Monday, December 30, 2019

Care to Join Me?

...and the Brick isn't far behind.

Where's the maid, to pack for us?

We'll probably be up all night before leaving tomorrow -- but that will let us sleep more easily on the plane.
     Win win in that respect, I guess.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Monday Stuff on the Way to Other Stuff: Ready?

At the very least, willing and able.

We leave New Year's Eve in the morning. After a stop in Minneapolis (oh joy), we fly straight to London. We'll land 9 a.m. on the first day of the new year. It's some days in London, exploring --  the Brick wants to see the Tower of London and Westminster Abbey.
    I do, too. Plus Charles Dickens' home/museum. Maybe a look at the Portobello market; it's said to be one of the best flea markets in the world.

In between, there's a trip to Wal-Mart to get necessities like detergent pods and cough medicine; one more Red Robin meal with our dear friends; and the final packing. Some tasks, like the upcoming book, are on delay, but a lot of work still needs to be done before we leave. 
     Better get to it.

A 150-year-old Christmas letter by Charles Dickens -- rediscoveredTo the railroad that lost his holiday turkey.

Another church shooting, this time in Texas. Two people dead.

Caviar prices are dropping. Oh boy!

"I will be homeless soon." What would you advise next? Some thoughtful answers and advice at Quora.

Eight 'feminine' items -- originally made for men!  (From Listverse)

Zoe's almond pear tart -- I plan to make it with apples, too.  (From One Hundred Dollars A Month)

A surprise Nativity scene found under the surface of a medieval period painting.

Blueberry sour cream coffeecake. How's that grab ya for New Year's Day breakfast?

Favoring one child financially over the other.  (From One Frugal Girl)

Have a great week -- and Happy New Year.

from we (heart)

Frugal Hits & Misses: December Report

Is it really that close to the end of the year? This month has gone at lightspeed some days, then dragged on others. So strange. I spent much of it making lists, then trying to clock off tasks on same.

    We started the month at The Mama's, staying in her barnyard. Then it was on to Tucson for a teaching gig, and a few extra days to rest up, draw a deep breath, and do some treasure hunting research.  After returning to Colorado, we started final preparations for the cruise. It is hard to believe that it's finally going to happen. Don't worry -- I will continue to post on the blog, only now you'll hear about which countries we're visiting, and what we're seeing. Update:  One of the China stops -- for Shanghai -- got cancelled. Darn. But another country was substituted: Korea!

Christmas was nice. We enjoyed a few concerts, played for the Christmas Eve service, and spent Christmas Day with friends, Daughter #2 and Son #1. On our anniversary (38 years!!!), we spent the evening with all of our kids, enjoying the Seven Fish Dishes. Daughter #1 and her partner were kind enough to not only host the doings, but fix four of the entrees. 

All in all, it's been a different sort of month -- but then again, that could be said of most of 2019.

(some of these are from late November)

*Fell in love with a goofy truck terrarium at Target -- and got it for less. I've been watching this for weeks, thinking that when the holidays were over, I'd use it for plants. (The walls are plastic -- a bonus, when you're living in a fifth-wheel, and glass things break.) It was 30% off, but the decorations inside were out of position and tossed all over. Asked the manager if he'd give me 50% off, instead. He did -- 50% off after the 30% was applied!  It never hurts to ask.

*The Mama got a new phone and a new phone plan: more reasonably-priced, with a phone that should be easier for her to use. The Brick deserves special thanks for this one -- he helped her set it up.

*Tickets to the Denver Symphony's Messiah performance -- nosebleed tickets, but less than other seats in the house. (Do you really think that the sound will be any different, up in the rafters?? In fact, it should be better -- sound, like heat, rises.)Purchased for friends and the Brick as a Christmas present. It was wonderful -- one of the best concerts I've ever been to.

*A lovely handbell Christmas concert in Tucson...for a contribution. Thank you, Sonoran Bells.

*Some 'new' (to us) videos -- from my favorite spot, the library's used book room. They're more expensive now, but what the hey: $2 each, even for series videos, goes a long way.

*Bought myself a nice winter woolen dress -- for half-price and free shipping. I've been wearing it during the holidays; it will also come in handy during chillier parts of the cruise.

*Promised the kids a Christmas present from their chosen country. Our regular presents were rather modest, instead. (Yes, I'm keeping a list.)

*Paid every bill possible ahead of time: including the tithe, for the next five months.

*Submitted the sales tax report for 2019. Early.

*Used free greenery for our Christmas 'tree' this year. Ironically, several of our friends did the same thing -- just grabbed a few branches, rather than go to the trouble of putting up a tree. And theirs were artificial!

*The Mama got an extra check -- ostensibly for restaurant fun, but we were really helping out with utility and storage costs. (She wouldn't take the money, otherwise.)

*Cookies, hot chocolate...and Meijer Gardens. A free shindig with The Mama and family in Grand Rapids. She paid for a few free meals, too.

*Treated The Mama to a buffet supper -- but went early enough to make it 'lunch' prices. As our favorite Hollander mantra says, "[dollar amount] is [dollar amount]," no matter how little. (And it DOES add up eventually.)

*Careful  attention to food costs while on the road. We ate at McDonald's almost exclusively for breakfast, or used Burger King coupons.

*Brought some goodies for our kind friends...who let us stay a few days over at their place in Tucson. (They put up one of our friends for a night, as well.) Beautiful mini-rosebushes at $3.99 each let us gift other friends -- and the girlies.

*The dollar store is a good friend at Christmastime. I got some real buys there, for presents, fill-in food and a few craft items. We also got some bargains at Sparta Variety's going-out-of-business sale, including the piggy pitcher that held our 'tree' this year. (See above)

*Grocery costs were minimal this month: Basics like milk, bread and eggs dominated. The shrimp for the Seven Fish Dishes was on sale. I did get some candy for stockings, but they were from sales and Daily Deals, a discount store.

*Refilled prescriptions, so we'd have enough during the cruise. You can get vacation-extended refills, all right, but the insurance company won't generally honor them. (Use Good RX instead, if needed, to get the best price.) I also ordered charcoal capsules (good for stomach troubles) and the generic version of Bonine. (I get seasick sometimes -- the Brick never does. That's what six years in the Navy will do for you.)

*Some Amazon steals during Black Friday: York peppermint patties, lots of them. Milano cookies. The daughters love these. (I do too, frankly.) The complete set of Columbo: $29.99. (That's where my allowance went this month.) Lieutenant Columbo's been keeping me company while I work on appraisals and finish up restorations.
     Another Black Friday buy: a specialized water bottle with filter, just in case we run into issues. (20% off, plus free shipping) Ordered three more portable filters, for use in camping for us and the kids.

*Still staying at our friend's place -- and able to store the fifth-wheel here through the winter. A kind offer, by a kind man, and much appreciated. We try to make it up to him by paying for utilities and more, plus doing chores.

*Found a friend who can watch the trailer while we're gone. He'll be staying here sometimes, but will make sure the pipes don't freeze.

*Stocked up on necessities to take with on the cruise: toothpaste, razors, detergent pods, that sort of thing. There's no guarantee what the ship stores will charge. (And I'm guessing it won't be cheap.)
     Bought a few after-Christmas items at 50% off, too. They'll come in handy for snacks before the cruise, and a few Christmas presents next year.

*Got extra dogfood and snacks for Charley and Ruby -- they'll be stocked up. Covered them for extras, as well, just in case they're needed while we're gone.


*Got the truck repaired.. A few recalls corrected, and the oil changed.

*Asked to have the deadline extended for the 'Curiosities' sequel to Colorado Ghosts and Legends. I just could not get it finished before we left for the cruise. (I'll work on it while we're on the ship.)

*Had to turn down several work offers. I'll make some of these up in May, thanks to kind clients.

*Not as much work done, because of illness.  Recovering from the pneumonia has really taken it out of me, in more ways than one.

*A few expensive meals in Tucson -- but they were delicious. I'm not sorry at all.

*Two doctor visits, thanks to the pneumonia. And they weren't cheap, either. The Michigan doctor's office didn't want to treat me, because I was from Colorado. (At least they eventually capitulated. I'd tried three other doctors offices who wouldn't do it -- period.) Our normal Colorado doctor, on the other hand, was reluctant to treat me because we'd been in Michigan for more than a month. ("So you're moving to Michigan -- right?") Aarrgghghghgghgh.
    I did get a discount on the Michigan doctor bill for paying cash. (Our insurance plan was not valid in Michigan.) But I had to talk long and hard for it. ("You got the bill for it right away, didn't you? What do you mean -- you weren't in Colorado in time to do that?")
    We had some more medical costs for the Brick, too -- but thanks to meeting the minimums, they weren't much.

*Vaccinations for the cruise: $1499. I am not making this up. Polio, Hepatitis A, malaria (pills to take on the cruise), typhoid (also pills, but we've started those already), tetanus. Ironically, we went in to find out about yellow fever vaccines -- a friend who went with us on the Brazil trip said that the vaccine was no longer made, and the WHO (World Health Organization) decreed that once you got it, you were covered for lifetime. Since we'd had shots back in 2008, we were ok, provided we had our cards. (And we did.)
     Thankfully, a lot of these should cover us for years to come. Hepatitis A is good for our lifetimes, and the tetanus for 10 years. But still... I was wincing, and not just from the shots, either.
     Grousing later to a friend about this, she said, "But Cindy -- 29 countries. What did you expect?"
                 And she's right.

*One more visa on the 'got 'er done and approved' list: India this time. (One more to go: we have to wait until getting on the boat before we can apply to Sri Lanka. You just do what they say.)

*Extra gas and traveling costs. Both from the trip to Tucson (3 full days of driving, just to get to Tucson -- and 2 days of driving back to Colorado). Fortunately, the working gig paid for this.
      Plus the flying trip back to Colorado (18+ hours each way). Not to mention the fun stop in Chicago. 

*'Hotspot' use for our phones was overextended -- for more than one month. True, it was an extra fee, but we needed it to use the internet out in the boonies.

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

Last month's report is here. Last year's December report is here.

Now it's on to the cruise...and a far different life than our 'usual.' The little farm girl inside me is scared -- do we know how much money we're spending, for something we'll just be experiencing as it happens? (In other words, we won't be in control ALL the time.) 
     I remind her that this is something I've wanted to do all my life -- and we've budgeted for it. I also remind her that the crest for my maternal clan, the Cumings family, is 'Courage.' She marches over to the corner and sits down, mumbling to herself. Maybe I'll put her on my Christmas present list, too.  

And here we go.

Friday, December 27, 2019

Hacking Away... a huge list of tasks that must be finished before next Tuesday.

Why? Because that's when we're headed out on the world cruise! 

Christmas and Christmas Eve were quiet -- and nice. More on the Seven Fish Dishes soon.

Hope you're well and enjoying a break. We'll relax when we get in the air on New Year's Eve. Until then -- nose to the grindstone.

...or an appraiser with deadlines...

Monday, December 23, 2019

The Eve Has Finally Come...

Monday Stuff on the Way to Other Stuff: A Bit Harried

Not 'hurried,' though that's factoring in, too. Nine hundred bazillion jobs to finish up in less than two weeks -- and oh yes, Christmas to be celebrated, too! We are clocking items off. If we work steadily, everything will get done. At least the important stuff, like an extension on taxes and the Seven Fish Dishes.
     The cruise tickets arrived. The India visas came through -- no problem. Apparently they're nicer than some of the other countries, or they're not as strict, and let these yahoos come visit. Who knows. The Brick realized that China had granted both of us visas, but mine is for 10 years, and his for 30 days. Weird. 
     Taking typhoid pills right now, which leave both of us a bit nauseous and flu-ish. Oh goody. At least it's warm and sunny here in our living spot. The sun feels good.

Some beautiful vintage Christmas ornaments...found in the thrift shop. Lucky girl!  (From Living Rich on the Cheap)

Bill Clinton's advice to President Trump on his impeachment? The answer surprised me -- see what you think. (I'll give you a hint, Gentle Readers; it could be summed up in three words.)

Alan Alda said he didn't think about divorcing his wife of 60 years... but she probably contemplated murder occasionally. No doubt the Brick has had the same thoughts now and then in 38+ years...

Ten strange exhumation stories. Did you know that Sammy Davis Jr's body was disinterred, so his wife could retrieve $70,000 of jewelry buried with him? Shades of Dante Gabriel Rossetti... (From Listverse)

Laura Ingalls Wilder's gingerbread recipe -- and some others. (She was famous for it, by the way.) A classic from yours truly, resurrected thanks to Cuz Amanda.

Comfort foods that are easy to make. A recipe for Biscuits and Gravy in casserole form? Sign me up!  (From Betty Crocker)

What were typical diets like in medieval times?  An interesting slideshow from Ranker.

Christmas comes but once a year...why not relax and enjoy it? I'm saying that to myself, as much as to you, Gentle Readers. Have a great week.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

It's A Tree Thing

More Christmas weirdness (and unusual Christmas trees) to send your way. If you haven't gotten your tree yet up, or gotten one at all, these might inspire you.


A tubing-tree!

Better that than Maypoles, I guess...

Books, a pine cone and lights -- that's all you need to pull this one off.

Get it?

And...our 'tree' this year, along with a bottlebrush forest.

You don't have to be green to have a beautiful Christmas tree.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Elf Jerks

Someone we know used to machine replacement parts for the Keebler Company. We joked that they had to deliver to a big hollow tree in someone's backyard. 
Poor Keebler.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Look What The Tucson Quilters Did!

    Honestly, these quilters are amazing.

I was at the Tucson Quilters Guild meetings recently, doing some lectures, but couldn't keep my eyes off their Challenge Quilts. They were hanging in two exhibits -- and the variety, colors and experimenting were great.

Take a look.

Yes, those are hands...with manicures. Enormously clever.

Buttons only add to the 3-D look of these flowers

Clustered buttons and fan doilies -- beautiful.

Yes -- a halved quilt!

Way to go, Embellishment Girl

Simple - effective. And a nice way to display single pieces, including jewelry.

The split border is quite nice on this piece

The confetti method! This is all fused raw-edge bits.

Nice job!

(Permission was given for these photos -- you'll have to ask too, if you copy them. Just follow the first link to get to the guild website.)

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Here We Go...

So the House has formally voted to impeach President Trump.

On two counts, rather than the four originally proposed.

Yes, it was a close vote overall. On both counts.

Not one Republican voted yes. A handful of Democrats joined them. spite of Speaker Pelosi's statements months ago that a partisan impeachment would tear the country apart.
Well, she's right. The United States is more divided than I can ever remember -- and that includes the brouhaha when George W. Bush was accused of cheating Al Gore out of a victory, thanks to Florida. (Rmember the 'chads' furor, Gentle Readers?) At least one friend, with whom I've cheerfully disagreed with over the years, has written me off as a MAGA dolt, because I'm not jumping on the 'Get Rid of Trump' bandwagon. And I don't even like him that much!  
     (I'm a much greater admirer of VP Mike Pence...who would, by the way, become president if Trump were impeached by the Senate. Nancy Pelosi would be third.)

Shoot, maybe I am a dolt. If you assume that the accusations made are true (which I'm not convinced they are), then all sorts of interesting things could happen Particularly if Mrs. Pelosi could accuse  VP Pence of the same things. No need for proof, based on the impeachment hearings -- just make the accusations, loud and often.. Then she would become president!
     Anyways, back to the story:

Pelosi is now hesitating about submitting the articles of impeachment to the Senate. (In case you're wondering, they were submitted within minutes for President Clinton's impeachment.). She's said to be hinting that the Democrats have made their point -- and they won't submit the articles of impeachment at all. (The implied reason is, of course, that it won't fly in the Senate, anyways -- the Republicans are in control there.)
     She did some rather odd things before the vote, which apparently were supposed to emphasize that the Founding Fathers were behind her in all this, including citing the Pledge of Allegiance by a large cardboard flag. Oh yes, she also wore a black dress (because this is a solemn and funeral event, and should not be celebrated), and Democrats prayed before the proceedings.
     Apparently, Republicans do not. Pray, that is.

At least one source says that if the trial goes to the Senate, Trump's only six votes away from losing. (She bases it partly on Barry Goldwater and President Nixon.) Another says you don't have to prove that a crime was committed, in order to impeach. (You don't? Being rude when you twitter is good enough, I guess.)

A handful of newspapers have urged the impeachment to continue, including the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times and the Boston Globe. (These same papers endorsed Hillary Clinton for president back in 2016.)

I honestly do not know what to think. I want to believe this is all a coincidence. (Alas, I am not that stupid.)

Normally, a trial means direct evidence. In spite of umpteen "I think this" and "I overheard this" statements (which even Judge Judy would throw out as opinions and hearsay), there was not one witness that directly said Trump did what the impeachment articles said he did. In fact, when directly asked if they had 'impeachable' evidence, not one witness acknowledged that they did.

Would you like to be on trial, based on evidence like this?

I am still puzzled by the case of Mr. Biden, who was caught bragging on videotape that, as Vice President, he threatened to withhold aid unless the prosecutor -- who was investigating his son's company, by the way -- was fired. And that's exactly what happened.

    (When  asked about this during the hearings, the Democratic counsel hedged, hawed, and finally offered a feeble 'Well, that was U.S. policy.' )

Why aren't people on Mr. Biden's case about this obvious intimidation? Isn't this pretty darn close -- or the same -- as what Trump is accused of doing? And where does Mr. Biden get the right to also announce (as he did) that the President should not be talking to other world leaders on the phone? (I'm not kidding -- he really said this.) Confusing.

Dislike someone, that's one thing. Dislike their policies, I understand that, as well. But impeach them, come up with anything you can find and change or substitute as needed, if the old reasons are no longer valid? Or make up new ones... just because you despise them?

 There were those who didn't like President Obama, either -- but they didn't spend every waking moment trying to get rid of him. (It has been interesting to hear the Trump administration taking heat for policies begun in the Obama administration -- especially regarding illegal immigrants.) On the other hand, I do NOT believe that either side comes to this fracas with clean hands.

Meanwhile, serious issues are being ignored, to focus on the impeachment. (Do you really think much else has been done, on either side?) And because Christmas is near, Congress is practically sprinting out for the holidays. Maybe they're hoping that the issue will go away while they're opening presents and drinking eggnog.  Maybe their constituents will forget all the drama and name-calling, while celebrating the season of the Savior's birth.

It won't. And they won't.

And we, as American citizens, will get to see critical issues buried or given quickie treatment, before congressmen descend to the Really Important Issue of the coming year:

Getting reelected.

God Bless...And Updates

(And good for President Trump spending Thanksgiving with the soldiers supporting us.)

     Merry Christmas.

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

We got back to Colorado late last night. The trailer's parked where it will spend the next six months or so...and we (especially the Brick) are grateful not to have to do any more driving! From Michigan to Tucson, AZ, it was three long days -- and from Tucson to home, it was two long days.
      McDonald's was very happy we did it, though. Their breakfasts were consistently good throughout the trip. (I wish I could say the same thing about their coffee.)

Thank you, Tucson Quilters Guild, for your many kindnesses! I really enjoyed my visit with you. (Tomorrow, look for some pieces from their challenge -- inventive.)

We've made progress getting ready for the upcoming trip, but there's still a lot to do. I have several appraisals and a few restorations to finish off. The Brick wants to get some updates done on the fifth-wheel and winterize it, but also has some paperwork to finish up. (He did get our visa applications for India done --  FOUR HOURS. We're waiting for a response.)

And of course, there's Christmas and the Seven Fish Dishes to think about. We have a little forest of bottlebrush trees, and a Nativity scene set up inside...which Daughters, no doubt, will rearrange to their satisfaction.

Let's see them try to reformat this one.

     Lots of snow just an hour south of us, but it thinned out to nothing by the time we reached Castle Rock. Our current spot is close to the mountains, so it still had some white when we pulled in. That's nearly all gone today, though, thanks to the sun.
     The Brick saw a herd of elk and some antelope on the trip home. (I did not notice; I was reading aloud lost treasure stories about the places we traveled through.) Here at our home base, we've already seen a coyote and several deer, including a beautiful four-point buck. Hey, hunting season is over -- why not come out and flaunt it!

No leopards around here... the mountain lions took them out.

Upward and onward.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Decorate Your Christmas Tree - In Frosting!

After admiring the Christmas tree cupcakes mentioned yesterday, I came across this Christmas tree cake, decorated on the same principle, from Dessert Recipes Grill.


(Here are the cupcakes, in case you've forgotten. They're cute, too.)

     You'll need icing decorating tips and, of all things -- ice cream cones.  Unlike the cupcakes, the cones are cut in half, then fixed to the side of the cake.

Go here for decorating instructions, and the recipe for the cake.  This video, on making the Christmas Tree cupcakes, helps too. (The link to the cupcakes recipe is here.)

Wouldn't these be pretty on your holiday dinner table?

(This also ran on the Christmas Goodies blog -- 
lots of holiday cooking ideas for your enjoyment.)