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bread-steamingAs part of my low-maintenance prepper campaign, I’ve been thinking about ways we could cook if a major earthquake led to a loss of electricity. We’ve got a burn barrel and a Weber outside, and if the gas were still on we could manually light the stovetop (but not the oven).

We’ve got tons of staples on hand and could likely outlast a major emergency, even if all our shiftless relatives showed up to camp at the house with a fireplace insert and loads of flour and beans. One thing we couldn’t do easily? Bread.

Thus I’ve been researching recipes like stovetop corn pone, tortillas and other relatively simple staffs of life. When I recently got a copy of “The Kitchen Stories Cookbook: Comfort Cookin’ Made Fascinating and Easy,” my eyes fell upon a recipe for Boston brown bread.

The result is literally steaming in the photograph. (DF snapped the picture shortly after the first pieces were cut.) It was the perfect antidote to a cold winter night when paired with a thick soup made from boiling-bag broth, a pint of home-canned turkey, and whatever vegetables we had on hand.

My theory is that fresh bread, or even fresh tortillas, can make an ordinary meal – or an emergency one – seem much nicer than it actually is.

 


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Warmth and plenty.

thOh, the breakfast we just had. Perfectly cooked bacon, done in the oven. Sliced tomatoes. The last of the homemade rolls from the freezer, toasted and served with a choice of three homemade (not by us) jams. Tea and coffee aplenty

Scrambled eggs for me and for DF, eggs done “the way Jesus had his.” (See Matthew 11:30 for the punny explanation.) A dish of yogurt with rhubarb compote, both – you guessed it – homemade. The only reason we didn’t add in some of those Del Monte red grapefruit sections was that we forgot they were in the fridge.

The fireplace insert was churning out BTUs, its flames resurrected from the previous evening’s fire that had entertained us and also dried two racks of laundry. While I slept in DF had folded that laundry and put away the racks.

This lazy Saturday morning was seasoned perfectly by gusts of snow blown against the kitchen windows. Not new snow, but slabs of old snow and hand-sized chunks of frost blown off the roof and the neighbor’s giant larch tree. My breakfast sat more snugly and smugly each time snow scoured the panes: It’s out there and I’m in here, enjoying warmth and a leisurely breakfast.

All of which reminded me of a line from Pearl S. Buck’s “The Good Earth.”

 



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th-2More than nine years ago my editor gave me a black fleece jacket with the MSN Money logo. The garment has seen some seriously hard use over the years, to the point where it’s no longer midnight-black but rather more of a pre-dawn slate.

A bit worn but still warm, the jacket has reached the end of the line because its zipper is kaput. Yet I’m having a tough time throwing it away, even though it’s no longer wearable and even though I no longer need it. My black fleece Mr. Rebates pullover keeps me plenty warm, thanks; it’s softer and cozier, too.

The other day I tried to throw the MSN jacket in the trash but couldn’t unclench my fingers. Two reasons why:

 


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thThe concept of a “spending freeze” pops up every so often in the personal finance blogosphere. January is prime time for this tactic, given the joyful excesses of the holiday season.

Spending freezes have been announced at a couple of blogs I follow, Jana Says and The Frugalwoods. They’re slightly different: Mrs. Frugalwoods wants to help you “restructure your frugal mindset,” while Jana invites us to join her as she learns “to start paying attention again.”

While leaving a comment on Jana’s post I used the phrase “hypothermia of the budget.” That’s where DF and I are this January, and probably for the next six months. Or maybe longer.

 


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santa_planeWhen you fly on a buddy pass you travel standby. Using a pass during the holiday season is a total crapshoot – or, in airline parlance, “not recommended.”

But I when I decided to visit my daughter for the holidays, I believed the traditional wisdom about flying on Dec. 24.

“Folks will already be where they want to be,” I kept hearing. “Plenty of room on the planes on Christmas Eve.”

Apparently a whole lot of people missed that memo.

 


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th-1More than half of U.S. consumers (mistakenly) believe that carrying credit card balances will help improve their credit scores.

It won’t. It won’t. It won’t!

Yet according to the 2016 Capital One Credit Confidence Study, 52 percent of us still think it will. The study also mentioned a new (to me) credit score myth, one that’s believed by about the same number of people.

 


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thI’m heading to Phoenix for the holidays. Wanna have coffee?

Usually I try to organize a meet-up whenever I visit my daughter. This time around I plan two such get-togethers:

Wednesday, Dec. 28, from 9:30 a.m. to noon

Saturday, Dec. 31, from noon to 3 p.m.

(Note: Originally I’d said “9 a.m. to noon.” But that was before I realized/remembered that the restaurant doesn’t open until half an hour after that. D’oh!)

Yep, both times can be awkward: the Wednesday one because working folk may not be able to make it, and the Saturday one because New Year’s Eve. Still, I can offer two good reasons to be there.

 


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thMy pay-as-you-go flip phone regularly receives calls from numbers I don’t recognize. For a while I’d pick up any that began with 206 or 425; having lived in Seattle for eight years I figured it might be an old acquaintance or former classmate.

Each time, though, it was a robonotification about a great deal on a credit card, vacation or something else I didn’t need. Nowadays I don’t pick up, and guess what? Those unknown callers never leave messages!

I’m not alone in feeling pestered. Phone-spam victims received an average of 118 sales-pitchy or downright fraudulent calls this year, according to a new study from Hiya, a free caller ID/call-blocker app.

And there’s no place like your phone for holiday fraud. Seasonal scams are up by 113 percent over last year, the study notes.

Among them:

 


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thSome people are into experiences rather than gifts. Physical presents take up space and need to be dusted, whereas a massage or a theater ticket is a one-and-done event.

I suggest that a personal finance book is both a gift and an experience. Sure, it takes up a little space – but it can lead to life-altering changes and literal enrichment. And if you get the Kindle or PDF version, it doesn’t take up any room in your domicile.

When you give the gift of personal finance, you’re giving people tools that can get them out of current money troubles and/or help them build the lives they want. Doesn’t that beat the heck out of a scented candle or a cheese log?

 


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thPlanning to visit family and/or friends later this month? An app-based “shipping community” called Roadie could help you make the trip more profitable, or at least help pay for gas and tolls.

This app-based “shipping community” currently has more than 25,000 drivers in all 50 states. The premise is pretty simple: You sign up as a driver and wait to see if anybody wants you to deliver something to where you’re going.

Kind of like Uber or Lyft, except that drivers are transporting cargo rather than people.

How much can you earn? A surprising amount, actually.

 


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thSorry to have maintained radio silence lately. In the past week I’ve had one of those not-terribly-serious yet still life-sucking viruses.

The sinus-y kind that makes your head ache and your nose and eyes itch. The throat-y kind that makes it unpleasant even to sip water. The malaise-y kind that makes you want to lie down a lot, except that you can’t really get comfortable.

Blech.

Since during that time I’ve also been writing for pay and working on the sequel to “Your Playbook For Tough Times,” I haven’t had the brainwidth to come up with something thrilling for this blog.

However, I do have a few things to share. To wit:

 


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thGray Thursday is tomorrow and Black Friday is the day after that. Anyone without a specific plan runs the risk of blowing the budget and/or lying about it.

Ho, ho, no.

According to a survey from VitalSmarts, eight out of 10 people overdo it on Black Friday and 56 percent have a hard time talking about holiday spending with their spouses/partners.

Joseph Grenny and David Maxfield, who founded the corporate training company, cite these common tactics for avoiding the discussion:

 


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