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Saturday, August 12, 2017

Genealogy Bargains

A couple of years ago, I became interested in learning about my ancestors—who they were and where they came from. I'd been blogging on and off about my Nace ancestors on my "Naces of Lithia" blog, where I used some family stories and some Internet info. But how should I begin a deeper study—and where?  I did not want to spend $$$ on having my genealogy looked up, and I wanted some-hands on experience. I started to investigate both online and off-line resources. Basically, here's what I learned:

The internet has plenty of genealogy references. Some will be free and some will cost. See what you can find from the free ones first. Keep in mind, however, that not all the info might be accurate. And you will find contradictions about your ancestors. Always look for a source of information—for instance, a death certificate or a census record. This 1860 census, for instance, shows that my great-grandfather, Greenbury L. Forbes (age 23), was still living in the household of his father, Peter B. Forbes.

This death certificate for my great-grandfather, George William Ruble, has lots of information—including his parents' names.

Here are some free resources that I've found helpful:

*Library: Take advantage of the classes on genealogy that you local library night offer. When the Franklin County Library (Rocky Mount, Virginia) had a six-week free course a few years go, I signed up. I learned a lot about different resourses not only in the library, but also at the local courthouse.

*Facebook Groups: I joined several county genealogy groups on Facebook: Caldwell Family of Boteourt and Craig Counties, Franklin County Virginia Genealogy, Botetourt County Virginia Genealogy, Bedford County Genealogy, and Craig County Historical Society. A member of the Botetourt County Genealogy Group was able to find my great-aunt's obituary from 1911:

*Find-A Grave.  Not only can you find where an ancestor is buried, you might find additional information, such as names of parents or siblings. Since anyone with an account can post, accuracy of the info might vary. But that info can be a good starting point for further research. When searching for the grave of my 6th-great grandfather, John Adam Roush/Johannes Rausch, I found these:

Photo posted on several web sites—I'm unsure of credit.
Here's the Find-A-Grave site for George William Ruble. The site lists his wife Margie incorrectly as her older sister Margaret. The stone, however, has Margie as her name. 

The Find-A-grave site tells where he is buried (Ruble Cemetery on Rt. 311, Craig County, VA), so that's some additional information—that leads to a list of everyone buried there.

*The USGenWeb Project has various info from different states. I particularly liked the Virginia County Formation Dates page because it let me know what counties the current counties were formed from.

There are lots of lists of "free genealogy sites" on the Internet, but some are more helpful than others. A bit of Googling will locate them for you.

*Family Search is a free online genealogy resource that I've used, but you do need to sign up before you can get access. Be aware that many family trees might have mistakes, so you need to verify info by checking for sources, but odds are good that you'll find some interesting information.

* isn't free to join, but they offer a free trial and occasionally they offer specials. For instance, they offer an AARP discount for first-time users who are AARP members, but you need to call Ancestry to get this deal.  I've also found you can get a better deal when calling them to renew rather than renewing online. Their support number is 1-800-615-6560. Again, many family trees might have mistakes, so check sources.

Besides my Naces of Lithia blog about my Botetourt County ancestors, I've posted other genealogical stuff info on my Peevish Pen blog, For most of these, I relied upon various internet sources:

"Martin Mystery"
"Martin Mystery II"
"Genealogical Mysteries in Maryland":
"Celia and Lewis Hancock"
"Untangling Caldell Roots"
"Tangled Ruble Roots"

Speaking of blogs, there are a lot of them about genealogy. Here are two:
"10 Genealogy Blogs Worth Reading"
"Almost 3,000 Genealogy and Famimly History-related Blogs"

If you're interested in looking up your own genealogy, there are lots of places to start.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

E-coupons at Kroger

My husband and I shop once a week at our local Kroger, We used to shop on Tuesdays because that was Senior Citizen Day, but Kroger recently did away with the 5% discount for shoppers over 55. So, we have to be creative in how we save.

Fortunately we can still save a bit by using e-coupons, which I download from the Kroger website a day or two before we shop. I remember the days of cutting and sorting grocery coupons (and I confess I still do it on rare occasions), but downloading e-coupons from onto my Kroger card is much easier and more efficient. Notice how many e-coupons I used on the receipts below: 

Also notice on the receipts above that if I fill out an online survey about my shopping experience, I can have 50 extra gas points added to my card. Each dollar we spend at Kroger earns us a gas point, and we usually accumulate a thousand a month,. That really helps at the gas pump (each 100 points=10¢ off per gallon).

But back to e-coupons: My husband and I shop together. Since I have to use a handicapped buggy and he pushes a regular cart, it’s easier if we split up. So, I print out two lists of e-coupons—one for each of us.  I use a highlighter to mark things on my husband’s list that he might like, and I mark things on mine that I want to get.  We save time by going our separate ways and meeting at the checkout.

Another way to save money—besides using e-coupons—is to be aware of ways grocery stores try to get shoppers to spend more. Find out how at this link:

Friday, May 12, 2017

Publishing Cheap

If you've ever wanted to publish your memoirs, a family history, or maybe that novel you've been thinking about for the last half-century—and you're not up to querying agents, attending writing conferences, etc.—you might consider self-publishing.

Keep in mind that there are "publishing services" (vanity publishers) that will be delighted to charge you $$$$ to "publish" your work. I regret that I used one to publish four books over a decade ago. Since last October, I've been trying to get this vanity "publisher" to take my books off online retailers. But they don't return voice messages, etc.  All they're interested in is the money I paid them long ago.

Probably the best deal for someone wanting to self-publish in paperback is CreateSpace. I've used them three times and have been satisfied with their service. The service itself is free, but CreateSpace offers various services, such as editing, formatting, or cover design if yu don't want to completely do it yurself. However, you might want to pay for an editor or cover designer on your own.

In 2013, I decided to republish my 2001 self-published novel, Patches on the Same Quilt. I used a template I'd downloaded and filled in the information. I found the process a bit tedious, but doable.

Front cover
Back cover
 Talented friends helped me with the cover. Members of my writers group had helped with editing when the original edition was published in 2001.

It was easier doing the second novel, Them That Go. Again, I had some help from my friends.

For My third CreateSpace project, I recycled and repackaged some stories I'd vanity-published under a different title in 2003 to produce Miracle of the Concrete Jesus and Other Stories. (Yep. More help from my friends!)

I've also done Kindle ebooks of all three of the above books, but that's another story for another blog-post.

If you're interested in in learning more about CreateSpace, here's some info I handed out at a recent author presentation I did:

Becky Mushko 

CreateSpace is an inexpensive way to self-publish. Unless you are buying some of CreateSpace’s add-on services, it is free. Some suggestions before you decide to publish with CreateSpace:

Do some research:
Go to and click the “Learn More” button to read about what CreateSpace is. Check out each of the tabs: Overview, Cover, Interior, Printing Options, Distribution, Royalties, Buying Copies.

Read some online articles. These are helpful:

Watch videos. There are also a lot of helpful You-Tube videos. Google “How to publish with CreateSpace you tube video” and look at some of the more recent ones.

Get your manuscript as clean as you can get it. Eliminate any extra spaces after end punctuation. (only one spaces goes after a period.) Run spellcheck. Justify your margins instead of leaving them ragged right. Have a few Beta readers read your manuscript, then go back and fix any problems, revise, etc. (It really helps to be in a writers group!) Consider changing your text/font to single-spaced Garamond 11 (what the CreateSpace formatted template uses).

Decide on what size you want your book and download a formatted template from here:
            Fill in the template with your title, etc. Paste in your chapters one at a time. The template only gives you ten chapters, but you can add more. After your chapters are all pasted in, fill in the table of contents. OR—You can hire someone to format your manuscript if you do not want to do it yourself for free.

Set up a CreateSpace account. If you don’t have a tax number, you will have to give them your social security number. You will also have to give them the number of a bank account to deposit your royalties. (Hint: Set up a separate account just for your books. It makes record keeping much easier.)
CreateSpace will assign you ISBN numbers. You will put those in the front matter of your book. Then you can upload your manuscript.
You can choose if you want your manuscript printed on white or cream paper. I recommend cream because it’s a bit heavier. Besides fiction is usually printed on cream; non-fiction on white.)

Design your book cover. If you’re talented with Photoshop, you might do it yourself. If not, you might hire someone to do it for you, or you can use CreateSpace’s free Cover Creator. After you’ve uploaded your manuscript, you’ll know how big your cover should be. You will have to choose whether you want a glossy cover or a matte cover.

When CreateSpace has approved your uploads, you may review your book on their online reviewer (allow some time for this!). If you made some mistakes, correct your manuscript and upload again, etc. Then order a proof copy (less than $10) and go through it page by page after it comes in. Make corrections an upload again.
* *  * 
It never hurts to look at some CreateSpace books before you decide to publish your own. (Warning: Blatant plug: You can get my books from Amazon. Click the links on my book titles above or visit my Amazon author page:

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Saving Buttons

I posted this on my Peevish Pen blog back in January, but it's worth posting here. I originally titled it "Button Clutter," but it has to do with saving stuff that might be useful, so I figured I'd repost here. Besides, you never know when you might lose a button and don't want to have to go out and buy a whole card of buttons. It's eaasier to dip into your stash.

Whenever a garment wears out, I recycle it to rags. (My mother used to recycle old clothes—ones that were too worn to hand down or remake—by tearing them into strips and crocheting rag rugs. But I never learned how to crochet.)

Decluttering is apparently the current fad—at least in magazine articles and online stories I've seen. Apparently, at least according to the stories, I would be much happier if I stripped my life down to as few possessions as possible, but I don't think that's going to happen. I kind of enjoy burrowing into my clutter. And I like being around stuff I've inherited that I'll never use—stuff that generations before me touched and used.

I come from a line of women who saved stuff. My mother and grandmother lived through the depression, so they saved anything that might be useful again. My great-grandmother was born just after the Civil War, so I imagine her family saved anythig that might possibly be used again. Among the things they saved were buttons.

Many of the decluttering lists say to get rid of buttons. On this list,  #1 is "Spare buttons from clothes that you are keeping 'just in case.'" On the Embracing Homemaking list of "200+ Things to Throw Away," #66 is " buttons   

I can recognize a few buttons that Mama sewed on my clothes when I was little. She made most of my clothes until I was 10 or 11. But I don't know which buttons belonged to my grandmother and which belonged to my great-grandmother. I do know that the canning jars which contain the buttons belonged to my great-grandmother

I don't can, but I have no intention of getting rid of these jars, either. Seeing them and the buttons they contain—and knowing when I touch them I touch my past—makes me much happier than getting rid of them would do. 

"Waste not, want not." 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

PT Cruiser Window fix

I originally posted about my husband's repair of our PT Cruiser's window on my Peevish Pen blog in June 2014. I'm reposting it here because we haven't had any trouble with his repair job for more than a year and because this post illustrates how you can learn to do stuff from watching YouTube videos.

When the driver's side window on our oldest PT Cruiser refused to close, my husband turned to his trusty iPad for help. A bit of Googling turned up a very helpful YouTube video that explained how to replace a broken power window regulator, which was apparently the old PT's problem.

My husband watched the video a few times and, again using his trusty iPad, ordered the necessary parts. This is what a PT door looks like when it's taken apart:

Fortunately, our wi-fi just reaches the garage, so the iPad was propped up while my husband messed with took the door apart. It only took a couple of days for the part to arrive.

The part of the door not being messed with worked on was propped against the truck's tire.

With a lot of stopping the video and rewinding, my husband was able to successfully repair the door.

Just in case you're interested (but I'll bet you're really not), here's the video he watched:

YouTube videos can be a great place to learn—and the knowledge costs nothing. Search for the kind of info you're looking for and a list of potential videos will appear. Just make sure you watch more than one video about any subject (some videos are more reliable than others). 


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Three Pots

The Discovery Shop at Westlake is having a 25% off sale this week. I stopped by on Tuesday afternoon to see if I could find any bargains. I found three pots that I liked.

The pots were priced at $4, $3, and $2 before the discount. The white one was made in Portugal. Here's another view.

I really liked this hand-made one.

It was signed, but not dated. I couldn't find any info about the potter, Toney Thomas. The pot had a little trademark (a double t) near the bottom. 

The cats were interested in it.

Maybe they think it would be a good place to keep catnip.

For a total of $6.75, I think I got a bargain—especially on the handmade one.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Handy Little Grater

I stopped buying shredded cheese when I noticed that cellulose was one of the added ingredients. While pre-shredded cheese was so handy to add to salads, quiches, casseroles, etc., I'm trying to eat fewer additives.  An ABC News story considers cellulose one of the "7 Grossest Things in Your Food":
Cellulose is usually made from nontoxic wood pulp or cotton, and the cheap filler is stuffed into shredded cheese, salad dressing, and ice cream to thicken it without adding calories or fat. Cellulose is fibrous, which is why it appears in so many high-fiber "healthy" snacks and breakfast cereals -- and it's even in organic products, according to an investigation by The Wall Street Journal.
Here's another story about cellulose in food, and here's another. Apparently wood pulp is a popular additive in processed foods. But I don't care for it. What to do? Shred my own cheese!

I bought this little grater at Dollar Tree for, well, a dollar.

Does it work? You bet! A hunk of cheese is way cheaper than a package of pre-shredded cheese, too.

It takes no time to shred a bowlful of cheese from a block of cheddar. And the results look better than what comes out of the packages.

Two months ago, on my Peevish Pen, I posted a recipe for crustless quiche that uses 3 cups of shredded cheese. Yep, I shredded my own. Couldn't have done it without my cheap little grater!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Cast Iron Pan

My husband found a cast iron pan at Goodwill. Here's the "up" side, with heart-shaped indentations for batter . . .

. . . and here's the back.

There's a bit of rust, but the pan looks like it hasn't been used. At least it was never seasoned. Did he get a good deal for $1.95? 

I Googled a bit and found a bunch of cast iron corn muffin pans. This one didn't have a handle, but it was $7:

This one had a handle, but was a different style. It was $7.99

This one matches, but it had already been sold on eBay. I don't know what the price was.

Finally I found this heading, which lead me to another picture:

Vintage 4 Heart Cast Iron Cake Bread Cookie Tray Mold Pan very hard 2 find

Looks like it's a match.

How much was it? Here's the asking price:

Looks like he got a pretty good deal. Or I did—he gave it to me.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

PT Packing

If you remove the back seats from your car, you can really pack stuff in. Here's the old PT Cruiser at Tractor Supply:

Six bags of shavings, two bags of feed, and a bunch of other stuff! And here's another trip:

It isn't like we were actually using those back seats. 


Saturday, October 19, 2013

Bargain Throw & Cat

Yesterday, at the Rocky Mount Goodwill, I found a like-new throw for $4. My cat Tanner liked it, maybe because the colors coordinated well with his fur.

If you look on the cabin steps, you can see a little cat.

I'm not sure what the throw originally cost, but it was well woven and in mint condition. I'm pretty sure it originally sold for lots more than $4. 

 I also bought this tiny cat trinket holder for 50¢. Tanner wasn't interested in it, though. He doesn't own any trinkets.

Note: Tanner was rescued from the Penhook dumpster back in March. I used Planned Pethood's "Happy Kitty" $ 99 special for his neutering and shots, so he was kind of a bargain, too.


Saturday, June 8, 2013

June 2013 Bargains

Today I went to the Franklin County Library's used book sale and spent $3.50. Hardbacks were 50¢ and paperbacks were 25¢. Here's what I bought:

The 1977 facsimile edition of Edith Holden's 1906 The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady was delightfully illustrated. 

The 1978 edition of Brian Froud and Alan Lee is lovely, too, in a creepy sort of way. The 2010 collector's edition is $22.05 on Amazon. The price on the inside flap of mine says $14.95 until Dec. 31, 1978, then it becomes $17.50. 

I've long been a fan of the Foxfire books (and I even used to show my junior high students a Foxfire movie about Aunt Arie), so I was glad to get Aunt Arie, a Foxfire Portrait, currently available on amazon for $17.12 (reg. $23).  

Sara Midda's 1981 edition of In and Out of the Garden is delightful. The price on the inside flap of this first printing is $14.95. A 2008 version goes for $17.62 (reg. $24.50) on Amazon.

Roy Strong's A Country Life: At Home in the English Countryside is out of print but available on Kindle for $7.59. The 1994 edition I bought has $19.95 on the flap.

Wayne Hanley's 1977 edition of Natural History in America: From Mark Catesby to Rachel Carson is out of print. The original price was $19.95. Leslie John's 1974 Plants in Tubs, Pots, Baskets, and Boxes was originally $8.95.

Since I have a 2009 MacBook, I figured I should get the manual: MacBook All-in-One for Dummies. This is the 2010 version, but my operating system is Snow Leopard, the one mention in the originally $34.99 book. (Yeah, I'm two operating systems behind. . . .)

I think I got a pretty good deal on my books. And I helped out the Friends of the Library. Later I stopped by the discovery shop where I found a brand new cover for my kitchen stool. Only $2.75—and it matches my favorite tablecloth.

I also found another kitchen item, a Paula Deen 2-quart stainless steel copper-bottomed saucepan with a glass lid. It was pretty well-used, but still in good shape. I figured it was well worth the $2.00.

Later, I looked up the saucepan online. I found a similar one at Walmart online for $32.58. Mine is missing the ring in the handle, though. Home Depot has it for only $29.99.

I guess I did OK for bargain shopping today.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Lotsa Pots

. . . and they were free.

Sometimes you don't have to pay anything for stuff. A lot of local folks will leave stuff that's still usable beside the dumpster instead of tossing it in. Rural recycling, if you will.

For instance, this iron hook—maybe to hang a plant from—was sitting beside the dumpster a few weeks ago.

It needs painting, but it's usable—and much to good to throw away. Yesterday, several folks were at the dumpsters. One guy took a flower pot from his trunk and sat it in front of the dumpster. 

"I can use that," I said. 

He handed it to me and answered, "I've got more. Want 'em?" 

I did. I came home with three clay pots (one painted) a small ceramic one with a chip on its rim (but still usable), two large fiberglass pots, two plastic window boxes, and a few plastic pots. 

All will be handy when I do some transplanting before long. While they're not perfect, they're still usable—too good to throw away.

And the price was right.