Monday, August 26, 2019

UFOs, Here We Come!

Wanna try something completely different?

Social media types are urging people to meet up on the outskirts of Area 51, out in the boonies of Nevada, on September 20 this year. Then, at a command (Trumpets? A whistle? Flags, like the Indy 500? A gunshot, like the Oklahoma land race?), everyone is going to storm the fences, on the supposition that at least some will make it through.

And then they'll finally solve the mystery of whether Area 51 houses alien spacecraft or not.
    In fact, the first raid has already happened.

I'm not making this up. Plenty of UFO enthusiasts believe the government is Up to No Good at this secretive base. In fact, they denied for years that it even existed. 'Storm Area 51: They Can't Stop All of Us' is set to prove them wrong.

The towns nearby aren't sure what to think. They'll be grateful for the extra tourism dollars, of course.  (I'm not so sure the hunters will feel the same way. If Nevada's anything like Colorado, that's smack in the middle of first season.) But will all the million-plus people who pledged to attend actually find something... or even show up, in the first place?

My Air Force brother-in-law thinks this is hilarious, in a weird conspiracy theory sort of way. Me, I don't have a clue. But this part of Nevada does seem to have more than its share of odd lights and strange occurrences in the sky. Maybe the conspiracy guys are right.

Synchronize your watches -- September 20's the day. 

Frugal Hits & Misses: August Report

What a strange month -- in a series of strange months this spring and summer. After the first house contract fell through, we signed a second contract almost mid-month. God willing, the closing is mid-September. This has meant  keeping the house and grounds tidy, and a lot of patient waiting while trying to keep a semblance of 'normal' life going. We have experienced so many levels of highs, despair -- and everything in between -- that I'm not sure how that goes anymore.
    It will be wonderful to start our next phase of 'normality.' 
                      Whatever that turns out to be.

We continue to spend as needed in order to get (and keep) the house ready for visits. Unused items have been returned, balancing out costs more than they've been doing in past months. Selling some things has helped, too. We have to maintain an extremely tight budget right now, though, to keep the checking account funded.
     Something that's especially amusing: we have been getting all sorts of glossy real estate catalogs, touting million-dollar properties. Apparently the Powers That Be think we should upgrade. I'm just waiting for the upscale vehicle catalogs to start. (Update: they have!)

August was busy, birthday-wise: several cousins, a friend, the girlies and The Mama all have natal days this month. That meant extra $$ for presents and special food (or going out to eat). Fortunately, I'd planned ahead for this, knowing that our money would be focused on the house sale.

This report is a bit early, but I had some things to take care of the rest of the week. 


*Kept careful watch on both the freezer and fridge. Only had to throw out a few small leftovers. Now THAT'S better. Cleaned out the fridge/freezer in the 'other' house, and transferred items to the fifth wheel fridge/freezer, which is admittedly smaller. That meant I couldn't stock up...but it also didn't let me waste or freezer-burn food as easily. It also meant, though, that I walked away from some good grocery deals, because we had no extra room in the freezer. We were able, though, to use the leftovers from the house-leaving partay.

*Fresh zucchini and cucumbers, from friends. Garden produce is wonderful. (Thanks, Tim and Elle!) We watched their kitties, in return. Swapped future sitting for a few weeks of watering our plants while we were gone.

*Sold some furniture. Every bit helps.

*Got some $2 videos from the library's used bookroom. This includes series -- like a full year of Stargate and years of Battlestar Galactica. Five or six DVDS in the set still equals $2 at checkout!

*Negotiated the final sale price of the house...a second time.  For people who loved it, and will care for it. Wonderful. God willing, it will proceed smoothly through the closing date.

*Made final repairs on the house...from caulking the chimney to changing out the outlets in the kitchen and laundry room to GFCI versions. I helped some, but the Brick is the real champ in this department. We hired some of it done, as well, but used a coupon for the plumber, saving a little.

*A few small purchases here and there -- but kept to as little as possible. We weren't sure how long this waiting period was going to be. Except for the par-tay, I didn't buy many groceries, except for the real loss leaders:  99-cent Chips Ahoy, 99-cent pkgs of white tortilla chips, lots of freebies (Safeway really excelled this month), and a real buy: ground beef $1.29/lb. Palisade peaches came in at 88 and 89 cents a pound (Ok, they were a tad green.)

Colorado peaches - the best
(and that's coming from someone who grew up in the Fruit Capital of the country)

*Frugal entertainment, too.  Five-dollar tickets to the movies...and another investment dinner at a fancy restaurant -- for free. (They keep inviting us...) 

*Gave birthday presents we'd purchased earlier.  Our main cost was food for the birthday supper. Yes, we:

*Brought food to Daughter #1's place for the girlies' birthday supper. It wasn't free, of course -- steak, salad, apple crisp, cheesecake -- but it sure was cheaper than taking everyone out. (And the food was delicious, thanks in large part to Daughter's and Partner's kind ministrations.)

*Used up coupons at Burger King and Red Robin. A few times. Got an IHOP gift card as a house-leaving present. (Thanks, Todd and Laura!)

*Came home from Safeway without the toilet paper I'd paid for. Went back -- and got it, plus credit for items I should have had coupon discounts on. Tip: Grocery stores especially do this more than you would think. Don't hesitate to bring problems -- including produce that spoiled too quickly, and such -- to Customer Service. I have NEVER had them not willing to fix the problem.

*Large pepper plant group -- $1.99! The two peppers on them (60 cents each, if I bought them at Sprouts) brought the price down to less than a buck.
            A few small marigold plants were bought to fill in blank pot spaces, as well...I had to throw out four petunia baskets as the heat took them under. The flowers are all showing heat stress now, in spite of regular watering. But that's late August in Colorado.

*Appraisals finished up.

*Some restorations worked on.

*Fewer allergy problems than usual -- at least, neither of us took as many pills to deal with it, than we usually do. Charley made up for it, though, with his allergies.

*Free mulch -- half a truckload -- thanks to the county's site. Figured out a way to transfer a load meant for the dump into trashcans, instead, for the weekly pickup.

*Bought a second DVD/CD folder -- which means we can keep up to EIGHT HUNDRED CDs and DVDs in an area the size of a small cupoard. Amazing


This is what happens when you:

(Or you DO let your guard down...sorry, couldn't resist)

*Paid off MORE house-related bills. At least they were smaller ones.

*More medical bills. Someday these will ease. One more payment to the dentist in September, and our bill's paid there.

*Didn't make it to Michigan in time for The Mama's birthday Aug. 16 -- so had to mail her presents. Ah well. Cheaper than the gas it would have taken to make the drive.

Take a look at last month's report here. The August report from last year is here.  I started writing Frugal Hits & Misses reports three years ago -- seems like decades! Time just flies by.

Actually, Home is where the Brick and the dogs are. And the family.
That's where my heart is.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Monday (er, Sunday) Stuff on the Way to Other Stuff: Progress

...we think.

The house contract continues. (Ditto) We've figured out how to solve a number of logistical problems. (Ditto again.) Fall and a touch of cooler weather are moving in. (Yup, ditto tres.) All good things.

We lost a dear friend this week. We know we will see him again, but our hearts still hurt. Others are dealing with with serious illnesses. It is hard to say to God, 'Your will be done,' when it means people you love may get sick or die -- and there is nothing you can do about it. It is hardest to understand how their pain honors God, and advances His plans. But I believe it does, just as I believe all our shenanigans with the house were meant for the best in the long run. 

God is good. All the time. All the time, God is good.

Teleflora bouquet (thanks, Pinterest)


While we wait. A classic by Brin of My Messy, Thrilling Life. (Gee, I wish she'd start writing regularly again.)

"I earn $15 an hour and will inherit $150,000." An illuminating letter -- and update -- from a woman who got an incredible opportunity -- and didn't waste it. (From The Moneyist, whose posts have been educational AND entertaining) Speaking of that:

If the stock market goes to pot, and (like this lady) you've got a sizable amount of money coming in...where should you invest it?

The growing shortage of senior health care workers -- starting with Maine.

A live webcam of the Mt. Princeton Hot Springs Resort. If you can't be there, at least you can enjoy others enjoying it.

"Old houses and young dreams." A look back at houses almost purchased, and dreams gone by. (From Misadventures of Widowhood)

The triumphant story of Superman redeemed...and back on the street!  Daughter #2 and I used to see Spiderman quite often on the Pearl Street Mall in Boulder. Ol' Spidey's suit was held together in spots with safety pins, but he was friendly and looked after tourists on the mall. A nice guy.

How to tiptoe away from the spotlight...and get some real work done. Good advice on keeping a low profile. (From Financial Samurai)?

What's the mystery about Skeleton Lake? Plenty, it turns out...and not much like the archeologists thought. If you're curious about that, you'll enjoy:

A closer look at a medieval era skeleton found buried in Prague Castle's courtyard. Plus discussion on other bony discoveries...

Perfect comebacks -- 31 of them -- to often stupid remarks.

Tightening the proverbial belt. (From Living Richly in Retirement)

Eighty people arrested in an international crime ring -- accused of catfishing in romance schemes and preying on the elderly. Book 'em...quick!

The New York City party crasher who wears a tuxedo and bills himself as a famous producer-- but lives in a homeless shelter. (He just got arrested again, for the umpteenth time.)

Ten accidental inventions that changed the world. Including -- a pair of sunglasses that corrects color-blindness!  (From Listverse)

Just saw a fascinating new version of Robin Hood, starring Taron Egerton and Jamie Foxx. I have a confession to make: I am a Robin Hood freak. (The Brick would probably substitute the word 'nut.') I've never seen a film version of Robin I haven't liked, though my heart belongs to Russell Crowe's version. This new Robin focuses more on the terrorist aspect of the 'Hood,' as they call him. Either way, he and his buddies are terrific. 

Have a good week. Sniff some flowers before they're all gone.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Things I Don't Understand: What The...? ( Weekend Edition)

     What kind of a strange, amusing and puzzling world do we live in?!?

Take a gander and find out. Some of these you have to think about. (At least I did.)

I love this one.


A fitting spot

And finally:

More here.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Things I Don't Understand: What The...?

    My file for these is overflowing, even though I posted recently.

The world is just too full of things I don't understand. You either, I'm sure.

 Remember: I'm not making this stuff up. Not even the nice ones.

P.S. More coming soon.

We've all gotta start somewhere...
too bad his ego doesn't seem to remember this.

Then there's the kid, accused of shooting his grandfather for a $7 million inheritance, who takes his mom for a fishing trip. The boat just 'happens' to sink, and her body has never been found. The insurance company won't pay up on the boat -- apparently it thinks that odd facts like holes drilled in the hull (and not plugged adequately) might suggest the kid did it on purpose.
(P.S. He's never been charged.)

If that's not weird enough for you, try the strange case of the girl with meth stashed inside her body. But she says it's not hers, and has noooo idea how it got there.
 (Well, maybe the first part is true.)
Notice the large, staring eyes...I've seen this 'Bambi look' before
 when someone was lying to my face.

 Maybe the dog's telling her to ditch the cat...

What a nice guy. 

I'd be the one STILL staring at the screen.  

Only one question: will they let you...

No inflated ego here. Nope, unh unh.

I don't want to know. 


The Great Mattress Roundup

    It used to be cattle stampedes...

Now Denver's dealing with the 2019 Mattress Migration.

Thank high winds and a nearby 'Bed Cinema' event. All escaping mattresses have been corralled. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Don't Count Your Chickens Until They're Hatched...

...or until they're laying eggs themselves.

Our house sale should have closed. It was supposed to, back on Aug. 17.

But it didn't.

Instead, we're waiting for the NEXT scheduled house closing meeting, in mid-September.

God willing, that is. I no longer feel the confidence that sure, this is going to happen, fuhgetaboutit, I used to enjoy.

That makes it harder to keep plugging away at the chores we need to finish up, before we completely move the fifth-wheel from its spot by the fence.
     And head somewhere else.

Poor baby...

It's not a smart thing to completely reveal your future plans right away, caution some experts. And based on what's happened to us over the past few months, I think that's smart. The Brick certainly plays it that way... the less said until it's a done deal, the better. He remembers the old saying:

 "People make plans -- and God laughs."

 And in this case, especially, he's been right.

 Next week, the house is on the market. Yes, absolutely. (It took two more weeks, thanks to a last-minute problem and missed workmen deadlines.)

We'll be moved into the fifth wheel, and everything ready to go. (Ha -- we've been living here for two months, and the freshwater tank, promised at least 6 weeks ago, STILL hasn't arrived. Thank God for a hose connecting us to the old house.)

I'll do this -- I'll get this job, finish that, and meanwhile, everything else will be completely packed up.. (Well, you can guess the answer on this one. The house only needs a few drawers cleared out -- but the garage has more to go.)

We'll be in Michigan in time for The Mama's birthday Aug. 16. And we'll do the house closing long-distance. (We're still here. House closing hasn't happened.)


Will the house closing go through, as planned?  We sure hope so.
     *They've already seen an inspection report.
     *We fixed everything we could think of that the buyers might use to back out.
     *They're preapproved for more $$ than they need.
     *They love the house -- even told the Brick that to his face.
     *Their house has sold. (That contingency was part of the deal.)
     *We even gave them time to get their...err, act... together.

Everything's covered...right?

Dare I hope?

Of course. But I'm increasingly aware that regardless of MY plans (and I am a scheduler), it's GOD'S schedule we need to follow. I thought I knew all about trusting Him -- but I'm learning more, every day we go through this. Yet we have friends that are dealing with much more serious issues: a dear friend who has to go on dialysis because his kidneys have failed; another who is recovering slowly from a serious stroke. Their lives are far more uncertain than just waiting for a house to sell.

So we wait. And pray. And work. 

And God knows.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Monday Stuff On the Way to Other Stuff: It Comes, It Goes

    Hot days, then cool nights...I don't know whether to shiver or sweat. (In fact, I feel like I'm fighting off a case of summer flu from the fluctuations.) Keeping the plants alive and doing a fair amount of clearing out in the least the house sale is still in process. Did you realize that it's not uncommon to wait at least a month for the closing, when a contract is signed?

This is me... waiting


Living near the ocean at 63 in Mexico -- on $1,000 a month.

The best new food offerings from the Iowa State Fair. I'm drooling already...

Frugal accomplishments. I love Brandy's weekly lists, but this one seems even more helpful, tip-wise. (From The Prudent Homemaker)

A French politician summits -- the photo proves it, right?
Impressive.  Oops, two other people in the background are 'climbing' (i.e., walking) without ropes! (Actually, his arm position disproves it, as well -- no flexing of the muscles, suggesting hanging off the ice axe. Which takes a lot of strength.)

Five money scams that are getting increasingly slick. Don't be fooled!

Great comfort, when things are going to pot. A classic from yours truly (the post, not the comfort)

Kiefer Sutherland falls on a tour bus, and seriously injures a rib. At least it wasn't his kneecaps. (If you ever watched 24, you know what I mean.)

The cheapest, fastest meal you can make. More than 100 answers from Quora. Including:

Meatless sloppy joes. Yum.  (From Home Cooking Memories)

Poor Santa...

The Bevington Object -- a new clue to Amelia Earthart's disappearance?

Financial independence on a modest income.  (From Financial Samurai)

'Easy Meals for 25+ People: Our Vacation Plan.'  (From Moneysaving Mom, whose family vacations with their cousins, uncles, aunts, parents, etc. annually)

Toast sandwiches and other hypercheap food from the Victorian age.

How penny-pinchers can still save money when living in a tiny home. And if you enjoyed that:

Tiny home updates to prioritize this summer.  Before it's too late, that is.  (From the Tiny House Blog -- please, Brick, make me this lounging area!)

Dozens of 'heirs' come forward to claim Jeffrey Epstein's estate. Gee, we didn't see that coming...not that there's going to be anything left after the lawsuits are settled.

The world's most haunted castles. (From Ancient Origins)

The inspiring story of Honda...and a man who Never..Gave..Up.

Horror stories behind the scenes of the original Star Trek.

Have a great week.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

An Argument for Giving Yourself An Allowance

     Growing up, we were little farm kids with chores and an allowance. Our parents didn't make a lot of money (most small farmers don't), so it wasn't much: 50 cents a week. But at the time, it was enough for a 5-cent candy bar, long stick of bubble gum, or my big splurge: 10 cents' worth of red-hots from the big glass case at Ben Franklin. The rest was carefully saved to buy presents for birthdays and Christmas.

     The allowance had long gone away by the time Brother and I started working for other people. He helped Dad on the farm, and worked at the same tractor sales/repair company my dad managed the service area for. (Dad was also a part-owner, something I didn't realize fully until after the company had gone bankrupt. Fortunately, he wasn't involved with the money angle, so had it easier -- he just lost his entire investment, that's all. A long story.) Eventually, he bought his own farm and raised porkers. To this day, I give him or his grandkids some kind of pig item every Christmas. (My favorite was the toy that squealed when you squeezed it. Brother never expresses his opinion about these tokens of sisterly love.)

Except it's John Deere...Pa ran the service dept. for a Case dealership

     I helped on the farm, too: selling vegetables in front of our house; picking up hay bales; feeding the chickens; working in the garden and helping Mom in the house. I also picked up any jobs that came my way, including housecleaning, babysitting, working in the school cafeteria (paid for lunch) and eventually working at the hardware store in town. I stayed at Rogers Hardware all through high school, and on college breaks.
     In college, I picked up the occasional housecleaning job, but also: worked at the cafeteria; was a secretary for a CPA; worked at a pick-your-own apple orchard; installed lightning rods (one long spring break); graded papers/was a class assistant; tutored; taught rockclimbing and backpacking, and helped lead various groups on trips in New Hampshire's White Mountains. I even taught a Children's Lit class (ENG291) and managed the college's Children's Book Fair.

     All good stuff for a writer learning her trade. 

'Land of Enchantment' - obviously Norman Rockwell felt the same way I did

But I always felt a little guilty about spending money on myself. True, there was the occasional breakfast (99 cents for 2 eggs, toast and coffee on Thursdays!) or burger. I bought some books -- but always off the clearance stand. (I still won't purchase from Amazon unless the book is wayyy marked down.) How could I justify such wild expenditures, when my folks were helping pay tuition? How would I cover next month's bills...or have enough to give Christmas presents? (The latter were often homemade, out of necessity.)
     That feeling will always be there, even decades after grad school, or years of working with a lower income, in a Colorado county famous for its high expenditures. It's just part of me now -- and the reason I invariably only buy meat, veggies and fruit on sale (or pick/grow/raise my own). I always check the clearance bins, and many times, find bargains.
     It's why I still buy most of my clothes at the local thrift shop. (This is less of a burden than you'd think, since many of the donations are high-end.) We enjoy being generous with gifts -- but they're invariably purchased on sale, or with some kind of a discount.
     It's just how we roll.

     We have been so close-run for money this spring and summer, because of the house sale. Yes, I splurged on an item or two -- the $2 videos, in particular. But I have never deliberately set money aside for myself. To use however I want. Even in high school, the most I ever spent was on a bowl of restaurant clam chowder, or an oatmeal cookie from the bakery across the street.

     But when the house sale goes through next month (God willing), we'll actually have our bills paid, an emergency fund -- and some left over. Thrifty Mom in Boise's post about an adult allowance made me start to think -- why couldn't I have some pocket money? (And for that matter, the Brick.) Thrifty Mom spends some of hers on chocolate. Why couldn't I buy an almond Snickers for myself, now and then, a box of sushi or a notebook, just because I felt like it?

(Those of you who do this regularly can stop laughing now. I'm a Hollander. It's in the genes.)

So here's what the Brick and I mutually decided: after the house sale closes in September, we will each 'give' ourselves $20 a month spending money. For whatever we want. It may not seem like much to you, but for a girl who spent $10 on 5 working t-shirts this summer (and felt guilty about that), it sounds like a fortune. Hmmm...a box of my favorite chicken tenders for a snack? Some of those luscious-looking peaches? Warm slippers? A new, feminine collar for Miss Ruby?

I'd like dogbones better, Mom!

They'll all probably be on sale -- I can't help myself on that. But they'll be... Just Because.

I'm looking forward to it.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

While I'm At It...

Yellowstone Should Be So Lucky...

Living In A Fifth-Wheel: Two Months

I bought a box of nut chocolates (our mutual favorite) to celebrate the newly-signed house contract. The Brick looked at them suspiciously. "Are you sure these aren't from Christmas?" he asked. Nope, buddy -- but they were on sale for half-price!

     It's hard to believe that a few months have gone by since we started living in our new fifth-wheel home...and the "old" house went up on the market. 

It has been a learning experience. The real estate part is one the Brick would like never to repeat. Me, I could do it again. Sort of. Maybe. Kinda.

     I have never experienced time to go by so quickly -- yet stretch interminably on the worst days. But there have been some illuminating moments:

*We really CAN boondock for weeks -- maybe months -- at a time.  Eight solar cells, plus propane, cover our energy needs. Cellphone hotspots give us Internet access, when we can't get it anywhere else. Currently we're using electricity from the old house -- after all, we're still paying for it. A hose gives us fresh water. (Our tank leaked -- a new one is on its way from Oregon, but not here yet.) We're limited only by our access to water -- and how long the gray and blackwater tanks hold out. (See below.)

*I can still stock up -- IF there's space. As long as I pay attention, I can buy an extra. Maybe two. Just not a dozen, like I used to... that's how a lot of stuff got thrown out 

*We wear the same clothes more than we'd like to admit. A wash every few days keeps them available, and our closets from being overstuffed.

*I can still buy on clearance and at the thrift shop -- as long as I buy quality and we NEED those items. Limiting my visits helps. So does keeping a list.

*Hooray for unexpected storage! Our tabletop AND chair seats lift up, with space for mailing envelopes, extra pens and sparely-needed items. The table holds a modest amount of Christmas presents. (Yes, I still stock up on them when I can.) The only bad part: the chair bottoms were flimsy and not attached too well -- and yours truly overfilled them at first.

Cool, huh...all chairs should work like this

*The bedroom is darker...and quiet. Windows are smaller. Two sides are all storage, insulating against sound, and the bed lifts up for additional space. (That's where I keep books for sale, quilts and samples for lectures and classes. Winter coats, too.)

*Tidiness counts. We just cannot leave piles like we used to.

*LOVE our laundry chute! This open space under the bathroom sink drops down to the 'basement,' where a tall basket waits for dirty clothes. I open that compartment, grab the basket, and off we go. (I have a portable washer, recommended by other RVers, but haven't tried it, as long as we have access to the old house.)

*Lots of light. Our windows are large -- that's one thing I especially liked about this fifth-wheel. Pull-down shades give privacy when needed, and fold away easily when we want views, instead.

The new...and the old

*Meeting with clients has been productive, thanks to the library. I love this place for its great books, videos and fabulous  used-stuff-for-sale room. Its' study and meeting rooms are busy, but there's always been one available. It's quiet, clean and roomy.
     Even in a pinch, clients have stopped by the trailer. No problem.

*It all works -- it just doesn't all work at the same time. If the air conditioner's going, the microwave can't be used, or it trips the breaker. Not a big deal, since you can flip the a.c. switch on and off in a moment.

*Even the toilet issue is ok. (Warning: slightly gross moments ahead.) We limit it mostly to 'liquids,' and the toilet paper issue is solved the Mexican way: a plastic bag, emptied weekly, in a small push-top metal trash can. (There are always ziploc bags, too, if you're camping.) I keep the bathroom extra-clean...something I have to do, anyways, in the "old" house. Any #2 moments are saved for elsewhere, if possible.
      Other RVers said if you do this, you can go quite a while before dumping...and they're right. Whenever this need comes up, we plan to pay for a night at a campground with a dumping station. The process is surprisingly odor-free, though you really don't want to think about what you're doing, while you're doing it. While we're at it, we'll fill up the freshwater tank, use the wifi and the electricity.

View from the kitchen table -- fridge/freezer and storage to the right;
TV, stereo and fireplace to the left. Bedroom is up the steps, shower on the right.
Yep, we're roughing it, alright.
Living in the fifth-wheel isn't perfect. We can bump into each other, especially during mornings. The dogs stay close and are easy to trip over. The fridge has a tendency to leak into the crisper. There's not much room for books, and our winter clothes must be stored in the 'basement.' I have to pass up deals now and then, because they're not what we need at the present. And it would be difficult to host parties for more than four or five people, unless we eat outside. But with care, these issues can all be worked out. We've already solved some big ones:  we'll be sharing Daughter #2 and Son #1's mailbox. Our phones and medical needs will adapt to moving around some. We'll keep Colordo residency; after all, our girlies, son and friends are here. Contact info (except for the address change) stays the same. And wherever we go, we take our home with us.

We're going to do just fine.