Sunday, January 21, 2018

Monday Stuff On the Way to Other Stuff: Michigan -- And Home

I'm here for a few more days, spending time with The Mama and family. It has been an unusual visit, but I've been happy to be able to hang out with a cousin here and there, and see our nieces and nephews. Unfortunately, several family members have some kind of horrible flu that's going around the state, so I haven't seen much of them. But that's the way it goes. I do NOT want to bring this stuff back home as a souvenir. 
     Life goes on. But sometimes it does that because you trudge through. 
     After getting snow for weeks, it's brown and dreary here in Michigan -- warmer temps and rain melted everything but the most stubborn snowpiles. Colorado, on the other hand, got paved with 9 or 10 inches of white! Go figure. But I'm supposed to get a snowy push home from the Mitten State later this week. 

50 books free to read -- from Project Gutenberg.  (the list, thanks to The Simple Dollar)

Where monarch butterflies go to spend the Mexico.  (a trip report from Kevin and Ruth)

Ten ways to clear out a smelly house(From Donna Freedman, via MoneyTalksNews)

Estate planning; how affluent art collectors do it. Buying for value, versus personal taste. Or doing both!  (From Wealth Advisor)

An early Rembrandt found in a basement auctions for a million bucks...then resells for $4 million!

18 ways people allowed themselves to be scammed. Ouch.  (From Cracked) Also:

5 secrets of famous movie costumes. Game of Thrones cloaks made from IKEA rugs?!?

Same theme, but focusing just on Star Wars costumes.  (From Co.Design)

Have a good week.

It Finally Showed Up (Here in Colorado)

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Coping with Unexpected Company

"What should I stock up on for last-minute guests?"

Thistlewood Farms asked this question -- and it's a good one.

On my side, we have literally hundreds of cousins. On the Brick's side, dozens. (Sadly, our uncles and aunts are nearly all gone now; only The Mama is left from her original siblings, though several sisters-in-law, all in their late 80s or early 90s, are still going strong.)

We don't get many long-term guests, but have had more than our share of "just in the neighborhood for a few hours, a day or two, can we stop by" calls. Probably has something to do with the lure of the Rocky Mountains, Colorado, the Wild West (or perception thereof). Stuff like that.

The girlies also enjoy making quickie visits...with little warning. Who cares! It's great having them stop by, whenever they can do so.

Voila: the girlies. I love them both (and Son #1) dearly.

So here is what I do:

*Keep clean sheets on the guestroom bed.  If she's visiting, Daughter #2 will often stay overnight. That way, the bed is ready for her to hop in. (Now if I can only keep that room clutter-free, as well...)

*Have a basket of goodies ready, too. Bath items, fresh soap, toothbrush and toothpaste -- stuff like that. Fresh towels and washcloths are already in the cabinet.

*Always include a few small food items in the present box.  I keep a box stocked with little present-type items for piano students, unexpected birthdays or anniversaries or hostess gifts. A small box of chocolates or package of cookies looks well on the guestroom pillow, and is always appreciated. (Let's put it this way -- I've never seen it NOT eaten, or taken with.)

*Add a small tray with mug, plus drink mixes: tea bags, instant coffee, packets of hot chocolate, things like that. And of course, a clean water glass in the bathroom.

*Keep a selection of books and magazines available. There are few things worse late at night in a strange place, when you're wide awake and can't figure out how to turn on the television. (Or are worried you'll disturb someone when you do.)

*Write out the WIFI password...and how to access it.  Put the card on the tray or pillow, or pin it to the wall under the lightswitch. Now your company can easily access your internet, without having to feel that they must pester you about it.


*Somehow, sometime you WILL have someone with no-gluten requirements. Keep at least one or two food items that satisfy this, stocked in the freezer or cupboards. (A box of no-gluten pasta will at least let you serve macaroni and cheese.)
     You'll also want to keep decaf coffee or teabags, for the same reason.

*Feed them fresh stuff. From your garden, if you've got it. Or eggs from your chickens. Anything that's famous locally -- or from your state. (In our case, it's items like mountain trout, salsa or green chilies.)  This is particularly successful if they don't normally have access to shrimp right off the boat,  a Michigan tomato picked ripe and still warm from the garden, or buffalo burgers. Whatever -- just so it's local and fresh. 

*Cookies (boxed) or cookie dough in the freezer. All cookie dough, so far as I know, will freeze successfully -- either as a tub (easier to store) or already-measured spoonfuls. (Freeze on a cookie sheet, then transfer to a bag. This way, you can pull out and bake only a few cookies, if needed.)
     A tube of refrigerator cookie dough works, too. Bake at the temperature specified, and serve warm. Makes your guests feel special -- and gives your place a homey smell.
     If you prefer your cookies readymade, be sure to buy a brand your family likes -- but not too much. If it's too good, they'll sneak it...and eat it! (Or you will.)

*Cake. A plain basic cake keeps easily in the freezer. Serve it with fresh or frozen fruit, plus a spritz of canned whipped cream. (Which I always keep a tube of, anyways.) I prefer pound cake because it's so versatile, but the Brick would be thrilled if I kept brownies around more often.

*Canned beef stew or a good soup. Stock at least two or three cans. Serve over rice or biscuits, if you have more guests than planned. I keep a box of better-quality crackers on hand, for the same reason. Besides, they look good with:

*Cheese. Grated, it stirs into pasta for a fantastic macaroni and cheese. Chunked, it's decorative served with crackers and cut-up veggies. If at all possible, I keep both mozzarella and cheddar, in the freezer and fridge. Cream cheese is good too, as well as specialty cheeses like gouda.

*Ranch dressing. Use it for veggies, potatoes...or stir into soup or a main dish, if you need a touch of sour cream (and don't have any). I keep a bottle of Oriental vinaigrette for chopped salad or stirfries, as well.

*A good bottle of another bottle, this one of sparkling juice. (The Brick likes to stock a six or twelve-pack of beer, as well.) We have family members who drink alcohol -- and others whose lips would never touch liquor. If they're both at the same meal, I serve both bottles. Or either, depending on whose sitting at the dinner table.

*Good. Strong. Coffee. The Brick is known for his skill at making this. Granted, not all our guests drink coffee anymore -- but a surprising number do. And there's nothing nicer than sitting around at the end of a meal, scraping idly at the last bits of cake, sipping coffee, and listening to funny stories.

Welcome, Guests. You are always welcome.

Hee Haw's Revenge

Since the 'silly songs' post, I found one even stranger:

Roy Clark, singing the HeeHaw/Lawrence Welk Counter-Revolution Polka:

Both shows had been cancelled, for appealing too much to older viewers, instead of younger ones -- and went into syndication for decades, instead. Stupid, stupid, stupid, Hollywood honchos...

Read all about it here.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Silly Songs

If you've got a few minutes, these shorts are good at putting things into perspective. 

They're silly, but's like that sometimes. (Thankfully.)

First up, Steve Martin's 'King Tut,' from Saturday Night Live:

Then Hee Haw's 'Where, Oh Where Are You Tonight.' (Also known as 'Pfft -- You Were Gone.')
     Tell me you don't know all the words to the chorus!

And finally, Ray Stevens' take on the Friendly Skies (which just ain't anymore):

Enjoy...and sing along.

10 Convenience Items That Are Worth It...And Updates

Our neck of Colorado finally got some moisture...bare scrapings of snow. The mountains have been slammed -- in fact, I-70 was closed onto the plains, as well. But for our part of the Front Range? Ha.

What we did get was cold, and lots of it. We're grateful if we see temperatures up in the 20s. Charley Bear doesn't mind; his coat is thick, and he'll roll in the dirt/snow mix just as quick as the white stuff. But both the Brick and I find that our toes and fingertips stay permanently icy. Whoever gets in bed first gets a chilly surprise when Person #2 crawls in and snuggles up. 

We can't all take pretty pictures..
If you live in Colorado, by the way, those temps mean you can now wear long sleeves, if you're so inclined. The shorts stay...maybe pajama bottoms, instead.

If you're a Faithful Reader, you know that these past weeks have been marked by loss for us. Charley largely has given up looking for Abby, though he searches occasionally. I've trained myself to step around her blanket for so long that it's habit by now. She was a quiet dog who left a large, empty space. 

I leave tomorrow for Michigan, and Macklin John's funeral service on Thursday. I honestly do not know how this visit is going to go -- but it's clear that I'm supposed to do it. The suitcase is packed with Valentine's stuff for The Mama (the Hollander approach -- that way, you save on shipping), as well as books for Steph and Adam's kids, and a present for Steph. Imagine: a funeral service for your son, and a few days later, your birthday celebration. How can I help and comfort this dearly-loved niece through all can I help my brother and his wife, who were looking forward to this new grandchild? How can I cheer up The Mama, who is reliving her own loss of a child, decades ago? (I had this happen to me, too, though mine happened much more early.) 

          It will not be easy. 

The Brick will stay and hold the fort while I'm gone. Or, as Winston Churchill (and ironically, King George) liked to say, he'll KBO.  ("Keep buggering on.") Neither of us feels particularly enthusiastic about anything right now. 


            (Even if they cost more)

Frozen fish or chicken tenders, or meatballs -- especially if they're on sale. Easy to use and heat up quickly. Perfect for last-minute suppers, and take their place equally well as a main dish item or sandwich ingredient. (Good for when you don't feel like cooking, too.)

Frozen eggrolls, wonton or gyoza. These have all the 'easy' attributes mentioned above, but can also make a casual supper with friends into a party. Our local dollar store sells a 12-pack of gyoza guessed it... a buck.
     Not on sale? Get frozen fries, instead. Top them with gravy (Elvis' favorite) or green/red chili, plus a layer of cheese. Heat til sizzling.

Canned soup. With any of the items above, this is a meal -- and a fast one. I'll even dilute the 'chunky' types with half a can of milk, broth or water; it makes them go further.

Frozen pizza -- if the right kind. Hold out for the more elaborate brands, and don't hesitate to add ingredients like crumbled bacon or sliced mushrooms. If you're feeling particularly decadent, extra shredded cheese.

Canned spray whipped cream. This seems decadent -- until you realize how long it lasts. Get real whipped cream, not 'imitation.' Our can from late October is still going strong; can you say the same thing about that tub of Cool Whip?

Canned chocolate sauce -- I'll argue for Hershey's thick chocolate, almost bitter taste anytime. Add a spritz of whipped cream and a cherry for "fahnsy" results on cake or ice cream. Stir it into milk for hot chocolate, or coffee for a mocha taste. Or shovel a few tablespoons in your mouth, if you're feeling blue. (Spray whipped cream in on top, for a sundae effect. Hey, Daughter #2 does it!)

Frosting tubes -- for cake, cupcake or cookie decorating. Easier to letter with, and can be used to make either purchased or homemade baked goods more personal. (Wait until after a holiday; they're usually in the clearance bin then. Right now, popular colors are, of course, red and green. Use the red for Valentine's Day, and save the green for St. Patrick's.)

This version from, via Pinterest

Cream cheese. Tubs are okay, though bricks of cheese will go further and last longer. These are nourishing, spread in a sandwich or on a cracker. (There's always cheesecake, too.)  In a pinch, substitute a spoonful for sour cream.

Hot chocolate mix. Look for one that includes the words 'dark chocolate' or 'European.' (We Americans associate that with luxury, I would guess.) The Starbucks brand is surprisingly deep and dark; got it at the Friday/Saturday store for around 25 cents an envelope.
     I grew up drinking Swiss Miss, but it's pale and anemic, compared to the more expensive brands. So are many of the generics. Once you find a mix you like, make it half with milk. A huge difference on a dreary, snowy night. (That whipped cream should be nearby, as well, if you want to top off mit schlag.)

Your favorite fruit juice. Or frozen fruit. When it's cold and blowing outside, that spoonful of peach slices is a reminder that winter won't be here forever. Summer will return.

And life goes on.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Real Skill

Don't hate me because I'm talented. 
         Some of us have it, some don't.

Add to the list choking on water...and losing my car keys at a moment's notice.

Bet you're jealous...right?

Monday Stuff On the Way to Other Stuff: Michigan -- And Home

I'm here for a few more days, spending time with The Mama and family. It has been an unusual visit, but I've been happy to be able t...