Thursday, October 31, 2019

When Will the Agony End...

Frugal Hits & Misses: October Report

     Colorado had a strange fall this year -- almost patchwork. Some of the trees turned color the usual time, mid-September. Others in the mountains, even at the same altitude, waited until early October. Why? I have no idea.
     The mid-October snowstorm pushed the greenery in the Flatlands into color...and they've been glorious. I love this time of year. A late-month second snowstorm finished off the colors, but they were starting to fade, anyways.

I feel like we're still recovering from a big binge. Well, we are -- but everything should be fine and shipshape by now. 
    It isn't. But it's certainly better.
We spent much of the month staying with good friends while both the truck and the trailer were in the shop. The truck took two days; the trailer took NEARLY FOUR WEEKS. Aaarrgghgh. We are so fortunate to have understanding friends. 
     Meanwhile, we filled a storage unit. The Brick went hunting. I did some talks. We put away more stuff in the fifth-wheel, and cleared out more, but decided to keep the storage unit one more month. Then we headed for a Petterson family reunion (the Brick's mom's side) in Kansas City. It was wonderful to have the Brick brothers together, for the first time in more than 16 years. Love those guys -- all three of them -- and my sisters-in-law.


(These include a few late September items)

*Cancelled utilities and insurance on the 'old' house in a timely fashion. (Missed out on cancelling internet access, though -- so paid a few weeks' worth for internet we didn't use. Aarghgh.

*Changed addresses -- ditto. Renewed my driver's license, which had just expired, anyways. (This was an incredible hassle, made worse by the fact that our mailing address is now a P.O. Box. You'd have thought that the DMV people never ever saw this before -- despite the fact that a community near Castle Rock only delivers mail via P.O. Boxes.) This has been a struggle sometimes with the credit cards, as well -- don't they ever have other customers with post office boxes??
     Saved on housing with our generous friend's offer to stay there. We reciprocated with a contribution to his climb, and some chores done.

*Went after the title company for extra money they held back during closing -- but never refunded. Note to people getting ready for closing: if you're paying off HELOCs or mortgages, they'll hold back extra for interest, just in case. Also -- the title company may not necessarily pay off those loans quickly -- which means you pay additional days' interest. Or it may be the bank or credit union doing this. (And they don't always refund the money.) DON'T LET THEM GET AWAY WITH IT.
*Second note: if you have the $$, make payments on loans as soon as possible in the month, rather than waiting until the actual due date. You'll save a boatload of interest in the long run -- something Thrifty Mom in Boise taught me. She was right.

*Stayed with friends while the truck and fifth-wheel were in the shop, instead of booking a hotel. We helped out with free dinners out and at the house, cleaning, a filled gas tank, wherever we could. We appreciate their help soooo much.

*Watched a LOT of football -- no charge, but a great pleasure. Go Michigan! Go Buffs!
                    Ummm...go Broncos too, I guess.

Ralphie would drink to that...

(Watched a lot of ball games too, thanks to our at-home friends, who love the Rockies -- and baseball, in general. No matter -- it gave me time to work.)

*Grocery deals: 99-cent pkgs of cheese (Safeway weekend deal). King Soopers is back to offering freebies -- Safeway has more, though, including a couple of free soups. (The chicken enchilada flavor is absolutely wonderful.) Returned some sausage that was bad, and got credit for a freebie that I should not have been charged for. (Another one is pending. Be sure to check your sales slip for this.)
     Free potatoes from Friend, who got them from a field trip to a farm. (She got the hayride, I got the vegetables.) Also, from King Soopers: some autumn bouquets for $2.49 each, plus free hotdogs, cereal and a $1.50 Red Baron pizza. We did very well on general costs this month -- only about $25/week for groceries, if that.

I did NOT buy any pumpkins...they're good for pie, in my opinion -- and that's it.

*A few 1/3-yard cuts of 'grunge' fabric, plus a couple of fat quarters and two $1 spools. (The latter are usually $5 or so.) The clerk also threw in a Christmas scrap of elves and windmills that will make a cute holiday gift for The Mama This satisfied my fabric itch -- and the fat quarters will be used to bind the autumn-themed quilt that's currently on our bed.

*Bought a new domain for $10! I'll be opening up soon, and loading it with all sorts of things Mr. S-related.

*Found a handful of coins in the change cup at Safeway -- 32 cents' worth. On another trip: 12 cents in the change machine. (Don't people check?!?)

*Paid off a boatload of bills. We caught a credit card bill (barely, but in time!)  that gave us six months for no interest. Paid off a bunch more, as well. Felt great.

*Got discounted flight tickets to and from London for the cruise -- with one checked bag each included! That detail alone would have cost us from $200-250 extra.

*More $2 videos from the library bookroom. Read a number of books for free, thanks to borrowing. (Some of them, like One Red Paperclip, were ridiculous -- making me glad I hadn't bought them.) Used the free meeting rooms to do appraisals. (Yes, I love this place.)

Me and Norman Rockwell... we love books.

*Four new (to us) books for research on the next book... $15. Found while speaking at the Ghost Town Society.

*Did some surveys for Pinecone.  Only $3 each -- but they don't take long, you sometimes get products to review, and the money adds up. You may want to look into joining Pinecone Research yourself.

*Set up a Medicare plan to kick in for the Brick...while we're on the cruise.

*Jonny Quest for less than $7, a series I loved as a kid, thanks to Amazon. I also ordered a triple Sharknado collection, plus a double Deep Blue Sea collection, for $7.99 each. (So I like shark movies. Don't judge.) Paid for partly with my monthly allowance, but mostly from a twenty The Mama gifted for my birthday. (She was puzzled by my choices -- but they made me happy!)
     Update Jonny Quest was a beautiful case -- full of empty DVD spots. Ended up requesting my money back. Better luck next time...

*Some appraising. A few restoration jobs finally finished -- close to it.  Whew.

*A few talks for the Ghosts & Legends book...and a perfect opportunity to promote the new book-in-progress!

*A $25 Red Robin giftcard, as a birthday present. (We asked our friends to help 'eat it up.') A free burger (buy 10, get 1 free). We took other friends out as a thank you for their help during the recent move; they gifted us by splitting entrees, rather than each ordering one. (We went on happy hour/weekend discount time, too.) A final thank you supper for the best neighbors in the world was full price...but at least I could put the leftovers to use for breakfast the next morning.
     Another meal out, this one at Dickie's, gained free kids' meals for other friends. Nice to be able to help these wonderful people out.

*The Brick got breakfast several times -- using the dollar menu at McDonald's.

*Free filling replacement -- because the first one on one of my teeth wasn't quite right. Unasked-for -- he noticed and offered. That's the kind of outstanding dentist we have.

The fall leaves were definitely gone in Colorado -- but a few are hanging in there in Michigan yet


*Paid a bunch to renew the passports. Not that we needed to -- they were good for 6 more years. No, we needed extra pages. So adding pages for a 52-page passport cost us $220. If we'd known about the cruise, we could have requested the extra pages back in 2016 -- for no extra charge. (I won't forget this, either.) Thankfully, the 6-8 week wait time only took about 3 weeks, so we could start requesting visas. (More on this in the November report.)
    Update: the passports arrived. Now on to the visas.

*Hunting expenses. New truck tires. Both necessary. At least the Brick got a veteran's discount, plus a $100 Visa card, on the tires.

*Rented the storage area one more month. (They really nail you on the 'use fees' for the first month -- including buying a lock.) We saved some by deciding to make a flying trip back with the truck to pick up the final items, rather than rent a U-Haul truck for this trip. (The trailer is too heavy to haul -- and pack a lot of extra in, as well.) It means extra time and effort on our part, but that's doable in November.

*Gave away dry beans and canned goods. Wish I could have kept them, but they were just too heavy in bulk. (They've been helping feed our friends and kids, though.)

*Had to pay full price for a book I needed to finish researching the new book. Groan, moan, complain.

*More doctor and dentist bills.  Soon, soon these will be a past memory. Until the next visit...or the next bill. (We're paying some off month by month -- no interest or late fees, as long as we make the payments regularly.)

*Items need to be purchased to keep the trailer warm and winterized: a generator, commercial-use heat-tape (to keep the hose from hydrant to trailer, then into the trailer, from freezing), things like that. More will be needed -- but these are necessary to keep us going long-term. It is what it is -- sometimes these expenses all come in at the same time. 
    At least we paid for this equipment via credit cards, which meant cashback rewards, AND paid them off the same month. (no interest)

*Fifth-wheel repairs.  (I can just feel the steam rising off the Brick about this one.) Almost three weeks' delay, lots of conversations and a bit of arguing...and of course, a hefty bill to thrill our souls. At least we've got the fifth-wheel back and are living in it again. The replacement freshwater tank seems to be doing its job, as well. (It should -- it cost enough.) More repairs are needed -- but this time, the Brick will supervise them.

Last month's report is here. October's report from last year is here. 

Upward and onward.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Halloween Shenanigans

Here you go -- more Halloween strangeness to stir into the pot. 

I thought about doing this...

She must have been a little too slow...

Enjoy...but don't get too tied up in it.

Can You Believe It!

The Nationals, oldest team in the league, just won the World Series!!

Final score, Game 7:  6-2.


Good for you, guys. 

(Houston, don't feel bad - you played a good game out there.)

Monday (er, Wednesday) Stuff On the Way to Other Stuff: Rain in Michigan

   Know how to find a Michigan native? They're the ones who stick their hand, palm out, then show you on the hand where they're from. (The Brick finds this hilarious, by the way. Having grown up north of Grand Rapids, I didn't even think twice about it.)

    We're back in the Mitten State, with the fifth wheel snuggled up by The Mama's barn. It's raining (normal), and the fall colors, at least some of them, are glowing against the gray skies. 
     Saturday, the Brick's side of the family had a Petterson reunion in Olathe, KS. We saw cousins we last talked to more than a decade ago; had a terrific lunch (thanks, Marsha, Jerry, Diane and Ron!), and took a bunch of photos. Sunday, we spent the day with the Brick's big brothers and their wives, walking the Riverfront, having lunch and generally talking our heads off. Love these people -- and we just do not see them that often.
     Monday, it was on to see a dear aunt on my side, plus a cousin...then on to Michigan. We pulled in late last night, dogs and trailer in tow. I brought an unexpected visitor with -- the flu, picked up from someone during Saturday's doings. Time for rest, work and lots of tea.

Apologies for the delay in sending this, but that's what I was doing.

How do you prepare for 'off' months, with big unexpected bills? (From The Simple Dollar)

Want to help a community get clean water? Here's one option -- sponsor our friend John in his climb up a South American peak. (Every cent of your donation goes to Clean Water Climb -- John pays his own expenses.)

An Arkansas hunter -- killed after the deer he thought he fatally shot gets up and attacks HIM.

"What did you eat when you were broke beyond belief?" Another interesting question from Quora.

A huge collection of African-American quilts donated to a major Berkeley museum. 

Money moves for people who make less than $60,000 annually. (From the Penny Hoarder)

Prince William -- and his inheritance.

Why is Warren Buffett sitting on a record pile of cash?

Charles Schwab: lessons learned during a lifetime of investing. (All three of these are from Wealth Advisors -- an excellent if quirky source of advice and lessons learned.)

'Log Cabin Ruth' and her great side hustles.  (From J. Money)

A story of loss -- and how to feel less alone.  (From She Picks Up Pennies)

Many new archeological discoveries in Israel lately -- including a church dedicated to a mysterious martyr during the Byzantine era.

A transgender activist loses her civil rights complaint blaming several salons for refusing to give her a Brazilian wax. Turns out she was trying to get them to pay her for taking back the complaint...could this have been done for PERSONAL GAIN instead? Really?!? AT least two salons were forced to go out of business -- seems like she should have to pay damages for that, too...

Have a good week. 

Go here for several fun suggestions

Thursday, October 24, 2019

More News on the Franklin Expedition: A Tour of the Terror

News about the Franklin Expedition that mysteriously disappeared in the 1840s, continues to mount. Both ships from the expedition, the Terror and the Erebus, were discovered in recent years.Thanks to fairly calm, ice-free seas, archeologists were able to explore the HMS Terror in greater detail, using an underwater HOV vehicle. The results are amazing:

So it won't be forgotten, either -- a guided tour of HMS Erebus:

How could we be learning more about this curious link to the Northwest Passage, hundreds of years later??  Because the chilly Arctic water preserves items. And finally, Inuit testimony about the John Franklin and his missing men is being taken seriously.

      It's about time.

Update:  We had our own version of an Arctic snowstorm yesterday -- very cold. The Brick kept our pipes from freezing by removing a brass/metal outer plug. That, and keeping temps reasonable in the fifth-wheel, kept us from problems. But we need to get those heat tapes...
     We got about 6", less than expected. It came down thickly, with no wind. Beautiful. This afternoon, it's already starting to melt.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Christmas Present Possibilities

In case you didn't notice, fall is nearly over -- and Christmas is coming. Soon.

Are you ready? Or are you in danger of falling on your face?

Thanks to living in the fifth-wheel, and a massive clearout (which I knew was going to happen for months), I haven't purchased ahead like usual. Our poor little children will have to make do with fewer presents, including stocking stuffers. 

(Okay, fine, I did get some things already. Our table actually lifts up, with storage underneath. It's filled right now with various goodies, including giant candy bars found for approx. 50 cents.) 

I've been looking around for good present ideas. Here's the best of the batch, so far:

Lemon pound cake -- or other flavors. From a cake mix!  (Thrifty Mom in Boise)

Other gift ideas from your pantry.   (My Abundant Life)

Choosing the perfect present for your boyfriend/girlfriend or significant other.  (Money Under 30)  Also:
     *The best inexpensive Christmas gifts you can ask for
     *55 inexpensive gift ideas

Finally, from yours truly, my list of presents for much less.

I'll be back soon to talk about stocking stuffers. Meanwhile, this should give you -- and me -- a jumpstart.


...laughing, I mean!

Monday, October 21, 2019

The Mighty Hunters

   Thought you might like to see the current view from our front door. The rock outcropping in the foreground is called Bee Rock -- its shape reminds one of Red Rocks and Boulder's Flatirons.
     Charley and Ruby don't even notice.

Since I mentioned them earlier, here are the proud hunters with their prizes.

First, 'Little' Chris...who is quite a bit taller than his mom, 'Big' Chris.
He bagged his elk the first morning of the season. 

Next, his dad, Tommy, who waited until the last day of first hunting season to bag his elk.
Colorado counts points only on one side -- so technically Chris has a five-point bull. 
Tom's is more problematic, with one side a long spike, and the other 4 points -- 1.4? 4.1?

Hey, we take hunting seriously in this family.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Monday Stuff On the Way to Other Stuff: Finishing -- So We Can Start

     I am really tired...just not sure why.

We have noticed that only a little effort leaves us both exhausted. It may be knowing that we still need to clean out the storage area before we leave this week. We're headed to Kansas City for a Petterson family reunion, on the Brick's mom's side. Then it's on to Michigan for November -- and Thanksgiving. We'll park in The Mama's barnyard, and go back to work on several projects, including more repairs on the fifth-wheel that weren't finished in the shop.
     Maybe this fatigue is residual from these past frenetic months. We're still not sleeping well, either. Lots of plans going forward; maybe that's part of the struggle.
      We're also due for another storm...and thinking we need to leave early for Kansas City, before it hits. Life on the Brick ranch -- who knows what happens next. 

Hunting update:  the Brick got skunked, elkwise -- but our friends Tommy and his son Chris, both harvested nice-looking bulls. Plenty of meat for the winter!

Colorado's Balloon Boy: What's been happening to Falcon Heene and his family a decade later? Looks like everything's back to normal. What passes for it in the Heene family, anyways.

Jane Fonda: "I've been a climate scientist for decades and decades." Funny...I always thought she was an actress.

A rare 'Brocken Spectre' at the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland.

Who knew that Egyptian blue, an ancient dye, could also boost solar output?!?  Those dwellers by the Nile were pretty smart.

Nine different kinds of vegetables have now been successfully grown in simulated outer space conditions by researchers -- including radishes and tomatoes. That's a big step forward from potatoes and zinnias...

A DYI solution when a shed is needed. Or maybe it isn't!  (From Pretend to Be Poor)

A housewares shop from Banksy, that renegade artist? Weird...but fascinating.

The Fed is printing extra money -- a lot of it. Why?

Memes you'll really relate to, if you're trying not to spend much.  (From Ranker)

25 mysteries that are still unsolved -- and unsettling.  (From Cracked)

Pumpkin-shaped dinner rolls. Perfect for a fall supper.  (From Allrecipes) If you enjoyed that:

Ten make-ahead Thanksgiving desserts. (I'm going to try the Citrus Shortbread myself.)

Amazing discoveries that may change history -- especially for us yahoos in America. (From Listverse)

New York City tourist scams. Careful out there...

How not to stand out as an American when you're somewhere else.

"Look under the sewing machine." A dying aunt's words leads her nephew to a most unusual inheritance.

Five ways to start saving money now.  A classic from yours truly. And if you liked that...

Another 'Hey Girl' classic. Because when the Brick goes hunting, I get silly.

All sorts of incredible front porch/door/house Halloween decorations. Thank One Hundred Dollars A Month for sharing what her neighbors are doing.

Have a great week.

Fall in Oregon City -- from the Keep Portland Weird FB page

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Danger Alert!

If you're headed for a corn maze, remember this...

From Portland Be Weird's FB page

And watch out for axes...

From People Magazine, via Pinterest

Thursday, October 17, 2019

World Cruise, Part III: How Will We Do It?

Yep, we're going on a four-month cruise around the world, starting in January 2020. Parts I and II have told you more about that. But our income's very modest: we live on the Brick's pension, his Social Security and what I bring in for my work.

     How can we do it?

*From the beginning, we set aside money from the sale of the house. (I have nineteen bazillion lists scribbled in the notebook, listing and calculating various expenses.)

*We've been cutting expenses everywhere we can on secondary expenses -- like roundtrip plane tickets to London. We also planned a budget  (you have to get there somehow), plus accommodations for extra days, so we could explore. (In spite of our European experience, neither of us has ever visited there.) I want to see my buddy Charley's Dickens House Museum, as well as that bastion of creepiness, the Tower of London. ("Look for Sir Walter Raleigh's inscription," a visitor to my talk said recently.)

Here's his cell, at least -- thanks to Wikipedia

      I remember my ticket to Austria costing an astonishing $400 -- back in 1979 college days. These tickets were a few hundred more, but included an extra checked suitcase, something that usually costs $120-150 roundtrip.  Like the cruise, we spent a lot of time -- months, really -- comparing and looking for the best ticket buys, and a room with free breakfast, as well.

*We'll book excursions as we go, some of them straight off the boat. Booking via the cruiseline can REALLY be expensive, and the offshore outfits have been great -- something we've learned on past cruises. The cruiseline will issue veiled threats ('they won't get you back on time'), but we have NEVER had this problem. Ever. Besides, we like the idea of supporting the locals, who often show you far more interesting places, and tell fascinating stories. (I will never forget our van tour of Grenada, with the guide taking us to a lake where his grandparents picnicked annually "to feed the mermaids.")

*That's another reason we can go on this trip -careful research. You really can save money this way -- sometimes a little, but more often a lot.
     And every bit of those savings can go toward other things we'd like to do or get, including presents; lattes, leisurely sipped while listening to string music -- and more.

     What we didn't realize were some of the unforeseen expenses:

*Storing the trailer -- and the dogs. We lucked out on these. Our friend will let us park the fifth-wheel on his property. (We'll drain and winterize it, of course, before leaving.) Daughter #2 and Son #1 have generously agreed to take Charley and Ruby; we've often taken care of their dog Karma, and the three get along with each other. (Thanks, Dears -- we REALLY appreciate it.)


*Losing out on a gig. That's what I get, for having to schedule these years ahead of time. At least I only had to cancel one -- and could do it in plenty of time.

*Paying bills -- and getting an extension on taxes. We can take care of this on the ship -- but I'm pretty sure we'll have to pay for internet use. We'll try to use our phone 'hotspots,' or stop at an internet cafe while in port.

*Vaccinations. I should have known this was coming. We can't get on the ship without a yellow fever shot. Several others are recommended, as well.

and the big ones:

*Renewing our passports and getting visas.
     Our passports don't expire for six more years. The cruise line doesn't care about that, but requires that passports hold a minimum of more than 50 blank pages. Not only did we have the smaller version -- some of those pages were stamped from previous trips. Ironically, the increased-page passport doesn't cost a cent extra -- but the renewal does, to the tune of $220. And it takes 6-8 weeks to get it back. Fortunately, we found out in time.
     You want to know the other irony? The absolute largest passport for Americans still is a couple of pages short for what's 'required' by the cruiseline. (Guess they'll just have to get used to the idea.)

     Visas were the other bugaboo. Naively, this American just assumed that our passports would get us into all the countries listed on the itinerary. After all, we were guests of the cruise ship -- and only staying for a day or so in port. No problem, right?
      For most of the countries, that is indeed true. And some would let us visit, as long as we paid for a 'temporary' card. (Which price will be helpfully charged to our acount by the cruiseline.)
     However, five stops require visas. Who they were surprised us just as much as what they charged:

New Zealand   (did that weird British slumming family have something to do with this?)
Sri Lanka

(A list of countries that require visas is here. If you're planning to head to any of them, make sure you apply in good time.)

     Visas for Australia and New Zealand can be applied for electronically and get approved within a few days. Their fees, though irksome, aren't too bad. But the other three? Lots of time, paperwork and high fees, and all needing our current passports. Yes, those passports we had to renew. (Every renewal changes your passport number.)

But wait! A helpful firm will plow through all that red tape and pick up our visas. (The Chinese visa must be picked up -- they don't deliver. 'Our' office, by the way, is in L.A.) And they'll do it in a timely manner, as well, for roughly double the fee.
     Need I mention that this company has the full endorsement, and apparently blessing, of our cruise line? (I'm betting they get some kickbacks, as well.)

Yep, we're going to get soaked.

There is a way to get around this hassle. We could stay on the boat, and not get off for those countries. That doesn't make sense. Travel all around the we could look at the gangplank?
     I don't think so.

So we'll get the shots, and pay the fees -- which are adding up to roughly $1000: a nice chunk of change for a few certificates and pieces of paper.

Maybe we can eat enough to make up for the extra $$ spent.

     The good news is, of course, that our monthly expenses at home, with the exception of insurance, will drop to a whisper while we're gone. I have plans for drumming up income, as well. The ship mentions craft teachers during the cruise. I've done that before on a Hawaiian cruise; why couldn't I do it now? Also, I hope/plan to blog for a travel company or two for extra cash. The Brick takes wonderful photos, and I'll write text to go with.
     Ooh, this is going to be fun. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

World Cruise, Part II: Why Did We Do It?

As mentioned in the last post, the Brick and I are headed out on a world cruise early next year -- four months, a few dozen+ countries, both the Panama and Suez Canals, crossing the International Dateline...all on the Columbus, a 'medium-sized' cruise ship (775 cabins) from the Cruise and Maritime line, based in Great Britain.
        Whoo hoo!

     We have been planning this ever since we decided to sell our house, more than two years ago. (I've been thinking about it for years before that.) The Brick and I both grew up in families that enjoyed traveling, and within a limited budget, often did. The Brick's dad was career Navy, which meant work around the world, including a trip to Japan shortly after the atomic bomb and Japan's surrender. He was a medical corpsman, tasked with keeping the Japanese 'ladies of pleasure' disease-free for visiting sailors. That resulted in several interesting photos of her husband surrounded by beautiful young women, sent to the Brick's mom. (Try explaining that to your fellow bridge players!)
     The Brick spent six years in the Navy, taking him, via boat and submarine, around Europe and South America. I, on the other hand, spent a college summer in Austria, Germany and points further east, helping missionary cousins we still spend time with today.

     We love to travel. We just do. The few cruises we've taken and overseas spots we've visited have only whetted our desire to do more. But our time and money, like everyone else's, is limited. Where would we really like to go?

     That's where the world cruise comes in. 

     It covers many of the countries I've always wanted to visit: Israel, Jordan (oooh, Petra!), Greece, Gibraltor, Australia, Thailand, New Zealand. Several of these are multi-day stops. Sure, we'll only get a taste of what it's like -- but it would be enough to guide where we'd want to return for a longer visit. 
     We'll be able to do this in far more comfortable fashion, as well: our own room, dining and viewing spots that will soon be familiar, places to watch and learn and listen.

And be together. The Brick is one of my favorite people in the world. Four months together, without having to rush off for interruptions, appointments or other commitments? Sign me up.

      And that doesn't even count the people we'll meet -- this cruise line is used more by Brits and other Europeans than Americans. I look forward to getting to know others whose viewpoints are different from ours. (The Brick enjoys this, too.)
     Put all this together, and you've got the ideal brewing-ground for a writer. The text for my next book should be submitted before we leave, but I'll have plenty of time to do some serious writing and editing on future commitments. (These will be mentioned in future posts.)

It's not perfect. I'll miss not being able to visit more northern countries. (Hopefully next time.) But we're headed out in winter, and the cruise literature points out, quite aptly, that heading south will let us take advantage of warmer temps, including using the swimming pools and hot tubs on board.

And while a bargain, relatively speaking, it's still not cheap. And it couldn't have happened without the sale of the house. But because we've been careful with our expenses for decades, the costs for paying off the mortgage and HELOC were less than they could have been. There's enough -- if we're careful -- to take the cruise, and still put away funds for retirement. My Hollander heart rebels at putting out that much money, until I whisper the magic words "29 countries" (I counted!), and remind it that we're getting pretty much an all-inclusive package for about $206 a day. 
   That's not too bad at all. 
        (More about expenses -- including the unforeseen ones -- in Part III of this series)

I realized, just recently, that this urge to take a world cruise may have been influenced by something else from my childhood: a woman named Nellie Bly.

Here's that book link, if you're curious.

Nellie (Elizabeth Cochran Seaman, 1864-1922) was an investigative journalist, first for the Pittsburgh Dispatch, then the New York World, who specialized in 'experience' stories -- shocking stuff for her Victorian era readers. She had herself committed once to an insane asylum to see what the real conditions were. (They weren't good. You can still read her articles, collected under the title Ten Days in A Mad-House.) She pretended to be an uneducated immigrant, then was hired in various factories. (Those conditions weren't much better.)

     Eventually she came up with another idea: why not recreate Phineas Fogg's journey in Jules Vernes' popular 1873 novel, Around the World in Eighty Days? In 1888, Nellie did just that, wearing a suit and greatcoat, and carrying several changes of underwear in a small valise.

Nellie herself, in the outfit she wore around the world (Wikipedia)

     This was strong stuff for anyone, let alone a girl. In spite of worries about robbing, rampage and other r-words, Nellie did it -- sending short dispatches along the way, and taking out time to visit a leper colony and buy a monkey. She arrived a little more than 72 days later, leaving from Hoboken and returning to New Jersey. (Granted, her publisher had to charter a train to bring her home, after her ship arrived in San Francisco two days late. Another female reporter, sent by a rival newspaper, came in 4 1/2 days later.)
     The plucky young reporter became incredibly popular. Not only did she boost the World's circulation, to the great joy of Joseph Pulitzer, her boss, but all sorts of merchandise appeared to celebrate her feat, including an 1890 board game that's still sought-after.

My book about Nellie is long out of print, but I loved and reread it several times. Is it possible that Nellie Bly's exploits had some bearing on this 60-something woman's desire to travel around the world for herself?


Nellie's arrival: Jan. 25, 1890