Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Frugal Hits & Misses: July Report

     This has been one of the tightest months ever. But somehow, in spite of extremely short rations, we managed to pay our bills this month -- including credit cards in full. I can't explain it, except for some resolve and work on our parts...and God's goodness, in bringing work in. 
     We had to take out a small loan. (Which should be paid off shortly - still cheaper than credit card interest.) We also need to start adding to our emergency fund -- it's been stripped bare. 
     Thankfully, some teaching/appraising gigs, starting in August, will help -- provided we bahave ourselves financially. Fortunately we don't need much right now.
     It's been so hot and dry that I've had to work hard to keep the deck plants alive. A couple of tomato plants are starting to produce, and a pepper plant , purchased at Sam's Club, has provided a number of crunchy Hungarian peppers... and assuaged my gardening urge. Somewhat. Several rainstorms the last week of the month helped keep the lawn and flowerbeds going.
     The most difficult part of the month has been the Brick's operations: first for an emergency appendectomy (it had burst), then again recently to the emergency room for tests and a gallbladder operation. 
     Ironically, years ago he had two back operations almost the same way -- #1 to initially solve the problem, then #2 a few weeks later to fix a spinal fluid leak caused by Operation #1. I asked the Brick, "Are you planning to make this a pattern from now on?"

*Meals from kind friends...after the Brick's first stay in the hospital.

*Forty cents a gallon saved on a fillup... thanks to purchase points earned from the money spent for the wedding..

*Our toaster went kerfluey. Why is this in the 'hits' column? Because it's worked well for more than 36 years.  (It was a wedding present, no specific brand name.) How many other appliances can you say that about?

*Took care of two sets of dogs (plus fish) for neighbors over the Fourth of July week, plus a last-minute catsitting job.

*NO PURCHASES -- over and over. Even our grocery purchases were minimal. We didn't even go out to eat much. (The Brick needs a diet right now that's less fatty/fried than most restaurants.)

*Continued adding to our Lord & Richards investment account. (More on this wonderful company in a future post.)

*Did some restorations, appraisals. Finished up others. Sold a couple of books on Amazon.

*Finished the first and second edits of The Book. It's going into production next.

*Lots of fruit and veggies - best prices, 88 cents/lb for strawberries, and an astonishing $1.28/lb for cherries. (The Brick loves these for helping his gouty toes and fingers -- they really do.) King Soopers freebies: you can find them on Fridays at the King Soopers website. (Or check Kroger.)
    Other goodies: butter for $1.49/lb (and a $1 coupon layered on one package); 99-cent ice cream; $1.49 Tostitos; $1.49 for a 12-pack of seltzer water.
     Lucked into a BOGO 4-pack of meat from Safeway: 2-3 lb. each of chicken, pork loin chops, steak and chicken tenders each isn't a bad deal at $19.95. But at $10, it's a steal! Also got country-style ribs (99 cents/lb)...and a freebie package of Uncle Ben's Rice. (Like King Soopers/Kroger, Safeway will offer freebies now and then, too.)
     I have to be careful on menu choices -- the Brick can't handle really spicy foods right now. These are basic meats, though, and can be prepared several ways.

*Ate out of the freezer a lot. (The dogs ate freezer-burned meat...shame on me for letting it get that way.)  Put away some cherries and strawberries for the winter.

*Recertified for AQS -- didn't have to do this, after all! Turns out I'm just fine for two more years. ($100 saved)

*Finished off the Grimm series. All six years of it. (Thank you, library!) 

*"Master and Commander" soundtrack for $1.19 (plus Amazon shipping) -- We're looking for a cheap Boccherini album next, including this lovely piece:

*Traded an appraisal for tomato plants.

*Taken out to eat, as a thank you for volunteering for Worship Team. (Thank you, Monument friend!)

*From the library's used book room: 6 videos, $2 each, including one of my favorites, Pride & Prejudice with Zombies: 

*Got birthday presents for two girlies (Aug. 3rd and 8th, respectively).

*Sold the Outback -- to Daughter #1. She needs a reliable vehicle, and will take good care of it.

*Kept payments made -- barely. I still don't know how for certain.

*Really minimal food costs, including Oscar Mayer hot dogs, $1.25/lb;

topping ideas from Rachael Ray via Pinterest


*House work was delayed.  Due to the Brick's hospital stays, and my trying to keep things going while he's been recovering. We've got drifts of fur all over the house, and piles of books, clothes and gewgaws are everywhere, waiting to be packed into boxes. I'll be working on these the next few weeks.

*I REALLY miss the garden. Veggies bought on sale just do not substitute for picked fresh off the vine.

*The Brick's hospitalizations. 'Nuff said. (On the plus side, except for a supper paid for by friends, I didn't get any food there -- lived on frozen eggrolls and milk, instead.)

*Paid a bunch of medical bills, racked up for tests and a physical the Brick had... they said he was in good health. (This was less than a month before his sudden appendectomy. Go figure.)
     Some for me, too. Ouch. We know all too well that more are coming.

*Some food spoiled... particularly during the week when the Brick was in hospital, and I was traveling back and forth. Sigh.

Last month's Hits & Misses report is here.  Last year's July report is here. \

Hope your summer has been cool and fun.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Monday Stuff On the Way to Other Stuff: Still Here

Trying to juggle a bunch of balls in the air, and simultaneously keep the Brick down and resting. (He needs to, in order to heal.) We've had several rainstorms this past week -- the July Monsoon we sometimes get this time of year. High winds, sideways rain and a little hail mixed in keep us home. The cooler air has made it easier for the Brick to sleep, too. Poor guy.

Fortunately, likfe goes on. More slowly right now -- but it goes forward.

Traveling the world -- for less than $20,000/yr.

Sourdough bread -- how to make it.  (From Jembella Farm)

CAUTION: RUDE ALERT. Accusations of 'Bigfoot Porn' in Virginia politics. I am bringing this up now, before my family can drag it out of the headlines and torture me with it.

320K income -- lots of debt -- now what?!?   (From the White Coat Investor)

Pimple and blackhead dos and don'ts -- from Dr. Pimple Popper. (I shamefacedly admit I enjoy a round of her videos now and then on Youtube. Watching these guys squeeze out is pleasantly disgusting.)

Faked hate crimes... these are startling, to say the least. Shades of Sherita Dixon-Cole, who seems to have disappeared off the radar. Add to this:
    17 hate crimes reported in 2017 -- that turned out to be hoaxes.  And:
    9 more, that also turned out to be hoaxes. Done by the people of the same sex, political bent or the culture that they claimed was being discriminated against. And often done for effect.

Encouraging, huh...

Homeowners who refused to move.  An intriguing slideshow of what happened next!

Ten crimes committed (or helped) by drones. (From Listverse) Also on the docket:

Ten hate crimes -- that were faked.

Weird hacks that work.  Another classic from yours truly.

Weird facts about America's national landmarks. Did you know that the gigantic Crazy Horse statue pointing... is actually considered an insult? (Those Native American tribes thought that pointing was incredibly rude.) Thanks for educating us, Listverse.

Melee at Applebee's: The four women who beat the crap out of a waitress who brushed by one of their legs. They not only attacked her, but cut her with a steak knife (15 stitches), stole her tip money...then casually walked out of the restaurant, ditching their bill. Talk about a busy night! (They've all been arrested, by the way.)

Memes that ruined people's lives. Sadly, some of these were self-inflicted...to begin with, at least.

An art dealer buys a New Jersey storage locker full of "a bunch of junk" -- and finds what he believes is a Klee, plus 6 deKooning paintings. Yowza.

Ten haunted universities and colleges around the world. (From Listverse)

"What's the cheapest, fastest meal you can prepare?" Interesting answers from Quora.

The 'doctor' (who wasn't) who saved thousands of babies.  Over more than four decades... 

Robin Wiliams estate items are going up for auction in October.  This is from the things he and wife #2 Marsha collected. (Yes, it's taken four years for these to be offered. That's not unusual. I just wonder what the kids and wife #3 think about it.)

Have a good week.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

It's Always Something Else...

Guess the Brick wasn't finished with health issues.

This week, he had another visit to the emergency room...

and gallbladder surgery.

Now he has a fresh batch of little slits on his stomach, plus a vertical cut by his bellybutton.

And no gallbladder. Which was filled with little stones, anyways.

Ironically, this time they let him go home the same day -- they caught the gallbladder in the first stages of inflammation. (No fever and no infection make a big difference, too.) I'm grateful. But at the same time, it was weird. (It's amazing what they do laparoscopically, nowadays.)

So he's back to resting and getting stronger. 

And hopefully healthier.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Something to Think About...

Better that than serious pants...

In Praise of Staying Up Late -- And Coffee

A new study suggests that night owls and earlybirds may be that way because their genetics promote it...and trying to get them to stop doing it may actually shorten their lives.

Tell that to my friends Jo, Chris and Willo, who LOVE getting up early. If I want to meet them for coffee, I have to do it their way, even if it means I Do Not Participate at first.

    Then the caffeine kicks in.

(Last week, I went to the wrong shop -- but it took me a good 20 minutes to figure that out, then where to head next.)

They just don't understand the value of staying up late.

I wrote an essay, "In Praise of Late Nights," for the Penny Thots site. See if you agree.

Friends Chris and Jo love to get up early…like 4 a.m. early, when even the robins are still snoozing. They exercise, get a shower and have breakfast, early newspaper in hand. And once a week, they drag yours truly to Starbucks at 6:15 a.m. for coffee. I trudge in, clothes tossed on and eyes bleary, then sit there like a slug for half an hour until the caffeine kicks in.
Jo and Chris find this hilarious.
I keep telling them about the benefits of staying up late, instead.
For one thing, you’re not fighting a crowd at the grocery store, if you shop later at night. Extra discounts are out on deli items, meat, produce and other goodies. Many Wal-Marts, for example, mark their rotisserie chickens sharply down after the deli closes at 9. Score!
Mail can be dropped off at the post office without standing in line. (Our local post office even has a 24-hour machine for weighing packages, buying stamps and such.) Run in a bit before the library closes, and not only grab your books on hold, but pick up a video someone just dropped off, in the rush to keep fines from accumulating. I’ve found many a popular DVD this way, returned at the last minute, that I’d have to wait weeks for, otherwise.

The rec center is a blessing in the late evenings. All those pesky screaming kids have gone home, and the pool is quiet and near-empty. No one will be jumping, cannonball-style, into the lane while you’re doing laps. Much of the equipment is open for use, and you don’t have to practically mug someone to get access to a racketball court.You’ll sleep better, anyways, after a good hard workout.
Late nights at a restaurant – after the movie, instead of before, for example — means you’ll spend less, on dessert and coffee, than for a full meal. It gives you mental permission to splurge on that basket of fries, and feel virtuous — sure, it’s junk food, but you don’t eat this way all the time. And besides, you’re saving money! Besides, holding hands late with your sweetie on a dark, rainy evening is incredibly romantic. Or take a long walk together. There’s no reason to rush home, making it a good time to get to know each other better.
If you’re a writer, late nights are a prime opportunity to get work done with few interruptions. No one calls, and your partner is busy watching TV or working on the computer (or asleep!). If your children are young, they’re safely in their beds. And if teenagers, they’re still buzzing about at parties, or online with their friends. The coast is clear for reading a book in peace, and having a chance to think without someone at your elbow, asking for something. Work more quickly, too: finish e-mail or figure out the villain in your short-story-in-progress.

I'm typing this at 2 a.m. And yes, I need to meet them for coffee this morning at 7:30 a.m. (Dumb, dumb, dumb.) They'll laugh and make fun...and I'll just sit there. For a while, at least. But I love them, anyways.
Time for bed.
Now if Benedict showed up, that would wake me up quick!

Monday, July 23, 2018

Things I Don't Understand: Words, Words

Mostly wordy stuff this time... after all, that's how I make my living. 
    If you enjoy this silliness too, there's more here -- which will lead you to yet more things not to understand. 
     The world's full of it.

Of course he said it...


How about the chocolate sauce?

I've been in conferences like this, too.

No doubt...

Did you ever play this game? 

Uh-huh.Go figure.

And finally: 

They probably don't understand, either.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Monday Stuff On the Way to Other Stuff: House, House, House

    Work stuff's almost cleared away. My appraisal clients were kind enough to give me a 'bye,' and understand about The Brick's hospital stay. The Brick is definitely feeling better. (Thank God.) Now it's time to concentrate on packing up bags and boxes, then gradually transferring items to the trailer. It will take longer than I'd planned; the Brick isn't allowed to lift anything more than 20 pounds. But it will be a major item on the calendar. 
     I've got three weeks...then I'm back on the road again. First stop is the Cheyenne Heritage Quilt Guild in (you guessed it) Cheyenne, WY, one of my favorite places in the world -- appraising and judging. More about this soon.

The duck boat victims included a family of nine. (The total party was 11; an adult and child lived. The woman who survived lost her husband and all three children.)
     This accident has really hit home to us. The Brick looked at the family's photo and said, "They look like good people -- we could have been friends with them."
     He's right.
     Even the kids looked like intelligent, interesting people. What a shame that they couldn't have grown up, and passed that on to another generation. 
     More details about the accident -- and duck boats -- here.
     Plus here -- including details from a survivor, and some very unnerving footage.

Something weird is happening in the Yellowstone volcanic systemWe have friends heading there this week on a motorcycle tour...

The best foods for healing -- from surgery, illness and injury. Hey, for the Brick's sake, I'll try them!  (From the Real Food Forager)

The laziest cats ever to walk (or not) on the face of the earth. A very funny slideshow.

Peanut butter fudge -- basic and delicious.  (From Moneysaving Mom) P.S. I don't use coconut oil much; for some reason, it makes me nauseous. Try melted butter, instead.

The government employee who skipped work for a decade -- and no one noticed. He's not the only one in the Laziness Hall of Fame, either.

Retiring? Hey, draw MORE than the 4% rule!  Not that I agree with this...

A huge artillery fort site discovered in Kilkenny... part of it under the site of a proposed hotel parking lot! (The Irish town nearby was called 'Castlecomer.' Gee, could that have been a hint that a 'castle' was nearby?) From Irish Central. Plus:

A 500-year-old 'passage tomb' discovered in Dowth, Ireland...the first in decades.

How to paint a rug -- and make it last.  (From Knockoff Decor)

A very cool way to make very tiny Four Patch blocks!  (From Bee in My Bonnet)

From the Department of 'Well, That's Crass' comes the tale of a woman who helps herself to an Ohio restaurant's painting -- but is forced to return it after she's identified on social media. Serves her right; I hope she's humiliated. (The restaurant owners are kind enough to say they won't press charges.)

"The dirty secret[s] behind eating at home." Lots of save-time-and-energy tips here.  (From The Frugalwoods)

Top ten investment tips from "the best."  (From Wealth Advisor)

Paying to save on energy -- now and later.  A classic from yours truly.

Twenty reasons why you don't want your family picking you up at the airport! (Including some nice ones, too...a photo essay from Dumpaday.) Like this one:

"I can't even afford to eat..." or could something be done? (From I Heart Budgets)

The paralyzed kitten who suddenly began to move her legs! You'll love this feisty cat's love for life.

Give a kid a thousand bucks -- what does he do with the money?

Secrets about cruise ships -- from the staff's viewpoint.

Crow necrophilia -- why do they act like that around dead crows? Kinky Alert -- but fascinating. (From The Smithsonian)

Building a better resume.  (From Get Rich Slowly)

Have a good week. And just so you don't forget His Nibs:

Saturday, July 21, 2018

All Creatures Great And Small

National Geographic's 2018 Travel Photographer of the Year results are out...and they're wonderful.

Go here for the winners circle.  I was particularly taken by a Peoples Choice award photo, Highly Tolerant Society , by Hidetoshi Ogata. Very textured:

(These may take a bit to load -- be patient.)

The grand prizewinner was Mermaid, by Reiko Takahashi:

You'll also like the 2018 Audobon Photography Award winners -- all avian, of course. 

The grand prizewinner is an amazing shot of a Great Gray Owl by Steve Mattheis:

More than 8,000 entries were submitted. Here are the top 100.

Best of all, the bottom of the page has more links to previous year winners. 


"Who doesn't like birds, you nincompoop!"

(Thanks to J.D. Roth of Get Rich Slowly for alerting me that these were out. What a guy.)

Friday, July 20, 2018

There, But For The Grace of God...

Last night (Thursday), one of the Ride the Ducks boats capsized on the lake in Branson. A freak storm came up suddenly, with large waves. (And those boats ride pretty low in the water.)

A lot of people died. More were injured.

The Australian quilters tour was on that boat, back in April. Yours truly was, too.

 At the time, I remember thinking how 'flat' the boat was, and that it didn't maneuver quickly. (The captain let a bunch of women 'drive' while on the water -- and they enjoyed the heck out of it.) On the other hand, the lake was calm, both the captain and driver were close at at hand. And we did most of our driving on land, where it handled just fine.

I'm not faulting the captain, either. A second boat was out there, based on the video, and got back to shore. It would be easy to assume that this weather would also blow over quickly...which it did. But these sudden storms are nothing to fool with.

Here's more detailed information. Those poor people... your prayers are requested. 

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Take A Mountain Majesties Trip - By Quilt

It's hard to believe, but you can take this simple triangle block:

Cut it into slices, as shown in the photo. Sew and cut more blocks...

Re-sew the strips.

And come up with this scrappy Delectable Mountains variation.

Or this one.

Perfect for fall. See all the plaids and stripes?

What a stunner.

Bonnie K. Hunter calls her version 'Scrappy Mountain Majesties.'

I call it wonderful.

Go to her Quiltville blog, and she'll tell you how to do it, too.

Thinking About Christmas

I've been doing this lately.

For one thing, it helps keep my mind off the Brick's recent hospital stay. Looking at Christmas trees and stockings is far more entertaining than sitting in the hospital room enduring daytime tv. And trying not to worry about your husband.  (He's doing much better now, thankfully.)

For another, it makes me feel cooler. (I don't know why -- it just does.)

And it helps me plan ahead. What can I do now (besides saving money for later) that will make the holidays easier and more meaningful? 

Some of the best frugal holiday ideas are on Pinterest. Including this incredibly clever snowman, made from dollar store fish bowls! (Thank Kelly at Smart School House for this one.)

Just thinking about snow makes me feel cooler.

Plus:  Sixteen strategies for a frugal and wonderful Christmas.  (From The Simple Dollar)

101 Frugal Christmas tips. (From Moms of Faith)

30 dollar store Christmas ideas.  (From Idea Stand)

A dozen homemade Christmas gifts -- many could be made (and given) in multiples.  (From Postris)

Fourteen DIY home projects -- several of these, including this dainty birdfeeder , would make outstanding gifts.

Don't forget holiday cookies or candies -- manyof these can be made now, and frozen. Like Aunt Bill's Brown Candy, from Organized Christmas: a sort-of pecan brittle with a chew instead of a crunch. (More candy recipes here.)

And here are Betty Crocker's 'Christmas cookes best made from scratch.' (Make some for me too, please.)

Also from Postris:

Thirteen unusual holiday gift wraps... including a CD mosaic that would also make an interesting presentation box.

Somebody can make me one of these!

Twenty ways to decorate a Christmas tree -- or just make it look like one.  (From Hometalk)

 30 dollar store Christmas ideas.  (From Idea Stand)
              This snowman wreath comes courtesy of the dollar store link:

And, in case you're looking for something new on the future holiday buffet:  Greek Stuffed Turkey.

It's just as relaxing to read about other people's Christmases, including MessyThrillingLifePrudent Homemaker and Thrifty Mom in Boise. The last two are particularly careful to celebrate on a budget. Or celebrate like our Aussie quilter friends do -- this is their chilly season, after all.

For inspiration, there's also a post about a $100 Christmas from the Family Frugalwoods.  And I got a copy of The Man Who Invented Christmas. I get to satisfy my Dickens leanings and the Christmas urge at the same time!

I don't really think he did. (Charles Dickens himself would agree, in spite of the movie's catchy title.) But it will be fun to watch... and think about, now that we're back to 90+ degree days.

And this easy idea for decorating a mantel or shelf is from Southern Hospitality
See? Don't you feel cooler now, too?

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Writer's Lament

A young friend once sent her in-progress fantasy novel to me for review. I read it. Then, feeling virtuous and magnanimous, I all but tore that thing apart, criticizing this and making little of that. 

She didn't say much to all my lofty suggestions.

Later, she posted the manuscript. I read it again. I thought it vastly improved... and said so.

"This is the same version I sent you before," she wrote. "I didn't make any changes." 

Red face -- big-time. I've never done that again. 

Monday, July 16, 2018

Warm Breezes, Starry NIghts

This is one of the most visually appealing star blocks I've seen in a long time... 
     and the pattern is free, thanks to Cath at Wombat Quilts!

Here's the basic unit (you'll need 4 for the block):

Makes up into this star block:

And different colors produce this version of the same block:

The six-inch block size makes it an excellent candidate for using up scraps, as well.

Try the blocks combined into a small quilt, used as an inner or outer border... or just four for corner blocks. I plan on keeping copies of the units in my sewing machine case, and sewing a few from leftovers whenever I'm working on something. In time, I should have enough for a rainbow-style kaleidoscope quilt.

Go here for pattern units and full info. Nice job, Cath!

(Look for another easy quilt pattern later this week)