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Archive for August, 2012

Ancient Roman Coin or Not?

August 30th, 2012 at 11:19 pm

At my cafe (hey, I got a cappuccino for the price of a drip) the proprietor said "hey! Wanna see something REALLY NEAT?" He showed us

this coin

his friend, a numismatist, gave him. I copied down the inscription and used some Google-fu while he conducted business. I said I could come back with a camera and take images and try to look them up. He lent me the piece instead so I hotfooted it to my neighbourhood coin shop for a quick no-cost appraisal.

From looking at Roman Silver Coins I learned that the coin is not pure silver, but probably an alloy with maybe 2% silver, and probably a fake at that as it is a meld of two coins. Authentic Balbinus antonianus (denomination of Roman currency) do not have obverse/reverse image like the one displayed. But the fake is probably hundreds of years old.

I returned the coin to him with what I learned, wrote down some notes, and supplied the coin shop's card with e-mail address and the name of a company that does thorough appraisals at cost. My friend put on a good show of masking disappointment and shook my hand for my research effort.

Off-topic - What I am reading now

August 30th, 2012 at 04:58 pm


I am four pages away from finishing Mapp and Lucia by EF Benson. The BBC produced and aired a TV adaptation of this in the 1980s, starring Geraldine McEwan and Prunella Scales. I could see Ms. Scales as Miss Mapp easily. I am so in love with this book that the males have taken notice. I will be sad to see this book transferred to the 'read' pile, but thankfully EF Benson wrote a series.

I finished Zeroville by Steve Erickson. Published in 2007, it won a number of "Best Book of the Year" accreditations. It is about the Hollywood film industry back in the late 1960s, when the classic studio system gave way to more maverick-style films, just before the marketing-driven blockbuster special effects era. Zeroville is easily the second best novel I have read this year. I did finish Anna Karenina, thanks to a big roadtrip, but I did not love it as much as Zeroville.

Some nonfiction I have is Howard Gardner's The Disciplined Mind (my mother-in-law gave it to me, she is a teacher), and from my library which is on extended furlough I have Proficient Motorcycling second edition, Qigong for Women, some declutter your life in a week book, Statistics for Dummies. Fiction: Alexandria by Vancouverite Nick Bantock, East of Eden, Welcome to the Monkeyhouse, Charles Ray Willeford's The Shark-Infested Custard, The Late George Apley by John P. Marquand. From the Little Free Library (posted minishelves of neighbours' books for lending) I have a Stieg Larsson paperback, the Dragon Tattoo novel. I am reading Vladimir Nabokov's Notes on Russian Literature lecture, so I can have trenchant insights when my book club discusses Anna Karenina. I saw the 1948 English film starring Ralph Richardson and Vivien Leigh: remarkably, in the novel Ms. Karenina was at first likable, but Ms. Leigh's character is not; Aleksei Andreyevitch is a stiff drip in the novel, but Ralph Richardson makes him noble and worthy of sympathy. The at least equally weighted plot of Levin and Kitty, and the other storylines of socioeconomic innovation and Stepan & Darya's deteriorating condition are ignored. Postwar I doubt the English had time for eight-hour epics, so that is probably why only one storyline was presented in the film.
Received statements confirming stock purchases earlier this month.

Making an Addiction a Budget Line Item

August 29th, 2012 at 04:58 pm

First, to inaugurate my new category, I saved forty cents (not .40 cents, that is hundredths of a cent, not hundredths of a dollar) a gallon at a Safeway gas station. As this is the second consecutive time I have mentioned the supermarket chain you could suspect I am paid to blog about it. Not true. If I did not have my price book I would not notice the savings, and there are many items I prefer to buy at Target, due to location and price.

I don't deny I am addicted to petrol. I looked at my 2012 Savings page and saw that in April we spent $120+ on gas refuels. That is 750 miles.

About coffee: I know I am an addict. I have a Turkish coffee set, Turkish coffee, Canadian coffee (not a type but a product name under the Murchie's brand), 5-lb whole bean bag from Costco, Folger's for emergency situations (no electric power for grinding the beans). I have a reloadable card from a cafe 1.5 miles away. My niece said I am a junkie. But I have limits. I would rather go through caffeine withdrawal than pay for Farmer Brothers coffee, even at five cents a cup as Wall Drug advertises.

But making coffee, tea, yerba mate a budget line item makes our consumption visible, and we can then (attempt to) cut down on purchases, maybe even consumption. I miss affording clothes.

I will budget September, including all those back-to-school expenses and Vitamin D3, sweaters, socks, gloves and hats, Christmas gifts.

Frugal Things I Did Today

August 28th, 2012 at 04:28 am

I refueled the car at $3.56/gallon USD. Just outside Seattle. (The cheapest price quoted in town is about forty cents more.) Thank you, Safeway!

I also went to the beach to pick up about 20 lbs of sand for foot skin exfoliation. Our drug store had sold out (!) of pumice stone. Walking 0.2 mi uphill with the 20 lbs of sand was part of my exercise. I will sleep well tonight, it is hoped.

Eating down the pantry for the second day in a row. This time I emptied the millet. Yesterday it was 2 1/12s of 1 lb packages of linguine and fettuccine.

PayPal has suspended my husband's account due to a SUPPOSED suspicious credit card activity on 6/30. We looked at our July statement tonight and saw a refuel at a gas station for a typical amount (11.7 gallon tank, 10.6 gallons refueled, what is the problem? Did everyone except us stop using credit cards for gas station refills?). I have never been a fan of companies who have the policy "we can end your account for no reason, and you can't argue with us". That does not win the kind of customer that is me or my husband.

Food shopping today

August 25th, 2012 at 09:58 pm

Safeway, a West Coast supermarket chain, is now very competitive and introduced Just 4 U Savings for card members. The savings are substantial enough for me to enroll. Today we three shopped at Safeway and our bill came to over $100, which is rare for us as we shop $60 here, $30 there, among six different food markets. But we saved 26% off our food bill PLUS 30 cents a gallon off our next vehicle refuel. We bought tritip roasts, ground beef, whole chicken, pork chops, lots of produce ($3 savings for us as we bought over $15 worth). And some carbonated fruit juice and club soda (I know, I know, but juice is at 18g sugar per serving, and we use the club soda for egg creams and for our own grenadine-and-lime soft drinks or pair it with scotch, and our summer limit is one soft drink every two weeks). Enough food to last us for ten days, barring dairy and bread.

Took my stock investor/debt group friend to Mutual Fish Company, where I bought a whole salmon, two whole trout, ginger and spinach. She bought some sashimi and scallops. Fresh as the public market, but cheaper.

I blog about this because my friend and I are trying to cut down on our food bills. It turns out she and I both share our vision of the ideal job (no, it is not putting thumb tacks in Jell-O for $1000/hour).

I will return to Safeway as we apparently forgot the Hockey News yearbook. Maybe I can justify the return by grabbing some yakisoba noodles and bulk spice from the chichi supermarket three blocks away.

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Here is an article about superinvestor Warren Buffett.
Worked on some gentle qigong exercises for weight loss and the qi rushed from my head so fast, despite my slow directed motions that I felt dizzy and nearly passed out. The qi moved into my palms and heated them up to a feverish temperature. I have taken qigong before but it was Soaring Crane and I did not have weird experiences. This was from Dominique Ferraro's book _Qigong for Women_, an exercise for weight loss and energy balancing for some organs' meridians. The qi "heat rush" is apparently a desired effect. I do read that this qigong can be powerful when used correctly and with full intention, so in future exercises I will make sure the animals are away or out of the room and open a window, one that faces a tree.
I try not to be too woo-woo, and have a healthy skepticism, but I have felt the effects of energy medicine firsthand and know they are real, and so have other people who do tai chi, kung fu, qigong, and other similar exercises.

Kasha Varnishkes, stocks, day before payday

August 24th, 2012 at 02:10 am

I was asked in a comment for my last post for a Kasha Varnishkes recipe. This one is from The Joy of Cooking.

"The trick to making tender but firm kasha is to coat it with egg and stir it over high heat until toasted and the grains are separate." In the summer you can turn this dish into a pasta salad using whatever fresh vegetables can be found and toss with a vinaigrette. I have found that kasha tastes super with some sprinkle of Tabasco or hot pepper sauce.

Brown in a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat:
2 to 3 tbsps chicken fat or vegetable oil
2 large onions, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 cups sliced mushrooms (button, shiitake, portobello or combination), optional
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt and ground black pepper to taste

Remove to a large bowl. Cook in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender but firm:
6 ounces bowtie pasta
Drain the noodles and toss with the onion mixture.
Beat in a small bowl ONE LARGE EGG.
Add 1 cup whole kasha (roasted buckwheat groats)
Stir until the grains are well coated. Wipe out the skillet and heat it over high heat. Transfer the kasha mixture to the skillet and cook, stirring, until the grains are toasted and separate, 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and add:
2 cups hot chicken stock.
Stir, cover, and simmer until the stock is absorbed and the kasha is tender but not mushy, 7 to 8 minutes. Stir in the noodle mixture. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Garnish with 2 TABLESPOONS CHOPPED FRESH PARSLEY. Serve immediately.
I have $12.80 ($173.80 -($25 traffic fine + $136.80 dental bill for DS's triple tooth extraction)) remaining in the joint chequing account. I still have $300 in billings to pay, but those statements arrived this week. We did pay for stamps, a donut, mocha and croissant, potatoes and celery with cash on hand.
I have learned that Oyako Donburi (Chicken and Egg on Rice) by itself is not a satisfying dish: my son and I woke up in the middle of the night with our stomachs begging. It was pretty tasty though, and I would happily make it again, although with more rice.
This Saturday I have a stock talk breakfast date. My friend goes for the big dividends, and I go for blue chips, mostly, with dividends, low price/sales ratio and/or low price/earnings growth ratio, with low projections of 14% annual growth if no or low dividend, and low projection of 7% annual growth if both dividend is in excess of 3.5% and I already own the stock. Ranked: WAG (Walgreen), SLB (Schlumberger), JNJ, GE, TGT and GG (GoldCorp).

Low-Budget Week Starts the Mind Gears

August 19th, 2012 at 08:03 pm

$250 to last us six days, and not just the food budget (not much challenge to live on $250 worth of food for two adults and a kiddie). My household's remaining food items are refrigerated vegetables, half of which will be juiced; eggs; condiments; salmon; frozen perogies and vegetables; boneless skinless chicken thighs; handpicked berries; buckwheat soba noodles; quinoa; brown rice; sushi rice; pasta; oatmeal; sun-dried tomatoes.

Ideas: Oyako Donburi, Garlic Lime Salmon, Lentils 'n' Rice or Kusherie, Kasha Varnishkes, Frittatas, Karaage, some Pino Luongo recipes (the famed restauranteur/cookbook author went bankrupt in NYC recently), Perogies for those who want 'em, Coconut Chicken Curry, and Meatloaf.

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Link: 1958 Mad Daddy Pete Myers DJ recorded radio broadcast (early rock'n'roll, rhythm'n'blues) including a crazy thrill from David Seville

This week in housekeeping

August 13th, 2012 at 02:04 am

The whole family did pantry, freezer and refrigerator inventories so I could figure out what foodstuffs we need to eat before they spoil. We will "chow down the grains" which is fine because after eleven days of mostly roadtrip food we are ready to eat fresh vegetables and fruits.

Anniversary is tomorrow so we went to Peaks Frozen Custard so my spouse could have a double-scoop freebie. Then to Whole Foods, where all the fish is a dollar more a pound than my price book advises. I did find some deals: bulk-packaging chicken thighs for Japanese cooking, chard and kale bunches discounted by a dollar, and Garden of Life Raw Meal powder canisters at 40% off. I wonder if I could lose weight with those meal replacements. We are not eating out for the anniversary: we celebrated enough with custard, margaritas and pie slices. We will see "Safety Not Guaranteed", a homegrown indie movie that looks fun and clever.

Have a better idea how to time my bill-paying so nothing falls into arrears. Filled out MCDirect Purchase Plan application for DS, thought to pay into GE and WAG. Johnson Controls (JCI) looks really good now too.

Fierce Tug of Avoidance, plus Mentoring Young Investor

August 10th, 2012 at 04:09 pm

Good news first: We showed our embittered DS that his Berkshire Hathaway stock holding DID contain Burlington Northern (not sure it still does though), so he is feeling a little better. He has identified McDonald's (NYSE: MCD) as his next stock purchase. Lucky for us, custodial accounts require only a $100 minimum. I will put some money into Target (TGT) as well into his college account and into my Roth. Other stocks on his horizon: Pepsico, Coca-Cola.

Bad news: I avoided looking at our accounts for a full week after our return. I doubt I can pay all my bills right now without bringing my money market account below its minimum balance, unless I unload some CDs or some precious metals. I will divide $2500 between what I owe the painter and what I owe on the cards. My goal is to pay the painter in full by August 24 which is well within a 30-day period, and half of the credit card bill by August 27. Was most of what we charged worth it? I guess yes, to be hospitable to my brother, who turned out to be whiny, obstinate and pretty ungrateful for the $2400 we saved him (he threatened to go because only one of us thanked him and his wife for cleaning the kitchen, and I waved good morning instead of spitting out my coconut oil and saying hello. Also complained that he had no car even though he refused to drive, complained we had no television even though was available at high speed on the laptops they brought and he knew on past visits we do not have cable). If God exists, it is patting me on the head.

I do not betray secrets, but I see that a friend has been putting money into her investment accounts while she is paying off debt, and I may do that too. She does heavy dividends, which is attractive if the debt balance APR is in the low single digits. Stocks that look good to me are ArcelorMittal (MT), Questcor Pharm (QCOR), Teva Pharm (TEVA) - I think I have this already but will accumulate, and Freeport McMoran (FCX).

Gems from Secrets of a Stingy Scoundrel, so far

August 8th, 2012 at 11:59 pm

book by Phil Villarreal.
I do not think I would make a good stingy scoundrel. I have two watches, even though Phil says they are archaic nuisances, one for "take me seriously" and another for "ooh I like colours!". Also, he says tan lines are annoying, but he is from a warm-weather locale where drying clothes outside yearlong is a good idea. As a Cascadian (PNW), a tan line for me is like a 1963 silver dime. I like the colours and styles of these watches more than I do the phone's and the mp3 player's, and today's hi-tech thug just doesn't rip off arms at the elbow after some guileless person responds with the time @ the thug's request. Mp3 players and mobile phones can be snatched away.

Other disagreements I have with Phil, but this book is a collection of hilarious and ethically questionable ideas. This is what I have amassed from the first 34 pages.

Frugal Virus/Disease Busting Shots of hard liquor or almonds, grapes or onions chase your cough away!
Apples battle light depression.
Eat lemon slices to speed riddance of a common cold.
If your toenails are cracked and discolored by fungus piss on them. Or pour vinegar on them. I cannot pee on my toes: I am not that limber.

Price Matching Fun! What you need: stacks of sticky notes, pen and glossy grocery store ads. Affix Post-It to non-store-brand item, then name your own price. Use the pen to jot down the price-matched figure you are willing to pay. Feign authenticity by adding a random competing store name to each sticky note.

Things you never have to buy: honey, paper napkins, soy sauce, jam, relish, pepper. Just go help yourself from a fast food place or supermarket deli/food court.

Never visit a garage sale before noon on Sundays. I am totally going to follow this from now on.

Relationship/budget saver This one is for the young men, the ones who pretend they don't read my blog. WNBA. Varsity games. Minor leagues. Instant score with the GF (if you are hetero), and better for your budget.

Keep a spray bottle of diluted dish soap on hand then blast ants to oblivion.

In My @Read Pile - Secrets of a Stingy Scoundrel

August 3rd, 2012 at 11:01 pm

I could not resist a book written by alumnus Phil Villarreal, and my son could not resist a book with a cover showing George Washington's numismatic likeness embellished with red-crayon horns and demonic eyes and goatee.

I shall read it as a newborn (not kicking myself for not having thought this stuff up earlier, that is) and share the good parts: unless you've read it already, of course.

Back and broker but not with a broken back

August 3rd, 2012 at 07:46 pm

The neighbours left on vacation. They took the third best option and left their senile incontinent lonely whining dog inside. Better options are kenneling and taking the dog with them.

I left on vacation with my family. We took the 2nd best option and left all our cats with 24/7 housesitters. The best option would have been kenneling one cat and keeping two cats at home.

Semi-frugal: had free tickets for the Botanical Gardens and for OMNIMAX and Planetarium of the Science Center, and free breakfasts for most of the travel days. Also many dinner entrees for under $10, unheard of in Seattle unless there is a drive-thru and caloric information posted above a uniformed front-counter person.

not at all frugal: Hubby locked the car keys in the truck, requiring a locksmith, and the boy unbuckled his seatbelt when a state trooper approached us after pulling us over. Yes the car had stopped before the boy extricated himself but apparently that did not matter and cannot be proven in court.

Car got 30.5 mpg mileage -- not terrific, but it does terrific speed as we learned through Wyoming, South Dakota, Iowa, Montana and Idaho.

more expenses: higher car insurance, boy requires three teeth extracted, ticket for the unbuckled seatbelt -- we were NOT ticketed for speeding, though we were pulled over for doing 88 in a 75 zone. We were not ticketed because my husband was driving: he had not exceeded the speed limit at any time in our marriage prior to this incident, and we had a rental car we had not spent much time in.

Not looking forward to credit card statements, no sirree.