Thursday, October 10, 2019

Guess What It's Doing Outside?

First snow of the season -- at least for us here in Castle Rock, CO.

P.S. I'll be doing a talk about my Ghosts and Legends book at the Ghost Town Society meeting in Denver tonight -- stop by!

Ghost Town Society
Grace United Methodist Church
4905 E. Yale Ave.    Denver, CO
7:30 p.m.  Thursday, Oct. 10

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Fall Dainties

   Flowers, made from fall leaves??

Yes, if they're fresh and still a bit flexible. This how-to diagram comes courtesy of Goods Home Design, which is chockful of interesting ideas, and 'Keep Portland Weird's' Facebook page.


Tuesday, October 8, 2019

An Autumn Thought

Quick, friends -- hide!   (I'm safe -- too big a nut for them to drag off.) Then again --
they may be too busy taking pictures.

Alien Things I Don't Understand

You know how fond I am of pointing out this silly line of reasoning.

We need to ask the Little Green Men about these items  --
     maybe next time when they stop by.

This is sad...but probably true.

This one's for our friend Jeff -- who's convinced the moon landings never happened.
He's obviously in good company.

Charley's lucky he doesn't want a dog...

Area 51, eat your heart out.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Doing the Best You Can

     We just got the news from the shop, where our fifth-wheel home is STILL entrenched, after two weeks of various repairs and winterizing. Turns out that the motor they thought would fix the problem didn't -- now it looks like we may need new 'legs.'
     This has a lot to do with raising and lowering the trailer in order to hook it onto the truck. ("Landing gear") It can be done manually, but involves a heck of a lot of cranking. And the Brick's shoulder is none too stable nowadays.
     The price? Another $1000, the Brick figures. (I intend to argue it down a bit, but who knows.)

This is wayyyy more than we'd planned to spend for repairs. On the other hand, it IS what we're living in now (or will be, once it gets out of the yard), and it's needed for the Brick to take for hunting this weekend.
    My mom suggested I sneak into the trailer when no one was looking, and emerge in robe with toothbrush and toothpaste in hand. "That'll make them work faster," she chuckled.

     I, for one, am grateful we haven't sent the money from the house sale on its various ways yet -- so we (sort of) have enough to pay the repairs. And I'm starting to realize something:

You can only do the best you can. 

     Have we abused the truck or trailer, to merit all these repairs? No. They were all items that, thanks to a tight budget for months, we limped along with, until we could afford to repair them.

     We've been forced to give away heavy things, like 40 pounds of beans (bought cheap at the Friday/Saturday store) and multiple cans of tomatoes. Why? (I could certainly use them.) Because they're making the fifth-wheel overweight, and putting stress on the truck. The good thing: the beans went to our friend at the Seniors Luncheon, who will make good use of them over the years. (And dry beans last practically forever.) Other friends who helped us move, and refused to let us pay them for it, will get their autumn stockup of tomatoes early.
     Do I feel bad that I 'wasted' these food items? Not really. They weren't expensive. They're helping others -- and again,

I'm doing the best I can. 

     This encourages me to make supper and do household chores for our long-suffering friends, whose hospitality has kept us sheltered the past few weeks. It gives me the impetus to look for discounts on plane tickets, eyeglasses (yay -- I'm finally getting new glasses!) and those heavy socks I've been needing. It encourages me to continue buying baby powder, dog treats and some downright wonderful spring rolls at the dollar store -- and stash cleaning products in our friend's garage, so I won't have to re-buy them, instead of using them up.
     It lets me convert a meal's leftovers from Outback into a farmer's fry for breakfast: baked potato, steak and Bloomin' Onion, with scrambled eggs stirred in at the last minute. (It was delicious, by the way.) It also means that tomorrow we'll have French toast, made from the package of  bolilos (puffy rolls) I found at Safeway for a buck.

      I didn't waste a thing -- and

Well, you know.

     I have blogger friends who manage on tiny budgets -- like Brandy, whose post this week features 'chicken' noodle soup -- without the chicken. Or my dear friend at Thrifty Mom in Boise, who is thrilled when she's got a few bucks left in the savings account, plus gas in the tank, at month's end.  ( "Anytime you have a little jingle left in your pocket and fuel in your car, it's a win in my book," she says.)
     Another blogger friend supplements her income with regular forays through Goodwill -- where she picks up items to sell. (And she does well, too.)
     Yet another is beating cancer -- which makes every day a blessing to her, not a hardship. (She and husband just bought a new house...and I'll bet it wasn't for much.)
     I also read bloggers who advertise -- and purchase -- kids' and adults' goods 'on sale' that I could never have afforded during the most frugal years. (Frankly, they couldn't have either, back then. She agrees with me, anyways.) Another blogger regularly features clothing and furniture for hundreds of dollars as 'budget' pieces. Obviously, to her, they are.

Their incomes range widely -- but they're using what they can to do their best.

Every time you mend a pair of pants, or hang up sheets to dry...
Every time you pay your bills (early, if possible, to save on interest)...
Every time you do the right thing, even when it costs you, or is progressing more slowly than you wish it would --

You're still doing the best you can.

And that counts for a lot.

Yes, It's Rude...

       ... I can't help myself.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Monday Stuff On the Way to Other Stuff: Will It Snow -- Or Won't It

   Still waiting for the trailer repairs to finish. I keep feeling that we're wearing out our welcome, staying at friends' house, but they've been patient with us. (Besides, I can cook.) Hunting season starts Friday, but the Brick needs to head out earlier to set up a base and scout a bit. We need our trailer!
     The first hard freeze was supposed to happen Sunday night,  thanks to a cold front that's bringing snow on Thursday. (It did -- frost on the windshields.) Which would be perfect for hunting -- it drives the animals down to lower altitudes. 
     Bear in mind that we were having sunny 80-degree temps as late as last week. Go figure.

Overcoming Self-Sabotage...especially in the financial department.  (From The Simple Dollar)

A famous 'lost' Delacroix painting reappears. (Actually, it was never lost at all -- the collector just didn't reveal that he owned it.)

Air Force's mascot, Aurora the falcon, has died. She was 23. Anyone attending Air Force football games has admired this beautiful bird in flight.

Feverish meanderings...another classic from yours truly. For those of you struggling with flu, it will make perfect sense.

A reminder NOT to overdo it for Christmas shopping.  (From Survive and Thrive)

What to do with all those hotel soaps and lotions, little jars of jam and other them up and give them to your family for Christmas! A very funny classic post from Hundred Dollars A Month.

Weird food backstories. Did you know that Pop-Tarts happened because of dogfood? (From Cracked)

Have a great week. Stay cool -- or warm, as the case may be.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Back To Not Sleeping...And Updates

     I shouldn't be doing this. Everything's okay.

Our house sold. (Last week.)

Bills are paid, including for the world cruise. Plane tickets and passports, too. (There's a longer story here, coming in a future post.)

Truck is back from the shop. BUT...

The trailer is still in the shop, after more than a week -- and will stay there until Monday night.

Good friends invited us to stay with them while the trailer was repaired. Little did they know it would take almost two weeks! Thankfully, the trailer has a new freshwater tank (which doesn't leak); a new spark mechanism on the hotwater heater, plus a host of other little items have been noticed and fixed. It should be in good shape when the Brick, avec chiens, goes hunting next week. (And I return to Good Friends' house for some days...two talks to give here in town, or I would go with him.)

We've found a parking spot for the fifth-wheel on a friend's property. We'll do some maintenance, and act as kind-of caretakers, to earn our keep. He even encouraged us to come and go as we pleased. God is good -- we never thought to ask this friend. He suggested it, instead. Wow.

So everything is marching along -- not as quickly as I would have liked, but still -- it's forward progress.

Only I can't sleep. 

If I go to bed, I'll snooze for an hour or two -- then be wide awake. Generally it's around 4 a.m., when our friend gets up. (She's an early riser. We, on the other hand, are not.)

Or I may not get to sleep at all -- just lay there for an hour and stare at the ceiling. Tonight, I gave up at 1:30 a.m. -- got up, had a snack and worked on the computer.

It's now a little past 3:00 a.m.  Maybe I can rest. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Monday, September 30, 2019

Monday Stuff On the Way to Other Stuff: Recuperating

I think we're going to make it.

After Tuesday's house sale, much of this week has been spent waiting for repairs to finish up, both for the trailer and the truck. We've been staying with friends, who haven't minded us lazing around much of the day. (We've reciprocated by cooking suppers; some housecleaning is in the near future, as well.) Muscles are loosening up, and we no longer feel like we're on the tilt edge of getting the flu. I can feel the peace and quiet slowly seeping into my bones. Wonderful.
     When the truck and trailer are done, we'll put away the flotsam and jetsam shoved into the fifth-wheel, then head up into the mountains for a few days. Fall colors are at their height here in Colorado. (They're a few weeks late, compared to previous years.)
     Just looking at them eases out all the kinks and stress.

A peaceful song to start you out: Tom T's Hall's "I Love..." (Little Baby Ducks Song)

Ten ways marketing has tricked us over the centuries.  (From Listverse) If you liked that:

Ten ways Sacha Cohen got people to humiliate themselves. And these methods say a lot about society, as well.

Weird pictures (and fascinating history) from Burning Man.

Would you ever quit your job and spend nearly TWO MONTHS searching for your missing dog? This woman did. (And found it.)

Ashton Kuchner threw out all his 'trucker hats.' Could the Brick have them?

The funeral that hundreds, including dignitaries, attended in London -- for an Irishman who died forgotten and alone.  (From Irish Central)

Tiny bathroom? Let Emily Bowser's reveal of her 32-foot-square bathroom give you some new ideas. (From Emily Henderson)

Free parking and travel advice for tiny home-dwellers...and RVers like us.

A big snowstorm in Montana -- way too early!

Picking a fight on a Denver! This one's incredibly wacky.

The most expensive divorce settlements. Some are huge, some not so much.

Bikers in Spain rescue a huge hauling him up by his horns.

And finally --
    one of my favorites to get you going in the right mood:

Travis Tritt's "It's A Great Day to Be Alive:"

Have a great week.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Frugal Hits & Misses: September Report

Where did September go?

I know where: waiting, packing and cleaning, waiting some more. Two very happy Bricks saw their house sale finalized last week -- although afterward, I felt more numb than ecstatic. More things happened last week, too: my birthday, and the offer of a new book contract for Arcadia. Wonderful.
     We've been living in the fifth-wheel now for months. It's currently in the shop, getting repaired and winterized. The truck needed work, too, so it's also in the shop. We're staying with friends until both are finished. Then up to the mountains to see the fall leaves, and scout around a bit for hunting.

(a few of these are from late August)

*Made the drive to Michigan --spending a few weeks to drop off a few more things in storage and spend some time with The Mama, including a baseball game with free entry and a meal ticket, from a company. Hot dogs for a dime! (Lest you think I'm the only Hollander on the planet, I heard of someone who went to this last year...then spent the remnants of her meal ticket on at least a dozen hot dogs [for future meals] at game's end. What a girl!) I couldn't do that well -- they had a limit of 5 dogs per person -- but we got enough for supper the next night, plus an extra drink and a large bag of caramel corn.

(From Rachel Ray's magazine, via Pinterest)

*Found an even-better coffee-grinder than the one we packed early on -- and haven't been able to find for months. (Ironically, we found the packed one -- on the last day before we moved.) This one was $3.99 from the local thrift shop! Other thrift store and garage sale bargains: three pairs of jeans and a few shirts (for me); a few shirts and a sleeveless vest (the Brick); blue-and-white plates, Christmas stocking presents and my favorite -- an old bottle, dug up from an orchard near my hometown, Sparta, MI.

*Fed our cousins' chickens for a weekend...while they went to a funeral. No pay -- but lots of delicious fresh eggs, plus extra dozens to cousins and The Mama. (After chasing one runaway all over the yard, the Brick said, "I don't miss the chickens, but..." I finished, "I miss the eggs." He nodded.)

*Fruit and vegetable bargains: after all, Michigan is a 'fruity' state. I bought apples, peaches and nectarines for lower prices, direct from the orchard. Friend Anne gave us tomatoes, as well. A healthy percentage of these were shared with the kids, along with Michigan maple syrup.
    Other buys: green peppers: 4 for $1.00, zucchini for $1/lb. I would have liked to put up more fruit and veggies in the freezer, but didn't have much time or room.

Michigan apples are wonderful

*Grocery saves -- boneless skinless chicken breast: 99 cents/lb. Bought enough groceries to make a few suppers at The Mama's. High-end bacon at $2.99 for 1.5 lb. Also contributed to the family get-together on Labor Day (a $3.99 chocolate meringue pie from Grand Rapids' Daily Deals, our favorite Grand Rapids discount grocery, and packages of hamburger buns) Three free containers of soup and a box of ice cream bars, thanks to Safeway's rewards program.

*Treated to some suppers out --by the Mama. Very kind of her.

*Took some young family members out for an afternoon of fun. A cousin loaned her swimming pool; we stopped for slushies and ice cream afterwards at McDonalds. Then home to Grams' for supper (their favorite casserole), and a stop at Cousins' house to check on their chickens. (We took care of the chickies while Cousins were gone to a funeral.) I sent them home with a book (50 cents each at -- you guessed -- the library sale room) and a couple of dollar bills. They loved it. (We had fun, too.)


*Moving help
: Daughter #1, along with her partner, as well as Daughter #2 and Son #1, were a lifesaver in this department. D#2 and S#1 in particular spent a few days packing and schlepping. (Thanks so much, Dears.) Good friends gave us a few hours help, as well. We were soooo grateful. I fed everybody (usually Little Caesar's pizza, or something from the pantry), but that was all they would take. The sweethearts.
     We took donations to Goodwill and moved items to storage ourselves, using the truck and multiple runs -- one of those tasks that's so much better, once it's finished.

*Self storage -- we got  the web rate, plus are being charged only for a month's worth of actual days that we use it. (Some charge per calendar month, no matter when you actually use it during that month. Since we were late September through mid October, that would have meant two months' rent. Ouch.)

*Sold the patio set, a propane tank and a saw. Every little bit helps; in fact, their sale paid the storage fees.

*Closed on the house. Finally. Thank God. We paid off all the bills from the renovation and sent the remaining money in several different directions to do their work. Didn't leave us a whole lot of spare cash, but that's how we planned it.

*Saw "Angel Has Fallen" at the movie theater -- for $5. Got a free coke, as well.
     Not as good as "The White House Has Fallen" or "London Has Fallen" -- but not that bad, either.

*A free birthday burger! Thank you, Red Robin. We scored $4.50 wings there, too, for Happy Hour, and a second free burger.

*Turned in Swagbucks points for a $10 giftcard.  If you're interested in an easy way to pile up points simply by doing your regular work, GO HERE.  You can earn Swagbacks even faster, using some of these techniques.  Extra birthday points from Swagbucks, which bought a $3 giftcard. If you don't use this program for shopping or searching, you're missing out.

*More thrift shop buys
-- in Grand Rapids, as well as Laramie, WY: new dress shoes, three pairs of jeans, some shirts for me and a beautiful black leather jacket for the Brick. A few Christmas presents, including a smiley face pillow for The Mama -- she loves this emoji.

*Got more $2 DVDs from our local library's used bookroom, including Gone with the Wind, Jurassic Park and a full season of House. We're currently watching three seasons of Blue Bloods -- free, thanks to borrowing them from the library.

*Another free investment supper -- Italian food and helpful advice on Medicare. A perfect way to celebrate Fall.

*Found a couple of pennies, a dime -- and a handful of change in an old work apron. (Must have been from a past gig.)

*Did a working gig at the Higher Ground Fair. Finished off the appraisals, as well.

*Signed a new book contract! I'm looking forward to writing this book (no. 8) for Arcadia Publishing.

*Postcards, for use in the book -- discounted, and far cheaper than borrowing images from the local institutions. (You must use certain guidelines to do this, but I'm careful about it.)

*Bought a couple of books from Amazon -- marked down. Including one of my favorites: a look at the Inuit interviews concerning the Franklin Expedition. (I've looked for a discounted copy for years. Just checked, and the lowest price is more than five times what I paid for mine.)

(I know -- most people aren't that concerned with an expedition that disappeared back in the 1840s. But it's an important one, affecting modern events -- if Canadians, who currently 'own' the expedition, can solidly prove that Franklin's men and ships completed their journey -- then they'll own squatters' rights to the Northwest Passage.)

*Free or discount magazine subscriptions: I haven't gotten these for a while, so this was extra-nice. I got freebies from Real Simple, Woman's Day*, AllRecipes*, the Whisky Advocate (for Daughter #2's partner) and Field & Stream. I had to pay $2 each for Bon Appetit, Vanity Fair and Good Housekeeping. Oh my.

*Bought some replacement t-shirts: $7.95 each new, free shipping. This isn't much off the usual $5-5.99 price for t-shirts at the thrift shop...these were tunic-style, and in colors I liked.


*The whole moving business: it's amazing how the costs rack up. We spent extra on takeout food; diesel fuel; items we planned to return, but couldn't (they got damaged); storage fees (a bunch of extras get tacked onto the standard rate) and who knows what else. You don't even think about it -- until the bills come in.

*A batch of dishes broken when the fifth-wheel hit a bump in the road. At least I had others to replace them. Ironically, one of the victims was the thrift shop coffee grinder, after going without for months. It's cracked, but the Brick thinks we can use it. And we found the original coffee grinder, as well, on the last day of packing. (You become much less concerned about stuff, in general, when you're moving, anyways.)

*More bills from visits to the doctor and the emergency room. Fortunately, these were less than they could have been.

*Truck and fifth-wheel repairs. At least we have the money to pay them now.

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

Last month's report is here; last year's September report here. (What a change, huh.)

Quora recently had an interesting set of answers to the question: "What's it like to be poor after you've been wealthy?"  I thought I'd feel wealthy, even if only briefly, after we sold the house -- but I was wrong. They're just numbers on a page. I was rich already: in the love of my husband, our children and our friends. In our time together, our skills and interests. And most of all, in our faith.
       That truly is what counts.

Friday, September 27, 2019

This One's For Caitlin...

...who wants more Bigfoot Stuff.

Well, here you go. With love from him/her to you -- and other believers.

This one makes me laugh -- it's probably happened.

woof, woof, woof-woof-woof
 (with apologies to my Georgia Bulldog friends)

Oooh, scary...

And finally, my favorite: Bigfoot and his buddy Elvis.

 Hmmm...Prez and VP?? 

(All rights belong to the artists - collected from here, there and Pinterest)

A Dozen Lessons Learned From Moving

...and living in a fifth-wheel. It's now been more than four months, which is a surprise. It feels like only a few weeks. Now that the house has sold, we're getting some necessary repairs done to the fifth-wheel, including installing a freshwater tank (the old one was leaking) and  winterizing (for colder temps, and hunting season for the Brick). The truck is in the shop, too. We're using the time to let aching backs and legs heal. Every day feels a little stronger.

     So while we're resting up, here are a baker's dozen of tips we learned:

*Moving out may be the easiest way to keep your house clean and accessible while it's on the market. If you have options here, take them -- a trailer; friends or family who will put you up (even for that first month of showings); a short-term rental. In our case, the fifth-wheel was parked on the other side of the fence by our property, letting us access water and electricity from the 'old' house. It also let us clean periodically without getting in the way of would-be buyers.
     Interestingly, the eventual buyers were at the first open house. Go figure.

*Eat your fridge and freezer down -- but don't forget the canned goods, either. Canned goods weigh a TON.

*Plan ahead...until you can't. What comes first -- what can wait until later? Lists give you the confidence that you won't forget anything.

*Cut your clothes in half. Do the same with shoes and personal items, as well. What do you usually wear? Those stay...the worn-less-than-monthly items go. Don't forget to keep seasonal items; you'll need them eventually.

*Divide your stuff into four parts: what to keep, what to donate and what to throw away. (If you've got time, a fourth part of what to sell is helpful, and covers unexpected expenses. (See below.) You MUST be ruthless about the "keep" items. (Enlist an honest friend or family member, if you have trouble with this. In our case, it was Daughters #1 and #2.)

Books were the hard part  -- I would have kept them all.

*The total bill will always be more than you think. ALWAYS. Therefore, pay attention to even the smallest costs. They may be unexpected: for example, you may have to pay to get rid of your refrigerator, freezer or even television. (Thrift stores don't accept them much anymore, unless they're new and in the box.)
     Extra tip: Where to get rid of your mattress and box springs? This is another item thrift shops don't generally accept -- but homeless shelters do. They may even pick them up.

*No-interest credit cards could be worth the risk, for covering renovation and moving costs. Analyze your situation carefully -- are the odds good that you can sell (and close) in the no-interest period the card offers? We used this successfully, but barely. The day after the house closed, we paid off the bill. In full.

*Renting storage space helps -- but only for the short term. Boxes stored there (for one month only!) will give the Brick more room when he takes the fifth-wheel for hunting season. The $100-plus cost was covered by selling our patio set. (Warning: Our rent was only supposed to be about $50. By the time all the sneaky little fees and insurance finished, it was almost $125. We even had to buy our own lock!)

*Don't investment grocery shop anymore, at least not to the extent I used to. Buying extra while it's on sale is a foundational step for the frugal. It's still a great idea -- if you've got the space to store and move it. We didn't -- and don't.

Food costumes don't count.

*Even a few hours of help makes all the difference in the world. Friends arrived and said, "We've got two hours -- what can we do?" This happened a few times, and was invaluable for getting things moved and transferred. (We made at least 3 runs to the storage facility, and 4 donation runs to Goodwill.)  Which brings up one of the best things learned:

*Good friends are priceless. So are kids. We were encouraged and helped by them over and over -- even if that help was just for an hour, an afternoon or a day. In fact, we're staying with friends now while the fifth-wheel gets fixed.
     They were blase about doing this, but it meant the world to us. Thank you so much.