Monday, February 28, 2011

Today's the Day to Try Swagbucks!

It's the site's third birthday, and they're giving out plenty of extra codes and prizes today. You might find this very helpful! Just with the searches I normally do, plus a few minutes a day to vote on polls and surveys, I earn at least $10 worth of Amazon gift cards every month. Could you use $10 to blow on Amazon?!? It's that easy.
    You can join by clicking on the fancy gadget to the right of my blog posts...it will give you a bonus, and me some referral points, too. Try it!

Worrying -- Will It Help?

So The King's Speech got lots of awards last night. This movie is on my 'I Know I Should Go See This Movie, But I Already Know How It Ends' list, along with the 'Black Swan' and 'The Fighter.' (Shoot, I just saw 'On the Waterfront;' wouldn't that take care of the latter? Although that remarkable Christian Bale,"one of your buddies," as Husband says, might make it worth my while.)
   I still think Inception got robbed.

One of the questions in today's Simple Dollar Readers Mailbag hit a sympathetic chord:

I can’t sleep because I am so worried about political stupidity here and political unrest abroad sand-bagging my savings and my stocks. I am half-convinced that this country is facing financial Armageddon. The constant loss of jobs worries me too, since I am a sole supporter of an elderly parent. I am saving as much as I can now, but I came to this realization so late in life, I fear it may be too late for me.

The writer goes on to list ways she's dealing with the situation, including TWO jobs (one full, one part-time), a full freezer, canning and sewing, paying on credit cards and making an extra mortgage payment every year.
    I can think this way so easily. Stocks will crash again (mine are up right now, incidentally), the house will flood again (the drain outside our basement tends to clog up), Husband will have job and/or health problems (he's had both, but we've gotten by ok), my writing/quilting/teaching work will evaporate (it shows every sign of doing exactly the opposite).
   Our freezer is still 2/3 full. We have plenty of food in the pantry and basement. And we're both carrying extra weight around our middles. In fact, I've been planning a bigger garden not only because it will give us food that's free of chemicals, but so I'll get some forced exercise this summer.
   So, has all my previous worrying helped? Changed anything, other than my blood pressure?
   Naaahhhh.
   Ironically, the best way I've found to deal with worry is not to accumulate -- but to get rid of things. Several large piles have disappeared around the house in past weeks, and I have plans for a few more before leaving to teach in North Carolina on Wednesday. The freezer has been slowly emptying -- the meat is a blessing. (Have your meat prices skyrocketed, too? Ours are up at least 20%. Chuck roast is now 'on sale' for $3.99/lb -- outrageous!) And the shelves of canned goods are still plenty full.
   We stockpiled extra fabric, in anticipation of textiles' rising prices. That will eventually disappear into the maws of kits, along with the trims, buttons and handkerchiefs we seem to have waterfalls of around here for Brickworks.
    During moments that I do worry, I seem to hear God saying, 'Have I taken care of you in the past? Do you trust me now?'
    He has -- and I do.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Ignoring the Oscars

Yes, I know it's Big Whup Night. Everybody and their brother/sister is dressed to the nines, and prancing down the red carpet at the Oscars celebration. And a whole bunch of people are partying to the same tune all over the country.
    Well, not us. (I did take a quick peek at the costumes -- why do nearly all the women look like they're just getting over the flu??) We just got done with The Adventures of Robin Hood. (The Errol Flynn version, which in spite of the green tights, is lots of fun.) Next are the stylish plaid shirts and suspenders of Red Green. Popcorn, leftover Valentine's candy and a cup of hot tea make life complete.
    Charlie, Jack and Buck are sprawled out, posed elegantly in their dusty coats. Husband and I complete the gracious scene in sweatshirts and sweatpants. Aaahhhhhh....

Friday, February 25, 2011

Care and Repair for Wool Rugs and Quilts

Today's post is courtesy of Kathy Kansier, a friend and colleague who travels around the world, teaching, judging and appraising quilts. Kathy lives in Ozark, Missouri. Read more about Kathy at her website, or contact her via e-mail: ozarkquiltmaker@aol.com .

Some of my applique classes are wool applique classes. I also have quite a bit of wool for my rug hooking. I keep that wool in large sealed plastic boxes to keep the bugs away. I know other hookers who keep their wool in large plastic garbage cans. One older lady who has been working with wool for over 60 years keeps her wool garbage cans in the garage in the winter to keep the wool cold. It also helps to freeze any bugs or their eggs that may have gotten in her wool. She taught me to keep a bar of Yardley Lavender Soap in each container to keep out the bugs. I can buy these bars at Walgreens. I like this smell much better than the traditional mothball approach. I think that the cedar chest storage approach was also an attempt to keep the bugs away from wool.
I've asked many rug hookers if they have had problems with bugs eating their hooked rugs that they have on their floors. None have ever told me that they had any problems. Maybe they have and don't know it. The hooked rugs are fairly dense so they may not notice small bites in the wool. The antique hooked rugs were hooked on burlap and when that gets wet, it molds, rots and disintegrates. So ... wet washing them would not be good. Today's hooked rugs are mostly done on a linen or cotton base. Hooked rugs are usually put face down in the snow for a day to clean and then laid flat to dry. They are never washed. They can be vacuumed. They used to use a rug beater on them to remove the dust and dirt.
I do have a wool table topper with pennies (circles) around the perimeter that I made. Three years ago, it was on the top of a stack of quilts in my sewing room. It now has a small area with 3 small holes (1/4" across) that some kind of bug ate.  The holes didn't go through the wool. They just munched on the top fuzzy layer. It was expensive white Moda wool. I know I didn't have any mice or silver fish in there so it had to be some sort of bug. My guess would be that it was a moth or cricket. We live on 13 wooded acres. That table topper is now in our house and hasn't been munched on since. I often use lavender candles and sprays in the house so maybe that's a solution.
I had 24 x 24 pieces of Hobbs washable wool batting lying on a stack and found small holes eaten in those too. I called the Hobbs Batting Company and they said to store their wool batting in the plastic bag it comes in until it is going to be used in a quilt. They said that when it is used in a quilt and the quilt is finished with a binding, the bugs don't go through the trouble and effort to eat through the cotton top or bottom  or through the seam lines to get at the wool. Apparently the bugs are more lazy than they are hungry.
I currently have two bolts of beautiful wool from Scotland in the sewing room. They have been there for two years, uncovered. Nothing has touched them. I don't know why. Maybe my bugs have fled to a better feeding ground. Those bolts are going to be cut and put in kits next month for my spring workshops.
If I am using new or used wool for applique, I wash it first, in the washer with warm (not hot) water. I dry it in a warm (not hot dryer) and press it with a warm iron. This causes it to fell (not felt). The felling process causes the woven yarn to tighten up. Too much heat will cause it to mat and shrink too much. Soaking in warm or cool water with a little bit of mild soap causes the pores of the yarns to open up and easily accept dye when I am dying wool. I do not use spray starch on wool in fear that the sugar in the starch will attract bugs to the wool. I mix my own form of starch with vodka, lavender oil and distilled water. It works great on all sorts of fabrics and smells wonderful. No, I don't drink the leftover vodka.
Years ago, we would never have washed wool sweaters, skirts etc. They were always sent to the dry cleaners. In the summer, I hunt for old wool skirts, suits and sweaters at places like Goodwill. It is much less expensive to purchase and they are wonderful for cutting up and using in my rugs and applique projects. I take the clothing apart, wash and dry it. Large A-line skirts give me the bigger pieces. Suits can be difficult to take apart and the pieces aren't big. But ... they sometimes have great buttons on them that can be used as embellishments for my crazy quilts. You need 100% wool for rug hooking. You can get by with a wool blend for applique but 100% wool is preferred.
To test to see if the wool is 100% wool - pull a string of yarn from the fabric and light it with a match. If it burns and smells like hair burning, it's 100% wool. If the end of it melts and shrivels up, it has some polyester in it.
My mom knit many mittens  for us as kids and whenever she used wool yarn and they were accidentally thrown into the washer and dryer, they matted and shrunk. I'm sure it was the hot water and hot dryer.
If a wool quilt is sent to a dry cleaners, make sure they have experience in cleaning wool quilts. Good wool or wool that has been washed before using it in a quilt usually isn't scratchy. They are hot to sleep under. A wool quilt can be aired outside to remove odors. I realize that dry cleaning adds chemicals but I prefer dry cleaning a wool quilt over hand washing it. Wool quilts are like crazy quilts. They are not good candidates for wet washing. It will be interesting what others have to say about this. I could be wrong. 
You could Google 'caring for wool quilts' to find more info on their care. Rug hooking sites, wool applique sites and the dye companies like Cushing, Pro Chem and Dharma may have info on caring for wool. There are quite a few people using wool in their quilts. There are great quilt patterns for wool on wool, wool on flannel and wool on cotton. It is wonderful to applique. No edges to turn and a nice, cozy folk art look. There's nothing better than sitting in front of a nice fire in your fireplace in the winter and working on a wool project. Remember to have a pot of soup simmering in the crock pot.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Frozen Dead Guy Days are Back!

In Nederland, CO, the little mountain town where we lived...and Daughter #2 still resides...there is a Tuff Shed. With Grandpa in it. One of the town's many 'interesting' residents decided that rather than have his grandfather's body treated at an official cryonics unit, he would do it himself. With dry ice and other stuff.
    That was years ago, back in 1993. Grandson Trygve Bauge is now back in Norway, but Grandpa is still in residence in Nederland. And now the town has an annual festival built up around him: Frozen Dead Guy Days!
    It's next weekend, March 4-6, 2011, with events ranging from the Coffin Race, classes (cryogenics for kids!!), a Polar Plunge, ReAnimate Yourself Beer Tent, a Parade...and of course, visits to Grandpa. Learn more about the schedule here. Background info here. Don't miss it!

   P.S. Yummy extra note: Glacier Ice Cream, headquartered in the nearby city of Boulder, makes a flavor specifically for the festival (named, appropriately enough, Frozen Dead Guy), consisting of fruit-flavored blue ice cream mixed with crushed Oreo cookies and sour gummy worms.

Bits and Pieces

Sort of warm...sort of not. Clouds are forming above the mountains -- little hints that our Friday-warning-there's-a-storm-coming are starting to happen. And after an evening spent at Bible study with a friend who was hacking away...well, I have a sore throat. A bad one.
    Oh Lordy. I've got a gig next week. (Headed for the Charlotte Quilters Guild in NC. If you're interested in more on Crazy quilts, I'm your girl!) Four birthday cakes to bake for a surprise party Sat. night. Four piano lessons to give today. And a ton of biz stuff and paperwork to finish up. Where is a bout with flu going to squeeze in here?

While I'm dithering, consider some of these items that flitted past the radar this week:

The Elegant Thrifter (I love this blog) introduces Shannon South who 'repurposes' textiles into gracious living. I am a huge fan of the doily-strewn light shown below.(You can find it at Shannons website, reMade USA -- gorgeous.)

Continue the repurposing-with-elegance thread with a stop at Thrifty Chicks, and Ms. Golightly's look at tabletop arrangements. Reminds me I should dig through the drawers and windowseat and see what I've been stashing away for years! (Still fighting the ongoing Battle of the Piles.)

If you're in the stitching mood, try Crazy Mom Quilts. She'll take your fabric stash, and turn it into something interesting...but she does other stuff, too. (Has a real thing for math and Nine Patch designs.)

One of the greatest fossil finds in the country just happened last fall up in the mountains in Colorado: bones from more than 20 different mammals, including several mastodons, all jumbled together in a prehistoric quicksand-type mudhole. All thanks to a bulldozer operator from the Snowmass Village Water and Sanitation department.

Then there's the creepy guy who enjoys persuading other people to commit suicide. A former nurse, he poses as women 'friends' on various networks, and provides helpful info on technique. Now he's on trial for aiding two people -- kind of a reverse helpline. (His complicity in many more incidents is suspected.)Take a look at his weedy little face close-up. (And notice the wife's exasperated one in the background.) He doesn't deny it -- just says it's free speech. And since he didn't physically help them, he did nothing wrong.

Wipe the slime off by visiting with J.D.'s neighbor, a real-life 'millionaire next door.' (His secrets are good too, especially the primary one: Don't spend more than you earn. No matter what.)And don't miss out on an interview with Tom Stanley, the author of that essential book, on J.D.'s Get Rich Slowly.

Finally, there's Simple Dollar's weekly Reader Mailbag. I try hard not to miss this.

Off to find the aspirin. Maybe a hot shower and cup of tea will help, too.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Correction --

The Internet Accuracy Project is an interesting spot to peruse now and then. It specializes in setting the record straight for a variety of reference sources, including encyclopedias. It also has info on when celebrities married, their deaths, family members and so on. (I wish more celebs were included -- the list is pretty sparse here -- but I appreciate the references, so at least you generally know where the website is getting its corrections info from.)
   As it points out, we all can make mistakes. The project's aim is not to denigrate those sites that "goofed up," but simply to stay accurate. An admirable cause.
    I also found its 'spring planting' and 'high/low record temps' charts very interesting. (Colorado's lowest temp happened in 1985 at Maybell, a favorite hunting spot of Husband and his cronies!) Other helpful charts include things like mail and calendar holidays. Take a look.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Great American Quilt Factory...Is No More (Soon)

     It's been more than a week since the geniuses at The Great American Quilt Factory announced their intention to retire and close the store. (You may know them better as Nancy Smith and Lynda Milligan of Possibilities.)  If you've ever visited the Denver area, you know that their store was one of the greats in Colorado. Wonderful fabrics, a wide selection of tools and books, and intriguing ideas wherever you turned...I will miss going there greatly. Check out the store while you still can -- I'm not sure what the current discount is (it was 20% the first week), but I was told the percentage would go up with time "until everything's gone."
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I'm just back from teaching and appraising for the Pride City Quilt Guild in Pueblo. (Hi, dears!) They're a wonderful group, welcoming and full of interesting ideas. Thanks for your help yesterday...I had a great time!

I am a bit wiped, though. Have been hacking my way through the kitchen dishes, and washing clothes. Finishing up some biz stuff, and wondering why in the world I'm so tired.
     Husband's 56th birthday was Sunday. (Happy B-Day, Davy! I love you so much.) We picked up the girlies in the morning, then headed for the Mt. Princeton Hot Springs to celebrate. For most of the trip, the road was clear...but we had some scary moments for about five miles there, when snow was gusting over the road. Vehicles were in the ditch, with flashing lights...oh boy.
    There's nothing like soaking in clouds of steam and hot water, with snowflakes falling on your head! But I think we all got chilled...I can't seem to stay warm, once I get to that exalted state. Maybe that's the reason for the fatigue.




a birthday cake for the Brick...

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Have You Got A Secret?

Good old Punch Debt in the Face had a thought-provoking post about sharing secrets. Turns out there is a whole blog dedicated to nothing else -- PostSecret.
    The comments on PDF's are illuminating. Most of the people there are worried about money -- mostly that they owe much more than everyone thinks they do.
    Ouch. We don't have that struggle,
but we have to be very, very careful to keep it from happening, by:
    *paying off credit cards every month. No matter what.
    *only taking vacations after we've saved up the money to do so. (Which means the big stuff, like our Panama trip last December, takes a couple years to plan and execute. It's kind of fun anticipating, though.)
    *giving only minimal birthday and Christmas gifts. I told one friend, "You spend on one kid what we budget for the whole family!"
    *keeping the house temp at 62 degrees. Turning off lights. (This is my bugaboo, not Husband's. He likes them blazing.) 
   *buying very few clothes (except underwear) anywhere but the thrift shop. (Granted, we live in a very high-income county. The clothes at the Task Force are often better labels because of it.)
   *hitting up the marked-down shelves at grocery stores. Regularly. Especially for meat. (Have you noticed how beef prices have skyrocketed??)


Back to secrets. Have you got one to share? I'll swap you for a few of my own:

*I've purchased presents at the thrift shop, including wedding gifts and those high-end sweaters. (You try to get the new-looking ones, of course.)
*I'm a little scared to lose much weight -- every time I've done so in the past, the chances for being hit on or stared at have increased. Not sure why, either -- I'm not that goodlooking. But it happens. And I HATE it.
*Every time we take a financial hit (like Husband's recent illness), part of me is convinced we'll soon be out on the street, begging for nickels. I have to fight this.


There. What's yours?

Fun, with a Lesson Thrown In

Just discovered a very funny blogger, Punch Debt in the Face. His specialty: stick figures (don't ask - just go look) and a large dash of real-life advice.
    That is, after you finish laughing at his warnings to smelly people, including:
     "Axe body spray is not a shower replacement. Contrary to popular belief, you will not be able to avoid bathing yourself for an entire week, throw on a bit of Axe, and expect the ladies to throw themselves at you like they do in the commercials. This is the  real world buddy. The only thing worse than the smell of Axe, is the smell of Axe on a smelly frat boy. Vomit!" (Tell that to the girlies, who used to avoid certain hallways in their high school -- the fumes of Axe were almost overpowering, they said. Not to mention the grabby hands and remarks of jocks who hung out there. Word.) 
     Then there are the women who " wash your hair with cucumber and green tea body soap, lotion up with vanilla bean shea butter, and spray 98 pumps of Chanel perfume on your neck and wrists." I get these well-meaning ladies in class sometimes; after multiple hugs, I smell like a very confused Wal-Mart. (It's why I stick to deodorant, soap and baby powder while teaching -- nothing else.)
    I also enjoyed  his admission that he has been officially qualified semi-stupid, instead of a complete moron. (Where can I get me one of those??)
    Combine this with sound financial advice, and you've got a visit that will leave you grinning every time. (Especially don't miss any entries in his series, "Things I Want to Punch in the Face.")  Although personally, those stick figures creep me out...

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Saving Energy

We've still got a month or so of "who-knows-what" weather to get through. And by now, I'm guessing that your pocketbook, like ours is showing some signs of wear.

    It's not too late to implement some practical ways to save on heat...and electricity...and water. (Cooling, too, for that matter -- though unneeded heat around here is sure not the issue at present. It will be soon, though.)  Here are some ideas, thanks to the wonders of the Internet...and here are some more.
     General Electric has an Ecoimagination site: submit your ideas for energy-saving, and get others to think about (and hopefully implement). I've been researching home wind turbines for a while -- we get so much wind here, that it seems a waste not to take advantage of it. (Colorado has more than its share of wind farms, for good reason.)
    Pig Pennies has some good suggestions on saving electricity to get you started. (More here from another source.)


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Is It???

Colorado's had plenty of 'chinooks' lately -- a warmish wind that can really gust, up to 40-50 mph with little trouble. The roads are (mostly) dry. You can trot out without a coat on during the day. Sort of.
   On the other hand, we've still got snow on the ground, and the temps drop into the 30s at night. Is it possible that spring may be coming soon??
   I'm acting foolish, thinking this. We get these balmy periods just before the storms close back in late Feb. and early March. But after these past weeks of snow, snow and more snow, it's soooo tempting.
   The kale in the greenhouse are all but dead -- goners, after our -20 temps. (And the greenhouse is plastic, and unheated.) But maybe I should start tomatoes and spinach, just in case...

* * * * * * * * * * * *
News from the 'Weird, but Makes Sense' Department: 
 Going through your trash may help you save even more money. SavingAdvice.com is pushing this idea. For one, it will help you see where you're wasting stuff. (Like leftovers, something I kick myself about. Maybe I should feature them regularly, so I'll be inspired to knock it off -- something at least one blogger does. Another girl actually got arrested for using 'spoiled' food!) For another, you may find things that are still useful, could be donated (and the tax writeoff taken), or could be sold.
    Or...you may find items that could be used differently. Real Simple has a monthly column, plus a hall of fame that's surprisingly useful. They even have a whole book on the subject.
    I'd go through my trash today -- but all I'd find would be envelopes and junk mail (getting caught up on paperwork this week), plus dog hair. Jack, Daughter #1's dog, has been spending a few weeks with us while his mistress works extra hours. Now, we have white (Charley), tan (Buck) AND black (Jack) hair to contend with. Goody, goody.

Jackie Blue, looking suitably growly

Monday, February 14, 2011

Ooh....I'm Feeling Dizzy

A bird's-eye look at one person's profession: fixing problems on top of radio towers. That is, 1768 feet radio towers.
    Don't watch this if you have problems with height!

Happy Valentine's Day!

A list of some of the most romantic movies ever. (Except they missed out on some of my sentimental favorites -- You've Got Mail, When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle and the best of the batch -- French Kiss. Maybe they have a thing against Meg Ryan.)

Take a minute to pamper yourself. Whether there's currently a sweetie in your life or not, there's still YOU.  And you are special to me.
     Happy Valentine's Day, friend.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Waiting to Celebrate

As anyone who is half-dead, deaf and/or blind knows, Valentine's Day is coming up. Husband and I already went to a church banquet that was a lot of fun...but hardly romantic. He has a gift certificate to a steak place that's burning a hole in his pocket. "How about on Valentine's night, we go out?" he said.
     Then I reminded him of the umpteen couples that are thinking of doing the same thing. He groaned. (He hates waiting at restaurants.) So the plan is this: Feb. 14, we'll have a nice supper at home by the fire. I have some crab legs in the freezer, bought on sale a while back. Baked potato, green beans and his present will finish out the menu.
    Tuesday night, we'll get the steak he's craving.
    There was a time in our lives that we would not have planned things ahead like this -- just gone ahead and did whatever we wanted, right when we wanted to. I honestly think, though, that we'll get much more satisfaction out of celebrating this way.
   Another friend, Stephanie, is celebrating the same way with her husband Valentine's evening. You may want to, as well, with one of these inspiring recipes.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Gives me Hope

It's not often that you come across a website that encourages, yet gives you inspiration to change your actions right away. The  'Gives Me Hope' site does that for me! It's anyone's chance to document the people and actions that GMH ('gives me hope') to others.
    See if you can read more than a few pages on this site, and not find yourself planning to find ways -- notes, little things, a few words here and there -- to pass on the encouragement. 

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Civil War Bride Quilt Lives Again

Have you ever seen this lovely piece? It's at the American Folk Art Museum, with these comments:


The Bird of Paradise Quilt Top, made during the Civil War period, is thought to be an unfinished marriage or wedding quilt. This idea is supported by the vertical rows of appliqued blocks that feature pairs of birds and other animals. In addition to these animal pairs, other symbols of union and fertility can be found on the bedcover; they include birds tending nests of eggs, flowers, and fruits. The only aberration appears in the two top blocks of the quilt top. A single female figure is appliqued onto one block, but the square next to her is nearly empty, save for the decorative leaves and flowers. Newspaper templates, including a template of a male figure, were found with this quilt top, suggesting that perhaps the quilt was never finished, and the marriage it was intended to celebrate never took place.

The quilt top also features depictions of famous nineteenth-century racehorses and of an elephant named Hanible, who had traveled throughout New York State during this period with his trainer.


  Ironic -- I'd always thought of this piece as the 'Jilted Quilt Top:' that the man block was never included because he'd found someone else! It only occurred to me in the past few days that he might have died during combat in the Civil War.
    What the museum calls the 'Bird of Paradise Quilt Top' has been making the rounds of applique-lovers in recent years as the 'Civil War Bride Quilt.'  To my great pleasure, I found that, thanks to Threadbear, an Australian company, you can make it! Their oversized pattern is really quite reasonable, considering the complexity of the designs.  Reproductionfabrics.com also sells the pattern, and an accompanying fabric kit.
    There's even a blog dedicated to people working on their own copies of the quilt. (Shades of Dear Jane, indeed.) The blog's not too old, and there aren't many finished quilts pictured -- this piece is a complicated one. But well worth it.I'm not a big appliquer, but something about this quilt just sings to my soul.

Hooking Up with Amy!

Frugalites view the name of Amy Dacyczyn with reverence. Her newsletter, the Tightwad Gazette, and succeeding books, have had a favorite place in my own library for years. But after Dacyczyn (pronounced "decision") retired from the TWG in the 1990s, she kind of dropped off the map. Not that you can blame her;  it's no fun for a private person to be pestered and asked for advice so often. And she said they'd stashed away enough money to live peaceably -- plus send their six kids to school.
    I've always wondered how things were going with the Dacyczyn family, now their older children are in their twenties. And I was curious what their home looked like. Lo and behold, I just stumbled across a link to a recent video interview with Amy! Here it is, complete with photos of their home and a tour of Amy's office. Enjoy.
    Her Tightwad Gazette still continues to sell well, more than a decade after the book first went in print.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Buy Your Meal with a Smooch on Feb. 14!

Qdoba's got one of the cutest promotions yet -- kiss someone while you're standing in the checkout line, and BOGO an entree free on Valentine's Day! (Qdoba suggests your mate, mom, or even the 'guy behind you' in line. Husband said, "What if I'm in front of you!!!")
    Go here to take a look. I'm guessing not all locations will be offering it -- if you're not sure, call ahead.

To Explain...

These photos are making the rounds on the Internet...unbelievable! According to the forwarding info, they were taken in Lead, South Dakota on Jan. 5th this year. (Lead, which Husband reminds me is pronounced "Leed," is just off I-90, close to Rapid City, near the Wyoming border. Not far from Mount Rushmore.)
   Guess I'd better shut up if I complain about our snow! (And it's melting, anyways.)

Snow? You Want Snow? Now, THAT'S Snow!!





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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

21 Ways to Use An Altoids Tin!

I've been meaning to pass on this post, because it's so darn clever: a multitude of ways to use those metal Altoids boxes, including a survival kit, a pocket flashlight and a pinhole camera. Enjoy!

Did the Irish 'Discover' America First?

Before I wander off on the rabbit trail of the day, just wanted to thank those of you who've taken the time lately to leave comments. It's so nice to hear what you think!


   A bright icy blue sky. The dogs come in puffing, with beards of ice around their muzzles, tails wagging for a snack. Still COLD, but at least it's not snowing right now. (It will again, soon.)

    I just finished The Brendan Voyage by Tim Severin. (You can read more about Tim here.) Severin and his mates set out in a curragh (an Irish traveling vessel, made by stretching oak-cured oxhides on a wooden frame, then greasing it to waterproof) to prove that Irish monks could have traveled the Atlantic, even to setting foot in the New World hundreds of years before the Norse did.
    Their inspiration: the travels of St. Brendan, one of Ireland's early monastic saints, who was instrumental in setting up a string of monasteries. His travels, primarily by curragh, were documented in the Navagatio Sancti Brendani Abbatis, or 'The Voyages of St. Brendan.' More than 120 different manuscripts have been documented of this story, the earliest c.800 A.D., and all show a remarkably similar pattern. They end with Brendan's arrival, after seven years of voyaging off and on, at the Promised Land of the Saints. There Brendan & co. are met by a strange young man who knows their names, and suggests they load themselves down with fruit before returning by the 'direct route' to Ireland.
    To this point, modern-day historians were quick to torpedo the idea of Brendan traveling anywhere. An old-style curragh couldn't make it across a bay, let alone the Atlantic, without sinking, they said. How could water-soaked leather and a light wooden frame hold up? (Interestingly enough, Severin tried a number of different alternatives without success before finding that the materials mentioned in the Navagatio were correct -- oak-curing for the oxhides, oak and ash for the boat, and sheep's wool grease for the lubricant. Even the old-style woolen clothing and dried fruit, nuts and smoked meats for provisions proved more efficient than modern alternatives.)
     Severin's curragh, the Brendan, successfully navigated to several of the islands mentioned in Brendan's travels, and visited others that fit the descriptions of mystery locations. It put in successfully to Iceland. The boat even was hit and 'holed' in the Greenland ice pack, but was repaired by stitching a leather patch on the boat's side -- not long before, a modern steel icebreaker sank under the same conditions.
    And finally, on June 26, 1977, the Brendan, carrying Severin and his three shipmates, landed at the New World: Peckford Island in Newfoundland.
    This brings the reader to some interesting conclusions. We've been told (and shown, thanks to archaeological expeditions) that the Norse did establish at least one short-lived outpost on Canadian soil. L'Anse aux Meadows proves that -- suggesting that the sagas of Leif Ericson and 'Vinland' are indeed true.
    Could St. Brendan and his monkish companions, who lived hundreds of years earlier, have beaten the Norse to the New World?
    The Norse did document finding evidence of Irish-style buildings in Greenland and Iceland, when they arrived to colonize those farflung places. And they mentioned speaking to 'Skraeling' (natives) in Vinland who said that men with similar pale skins lived nearby. (According to the natives, they wore white and marched holding long strips of cloth on poles while shouting -- the Norse concluded they were talking about Irish religious processions.) There are a few other mentions of Gaelic being overheard, etc. But those references are sparse.
    Until an Irish outpost is found and excavated, the proof, like the Nordic sagas, is just in written accounts that can be pooh-poohed as fanciful or figurative. But the implications the Navagatio -- and the evidence that an Irish curragh can indeed make it across the ocean -- are intriguing.

Severin has written several other books of exploration, including In Search of Robinson Crusoe and In Search of Genghis Khan. Those are on my reading list now, with anticipation.


(Another person's analysis of the 'Irish in America' question is here. A more detailed look here. And a general summary of the subject by Russell Freedman, including Columbus, Leif Ericson and St. Brendan, is here. His book for teens, Who Was First?, sounds interesting.)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Brrr....

It's been snowing lightly all day...after snowing heavily and blowing last night. We have a lovely drift that's hip-high across the front of the house. Temps are supposed to plunge tomorrow -- gee, where are they going to go, after hanging around -1 to 1 above F all day???
    But why am I griping...I didn't spend four hours under a snowdrift in my driveway, like this poor guy. He slipped, fell, couldn't get up -- then a snowplow kicked an extra wave of snow onto him. If it hadn't been for a neighbor noticing a hand sticking out of the snow, someone else would be feeding his cats now. Another amazing part: he was released from the hospital the same day he was found...I guess no damage!

The nice part about it is that things are getting regularly cancelled. Other than work, we stay home. Feels snug.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Are you thinking about celebrating Valentine's Day with a minimum of bucks this year, out of necessity? Frugal Dad has a number of excellent ideas... readers of the Mommy Savers blog ring in here with their inspirations. Some easy homemade recipes here, too. I was thinking about the chocolate-dipped marshmallows; we got hooked on these during a Mexico vacation. (They're sold layered in boxes...mix that dark chocolate with marshmallow - yum.) Bankrate.com is even getting into the act by offering their list of inexpensive Valentine celebrations.
      I've also got ideas for a chocolate box for Husband, inspired by a Cake Boss episode watched this afternoon. He takes plastic goodie boxes, 'paints' them inside with chocolate, multiple layers, then freezes them. He then pops the plastic out, and voila -- a box to fill with strawberries and truffles! Oh yes, and marshmallows, too.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Intuition

Husband was reading the sale ads in the Sunday paper yesterday. "Don't buy any tax software yet," I told him. "I'm pretty sure I'm going to win us some this year."
     He looked up and grinned. "You don't believe me, do you," I said.
     "Nah, and I'm going to remember so I can tease you when you don't!"

Well, guess what, Husband dear -- I just won Tight Fisted Miser's giveaway for (you guessed it). (Thanks so much, Andy!) Even though I enter plenty of contests online, I pretty much know when my entry will be successful.
    Is it intuition? ESP? One cousin attributed this ability to sense things as 'kenning,' or knowing, a gift from our Irish heritage. (She also thought it may have contributed to the many good writers and storytellers on my mother's side of the family.)
   Perhaps it's just instinct. But I do believe strongly that you should listen when that little voice urges you to take a closer look at something...or enter this or that contest...or leave for work later in the day. I cannot think of one time that a strong instinct to do something -- or contact someone -- or warning me against someone, a company or investment -- wasn't right in the long run.
     Like the Ford stock. 
    There's only one exception to this 'rule:'  I had always felt I would not live to see 50. Obviously, that wasn't true...I'm 52 and counting! But that contributed to finishing some important things, and setting up others -- plus I spent time telling people I loved that I loved them. (I wanted them to know, not just assume it.)  I'm grateful to still be here, and every moment after 50 just seems like a gift.

Do you ever have moments of intuition that have proven right...or wrong?

Oh, and by the way -- our next big storm is on its way in. Right now. Oh goody.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Clearing Out the Leftovers

It's snowing again.
What's new.

Husband and I have been working side by side at the dining room table, coffee cups at hand, with classical music wafting around us, Charley the dog snoring blissfully underfoot. Looking out the window at white -- globs and dips and blobs of white coming down, sometimes straight, sometimes sideways.
     It's nice to have electricity. Not everyone around here has had that luxury, leading to a BUNCH of frozen-pipes-thawing-then-freezing situations. Daughter #2's neighbor, who is on the same water system, had her pipes burst -- which meant that D2's water had to be turned off, as well. Our church had an emergency sprinkler head burst. In the sanctuary. Water everywhere; thankfully, it could be vacuumed up. And even more thankfully, the grand piano, keyboard, drums and other instruments, as well as the sound system, were okay. But still -- what a mess.

   Speaking of...
Seems like stuff is everywhere. Paperwork to be signed and sent out, old fabrics and scraps (percolating on an idea for a memory quilt, plus sewing Hanky Panky samples), things that need to be put back under the sink, since the dishwasher's in and working now.
     The refrigerator looks the same way, balanced with little dishes of mystery stuff, leftover veggies from a trip to the Vietnamese grocery store last week (their produce is always cheaper), three or four egg cartons and the usual sprinkling of juices, mustard and barbecue sauce. I can't make myself stop and clear out the whole thing, so I've been cleaning shelf by shelf, throwing out the new colonies (who knows what incredible medical progress could have made!!) and including bits and pieces in that evening's meal. Thursday night's Chinese New Year supper started with an egg drop soup this way:


EGG DROP SOUP (Clean Out the Refrigerator Style)
4-6 cups water
2 chicken bouillon cubes (plus whatever extra broth you've got hanging around)
2 tablespoons Chinese cooking wine or sherry
1 teaspoon garlic -- dry, chopped, whatever
1-2 cups chopped veggies (I happened to have green onions, carrots, a little spinach and some mystery green that kind of looks like bok choy -- but isn't)
2 eggs
2 leaves or so chopped cilantro (if you've got it)

Bring the water/broth and spices to a simmer, then add veggies -- cook on low for 10 min. Stir in eggs, wait 3-5 minutes -- sprinkle with cilantro, then serve. (2-4 people)


Frugal Upstate's been cleaning out her freezer; Donna Freedman's plans include 'garbage soup.' Wonder what I've got in the freezer for supper...maybe those few salmon patties, and an orphan bag of zucchini to fill out the rest of the frig veggies and leftover rice. A few frozen peaches are already waiting their turn for a smoothie...seems strange to be savoring August-frozen peaches when it's snowing out! Then Northern Cottage's easy double-layered peanut butter fudge for dessert.

     A snug way to spend a winter evening.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Determination

Daughter #2 texted over a photo of the bank sign from Wednesday night -- it read -22 degrees!!!
    I am grateful to report, however, that we're currently at a balmy 34 degrees. If it weren't so overcast, I'd go out and lay in the sun! :)
      Now you're (hopefully) digging yourself out of whatever snowpile this latest storm has deposited on you, consider the value of determination. Or "stubborn pigheadedness," if you want to consider the flip side.
      Had a rough month in January? Spent more than you planned, or didn't get everything done you wanted to? Maybe you didn't do so well on those silly New Year's resolutions. (Which a lot of people are refusing to do this time around.)
     Buck up, dear. You're still here. It's a new month, and a chance to get at least one or two things done right. This profile of Muhammed Ali points out the value of keeping on keeping on. ”It’s hard to beat a guy when he’s got his mind made up that he’s going to win," said Ali, whose major philosophy can be summed up as "Always get back up."
     I'm not a big fan of Mr. "Float like a butterfly and sting like a bee," but I like his attitude. Sometimes when I get discouraged, I'll mutter "Never give up. Never surrender." (from Galaxy Quest, for all you non-Trekkies out there.) If it's too much to consider things long-term, take it a week -- or even a day -- at a time. Do what you're supposed to for that period. It may inspire you to keep on!
     Never give up. Never surrender.
   

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

February Storm

Our big storm's gone, though the cold remains -- it was -8 F when Husband checked this morning. No school again, because of the cold. The dogs have given up going outside to check, and our firewood pile is sorely depleted. Thankfully, when you're working on quilts, they also keep you warm! We're free of the big winter storm that's been hitting further east. But it's got a ways to go before it peters out against the Atlantic.
    Hopefully you're staying warm and snug, don't have to fly into Chicago anytime soon, and your car's not in a snowdrift. Hang in there. 

Famous Last Words - and Meals

I am amazed at what you can find on the Internet nowadays. Reading in the TruCrime Library (itself a compendium of some of the strangest stories out there) brought me to something I hadn't really thought much about: what inmates request for their last meals. Here's TruCrime's list, as well as Wikipedia's take on the subjectSlate also did an article about it. (A Death Row chef wrote his own book on inmates' favorites in Texas.)

What was truly freaky was the similarity in meals: steak, hamburgers/cheeseburgers "with the works," pizza ditto, Mexican plates, sweet tea. And the hands-down favorites, requested over and over:  fried chicken and french fries.
    If the phrase "you are what you eat" is true, what does this signal?!?
    (P.S. I LOVE fried chicken!)

 Last words uttered during various executions are on the Internet, as well. Here, too. (And only a few protest that they're innocent. Makes me wonder, though -- if you protest your guilt with your final breaths, wouldn't that make a D.A. stop to wonder, too?) The Texas Department of Criminal Justice actually lists last comments by 'executed offenders', one by one. This could be comforting or unsettling, depending on your connection.

Presents...For Much Less

    Unless you're a bazillionaire (or spend like one), it's easy to look at the list of people you want to buy gifts for...      an...