago.

*Don't pay your medical bills. Right away, that is. For one thing, you need to let insurance companies, who generally move at the rate of a slow glacier, get the bills and process the claim. For another, you need to check the bill. If your income is miniscule, this pause gives time to explore what programs may be available for low income individuals. (The hospital will generally not tell you about these up-front. After all, it's in their interest to get every penny you're willing to pay. Unless the rep generously tells you about a program, you'll have to be the one to ask.)
      You may also be able to negotiate that final cost down. More than a few places will give a discount if you pay in cash -- or in full. Others will, after you've paid regularly for months or a few years, be willing to write off the rest of the debt. The key, though, even if you can only afford to pay a small amount every month, is to make that payment faithfully. It marks you as a person of integrity who follows through, and makes them more willing to work with you.  It took us years to clear away the Brick's hospital bill -- but we did it. (We're still working on the dental payments for his and my crowns -- but they're almost done. Just a few more months.)

     *You must look for the best prescription deals yourself . No one's going to do it for you -- not even your insurance company, even if they may end up paying less because of it. Go to this post for several helpful programs, like the '$4 plan' from Walmart and RiteAid's $9.99 generic offers. But beware: Wal-Mart will offer certain sizes at the $4 price -- and the same pills, slightly larger or in different amounts, at much higher prices. We found this out the hard way when I needed antibiotics to combat a abcessed tooth. The doctor prescribed one size of pill -- which Wal-Mart filled as specified. When I questioned why the cost was triple what I'd expected, the truth came out. Ask your doctor to double-check the plan before prescribing.
     Another option that's saved us money:  order from Canada.  The same prescription, same brand and everything can cost less. Why? I'm not sure -- only that we've paid hundreds less on some of the Brick's essential meds.

     I don't have space in this post to cover dental costs and care -- but the basics still apply. Keep your teeth and mouth healthy, don't authorize unnecessary procedures, and ask about discounts and payment plans. (Take advantage of new patient specials, too.)

Kiplinger's came up with 50 ways to cut medical costs -- other sites have suggestions, as well.

          Stay calm. Rest and get better, so you can deal with this. 
                     It may take time...but you will get through it.

Please note: I am not a doctor, medical or insurance professional. (I don't even play one on TV!) You are responsible for your own decisions and actions -- just like we are. I'm merely giving advice on what's helped us and others.

Next time:  Necessary Evils (continued) -- wills, trusts...and funerals

Flag Day -- But Make It Stand For More Than That

More shootings...

    and there would have been a lot more bloodshed, had two Capitol Hill policemen not taken the shooter out. (And were shot themselves, for their pains. Tell that to the people who say bad things about cops.)

Maybe, now that Republican congressmen (and others) have been hurt, we all will STOP this silly, hate-filled bickering and start to work together. 

One way to show your willingness to move on would be to celebrate today's holiday:

     FLAG DAY.

Although the idea originally began in 1777, as a way to commemorate the adoption of the U.S. Flag, it was informally celebrated until President Truman signed it into official life in the 1940s. (Actually, it's been National Flag Week from  June 11-17.)

Take a minute. Put your flag out now. 

(Saying a prayer for the Alexandria victims would be good, too.)

Let's stand together --
        or frankly, we go down together, instead.

Poppies...for remembering