Thursday, August 31, 2017

Doing A Spanish Supper - with Limited Cash

     This was the case for The Mama's birthday Spanish Supper a few weeks ago.

Ever since I was little, Ma has been making this for her family, including our many cousins, aunts, uncles, etc. She lived for some time in California, and her friend Isabelle taught her to make (and love) good Mexican cooking. This was at a time when our part of Michigan rarely came into contact with Mexicans, except during apple-picking season. Mexican food of any kind was an exotic luxury.
     The Mama started holding 'Spanish Suppers,' featuring tacos, enchiladas and fruit salad, once a year or so. Eventually she expanded it to celebrate whenever anybody came into town. Often visitors begged her to host one, so they could see everyone...and enjoy the food, no doubt.
     As she has gotten older, though, the incredible amount of work to do this has caught up with her. Sadly, very few of the cousins seem to realize this. I was always hoping that one or more of them would volunteer to do it, instead. But that hasn't happened.

     When we asked what she would like to have to celebrate her 80th, I wasn't surprised at all to have her mention a Spanish Supper.

The traditional menu:       beef tacos
                                             beef enchiladas
                                             Spanish rice
                                             refried beans
                                             chips & salsa
                                             fruit salad
                                             some kind of punch or lemonade

We added birthday cupcakes, with more than 80 featuring a birthday candle.

Brother and Sister-in-Law, plus the Brick and yours truly, split the costs. We invited people via Facebook, mostly -- 97 attended. 

     (We have a LOT of cousins -- Ma was the youngest of 8...her dad used to tease that he had "2 and a half-dozen" kids. Each of those kids had between 4-8 kids themselves...except for Mom and Dad, who only had 2: Brother and me. Now those cousins have kids and grandkids, so it adds up. Sadly, all the original siblings, except Mom and her three sisters-in-law -- are gone now.)

We fed them all, with a lot of leftovers, for roughly $250.  Leaving out $20 in decorations, that worked out to: $2.37 a person!


*We asked for donations. Normally, for Spanish Suppers, people bring something to add to the fruit salad, if they're so inclined; the rest is free. This time, we asked them to contribute a particular item. Cousins brought pop, chips, salsa, Spanish rice, a little cheese and refried beans, plus a bunch of items for the fruit salad.
     Cousin Betty organized the cupcakes. I'd asked for at least one per person (we'd planned for 100) -- but we ended up with close to two apiece, instead. (She's incredible at this kind of work. What can I say -- she could run a large corporation, or even the Department of Labor, if she were so inclined.)
      These were all donated.

*Everything else, if at possible, was either on sale, or lower-cost, to begin with. Sister-in-Law found ground beef at an incredible $1.77/lb! I got the enchilada sauce at our Friday-Saturday store; a #10 can was $3.00, along with some smaller cans at less than $2 each.
     We also made a large batch of refried beans (pintos, contributed by the Mama, who'd been given pounds of them), and bought a good quality Mexican brand for the tortillas. (Whatever culture you choose, if you're making specific foods from there, try hard to buy a brand that is either made there -- like Italian dried pasta -- or made here, by people who've grown up there. It makes all the difference in taste and texture.)

Like these -- El Milagro ("The Miracle") tortillas. Yum.

*We bought in bulk. The cheese (five-pound bags, at $12.50-$15.00 each) and onions, tortillas (flour and corn for the tacos, corn for the enchiladas), tomatoes, lettuce, lemonade mix, cups/plates/napkins and even the birthday candles were all purchased in bulk.
     Tip: For even better flavor, use more than one cheese and mix it together. This lets you take advantage of cheaper types, as well.

*Borrowing is good. We used tableware The Mama had accumulated over the years; it meant extra washing, but not that much. We borrowed several tables and tablecloths from various cousins, as well.

*Decorating was at a minimum. Several packages of pompom-type decorations, similar to these, from Dollar Tree, but in yellow and blue,  hung dangling from the ceiling. (We held the party in Ma's three-bay garage/workshop, carefully swept out. Tied the pompoms to string, then taped them on the garage doors in varying places. When the garage doors were pushed up -- the pompoms hung down! It made for a very interesting polka-dot effect.) 

     Five large birthday banners, similar to these, were also in use -- one at the beginning of the driveway, the rest on the outside of the garage.

We also hung a Pin-The-Tail-On-The-Donkey game on one wall, and a pinata stuffed with candy and goodies (contributed by cousins Phil and Krindi from their Sparta Variety store) from a tree outside.
      Decorations were from Sparta Variety, as well. The banners were $1 each; Pin-the-Tail game $1; six three-packs of the pompons were $1.49 each, and a couple of pompon garlands were $2 each. Total, including tax: $20.

We used white napkins, cups and plates -- all paper. Cousin Karen continued a tradition that started years ago, of bringing a flower from her garden, something others did, as well. It made for a pretty bouquet on the food table.

*We did all the work ourselves. Brother and Sister-in-Law browned all of the ground beef beforehand. The day of the Spanish Supper, we set up an assembly line for the enchiladas:
       Person #1:  heat the tortillas (microwave or skillet), dip in enchilada sauce
       Person #2:  spoonful of beef, plus a few pieces of chopped onion
       Person #3: spoonful of cheese, gently roll and push in place

     (We used 9x13 pans, which  each held approx. 12 enchiladas. Topped them with a few tablespoons of enchilada sauce, sprinkle heavily with cheese -- then a covering of foil. See the recipe here.)

     Pans of enchiladas (we made 12 ) were baked and set out on the table, along with a roaster of refried beans and big bowls of chips, rice and fruit salad (various fruits, cut in bite-sized pieces, with a little lemon juice added to keep them from browning). Also on the table, for fixings:
          sour cream, salsa, shredded cheese, lettuce, chopped tomatoes, chopped onion

*Drinks were in bulk. A gallon of lemonade mix filled a giant orange container; cold water was in a second container. (It was a hot day, or we might have considered offering coffee or tea, as well.) This kept us from needing to replenish much -- but using multiple pitchers, we could have.
          Some soft drinks were on hand too, thanks to cousins' donations.

*We all took stations.  Brother opened the meal and kept a general eye on things. Sister-in-Law kept an eye on the food table, watching the dishes and replenishing the taco fixings as needed. Son #1 and Daughter #2 fried up tortillas for the tacos, running out plattersful whenever needed. The Brick and I fried tortillas (some), ran back and forth with extra food, and manned the pinata area.

We had people wandering in and out for hours, grabbing a plate of food or a cupcake, then standing around and chatting. The kids loved taking a swing at the pinata, then diving for the contents when they finally spurted out. (It took a while. Those pinatas are tough.) Some singing and a spirited Rook game -- traditional for Spanish Suppers -- finished out the night.

A good time was had by all.

There were some issues...there always are. 

*The primary one, surprisingly, was The Mama's well water! Our bodies have had trouble with it during previous visits to Michigan, but we'd solved the problem by using filtered water. I just assumed (stupidly) that since our relatives lived in that area, they wouldn't have a problem with it as part of the lemonade.
The mixed-up lemonade was unusual, to begin with...a little too sweet. By the end of the night, it just plain tasted weird. A large bottle of 7-Up, mixed in hopefully, only compounded the situation.  Nobody complained, but we noticed -- so others certainly did, as well. Thankfully, cold water, filled up at Brother's house, (with extra ice brought in by another cousin) was also available.

*Noise, noise, noise. Our family is not only large, but opinionated. Everyone loves to talk, and they all had something to say. Which meant that getting them to shut up for announcements, activities, etc. was almost impossible. (This translated to the kids, too, who barely knew us -- we practically had to drag them out to the pinata before the news spread.) 
     Everyone sang "Happy Birthday" very lustily.

*Way too many leftovers -- particularly for the enchiladas. We started with 40 pounds of ground beef -- 10 went into the enchiladas, 30 pounds into taco meat. We ended up with at least five pans of enchiladas, a few pounds of taco meat, tons of rice, beans and cheese...and just a few tortillas (with a few packages still to cook) and tortilla chips. Only one bowl of fruit salad left. (I think you can guess what our visitors mostly ate.)
        Four or five platters of cupcakes, of every kind and variety.
        Some pop. (Okay, sodas. Soft drinks. Whatever.) A gallon of lemonade mix, plus some ice.
        And an awful lot of strange-tasting lemonade.

*It took a while to clean up. Fortunately, several cousins stayed to pack up the tables, gather up trash and sweep. (They went home with enchiladas -- and our thanks.) The kids (who were wonderful during all this) and we packaged up the food and washed platters, pans and utensils until 1 a.m.

And where was The Mama while all this was going on?

Keeping us company in the kitchen -- or sitting quietly at one of the far tables in the garage, with a small group around her.

With a big smile on her face.

That was the best present of all.

To help plan your own Spanish Supper, 
             go here on the Holiday Goodies site for recipes and how-tos.

Batman...And Grammar

Did you ever see a superhero so obsessed with proper wording?

If your kiddo wants to be Batman for Halloween, you can crochet him/her this hat.

Because it's important to remember:

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Frugal Hits and Misses: August Report

     "August is the longest month in the year," a friend said recently. She wasn't whistling Dixie. The heat (thankfully eased up about mid-month), must-be-done-right-now tasks, and some increasingly-detailed reports, not to mention sneezing and watery eyes, thanks to allergies, have made this month a long and largely cheerless slog. Gee, being a responsible adult is so much fun.
     August is a big birthday month for us -- for Daughters #1 and #2, along with The Mama, and several other relatives. I planned ahead for presents, but we dropped a goodly amount of money for both dinner out (for Daughters) and the Spanish Supper (for The Mama). It was fun to celebrate, though.
      Moneywise, we had to put out more cash for the second bathroom renovation. It's nearly done, and Son #1 (our contractor) assures us that will be about all, costwise. Some tiles and other materials can be returned, which will help out with the final cost. 
      Next: painting and floors. We need to earn some more $$ first, though. Our regular expenses are still covered by the Brick's pension, and we've got money leftover from the loan to keep making trailer payments. Any extra we make can go toward more renovations -- and paying off that pesky loan.
      That, friends, is why being frugal over decades is so helpful -- in the long run, it gives you freedom to change your mind and make different choices.
     I'll take that over a fancy dining room set and a custom wardrobe anytime. I wouldn't mind a housekeeper or maid now and then, though.


*The Brick has been making supper regularly, more or less, on Monday nights. It's had a surprise benefit -- he tends to wait til the last minute to figure meals out, so we clear out lots of leftovers! I'm okay with it. Hey, I don't have to cook.

*A big batch of cheap paper reams from Staples, thanks to rebates -- plus a $10 off $10 coupon. Back to school specials are good, too.

*Our local Safeway decided to renovate -- which meant rack after rack of half-priced items. I snagged everything from soup to dogfood, at very reasonable prices.

*I made one birthday 'cake' (actually, a cobbler) for Daughter #2's birthday...and found Daughter #1's birthday cheesecake at a very reasonable price.

*Goodies from the thrift shop. This has been a treasure trove lately, thanks to free bread -- two big bags worth, which the chickies, neighbors and we enjoyed -- plus jewelry, shirts, shorts, a few videos (including a Haunted History series from the History Channel), leather sandals -- and a boatload of Christmas and shower presents. (Example: a brand-new specialty crib sheet, still in packaging for a slick buck, and a Broncos short-sleeved collar shirt for $1.75.) Many of these were 75% off, thanks to a half-price sale, and my volunteer discount!
     Some of the others came from a stop at Grand Island's Goodwill, while in town for the eclipse including books for resale ($2), shirts ($1.50-3.99) and a beautiful leather jacket for the Brick. ($15) No coffee maker, though -- ours broke. (Just ordered a French press from Amazon for $10. That will keep us going until we can find an electric coffeemaker the Brick likes.)
 Daughter #2 and Son #1 got their own great buys, including clothing and, of all things, plastic horseshoes for pitching horseshoes while they're camping!
     Tip: Try this, next time you're out doing the tourist thing -- instead of fancy souvenir shops, buy a memory at the local thrift shop, instead. You're bound to find t-shirts, postcards and other items that will bring back memories of your trip, without having to pay a lot extra.

*Thin-sliced corned beef: $2.25/lb! This was a buy from a discount grocery found during our eclipse trip. Found some other items, too, but this was the star.

*A frugal afternoon with friends...thanks to the Colorado Rockies. A return trip to the Leanin' Tree Western Museum of Art. Then for supper, Taco Bell tacos, 4 for $2.00, thanks to seven runs in a previous game. Free McDouble at McDonald's on the way out of town, because the team hit a double the night before. Go, Rockies!

*EIGHTEEN DVDs for $18, including The Magnificent Seven (the new version!) and several Star Trek movies, all from the used book room at our local library. These will fill birthday presents and Christmas stockings. (I've been haunting the room for weeks, just waiting for someone to cull the library's videos.) A second visit a few days ago yielded fourteen more, at the same reasonable price.
     We'll watch some of these before passing them on, during our Friday date nights.

*A half-priced 'engineer's print' (really, a 3 x 4 foot poster) for Daughter #2's birthday, of her favorite doggie.

*Fresh fruit and veggies are well-priced right now. Best of all, they're not too green -- they actually taste like something. This has included zucchini and squash (from our kind neighbors), as well as several large boxes of Palisade peaches. We also gobbled down our share of watermelon and blueberries during our trip to Michigan. (See below as well.) Sadly, the produce stands were closed by the time we headed out of we didn't bring much extra home.

*Sold a dozen eggs to a neighbor, and traded another dozen for five large squash. (They've really been kind to us -- it's a pleasure to go back and forth on this.) Swapped an appraisal for yet more veggies. (They're currently borrowing the trailer to use as an Airbnb for family members who are visiting. idea for the future?)

*Packed sandwiches and snack food while on the trip to take business items to storage. Hot dogs and chips for a cheap lunch -- Burger King coupons, using the discount gift cards, after the eclipse.

*Got the BK gift cards for a $5 discount on every $25 purchased, thanks to Safeway.

*Used up a Groupon for Johnny Rockets, a burger place in Denver, before it expired.

*Watched more shows via the Internet, including Timeless and The Last Ship.  Love that Adam Baldwin; Eric Dane's not too bad, either.

*Sold three or so books and a video on Amazon. One of the books - $30.88, for a copy I found at the library used book sale for 50 cents! My best score in a long time.

*Did some appraising, including a large job for a museum. Picked up a restoration job I'll work on this fall.
     Unfortunately, the Brick didn't have any income this month...but we did get a slight increase on his pension payment.

*BOGO on Purina Dog WAY marked-down coupons for other brands. What is it with dogfood freebies and markdowns this summer?

*Allergy meds for less.  (We developed allergies after moving here -- Charley the dog struggles with them, too. Go figure.) Savings #2:  the vet was willing to refill Charley's prescription, as well, without the cost of a return visit. (Thank you, Dusty Plains -- we appreciate it!)
       A bunch of marked-down shampoos, conditioners and deoderants, too.

*Used free Friday download items at both Safeway and King Soopers. (For you Midwest and East Coasters, Soopers is affiliated with Kroger.) Visit both sites on Fridays, and they invariably have a coupon for a free item that you can redeem sometime in the coming week.


*Some repairs needed on the truck. Sigh....

*The bathroom. Obviously. Son #1 is taking care not to overspend, which we appreciate.

*The birthday celebrations. We dropped approximately $150 for each.

*Extra gas costs. Eighteen hours each way to Michigan really eats up the miles, particularly in the truck. Fortunately, gas prices were reasonable most of the time.

*Some incidental not-fun expenses. A book sold via Amazon -- then lost by Ye Olde Post Office. (At least I got the postage cost back...that helps, I guess.) $1.40 fines at the library for an overdue video. (Shame on me.) Some postage for sending a nonfitting dress back. Stuff like that.

*A dropped IPad -- now the screen's broken. The Brick figures at least $250 to repair it.

*A dying battery on my cellphone -- and a broken microphone on the Brick's cellphone. Are they talking to the IPad, or something?

You can access more months of reports by starting with July.
Hard to believe, but I've been writing these for more than a year!

Monday, August 28, 2017

Genetics At Work

Or the subtitle:

Sweet Guys And Their Sweeter Babies.



Sunday, August 27, 2017

Monday Stuff on the Way to Other Stuff: A Fresh Grip -- And Flooding in Houston

After a long, hot week with plenty of sneezing (darn allergies), attempting to reduce the piles, and slowly trudging through work, I finally am starting to make a little progress. There's still much to do -- and several reports to finish up. But at least we're going forward, instead of backward. The past couple of weeks have been crazy-busy, with little time to put into any of the regular commitments. 
      Which is why...
      We've made a kind-of unofficial decision.
      Work on the house gradually; continue to pack and donate...and put the house up on the market in the spring. Meanwhile, our new home, the 30-foot trailer, stays safe in the backyard as we gradually transfer items to it. 
      Things could change -- and quickly. After all, there are still bills to pay, and commitments to finish. But for now, this gives us a fresh grip on life. 

I wish I could say the same about our American comrades in southern Texas. One friend at church worries about her kids, stranded in their homes; another had his son (a musician) forced to move his ground-floor studio equipment to the second floor. (They live by a small lake, and 16 inches of rain was expected today.)

One report's here, with plenty of video. Here's another:

They could use your prayers -- and help. Meanwhile:

One of the best guides on military discounts out there. If you're actively serving...or in the reserves...even if you're retired or have already put in your stint, there are discounts out there on travel, hotels and recreation you should be taking advantage of.  (From The Simple Dollar)

A measured response from a friend of Princess Diana's...about her life, her relationship with Dodi Fayed, and the 20th anniversary of her sad passing.  A fascinating counterpoint to the interviews with princes William and Harry about their mom's death.

The couple who lives in a van -- in Utah.  (From Domino)

Report from the trenches - realistic ideas on saving $$ in your food budget. Plus... An update on a month of frugal food choices. Makes me want to go back and read the previous posts.  (From Living Rich on the Cheap)

Naan bread -- at home. If you enjoy this delicious Indian bread, now you can make it yourself.  (From A Hundred Dollars A Month)

"Six things my ridiculous parents taught me about money."  (From Budgets are Sexy)

An audacious new Jackson Pollock scam -- supposedly from an old German collector, but really, these are fakes. (From Artnet) 
     This piece, however, found in an Arizona garage, could be the real thing -- and worth $15 million. While we're at it:

A painting from one of Robert Falcon Scott's doomed companions -- found in a historic hut, mixed in with penguin droppings. Wow.

Tiny house living in western Wyoming.  Gutsy...but kind of appealing!

The frightening dangers of 'financial dementia.' Fortunately, The Mama has never displayed this -- she's too much of a Hollander cynic. But I still keep on the alert.

Have a good week.

Friday, August 25, 2017

New Norman Rockwell Painting Surfaces

Here's an interesting twist:  a family owns a Norman Rockwell print for generations. Family members display it proudly in their homes for decades. When the current owner moves to a retirement home, his nephew notices brushstrokes on the 'print!'

Turns out it's an original study by Rockwell, based on his classic painting, Tough Call.

      It sold for $1.6 million recently via Heritage Auctions.

Here's the extra value of provenance: Rockwell gifted the piece to one of the three umpires pictured in the original painting, John "Beans" Reardon.  He even signed it. (See the photo.) The 'print' stayed in Reardon's family, passing eventually to his granddaughter. When she died, her husband inherited the piece. It remained in family hands until its sale on Monday.

     Hard to argue with that kind of evidence.

Read all about it here, thanks to Appraiser Workshops.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

A-B-C, Easy as 1-2-3

Teachers everywhere can relate to these little bits of wisdom.
      If they've even have time to read them right now.

I soooo wish one of the educators takes this as an inspiration...

Of course...

Good luck for the coming school year. You're going to need it.

Three Goodwill stores in that part of Washington state are giving away more than 35,000 books to teachers with valid documentation!
       Check here for more. Looks like some other areas are participating in the same program -- at least in Ohio. (Go here for more on that.)

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Happy Birthday, Mom!

     You didn't hear much from me last week because...

We were in Michigan, celebrating The Mama's 80th birthday.

Here she is, with Brother, Nephew and baby Anna. Four generations.

She hadn't expected to ever get this 'elderly.' I wasn't sure she'd make it, either -- her family (and mine) is notorious for heart trouble. In fact, if you'll remember, she had a heart valve replaced three years ago...she is fond of teasing about "mooing" now because of it.

(One of my cousins just had his own heart valve surgery this past week, only his is a pig valve -- hope you're feeling much better, Jack!)

For decades, The Mama (and my dad) hosted Spanish Suppers for the family -- lavish spreads of Americano Mexican food, decorations...and often a fierce Rook card tournament afterward.

Now she wanted one to celebrate her birthday. But she felt too tired to do it herself.

Of course, Mom! We'll do it for you!

A quick trip to Michigan, lugging the first of a truckful of business items. (Three days to pack and sort.) Twenty hours drive, and it rained like crazy much of the way. A stop at the airport to pick up the kids. A few blissful mornings of sleeping in. (We were all exhausted, to start with.)

Then Brother, Sister-in-Law, Daughter #2, Son #1, the Brick and I did a Spanish Supper. 

For 97 people.

In the Mama's three-bay garage workshop. Thanks to borrowing tables from cousins, we had plenty of stretching room, plus an area for food tables.

A pinata. Pin the Tail on the Donkey. (Except the kids found it, and didn't know what to do with it, without one of us standing there. We had to draaagggg them out for the pinata at first, but word spread after the 5th child or so.)

Space for people to stand and blab.

Space for people to sit, eat and blab.

The Mama loved it. 

We loved seeing her so happy. 

Days later, she's still talking about how much fun it all was.

Well, Ma, sort of. Except for the prepwork and setup. And cleaning up. And washing dishes and pans until 1 a.m. 

The trip back wasn't as long. We weren't hauling a truckload, for one thing. And there were four people who could drive, for another.
     A bonus: Grand Island, Nebraska was right on the way home -- so we could stop to see the eclipse.

A week of limbo and work, mostly, with seeing some people we love thrown in, to sweeten the deal. (They helped us clean up, too.)

It was worth it.

Happy Birthday, Mom!  We love you.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

If You Love Animals...

This is one of the most heartwarming videos I've ever experienced. You'll like it, too.

A little kindness goes a long way.

Monday (er, Tuesday) Stuff on the Way to Other Stuff: Eclipse!

     We were very lucky to make it to the right place (in our case, Grand Island, NE) at the right time -- to see an incredible event. 
      Yes, the eclipse of 2017. Here it is, from Casper, Wyoming's point of view. (Daughter #1 was camping there, with her boyfriend.)

And here was our viewpoint, in Nebraska. (These people were up on a hill -- we were in a park, down by a small lake bordering the local veterans home. Not sure of the name.)

Hopefully, you were lucky enough to experience it, too. The strangest part only lasted about 7-8 min. A few minutes before 'totality,' when the sun was fully covered, the sky turned a strange, flat gray. The herd of geese who, til this point, had been grazing in the field nearby, turned, and in a perfect line, started marching off to the trees. (To sleep?)
     Then it happened -- a dark blue circle, surrounded by a whirling white misty circle. Totality.
      We could hear excited cheering and fireworks going off. And this was in a park, with just a small group of people!
      2 1/2 minutes later, glasses needed to be put back on. A sudden flash, with a "diamond ring" effect (the sun reemerging, on top of a golden 'ring') -- and lo and behold, the geese made a 90-degree turn and started marching back to the field, still in a straight line! Then they began grazing again, as if nothing had happened. Minutes later, light was back to normal, even though the sun was still partly obscured.
      And it was over. 

Did we really see that??

Yes, says Son really did.

The increased traffic heading back to Denver proved something had happened, including a 45-minute stop for 'construction' near the I-76/I-80 split. All the fuss turned out to be three bored cops, flashing arrows and a long line of trucks and cars that kept cutting in front of us. (The stinkers.) Grrrr....

Daughter #2, Son #1 and we were on our way home from Michigan, after spending last week celebrating the Mama's 80th birthday. (More about this shortly.) It was great...but REALLY busy. I just haven't had time to wander over the internet, doing my usual collecting. Bear with me, Gentle Readers -- more will come in the future.

Meanwhile, have a great week. 

The darkest blue in this photo was just about the hidden disk's shade...


Friday, August 18, 2017

Getting Through Life (And This Week)

In a few days, it will be better. Really.


Just a reminder for my earlybird friends, who insist on having coffee at the awful hour of 7:30 a.m.:

That explains the lack of coherence...

This is for you, Jo, Chris and Willo.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Summer Updates

A number of readers have been asking me -- are we moved into the trailer yet?


We're still in the Castle Rock house, for several reasons:
        *The bathroom renovations are not finished. (Guest bathroom, yes. Master bath, no.)
        *Son #1 (our contractor) has not been feeling well. He and Daughter #2 also took some time to see his dad, and check on some property in North Carolina. (He is headed back there, but promised he'd have the bathroom finished before he left.)
        *Painting is still needed. The wood floors need refinishing, as well.
        *We had to beg off to concentrate in other areas -- particularly the Mama's 80th birthday party. (More on that soon.) Plus work.
        *Packing up the business has taken more time than planned. I told the Brick I am sorry I was so verbose, bookwise -- those copies are heavy!

Picture this...full.

     We packed the truck to the gunnels, and made our first trip to put things in storage. Wouldn't you know it -- we hit a huge rainstorm on the way. Our brand-new tarp ripped within the first hour, and continued until it looked like a hobo's discard. Everything that wasn't in plastic got jammed inside the truck; everything that was got thoroughly poured on. We finally pulled under a gas station canopy to wait out the rain. All around us were every kind of trailer and rv possible, trying to get a breather from the deluge. 

So far, we seem to have escaped any serious damage. A few boxes show wet corners, but the items inside seem ok. Some time fighting a brisk wind helped dry things out. 

     It took us three days to box and pack a truckful of stuff...and only an hour or so to unload. Go figure.
     More things happening:

*The chickens are still alive. Barely laying, but just enough to justify buying another bag of cracked grain. The execution clock is ticking.
*The Brick is holding off on taking a regular job, so he can concentrate on the house. 
    My work, on the other hand, continues. You've got to have some income to be able to keep paying bills.
*We just finished the fourth and final season of Turn -- an AMAZING finish.

*Our coffeemaker gave up the ghost...then the French press coffee maker smashed while loading. What the....? (This is serious business for coffee-loving Bricks.)
*I've picked up more jobs. Interestingly, these may include quilts -- but they're not all about quilts. Tough I've been writing about and appraising non-quilted items for the past decade, this kind of work has been steadily increasing in the past year. Hmmm...

We haven't been able to take much time off -- but we have done our jobs. Currently, it looks as if we'll be in the house through mid-October...and hunting season. After that, we'll take another look at the situation and decide what to do. It's not critical -- we don't have to sell the house right this second, to be ok. Which gives us freedom to pick and choose on offers, and time to finish up the jobs we need to get done.

I wish it could go more quickly. I do. But I also believe that we are supposed to hold off for a while, for a reason. What that reason is, God knows. 
    He does. 

Meanwhile, we're:

Monday, August 14, 2017

Just A Little Longer...

...and summer's over.

I can't say I'll really miss this one. It's been full of packing and sorting, and dragging ourselves around. No vacation time. This is the work season, so we can enjoy the future more.  

It is the way it is. 

Looks like we'll still be in the house for at least a few more months, while we finish up, paint and refinish the floors. It's okay -- we're not in a huge rush. I am starting to realize that the Brick and I can only take so much stress and bustle; then we have to stop and rest. (Is this what 'getting old' is like?)

And look what's coming: 

Hoo boy -- pumpkin coffee again. (grimace)

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Happy International Lefthanded Day! AUGUST 13

It's almost over...but did you celebrate your favorite left-hander today? 

As one whose left hand writes...
Hope so.

Happy International Lefthanded Day!

Actually, lefthanders do a lot of things right-handed, too... we have to. 

Monday Stuff On the Way to Other Stuff: Sticks and Stones

Actually, it was just sticks, sticks and more sticks.

Two years ago, we got our hands on a truckload of hardwood trimmings from a local company -- for the amazing price of $21. Hardwood, out here in Colorado, is practically the same as gold, but burns much longer than the pine logs we normally buy. 
     These trimmings varied in size and width, but most were in 5-foot lengths. We've been hacking away at the pile sporadically, but it's continued to take up much of the space in front of the garage.

     Until Saturday night, that is.

See the messy pile of sticks behind Charley? Ta-da...

     The Brick and I spent hours sawing tidy-sized pieces, then bundling them. Now we have nine large bundles for firewood here or elsewhere. The bonus: it's extra space, behind our 5-foot chainlink fence, that's both safe and usable. Now we can pull the trailer back into the fenced area, and gradually start transferring things into it.
     The irony in all this: I'd thought our neighbors were wishing we'd get the trailer out of their yard, where it's been most of the summer. (We had to move it to get access to our Large Orange Friend.) Turns out they don't want us to move it for a few weeks yet. They have extra family coming into town, and are thrilled that they can stay in the trailer while they're here!
      It seems little thanks, considering how much Tim and Elle put up with us. Elle even brought over squash and zucchini from their garden. 
     Good neighbors are a treasure.

Origins of Art Nouveau. This affects all sorts of design trends...including fabric.  (From Painting Class)

Twenty of the world's most valuable stolen treasures. (Fortunately, at least half have been recovered. A few have been stolen more than once.)

Some very silly (and funny!) signs, tools and such.

Dorset buttons -- how to make them, where to use them.  (From Craftstylish)

More odd things happened on 9/11 than just 9/11.  See what you've forgotten, too.  (From Listverse)

The Google Manifesto: conform or perish.  (From Financial Samurai)

IMediaEthics -- a great source for checking truthfulness in the media. (This started as Stinky Journalism, specializing in outing doctored photos.)

Bits and pieces from the 'Golden Age of Steamships' - mostly architecturally-speaking. (From Messy Nessy)

Ten famous people who almost bought it -- in strange ways. Johnny Cash, almost disemboweled by an ostrich??  (From Listverse)

Ever heard of Parabo Press? This photo-processing site gives you 25 free photos, if you'll kick in for shipping. The prices are really reasonable, too: $20 and $25 for poster-sized 'engineer prints' in color or black-and-white, of a photo of your choosing. 100% back guarantee, as well. Use the code KYYHCX , and you'll save $10 on your order. (I'll get a little, too.)

Have a good week.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Happy Weekend!

Yep, that's me...trying to do five things at the same time this weekend. I hope yours is going smoothly.

Seeing the Solar Eclipse

In case you've been hiding under a rock lately...
     Many parts of the world, U.S. included, are going to view a total eclipse on August 21st.

For our part of the country (the American West), the best place to experience goings-on is in Casper, Wyoming. At this point, you won't find lodging -- even camping, unless you're headed out to the boonies somewhere. (Daughter #1 put in camping reservations back in March -- and got the last two spots at the local campground.)

     Kansas City is another good spot. It's centrally located, has a ton of hotels, restaurants and such, and is easy to reach. (And leave from, assuming you're not headed out during rush hour.)

Whatever you try, don't miss it. Even if it's a partial eclipse. (Some good viewing tips are here.) Just don't stare for a long time -- even with sunglasses, you can damage your eyes. A total eclipse isn't worth blindness for the rest of your life.

A good warmup to the doings in a few weeks:
     the annual Perseid meteor shower tomorrow night (Aug. 12) and the 13th.

It's flashier some years more than others...but still fascinating. 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Don't Let Them Get Me!

This could apply to fabric, too. Sadly. I've had the strangest urge to hang out in the sale fabrics, to get away from all the brouhaha at the house. 
    Maybe I'll start a new project, when all this packing calms down.

Animal Magnetism

This gift-wrapping idea stands on its own!

The Spruce has 6 nifty ways to gift-wrap for birthdays and special occasions.  (Click on the link, and you'll even get a how-to video.) This one particularly caught my eye:

Use any one of a menagerie as pack animals.  Simple & effective.

Lions and tigers and bears. (oh my)

Choose your recipient's favorite animal -- they're easy to find on Amazon and at any basic toy area, including the dollar store. (In fact, there's a cow statue in our local Walmart's clearance area that I may just have to get now.)

Couldn't you see these with tiny wreaths or jingle bells around their necks for Christmas? Or expand the idea to other 'holders:' tiny cars, dump trucks, artificial flowers, even realistic figures. (I suddenly thought of Bigfoot! Sorry, couldn't help it.)

Think of The Big Guy delivering your present -- click on the link above for this version

More ideas here, as well.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Cutting Expenses -- When You Think You Can't , Part VII: How to Get Those Extra $$

I hope you've been enjoying our ongoing series, "Cutting Expenses -- When You Think You Can't." So far, everything basic's been covered, including food, shelter, insurance -- even death and taxes! 

You've been saving everywhere you can, but it's still not enough. What you need is more income. Yes, a second or even a third job is possible. (Not fun, but possible.) But are there other opportunities?

YES. Yes, there are.

*Rent a spot in your home.  It doesn't have to be just a room, though Airbnb and Craigslist can be very helpful in that respect.  (So can, a neighborhood sharing app that's all over in our part of Colorado. Look to see if a similar program covers your area.)
     What about your garage? A space in the backyard? Many a person is looking for a reasonably-priced area to work on his or her hobby...or store things. You could be of help.

*Do surveys or testing groups. Craigslist will occasionally have requests for people who have some kind of health problem, or are interested in finding out more about certain cars or household products. Join that group, and you've automatically picked up $10, $20 or even $50-75 for yourself. It will mean a few hours away -- and hopefully you'll get to keep samples of whatever you're testing.
     My favorite is still the restaurant chain that tests burger combinations on its group. I've been part of this three or four times now, and walk away stuffed with a $50 gift card in my hand!
     There are plenty of online survey groups out there. But the best one for me consistently has been Pinecone Research. Their surveys are fairly regular, take only a few minutes to finish -- and you're paid $3 for every one. (You do have to periodically fill out a 'household questions' post, as well.) That can be redeemed for cash or merchandise. (I take the cash every time.)

*Anything you can do short-term will help. Take care of a pet.  Bake a birthday cake -- or offer to serve or clean up at a neighborhood birthday party. Wash a car, or water plants. Pick up the mail...or the drycleaning. Do ironing. Babysit. Be clean, honest, charge reasonably and do the job you promised.

Maybe a gingerbread house at Christmastime? People love these -- hate to build them.

     Do your work well, and you'll have repeat requests and referrals. Use NextDoor and Craigslist to publicize what you're offering. Maybe signs in your neighborhood, too. (Frankly, the latter never worked for me, except for garage sales.)  .Which brings me to:

*Hold a garage sale. Advertise it as a moving or estate sale, if that's what it is -- buyers will have even more interest. Yes, you can also sell on Craigslist or Ebay. Or:

*Use your hobby to start a business on Etsy. That extra yarn? Perfect for scarves, mittens or even scrubbing household cloths. The point is not to go out and buy all sorts of extra materials or equipment; it's to use up what you've already got.

*Teach something. Piano, voice, cooking, sewing -- all you have to do is use your skill, and advertise it. You don't have to be a music major to teach something like piano, either -- this writer and teacher has been doing it, off and on, for years.
     Keep your prices reasonable, and you'll have enough student opportunities to choose from.

*Take a part- part-time job. Maybe your local childcare only needs extra help a few times a year, when their regular employees go on vacation. Or someone calls in sick.
     Substitute teaching jobs operate like this...but so do other businesses that work with the public, and need people who are friendly, reliable, and quick to learn. Someday I am going to our local Little Caesar's Pizza place, which seems to be constantly looking for help, and offer my services for one day a week...or a weekend a month. I'll bet they'll jump at it.

*Do something few others will. Cleaning up dog poop. Snow shoveling. Waving a sign at an intersection. These jobs can actually pay quite well -- and they're almost always in demand. Yes, your dignity may be offended by scrubbing out a public toilet. What do you care, if it gets you away from the humiliation of not being able to pay your bills? Many of these jobs are low-profile, anyways, done while other people are not around. And they don't demand unusual equipment or above-rate intelligence...just gloves and a willingness to work. You can always take a shower, afterwards.
*Here are 50 more ideas, thanks to the Penny Hoarder.

Now,  some other things you can do to generate extra income: 
      (They don't specifically pay $$, but let you save in other areas.)

*Volunteer at places and events that offer extra food. Banquets are one possibility. Thrift shops and food banks are another. Senior lunches and social events are yet another. Never say no to any leftovers -- even if you can't use them, your neighbors (see below) or pets can.

*Swap your skills and available stuff with friends and neighbors. They may fix supper, if you offer to do their ironing for the week. Offer a ride to the grocery store when you're headed there, anyways -- and you may get a free ride next time, or your gas paid for on this trip.
     Our wonderful neighbors will feed our dogs and chickens when we're out of town -- a once-a-day job that nets them extra eggs, as well as the chance for us to reciprocate when they're gone. This has an additional benefit: it becomes an informal Neighborhood Watch of sorts, and helps increase the activity at your home if someone unsavory is watching.

Ask them over for a cup of coffee to discuss possibilities. 

*Rent equipment together -- or offer yours, in return for a favor down the road from them. Our Large Orange Friend certainly came in handy this way, with grateful neighbors sharing extra garden produce, and even a gift card.

*Ask. Do it with politeness -- and a smile. You'll be amazed at the arrangements you can work out. It's a 50/50 risk; they may say no -- but then again, they may say yes.

You're not going to waste that extra $$$ you've just earned or saved -- are you?

 If you absolutely must, go ahead and spend 10% on something frivolous. (New socks. A DVD. Or go out for a snack.) Shovel the rest into savings or debt payments, so you can take a deep breath. 

There. Feel better?

Next Time: Bits & Pieces -- And the Conclusion

Monday Stuff On the Way to Other Stuff: Catching Up - And Natal Celebrations

    We are making Progress.

    Ooh, that's a lovely word. The guest bath is done, and the master bath has a beautiful coating of tile by the tub. It still needs grouting, paint and such. But Son #1 is making...well, you know. The P word.
    We still have piles everywhere -- but I hope to change that when DAV makes a pickup this week. Also, I have a bunch of stuff headed for the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum, as well.

     Only a little paperwork to go, business-wise. Granted, I need to start on another big appraising job this week, but feel certain I can fit it in without killing myself and staying up all night, every night. 
     This week, I'll concentrate on packing up quilts I plan to keep for the teaching/lecture schedule; extra books and kits; notions and tools; and fabrics and embellishments I plan to use in the future. These will all go into storage for now -- then we'll periodically stop by to refresh supplies. Some furniture is going in storage, as well, including folding shelves, a bookcase and a beautiful copper-inlaid armoire I just can't let go at present. 
     The trailer's been sitting in our kind neighbors' side yard while the dumpster was here. Now our Large Orange Friend is gone, I need to break up a small pile of wood and hose down the driveway. Then the trailer can move into the backyard -- and we can start packing it, as well.

Daughter #2's birthday was last Wednesday, the 3rd; Daughter #1's birthday is this coming Tuesday, the 8th. (No, we did not plan it this way.) We'll celebrate both their birthdays Wednesday night with a bang-up dinner, lots of presents...and probably two cakes, with candles lit the traditional way -- in the restaurant parking lot, standing by the car. We've done this so often that they've come to expect it...but try doing that during a rainstorm, or in the case of the Brick, whose birthday is in February, in a snowstorm! Chattering teeth can't sing 'Happy Birthday' very well. 

     A few mousey snaps -- including a big one Saturday afternoon, while I was working on this post. Thankfully, the invasion seems to have calmed down some. Generally, life seems a little calmer. We still have a lot of work to do -- but that's to be expected. Meanwhile:

Ten instances where a ghostly appearance changed the outcome. And it's not just Hamlet's dad, either.  (From Listverse) Also from them:

Ten trees with mystical histories.  

Ten amazing places you'd think were made up. (They aren't.) Like a castle covered with graffiti, right?

Five things banned because they were TOO effective.  (From Cracked)

Getting stuff done -- with the 20-second rule.  (From Funky Junk Interiors)

Twelve healthy crockpot freezer meals -- using veggies and fruit now that will be even more appreciated later. Plus an intriguing recipe for Peach Dump Cake. Peaches, cake mix, butter -- that's it!  (Thanks, New Leaf Wellness)

"Doing what I've always wanted to." A spirited and cheerful defense of homemaking at its best.  (From Diary of a Stay-At-Home Mom)

The secrets and scandals of Cher.  An intriguing group of bits about this talented singer/actress.

Ten fortune hunters who met an untimely death.  Including someone who disappeared near the area that Daughter #2, Son and I were digging!  (From Listverse)

An amazing jet landing -- completely blind, after the plane was in a hailstorm.

Are you responsible for your child's unauthorized credit card charges?  (From

"How I got free crap with fake reviews." Gives you lots of faith in the system, doesn't it...

Matt Boermeester has been railroaded out of USC.  Even when both he -- and his girlfriend Zoe Katz, the alleged victim -- said abuse allegations were false. Shame on USC, who should have dealt with this investigation far more carefully. More on this here.  I am still trying to understand why the Title IX office would have gotten involved with this in the first place.

J.K. Rowling dumps on President Trump for bypassing a disabled child in a wheelchair -- only it isn't true. (Rowling eventually apologized to the family and removed the tweets -- but was anything said to Trump? Naaahhhh....)

Fatboy ice cream sandwich sprinkle pops. Yum. (From Who Needs A Cape)

Ten truly weird mysteries of the Civil War...including a strange bacteria that made wounds glow.  (From Listverse)

Movies that were supposed to have sequels...and didn't. Including John Carter, which was actually quite terrific.  (From Looper) Add tv series to this one -- I'm still waiting for more on Jericho, The Philanthropist, and the one we just finished: The Mist.

Garlic fries with homemade chili sauce.  Oh my.  (From Poor Girl Eats Well)

"Cleaning up after the dog." I can relate -- we've had our share of accidents lately. (From Diary of A Stay-At-Home Mom)

Don Baylor, former coach of the Colorado Rockies, has died. His death was from multiple myeloma -- the same as my dad. An intelligent, interesting man.

A 3500-year-old lunchbox...found in the Swiss Alps. (From Unexplained Mysteries) Also from them:

A Viking treasure trove from Scotland -- 100 items from the 10th century, including an early silver cross, found in May with a metal detector. And:

An experiment in AI (artificial intelligence) has to be shut down -- after the AI invents its own language and starts talking to itself. Unfortunately, no one else can understand it.

Have a great week. Happy Birthday, girlies! Your father and I love you very much.

Happy Birthday, Daughters #1 and #2! You are a wonderful part of our life, and we love you.